Trader Joe’s started out in the 1950s as a chain of convenience stores called Pronto Markets. In 1967, things changed and Trader Joe’s became the first version of what it is today. Trader Joe’s is a market with around 460 stores in almost 40 states now, according to D&B Hoovers, a U.S. business research company. And a market that stocks about 4,000 items, 80% of which carry its private labels.
According to its website, Trader Joe’s keeps it prices low by buying direct from suppliers when it can, buying in volume, and constantly reevaluating its products. Regardless of how much Trader Joe’s changes up its product selection, there are still a few things that you should purchase elsewhere, according to Kitchn, Eat This, Not That!, and Kiplinger.
If you want to save money, this information is for you. Find out now what not to buy at Trader Joe’s — and save your hard-earned cash to spend elsewhere.
Don’t buy produce at Trader Joe’s, according to Kitchn, because it goes bad too fast. The prices are good on TJ’s produce and the selection is decent, but it does tend to spoil more quickly that the stuff you buy at your local farmer’s market or big-chain supermarket. A lot of Trader Joe’s produce is packaged in plastic bags or actually wrapped in plastic, which doesn’t help, either, according to Fox News.
Next: Beat feet from marinated meat.
2. Marinated meats
Trader Joe’s carries a lot of marinated meat, including chicken, beef, and pork. The meats look mouth-watering in the packages. But don’t buy the marinated meat unless you’re on a high-sodium diet, because you’ll be practically eating a salt lick.
Take the marinated Bool Kogi — Korean-inspired boneless beef ribs — for instance. One serving — and we’re talking just 4 ounces here — contains 860 mg of sodium, which accounts for 36% of what you should have for an entire day. The upside is that if you do choose marinated meats from Trader Joe’s you’ll likely be drinking a lot more water.
Next: Find a better butter.
3. Almond butter
Trader Joe’s almond butter might taste great, but it’s not a great deal. At $7.99 for 16 ounces, it’s like gold. You can pick it up at Target for a dollar cheaper — or, you can make it yourself.
Making almond butter might sound involved, but it’s ridiculously straightforward. All you have to do is toast some whole almonds in a toaster oven, dump them into a food processor, and watch them whir. In about five minutes you’ll have almond butter, according to Sally’s Baking Addiction.
Next: Leave the milk alone.
4. Organic milk
A gallon of Trader Joe’s organic milk is $2.30 more expensive than Whole Foods’, according to Kiplinger. When Whole Foods beats out Trader Joe’s pricing, that’s saying something. Don’t buy the organic milk at TJ’s — save it for your trip to Whole Foods.
If you want to buy milk at Trader Joe’s, though, Kiplinger recommends getting the almond or soy milk. At around $2.99 for a half-gallon, it’s cheaper than other stores’ — and it might even be healthier for you.
Next: Say no to cheese, please.
5. Mozzarella cheese
According to Kiplinger, Whole Foods beats Trader Joe’s price on a 16-ounce pack of mozzarella by 5 cents. That might not sound like a lot, but since you’ll be in Whole Foods buying organic milk anyway, why not pick up your mozzarella there, too? A penny saved is a penny earned.
Next: Skip the organic yardbird.
6. Organic chicken
If you’re shopping at Trader Joe’s, chances are you’re in the market for organic products. Trader Joe’s has many, but skip the organic chicken breasts, says Kiplinger. Instead, check your local grocery store or go to Kroger or Walmart — you’ll save 50 cents per pound on them at Kroger and a whopping $2 per pound at Walmart.
Next: Say no to Greek yogurt.
7. Greek yogurt
There’s seemingly no end to the types of yogurt available on supermarket shelves today. It’s mind-boggling to choose just one. Lately, Greek yogurt has been quite popular, due to the fact that it has protein, which helps quell your hunger longer.
Trader Joe’s Greek Gods yogurt is great. It’s smooth. It’s creamy. It’s expensive. Even Whole Foods sells the 32-ounce container for nearly 70 cents less, according to Kiplinger. Save this item to buy at Whole Foods when you need organic milk and mozzarella.
Next: Put the freeze on frozen fruit.
8. Frozen fruit
Buying frozen fruit results in a serious time-saver. When you make that morning smoothie al all you have to do is crack open the bag and pour it in. No mess, no fuss. And Trader Joe’s sells small packages of frozen fruit that are just perfect for one, but don’t buy it, reports Kiplinger.
If you eat a lot of frozen fruit — and you should, because it’s healthy and it’s yummy — go big or go home. Stop at Walmart for its 64-ounce bags of frozen fruit and pay three times less per ounce than at Trader Joe’s, according to Kiplinger.
Next: Don’t do detergent.
9. Phosphate-free dishwasher and laundry detergent
For years, phosphate has been a main ingredient in dishwasher and laundry detergents — it’s an additive designed to boost their cleaning efficiency. Phosphates, however, wreak havoc on the environment, according to TreeHugger, contaminating fresh water lakes and rivers. Enter phosphate-free detergents, sold at many large supermarkets, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s.
If you buy your detergent at Trader Joe’s, you’re overpaying, according to Kiplinger. You’ll spend $9.99 on TJ’s natural detergent, but if you go to Walmart, you’ll pay only $8.97 for the same size container of Ecos detergent. On the dishwasher soap front, Walmart sells its 75-ounce Palmolive Eco+ soap for $2.97 — Trader Joe’s sells its own brand in a 50-ounce container for $1 more.
Next: Choose a higher-end vino.
10. Charles Shaw wine
If you need some wine to perk up a stew, buy a bottle of the famous “two-buck Chuck” at Trader Joe’s. If you want to sip a nice glass of vino, try another brand, according to Kiplinger.
Just because a bottle of wine costs as little as $2 doesn’t mean it’s good. Think: Have you ever heard Robert Parker touting its virtues? Use Charles Shaw for recipes or even sangria, but go with a better bottle if you want something you can actually drink.
Next: Make an omelet instead of eating this.
11. Broccoli & Cheddar Cheese Quiche
Trader Joe’s Broccoli & Cheddar Cheese Quiche tastes good. But if you even remotely care about your health, it might not taste as good. One quiche contains almost 500 calories, according to Eat This, Not That!, plus half the recommended daily sodium intake amount. Not to mention it has 30 grams of fat.
If you’re running a marathon and want to eat one beforehand, enjoy it. If not, skip it altogether: Buy some of Trader Joe’s inexpensive eggs, pick up some broccoli and cheese, and DIY, minus the crust.
Next: Fruits and nuts and honey sound so good …
12. Nuts & Fruits & Honey
This product is beautiful. It looks almost like an elaborate sand design, only its layers contain pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, figs, almonds, currants, coconut, sesame seeds, and honey.
The layers also contain — per ¼ cup, according to Eat This, Not That! — 300 calories, 14 grams of fat, and 26 grams of sugar. If you think you’re eating healthy because “it’s just fruit and nuts,” think again.
Next: Salad is always good for you, right?
13. Curried White Chicken Deli Salad
If you’re watching your weight, you can’t go wrong with eating a salad. Maybe not, according to Eat This, Not That!. Trader Joe’s Curried White Chicken Deli Salad is a mix of curried chicken, green onion, cashews, and honey. Oh, and it contains 21 grams of fat per serving.
According to the package, it contains three servings, so if you ate the whole thing you’d be ingesting a whopping 66 grams of fat. And almost 1,000 calories. Make a better choice.
Next: Chocolate woes
14. Chocolate Lava Cakes
Say it isn’t so! These delicious little cakes are on the Trader Joe’s no-buy list. Why?
According to Eat This, Not That!. if you eat just one you’ll be consuming almost your entire allotment of saturated fats for the day — plus 31 grams of sugar. Those figures bring new meaning to “treating yourself.” Perhaps eating these is treating yourself badly. Rethink your chocolate fix and opt for a few bites of super-satisfying, dark chocolate instead.
Next: Shop big box for paper goods
15. Paper goods
Paper goods are best bought in bulk, according to The Penny Hoarder. Because Trader Joe’s doesn’t sell in bulk, you’re better off getting your paper products elsewhere. For example, TJ’s toilet tissue comes in a package of six rolls and costs $3.99. Although that doesn’t sound too bad, you’ll likely do much better at a wholesale warehouse like Costco — or maybe even at your local supermarket.
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