Walking into Trader Joe’s for the first time can be a little bit like diving into the deep end of a swimming pool. Before you know it, you’re in over your head and totally submerged in two-buck Chuck. Instead of swimming to the sidelines or bothering an over-eager shopper and asking for help, we’re here to give you all the information you need to make the most of your next Trader Joe’s visit. Whether it’s your first time shopping in the land of Hawaiian shirts or you’re a TJ’s veteran, we have rounded up 10 essential facts you need to know about Trader Joe’s. Get ready to maximize your savings, pick out the most nutritionally-beneficial products, and walk out feeling like you own the place.
If you’re looking to deepen your knowledge of the popular grocery store, be sure to check out 15 Things You Did Not Know About Trader Joe’s for more facts.
The Fearless Flyer is Your Guide
If you have a hard time keeping up with all of Trader Joe’s seasonal products, you’re not alone. Luckily for limited edition-loving customers, Trader Joe’s creates a catalogue of sorts to keep everyone in the loop about the specialty products currently on their shelves. You can grab a Fearless Flyer at your local Trader Joe’s or check it out online in order to get an idea of the products you can expect to find during your next visit. While many of the items on the Flyer err on the decadent side, by taking a peek at them in advance you can decide which products you want to splurge on and eliminate the temptation for last minute, impulse buys.
Private Label Reigns Supreme
Part of what sets Trader Joe’s apart is the chain’s private label, which has something of a cult-favorite status amongst shoppers. Many of the items that line Trader Joe’s shelves are private label, although some feature inventive names such as Trader Ming’s for Asian food or Trader Jacques’ for items with a French flair. All the specialty and seasonal goods Trader Joe’s is known for come from their private label, and many of the store’s best price deals can be found here. While items like Trader Joe’s famous Speculoos cookie butter aren’t exactly diet-friendly, other branded products are healthy enough to be mealtime staples.
Bring Your Own Bag
Even if you normally opt for paper, bringing your own bag at Trader Joe’s can pay off, big time. Shoppers who use their own bag and spend at least $25 are entered into a weekly raffle where winners receive a variety of rewards, including $25 gift cards to the store. Since many of Trader Joe’s products are budget-friendly to begin with, $25 off may put a sizeable dent in your grocery bill.
Know When to Shop
Given Trader Joe’s cheap prices and one-of-a-kind product offerings, it’s no wonder the store is frequently crowded. If you are looking to beat the crowds, try to shop at different times to get a sense of when peak hours are at the location closest to you. Want some safe, low-traffic times? Many Reddit users suggest stopping by Trader Joes between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. on weekdays or swinging by on Friday nights if you’re looking to shop in peace.
Trader Joe’s is known for its generous sample policy, which many customers take full advantage of. There are sample stations that feature bite size portions of private label products in every store location. Additionally, Trader Joe’s has a very open sampling policy. If there’s a product you want to try before buying, pull over a store employee in order to get the chance to sample it yourself.
Coupons are Welcome
While Trader Joe’s does not offer sales or discounts on its private label products, penny-pinching shoppers can look for and use coupons at Trader Joe’s. If you have coupons for brands like Kashi or Annie’s, which Trader Joe’s sells, do not be afraid to use them in the store. Want more discount shopping tips? Learn the 25 Money-Saving Tips Every Shopper Should Know.
Stock Up on Seasonals
Not all of Trader Joe’s products take up permanent residence on store shelves. Trader Joe’s frequently introduces new products, particularly as the seasons change, and eliminates other items in order to make space. If you can’t get enough of the pumpkin-flavored goodies the store sells during the fall, be sure to buy them in bulk because come spring, they may no longer be available.
Keep An Eye Out for Contests
Bringing your own bag isn’t the only way you can attempt to win a free gift card. Trader Joe’s occasionally holds contests and awards that shoppers can participate in. Keep tabs on Trader Joe’s website to learn about naming competitions for new products or the chance to vote for your favorite private label food. Contest winners are usually handsomely rewarded with Trader Joe’s gift cards and of course, major bragging rights.
Returns Are a Non-Issue
If you’re an indecisive shopper, Trader Joe’s may be the store for you. In addition to the brand’s generous sampling policy, Trader Joe’s also boasts one of the most lenient sets of rules regarding returns. Customers who dislike any of the products they purchase are entitled to a full refund, even if they return an opened package.
It May Not Be Your Produce Go-To
Trader Joe’s is filled with plenty of inventive products and an overwhelming amount of options, but it may not be the best place to shop for fruits and veggies. Most of the produce you will find at Trader Joe’s is pre-packaged, which can make it hard to buy exactly the amount of fruits and veggies you are looking for. However if you don’t mind buying your apples in sets of six and the extra packaging that comes with it, many of Trader Joe’s produce offerings are incredibly affordable. In fact, the bananas are famously just 19 cents a piece.
If you want to make sure your Trader Joe’s haul is weight-loss friendly, take a peek at The Best New Trader Joe’s Products for Weight Loss.