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These Are the Worst Times To Shop At Trader Joe's, According to Insiders

Steer clear of the biggest crowds at Trader Joe's by following these simple rules.

Trader Joe's has attracted something of a cult-like following, thanks to its reputation for viral-worthy food products.

The "neighborhood grocery store" not only brought Cauliflower Gnocchi and that to die for Everything But the Bagel Seasoning into our lives, but it's also pretty budget-friendly. That's especially important in this day and age of food inflation

Now here's the only caveat with a trip to TJ's: the crowds. You can't just simply "swing by" the shop for a last-minute pick-up on Saturday afternoon—you'll be stalled in a line wrapped around the store for the better half of your weekend. You don't want that. The longer you're stuck in line, the longer you have to wait until you're devouring that bag of Chili & Lime Rolled Tortilla Chips

So, when are the best and worst times to shop at our beloved Trader Joe's? We're breaking it down here.

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shoppers wait outside Trader Joe's grocery store

Early morning is a safe bet.

While there are a lot of factors that can affect store crowds, the first hour after opening is a safe bet for most shoppers. "I am in San Francisco and go normally right at or within [the] first hour of opening," one customer wrote on Reddit. "Rarely more than about ten in store shopping and no wait to check out." Another user chimed in, recommending "as early as possible on a weekday," while a college student noted "any time in the morning is typically low traffic with no lines outside, even on Saturdays and Sundays" if you live near a campus. 

This is consistent with industry research on the subject. According to marketing research agency Gongos, 28% of grocery shoppers said that between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. was the best window, with another 23% preferring 9 a.m. to noon.

Most TJ's open at 8 a.m. Set your alarm accordingly.

Right before closing is a good idea, too.

If you can't make it early in the morninghey, I get it, I'm not a morning person eitherright before closing is a good option, too. "I find an hour before closing to be the best time where I live," another Reddit user wrote. "I live in an area with a lot of older folks who prefer to get up early and go to the store instead of late in the evening when they are winding down for the night." 

Several other Redditors echoed this sentiment. "At my store, I find that if I can't go super early in the morning, then the last hour before closing time is the best time," one wrote. "The store is very empty and they're restocking shelves for the next day already so (usually) nothing I want is out of stock." 

Now that's the strategy to get your soup dumplings, friends! 

Go smack-dab in the middle of the week.

An actual Trader Joe's employee, based in New York City, not only confirmed the theory that early mornings are the right time to shop, but added that mid-week is best—specifically Wednesday. "Wednesdays at 8 a.m. are when you should shop," he told Eat This, Not That! Another employee, however, chimed in that Thursday was actually the better option. "So, if you want the day where you can literally do cartwheels in the aisles, come on Thursday between 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.," he said. 

Long lines queue in Trader Joe's store

Weekends are the absolute worst.

According to our same trusty TJ's insiders, you should avoid Sundays at all cost. "By far, Sunday is the busiest dayall day," one employee said. "Saturday is almost as busy as Sunday. Monday is even a busy day." Take a mental note! 

Where you live will play a role.

Now here's the big 'ole but: while our findings are relatively consistent across the board, where you live obviously plays a role in the best and worst times to shop at Trader Joe's. For example, while Sundays may be the busiest times in NYC, a Reddit user in a "religious area" pointed to Sunday morning as a prime shopping window, considering that many church-goers are otherwise occupied.

Meanwhile, New Yorkers suggested later in the evening. "I live in New York, and the only time TJ's (any of the locations) aren't hell on earth is after 8 pm," the user said. "Once in a while it will be a little busy, but if I hit the store around 8:30 it's usually not terrible. Especially on Saturday or Sunday. Some things may not be in stock, but considering I've been intentionally rammed with a cart twice at two different TJ's, I would rather have peace." Fair enough.

Check Google Maps before you go.

While you can always call your local store for the tea on timing, here's another hack: use Google Maps. The online feature gives you a liveyes, real time!update on how busy the store is at that moment. Search for your local TJ's, click maps, and scroll down. You'll find the "popular times" feature and you can either check out the live status, or even check daily/hourly averages if you're planning a later visit.

Now, go get your Cookie Butterand maybe an extra jar for me, too.

Megan Schaltegger
Megan Schaltegger is an NYC-based freelance writer. Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Thrillist, and more. Read more about Megan