I count myself among the many shoppers who consider Trader Joe's their second home. So when a major food holiday comes along, I make room in the schedule for a TJ's run, to get the products I know I won't be able to find anywhere else. Independence Day is no exception; Trader Joe's has plenty of food for July 4 that will guarantee a successful holiday feast, whether you're cooking just for immediate family or having your whole circle of friends over.
I hate crowds and packed parking lots, but I happily endure them at Trader Joe's because I know I'll come away with some great products at reasonable prices. The rotating seasonal selection is appealing, too; I browse their Fearless Flyer bulletin when it comes in the mail, saying "Ooh, that looks good!" about once every five seconds. Then there's the ever-patient and helpful staff, who really do go out of their way to make sure customers are satisfied.
I found these items on a recent trip to my local TJ's, all of which would be great for a holiday barbecue. Some are traditional cookout fare, while others are exclusive to the store. (All photos and pricing reflect the branch in Queens, NY.) For you last-minute shoppers, Trader Joe's will be open until 5:00 PM on July 4, which gives you just enough time to pick up your grill-ables and drinks before the guests arrive.
1. 80/20 Ground Beef Patties
The first aisle you'll want to hit once you get inside is the meat section, to make sure you have enough burgers for your hungry crew. Trader Joe's has several types of patties, including these $5 packs; the 80/40 refers to the lean vs. fat ratio.
2. Beef Hot Dogs
When I visited Trader Joe's several days before July 4, the meat shelves were already starting to run low on hot dogs like these organic grass-fed beef versions (selling for $6 a pack). But no doubt they'll be stocking up quickly before the holiday, so if you go now, you should be able to pick up enough dogs for your guests.
3. Restaurant Style White Corn Tortilla Chips
Why go to other supermarkets for the barbecue basics when Trader Joe's has them all? These tortilla chips rival the name-brand ones in other stores at the competitive price of $2. And once you see the salsas TJ's is selling to go with them, you'll be glad you did all your shopping in one place.
4. Bloody Mary Salsa
As the store's website explains, this $3 product actually began as a pasta sauce, but the tasting panel saw it more as an accompaniment for tortilla chips. No doubt you and your guests will agree, once you try the complex mix of tomatoes, pickling brine, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, onions, garlic, capers, lemon juice, and vinegar — in other words, all the things you love in the famous drink, minus the alcohol.
5. Fresh Corn
I don't know about you, but I could make a summer meal just out of boiled or grilled corn on the cob. And at pennies per cob, you could do just that. Or just grab a bunch as a side dish for your burgers and dogs.
6. Ridge Cut Potato Chips
Along with Super Bowl Sunday and Labor Day, July 4 is one of those occasions that just calls for potato chips, no questions asked. But according to the sign on the display, Trader Joe's challenges buyers to step up their game. They recommend crushing their ridge-cut chips (2.99/bag) as a coating for fried or baked chicken. Sounds good to me!
7. Spatchcocked Lemon Rosemary Chicken
Yes, you read the name right: Spatchcocking is an actual cooking technique. As Food & Wine describes it, spatchcocking simply refers to removing the backbone of a whole chicken and flattening the rest. This results in quicker cooking on the grill, which makes this a perfect July 4 barbecue food. Trader Joe's makes it easier still by pre-marinating the bird in a lemon-rosemary brine. Now selling for $4 per pound.
8. Quinoa Cowboy Veggie Burgers
A Fourth of July celebration doesn't have to be totally meat-centric. For families and guests who are vegetarian or just looking for healthier options, these veggie burgers ($4 a box) are a must. Made with quinoa, roasted corn, and black beans, they crisp up nicely in the oven or grill and are amazing with salsa. (How do I know? I bought a box while working on this story and had one of the burgers for dinner.) Plus, one patty is only 180 calories and contains 6 grams of fiber. Note: Because these burgers contain egg white powder, they're not vegan.
9. Cowboy Caviar
This was one of the products being handed out as samples when I visited the store, and it's easy to see why the jars are selling out. This Southwestern-style salsa is loaded with corn and black beans, and has a nice peppery zing that's just enough to wake up your mouth, but not unpleasantly painful. It's selling for $3, and worth every penny.
10. Grand Slam Snack
If Trader Joe's had their way, the 7th-inning stretch song would go, "Buy me some peanuts and Grand Slam Snack... " Seriously, if you're planning to spend the afternoon of the 4th watching your team play, keep a couple of bags ($3 each) at hand. It beats the famous ballpark snack by including almonds, cashews, and pecans along with the peanuts and caramel popcorn.
11. Organic Tea & Lemonade
One of Trader Joe's summer specials is their variation on the classic Arnold Palmer drink: iced tea mixed with lemonade. The store brand uses organic ingredients, blended to create a nice nonalcoholic accompaniment to your 'cue. Pick up a bottle for $3.
Summer fruit looks festive on a July 4 picnic or patio table, and it just also happens to be ridiculously healthy. These plump cherries could be served on their own or popped into a pie if you're so inclined. These 2-pound boxes are going for $7.
13. Key Lime Tea Cookies
Key lime pie is a heavenly summer dessert, but it's not always easy to find outside of Florida. Fortunately, TJ's has us covered with these refreshing cookies ($4/box). Serve them as a barbecue dessert, or on their own with a glass of tea after the fireworks display.
14. Sublime Ice Cream Sandwiches
Trader Joe's is known for making their own versions of classic treats like sandwich cookies (helloooo, Joe-Joe's) and fruit bars. I'd actually be disappointed if they didn't make a go of the ice cream-and-chocolate-chip-cookie confection (you know, the one that begins with "Chip" and ends with "ich"). These look delicious and just gooey enough, and at $4 for a box of four, they're less expensive than if you tried to make your own.
15. Vanilla Flavored Baton Wafer Cookies
If you're finishing your outdoor feast with ice cream, these light, crunchy wafers are the perfect go-with. They're pretty addictive on their own, TBH, so at just under $2 per 5-oz. container, you'd be smart to buy one for the dinner and keep one to nibble on when the kids aren't looking.
16. Apple Pie
Ironically, the dessert we think of as all-American was first created in England, according to Smithsonian. But we Yanks have a knack for doing things our own way, from making the 13 colonies an independent nation to claiming apple-stuffed pie for our July 4 feasts. This Trader Joe's pie looks as though it just came out of Mom's kitchen, and Mom would probably approve of the $7 price tag, too.
17. Wild Blueberry Pie
How can you go wrong with a star-spangled pie? You can't, that's how. This baked-to-perfection pastry needs only a fork (and perhaps a dollop of whipped cream) to finish off your meal. And at $7, you'll be tempted to buy two, so you'll have extra left for July 5.
18. Seedless Watermelon
Love the juiciness of watermelon without the seeds? Here's your answer. These ripe fruits come sans pits, so you can bite down to the rind without spitting once. TJ's is selling them at my local branch for $4 apiece.
19. Brooklyn Bel Air Sour Ale
One of the many things that never disappoints about Trader Joe's is their beer selection. They always have a wide variety of national and local brews. Here in NYC, one of our go-to beers is Brooklyn Brewery, and among their offerings this month is their Bel Air Sour, a tart ale that goes nicely with a summer night. It goes for $11 for a six-bottle pack. Another fine brand to try: Ommegang Brewery, made in upstate Cooperstown.
20. Coconut Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate
Watch the fireworks while sipping iced coffee you've made with this delicious concentrate. Each bottle makes four 12-oz. drinks when mixed with water, milk, almond milk, or the beverage of your choice. At $5 a bottle, you could pick up a couple and mix up a large batch of drinks for less than you'd spend on a Starbucks run for the gang. Or use it to make these coffee ice pops, for an even more refreshing end to the evening.
21. 4th Of July White Mums
This one doesn't quite fit the description of holiday food, but I just couldn't leave it out. The festive and hardy mums make a pretty addition to your table, and they make a thoughtful gift if you've been invited to someone else's BBQ. At a sale price of $6, they're easy on your wallet, too.