Trader Joes vs. other grocery stores

As of late I have an obsession — well more of a challenge. Meal planning and grocery shopping. I am truly an organized person and I appreciate the best deals. I’d say I am pretty average as far as my shopping. I don’t but a lot of junk but I am also not one who buys all organic either. We are on a budget so I have to stretch the dollars. Organic just takes up so much more money and it is not always possible to make that ‘splurge’. I have high hopes of having a higher producing garden this summer. I am also big on Farmers Markets. Just being at a Farmers Market puts me in a good mood! Anyway, back to the dreaded meal planning. Somehow I get a little too consumed with all of the ads. Do I shop all local stores to get the best deals? Seems silly and time consuming! Lately I have shopped various stores and I definitely have opinions and a favorite store. Ifย  I could do all of my shopping and save a good amount of money, I would choose Raleys. That is where I used to do most of my shopping. Primarily for the free childcare which just made my life easy and the extra money spent so worth it. I also feel like I always find all of the things I like at Raleys. I decided to branch out though based on what people were saying. I have shopped Safeway more often lately. I can not navigate that store as easily which makes me a little frustrated as it turns in to a longer shopping trip. I also don’t find all of the items that I am used to finding at Raleys. I do however love seeing the savings when I use my club card, it is pretty significant. Another store I have navigated is Winco. Great deals but sometimes it feels overwhelming as far as people. I am also not impressed by the produce section. I have also shopped Food for Less quite a bit lately and I am impressed by some of the prices as well as the cleanliness of the store. They are actually owned by the same company as Nugget. The produce seems fresh and the store seems to have a lot of what I am used to buying. Which leads me to Nugget. I do love Nugget. It is a very ‘pretty’ store where I can often find great treats, etc. I love the fresh selection of salsas, olives and cheeses. It can get rather pricey though so I am picky about what I am buying there. A few items will easily run me $30. Not practical on a budget. Now the one thing I have found is that you can find deals everywhere. Some stores sell things for less then other stores regardless if most items are more or less. You will always find something cheaper in one store then another based on brands and weekly sales. So now you have my low down on how I shop. Now, the last store that I want to talk about here is Trader Joes. I have family members that work for the store. I know that the company is a great one. They are super friendly and the prices are pretty phenomenal. Plus how can you not love the Hawaiian shirts? ๐Ÿ™‚ That alone has to make you feel happy! They have a decent selection. I came across an article on Shine yesterday and I thought it was pretty accurate in what the pros and cons are. I wanted to share that article with you. Here is recap of what to buy at Trader Joes and what you might want to shop for elsewhere.

To Buy:

  • Freezer Foods
  • Dairy and cheeses
  • Load up on staples such as rice, beans, etc.
  • Think outside the food box, items like plants, herbs and flowers will cost you less then big box stores

Also keep in mind that Trader Joe’s has a healthier philosophy and you will notice this by the ingredients they use as well as the amount of organic items (which don’t have as hefty of a price tag as other stores).

To avoid or be mindful of:

  • Produce: Things are prepackaged which means you don’t get to pick the best items, the quality also doesn’t seem as great on many items {although I do like their herbs}.
  • Meats: The prices tend to be a bit higher and they are probably not as fresh considering that they do not have an in-store butcher. However, they do offer a decent variety of grass-fed and organic items.
  • Treats: This is debatable. I have loved buying some easy treats for hosting parties at home and school but beware, these are ever so tempting but they can add a hefty price to your shopping bill.
  • Bakery items: These are hit and miss depending on the store and time of day

For the full article head on over to Shine by clicking here.

A few other tips I’d like to offer for shopping especially for meat are Costco. You can buy in bulk for so much less. We do this and you can break down the bulk items into meal sized packaging and freeze them to use as needed. We have also become a fan of a semi local butcher called Swingles. They are located in Jackson but you can get so much for your money . It is fresh, a lot of it is local and again you buy a lot at one time {making the drive worth it} and then you can also throwit in the freezer for a later date. I am sure there are other local butchers, this is just one that we have found and are quite happy with.

How and where do you shop? Are you a one stop type of person or do you shop around?


  1. Thanks for sharing. A couple of notes on Trader Joes: 1. their herbed foccacia bread is delicious, I stock up on this for grilled sandwiches. 2. Seasonally they have potted basil plants for a much better price than the local nursery. I usually buy several of these for using in salads, sandwiches and fresh pesto.

  2. Wow! For a minute I thought I might have wrote this! I am in the same boat. I shop Costco for my frozen chicken, hamburger meat (which I package and freeze) and many staples: PB, bread, milk etc. Then I shop Bel-Air weekly for all the ingredients I need to complete my menu for the week and things that we cannot buy in bulk (other dairy products, fruits, veggies, deli and special cuts meat etc.) I love Trader Joe’s, but usually just go once every two months, since I only have about 6 or so meals we make from there. Now that I am SAHM again, I am debating hitting Winco once a month for the packaged goods: crackers, salad dressings, canned goods etc. Also not a big fan of their produce or meats. So hard to be a cost conscious Mom focused on quality and healthy food for their family and not spending a WHOLE day shopping for it ๐Ÿ˜‰


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