What To Buy — and Skip — To Save Money at Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe's is one of the most popular grocery chains in the United States, known for its unique items and organic products. It has developed a cult-like following, with communities lacking a Trader Joe's nearby clamoring for the company to open one nearby.
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Since its humble beginnings in Pasadena, California, in 1967, the chain has grown to more than 530 stores in 42 states and Washington, D.C. With stores in nearly every state, Trader Joe's has broad appeal. Although Trader Joe's is a favorite among many shoppers, that doesn't mean everything in the store is a great buy. If you want the best deals, here are certain items you should buy at Trader Joe's without hesitation -- and others you might want to skip.
Last updated: January 12, 2023
*Prices mentioned in this gallery were found at the Trader Joe's store in Halfmoon, New York; your local prices may vary.
Buy: Frozen Fruits and Veggies
Frozen foods are often a good buy as they can be cheaper and keep much longer than fresh produce. And if you like to buy frozen fruits and vegetables, Trader Joe's is a great place to shop. Frozen French green beans are only $1.99 per 24-ounce package, strawberries are $1.99 per pound and blueberries are $2.29 for 12 ounces. Of course, Trader Joe's is known for its selection of organic products; you can pick up a 16-ounce bag of organic green beans at a slightly pricier $2.29, or 12 ounces of frozen organic wild blueberries for $3.49. Throw the frozen berries into the blender to whip up a healthy smoothie.
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Skip: Packaged Salads
Packaged salads can be tempting; you can eat healthy without any of the work. However, these salads might not be as good as you hope they'd be. They often are not very fresh, and if you inspect the contents of the bag, you might find the lettuce starting to wilt and a fast-approaching expiration date.
Bananas are one of the most popular items among Trader Joe's shoppers. That is likely because they are priced by the banana instead of per pound. At just 19 cents each, they are likely to be cheaper at TJ's, too. (Organic bananas cost 25 cents each.) If all you need is a couple of bananas at a low price, Trader Joe's is the perfect place.
Skip: Other Fruits
One of the benefits of shopping for groceries, rather than using a delivery service or ordering for pickup, is selecting your own produce because it allows you to check its freshness. While fruit is a necessity for most people's shopping lists, Trader Joe's might not be the best place to buy it. Much of Trader Joe's fruit - that includes oranges, apples, grapefruit, lemons, limes and tomatoes -- are sold in bulk packages and might not be as fresh as you'd like, and it's difficult to assess without squeezing each of the items in the bag or trying to peek through the packaging to check them out. If you're shopping at TJ's and don't want to make a separate trip to the supermarket for fruit, stick with the items that are available individually.
Buy: Peanut Butter
Trader Joe's stocks a variety of peanut butter at a great price: $2.29 for 16 ounces. Choose from creamy salted or unsalted, as well as crunchy salted and unsalted, at that price point.
Buy: Bottled Water
How much have you paid for a single bottle of water at the supermarket or gas station or drug store? As much as $2 in some places. What if you don't have space to store a 24-pack of water and want half that amount? Trader Joe's has the answer to either scenario with its house-brand spring water at just 17 cents per bottle. And if you do want a 24-pack, that's just $3.99, a price that will beat - or at least strongly compete with - other stores. Remember you'll pay local recycling fees, where applicable.
Skip: Bottled Tea
Bottled water is convenient, and so is bottled tea. But the convenience of Trader's Joe's ready-to-serve sweet tea is costly at $4.99 per gallon. Sure, it's delicious poured over ice, but TJ's sells a selection of tea bags that will allow you to make your own iced tea at a much lower price, including a box of 40 decaffeinated bags for $2.99. Making your own pitcher of tea and adding some sugar will save a bundle.
Buy: Frozen Prepared Foods
They might not be as healthy as that salad you were hoping to pick up, but Trader Joe's does offer plenty of prepared foods in its freezer section that are worth a look. From frozen pizza to mac and cheese, there is plenty to like, and freshness isn't going to be an issue.
Skip: Sliced Poultry
Alongside traditional packaged lunch meat at Trader Joe's, you'll find cooked roast chicken breast and sliced roast turkey breast at $9.99 a pound. While easy to put in salads or sandwiches, you'll save a bundle by cooking and slicing the poultry products yourself. Trader Joe's sells a 2 1/2-pound bag of boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $7.99 - more than double the quantity at a lower price.
Buy: Orange Chicken
If you're trying to come up with a good source of protein that is a great buy at TJ's, try its orange chicken in the freezer section. It's priced at $4.99 and is a favorite of many Trader Joe's shoppers.
The premium angus steaks at Trader Joe's look delicious, but they could bust your budget. A pound of ribeye costs $19.99, and top sirloin is priced at $17.99 per pound. Check for deals at your local butcher shop or supermarket before putting the steaks in your cart at Trader Joe's.
Other Great Buys
Who doesn't love cheese? Well, vegans will avoid it, and there are plenty of other dietary restrictions that make cheese a no-go. But for those who have the green light for this dairy goodness, Trader Joe's is a great place to go. Its popular Unexpected Cheddar is just $3.99 for 7 ounces, and fresh mozzarella is $3.79 for 8 ounces. Plus, Trader Joe's has a more interesting selection of cheese than many other stores. If you happen to be a cheese aficionado, you're not going to want to miss out on what TJ's has to offer.
Nuts are a great snack that can be both filling and healthy. Whether it's almonds, pistachios or peanuts, you can find them at Trader Joe's for a good price. For example, raw almonds are $4.99 for a pound. But not only are nuts inexpensive at Trader Joe's -- you can also find them in many different varieties. So, whether you need something to snack on, to bake with or whatever you're up to, be sure to check Trader Joe's.
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Jami Farkas contributed to the reporting of this article.
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: What To Buy — and Skip — To Save Money at Trader Joe’s