The bright, cheerful Hawaiian shirts. Delicious seasonal treats and goodies. Helpful sales associates and the freshest flowers that last weeks. There is nothing quite like a trip to your local Trader Joe’s. The prices are comparable to those of other chain grocery stores, but the product packaging is fun and original, and there is always something new and exciting to try.
However, the home of flatbreads and dark chocolate peanut butter cups can also be a bit intimidating, when it comes to dealing with long lines or the urge to put everything yummy-looking in your cart. These obstacles need not interfere with your next great meal, once you try these tips to save both time and money, offered from one TJ’s fan to another.
Call ahead to check stock and reserve favorite products
This summer, I tried a delicious seasonal peach ice cream. Knowing it would be around for a limited time, before each shopping trip I called my local Trader Joe’s to see if it was available and if they could set aside a pint for me. This goes for cult classics (like the cauliflower gnocchi!), as well as seasonal items. Seeing that empty space on the shelf where you were hoping to see one of your favorite products is the worst!
Go during off hours
Trader Joe’s is a popular place to shop, and can get very busy during peak hours. Reduce your wait times in long checkout lines by arriving later in the evening or early in the morning. I have found the sweet spot to be after dinner, around 6:30-8:30 p.m. Because there are few other customers and no lines, I can get in and out relatively quickly.
Shop with a plan
This is a good principle for any kind of shopping. If you want to save time and money, stick to the list you came with. Making an impulse purchase at a store like Trader Joe’s is easy, because there is always something new and fun to try. Stay committed to the list you came in with, and you will spend less time being tempted by Peppermint Jo-Jo’s or Pumpkin Spice coffee, as well as be less likely to break your food budget for that week.
Cheaper dupes for fancy ingredients
If you’re a fan of dupes—affordable products that hold their own against higher-priced competitors—Trader Joe is your friend.
Have you ever had a recipe that required one or two ingredients that were a bit pricier? I hate when that happens because it feels like an inconvenience to spend extra for just one or two ingredients. Enter TJ’s accessible price points. If there are items you never buy because of the price, like saffron, dried fruit, or pure maple syrup, keep your eye out to score the best deal. Their Fearless Flyer is also a great in-store resource to browse current specials.
Simplify meal prep with the frozen food section
One of the treasures of Trader Joe’s is the tasty assortment of frozen foods. To make meal prep easier during the week, I recommend their frozen burritos, flatbread pizzas, breakfast treats, and even their low-fat macaroni and cheese! TJ’s is always rotating in new products, so remember that the possibilities don’t end there. There is always something new and tasty to try.
What are some of your favorite products at Trader Joe’s? What about this particular store keeps bringing you back? Let us know in the comments.