1. Do or do not, there is no try (except at Trader Joe’s)
Trader Joe’s is known for giving out a smorgasbord of free samples, but did you know that you can try anything in the entire store for free? That’s right: you can try anything—even prepackaged food that comes in sealed containers! The only exception is wine and other alcoholic beverages, where state specific law will dictate whether you can sample the product in store before purchasing it. By sampling unfamiliar products and fresh produce (where a taste test is truly the only way to ascertain ripeness and flavor) before you purchase them, you can reduce the risk of being unhappy (and thus not eating) your purchase. As every Krazy Coupon Lady knows, wasted food equals wasted money. Accordingly, taking advantage of Trader Joe’s liberal try-before-you-buy policy can ultimately save you money.
2. Take advantage of Trader Joe’s liberal return policy
When it comes to return policies, Trader Joe’s is like the Nordstrom of grocery stores. If, for whatever reason, you’re unsatisfied with anything at Trader Joe’s, bring it back to the store for a full refund—no questions asked. You can even return opened or expired products. When accompanied by an original receipt, items can be returned for the full purchase price, and refunds will be issued in the original method of payment (i.e., if you paid with cash, you’ll receive a cash refund; if you paid with a credit/debit card, you’ll receive a credit on your card). If you don’t have your original receipt, no worries—items can be returned at the lowest advertised price, and refunds will be issued as store credit to a Trader Joe’s card.
3. Buy discounted Trader Joe’s gift cards online
If you’re a regular Trader Joe’s shopper, I recommend buying discounted Trader Joe’s gift cards from reputable gift card resale websites such as Cardpool.com, GiftCardGranny.com, Raise.com and GiftCardRescue.com for an average of 5-10 percent off the gift card’s face value. Inventory constantly fluctuates on these sites, and from my experiences I’ve noticed that Trader Joe’s gift cards quickly sell out after being posted on these sites. When Trader Joe’s gift cards are out of stock on GiftCardGranny.com and Raise.com, you have the option to create an alert, which will immediately notify you by email when more Trader Joe’s gift cards become available on the site.
4. That tastes familiar! Trader Joe’s branded products and their big-brand equivalents
If you’ve ever shopped at Trader Joe’s, you know that the majority of the store’s products are sold under Trader Joe’s private label. But here’s the clincher: these products aren’t actually made by Trader Joe’s, but rather a third-party supplier who also makes name-brand/big-brand products. As such, many of the products sold at Trader Joe’s are big-brand products (such as General Mills or Amy’s Organic) simply repackaged under Trader Joe’s private label. So, if you’ve ever been eating a Trader Joe’s private label product and thought to yourself, “I know I’ve tasted this before,” your dining deja vu is correct as you’ve likely eaten that same Trader Joe’s food packaged under its big-brand name. For example, the pita chips found in a bag of Trader Joe’s Parmesan, Garlic and Herb Pita Chips are the exact same pita chips as those found in a bag of big-brand Stacy’s Parmesan, Garlic and Herb Pita Chips. Likewise, Trader Joe’s Organic White Shells and Cheese Macaroni & Cheese is the same product as Annie’s Organic Shells & White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese.
While Trader Joe’s doesn’t publicly reveal which big-brand products they have repackaged and sold under their Trader Joe’s private label, amateur supermarket sleuths have uncovered some of these “equivalent” products through their own detective work, involving taste tests and comparing ingredient lists. The table below contains a non-exhaustive list of popular Trader Joe’s branded products and their rumored big-brand product equivalents. Also, check out this blogger’s non-exhaustive list of equivalent products. If you don’t see your desired Trader Joe’s branded product on either of these lists, search for that product and the phrase “equivalent product” or “brand name product” on Google.
While Trader Joe’s branded products are typically cheaper than their big-brand product equivalent, Trader Joe’s does not accept coupons for their Trader Joe’s branded products. As such, if you have a coupon for a big-brand product that will reduce its price to lower than the Trader Joe’s branded product, it’s a better deal to buy the big-brand product.
5. Use a credit card that offers cash back at grocery stores
If you’re going to purchase your groceries with a credit card, consider using a credit card that offers cash back on your grocery-store purchases (responsible credit card users only). Look for a cash back credit card that has a low APR and minimal or no annual fees. Here is a non-exhaustive list of credit cards you may want to look into:
American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card:
- 3% cash back at US supermarkets (maximum of $6000 per year in purchases); also receive 2% cash back at US gas stations and select US department stores and 1% cash back on other purchases
- Cash back received in form of Reward Dollars, which can be redeemed as a statement credit
- No annual fee
- For first 15 months, 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers
BankAmericard Cash Rewards:
- 2% cash back at grocery stores; 3% cash back on gas; 1% cash back on everything else ($1500 per quarter combined limit on the 2% grocery store rewards and 3% gas rewards)
- No annual fee
- Cash back rewards can be redeemed as a direct deposit into any Bank of America checking or savings account (receive an extra 10% bonus if you choose this option), a statement credit or a payment towards your Bank of America mortgage
Barclaycard Reward MasterCard:
- Earn 2 points per dollar on groceries, gas and utilities (unlimited); earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases (unlimited)
- No annual fee
- Use your points like cash to pay for any purchase you’ve made
6. Bring your own reusable shopping bag for a chance to win a store gift card
Many Trader Joe’s locations offer regular drawings for a Trader Joe’s gift card giveaway. Only customers who bring their own reusable grocery bag are eligible to enter this giveaway. Ask your local store manager for details.