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Trader Joe’s is an easy place to quickly fill up your shopping cart, and since there are few couponing opportunities, it’s best to know what’s really a bargain. To get the best deal, here are six things not to buy (and six things that are must-haves!).
1. Avoid pre-packaged produce that isn’t locally sourced.
Most of the fruit and vegetables sold at Trader Joe’s are surprisingly not local. This means more packaging and the inability to touch, smell, and properly choose the ripest and most sweet smelling individual piece of fruit or vegetable. If you’re looking for the freshest and most local produce, go to Whole Foods or a similar store.
Buy seasonal items, bananas, and packaged salads instead.
Seasonal items like corn and artichokes are often a good deal and taste great, while bananas and packaged salad goods are well priced and of great quality.
2. Organic milk is more expensive than at your local supermarket.
I always thought the best place to grab a gallon of organic milk for the family was Trader Joe’s, but when I did a price comparison, I found that prices are better at my local grocer.
Buy dairy alternatives like soy and almond milk instead.
Trader Joe’s has great prices on name brand dairy alternatives, like So Delicious and Westsoy, but they also have great deals on their own brand of alternative milks.
Related: 15 Reasons You CAN Afford to Shop at Whole Foods
3. Don’t buy individually sliced and packaged cheese.
Buy specialty cheese instead.
My rule of thumb is, if it’s going on a sandwich or in a weeknight dinner recipe, I buy it somewhere else. However, if it’s going on a cheese plate or I’m pairing it with wine, I stick to my favorites at Trader Joe’s.
4. Get less frozen fruit for more money than at other stores.
Frozen fruit is not something I stock up on at Trader Joe’s. It’s more expensive for a bag that’s smaller than the ones I find at other stores. This one usually ends up on my Winco or Costco grocery list.
Buy microwavable meals instead.
Don’t skip the frozen aisle, though. Trader Joe’s is the place to go to for high-end frozen meals. These aren’t the TV dinners I ate as a child; these are the ones I can enjoy as an adult. They’re go-to favorites for specialty meals. Plus, they’re a dollar or two cheaper than other stores.
5. The store brand almond butter is just as much—if not more—than name brands at other stores.
If you’re looking for the best deal on almond butter, add it to your Walmart shopping list. You’ll have better luck at Walmart with manufacturer coupons and rebate-app offers than you will at Trader Joe’s.
Buy the organic peanut butter instead.
They have the best deal on some of the yummiest peanut butter I’ve ever found!
6. Find better deals on chicken at other stores.
I buy chicken when it goes on sale at my local supermarket and save more than if I bought it at Trader Joe’s.
Buy the organic free-range chicken broth instead.
Trader Joe’s has a great deal on organic free-range chicken broth, and seasonally I can’t pass up on their turkey broth.
Related: 15 Ways to Get Meat Coupons Online