The One-Stop Thanksgiving Shopping Guide: Trader Joe’s

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

One trip to Trader Joe’s could be your solution to buying everything from the turkey down to the salt and pepper, and even a bouquet of flowers for the Thanksgiving table. It all depends on your cooking style and the size and type of Thanksgiving dinner you plan to host.

Why Trader Joe’s Should Be Your One-Stop Shop for Thanksgiving

What do we mean when we say one-stop shopping? For starters, don’t confuse this with one-size-fits-all shopping.

If you’re hosting a smaller Thanksgiving (think up to about six people) or better yet, Friendsgiving, Trader Joe’s is the one-stop shop that will help you host a successful dinner. It could also be the right fit for you if you’re the cook who likes to incorporate a few trendy ingredients into a meal, wants some adventure in the kitchen, and is down with smart shortcuts (hello, frozen riced cauliflower!). If you’re looking for all these things and you’re on a budget, head to Trader Joe’s.

(Image credit: Michaela Cisney)

The Thanksgiving Menu We’re Shopping For

This is meant to be a one-stop shop, so we’re tackling the whole meal — and then some! We’re shopping for all the food and ingredients, big and small, that will get your Thanksgiving dinner on the table. Here’s how we’re breaking it down.

  • Basics and Pantry Staples
  • Appetizers
  • The Turkey
  • Side Dishes
  • Drinks
  • Desserts

The Trader Joe’s Thanksgiving Advantage

The Basics

These are the “behind the scenes” ingredients. The basic pantry staples, fruit, vegetables, herbs, and finishing touches that bring your recipes to life. Here’s what you’ll want to grab.

  • Butter: Trader Joe’s has their own in-house brand, but you can also find grass-fed Kerrygold butter as well.
  • Stock: Boxed stock in all varieties is a standard product at Trader Joe’s. Grab an extra box or two. You never know when you’ll need extra for stuffing or gravy.
  • Fresh herbs (thyme, sage, parsley): Look for the herbs in the produce section. If your TJ’s is still carrying pots of herbs, they may be a good choice as well.
  • Onions: Buy them bagged or pre-chopped.
  • Celery: Trader Joe’s has celery hearts, which are more tender and sweet, and pre-chopped celery as well. If you’re using celery (and onion and carrots) for a mirepoix, Trader Joe’s sells that pre-chopped and pre-mixed as well.
  • Leeks: Find these in the refrigerated produce section.
  • Garlic: TJ’s sells whole garlic in bags of two to three heads, or peeled cloves by the bag in the refrigerated produce section.
  • Citrus: Lemons, oranges, limes — you can find conventional and organic options, and loose and bagged options.
  • Spices: Take an inventory of what you have at home and throw out what’s old and stale-smelling. Most spices at TJ’s are under three bucks a jar. Pick up kosher salt and a pepper mill while you’re at it.
  • Maple syrup: Maybe you don’t need it for the meal itself, but pancakes and French toast are likely to be an option at some point during this break. Some locations have Grade B maple, which is extra robust and flavorful.
  • Brown sugar: Find it in the baking aisle. The brown sugar from TJ’s tends to have a very pronounced molasses flavor.
  • Milk: Basically any kind of milk you desire can be found here. Shelf-stable almond and coconut milk will be in the beverage aisle.
  • Heavy cream: Both organic and conventional options are available by the pint. Trader Joe’s also sells a shelf-stable whipping cream that’s a good option if you’re running out of fridge space.
  • Whipped cream: Whipped cream with nothing added.
  • Ice cream: Don’t leave without the pumpkin ice cream!
(Image credit: Kelli Foster)


Trader Joe’s is famous for its freezer section, which includes a wide array of appetizers. Below are a few suggestions for combos to impress your guests.

  • Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps + Cranberry Chèvre Log + Hard Apple Cider
  • Harvest Gorgonzola Tarte + Raspberry Cranberry Spritzer (see more on this below)
(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

The Turkey

From the whole bird, to just breasts or legs, to a couple non-traditional options, here’s what to pick up at Trader Joe’s for the main course.

  • Brined Fresh Young Turkeys: The classic main course for your feast. These birds come soaked in a sweet-savory brine.
  • Fully Cooked Oven Roasted Turkey Breast: If you’d rather skip cooking a whole bird this year, this savvy solution is sold by the pound and ideal for small gatherings.
  • Breaded Turkey-Less Roast Stuffed with Gravy: For those who prefer to skip the turkey, this vegan main dish is filled with a wild rice and cranberry stuffing.

A Mini Guide to Your Thanksgiving Turkey

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Side Dishes

If you’re making your sides from scratch, Trader Joe’s has everything you need. But sometimes you want to round out the mix of sides with a few prepared dishes. From classic sides, like stuffing and mashed potatoes, to leafy greens salads, here are the sides to pick up at Trader Joe’s.

  • Chicken Sausage and Cornbread Stuffing: For pre-made stuffing that needs heating in the oven, look for this version flavored with apples and fresh herbs in the freezer section.
  • Pilgrim Joe’s Fresh Cranberry Orange Relish: For a pop of sweetness, this relish combines fresh chopped cranberries and sweet oranges.
  • Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes: Dried cranberries and pecans are the winning finishing touch for this classic sweet potato side.
  • Carrot Soufflé: Skip the traditional glazed carrots for this whipped soufflé flavored with warm spices.


In addition to wine (If you’re lucky, your TJ’s even has a wine section!) and carafes of water on the table, pick up a selection of other beverages for guests to sip on. Most TJ’s locations have a good selection of reasonably priced beer and cider, and non-alcoholic options like flavored seltzers and fancy Italian sodas. Here are some good picks from Trader Joe’s.

  • Raspberry Cranberry Spritzer: Made with fresh fruit, this fizzy non-alcoholic drink delivers a nice balance of sweet and tart flavor. Serve it as is or use it in a non-alcoholic punch.
  • Ginger Zinger: If you like ginger beer and lemonade, this drink is for you. Mix it with seltzer for a bright and zippy non-alcoholic spritzer, or give it a boozy twist with a splash or rum.
  • Pear Cinnamon Cider: Move over, apple cider! Warm this spiced seasonal drink in the slow cooker, and consider adding a few cinnamon sticks and sliced pears (and maybe even a touch of bourbon) for good measure.
(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

Pie and Other Desserts

From frozen pie crust to pre-made pies, here’s how to end Thanksgiving on a sweet note, with help from Trader Joe’s.

  • Trader Joe’s Pie Crusts: If you’re not game for making crust from scratch, this is a really convenient (and tasty!) option.
  • Pumpkin Cheesecake: Consider skipping the traditional pumpkin pie in favor of this indulgent dessert.
  • Sticky Pumpkin Cake: Inspired by Sticky Toffee Pudding, this gooey and indulgent cake still boasts all the pumpkin flavor you crave.
  • Pecan Pie Filling in a Jar: This store-bought shortcut helps you get a leg up on this sweet and nutty pie.
  • Pumpkin Macarons: You’ll find these in the freezer section. Buy more than one box — trust me.
  • Mini Ginger Pumpkin Ice Cream Mouthfuls: It’s a step away from the classic, but these bite-sized ice cream sandwiches are a cold and creamy crowd-pleaser.

Your Quick Guide to Store-Bought Dessert

(Image credit: Michaela Cisney)

Special Touches

Added bonus! You can get more than just food from Trader Joe’s. Before you check out, take advantage of Trader Joe’s selection of inexpensive bouquets, plants, and seasonal items. Here’s what to grab.

  • Inexpensive bouquets or flowers
  • Mini pumpkins and gourds
  • Assorted Belgian Chocolate Pumpkins
  • Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Salted Caramels
  • Gingerbread Turkey Kit