16 time- and money-saving hacks you should know before your next trip to Trader Joe's

  • Trader Joe's can be a stressful place to shop because of its extreme crowds and long lines.
  • Even though it sells expensive organic products, it also sells a lot of affordable produce and private-label non-perishables.
  • We compiled a list of some of the best tricks to save your time and money when you go to Trader Joe's.

Trader Joe's is an incredibly popular place to shop for groceries, in large part due to its affordability and great selection. A big part of the reason it can keep prices so low is that it primarily sells private-label products. However, anyone who shops there knows how stressful it can be — it's not uncommon for check-out lines to snake halfway around the stores. 

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Trader Joe's money-saving hacks
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Trader Joe's money-saving hacks

Know when to go 

Going to Trader Joe's at the right time can make all the difference. Anyone who shops there regularly knows how much of a headache it is when the line wraps around the entire store, so it's best to figure out when your local Trader Joe's is busy and avoid those times. 

Check the Fearless Flyer before you go.

The Fearless Flyer can help you plan your trip so that you know what you need before you get to the store. It lists recipes and featured products to look for when you go to shop.

Find recipes on the Trader Joe's website.

There are tons of recipes listed for every meal, and planning in advance can help you save time and money when you go to the store.

Learn important nutritional information online.

Trader Joe's is very up-front about what goes into its products, listing a lot of helpful information about GMOs, organic food, and allergens on its website. You can also find lists of vegankosher, and gluten-free options to take away the hassle of reading lengthy ingredient lists. 

Bring your own bag.

If you bring your own bag and spend $25 or more on groceries, you'll be entered into a raffle to win a $25 Trader Joe's gift card. Other stores offer discounts with reusable bags, but policies vary by location. If you forget a bag, you can buy one by the register. 

Enter contests to save money.

Trader Joe's website often lists contests like the Customer Choice Award, Strut Your Stuffed Recipe Contest, and October Recipe Contest. Enter to win prizes like Trader Joe's gift cards, and you can save money.

Look for manufacturers' coupons.

Trader Joe's doesn't offer sales, promotions, or coupons, but it does accept manufacturers' coupons for non-private-label products, which can sometimes be found online. 

You don't always have to buy organic.

Even though a lot of Trader Joe's produce is organic, you don't have to buy the organic option. Cook Smarts has a helpful list of which fruits and vegetables you should buy organic, and which you can save some money on.

Don't make it your go-to for all produce.

Produce can get expensive at Trader Joe's. $6.99 for raspberries is steep compared to other stores, where they're almost $2 less for the same product. But, some items, like bananas, are cheaper at Trader Joe's. 

Stock up on frozen foods.

Trader Joe's has a huge selection of frozen foods, and the prices are reasonable because most of the frozen items are private-label. The stores have just about everything you can imagine, including appetizers, main courses, desserts, and everything in between.

If you're buying cheese, opt for the specialty cheeses.

Most conventional cheeses are more expensive at Trader Joe's, but its artisan cheeses are cheaper than competitors'.

Make one big trip to get snacks and non-perishables.

Trader Joe's has a huge variety of snacks for affordable prices, but products are often discontinued. To avoid missing out on things, buy your snacks and non-perishables in one trip. This also saves time because you won't have to make multiple trips.

Buy products from the private-label Trader Joe's brand.

The Trader Joe's private-label brand is less expensive than everything else in the store, and many of the products are actually name-brand products repackaged for its private label. 

Taste everything.

In addition to the tasting station in the back of the store, you can ask crew members to taste anything in the store, within reason — even packaged foods. The only exception to this is alcoholic beverages — anything else is fair game. 

Know the return policy.

Trader Joe's has a generous return policy. You can return anything, even if it's opened, for a full refund — no questions asked.

Make use of its kid-friendly policies.

Trader Joe's crew member confirmed on Reddit that every Trader Joe's store has a stuffed animal hidden somewhere in the store to keep kids entertained while their parents focus on shopping.

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Before you make your next big shopping trip to Trader Joe's, these are some time- and money-saving tricks you should know.

RELATED: Only buy this at Trader Joe's 

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9 things you should only buy at Trader Joe's
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9 things you should only buy at Trader Joe's

1. Nuts

Nuts at Trader Joe’s are considerably cheaper than at other markets—not to mention that the store has an abundance of nutty varieties. Check out everything from slivered almonds to whole Brazil nuts, and look for smoked, salted and even sweet chili.

2. Precut Produce

Weeknights can be extremely busy, and when you’re in a pinch in the kitchen, it helps to save time by buying precut produce. Trader Joe’s has classic items like crinkle cut carrot strips and broccoli florets, and less-traditional veggies like cauliflower riceand prepared kale salad mixes, for effortless side dishes.

3. Alcohol

T-Joe’s has long been celebrated for inexpensive wines of all varieties. However, the grocery store has affordable, and high-quality, offerings in beer and liquor selection, too. Check out the Trader Joe’s Kentucky Bourbon Straight Whiskey or the reasonably priced local craft beers—the shelves are always stocked with your favorite IPAs.

4. Cheese

Having a cheese party? Trick your friends into thinking you went to an artisanal cheese shop by stocking up on the dairy-laden goods at Trader Joe’s. From savory smoked goudas to sweet blueberry chevre spreads, the cheese aisle is the place to pick up goodies that will wow friends and satisfy your stomach.

5. Frozen Meals

Everyone should know how to prepare a few good meals at home, but sometimes you want the convenience of having a frozen meal at the ready. Trader Joe’s has a variety of tasty frozen dishes, including garlicky palak paneer and TJ’s cult favorite—the Reduced Guilt Mac & Cheese.

6. Seasonal Treats

You haven’t lived until you’ve tasted a Peppermint Joe Joe or snacked on a slice of Butternut Squash Parmigiana. The chain uses seasonal ingredients that wow in its offerings, and we won’t blame you if you feel the need to try them all. We did.

7. Orchids

Trader Joe’s has bouquets of fresh flowers daily, including arrangements—some including orchids!—ranging from $4 to $10. Small potted orchid plants are available beginning at $8. These beautiful, exotic plants make for welcome hostess gifts or will simply look beautiful around your own home.

8. Frozen Desserts

Running late to a party? Forgot to stop at the local bakery? Pop into Trader Joe’s and pick up a sumptuous frozen dessert. From the decadent chocolate ganache torte to the tasty Speculoos cookie butter cheesecake bites, there’s an item for you that will be delicious, affordable and easy to serve.

9. Wraps

When you’re hungry and looking for something healthy to snack on, seek out a premade lunch from Trader Joe’s. You’ll find a variety of wraps and sandwiches, usually in or near the produce section, that are filling and healthy. Check out the Cubano Seasoned Wrap or a turkey salad sandwich for a meal that won’t disappoint.

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SEE ALSO: Trader Joe's customers reveal their 15 favorite items

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