Secrets to Saving Time and Money at Trader Joe’s

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

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I'm Tina

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.


An in-depth, 4-week reverse dieting course for women who feel like their metabolism has slowed down, think they might have hormonal imbalance and can’t lose weight no matter what they do.

Good morning!

You guys know how much I love Trader Joe’s, right? Of course, you do. I’m also a big fan of scoring deals and doing things efficiently, so when Remy from Miss Mamie’s Cupcakes reached out about sharing her “secrets” to saving time and money at Trader Joe’s, I was ALLLLL about it. I love stuff like this, and she had so many awesome ideas, many of which were news to me! 🙂 So, without further ado, here’s Remy!


I’ll be upfront with you: Trader Joe’s is a bit of an obsession of mine. The prices can’t be beat and it’s my go-to spot for a ton of kitchen (and bathroom) essentials. There are countless great deals and the store is always introducing new products to keep things fresh. Every Trader Joe’s is independently owned/operated and they treat their workers extremely well, which I love to support. However, most people, even the ones that have been shopping there for years, overlook some of the best things about this unique and refreshing supermarket. Today, I set out to shed some light on the best TJ’s tips and tricks!

Trader Joes Coupon Matches

While TJ’s doesn’t offer any of their own coupons, most people don’t know that they will match coupons from competitors for any brand name products that they sell. This blog also compiles some of the best weekly deals and where to score the coupons online.

The Frozen Meals are one of the Best Deals in the Store

Dollar for dollar, the ready-made frozen meals found in the freezer section are consistently one of the best deals in the store. Not only are the extremely convenient to have on hand for a quick dinner, but even non-Trader Joe’s brands can be significantly cheaper. For example, in my experience, the Amy’s brand of frozen food is usually about $2 cheaper than anywhere else.

Bring Your Own Bag and Enter the Secret Raffle

Another little known fact that most people are surprised to learn is that there is a raffle held weekly for those that opt to bring their own re-usable bag into the store. All you have to do is spend $25 to be eligible to fill out one of the raffle tickets at check out. If you win, you score a $25 TJ’s gift card!

Extreme Gift-Carding

If you are truly trying to save every last penny, consider buying pre-paid TJ gift cards online ahead of time online. They aren’t always in stock, but when they are these can save you a few bucks.

Know When to Shop

As far as the low pricing goes, it doesn’t change from day to day, so going during the low times is going to save you the headache of standing in line (and trying to get a parking spot in the notoriously congested lots). Steer clear of early evening in Sunday and any weekday when everyone is getting off or work and you should be fine.

Trader Joe’s might not be the Best Place For Produce

As much as I love the store, it’s not the best for everything. One of the problems with much of the produce you find there is that it comes pre-packaged, which means it’s not as fresh as you can find it. It also limits you to just picking up one of something when that’s all you need.

Be Sure to Snag Some Wine

Most people know that “2 Buck Chuck” is a great deal, but any list about Trader Joe’s simply wouldn’t be complete without it. It’s made by an offshoot of the famous Franzia family and available only at TJ’s.

Keep Your Eyes Open for AT LEAST One New Product a Week

The specialty products change with the seasons and the current culinary trends. This keeps every trip new and exciting and you’re always able to discover something novel and delicious. However, this also means that from time to time you have to say goodbye to some of your favorites. If non-seasonal specialty items don’t gain enough traction, TJ’s will pull them from the shelf. If you are looking to stay up to date on what’s new, this blog reviews new Trader Joe’s products in hilarious details.

Anything is Fair Game for Free Samples

Everyone loves the free samples station back by the coffee, but you might not know that anything in the entire store is free game for some sample action. So, if you’re not sure about your next purchase, just ask a team member to open something up for you and they will happily oblige.

You Can Return Anything at Any Time, No Questions Asked

I’ve taken advantage of this more times than I can count and it really is no questions asked. If you’re not happy with one of your purchases for any reason, even if you’ve eaten most of it, they will take it back with zero hassle.

Hopefully you leaned a thing or two and can go forward and save some dollars down the road. While this is far from a complete list about what makes the almighty TJ’s shine in a crowded marketplace, I hope it serves as a good place to start!



  1. I didn’t know that about the samples or gift cards. Very cool! I agree with you on the produce, it’s not great but they do have some good precut options that other places don’t have. I also wish they had more gluten free options.

      1. @Tina: Yup ~ their Two-Buck-Chuck is pretty good. We don’t have a TJ’s in Wichita, KS ~ not sure we ever will since we can’t buy wine or liquor in grocery stores ~ only 3.2 beer. I usually have a friend bring me a case when she heads my way. 🙂

  2. i have never been to a trader joe’s 🙁 idk what im waiting for. I guess because the closest one is like 45 mins away, maybe one day

  3. I work at a very popular grocery store, and the return policy is very liberal. But I’d love to inform people that if you are returning an item simply because you do not care for it, that it will go straight into the trash!!!!! Unopened items go straight into the trash as well. It is extremely unsettling seeing all of this food go to waste. Either do as the article says and sample it at the store (where the rest of the container can then be sampled out), or maybe before returning an item, find someone who would enjoy the rather than returning it!!

    1. @Caitie: I also work at a grocery store and we have to throw away or “damage” food that is returned. It’s more of a safety issue than it is being wasteful. I wouldn’t want to eat something that someone has returned…how do you know if they contaminated it (on purpose or not), if it was left out when it should have been refrigerated, etc. At the store I work at we do donate A LOT of food from our fresh departments as well as undamaged dairy, like cart fulls of food every week goes to local food banks. I’m hoping that your store donates food that doesn’t get sold. If you work at the front end of a store perhaps you don’t get to see that as donations are usually collected in the back of the store. I do agree that we are a wasteful society as a whole. We should adopt a food model more like France’s food waste laws. Or the “ugly food” trends in Europe.

      1. @devon Hey Devon! I do see a lot of food get donated but there is also a huge portion that simply gets thrown out! I am all for returning a product that has something wrong with it, I just hate to see people return things because they didn’t like it, wanted a different flavor, etc! I just don’t know if customers know that when they return something, it does not get put back out (and I agree with you about it not being safe to go back on the shelf!). I just want people to be aware!

  4. Not every TJ’s does the bag raffle. Mine used to, but now they have a Plinko game you can play IF you buy the secret item of the day. Then you can win a free item. So the bag raffle may not be going on at every Trader Joe’s, I think it’s regional; I live in the Great Lakes region.

  5. Great tips! I’ve definitely returned things before and they were great about it! That brings me to my only issue with Trader Joes (which for the most part I’m a raving fan) I find stuff rancid in their stores more often than any other place. I have to return sunflower seed butter, yogurt, and meat before. The store manager made a comment to me once (these were all at different stores so I’m not like the crazy lady that brought back gross stuff) about how they keep their prices low, so I’m not really sure what that is supposed to mean. However, like you said they are always GREAT about returns, for the meat they just had me bring the receipt I didn’t even have to bring it back!

  6. I love the fact that they let you sample anything you want. I’ve only asked twice in nine years but both times the employee thanked me for asking because if I don’t like it, the product isn’t wasted. They can sample out the rest of the package! I thought that was a great attitude for the employees to have.

  7. I love Trader Joe’s, there are some great tips! Even though it’s not the closest grocery store to me anymore, I go really often because the small size lets me get in and out quickly, which is key with my little one. I have to agree abut the produce – I’ve had stuff go bad within a couple of days o purchasing many times. I know I could return it, but I never manage to do that. Overall though, it is such a great store and everyone who works there is so friendly and helpful.

  8. I don’t know what you mean by each TJs being independently owned and operated. It’s a privately held company, but it’s not franchised. There aren’t different owners for different locations. I LOVE TJs, but I just don’t want you to be under the impression you are helping a local small business owner.

  9. Wow – these are great tips! I didn’t know about the coupon and price matching. How neat! I agree about the frozen items – I stock up on frozen fruits and veggies for smoothies and stews. They are awesome. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Good to know some of these tips! Im glad its not just the 1 or 2 TJs ive been to whose parking lots are legit insane. I love them for their nut butter selections, olive oils and vinegars, snacks and wine of course.

  11. I LOVE TRADER JOE’S. They’ll also give you FREE flowers on your birthday!

    We used two buck chuck at our wedding (most of our friends aren’t wine connoisseurs), and it was a great way to save money for the things that were really important for us! It’s not a bad wine, especially for (almost) $3 a bottle.

  12. Good tips.
    However, since the county I live in requires reusable bag, Trader Joe’s does not offer that raffle. If that was the case, then there were would be ALOT of people winning gift cards.

    I also have to agree that some of their fresh stuff goes bad fast (like their bagged salads). They turn brown within 24 hrs of opening it up!

  13. It has some interesting things for sure but have had several items smell bad same day I bought them, including the boiled eggs in a bag and several of the bagged lettuce. I have stopped going as it makes me question their freshness and can find good prices elsewhere

  14. I like shopping TJs but I have not used any of these tactics. Honestly I don’t think I have ever had a bad experience with a frozen meal or anything there. I’ve never taken anything back.

  15. Thanks so much for sharing all these tips! A lot of these I didn’t know about so I’m super excited especially since I’m such a penny pincher! Lol!

  16. I wouldn’t say there’s anything revolutionary here, but I love TJ’s so helping other people find the good deals sounds good to me.

    You probably want to correct the franchise thing. They’re all controlled by the main TJ’s company, not individual people.

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