Erin Yarwood is a journalism sophomore and a Mustang News Opinion Columnist. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.

Trader Joe’s is a taste tester’s dream. The grocery store is filled with hundreds of original packaged foods for customers to try, among other produce. For a college student just beginning to cook for them- selves Trader Joe’s is the perfect way to feel like you’re wine and dining yourself without barely lifting a finger. It’s no wonder why so many Cal Poly and other college students feel a sense of loyalty to the grocery chain. However, grocery shopping when you first get to college can be overwhelming. If you don’t know where to start, enjoy this list of the must have Trader Joe’s meals and items.


Japchae Korean Glass Noodles & Vegetable Stir Fry

This mixed vegetable noodle stir fry is the perfect quick lunch or dinner, combining onions, spinach, carrots, and bell peppers with chewy, sweet potato glass noodles. Pop in the microwave for five minutes and enjoy.

Chicken Tikka Masala

This microwaveable meal is the perfect, easy dish for a busy college student. Enjoy the creamy tomato-based, curry sauce over chicken with a side basmati rice in under five minutes. I like to cook up some zucchini to go alongside this quick dish.

Steamed Pork and Ginger Soup Dumplings

This frozen meal adds a little bit of a kick to a classic pork soup dumpling, with a hint of ginger. Pop them in the microwave for two minutes and enjoy delicious hot soup wrapped in a soft dough. I add some Trader Joe’s sriracha and soy sauce to perfect them.


Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

These Reese’s Cups dupe, are the optimal chocolatey snack on the go. Keep them in your pantry or in the fridge for a cooler dessert. The almond-butter version is also a favorite of mine.

Gone Bananas!

Gone Bananas! are Trader Joe’s frozen dessert of chocolate covered banana slices. The yellow packaging is adorable and the goodies inside are just as satisfying. The bananas are the perfect texture and absolutely delectable.

Strawberry Mochi

Trader Joe’s strawberry mochi has been a go-to of mine for quite some time. The chewy
rice dough and sweet strawberry ice cream inside are perfect for sharing and enjoying with friends.


Green Goddess Seasoning Blend

A seasoning blend of onions, garlic, spinach, chives, parsley, salt, and peppers. Use on roasted vegetables, chicken, salads, and fish.

Chile Lime Seasoning Blend

A salty seasoning blend of chili powder and lime juice powder. Use on fresh fruit, eggs, potatoes, tofu, and tacos. This seasoning is the same one used on the famous Trader Joe’s takis.

Trader Joe’s Chili Lime Seasoning Blend. Credit: Mustang News

Sriracha Seasoning Blend

A seasoning blend inspired by deconstructing sriracha sauce into garlic, cayenne pepper, paprika, and dried red bell peppers. Use on eggs, noodles, fries and shrimp.


General Tsao Stir Fry Sauce

This thick, sweet stir fry sauce is so good that I pour it on any rice and protein bowl I make. It has the perfect hint of spice and garlic that makes it irresistible.


Magnifisauce! is like Trader Joe’s version of the famous In-n-Out secret sauce. The mustard, mayo, and ketchup blend is perfect for a college student to dump on a sandwich, burger, fries, or pretty much anything else.

Vegan Kale, Cashew & Basil Pesto

College students tend to eat a whole lot of pasta. Trader Giotto’s Vegan Kale, Cashew & Basil Pesto is perfect for pasta and so much more. I probably go through a tub of this creamy pesto a week by adding it to avocado toast, rice, eggs and pasta.


Everything but the Bagel Greek Style Yogurt Dip

This onion and garlic seasoned dip is perfect on potato chips to add a little crunch.

Chickpea, Kale and Crispy Red Rice Salad with Avocado Vinaigrette

This ready-to-go salad is the perfect lunch to pack for a busy day on campus. The vinaigrette is perfect on the crunchy mix of kale and red rice.

Soft & Juicy Mango

The best dried mango is not just soft, but juicy and Trader Joe’s dried mango delivers every time.

Chili & Lime Flavored Rolled Corn Tortilla Chips

No Trader Joe’s haul is complete without the Chili & Lime Flavored Rolled Corn Tortilla Chips, better known as Trader Joe’s takis. Who doesn’t love these crispy, spicy rolls of corn masa?