What To Buy and Not Buy at Trader Joes

February 16, 2011

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After shopping at Trader Joes for years – I noticed the prices for some items are pretty awesome and other prices not so much. I thought it would be helpful to write a post on what to buy and what not to buy at your local Trader Joes. Please leaves your do and dont buy list of Trader Joes in the comment sections.

First off  – DID you know that Trader Joes is NOW ACCEPTING Manufacture  coupons! Though many of their products are their own label you can score some pretty good deals

DO BUY:

Cheese:

Almost daily I confess my love of cheese – well it is usually cheese from Trader Joes that helps my cravings. The pricing of cheese is pretty good – most of the cheese is cut into different sizes – thus you have a wide range of price. So you can enjoy cheese you normally would not purchase without a hole in your wallet. The wide array of cheese is a plus in my book as well.

Wine and Beer:

Two-Buck Chuck anyone. Trader Joes is well known for Charles Shaw 1.99 bottles of wine. Though I would not take it to parties as a gift – it is great to have a few bottle around the house for cooking. My hubby loves beer – he has even brewed his own. Well he discovered a brand of beer called “Nametag” which is only 2.99 for a six pack – not to shabby.

Olive Oil:

Olive oil can be very expensive – and as a person who cooks dinner almost every night I hate having to pay $6.00 or more for a bottle of Olive Oil. I buy Trader Giotto’s Extra-Virgin Olive Oil for $5.49 a liter—more than $3 cheaper than I could find at other stores. This is big savings over a long period of time. Saving large amounts of money is not due to the huge and drastic changes rather the small changes you do day to day.

Freezer Aisle:

Oh how much do I LOVE their freezer aisle? Let’s just say a ton and a half! Though I stay away from their desserts I do purchase items such as their tamales – perfect for lunches. Orange Chicken – perfect for my lazy cooking days when I want to make a meal in under 15 minutes.

Flowers:

These are orchids from my wedding…. which I purchased at Trader Joes! I found their prices somewhat reasonable but their products are VERY fresh.

WHAT NOT TO BUY:

Produce:

Yes I know the $.19 bananas are a pretty good deal. My main problem with the produce is that it is never REALLY fresh – also the price point is not the best.

Meat:

Have you ever noticed that meat never goes on clearance at Trader Joes – by no means do they sell it all – I wonder where it goes. The price of meat – though looks fresh – is OUT OF THIS WORLD.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Malia @ One2One Network February 16, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Yes, I would totally agree with all your “to buys” . Our local TJ’s is on the other side of town, so I have to plan my trips. Other things I love getting there are greek yogurt (it’s just a tad more expensive than my local grocer but the quality is much better), hummus, and Naan.

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Chef Geoff February 17, 2011 at 2:12 am

Good post and I agree with your points. I used to live near the Emeryville store and learned that all “nearly out of date” products are donated to a local food bank and prepared for use the same day or next.

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christi February 18, 2011 at 2:53 am

the meat they don’t sell by the sell by date goes in the trash OR they give to the local food bank the day of the sell by date. ask your local tj’s manager. they are honest with where their stuff goes. i buy their organic ground beef and all natural chicken breasts — i have no problem with them. as for the produce … again no problem. if you ever buy something that goes bad fast, they will take it back without any questions. i think knowing that they don’t use sprays and such to keep produce fresh is really important. they’ve also gotten more responsible with their packaging — the veggies that i buy in plastic all come in a fully recyclable package. i also think their nuts are a great price and agree their frozen section is fantastic!! the cheese selection is better and priced better than our local costco. have you tried their lavendar bath products? you should … they are divine!

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Pati May 21, 2012 at 2:47 pm

I can confirm that they donate at least twice a day to our food bank. I volunteer at the food pantry in Wheaton and they are AWESOME! At times we get two or three deliveries a day. The food is great and you should see the joy children get when they have fruit, veggies and bakery! I LOVE Trader Joe’s …..I always shop at the Wheaton location! They even bring day old flower bouquets and they are gorgeous!

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Michelle February 19, 2011 at 1:28 am

I love Trader Joes and completely agree with you on every one of your suggestions!

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Juleah Morgan Brewer April 22, 2011 at 10:22 pm

My weakness are the Ginger Chew by the Ginger People. They do sell them in other stores, but TJ’s has bigger bags of them for a cheaper price. Another favorite store is Sunflower Market, FYI, on Wednesdays both weeks circulars are accepted and they take coupons also!

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Nikolai February 8, 2012 at 7:29 pm

I L-O-V-E Ginger People ginger chews! I usually go for the original but they also have a peanut-flavored chew that’s awesome. The peanuty smoothness with the spicy ginger is delish!

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geri February 8, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Thank you all for your posts–Trader Joe’s is coming to Ft Worth and this info will be really helpful.

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Katey March 1, 2012 at 7:07 am

Their almond butter–raw, salted, or any kind–is also the cheapest that I’ve ever found. Delish!

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Serina March 5, 2012 at 8:02 am

Their pizza dough is absolutely fantastic and is reasonably priced. Makes pizza nights even easier.

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Carrie March 16, 2012 at 9:24 pm

I am at Trader Joes at least twice a week. I agree with your buys but I have to disagree with the produce, I buy tomatoes on a regular basis, my daughter eats them like crazy, always cheaper than the regular store and fresh. Lemons, oranges, bags of apples, lettuce, blueberries, always fresh and much cheaper than store. Bread is a good buy, all natural, no chemicals or oils and much cheaper than store. I also think their turkey meat and chicken is always fresh and a a great price, even less than Target.

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Ellen May 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm

I love their Lavender Salt Scrub and it is priced way better than similar products! My absolutely favorite thing at Trader Joe’s are the Dark Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans!! Yummy! Another thing that I always buy are the Pita Bite Crackers. My daughter loves the sushi area by produce. I feel like most of the produce is very fresh, but it is true that if you get it home and, for whatever reason, don’t like what you got, they will accept returns on everything. I love the aisle helpers. They go out of their way to find whatever you are looking for!!
I LOVE TRADER JOE’S!!!

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Mandy November 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm

I agree with most but I do find their produce awesome! Organic apples for $.79 each and usually their organic strawberries are $.50 more and there is rarely a bad one in the bunch! I also LOVE their coffee and find the prices of nuts to be great! Their meat may be pricy but about the same for organic in other stores. Not sure about price but lately I have been addicted to their mango papaya salsa served with their quinoa and black bean tortilla chips-yum!!!

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Heather November 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm

I usually buy dried and freeze-dried fruit there as well as nuts (cashews and almonds). I like that they offer almonds that have 1/2 the usual amount of salt. Their frozen section has great easy meal ideas, my husband really likes the fried rice. Their produce prices aren’t the cheapest, but I like being able to buy organic produce for less than I would pay at my usual grocery store.

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Suzi November 11, 2012 at 4:25 pm

My daughter loves the frozen turkey corndogs. We also use the dry catfood from TJs. Their price on goat cheese crumbles can’t be beat!!

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Michelle L. November 11, 2012 at 8:17 pm

steel-cut oatmeal! Much cheaper than the national brand, McCann’s. Peanut butter. I’ve heard coconut oil but always forget to look when I’m there. I love their teas!

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DeAnn February 18, 2013 at 4:03 pm

We moved to the DFW (mid cities) area from Surprise, Az last summer and I miss my Trader Joe’s! There are some around but they are FAR. I love their Pumpkin Butter in the fall (perfect size to gift with a copy of the Williams Sonoma Pumpkin Dessert Square recipe). I would get their Tea Tree shampoo and conditioner for my DD at a GREAT price comparatively. I agree with the olive oil and also the cocoa powder was CHEAP! Hubby loved their artisan bread selection and I thought their produce (namely green beans) could be found fresh and at good prices.

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LaDonna Greene May 1, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I love their blueberry in crusted goat cheese on the multi grain crackers. Not everyday of course but on those special nights when you really don’t want anything for dinner. I also like their Tea Tree body wash just makes you feel real clean and minty. :)

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Kristen S May 1, 2013 at 3:20 pm

The Trader Joes here takes any mean that is near the expiration date freezes and donates to the local food pantry. They also do the same with their cheese. I always wondered about the bananas.

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Kristen S May 1, 2013 at 3:20 pm

oops MEAT not mean

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Sue May 1, 2013 at 3:27 pm

I completely agree with the produce. I have lost so much stuff from there the day after and sometimes I had to return stuff like berries because they were already moldy when I got the package open at home. :(

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Debi Booth May 1, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Trade Joes…mine has really fresh and reasonable priced produce. Actually, I’ve gotten fresh & great priced organic produce. Love their fresh spinach…for $1.99 a bagred peppers , and usually some locally grown produce. Agree on the frozen aisle, be careful…I have a few favorites & they carry great items for a party or gathering. Cheese…love the Brie and it is the best price I can find,…so fresh! On the $1.99 wine , I keep a bottle of the white in the kitchen for saute shrimp and other fish dishes….So enjoy shopping Trader Joes, Didn’t know about the manufacturers coups…Trader Joes is a lot cheaper in comparison to some other healthier food store…Thanks for the review =)

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alisa May 1, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Great post! I love TJ’s, some of my favorite products are the EV coconut oil (great for cooking & conditioning hair. My doggies love it too!), pumpkin soup and most importantly……the mango black tea bags, it make the best iced tea (be sure to follow the recipe on the box)!

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Annette May 1, 2013 at 7:51 pm

I always buy coconut milk and cream at TJs. Also their. Brand of “pirates booty” is so much cheaper. The shelf stable cream is awesome for food storage :)

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Maria May 2, 2013 at 5:39 am

Buy the bagged salads! Organic or not they are cheaper than other grocers! And for meat…I only try to buy organic meat and they have $1.99/lb for chicken legs. This is a great price and I recently just made some in the crock pot and made chicken salad/pulled bbq and it was great! :) The organic or natural cereals are also well priced too along with many other staples.

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Kari May 3, 2013 at 3:25 am

I had a difficult time purchasing bread products at TJ – the prices were fine, but I’d discover mold within a day of purchase. They of course have excellent customer service and always refund easily. On my third or fourth bread return (OK, so it takes me awhile to learn…), I mentioned the frequent occurrence and the employee said they have higher-than-average returns for spoilage because most of their products have fewer preservatives than similar items in the average grocery store. Good to know! (BTW, I’d venture to guess that produce prices may be better or worse buys depending on your region.)

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dorothy March 24, 2014 at 5:57 pm

I’m in New York City and I shop at the TJ’s at 21st and 6th Ave.
I can practically shop “my” TJ’s with my eyes closed. I buy Almond Milk $2.99 for a half gallon but $3.89 at the supermarket. Goat cheese in many varieties is half Whole Foods’ price. European Yogurt (plain) $2.99/quart — There’s nothing in it but milk and cultures, just as it should be. Dates — in the produce section at $4.49 (I think) are delicious even though I have to be careful not to swallow the pits. ;-)

I buy the bag of frozen chicken tenders (skinless/boneless) — Each one is perfect meal (if I remember to defrost) — Anyway they’re very good and a real find for someone who lives alone. I sometimes get the chicken thighs. I forget the price because I don’t care.
Hamburgers (frozen) New Zealand grass fed beef. Absolutely delish!
Thai Goyozas – I’d go to a restaurant for these. $3.49 for 16 and 5 makes a very nice meal with some sauted spinach.

I never ever buy the cookies — They’re too good and I consider them “dangerous” They have several varieties which I can eat with my eyes closed and feel as if I’m in Paris!

There’s more but I have other stuff to do. Can’t sign off, however, without mentioning how helpful and pleasant all the TJ staff (a/k/a “crew”) are. They’re very un-New York and really great.

TJ’s opened here about 2005 and they have literally changed my life for the better — Didn’t mention flowers or crackers or bread or other stuff. Maybe another time.

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