Written and photographed by Mae Richman

Trader Joe’s is easily the best grocery store in Menlo Park. Their Trader Joe’s brand products range from unique new inventions to more delicious dupes of snacks we already know and love. Their foods are unusual, high quality, and relatively inexpensive. As a devout Trader Joe’s enthusiast, I have sampled a variety of their offerings, and these are the best. 

Trader Joe’s Chicken-less Mandarin Orange Morsels are a fantastic option for vegetarians and vegans, as well as those who are looking to reduce their carbon footprint or just eat less meat. The nuggets are seitan, a meat substitute made of hydrated gluten that has a similar texture to meat. When slathered with the sour and tangy orange sauce that comes in the package, it is hard to differentiate the seitan from the real deal. The product comes frozen, and my favorite method of preparation is on the stove, which takes about 10 minutes. I recommend sprinkling some red chili flakes on top to add a bit of spice and dimension to the dish.

Price: $3.29

Bang for your buck: 9/10

Trader Joe’s Pastry Bites with Feta Cheese and Caramelized Onions, which are the perfect appetizer. The saltiness of the feta juxtaposes and compliments the sweetness of the caramelized onion in the most harmonic way. The filling, which melts into a velvety texture, is encased in a flaky puff pastry shell. To make, just bake in the included pan.

Price: $4.99

Bang for your buck: 7/10

The Triple Cream Brie Cheese with Wild Mushrooms is easily the best cheese at Trader Joe’s. Though on the more expensive side of the Trader Joe’s brie spectrum, it is certainly worth it. The rich umami flavor pairs well with the equally rich and sharp flavor of the brie. Though each flavor is strong, neither is overly dominant, creating a level of dimension that is rare to find in a cheese. It is decadently creamy, and easily spreadable on a cracker. This cheese pairs best with an unflavored cracker or bread, because of the complexity of the cheese itself. 

Price: 9.99 a pound

Bang for your buck: 7/10

After trying all of the frozen mochi at Trader Joe’s, my favorite is the Green Tea Mochi. The delicate flavor of the green tea infuses perfectly with the luxurious, smooth ice cream. In other mochis, the flavor can be too sweet or dominant for the bite, but the green tea is subtle, and not overly sweet. The mochi encasing is the ideal chewy texture, proving a surprising, yet perfectly balanced diversity of textures.

Price: $4.49

 

Bang for your buck: 7.5/10

The Chantilly Cream Vanilla Bean Mini Sheet Cake is one of my top Trader Joe’s desserts, and it’s under five dollars. The cake is moist, succulent, and bursting with vanilla. It is swathed in a luscious vanilla buttercream that is vibrant in flavor, yet isn’t too sweet. The sheet cake is large enough to share. 

Price: $4.49

Bang for your buck: 10/10

 

The Chili and Lime Flavored Rolled Corn Tortilla Chips are the best snack at Trader Joe’s. They resemble Takis in many ways, except the flavors are stronger, zestier, and taste less artificial. The spicy flavoring is not overpowering, and when coupled with the acidity of the lime, it provides an exciting bite. The crunch is exhilarating, making the chips a unique and delightful experience. They’re even gluten free!

Price: $2.49

Bang for your buck: 9/10

Be warned, the Trader Joe’s Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups are addictive. The combination of the richness of the milk chocolate, and the peanut butter’s exciting contrast of sweetness and saltiness, makes each bite simultaneously complex, yet full of comfortable simplicity that will have you reaching for cup after cup. The perfect small dessert or mid afternoon pick-me-up. 

 

Price: $4.49

Bang for your buck: 8/10

Trader Joe’s new Thai Noodles Peanut Satay is unlike any other typical microwave noodle dish. The noodles come prehydrated, so you don’t have to go through the dehumanizing process of adding water. Unlike 99 cent ramen, the microwave Thai Noodles are thick and tender. The provided sauce they swim in is saturated with peanut flavor, nuanced with a subtle underlying spiciness. It is a surprisingly high quality meal considering it costs less than $3 and can be cooked in under 3 minutes.

Price: $2.49

Bang for your buck: 9/10

Mae Richman

Mae Richman is a sophomore and a first year journalist. She is new to Menlo Park, and hopes to learn more about her school and her community.

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