The Best Food at Trader Joe’s Under for $5

The first thing any loyal Trader Joe’s shopper will tell you is how affordable it is to shop there. Followed by how yummy the frozen food tastes. Followed by how many great vegan products they have. Followed by…well, I think you get the idea. And they aren’t wrong! TJ’s grocery aisles are chock-full of products that deserve a spotlight for their affordability and deliciousness. We compiled a list of our favorite cheap Trader Joe’s meals under $5 for you and your budget-shopping needs—and for any future historians looking for quantitative data on our current economic crisis. Enjoy! 

trader joe's salad kit

Best Salad Kit

Lemony Arugula Basil Salad Kit – $3.99

I’m not sure the Sporked team has ever been more excited about a salad kit, to be honest. As our editor-in-chief Justine Sterling writes, “I have bought this Trader Joe’s salad kit again since first trying it in this taste test. Yes, using my own hard-earned cash. That’s as much of an endorsement as I can possibly give a product.” This zesty, peppery Lemony Arugula Basil Salad Kit includes carrots, crunchy almonds, shaved parmesan, and some secret magical ingredient that makes anyone who tries it fall immediately in love. True love, for only $3.99? Say less. 

Read our full ranking of Trader Joe’s salad kits

Credit: Liv Averett / Trader Joe’s

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

best plain potato chips

Best Classic Potato Chips

Trader Joe’s Ode to the Classic Potato Chip – $1.99

Many chip brands have tried, dared, dreamed of unseating TJ’s Ode to the Classic Potato Chip, our the best plain potato chip we tried in two separate taste tests. These potato chips just taste so earthy and fresh, which perfectly complements their saltiness and finger-licking greasiness. 

Credit: Liv Averett / Trader Joe’s

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

trader joe's Olive Fougasse

Best Artisan Bread

Olive Fougasse – $3.49

We’d be remiss not to mention the single best Trader Joe’s product we tried in 2023: the Olive Fougasse bread. My colleague Jordan Myrick called it “the best store bought bread” they’d ever had, comparing it to an oven-baked olive bread from a French bakery. This loaf has a chewy, soft inside, crispy exterior, and moist olives that infuse the loaf with flavor. This was a Sporked Award recipient, and the fact that you can find such high quality bread under $4 definitely makes this one of the best deals at Trader Joe’s to date. 

Read our ranking of the best Trader Joe’s bread

Credit: Merc / Trader Joe’s

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

trader joe's Sourdough bread

Best Sandwich Bread

Sourdough Sandwich Bread – $3.49

You might be looking for bread that’s a little more functional than the olive loaf that looks so pretty, a part of you doesn’t want to even touch it. Trader Joe’s Sourdough Bread was our runner-up for the best TJ’s bread, right behind the Olive Fougasse, and earned the Sporked seal of approval from self-proclaimed Bay Area sourdough snob herself, Justine.

Credit: Merc / Trader Joe’s

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

trader joe's Chicken Tikka Masala

Best Frozen Indian Meal

Chicken Tikka Masala – $4.49

TJ’s has a wide range of frozen Indian food, more than most major grocery stores. They’ve really cornered the market on individual, microwavable Indian dishes, and we’re thankful for that, since these are some of the best cheap Trader Joe’s meals you can find. Their chicken tikka masala is nearly impossible to fault—it’s so creamy and fragrant, and the chicken cuts like butter. 

Credit: Merc / Trader Joe’s

Rating:

9.5/10

Sporks

Best Frozen Chicken

Mandarin Orange Chicken – $4.99

Winning our TJ’s vs. Panda Express Takeout taste test, the Mandarin Orange Chicken from TJ’s has some of the best quality chicken from the freezer aisle we’ve tried. It comes with multiple sauce packets (a nice touch, thank you, TJ’s), which makes it easy to mine a few dinners out of this—and all at a $4.99 price point. This might be the GOAT of cheap Trader Joe’s meals.

Credit: Liv Averett / Trader Joe’s

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

trader joe's parmesan pastry pups review

Best Frozen App

Parmesan Pastry Pups – $4.99

Of course, where would any of us be without TJ’s Parmesan Pastry Pups? The greasy, buttery, decadent parmesan taste of these are unmatched and still our #1 pick for frozen TJ’s appetizers. And pro tip: poke them with toothpicks to avoid wasting too many napkins on greasy fingers. These crowd-pleasers should be a staple at any party you’re throwing—just make sure you’ve got some vegan and vegetarian appetizer options, too. 

Credit: Liv Averett / Trader Joe’s

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

trader joe's mini vegetable samosas review

Best Frozen Veggie App

Mini Vegetable Samosas – $3.99

Speaking of vegetarian appetizers, have you and these TJ’s veggie samosas cordially met yet? We’re just so happy these crispy, flaky, veggie-packed samosas exist. They might be a little bit smaller than the kind you can find at an Indian restaurant, but you also get a dozen of them for only $3.99. There’s not a ton of major grocery stores out there selling frozen samosas, so really, when it comes to cheap Trader Joe’s meals (or snacks), these are a steal.  

Credit: Liv Averett / Trader Joe’s

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

Trader Joe's Everything & the Elote Dip

Best Dip

Everything and the Elote Greek Style Yogurt Dip – $3.79

Mexican street corn in a dip? If you’ve ever passed this over because you were confused about what that would taste like, we beg you to reconsider. This is, hands down, our favorite dip at Trader Joe’s. It blends the freshly grilled smokiness of elote with a tart yogurt base. The corn kernels mixed in are a little sweet and burst in your mouth. For only $3.79, a dip of this caliber is one of the best deals at Trader Joe’s. 

Read our full ranking of the best Trader Joe’s dips 

Credit: Liv Averett / Trader Joe’s

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

Best Trader Joe's Cheese

Best Cheese

Creamy Toscano Cheese Soaked in Syrah – $4.99

Artisan cheese for under $5? The Creamy Toscano Cheese Soaked in Syrah is our favorite TJ’s cheese to date, and absolutely one of the best deals at Trader Joe’s. Every element in this flavorful cheese, from the tart, wine-soaked  to the crunchy cheese crystals, creates something harmonious, elegant, and addictive. Not to be confused with their syrah-soaked Toscano cheese spread and dip, which also ranked quite high on our ranking of the best TJ’s cheese, this is a cheese block that’s delicious enough to slice up and eat on its own, no accouterments required.

Read our ranking of the best Trader Joe’s cheeses

Credit: Ryan Martin / Trader Joe’s

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

Trader Joe's Parmesan Cheese Alternative

Best Dairy-Free Cheese

Shredded Parmesan Cheese Alternative – $3.99

Those in search of a yummy dairy-free parmesan cheese understand that the struggle is, indeed, very real. TJ’s shredded parmesan earned 10/10 sporks in our vegan shredded cheese taste-test. It’s nutty, salty, and finishes creamy. It’s also at least a dollar cheaper than the other vegan cheeses we tried and loved, so that’s a plus.

Credit: Merc / Trader Joe’s

Rating:

10/10

Sporks


About the Author

Ariana Losch

Ariana Losch is a Sporked contributor, webcomic writer, java junkie, and bad TV enthusiast. She only ever feels at peace laying out on a beach like a kebab, roasting in the sun; sadly, she can never move back to Florida, her home state, because there simply isn’t enough good Mediterranean food. You can find her overstaying her welcome at just about every LA coffee shop, working on a screenplay and avoiding all eye contact. (She is embarrassed to be there, please leave her alone.)

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