What To Buy and Not Buy at Trader Joes

July 7, 2011

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.

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Crystal March 18, 2011 at 1:52 am

Unfortunately we do NOT have a Trader Joe’s near us, but everytime we visit the fam in IL we make a stop at Trader Joe’s. They have some of the BEST priced foods for families w/food allergies!! They have these amazing Snickerdoodle cookies that are soft & chewy- GLUTEN free, SOY free, DAIRY free, FREE of the top 8 allergens and they are under $3 a box!! Anything that is allergy free is usually very pricey but we definitely stock up on these a lot!! YUM!

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Michelle March 19, 2011 at 1:37 am

Hey BSD….I usually don’t write on your board as I just Tweet you ( mishdawg), but I had to say that while I have Trader Joe’s in Mass. they take a bit to get to. However, the ride is worth their gluten free fare and the low prices for nuts is crazy good. Try the mojito salmon if you can get it…it’s great for a quick meal, but tastes like it took a while to make.

Thanks!

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Cara May 30, 2011 at 5:31 am

Trader Joe’s is very big on donating their out dated meat to food banks. I frequent them and they always have lots of Trader Joe’s meat and items like chicken salad.

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Amy Grochowski December 2, 2012 at 3:06 am

Yes, Trader Joe’s just opened in our city and is already donated to the local homeless rescue mission. Donations to local food banks and homeless shelters are down this year, so big thanks to Trader Joe’s for making a difference.

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heather May 30, 2011 at 11:58 am

I love Trader Joes…But I always spend too much when I go there lol. I used to love their Himilayan trex mix with goji berries but they stopped selling it. Love their raw nuts also.

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Dianna May 30, 2011 at 4:55 pm

when I go I like to buy the snack foods for my girls 1-2 dollars a bag for veggie chips and the like. I also love their orange juice .. But what I go for is non dairy, egg free products. Their non dairy sour cream, cream cheese, and yogurt are always on my list.

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Laurie May 30, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Thanks for your insight. Here in AZ, I think TJ’s produce prices are great EXPECIALLY on organic fruits and veggies. No other store can beat them. The local farmer’s market is usually close to their prices or beats their prices, but of course that market is only certain days and times. I will buy organic chicken and grass fed beef at TJ’s. For those items I think they beat other stores. The upscale grocery stores that do sell organic meat have outrageous prices and TJ’s beats those every day. Most regular grocery stores don’t even carry organic chicken and beef.

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Nicole July 7, 2011 at 8:02 pm

There are some things I ONLY buy at TJ because I can’t find it cheaper anywhere else. I love love their cheeses because I can get just a little and the quality is super. I love their bagged veggies too. They always seem to last longer than ones I get at other stores. I also love their juices and dairy free options. They also have some really wonderful vegan foods as well. With a house full of food sensitivities and picky eaters, I am really happy to have places like TJ and Whole Foods.

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Tonya July 7, 2011 at 8:27 pm

I don’t know about other parts of the country, but in AZ, TJ’s has awesome pricing on produce..particularly organic. And they have great pricing for us moms who have food allergy kids! Way cheaper than other stores. Their nut pricing can’t be beat, their “ends and pieces” pricing on nitrate free applewood smoked bacon and “ends and pieces” on the fruit and fiber bars are fantastic. Um yeah, I am a huge TJ’s fan, but except for the above mentioned bacon and Hebrew National hot dogs, I don’t buy meat there…I agree, too pricey!
Tonya

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Peggy July 7, 2011 at 9:40 pm

I live in LA too (the Valley, really) and my hubby and I looooove Trader Joe’s!! Our favorites are the cheese too (well, mine actually), the dried fruits and nuts (his), the Mochi ice cream (mine), and the Organic veggie tortilla chips (his all time favorite). Our cats even like their canned cat food. We could spend hours there but I’m afraid we’d have to file bankruptcy if we did. LOL.

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Amie December 2, 2012 at 1:51 am

My daughter took me to TJ I loved it ! I found great deals and also found some things I could get better deals else where. But I still enjoyed there store and all they have to offer my very favorite so far is their OLIVE OIL I have tried many and theirs is very good !!

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Emily Childers December 2, 2012 at 2:52 am

DO NOT buy their seaweed crisps, nastiest thing I’ve ever had. I opened the package, brought it to my tongue, licked it, threw out the package, lol. Thank God it was only a dollar. I only bought them because Brooke Burke said she liked them, yeah, right, whatever.

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Emily December 2, 2012 at 3:01 am

Hey BSD, felt like I needed to comment on this one for my love of trader joe’s.
Anyway, these are my all time favorite snacks that you can only find (the best of) at trader joe’s:

1. Dark Chocolate Stars – a holiday item – could eat an entire box, my FAVORITE cookie

2. Cookie Butter

3. Almond Butter – so good, and so much better for you than PB

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Lisa December 2, 2012 at 3:03 am

You’re right, there are so many things at Trader Joe’s that are significantly less expensive than elsewhere — quinoa, gluten-free pasta, vitamins, coconut oil and coconut ice cream are a few that come to mind off the top of my head, in addition to what you already mentioned. The salads are also good deal for lunch compared to a packaged salad elsewhere. Another good buy is nuts — they have one pound bags of almonds/cashews etc for about $5-6 a bag.

Though they do have two-buck chuck, you can buy wines that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to bring to a dinner party for $5 — they actually have a very good selection at that price point. If you enlist the help of an employee and raise your price to $8 — you’re guaranteed to find a very nice bottle. My hubby is a fan of the Trader Jose’s beer — I think it’s $2.99 for a six pack and he says it tastes just like Corona.

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Becky a December 2, 2012 at 3:11 am

I love trader joes!! We are gluten free and their pricing on those items are great! Also their spices are pretty cheap too! And if you open an item and are I satisfied for any reason bring it back or the wrapper and they will refund your money!

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B December 2, 2012 at 3:29 am

please tell me why this is a knowledgeable statement???:

“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.”

I find the produce continually fresh and yes .19 is a good deal

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Michelle G December 2, 2012 at 3:37 am

While I do agree with the meat, they also don’t promise it will hormone free, I must disagree on the produce. It may not always look fresh but knowing it is 100% GMO free is enough for me. I live in MI so the supermarkets here do not havbe great produce through the winter months.

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Linda July 3, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Check the FDA site, I thought that ALL meats/dairy products had to be hormone free. Companies will change the info on packaging to appear to “giving” us something special, in reality it is required by law. Re: Produce – I have never seen any claim that TJ’s produce is GMO free, did I miss something?

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Kaci December 2, 2012 at 4:41 am

We love TJs! In fact, about 85% of our groceries come from there! The main problem I have, budget wise, at TJs is that everything looks delicious! So even if you just went for the staples, somehow 3 different kinds of chocolate and a new kind of cookie mysteriously end up on your bag! Haha.
I disagree on the produce statement – we buy a majority of our produce there (except bananas/apples – per piece is just not cheap no matter how you look at it!) and it has always been very fresh and their lettuces are wonderful and awesomely priced!! While their meat isn’t dirt cheap, it isn’t chock full of fillers either – you win some, you lose some.

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Dawn December 2, 2012 at 5:43 am

The spices are a great price! Always buy them there. I agree about the olive oil too. We love the butternut squash ravioli’s too. We have tried many brands but Trader Joes is the best.

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Jill Robichaux December 2, 2012 at 6:28 am

I know here in Omaha our trader joes donates ALL there almost out of date food to the soup kitchen. I know that food stays good for a while after it is donated. It helps feed a lot of people and does not get tossed.

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Juanita December 2, 2012 at 6:49 am

You are never stuck with a product, nor out $ for trying something new-TJ is GREAT about giving refunds for whatever you don’t like-no questions asked…just your $ back. They would rather have people give their products a try, and refund the few that come back, than to have customers missing out on products they might really like. Our family loves the dark chocolate covered stars which come out for the holiday and have found them a well received gift too. Be sure to enjoy their in store samples, I have discovered some of my favorite products that way-like the Champagne Pear Vinaigrette-it is very popular when I bring it to potlucks, with my salads!! The seasonal spiced Apple Cider is delicious whether it is cold or warmed up. I could keep going with other favorites but the main message is that if you have a TJ store near you-do not hesitate to try new things-if you end up not liking it, you can get a refund. OH-and besides the gorgeous flowers, you can pick out one of their beautiful cards for only 99 cents-such a deal!

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Lissy December 2, 2012 at 2:23 pm

I agree with almost everything, except the produce. I find most of their produce to be fresh and extremely well priced. I especially love to get their chopped 7 healthy vegetables – with chicken and some quinoa, best dinner I make hands down.

Their fiber bars are amazing and 9 g of fiber – haven’t found one yet that comes close. But I think my all time favorite is the white bean mediterranian hummus. yummmmm.

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Jean Holleran December 2, 2012 at 3:55 pm

They just opened a TJ in my town. Love it. Prices are fantastic, I still havent seen everything in the store. the employees are so nice. they have a lot of great stuff at lower prices, was going to the public market, but its too far away and produce goes bad by the end of the week. I havent been to Wegmans in a while. Also TJ Maxxs is right next door.

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Lisa December 2, 2012 at 5:34 pm

While I agree that not all the produce is at its perfect ripeness, I am a sucker for the vegetables. Baby potatoes, brussel sprouts already shredded, organic baby carrots, bagged lettuce mixes (which stay fresh way longer than grocery store lettuce). The veggies seem to always be the perfect proportion for my family of 4 and it’s so easy to grab and go when I’m shopping with the kids. Kids favorites: french toast, trail mix, guilt free spinach and greek yogurt dip, honey wheat pretzels. While it is not a great deal, the sliced lunch meat is always so fresh and flavorful and is hormone free, nitrate/nitrite free.

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WenD December 2, 2012 at 5:58 pm

I’m a huge fan of TJ’s but there are a few things to keep and eye on too. Produce: love their packaged zucchini – we buy it year round and never have gotten anything bitter. But the cut up butternut squash has gone bad before the expiration date twice, so I won’t buy it anymore. Dairy: we buy all our dairy there – cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, go-gurt, milk. Organic milk is best price around. Sadly, they just discontinued the 4 pack of little lunch box sized milk cartons (here in LA), which was a better price than anywhere else. I hope they bring it back. Their cereal boxes are priced better than anywhere except Target. Their frozen french toast is also favorite.

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Kathy Maurin December 3, 2012 at 6:01 pm

I thoughy u lived i Oregon?

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Bree December 5, 2012 at 7:45 pm

I believe she does, in the Portland area. We have TJs here.

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Denise December 3, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Don’t forget the coffee! There are many seasonal types which are good to ret, but their Italian Roast is consistently good and has been our all time favorite for years.

Also, flowers- always a good deal and an ever changing variety.

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Beth December 3, 2012 at 6:25 pm

FYI: Trader Joe’s donates their meats, produce and even milk products including your beloved cheeses! Many homeless and down on their luck people benefit! So I shop at TJ’s for everything because of their Heart!
and if their produce isn’t good (or you don’t like anything you buy there), bring it back for a refund. They are very generous there too!
If you haven’t noticed the Crew members are always smiling and helpful because they are treated well.
Those are my top reasons to always shop at TJ’s! I <3 TJ's! ;-)

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Victoria Meblin December 3, 2012 at 7:15 pm

I too will sing the praises of Trader Joe’s. We love the dried fruit and nuts as well as trail mixes, granola bars, and cereals. I also like the organic vanilla yogurt, and Greek style yogurts (I top yogurt with a handful of various nuts and dried fruits as a snack almost every day). I also like their selection of teas. I buy a good portion of my produce and meat there. The meat seems to be fairly reasonably priced, usually better than Safeway or Lucky. I get better meat prices at Costco but don’t always have the time to go there and TJ’s is convenient. Of course, the treats are tasty and priced well, such as the English toffee, chocolate stars, and many more!

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Krista December 3, 2012 at 7:59 pm

I love trader joes orange chicken. I have never gotten cheese there, however. My son likes their graham ABC crackers and their soy cracker are really good. We are lucky to have them semi near our home. Thanks for posting…looks like I have some shopping to do.

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Christina Brundick December 3, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Love TJ’s,we drive 40 mins once a month to do a stock up. Wish they would bring one to town,but we did get a Aldis and they are owned by the same company. Love the frozen enchiladas for a quick lunch,refridgerated lobster ravioli, the TJ brand yogurt is the highest fat(6 grams per 4 oz) I can find for my picky eater son,the drizzled granola bars,and bakery items.

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Z December 3, 2012 at 8:27 pm

I used to do delivery runs for Inland Harvest (food bank) and let me tell you TJ donates a literal ton of food at least 3 days a week here. You may not think the produce is fresh but the turnover is really quick.

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Christine December 3, 2012 at 10:17 pm

I always buy my tea at TJs. It’s $2.99 for 80 tea bags of Irish Breakfast which is a fantastic price!

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Romeena December 4, 2012 at 4:02 am

I shop here all the time.. A great item to purchase is the cranberry chicken salad. Put it on crackers and it makes a great snack or appetizer for guests

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Karen Leigh December 5, 2012 at 6:50 pm

I dont know the last time you bought wine there(for me it was two cases in July for a wedding) but its no longer Two Buck Chuck..it is priced at $2.99 which now makes it Three Buck Chuck. Still, a very good deal. Also, they have a really good price on their jars of coconut oil compared to other stores. And bags of raw almonds are a good deal. Those are pretty much the only three things I purchase from there.

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Danielle Hotaling December 5, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Although the closest one is almost an hour away I HAVE TO have their cinnamon almonds in my desk at work. That little bit of protein during the 3pm droop is perfect and they are just so yummy!

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kate C December 5, 2012 at 7:21 pm

i do not get the produce from them because it has had so many recalls and i learned it came from Mexico. So the only stuff i will get there are the Artichokes when they are 99 cents a pop, brussel sprouts on the stalk, and bananas or anything that doesnt come from mexico because that is what is always recalled for contamination

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kate C December 5, 2012 at 7:24 pm

oh i notice the holiday stuff goes on sale if you watch the before xmas prices and the after, they go down a lot but they do donate to the food banks in the community

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Marysa December 5, 2012 at 7:36 pm

They have some candies that are dye-free, no artificial colors (like jelly beans, gummy bears, etc), as well as their christmas cookies (the sprinkles are made from natural colors)

I love their frozen vegetarian cheese tamales, frozen mac n cheese, frozen artichoke hearts (which I can’t find anywhere else, just jars), tea tree shampoo, and my kids love their frozen jasmine rice.

Not a fan of the frozen green beans (chewy), frozen Tom Yum soup (not very authentic), or their teas.

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Lynda White December 5, 2012 at 7:43 pm

I think for my last meal I would like Trader Joe’s Mushroom Risotto from their frozen section. :)

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Whitney December 5, 2012 at 8:15 pm

I buy the two buck Chuck for home use, some of them are actually pretty good for being so cheap. I buy a lot of other wine there as well. A lot of good wines for under $10. I bought Simpler Times beer for the first time last week and my husband liked it pretty good. Not great but for $3.99 a 6 pack, it’s better than drinking Miller Lite. I tend to buy gourmet chocolates, cookies, etc there which are always very good and much cheaper than a lot of other place’s similar items. I bought their whole bean coffee once (in a can) and my husband didn’t care for it so I won’t buy it again even though the price was pretty good. I’ve never bought their flowers but they are always gorgeous and much cheaper than a lot of other grocery store floral departments.

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Kristen S August 15, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Good to know, I like this idea for a list of do’s and don’t buy. I do know that the Trader Joes near me donates their meat (if it’s near or at sell by date) to local food pantries here on a weekly basis. Same for their cheese and produce. I am with you, I love their cheese! And I do enjoy their wine deals. Did not know about coupons, that’s awesome.

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