These Trader Joe's Products Make Entertaining Easier

The best Trader Joe's groceries for when you're hosting a holiday gathering.

A friend of mine has a hack he always employs when he's throwing a cocktail party: Make appetizers from scratch, but keep the freezer and pantry filled with Trader Joe's foods so there's backup whenever the homemade stuff runs out. Around the holidays, I employ a similar tactic, except that I skip the part where I make a lot of homemade appetizers.

At the start of the holiday season each year, I do a big trip to Trader Joe's, where I stock up on staples that'll keep well in the fridge, freezer, or pantry, and which I can have on hand for both pre-planned and impromptu entertaining.

I like to focus on items that are easy to prepare, keep well, and are somewhat flexible in terms of when or how I'd serve them. Here's what I like to grab on my holiday grocery run.

Trader Joe’s best frozen appetizers

The frozen section of Trader Joe's is a wonderland of fancy-looking appetizers, most of which taste as good as they look.

The best part about making room in the freezer for frozen appetizers at this time of the year is that they'll stay good through the entire holiday season, so you'll have them on hand whenever they're needed.

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A few of Trader Joe's current offerings that I'll be keepng on hand this holiday season include:

  • Brie en Croûte: This frozen appetizer looks beautiful, and the effect of cutting into the pastry to reveal the gooey cheese inside will have guests thinking you planned this delicious show just for them. TJ's suggests you can "fancy it up further" by topping it with red pepper spread, raspberry preserves, or truffle powder before baking.
  • Crispy Vegetable Pouches: Not only do these frozen little pastry pouches look nice on a tray, but they're also vegan, which means I can serve them no matter which friends and family stop by bearing gifts and good cheer. As plant-based diets become more common, I think it's good to always have a few such options on hand.
  • Pastry Bites With Feta Cheese & Caramelized Onions: I've never served a puff-pastry bite that people weren't impressed with, and the one-two punch of salty feta cheese and lightly sweet caramelized onions are sure to please a crowd.

Trader Joe’s best prepared foods and dips

When it comes to entertaining, the prepared foods section at Trader Joe's has plenty to offer by way of dips and other savory items. The only thing to note here is that, unlike the frozen stuff, each item in this category will have a varying shelf life. Still, unopened, you should get some time out of them. Current offerings that I'm stocking up on include:

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  • Roasted Hatch Chile & Jalapeño Cheese Dip: After years of serving spinach artichoke dip anytime the air was cool and a holiday was afoot, I'm going to try this dip this year instead, which is a brand-new offering from Trader Joe's and will pair well with tortilla chips, which are easy enough to keep on hand.
  • Truffle Dip: This umami dip will pack a punch regardless of what you set it out with, making it easy to pair with whatever crackers you have on hand, or a quickly assembled veggie tray. (If you want to buy a premade veggie tray, Trader Joe's has one of those too.)
  • Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Tart: I'll be grabbing this tart for impending holiday visits because it's so versatile. I can put it out as an appetizer, or, if a visit is going longer than expected and it seems like a more substantial meal is required, I can pair with with a salad and call it a (light) meal.

Trader Joe’s best holiday sweets

The holiday season is a time of copious, and relatively affordable, sweet treats at Trader Joe's. We taste-tested most of them last year, and a few stood out thanks to their portion size, ease of storage, and general deliciousness. I'll keep these on hand for holiday visits this year:

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  • English Toffee With Nuts: At 30 oz., this delightful toffee canister is large enough to offer a good amount of people their fill of sweets and still have some leftover. The pieces of toffee are uniform and, we've found, uniformly delicious.
  • Minty Flavored Cocoa Truffles: These truffles are one-bite wonders, and they're dusted in cocoa powder, which makes them have a little bit of a fancy feel. They're nice to serve up in a silvery bowl during coffee time with family and friends, or you could stir them right into some hot chocolate for an extra minty kick.
  • Triple Ginger Snaps: The tubs in which Trader Joe's sells its cookies tend to be pretty large, and ginger snaps are seasonal, crisp, and easy to keep for a long while in the pantry, making them a great option to have on hand. In addition to dessert, they're at home on a cheese platter alongside some hard cheeses, apples, and nuts.
  • The holidays can be, in a word, chaotic. Having a few items from each of the categories above on hand helps me keep the buzz of frenzy at a low hum. And, if I don't end up needing these appetizers, dips, and treats for entertaining, that's great, too—I can just cozy up by the Christmas tree and enjoy them by myself.

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