Since groceries have become egregiously expensive, there's no greater joy than making your food budget go far. I've hopped around a ton of local grocery stores to see what works best for me, but I always find my way back to Hawaiian shirts and artisanal cheeses. Yes, Trader Joe's has become the mothership for my meals, and honestly, all of my big hauls are less than $100.
While there has long been debate as to whether this franchise can be considered budget-friendly, many shoppers find Trader Joe's an affordable way to meal prep. Personally, I always spend less at TJ's than I do at larger grocers, so I decided to see what Reddit has to say about it all. Unsurprisingly, many commenters were keen to share their favorite low-cost finds.
1. "[Between] Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, or small chains/independent grocers, TJ's is by far the cheapest, and I’ve found their produce to be pretty decent. Never had any issues. I save money, and I get tastier food — a win!"
2. "The following I will only buy at TJ's because of price and/or quality: cream cheese, jalapeños, nut milks, cheeses, kombucha, chicken drumsticks, sugar, frozen spinach, olive oil, artichoke, coconut milk/cream, bagged chopped kale, spaghetti squash, crackers/snacks, nuts, ice cream, butter, ground beef, sour cream, and quick dinner frozen foods."
3. "Has anyone bought chicken lately? The frozen bag of breast cutlets for $8.99 is the protein in my whole life right now."
4. "We cook 90% at home, but I love TJ's for 'oh sh*t meals,' like when we get home late or leave early on a flight. A couple of bags of gyoza are way cheaper than ordering takeout!"
5. "I'm a retired guy, and my wife and I do about 90% of our shopping at TJ's. Great products and prices are good, too. The size of packaging for refrigerated or frozen food is good for small families. I can also buy excellent wine for a great price."
6. "I shop at TJ's for all my needs, including skin care. I do this to save money."
7. "The coconut milk — lowest price I’ve seen and far superior quality. Also, gluten-free bread and cupcakes/muffins are better than almost any others, and around $2 to $3 less per loaf. The GF hamburger/hotdog buns are gross, and the GF bagels are just okay. They do have a fair amount of items that are much less [expensive] if you need gluten-free."
8. "The pizza dough is, like, $1.29, and we use it ALL the time. It’s my favorite 'leftovers' meal to avoid food waste. TJ's is also the best place for cheese and wine — they have some really affordable wines that are awesome! Go for the fresh gnocchi in the pasta aisle, too. Trader Joe’s amazes me because the products are just infinitely better and somehow cheaper than the 'regular' store. Huge fan."
9. "I primarily shop at TJ's and a local farmer's market. Hands down, TJ's has the best variety of frozen meals, ready-to-eat meals, and the most unique snacks! Also, it's got better prices for kombucha. For fresh veggies and fruit, I prefer my local market. TJ's produce is okay if you plan on cooking it the same day you buy it."
10. "Organic dairy [such as] butter or half and half is much cheaper than the regular grocery."
11. "I'm definitely a budget shopper, and I've found TJ's to be way more affordable than a lot of other stores in my area. As a single person, when I'm being super budget conscious, I find I can get away with just spending around $30 a week on groceries there (that's just buying produce, rice, pasta, beans, and tofu). At other stores in my area, I'd be spending $10 to $15 more than that."
12. "I definitely have noticed that my 'basics' (ground turkey, butter, milk, eggs, etc.) are way cheaper at TJ's."
13. "Canned artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, and fire-roasted tomatoes are all cheaper at TJ's. So are their greeting cards! However, I find myself buying more stuff that I don’t need because it’s so delicious..."
15. "I bake regularly, and a 16-oz box of unsalted butter is $3.69 at TJ's while it is $6 or $7 at the closest [major chain] grocery store."
16. "Their Greek yogurt is cheaper than anyone else and the same with many of their cheeses. Regular milk is cheaper, too. I tend to get my produce and some staples at my local family-owned grocery store, but dairy and other staples at TJ's."
17. "If you want organic, non-GMO, no-hormone pumped food, it’s a lot cheaper to buy at TJ's than at Whole Foods or other organic stores. My typical grocery list at TJ's contains milk and other dairy products, salads, frozen veggies, fresh fruit, grains, and chicken/bone broth. And, of course, I get desserts like their dairy-free ice cream."
18. "Their almond butter is the cheapest I’ve found near me. Their prices are great on fancy party snacks like olives, sundried tomatoes, spreads, fancy crackers, and good cheese. The cocoa truffles are super cheap and so delicious. Nuts and dried fruit are pretty reasonably priced compared to other stores. Frozen fruit can be cheaper, depending on your location."
19. "Their plants and flowers are usually a good deal for gifts. Also, giant chocolate bars."
20. "Their pork gyoza makes a great and easy lunch, and one bag lasts a few meals (near me, it’s only $3.99-ish). Their dried pasta and sauces are better than most store brands and are reasonably priced. The frozen saucy scallops with mushrooms dish makes a nice dinner for two people for around $7.99 when served with pasta or rice. Their frozen French green beans are a great deal, and the bag is huge and lasts many meals."
21. "The prices on their frozen and fresh pre-made meals beat the same kind of thing at other stores by a lot, and they’re really good quality. I love the mini quiches and the mac and cheese."
22. "Cheese, unique specialty products, yogurt, hummus, frozen food, and beer is usually a couple of bucks cheaper."
23. "I get my lunches for the week at TJ's. I don’t have to worry about making time to meal prep, and five days' worth of lunches is $20 to $25. Plus, having frozen dinners on hand makes it easy when my husband and I don’t have the energy to cook. TJ's is the most important Sunday stop for us when preparing for the week."
24. "I love TJ's beer. Tastes just like Corona and is literally half the price! I don't get why all these other people are saying Trader Joe's is more expensive than other stores. I am on a really tight budget, and I shop there whenever I can."
25. "I keep several TJ's items in my freezer for days when I’m not able to cook a full meal from scratch but don’t want to spend the money or effort to go out for dinner. I don’t really think of TJ's as a super budget-friendly place if you have the time and energy to make things yourself, but if you need a bit of help to convince yourself to eat at home, it’s cheaper than a restaurant, and that’s helped me get on board with buying some things there!"
26. "We do milk, cheese, and sometimes yogurt. Their cereal is way cheaper than at our local grocery store, but they have a very limited selection. Oh, and marinara sauce! Good quality, good price."
27. "TJ's cheese section is very well-priced, as well as some dairy items. I go regularly for flowers, bagged salad green mixes, whole milk yogurt, Parmesan cheese, hummus, nuts, and several frozen items."
28. "Trader Joe’s sourdough is very good for close to the price of bad supermarket bread. We buy three or four loaves at a time and freeze them. Coffee is also very affordable there."
29. "I go to TJ's for specific kinds of items, and some are cheaper than what I would find at other stores for sure. TJ's for me is the grocery haul of convenient items/seasonal items/snacks. Those make for easy weeknight dinners, which is why I feel like it’s their frozen section that is superior to other stores. But, I don’t generally purchase meat or produce at TJ's. I prefer spending a little more for local meats and produce that have less chance of spoiling quickly."
30. "I always buy cheese and almond butter from Trader Joe’s. Much better prices than a regular grocery store. They have a lot of great snacks you can’t find anywhere else like Cacio e Pepe Puffs. They have a lot of great quick dinner options, too."
31. "[Budget-friendly items] completely depend on where you live. If you’re in a high-cost-of-living area, prices may be cheaper than your regional grocery stores since TJ's prices are consistent across the country. For me, eggs and a fair number of canned goods are cheaper at TJ's than my other options."
Note: Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.