For the most part, if you're shopping at Trader Joe's, you're already saving money. The place is raved over for its discount buys and millennial-friendly prices. However, it's easy to get carried away grocery shopping, no matter where you go. Trader Joe's especially is known for its specialty items and probably carries more than a few tempting options you don't really need.
Trader Joe's customers adore their unique products - some more than others. They're always coming out with new snack food mashups and fun frozen appetizers. In addition to these select items, the grocery store also sells pantry staples and dry goods in bulk. It's like a one-stop shop for practicality and frivolity alike. So how do you know that you're truly making the wisest choices when it comes to what's best for your budget?
Just a few little-known secrets can help shoppers make the most of Trader Joe's unique shopping experience. From checkout line tactics to frozen food hacks, there are more than a few savvy strategies for saving money at Trader Joe's.
Read the Fearless Flyer
The Fearless Flyer is a circular distributed at Trader Joe's stores that you can request be mailed to you - or you can simply find it online. The publication advertises the store's featured products, many of which are either marked down because they're seasonal or are on sale.
Buy Frozen Vegetables
While Trader Joe's fresh produce isn't much of a steal, their frozen vegetables are more than a bargain. Some of their bags of frozen vegetables are less than a dollar. Stock up on different kinds - they carry everything from Brussels sprouts to cauliflower rice - and keep them in your freezer. Whenever you're feeling inspired, you'll be free to make a vegetable-filled meal without giving in to an expensive trip to the grocery store.
Set Limits on Specialty Snacks
With items like this giant skillet cookie and crave-worthy crispy snacks, it can be easy to let your grocery bill rack up without realizing it. Before you know it, you have a cart full of potato chips and peanut butter cups and a surprisingly empty bank account. It's almost impossible to walk through Trader Joe's without picking up at least a few fun finds. Give yourself a limit before you walk in and get distracted. Then, pick and choose a few favorites instead of indulging on every product that catches your eye.
Buy Frozen Meat
The fresh meat at Trader Joe's can be pricey - especially on tempting items such as salmon and nice cuts of beef. If you must buy meat fresh, we recommend you purchase it elsewhere. However, they sell frozen meat at a great bargain. There are bags of frozen chicken breast, inexpensive fillets of fish, and even already-cooked shrimp at affordable prices.
Stock Up on Staples
Though it's better known for its snacks and frozen food aisle, Trader Joe's has a wide array of products you can buy in bulk. Rice, pasta, oats, flour, and any other pantry staple you can think of can all be found at Trader Joe's for a low price. The bigger the bag, the better the bargain!
Buy Wine and Beer
Trader Joe's is famous for its cheap and debatably palatable wine, "Two Buck Chuck." If you don't mind sipping on a subpar blend, buy your wine at Trader Joe's for a huge discount. They offer low prices for craft beer, as well, and have even created their own versions of popular brews. Think "Trader José" and "Josephsbrau Summer Brew."
Buy Produce Elsewhere
Most of the produce sold at Trader Joe's is prepackaged and not as fresh. The packaging gives you less freedom to buy the amount of produce you actually need. It's also not as cheap as produce sold elsewhere, such as your local farmers market or other large grocery store.
Return Products When Necessary
This is a little-known fact, but Trader Joe's has an impressively lenient return policy. Any product that you don't like can be returned as long as you have the receipt for almost any reason.
Skip Cleaning and Paper Products
Most Trader Joe's stores are small compared to other large grocery chains. They only carry a few different kinds of paper products and household goods, including toilet paper, paper towels, and cleaners. However, they aren't offered in bulk and can be found for a much better price at another, larger store.
Use Coupons for Branded Products
Trader Joe's itself doesn't circulate coupons - though their prices do rise and fall occasionally. But Trader Joe's carries products from other brands as well as their own, and these brands often offer coupons. Use these tips for making the most of using coupons and bring a few cutouts to the store for your favorite brands.
Don't Grab Things at Checkout
Trader Joe's lines can be long - especially if you live in a big city, shopping there could mean spending upwards of 20 minutes waiting in the queue. Grocery stores are smart; they line these pathways with easy-to-grab items such as flowers, candy, and other miscellaneous products. Try to resist grabbing too many on your way out. You could easily end up spending more than you intended on things you didn't even need!
Take Advantage of Samples
Not sure if you're going to like a new product on Trader Joe's shelves? Luckily, the store has a policy where customers are allowed to sample any product they would like to potentially buy. The store also has sample stations where they pass out testers of new and trending products. Take advantage of these opportunities so you don't waste money on something you don't really enjoy - and so you can discover new items you love!
Buy Trader Joe's Brand Products
Many of Trader Joe's branded products are actually produced by the same manufacturers as bigger name brands. That means that a can of Trader Joe's soup might be exactly the same as the leading brand nationwide - only sold at a lower price. Annie's Organic Shells & White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese, for example, is reportedly the same as TJ's Organic White Shells and Cheese Macaroni & Cheese. For shelf staples and basics, buy Trader Joe's labeled products. Leave the name brands for items you can't find otherwise.
Bring Your Own Bag
Many cities add a bag tax to your bill if you resort to paper or plastic. Shave off a couple dollars and cents every time you visit the store by bringing your own reusable cloth bag. Make sure you clean it, though - surprisingly, it's one of the grossest items in your kitchen!
Use Cooking Hacks
Though many of Trader Joe's products come pre-made, there are more ways to prepare them than the instructions on the bag. Our editors devised a list of genius cooking hacks using some of Trader Joe's most sought-after products.