Trader Joe's Doesn't Always Have the Lowest Prices — But These 6 Items Will Save You Money Every Time
Savvy shoppers know where to scout out the best grocery deals. And, surprisingly, they’re usually not running to Trader Joe’s to find them.
It’s no secret that Trader Joe’s carries many unique and specialty products, which also tend to be more expensive in price compared to the average grocery store.
Since Trader Joe’s doesn’t offer sales or advertise special deals (beyond items highlighted in their Fearless Flyer), it’s hard to know whether you’re actually saving money.
As The Frugal Convert, I’m always looking for the best deals, wherever I shop. So I went on a shopping mission to my local Trader Joe’s in Los Angeles and started comparing prices to see where I could save the most money.
I found that frugal shoppers shouldn’t give up on Joe just yet. Budget shoppers can still find deals at Trader Joe’s if they stick to common household goods.
I was surprised to find several everyday products that were affordable at Trader Joe’s, and some items were even less expensive than if purchased at a discount store like Walmart or a local grocery store. (Prices may vary depending on location.)
Here are six items you’re always better off buying at Trader Joe’s.
Nuts are notoriously expensive, not matter where you buy them. But Trader Joe’s offers some quality deals, like macadamia nuts for $9.99 per pound. This price is equal to Costco’s warehouse price, but you don’t have to buy the bigger quantity that Costco sells. At Trader Joe’s, consumers can purchase one pound of nuts at a time and pay the same price as if they were buying in bulk.
Another great find is a pack of slivered almonds, which cost $3.49 for an 8-ounce bag from Trader Joe’s, making them cheaper than Walmart’s price of $4.98 for the same quantity.
In California, sushi is a popular food item, but good grocery store sushi is hard to find, especially at an affordable price. Many grocery stores don’t carry sushi in their locations, so the options are limited. It’s either too expensive, or the quality is subpar.
But Trader Joe’s comes through with a wide variety of individual sushi plates for a reasonable price—and the quality is decent as well. The popular California Roll costs $3.49. In comparison, Vons offers the same size roll for $5.49—that’s a $2 difference in savings for every roll.
3. Ready-Made Meals
On a busy weeknight, ready-made meals make preparing dinner a much easier task. Rather than stopping for take-out, you can pick up a bag of orange chicken, make a side of rice and have a solid meal to eat with your family without breaking your budget. Trader Joe’s sells a 22-ounce bag of orange chicken for $4.99, while Walmart carries the same size bag for $5.98.
They also carry many other quick meal options that other grocers don’t. Despite the fact that other grocery stores don’t carry the same varieties, Trader Joe’s still maintains reasonable prices for their customers, which helps explain its popularity. Note: Not all Trader Joe's frozen meals are healthy. Here are 8 to avoid, and 8 to look for.
4. Nut Butter
According to the Texas Peanut Producers, the average American consumes about three pounds of peanut butter per year. But at what cost?
Trader Joe’s stocks generic versions of this household staple for $1.99 for a 16-ounce jar, making the unit price 12 cents per ounce. The unit price is actually the same as Walmart’s unit price, since Walmart’s 18-ounce jar sells for $2.18. So if you’re already out shopping at Trader Joe’s, it’s a good place to stock up on peanut butter.
Trader Joe’s offers several varieties of nut butters such as almond butter, sunflower butter, and cashew nut butter. Even though these are considered specialty varieties, their prices are still comparable to the average grocery store.
With high-fat diets like the ketogenic diet (or “keto”) on the rise, butter has become a staple ingredient once again. But the higher demand has caused the price of butter to increase over the last two years, so finding a good deal can be a challenge.
For a specialty store like Trader Joe’s, one might expect the price of butter to be higher than the average grocery store. However, Trader Joe’s sells their private-label butter for $2.99 for a 16-ounce pack, while Walmart sells the same size pack for 25 cents more at $3.24.
Their deals on dairy products are pretty competitive as well. Trader Joe’s carries a wide array of dairy and non-dairy items, name brands, and private labels for you to choose from.
But the best deals can be found if you’re searching for regular milk. A gallon of vitamin D whole milk costs $2.89, which is cheaper than Walmart’s offering of the generic vitamin D milk that costs $2.94 for a gallon.