Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Best Deals at Trader Joe's: A Cheat Sheet

Ladies and gentlemen, we have completed our survey of the Best Deals at Trader Joe's! Thanks to everyone who wrote in. There were 58 total commenters participating – 54 from the blog, 2 from Facebook, and 2 via email. And? Looking at the top ten vote-getters, this is going to be one hell of a party.

To review the process from last week: Every product mention got one vote. (So, if three different commenters wrote "butter," it got three votes.) Some things, like honey, elicited one clear vote and were easy to tally. Others, like cheese, were much more varied, producing several similar-but-not-exactly-alike answers. In those cases, I tallied the category as a whole, and then elaborated on individual responses within parentheses. (Um … if that makes sense, which it only kind of does. But you'll see.)

Some overall observations:
  • On the whole, frozen, organic, and restricted-diet (gluten-free, etc.) goods did very, very well, as did TJ's house brand products, especially: Roasted red pepper boxed soup, Joe-Joes, Three-Buck Chuck, and Greek yogurt. 
  • Overall, it appeared as if you don't necessarily shop at TJ's for the basic necessities, but rather, for beloved extras - chocolate, wine, edamame, etc. 
  • Almost half of you voted for some kind of cheese. Yowza.
  • Votes for bread were split. A few liked TJ breads a LOT, while others mentioned it wasn't quite up to snuff.
  • I loved how many people wrote WINE in all caps. Vino lovers, unite!
Without further ado, here are your answers. Print this thing out and take it with you on your next trip to TJ's.

Wiki Commons Sprew
Cheese (2 votes brie and goat, 1 vote each for cheddar/stilton, smoked gouda, shredded mexican, fontina)

Nuts (3 votes almonds, 1 vote pistachios)

Yogurt (12 votes Greek yogurt)

Wine (1 vote organic, 2 votes Three-Buck Chuck)

Dried fruit (3 votes mango, 2 vote bananas, 1 vote strawberries and cherries)
Olive oil

Frozen veggies (2 votes green beans and corn, 1 vote each bell peppers and asparagus)

Frozen edamame

Cereal (1 vote Barbara's Bakery, 1 vote Honey-Os)
Chocolate (4 votes 1-lb. bars, 1 vote white chocolate)
Marinara/Pasta sauces (1 vote organic)

Bananas (1 vote organic)
Cookies (1 vote Maple Leaf, 1 vote Oatmeal Cranberry Dunkers, 4 votes Joe-Joes)
Eggs (1 vote organic)
Pasta (3 votes whole-wheat)
Peanut butter

Boxed soups (3 votes roasted red pepper, 2 votes tomato, 1 vote black bean)
Bread ( 1 vote Cinnamon Swirl Bread, 1 vote pain au chocolat)
Canned beans (3 votes black)
Jams (1 vote blueberry, 1 vote raspberry)

Frozen Fruit (2 votes berries)
Ice cream (2 votes coffee-flavored, 1 vote Coconut milk)
Pizza Dough (generally frozen)

Almond, rice, and soy milks
Apples (2 votes organic)
Bars (1 vote cereal, 1 vote Luna/Clif, 1 vote Fiberful, 1 vote Walks Into Bars)
Frozen pizza
Frozen prepared meals (1 vote veggie lasagna)
Salsa (1 vote Serrano)
Tortillas (1 vote organic, 1 vote whole wheat)

Canned artichokes
Dairy (1 vote RBST-free)
Flat breads (1 vote Feta & Jalapeno, 1 vote Mediterranean)
Olives (1 vote canned)
Tortilla chips
Trail Mix

Almond butter
Frozen pre-cooked brown rice
Frozen veggie burgers (1 vote Morningstar Farms)
Gluten-free rice pasta
Ground beef
Organic whole chicken

Avocados, Bacon, Baby arugula, Balsamic vinegar, Balsamic vinegar dressing, Basmati and jasmine rice, Boxed Indian meals, Broth concentrate, Buttermilk, Canned crab, Capers, Cat food, Cilantro and yogurt dip, Clementine oranges, Coffee filters, Cottage cheese, Cranberry juice, Cream, Dog treats, Doggy glucosamine condroitin, English muffins, Facial cleansing pads w/tea tree oil, Flowers, Fresh produce, Frozen basil cubes, Frozen chile relleno, Frozen croissants, Frozen fish, Frozen hash browns, Frozen pie crust, Frozen shrimp, Gorgonzola gnocchi, Gorgozola crackers, Granola, Ground flaxseed meal, Gyoza, Hatch Green Chiles, Honey, Hot dogs, Individual Mac and cheese, International foods, Jarred hearts of palm, Kashi's TLC crackers, Kefir, Kosher chicken/turkey, Laundry detergent, Lemons, Limes, Marinated mushrooms, Mayo (sorry Kris), Meat, Multi-grain pancake mix, Nitrate free meats, Olive tapenade, Organic carrots, Organic sugar, Pesto, Pineapples, Roasted red peppers, Romaine hearts, Pre-cooked lentils, Sausages, Shiitake mushrooms, Smoked salmon, Soy (fake) chorizo, Soy creamer (TJs brand), Special-diet foods, Steel-cut oats (McCann's) , Sun-dried tomatoes, Sushi platters, Sweet potato chips, Tabouli, Tamales, Taquitos, Tempeh, TJ's chicken nuggets, TJ's spaghetti-os, TJ's peanut butter cups, Tomatoes, Tuna, Tuna meals, Veggie sticks

Sweet readers, is there anything you'd like to add to this? Maybe something we missed, or another suggestion for a specific store survey? Thanks again for all your replies - this was really fun. (*runs off to buy cheese*)


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Michelle Labbe said...

If TJ's European-style nonfat plain yogurt isn't on that list, it should be. The nonfat plain is creamy and doesn't have the acidic tang of most other nonfat plain yogurts, and the whey doesn't tend to separate out into liquid and almost-solid after a few days. And it's got one of the best nutritional profiles across brands of plain yogurt. I love it for parfaits or topping my breakfast cereal instead of milk.

And I believe the price is the same as the regular.

Other than that, the cheese. And the lobster ravioli-- $2.49?! It's cheaper than the spinach ricotta flavor!

Sally said...

I don't like the precooked lentils. To me they have a vegetal/herbal taste that I don't like. I prefer to cook my own.

I also like their Salsa Authenica. I'm not fond of overly spicy foods and this one is just right for me.

I think my only complaint about TJs is that they don't carry dried beans.

Adrienne said...

Argh! Trader Joe's not opening here 'til this summer! And when I say "here" I mean an hour's drive away!
(I used to live in So.Cal. so I'm well familiar with what I'm missing.)

Brittany said...

I'm not sure if anyone mentioned this before but I am in love with their chocolate syrup. Don't know if it qualifies as a great deal price-wise, but I had been looking for a great HFCS-free chocolate syrup for a while and the others I tried had a strange aftertaste and got kind of stiff in the fridge and hard to stir into milk. TJ's is excellent. And now I want some...

Lisa said...

"Three-buck Chuck" always makes me do a double-take. It's "two-buck Chuck" here (SF Bay California). Hee.

limecloud said...

I always get frustrated when I hear people talk about wine from Trader Joes (or Costo, or Aldi ect) because here in MD they can't sell alcohol in "grocery" stores. It makes me sad that we miss out on all the great deals. :(

Elizabeth said...

I'm bummed that I missed the original post, but I love to shop at Trader Joe's! My favorites that I didn't notice listed are chicken sausage, frozen mac 'n cheese, frozen pesto pizza, candy cane Joe-Joe's (only available during the holidays), and the cat treats. My other favorites that are listed include hummus, cheese, yogurt, dried fruit, nuts, and wine.

LizzyChop said...

Shhhhhh...don't tell anyone but I've been using three buck chuck (Lisa, I want to move to SF Bay!) in a special pasta sauce I've been developing for a dish I plan to enter in the Real Women of Philadelphia contest. I caught wind of the competition through a friend but don't know much about it. All I know is I want to win $25K!!! Does anyone know if you're allowed to use alcohol in your recipe?

Jen said...

Oh yes I forgot about the nuts and olive oil! If you're looking for bargains at TJs you do need to pay attention and compare with other stores, but in general the quality is always great so you can't go wrong, even if you pay a few cents more.

Delilah said...

Ugh, I was surrounded by Trader Joe's in college and after (in California and then Nevada) and upon returning home to the Midwest my closest one is now 3 HOURS away... NOT acceptable.

However--a friend's mom recently pointed out to me that she's been doing some reconnaissance work at the local Aldi's (for all intents an purposes a somewhat lower-end grocery store that so happens to belong to the same parent company as TJ's... I've actually never been in one) and she showed me some pretty unique gorgonzola crackers that are IDENTICAL but in totally different packaging--one TJ's brand, one Aldi brand.

So, if you don't have a Trader Joe's around and are living near an Aldi's, check it out! I can't wait to get the time to go peruse around in there, I've got my fingers crossed I can find some roasted red pepper soup or some shells and white cheddar... or salsa, trail mix, any number of TJ's faves!!!!

SoRefined said...


That is all.

Anonymous said...

I made use of the original post this weekend and picked up olive oil, hummus, wine, beer, nuts, and some frozen goodies at TJ! I also bought a few yellow and red peppers at $1.25 each.

I certainly can't do all of my shopping for basics here, but I love to stop in once a month for the extras!

Anonymous said...

I am in full agreement with just about everything on your list.
Two to add:
1. maple syrup
2. cut flowers

Cindy Brick said...

Their green curry sauce should be on this list -- that stuff is addictive! Their lebkuchen are also wonderful, but usally are only seasonal -- around Christmas.

Michael said...

This is really great. I would add the frozen fruit, and the Larabars as other best deals.
Another idea for a survey I'd recommend are products that TJ's has discontinued! Supposedly it's based on sales, but so many great items always seem to disappear from the shelves! It's an ongoing issue!
many thanks for your survey...