If you’ve ever shopped at a Trader Joe’s market you are probably already a fan. What’s not to like about their laid back, tropical vibe, complete with palm trees, tikis and the ubiquitous aloha shirt? Their dedication to offering top quality products is unparalleled, and TJ buyers go out of their way to introduce new and exotic tastes to the American public. The quarterly “Fearless Flyer”, with its tongue-in-cheek Victorian cartoons, is a catalogue of TJ’s latest finds. But did you know that in addition to the fun of exploring the shelves, Trader Joe’s has some of the lowest prices in the grocery business?
Recently the editors at The Penny Hoarder and Consumer Reports surveyed average grocery prices, and discovered that TJ’s knocks it out of the park on a number of staples. Keep in mind that some of the items are seasonal, or subject to farming/growing conditions, so prices and availability may vary. With that said, here are some valuable reasons to love Trader Joe’s.
TJ’s offers major deals on breakfast. Joe’s O’s, their version of America’s most popular toasted oat cereal, sells for just $1.99. The smallest box of the name brand cereal generally starts at $2.99. Plus, TJ’s features only 1 gram of sugar per serving. They also have a wide variety of other tasty cereal choices, ranging in price from $1.99 – $4.50.
Frozen Pizza & Prepared Entrees
TJ’s has got it going on in this category, both in terms of price and creativity. Their frozen pizza starts with your basic 4-cheese variety, but quickly ramps up to gourmet level with a burrata/prosciutto/arugula flatbread. Priced between $2 – $5, nothing in the supers even comes close to matching the quality. At these prices, parents can afford to treat themselves while keeping the kiddos satisfied.
TJ’s frozen entrees are simply amazing. They combine high quality with affordable pricing, and the variety is mind boggling. With selections from around the globe, consumers can sample cuisine that they might otherwise miss. Ever had a bibimbap bowl? How about Korean short ribs? Chile lime chicken burgers? Tandoori chicken? One of the best-selling items (and rightly so) is their Mandarin Orange Chicken. Combine that with their frozen prepared Jasmine or brown rice, and a quick side dish, such as the chicken spring rolls or vegetable bird nests, and you have dinner in under a half hour at around $10. The only thing missing is delivery.
With the best prices and a selection far wider than most grocery stores, TJ’s reigns supreme when it comes to packaged nuts. You’ll find all the basics – peanuts, walnuts, almonds, cashews – in many forms: roasted/salted, half-salted or unsalted, raw, or flavored with cinnamon, wasabi, or sriracha, in pound bags around $6.99. To this, add pistachios, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, and other seasonal varieties. Or if you like, choose a mix – TJ’s offers plenty of choices.
We aren’t talking “processed cheese food” here. Actual honest-to-goodness cheese – from the sharpest cheddars to the butteriest bries – are beautifully displayed and pleasingly priced. Notice we didn’t say “cheap”, because real cheese is never cheap. The selection is incredible, especially around the winter holidays, when they bring in a special assortment for your entertaining pleasure. Smoked gouda, herb and lavender infused soft cheeses, and the ever-popular pub cheese are perennial favorites.
Yes, bananas. Because at Trader Joe’s they are sold by the piece, not by the pound. Most TJ’s locations sell bananas for 19 cents. Buy one, two, or the whole bunch. At this price it won’t break the bank.
As with cereal, Trader Joe’s doesn’t carry the major labels. They mostly stick with their house-branded flavors and a few specialty brands. But don’t let that put you off. The quality of TJ’s ice cream is superb. Most quarts are sold at $4.49 (that’s the sale price at the supers). Plus, TJ’s stocks an interesting variety of frozen treats, including fruit pops, mochi, mini cones and ice cream sandwiches. So whether you are throwing a picnic or a formal dinner party, they’ve got dessert covered.
Unlike house-branded cereal and ice cream, TJ’s wine (Charles Shaw, popularly known as Two-Buck Chuck) isn’t the cream of the crop. It’s not bad; it just isn’t great. But if you are willing to spend a bit more, say $10 or so, there’s a very good chance that you will find something you really enjoy. Comprised of choices from some of the best wine regions in the world, the wine selection is well rounded, and even if you aren’t an oenophile, you can be reasonably sure that whatever you choose will be palatable.
Last but not least – did you know that you can find menu suggestions, recipes and a wine guide at the Trader Joe’s website? When you are ready to throw your next intimate soiree, go to the guide for tips on wine and cheese pairings or to learn how to impress your guests with a caramelized onion tarte. Then embark on an exciting shopping adventure at your local TJ’s market!