Five students weigh in on the best Trader Joe’s frozen food

Five students weigh in on the best Trader Joe’s frozen food

Photo Credits: AGGIE FILE

Variety, price and simplicity make Trader Joe’s a valued market choice, according to many college students 

Trader Joe’s is a staple of the UC Davis community. It’s known for healthy and affordable options that cater to college students. The grocery store has managed to rise above frozen food’s less-than-great reputation. Five UC Davis students discuss their go-to’s from the frozen food aisle.

Leela Srinivasan, a third-year math major, endorsed Kung Pao Tempura Cauliflower. 

“It’s so good,” Srinivasan said. “It’s pretty hefty because cauliflower is kinda large.”

The cauliflower is more laborious than other frozen options. The dish’s instructions say to make it in the oven. Srinivasan values this aspect with an acute observation. 

“What I like about Trader Joe’s is that some of it is microwavable, which is easy, but this is different,” Srinivasan said. “You use the oven. It doesn’t just feel like something microwaved and gooey. It definitely feels like something you would get out: quality.”

A common sentiment is that frozen food is worse, but Srinivasan views it as an opportunity to expand her palate. 

“I don’t know if I know how to properly batter cauliflower and I don’t know what goes into the sauce,” Srinivasan said. “I do enjoy cooking, so for certain foods I want to make them, but it’s nice to switch it up with something you know you can’t make yourself.”

She also subscribes to the idea that Trader Joe’s options may have health benefits. 

“It also somehow feels healthy even though I don’t actually know if it is,” she said.

Isabel Rodriguez, a second-year psychology major, leans towards the popular Chicken Tikka Masala. As a busy student, she values efficiency.

“It’s my go-to,” Rodriguez said. “[I] don’t usually go to Trader Joe’s, but if I happen to be there, I’ll get it every time. It’s a quick and easy thing I can pop in the microwave. But it’s really good, better than most frozen foods.” 

Though she doesn’t frequent the store, she praised its options. 

“I think they have a pretty good selection, honestly,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like there’s a lot of choices and it’s not the type of food you’d see at normal grocery stores, which I like. There’s a lot of variety.”

The third recommendation comes from Caroline Hopkins, a second-year history major. She chose a more unconventional option. 

“I love their Mac and Cheese Bites,” Hopkins said. “It’s a mac and cheese pasta with cheese sauce covered in fried breadcrumbs.” 

Though Hopkins enjoys several frozen meals, she has some reservations. 

“I find it kinda weird when some of the frozen foods have frozen pieces of sauce,” Hopkins said. 

If you are a regular Trader Joe’s frozen food consumer, you’ve probably tried their Mandarin Orange Chicken. Juliette Taylor, a first-year linguistics major, vouched for the popular dish. 

“It’s basically just like normal orange chicken,” Taylor said. “It’s breaded and crunchy on the outside, and it comes with some sauce. All you have to do is put it in the oven. It’s really good, kinda tangy.”

Unlike the other interviewees, Taylor doesn’t rely on it as a staple of her diet. 

“At this point, I eat it once every one to two months. I have to space it out so I don’t get tired of it,” Taylor said. 

Overall, she feels positively about the options at Trader Joe’s. 

“I think they have a really good selection, I like that there’s lots of different kinds of food,” Taylor said. “I also like that there’s a lot of vegetarian options.”

The frozen foods are not limited to meals. Anusheh Abdullah, a second-year mechanical engineering major, raved about their dessert options. 

“The Green Tea Mochi is incredible,” Abdullah said. “They just do a really good job with the flavor and the texture. Like, the mochi wrap and ice cream have different flavors, but they really complement each other. Honestly, the decision to buy it was life changing.”

Abdullah is a die hard patron of Trader Joe’s, with good reason. 

“I exclusively go shopping at Trader Joe’s, I would say,” Abdullah said. “And I’m not very good at cooking, I haven’t really done that for most of my life, so I think it’s really great for college students. And they have a really wide variety of cultural foods and homey American comfort foods.”

All the interviewees agree that Trader Joe’s variety, price and simplicity make it a valuable choice for college students. And if none of these options sound good enough for you, the Fettuccine and Mushroom Pasta, the Mac and Cheese and the Vegetable Fried Rice were also popular among the interviewees. Next time you find yourself in the store, utilize the opportunity to expand your palette.

Written by: Livvy Mullen — arts@theaggie.org