According to a recent piece by NPR, even though frozen foods add up to $53 billion in sales every year, most grocery stores have noticed that customers are increasingly less enthusiastic about shopping in those aisles. One trade expert said that almost half (46 percent) of shoppers who spend $100 don't even walk past those freezers anymore (and that sound that you hear is the muffled sobbing of the Gorton fisherman).
Things are starting to turn around, though: For the fist time in five years, sales are up by 1.4 percent, which might not sound like a lot, but it's a big deal for the famously low-margin grocery industry.
Execs at Trader Joe's, however, have never been worried — reporting that sales numbers for their frozen foods are doing just fine. Why? It could be the brightly colored packaging or the fact that its freezers don't have doors or because the Trader Joe's freezer section IS THE MOST WONDERFUL PLACE IN THIS WORLD.
Yes, you can get appetizers, breakfast options, and international foods at pretty much any other grocery store, but they're not consistently as good as what you can score at TJ's. (Like, if I had been in Love, Actually, I would've run right past Keira Knightley's house to show that "To Me, You Are Perfect" sign to a package of frozen Hatch Chile Mac 'n' Cheese).
Here are seven reasons why I'm all in for Trader Joe's frozen section.
1. It's full of time-saving products.
It's stocked with time-savers, shortcuts, and things you wouldn't normally make at home even if you wanted to. For meal prep, there's nothing better than Trader Joe's wide range of pre-chopped veggies — especially the goes-with-almost-anything Fire-Roasted Bell Peppers and Onions. Also, I straight-up love steel-cut oatmeal, but there's no way I have time to make it in the mornings — unless I'm pulling it out of the freezer. (Luckily, there's no shortage of frozen berries for me to top it with.)
2. It's got high-quality, affordable seafood.
If you live in a landlocked state or aren't close to a decent fish market, it can be hard to get high-quality, affordable seafood. I like salmon, but don't buy it often because sometimes work gets insane and I don't have time to cook. I keep Trader Joe's frozen sockeye salmon in the freezer until I'm ready for it (which means I don't feel obligated to cook it at, like, 1 a.m. when it's time to either throw it in a pan or admit that it's gonna go bad). The shrimp — and actually, all the frozen seafood — is also good.
3. The burger section cannot be topped.
Whether you're into grass-fed Angus beef or buffalo burgers, chili lime chicken or vegetable masala burgers, Trader Joe's has got top-notch offerings in the freezer section. And again, for someone who rarely buys fresh seafood, the tuna and salmon burgers have become some of my go-to lunch options. (Note: I work from home, so nobody can complain when my desk smells like an abandoned fishing trawler).
4. It even works when you didn't meal plan.
This is the perfect place to go when you can't decide what you're hungry for — or when you're dying for something with phyllo dough, but your dude wants dumplings. Also, if you still can't make up your mind, that's what the Mandarin Orange Chicken is for. (There's a reason that it's the Overall Winner on Trader Joe's Annual Customer Choice survey. Again.)
5. It stocks so much cauliflower.
On my last trip, I spotted mashed cauliflower, riced cauliflower, tempura cauliflower, and cauliflower pizza crusts. I also picked up a package of cauliflower gnocchi, which, at the time, I didn't know if I really needed. Now I'm measuring my freezer to see how much of it I can realistically buy tomorrow.
6. It offers a good, quick brunch.
We all know that brunch is just a word that means "two-hour wait just to see a menu." Pick up a Quiche Lorraine or a box of chocolate croissants and you've won the weekend. Bake them, eat them, and then add a photo to your Instagram story, so your friends have something to look at while they're standing in line down the street.
Do you agree? What do you love about Trader Joe's freezer section?