20 Trader Joe’s Buys That Get Us Halfway to the 2018 Finish Line

Our favorite store-bought shortcuts for entertaining.

December 13, 2018
Photo by Mark Weinberg

It's the most wonderful time of the year—so bring on the comfort & joy, we say. In The Art of Chill Holidays, we'll show you how we keep celebrations low-key, with festive decor tricks, clever time-saving tips, and scrumptious spreads of snacks (always snacks!).

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year's (or all of the above!), everyone can agree that December is one big month of partying. From big family gatherings and office potlucks to intimate dinner parties with friends, we cram our calendars with loads of joyful greetings.

For us at Food52, we need store-bought shortcuts to keep us going 'til the end of the year. You know, sauces and snacks and sips to complement wow-worthy mains or desserts. And in our moments of need, we turn to fan-favorite Trader Joe’s. Their classic standbys and seasonal superstars are perfect party helpers, no matter what we’re celebrating.

Want to know our favorites? I've collected 20 of them below.

Our Favorite Trader Joe's Products Right Now

Little Bites

“My sister-in-law swears by making her own pigs in a blanket but why bother when Parmesan Pastry Pups exist? They're a little snazzier than your average frozen pigs because of the parmesan sprinkle and get eaten up just as quickly.” —Joanna Sciarrino, Managing Editor

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“The puff pastry + mini wheel of brie = easy cheese appetizer Peppermint Joe Joe's.”
— HalfPint

“When it comes to hosting, I love to be as hands-off as possible. So I cheat a little bit and stock up on the Trader Joe's Mushroom & Black Truffle Flatbread Pizza, slice it up into bite-sized squares, and serve it on my favorite platter. It's never not been a hit." —Erin Alexander, Assistant Editor, Partner Content

"I go to Trader Joe's for literally everything! In fact, I'm doing a huge TJ's run on Thursday to prep for my 10th annual Holiday Ornament Exchange this weekend. My newest obsession? French Onion Soup Bites." —Aja Aktay, Buyer for Home, Outdoor & Vintage

Photo by Trader Joes

“I always keep Mini Brie en Croute in my freezer in case my usual cheeseboard runs out. It's the tastiest hail-Mary I know of and is always a huge hit.” —Brinda Ayer, Books & Special Projects Editor

“I buy frozen croissants for when guests sleep over during the holidays. You thaw them in the fridge the night before and bake them the next morning. Everyone's happy!” Brooke Deonarine, Prop Stylist

“I always go for the frozen spanakopita. You can pair them with other TJs offerings like hummus or tzaziki or eat them on their own.” —Mollie Doherty, Account Manager

"I love the puff pastry sheets from Trader Joe's to no end. Not only are they extremely handy around the holidays, they are a mere $4.99 for two frozen, all-butter sheets (all-butter is surprisingly hard to find in normal store-bought brands). Fancy-feeling, but truly easy pissaladière and melty cheese mounds are never far. These often sell out, so grab a couple of boxes and store them in your freezer while you can!” —Hana Asbrink, Senior Lifestyle Editor

Something to Sip On

“I like the Trader Joe’s eggnog. It’s something I only ever buy for the holidays. I just saw in the Fearless Flyer, though, that they have an almond ‘nog! Trying that next. Spiked, of course.” —Eric Kim, Senior Editor

"There are two main TJ products I turn to over the holidays. The first is Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine, which is dry, well balanced, and sells at a more affordable price point than many other sparkling wines. I'm all about sparkling wine over the holidays because it's deeply festive and if you don't agree, I challenge you to drink a glass tonight with a mini cheese board for dinner. The second is their (vegan!!!!) pound-plus dark chocolate bar—I'm never not baking something sweet over the holidays, and if I'm baking something sweet, I'm never not using chocolate in some capacity.” —Ella Quittner, Food Writer & Recipe Developer

Photo by Trader Joes

"Spiced Cider—it's one of the few things i stop drinking water for during the holiday season. I keep it in the fridge and keep it cold but every now and then i love to heat it up in a mug and have hot cider before bed!" —Danielle Curtis-Williams, Marketing Coordinator

“Trader Joe's wine stores are gems—worth going out of your way to find! Thankfully, my palate has outgrown the 'two-buck Chuck' of my youth, but they have a great variety of other affordable, delicious options (key when you're buying by the case), and the $1 six-bottle carrier tote is a godsend for carrying your haul home.” —Ishita Singh, Video Programming Director

“I love the Gingerbread ground coffee! The spices are all-natural, and the flavor is not too overpowering. It's cozy in a cup” —Megan Güntaş, Digital Designer

Sweet Shortcuts

Photo by Trader Joes

"Oh yes!! I like to get the pumpkin cheesecake because it is always a solid crowdpleaser and people can't believe that it's from Trader Joes (though I wave that Trader Joes flag high and proud). Next, I'm going to try their Triple Ginger Cake!" —Rebekah Daniels, Account Manager

“I've been enjoying Trader Joe's Sipping Chocolate this year—it's so rich and comforting when it's so cold outside.” —Grace Montgomery, Director, Brand Strategy

“I swear by the Dark Chocolate Covered Shortbread Cookies. They are only available during the holidays and I can’t help but impulsively buy them.” —Bobbi Lin, Photographer

What's your favorite holiday helper from Trader Joe's? Let us know in the comments below.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • cosmiccook
  • Anastasia
  • Mayra Gonzalez
    Mayra Gonzalez
  • Renee Dempsey
    Renee Dempsey
  • Susan Riendeau
    Susan Riendeau
Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.


cosmiccook December 28, 2018
OH YES, dear gods, that pub cheese! And the caramelized onion cheese! The pub in Grits, and the caramelized onion cheese w their puff pastry. And TJ's-- NEVER, EVER get rid of your garlic spread--we love it w the gyro meat and your pita bread.
Anastasia December 28, 2018
Pub cheese, please! Adults and kids always enjoy it. We love the classic sharp cheddar flavor, so I've not had the nerve to branch out and try the other 2 variations. The perfect pairing is TJ's pretzel thins, but this spread is delicious on any cracker really.
Mayra G. December 28, 2018
Samosas in frozen appetizers section are a big hit with kids and guests.
cosmiccook December 28, 2018
I WISH our TJ's would carry HALF the items you all mention here! I'm told that once our Metairie store (closest to N.O) hits the 3-year-old mark it will have more options.
cosmiccook December 28, 2018
I love the puff pastry but ours in Metairie, La. sells out WAY early in the holiday season, so one must stock up as its a seasonal item only. They need to double the production amount. (Ya heard me TJ's)--ditto w the rest of their seasonal stuff.
Renee D. December 28, 2018
How has no one mentioned the mashed potato balls?!?!? I’ll never mash from scratch again!
Susan R. December 28, 2018
scallops wrapped in bacon. i stopped making them myself because TJ's version is great (and a lot easier) ! big scallops enveloped with plenty of bacon. delicious ! buy more than you think you need.
Louisa December 17, 2018
TJ’s Grapefruit Marmalade
judyschwab December 17, 2018
Brookies! I don't know how they keep them in stock. Soft brownie and cookie layer. I gave them as hostess gifts!
Lesa S. December 16, 2018
Anyone else love the shelf-stable cream to death? I don’t know how I lived without it all these years.
Janet S. December 14, 2018
I took the puff pastry sheets, covered them with the Everything but the Bagel seasoning and gruyere cheese then cut them up in pieces to make monkey bread. I put them in muffin cups and baked them for 30 minutes. They were so delicious and now these are my go to appetizer.
HalfPint December 13, 2018
I love the Sipping Chocolate and a little bit miffed that it's seasonal because I could drink it year round.

The puff pastry + mini wheel of brie = easy cheese appetizer

Peppermint Joe Joe's.
BerryBaby December 13, 2018
I'll have to try the French Onion bites! We love their French Onion Soup...I add more broth and make huge croutons and top it with more cheese.
Nancy H. December 13, 2018
Is the French onion soup Vegan?
Traveler December 28, 2018
I wanted so much to try those, but they were out before Christmas. Seasonal item. I agree - stock much more of the seasonal items. They were out of the coffee BBQ rub by June - another seasonal item.
Lois December 29, 2018
We did not care for them as much as just the soup. Expected more.