Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ask the Internet: Best Deals at Trader Joe's?

We had so much success with our Best Deals at CostCo question last week (nice work, everybody!), I thought we'd try a similar one with TJ's, with the intention of turning it into a larger article tomorrow. Here goes...

Wiki Commons Sprew
Q: What are the best deals at Trader Joe's?

A: The Trader Joe's in Brooklyn tend to be a tad crowded. (Think the Beatles at Shea Stadium.) Still, there are bargains to be had. My favorites are:
  • Organic bananas
  • Roasted red peppers
  • Canned artichokes
  • This insane olive tapenade my friend S. always brings with her
  • WINE
In regard to that last one, I've never found a better place to stock up on vino. The price-to-quality ratio is ludicrously good at TJ's, and their house brand (Three Buck Chuck, holla!) is solid.

And with that, sweet readers, I throw it over to you. What are your favorite TJ's buys?

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

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A said...

pre-cooked lentils
ice cream
2.49 / lb ground beef

Stacey said...

Frozen edamame
I would echo the hummus and also add tabouli (probably the best store bought I have had)

falnfenix said...

i truly envy those of you who can purchase alcohol in your grocery. we can't, so we miss out on the TJ's wine. :(

Rebecca said...

Canned olives
Frozen edamame
Tortilla chips
Some cheese (they have a decent New Zealand cheddar for a couple of bucks a pound)

Cage free eggs used to be a good price but recently I've found them for the same price at Whole Foods.

 Curly J said...

I'm from Canada and I LOVE Trader Joe's. We drive 1-1/2 hrs about once a month to go there and hit up Costco.

My TJ favourites:
$1.79 marinara pasta sauce
Oreo look-a-like cookies
Gorgozola crackers
Cilantro and yogurt dip (combine with the crackers above... heaven!)
Balsamic vinegar dressing
Spaghetti (any kind of noodles)
Honey Nut O's
Blueberry jam
Almond milk (BIG savings)

That's all I can think of off the top of my head! :)

GardenFresh said...

Nuts! We never buy nuts anywhere else now, TJ's always has the best price and they're good quality.

We've been finding that their Romaine hearts packages are cheaper than other grocery stores around here, ditto specialty Cheese and Ground beef.

Olive oil, again the only kind I buy now, great balance of cost & quality.

A said...

OMG, the NUTS. A pound of great-quality raw almonds for less than $5? I used to pay $8 for a pound of Diamond brand almonds at WalMart in Wyoming (obviously I had no choice). I live in Sacramento, California now, and Trader Joe's nuts were a pleasant surprise.

I watch the flyers for great deals on:
frozen veggies, including edamame
bread and pita/flat breads (they carry great local Truckee sourdough here)
meat and fancy cheese (smoked gouda is my Kryptonite)
cereals and granola

It's not a deal, but the thing that will make me brave that parking lot when all my common sense is screaming is their chili-covered dried pineapple. So. Good.

SK said...

English Muffins
Greek yogurt (a pound at TJ's is $2.99, which is far less than any other brand)

beth said...

Second the marinara sauce and wine! Their coffee is way better for about the same price (though I usually try to buy from the bulk @ Sunflower Market instead). Cheese, clementine oranges, frozen berries, and rice milk!

Our favorite thing about Trader Joe's though is the packaged food that is so tasty and reasonably priced (because sometimes, I just don't want to chop or boil *anything* for dinner). The gorgonzola gnocchi, gyoza, little tiny pizzas, and Joe-Joe's!! *drool*

Laura said...

I always debate whether the produce is a good deal, because I hate that it's priced per piece instead of per pound - makes it hard to compare. However, today I actually did the math on the bananas (19 cents each), and found that with the ones I picked, they were 50 cents a pound. Much better than 99 cents at my grocery store!

Almond/soy/etc milk - though I've seen similar prices at Whole Foods when it's on sale
Salsa - it's around $2-3 a jar, but the quality is gourmet. Compare to $4 for some nasty Old El Paso brand at a regular grocery.
Frozen veggies, especially the massive bags of green beans and the asparagus spears
Sushi platters - though the quality isn't awesome
Nuts are an awesome deal, as others have noted

I haven't tried the chili covered pineapple but now I want to go back and get some!

Megan said...

Some cheeses - fontina, especially
Frozen/refrigerated pizza dough
Olive oil

cardamomandcastiron said...

Gluten-free rice pasta! It's at least $1 cheaper per pound at TJ's than anywhere else.

I also buy olive oil there. I go through so much that I can't be too spendy, but the Trader Joe's Spanish extra virgin olive oil is pretty good for the price.

Erin said...

most of the cheeses
dried fruit
frozen potstickers
3-pack chocolate bars
"real" white chocolate
Greek yogurt

magicinordinary said...

TJ's brand greek yogurt
frozen veggie burgers
frozen fruit (for smoothies)

these three items are the cheapest I've seen anywhere!

esther said...

This is important:

If you like coffee ice cream, Trader Joe's flavor blast coffee ice cream is the yummiest!!!! :D

OK. Now that I'm done with that exciting announcement, I'll add:


Ann MT said...

Steel-cut oats (McCann's) are $3-4 less at TJ than other stores in my area
Sun-dried tomatoes
NUTS (echoing others)

Teresa said...

olive oil
frozen prepared foods

JuLo said...

Oh fun! I love Trader Joes! Ok, their produce prices are generally high, but their bananas, lemons, limes, and bagged spinach/arugula/mâché/etc, are always way cheaper than the grocery store. Their dairy prices are great - organic and non. I buy my milk, eggs, butter, buttermilk, and Greek yogurt there! Their 1lb chocolate bars are awesome and well priced. Also flour and organic peanut butter. I like their chicken stock, jarred hearts of palm, and canned artichokes too! And their beer prices are pretty good too, though the selection isn't superb, they have an pretty decent stout (Stockyard) for $6 for a six-pack! My dad tried one at my house and ran out and bought his own the next day.

Other must haves are sandwich bread, vitamins, and dog treats. They're surprisingly high quality and cost about 1/4 what pet stores charge.

Trader joes is the best!

Sarah A.T.J. said...

I've found some really good prices on cheese. Also, love the frozen basil cubes for winter cooking:)

Melis said...

Pizza Dough
Boxed soup (cream of tomato, roasted red pepper and tomato, etc)
Frozen Edamame
Frozen Fruit
1LB Chocolate bars and real white chocolate
Frozen Pie Crust - more expensive than name brands from the grocery store but it has no bad stuff in it.
Shredded light mexican cheese - yes, it's better to shred your own block, but when you just need a small handful for eggs or something you can beat TJ's brand.
Nuts and dried fruit/trail mix.

Since we can't buy wine in grocery stores in NY because of the laws, our TJ's doesn't carry any wine. I'm wondering how are you buying it in BK?

Kris said...

@Melis: There's a separate TJ's Wine Store by the Union Square branch in Manhattan. Technically a separate facility, but still under the same name.

Victoria said...

So many great deals...these are the things I pretty much only buy at TJs for the prices.


Soy creamer (TJs brand)

Luna/Clif bars

Pizza dough ($1 a bag where I live!)

Soy (fake) Chorizo





Banana chips, other dried fruit

Cranberry Juice (the real stuff, way cheaper here than health food stores)


Paige said...

I have serious TJs withdrawls - I moved to Colorado, where there is NO TJs! Yes, life is hard, but we move on. *End ridiculousness*.

1lb of chocolate for $5?!
Organic tortillas
Frozen bell peppers
Dried mango
Pasta sauce
Trail mix
Buttah, eggs, cheese, yogurt (mmm, vanana!)
Organic wine - hella cheap!
Non-organic wine - hella cheaper!

Cool story bro - when I was in college I shoppped almost exclusively at Joes and spent about $100 a month on groceries. I ate a lot of eggs and toast, but I didn't die of malnourishment.

The Dealer said...

Trader Joe's just came to Portland, Maine. Best deals on dairy, and a great cheese selection. I used to make a special trip to Tj's in MA for bananas, spinach and milk.

SM said...

Organic Peanut Butter
Rice Milk
Organic Black Beans (canned)
Marinara Sauce

I use this very specific list at Trader Joe's. These items are way cheaper there than my local grocery, but I often get sucked into buying other foods that look good (tapenades, etc...) but (a) are not cheap and (b) linger on my shelf for way too long.

ellbeecee said...

Their peanut butter - the unsalted, just peanuts (I buy the non organic) is the best price for what I want: just peanuts, no added sugar or salt.

Cheese: I buy most of mine there except for one type I can't find at TJs near me.
Greek yogurt
Avocados: the bag with 4 is usually a much better price than the if you bought individually elsewhere.

Slightly off topic, but pay close attention to their prepared foods: some of them are very high sodium, while others are awesome.

Kris said...

@Beth, they have GORGONZOLA GNOCCHI?!? Holy cow. Must look next time I'm there. Those are, like, my favorite two words together.

Anonymous said...

Went to TJ's a few weeks ago for the first time, and I'm hooked!

-raspberry preserves
-frozen pre-cooked brown rice
-sweet potato chips
-Three-Buck Chuck, of course!

I also like their Facial Cleansing Pads w/Tea Tree Oil.


TJ said...

-Frozen edamame for sure.
-Most kinds of nuts (especially plain almonds!)
-Whole Wheat pasta of most kinds

Anonymous said...

I agree with lots of the above, and I'm not sure whether this counts as a "deal" but I also love TJ's Fiberful bars. They come in dried fruit, and mixed dried fruit and veggie versions, at about 40 cents per bar, with 6 g of fiber and 70 calories each. Perfect emergency purse snack!

Rebecca & Michael said...

Organic eggs are much cheaper there than at my grocery store. Ditto for ground flaxseed meal.

Dee Seiffer said...

As many have said already...nuts (esp unsalted, roasted, shelled pistachios)
dried fruit
Morningstar Farms frozen stuff is $2 less at TJs than other stores
Doggy Glucosamine Condroitin ($10/100 tabs instead of $70/100 at the vet)
cheese - love the cheddar & stilton combo
frozen veges - the organic sweet corn is almost as good as fresh, the french green bean - oo la la
Chocolate - organic truffle bars
Mayo (sorry Kris) my MIL used to request I bring this to her in Manhattan
organic marinara
flowers - cheaper bouquets than other grocery stores or even Costco

I need to look for the Gorgonzola gnocchi, too!

Jen said...

TJs isn't always cheap. You can often get better deals by shopping the sales at other stores

Their organic apples are a great price all the time. I can sometimes get them on sale cheaper elsewhere but not often. Ditto with organic carrots. I also buy stock and canned beans at TJs because I think the quality is far superior to what you get in the regular grocery store and a good deal, if not rock-bottom cheap. And then there's the frozen goodies. I find their premade frozen meals are MUCH better than your typical offerings at other stores, so when I go I get a couple for occasional lunches. I have to admit I like the frozen pizzas too. Not exactly cheap, but comparable to what I get elsewhere and tastier.

And then of course the wine...we rarely buy wine anywhere else anymore!

Donna said...

Pretty much everything
(can we talk about the TJ's peanut butter cups?!?)
-nitrate free meats, Kosher chicken/turkey
-bacon and sausages
-boxed soups
-jams and jellies
-all nuts
-dried fruits
-frozen plain veggies
-milk, cream, yogurt, eggs
-specialty health(-ier) foods (soy products, dairy alternatives, gluten free alternatives)
-spaghetti sauces
-better chicken nuggets and "spaghettios" in TJ's brand (less additives going into my kids)
-international foods (nori snacks, hummus, tapenades, too many to list)
-basmati and jasmine rices... white and whole grain!
-olive oils, olives, marinated mushrooms
-Joe Joes (oreos)
-Kashi's TLC crackers
-cereal bars (a la nutri-grain and granola bars)
-vitamins at great prices, too
BARBARA'S BAKERY CEREALS best price in town!
-other cereals are usually better priced than grocery stores
***TJ's house brand ALWAYS have no artificial colors/flavors, that is the best deal for our family

P.S. Is it just me? The bread isn't the best quality... except for the English muffins. Just wondering...

Yeah, that coffee ice cream and the potstickers are GREAT!

Chief Family Officer said...

I'm in Southern California, and I go for the RBST-free dairy every week. The prices are comparable to and usually even cheaper than conventional dairy at supermarkets.

Jerimi said...

definitly the whole wheat pasta. While I lot of brands dropped from 16 ounces to 13.5 ounces while costing about 1.29 here in IL, trader joes is still 16 ounces and costs about the same (sometimes 99cents!)

Laura said...

WINE! (only 2-buck chuck in Calif)
Greek Yogurt!
Olive Oil!
Seltzer water!

Cindy said...

-dairy (cheese, cottage cheese, greek and regular yogurt)
-nuts/trail mixes/dried fruit
-cereal (TJ brand)
-organic pasture raised chicken
-frozen veggie lasagna (so good!)
-whole wheat tortillas (best I have had)
-bagged apples (depending on season)
- I love the canned cuban black beans and the Roasted red pepper soup in a box!

I WISH they sold wine/beer here in MD, but they don't, which is so very sad. All of the wine for our wedding came from Trader Joes.

Alice said...

I'm addicted to the freeze-dried fruits - strawberries, mangoes and bananas, to be exact. I live in arctic Alaska and we don't get much fresh fruit, so these are a great treat because of their intense flavor, ease of transport and storage and variety of uses. I like to snack on them, but they are awesome in cereals and baking.

shil said...

I agree on the bread - I find it to be less-than-average yumminess (same with the pitas). The greek yogurt, olive oil, cheese, and dried fruit stand out as good deals at TJs, but to be honest I don't shop there because it's particularly cheap... I think TJ's prices are pretty standard for grocery stores in my area, but I just enjoy shopping there! If they had a better selection of produce and "international foods", I'd probably do all my shopping there. As it is, I frequently have to go across the road to Whole Foods to get the things I just couldn't find at TJs (plus bread).

Jen @ Dear Mommy Brain said...

Since I've started buying cat food there, I am forced to make the trip at least once a month. We also buy their beef hot dogs, frozen edamame, goat cheese, jam, honey, white whole wheat flour, frozen berries, salsa, and the occasional specialty item there. So much cheaper than Whole Foods.

Anonymous said...

I shop @ TJs weekly--and I think the vast majority of their goods are less than at other stores--everything from bread to ice cream to frozen vegs to cheese.

One of my favorite standbys--they have various boxed Indian meals for only $2. The flavor in such an inexpensive meal is just outstanding.

Caitlin said...

i'm eating their frozen vegetarian pizza for dinner right now, ah-mazing. you can't get a better deal anywhere in atlanta. their frozen meals are an awesome deal to take to work and their wheat bread is the best around. LOVE trader joe's!

Lily Secret said...

Olive oil, eggs, whole wheat pasta, organic sugar, nuts, fair trade coffee. I go out of my way to visit Trader Joe's for these pantry staples.

Jacqueline said...

Goat cheese
Peanut butter (best all natural I've ever had, too!)
Greek yogurt
Olive oil
Tortilla chips

Mary Ann MacKay said...

In general I find them to be the best buy for organic produce in town. But what I really love is there "Organic Super Seeded" tortilla chips. I normally don't indulge in such things but they are super delicious and packed with good for u stuff ($1.99 a bag at my local store)

Laura said...

Cuban Black Beans
Hatch Green Chiles
Artichoke Hearts
Serrano Salsa
Mediterranean Flat Bread
Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Feta & Jalapeno Flat Bread (fridge)
Edamame (frozen)
Fire Roasted Frozen Corn
Roasted Red Pepper Soup
Latin Style Black Bean Soup
Potstickers (frozen)
Walks into a Bars
Coconut Milk Ice Cream
Frozen Flatbread Pizzas
Peanut Butter
Spinach $1.99 bag
Shiitake Mushrooms
Individual Mac n Cheese
Rice Pasta
Spaghetti Sauces
All dairy
Maple Leaf Cookies
Frozen Hashbrowns

I work there and these are my favorites. Yes, most prepared foods are high in sodium but this is true of almost all prepared foods.

Taylor said...

Can I just say Oatmeal Cranberry Dunkers?? They'll be the highlight of your life, I promise.

Anna N said...

olive oil
almond butter with sea salt
Trader Joe's brand beer--pretty good and an amazingly good deal
laundry detergent
chocolate (pound plus bar of salted dark chocolate with peanuts--mmm!)
pizza dough

I don't consider the snack foods a deal, because I tend to impulse-buy them so they're not saving me money (I'm looking at you, pita chips and trail mix and thai flavored cashews), but I do consider them awesome.

Anonymous said...

Greek yogurt
The little packets of broth concentrate
Smoked salmon - technically Costco is cheaper but I can't eat it fast enough in the Costco size
Balsamic vinegar

hillary said...

OH Trader Joe, will you marry me?

Our favorite good buys:

Greek yogurt
Free range chicken broth
Organic pasta & pasta sauce
Organic canned beans
Nuts & dried fruit
Whole organic chicken
Triple cream brie
Frozen brown rice

Their produce is only so-so (compared to Whole Foods anyway), but they have a decent cheese selection. I wish they had more staples (no dried beans in my TJ's, for example) and less wacky frozen pre-made stuff because I don't eat that, but overall it is a wonderful place to feed a family on the cheap.

Sally said...

I agree with JuLo about the produce. I buy very little prepared foods and don't buy shredded cheese. Even, or maybe especially, for small amounts I grate my own.

Coffee and coffee filters
Some fresh produce
Dried Pasta
Nuts, especially almonds
Greek yogurt
Frozen fruits
Plain frozen vegetables
Olive oil, olives

There's more, but that's all I can think of right now.

Amber said...

They have an amazing frozen chile relleno. I'm also keen on their pesto, veggie sticks, tuna packaged "meal" things (curry and such), sparkling water (best bottle around - I use one a week and fill with regular water the other days), CHEESE. They have great prices on cheese.

Anonymous said...

So i know this does not qualify as healthy but the frozen croissants and pain au chocolat are AMAZING, almost as good as what you can get in Paris. You just have to remember to take them out the night before to proof.

Heidi said...

I do most of my shopping at TJ's and love it. My recent find, after my favorite shampoo was discontinued at a fancy retail shop, is their citrus shampoo and conditioner. Works great and the fragrance is light, disappearing quickly after my hair is dry. For anyone sensitive to fragrance, I recommend these products.

Emily said...

bagged spinach
vegetable stock
frozen edamame
veggie chips