Ah, Trader Joe’s, the small grocery store with a big following. I must admit, I have become a die-hard fan of the German owned chain. But it wasn’t love at first sight for me. Here are a few things that changed the way I shop for food.
The first time I crossed the threshold of a Trader Joe’s was after moving to a new area. I had heard the hype and seen the Pinterest postings by devotees, so thought I’d give it a try. Meh, it fell pretty flat when I saw there was no deli or bakery. I wasn’t sure about buying pre-packaged 1lb. packs of ground beef. There weren’t many name brands on the shelves, and overall, the store seemed small.
Things began to change when I actually purchased some of the items I was so hesitant to buy. The frozen foods (riced-cauliflower!) and packaged meat selection, especially the grilled lemon chicken, became my go-to for a quick and easy dinner. Just add pasta and steamed broccoli and you look like a meal-planning rock-star!
T.J’s (I can call him that, since we’re very close) gave me a new mind set about grocery shopping. I didn’t need 8 choices of the same product. Simple seemed better – and cheaper! The free coffee and juice samples made shopping more enjoyable. I even started thinking the Hawaiian shirts and khaki pants the employees wear were a cheery step up from other chains.
Soon, I became immune to the lure of big-chain store ads and memorized the Fearless Flyer (Trader Joe’s newsletter). I knew the precious few aisles like the back of my hand. And if they didn’t have a product, I almost always decided I really didn’t need it after all.
Here are some lesser-known tips that might make a Trader Joe’s fan out of you:
- They take coupons – Of course, they do not carry many name brands, but you can get your discounts on items like Pellegrino.
- Bring your own bags – Many newer chains are requiring, but T.J.’s allows the option of their paper handled bags too. (Occasionally my kids wear them like backpacks, we’re all big fans) If you bring your own you can enter for a $25 gift card.
- Read the Fearless Flyer! – This is mega-important if you want to get new products before they’re sold out.
- Stock up on your favs – My family became addicted to Trader Joe’s poutine -golden, oven-baked, crispy fries with melty cheese and gravy, a Canadian masterpiece. Then there was none. It ended to soon; no time to slowly wean us off of our favorite lunch. Sigh.
- Buy gorgeous greeting cards for $1 – Seriously, these cards look high-end, but are a total steal.
- Raid the health and beauty section! – I hesitated to report this, since I want to keep it all for myself, but this is one of the best parts of Trader Joe’s. Tea tree oil, shampoo, face wash, hand lotion – unbelievable prices.
- Play the in-store games – Kids can find Sammy the Seal and get a free treat. There are games for grown-ups as well
- If you don’t love it, return it – T.J.’s has a fantastic return policy. Personally, I have never had to return an item, but I wouldn’t hesitate if needed.