Frugal Faves from Trader Joes

Tuesday April 12, 2011
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Note: you can find a link to my Trader Joe’s Price Sheet at the end of this post.

It took me a long time to “get” Trader Joe’s. I would hear people rave about it, but when I tried to shop there, I was confused.  I couldn’t buy everything I needed and still would have to make a trip to a “regular” grocery store, so what was the point?

Now my shopping habits have evolved and I’ve come to appreciate TJs as a useful stop in my weekly shopping run than spans several stores.  No, it doesn’t have it all, and many of the food items are expensive temptations, but there are some solid values here that can’t be found other places without a sale or a coupon.

Here’s a few of my favorite, frugal-minded shopping items.  Keep in mind that most of the items I’m referring to are conventional, not organic, unless otherwise specified.   Also note that the prices displayed are what I saw and recorded from a store in my area (Northern Va) when I stopped in this week.

Baked Goods / Breakfast

English Muffins ($1.49) and Bagels ($2.29)
You can’t beat their price on 6 count english muffins, especially for whole wheat.  Even better that they are free of HFCS.   The bagels are pretty good, IMO, better than any other I’ve found, especially at that price point.

Country Choice Organic Steel Cut Oats ($2.99/30oz aka $1.60/lb)
Hubs has become a real fan of steel cut oats and I haven’t found a better price than this.   The fact that they are organic is a nice bonus.  You can also often find coupons for Country Choice brand on Mambo Sprouts or their own website.

Produce

Much of their produce is NOT a great deal (I get most of my produce at H-Mart), but there are a few gems to be found.   Keep in mind that produce pricing can vary quite a bit with the seasons.

Romaine Hearts ($2.29/3pk)
We love these for our salads.

Grape Tomatoes ($2.99/16oz)
This price varies quite a bit but is almost always cheaper than anywhere else.  We love grape tomatoes for salads and just plain munching.

Avocados ($3.99/4pk)
This pricing also varies with the season but is often less than $1/ea.   We love to make guacamole with their avocados.

Refrigerated/Frozen

Hummus Dip ($3.49/16oz)
This is a great price and we think their original, basic hummus tastes really good (there are other flavor options at different price points).  We try and use hummus as our dip for veggies to stay away from fattening ranch.

Organic Yogurt – Plain, Vanilla, or Vanana ($2.99/32oz tub)
Buying a large tub of yogurt is so much more economical and while you can get non-organic for cheaper, this is a great price and yogurt I actually feel good about.   My one complaint — they recently stopped making a strawberry flavor that was soo good.  Bring it back TJ!

Feta – crumbled ($2.49/6oz)
We love to make a greek salad with feta in summertime and this price is hard to beat.

Frozen Edamame  ($1.69/16oz)
Boil for 5 minutes and you have a super healthy veggie that’s fun to eat.  Wegmans charges $2.49 for the same.

General Grocery

Taco Seasoning Packets ($.79/ea)
Love this packet!  Cheap and all natural.  It has quite a bit of kick, so we typically only use a 3rd at a time, thus making it even cheaper.

Diced Green Chilies  ($.79/4oz can)
You can probably find these cheap elsewhere, but my main shopping destination (Wegmans) sells them for $1.29/can so this is a much better deal.

Organic Shells & White Cheddar Mac & Cheese ($1.29/6oz box)
If you’re going to do box mac and cheese, this is a great value and an organic version that actually tastes good.  It’s more spendy than Kraft, but I refuse to by that cee-rap anymore.

All Natural Barbecue Sauce ($2.29/18oz)
We love this sauce.  Not the cheapest price point out there, but love that is all natural (no HCFS) and has a great kick to it.

Multigrain Crackers ($1.69/10oz)
Cheaper than Wheat Thins!  And pretty tasty too. I try to not buy too often as this falls in the junk category and we just scarf them down.

Schoolhouse Cookies and Cat Cookies — all varieties ($2.49/16oz tub)
These are not a great value to me because they seemed to get scarfed down within 10 minutes of opening.  If I can keep them hidden from my self-serving snacking 3yr old, they make a yummy addition to school packed lunches.

Almonds, Sliced or Slivered ($2.49/8oz)
A great addition to salads, this price point is pretty cheap.

Wine

We love to get wine from TJ.  Following the lead of my frugalista SIL, we try and stick with wines that are $5 and under.   For a cheap table wine, you can’t beat the “3 buck chuck”  (Charles Shaw @$3.29/bottle).  Some other brands we like include  the italian Villa Cerrina Montepulciano, the TJ Organic Chardonnay from Chili, and the Panilonco Malbec from Chili — all of these are priced at $4.99.

I could go on, but clearly, I’ve babbled long enough.  I put together a pricesheet for my favorite TJ purchases, you are welcome to check it out here:

>>> Trader Joe’s Price Sheet <<<

If you are interested in combining coupons with your Trader Joe’s shopping, check out either Frugal Friends of Northern Va or Healthy Life Deals (from St. Louis).

So tell me, what are your favorite purchases at Trader Joe’s?

Shopping Trader Joe’s smartly and selectively works for me.  Find more tips at Works For Me Wednesday, hosted by We Are That Family.

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8 Responses to Frugal Faves from Trader Joes

  1. 1
    Denise says:

    We love Trader Joe’s brand UNsweetened soy milk. “Plain” soy milk has cane sugar in it, and is just too sweet (don’t even get me started on vanilla soy milk — blech!). But unsweetened is hard to come by and Silk brand is typically 3.79-3.99/ half gallon. TJ’s unsweetened soy milk is 2.99. Hooray!

  2. 2
    Kristen H. says:

    I love their ready made pizza dough! Just roll, top and bake. So tasty! They have it in wheat or white. I think it was $1.99

  3. 3
    Liberty says:

    I *heart* tJ’s too…I love and adore their gluten free pasta ( so inexpensive) i always stock up. Most unfortunately mthe nearest is 1.5 hrs away…you’re lucky to include it in your weekly shopping trips – smile!
    Blessings!
    LIB
    http://bit.ly/9ZjoY1

  4. 4

    Next time you’re in TJ’s bread aisle, pick up a loaf of their Texas Toast bread. It makes amazing French Toast, or if you aren’t that ambitious it also makes killer cinnamon toast!

  5. 5
    Mel says:

    What don’t I love from TJ’s?

    The frozen vegetables are unparalleled. The corn & peas are our favorites. They’re just over $1 a bag, so a bit more than Wegman’s but worth every penny in taste.

    The whole wheat couscous is a staple in our house. Even Owen horks it. Around $2 a box, a steal!

    The “Trader Joes Pound Plus Bittersweet Chocolate (with almonds)” is a steal at around $4 for 17.6 oz. It’s my personal favorite for everyday chocolate without being too rich. I like that I can break off chunks to keep in my purse & eat with almonds as a snack on the go. And the bar size makes it last for a long time.

    And two more new fave wines:
    Tuscan Moon Sangiovese ~ $4.99
    Blue Fin Petite Syrah ~ $4.99

  6. 6
    Sweet Pea Chef says:

    I could wax poetic about TJs. My favorites are (other than yours, because you hit on a bunch of mine!):

    Joe’s Os
    Cereal Bars
    Basil Marinara
    Roasted Peppers
    Salad Dressings
    Feta (cheaper than the grocery)
    Sour Cream
    Indian Dish packs
    Mini-Tacos (a great easy lunch for the boys)
    Frozen Orange Chicken (pair with edamame, broccoli and brown rice)
    Frozen Mango
    Maple Leaf Cookies
    Jasmine Green Tea
    Sour Cream
    Oh, girl, how I could go on…

  7. 7
    xfitdad says:

    SIL getting SIL-ly with new wine brands…will try.

    BUT oh, all those carbs everyone…please, you spike my insulin just thinking about them all. Except that yummy bbq sauce. MMMM..

    Does TJs have a chunky blue cheese dressing? I bet they do.

  8. 8

    Thanks for the link love Kendra! Nice to meet another Northern VA blogger who also happens to be a Christian and a mom. So encouraging!
    Are you on Twitter? If so. let me know, I’d enjoy following you.
    Have a great day!
    Laura, Frugal Friends in Northern VA

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