6 Trader Joe’s “Little Luxuries” (for $5 or Less!) to Pick Up This Summer

published Aug 18, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Trader Joe's grocery bag on countertop
Credit: Sarah Crowley

Ever since college, my motto has pretty much always been WWIGD (What Would Ina Garten Do?). And by that I mean, how can I carve out a little bit of delight and luxury in everyday experiences? As you may or may not know, Ina is the patron saint of using the “good” olive oil, picking the best loaf of bread, but also making do with what she has. As the queen herself says it, store-bought is, in fact, fine.

Store-bought is actually more than fine — especially if you’re at Trader Joe’s. In my opinion, Trader Joe’s is pretty much always stacked with little luxuries that perk up your weekly shop. So whether you want something that makes your next batch of banana bread taste even more rich, or a snack to enjoy with your evening nightcap, I have a feeling that adding just one of these to your cart this week will really add some deluxe, Ina-approved energy to your shop (and they’re all under $5!). 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

1. Chocolate Chip Pain Au Lait, $3.49 for 9.9 ounces

I am by no means a morning person, and I must admit that I like to use breakfast as a way to make sure I get up on time. Let me just say that Trader Joe’s Chocolate Chip Pain Au Lait (French for “milk bread”) not only gets me out of bed fast, but also way before my alarm. Fluffy, eggy, and lightly sweet, these chocolate chip snack-sized breads are like if a loaf of brioche bread got just a tiny bit more decadent. 

These buttery little buns only get better with a bit of toasting or a quick dunk in a hot latte, and they will really make you feel like you teleported right into a Parisian patisserie.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

2. Organic Vodka Sauce, $3.29 for 25 ounces

On nights I am solidly in a “treat yo self” frame of mind, nothing quite satisfies like this out-of-control vodka sauce. I stumbled upon this after my friend (who has her own honest-to-goodness Italian American nonna) sang its praises. We even did a taste test of this jar against her own nonna-approved recipe and could truly not tell much of a difference — it’s really that good! 

If you’re new to vodka sauce, it contains, yes, vodka in it (and no, you won’t feel “sauced” on this sauce!). It also traditionally includes heavy cream, onion, crushed tomatoes, and butter, which get emulsified by the vodka to create this iconic silky, creamy sauce. There’s very little this sauce doesn’t improve. I love, of course, using it classically with penne pasta, but it’s also incredible when used for topping pizza, dipping breadsticks, or tossing with lobster ravioli

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

3. Olive & Herbs Mixed Nuts, $4.99 for 10 ounces

You know when you go to a fancy-schmancy bar and they have those decorative bowls filled with mixed nuts? And you eat so many that you risk spoiling your dinner? Well, I like to try to recreate that cool bar vibe at my own home bar as much as possible, and Trader Joe’s Olive & Herbs Mixed Nuts mix makes that super easy to accomplish. Fruity and savory, with plenty of herby intrigue, this mixture is way more than the sum of its parts (and it has a lot of them). 

Almonds, cashews, and pecans serve as the base of this herb-seasoned mix (a blend of sage, thyme, marjoram, and rosemary that reads as Thanksgiving Turkey seasoning in the best way possible). But what really stand out to me are the tangy dried Kalamata olives I can’t help but seek out each time I grab a handful of this mix. They add just the right amount of fruity, earthy spice, and really push this mix to the next level (and make you feel totally OK with spoiling your dinner a little). Pair this with your next nightcap and your living room will surely become the hottest bar in town.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

4. Crème Fraîche, $3.99 for 7.5 ounces

If there ever was a Swiss Army Knife ingredient, crème fraîche is absolutely it. At any meal of the day, I’ve likely put Trader Joe’s super-affordable crème fraîche in it. (I’m talking eggs, soups, scones, and pastas.) Having had the utmost pleasure of once living with a French person, I rapidly discovered that everything can stand to be improved with crème fraîche (which I liken to as versatile as sour cream, but with way more delightful butterfat). 

For me, crème fraîche is as much a verb as it is a delicious noun. Mashed potatoes on the menu? Crème fraîche-it. Kind of bored with your regular frosting recipe? Crème fraîche-it. Trying to eat your greens (but want to mix it up too)? You guessed it — crème fraîche-it.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

5. Organic Italian Artisan Cascatelli Pasta, $2.99 for 16 ounces

One of the easiest ways to add a bit of needed excitement to my grocery shop is grabbing a new-to-me noodle. And wouldn’t you know, there’s seemingly a new noodle shape every single time I end up at the store, including Trader Joe’s version of Sfoglini’s Cascatelli noodle

Dan Pashman, the noodle’s creator, designed the pasta to be top-tier in three distinct pasta qualities: sauceability (how readily sauce adheres to the noodle shape), forkability (how easy it is to get the noodle on your fork and have it stay there), and toothsinkability (how satisfying it is to sink your teeth into said noodle). Let me just say that Trader Joe’s version of the “waterfall”-style noodle earns all the top marks in all categories and really jazzes up a Wednesday pasta night like no other, and at a fraction of the price of the original.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

6. Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter, $4.49 for 8 ounces

In my house, this block of butter has garnered its own nickname: The “Good Butter,” and you butter believe it earns that name. You see, there’s butter and then there’s Kerrygold. I have no science to back this up, but this is the butter made from the milk of happy cows. Could it be the Irish grasses? I may never know, but what I do know is that this butter essentially turns buttered toast into an event. 

The next time you’re planning on making banana bread, Rice Krispies Treats, or chocolate chip cookies, do yourself a favor and use this butter. Better yet, brown your Kerrygold butter to really add all the richness your baked goods deserve. 

What Trader Joe’s “little luxuries” are you picking up this summer? Tell us in the comments below.