There are a few items I buy at Trader Joe’s regularly that I believe to be a really good deal. While contemplating this recently, I got a great idea for a post: uncovering the best bargains at Trader Joe’s! As I know how easy it is to gravitate toward the same items, I decided to ask my friends what they thought some of the best values were at Trader Joe’s. Not surprisingly, they mentioned many items I had not considered!
Earlier this week, my lovely friend Kellie and I spent some time at Trader Joe’s, noting the prices/size of each of these items and many more. We arrived at a list of nearly 40 items. While many things did seem to be priced well, I decided to dig a bit deeper. Taking my list, I went to three area grocery stores to see could I find a better deal. There were definitely some surprises: some things I thought were good deals turned out to only be just OK, while other things ended up as clear winners.
After price comparison, I arrived at a list of 15 items. A few notes on my selection criteria:
- I am only including items you could find at other stores. Sure, the corn & chile salsa and caramel chai are delicious (and often value-based), but I consider these items unique to Trader Joe’s. They aren’t included on my list.
- I may have compared across brands. Where possible, I worked to keep this comparison apples to apples. So as much as possible, Trader Joe store brands were compared to other store brands.
- I paid attention to unit prices. I’ve noted ounces and quantities to make sure the comparisons are fair.
- Prices are subject to change. Trader Joe’s tends to make a price and stick with it. (AKA, they don’t do “sales.”) However, that doesn’t mean that prices may not vary from region to region or change over time. These prices are accurate as of April 2015. I also tried to note regular prices at other stores and pay less attention to sales prices.
I also want to make it clear that it’s quite possible you might best these prices in other ways. For instance, you might get a better deal by waiting for a sale with a coupon, a loss leader at another grocery store, buying in bulk, or growing your own. For the purposes of this post, I’m just hoping to point you to some really good deals, in the absence of sales, coupons, or other tactics.
With that, here are the items that made the cut:
#1: Ezekiel Bread: $3.49
What you’d pay at other stores: $3.99 – $5.99
Thanks to my pal Julie for mentioning this deal to me. Not only is this brand more expensive at other stores, some stores don’t carry it at all.
#2: Fresh Basil, 4 oz: $2.49
What you’d pay at other stores: $3.99
This is a great price for a large container of fresh basil! At two other area stores, I found the same size priced at $3.99 (full disclosure: one was organic). Incidentally, you can also buy a large potted basil plant at Trader Joe’s for $3.49 – much smaller ones were selling for $3.99 at another store I visited.
#3: Medjool Dates: $4.49
What you’d pay at other stores: $7.99
While I was able to find a pound of dates for cheaper at other stores, they were not Medjool dates, which tend to run more money. This is another item that you may struggle finding at other grocery stores, too. I only found Medjool dates at one of the three comparison grocery stores I visited today.
#4: Light Coconut Milk: $0.99
What you’d pay at other stores: $1.57 – $2.49
My friends Sarah and Keri both suggested I check out the price on canned coconut milk at Trader Joe’s. At $0.99, this was definitely one of the best bargains I noted in my research!
#5: Hummus, 7 oz: $1.99
What you’d pay at other stores: $2.99
Trader Joe’s offers a variety of different hummus flavors. At $1.99 for a 7-ounce container, I’d definitely include this in the best bargains category. Two other grocery stores I visited were offering the same size of their store-brand for $2.99.
#6: Organic Peanut Butter, 16 oz: $3.49
What you’d pay at other stores: $3.99 – $4.49
Several of my friends suggested that Trader Joe’s had good deals on nut butters, but after doing some research, the only nut butter I found was a deal was the organic peanut butter at $3.49. The regular peanut butter was priced at $2.49 and I was able to find lower prices than that at all three grocery stores I visited today.
#7: Mango Ginger Chutney, 9 oz: $2.29
What you’d pay at other stores: $3.28 – $5.79
Trader Joe’s Mango Ginger Chutney is easily one of the best bargains in the store! This specialty condiment is delicious when served on chicken or mixed in rice. It can also be expensive at other stores! Two stores I visited today were selling another brand in the same size for over $5 a bottle.
#8: Unsweetened Cocoa Powder, 9 oz: $2.49 ($0.28/oz)
What you’d pay at other stores: $2.69 – $4.09 (10 oz size)
My friend Tom mentioned that the cocoa powder was a good bargain. Turns out, he’s right! At two grocery stores I visited, a near-similar size was selling for over $4. One grocery store had a 10-oz container for $2.69. Even so, I feel the Trader Joe’s version is definitely worth mentioning.
#9: Spanish Saffron, 0.02 oz: $5.99 ($2.99/0.01 oz)
What you’d pay at other stores: $7.66 – 19.69
Now, I don’t buy saffron (maybe due to the crazy high cost?), so I can’t speak to the quality of the Trader Joe’s brand. However, if I needed it – I’d spring for the Trader Joe’s version at $5.99!
#10: Organic Polenta: $1.99
What you’d pay at other stores: $2.89
I was only able to locate this item at one of the three other grocery stores I visited today! I am pretty sure I’ve seen it selling for as much as $4 elsewhere, and I’ve certainly never found it cheaper than Trader Joe’s. If you’ve never purchased this item before, consider it! You can slice it and use it as a starch under marinara or chili. Very good – plus, it’s gluten-free (if that’s a concern for you).
#11: Sea Salt, 26.5 oz: $1.59 ($0.06/oz)
What you’d pay at other stores: $0.16/oz
Here’s another item I wouldn’t have thought to have checked – sea salt! Thanks to my pal Erica for the great tip. A 26.5 oz container is $1.59 at Trader Joe’s. Other versions when compared ounce-for-ounce were considerably more money.
#12: Lip Balm, 3-ct: $2.49 ($0.83/each)
What you’d pay at other stores: $0.99 – $1.19/each
My friend Heather suggested I check out the 3-pack of lip balm. Another item I’ve never noticed at my Trader Joe’s! Turns out it’s a great value at just $0.83 each. I could not find a better deal than that today.
#13: Kefir, 32 oz: $2.99
What you’d pay at other stores: $2.99 – $4.39
While I was able to find this same price at one other store, the other two stores had this same item priced at least a dollar more. Given that, I feel it’s worth mentioning.
#14: Organic Kale, 10 oz: $2.29 ($0.23/oz)
What you’d pay at other stores: $0.56 – $0.66/oz
My friend Tiffany suggested the Organic Kale is a good deal. At first, to be honest, I was a bit skeptical. Those are just small bags, right? Well those “small bags” contain 10 oz. At all three of the stores I visited today, the small clamshells of organic kale only contained 5 ounces and were all closer to the $3+ mark. Turns out this actually is a fantastic deal!
#15: Greeting Cards: $0.99
What you’d pay at other stores: $0.99+
My friend Devon mentioned she likes buying greeting cards at Trader Joe’s. How have I never paid attention to this display? And yes, they are all $0.99! While you can definitely find $0.99 at other stores, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a selection as cute as this! It’s definitely a top bargain in my book.
There are a few other things that either I have noted in the past and/or my friends suggested that I feel are worth mentioning, even though they didn’t make the final cut above for one reason or the other:
- Fennel, 20 oz: $2.29
- Floral Bouquets: $3.99
- Avocados, 4-ct: $3.29
- Organic Tofu: $1.99
- Joe’s Coffee, 14 oz: $4.99
- Frozen Mango, 1.5 lb: $2.79
- Frozen Pineapple Tidbits, 16 oz: $1.99
- Sparkling Mineral Water, 42 oz: $0.99
- Free Range Organic Chicken Broth, 32 oz: $1.99
- Organic Potted Herbs: $1.99
- A couple friends vouched for the quality/value of the beauty items (hair care, lotions, soaps, shave gel, etc.)
- Another friend vouched for the quality/value of some of the wines (though she did not recommend the Charles Shaw label)
As a final note, I’d like to offer a HUGE thank you to all my wonderful friends who helped with this list! In particular: Heather, Anika, Devon, Tom, Susan, Keri, Tiffany, Erica, Amber, Lynn, Mandy, Tara, Misty, Meg, Marie, and Julie. Phew! I think I got all of you! And an extra special shout out to my girl Kellie who made time out of her busy day to meet me at Trader Joe’s and scout the deals with me. You guys are the best!
Now it’s your turn: what other items would you add to my list? Either as a “best bargain” or “honorable mention?”
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