What I Buy From Trader Joe’s
Our first experience at Trader Joe’s was about six months ago, so it’s a fairly new thing for our family to shop there. The nearest TJ’s is about two hours away, which means we’re not making regular treks to this store. We are able to go about once a month — and always on the same day we have a Costco trip planned.
What I Buy from TJ’s
- wild-caught Alaskan salmon
- wild clams in a can
- wild-caught shrimp
- jars of salsa verde
- Applegate hot dogs
- nitrate-free bacon ends and pieces
- whole cauliflower (in season)
- bags of organic pears and apples (in season and on sale)
- frozen organic peas
- New Zealand grass-fed raw cheddar (on occasion)
- Parmesan cheese
- organic bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks
- fresh herbs
- almonds, pistachios, and pecans (which I soak and dehydrate at home)
- fair trade organic coffee
- bags of lemons and limes
Sometimes I buy in-season produce on sale. For example, this fall I got organic butternut and spaghetti squashes for $2.49 each! When one squash weighs 3-4 pounds, that was less than $1/lb which is a fantastic deal! TJ’s had one-pound bags of parsnips for $1.69/bag which is another amazing deal. I bought 8-10 bags at a time each time we went. Often heads of cauliflower are less than $2 at TJ’s, which is $3-5 less than what I would pay in my local supermarket.
On the other hand, they sell a lot of produce by the piece, rather than per pound, making it much more expensive per pound than what I pay at Natural Grocers or Azure Standard. You just have to watch out and read the signs in the produce section. Bananas, un-bagged apples, onions, and sometimes potatoes and sweet potatoes are usually sold per piece. So one apple might be $.49, one banana is $.19. It adds up, and bagged or bulk pricing is much more reasonable.
I steer clear of the cereal, crackers, and pre-baked muffins, bagels, and cakes. We also stay away from the enormous selection of candies, chocolate, and cookie dough butters TJ’s carries. Occasionally The Hubs will sneak in a box of chocolate-covered espresso beans. I wouldn’t mind that so much, but all of TJ’s chocolate contains soy lecithin. Their website says they are GMO-free, but they don’t label each product as such, so sometimes I wonder.
A Word of Warning About TJ’s
It’s somewhat of a health food store, but there are a lot of foods available that you would find in your regular ol’ supermarket. You will find such whole foods as raw nuts, organic produce, wild-caught salmon, raw cheeses, and quality olive oil, but you will find just as much soy milk, low-fat yogurt, boxed cereal, and packaged, processed snacks. I was actually surprised by the amount of un-Real Food that I found at TJ’s. You definitely need to have a discerning eye and go in prepared to read a lot of labels on anything you buy in a box or package.
Also — and remember I only know what my TJ’s is like — you should plan your trip on a weekday if possible. We have gone on weekends before, and it was always zoo. In my area, Sunday afternoons are the busiest day at TJ’s. We, unfortunately, had our second trip there on a Sunday afternoon, and it was not a lot of fun. It’s bad enough when you’re learning your way around a store, but fighting crowds in an unfamiliar place is just dreadful.
I hope this doesn’t scare you away from Trader Joe’s, though. A trip to your nearest TJ’s is definitely worth it, especially if saving money is a priority. (Like, who doesn’t want that?!)
Overall, shopping at Trader Joe’s has been a positive and money-saving experience for our family. We have a Natural Grocers (my favorite store in the world!!!!) coming to our town at the end of this month, and I suspect our trips to TJ’s will decrease significantly when that happens; but I do hope to continue occasional shopping there so that I can stock up on my favorites that are more expensive everywhere else!
What about you? Do you shop at TJ’s? What do you buy there? Please share!