Best Things to Buy at Trader Joe’s

Profile photo of Amanda Barroso
Written by Amanda Barroso
Lead Writer
Profile photo of Sheri Gordon
Edited by Sheri Gordon
Assigning Editor
Fact Checked

Many, or all, of the products featured on this page are from our advertising partners who compensate us when you take certain actions on our website or click to take an action on their website. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Trader Joe’s is a national chain of grocery stores with a bit of a cult following. There are dozens of social media accounts dedicated to Trader Joe’s shopping hauls and recipes using only items found at the store. Trader Joe’s even has its own podcast.

If you’ve never shopped at Trader Joe’s before, it can feel overwhelming. Our guide can help you find the best things to buy at Trader Joe’s and ways to save money.

What you should know before shopping at Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s features a large selection of organic and specialty items, as well as seasonal products. Its private label items contain no artificial flavors or preservatives, MSG, genetically modified ingredients or harmful food dyes, according to the grocer’s website.

Seeing few recognizable brand labels on the shelf can be disorienting for some shoppers, but for others like Anna Lisa Abarca, author of “Trader Joe’s 5 Items or Less Cookbook,” the store’s smaller scale simplifies decision making. Larger grocery chains “are a little too big for me. There’s too many choices. I get analysis paralysis,” says Abarca, who is not affiliated with Trader Joe’s.

However, the store’s small profile means you might not be able to get everything on your list, and you may need to visit another store. For Abarca, a second stop typically includes buying baby diapers and some home and personal care items.

Before you build a budget
NerdWallet breaks down your spending and shows you ways to save.

What to buy at Trader Joe’s

Now that you know what to expect, you can make your list. Here are some categories to consider to get the most value.

Frozen food

At Trader Joe’s, the “frozen fruits and veggies are always at a really good price point,” says Abarca, who relies on frozen food to make quick and affordable meals. “You can still make a really good, healthy meal that’s cost effective, and it’s not going to go bad.”

Trader Joe’s frozen food section is also full of perennial fan favorites at lower prices than some other grocers. The Mandarin Orange Chicken, for example, costs $4.99, compared with a similar size bag of P.F. Chang’s Orange Chicken for $7.78 at Walmart, as of this writing.


If you are a cheese lover, shopping at Trader Joe’s might offer savings. An 8-ounce block of feta cheese is $3.49, compared with $4.96 at Walmart. A 1-pound wedge of brie costs $7.99 at Trader Joe’s, versus about $9.75 at Walmart.


Trader Joe’s is known for its “Two-Buck Chuck,” the nickname for its $2 bottles of Charles Shaw wine. Although it has exceeded that price point in recent years, people still rely on Trader Joe’s for lower cost wine. Not every store sells wine, but if yours does, Abarca recommends looking for ones with the “reserve” label because they're of a similar quality to wines offered at a higher price elsewhere.

Beauty products

Trader Joe’s offers a range of beauty and skin care products, and some reviewers say they compete with more luxury brands. The Daily Facial Sunscreen ($8.99 for 1.7 fluid ounces) made headlines for being a cheaper but comparable alternative to Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen ($38 at Sephora and Amazon). The Vanilla Lip Mask ($5.99) is likened to the popular Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask ($24 at Sephora and Amazon).

Flowers and greeting cards

Flowers are typically the first thing you see when you walk into a Trader Joe’s store. A seasonal bouquet there is $9.99, less than similar arrangements found at Kroger (about $12) and Ralphs (about $18). Pair it with a 99-cent greeting card (compared with drugstore card prices that typically start around $4.99) and you have a thoughtful gift that's easier on your budget.

Get more financial clarity with NerdWallet
Monitor your credit, track your spending and see all of your finances together in a single place.

How to stretch your dollar at Trader Joe’s

Some of the conventional wisdom about how to save money on groceries doesn’t apply to Trader Joe’s. There are no coupons to apply at the register, there’s no store app, and buying in bulk isn’t an option. But, there are other ways to get more value from Trader Joe’s:

Use online tools for meal planning. Websites like Pinterest can help you find free budget-friendly meal plans, some for which the food costs $50 or less per week, says Traci Williams, a certified financial therapist and clinical psychologist in Atlanta. Searching "Trader Joe's" or #traderjoesrecipes on social media surfaces tons of posts dedicated to the store’s new products or ways to combine items for fresh meal ideas.

Subscribe to "The Fearless Flyer." Trader Joe’s free newsletter offers updates on new and seasonal items and recipes. The digital option comes every few weeks while the paper newsletter comes less frequently.

Check your pantry first. Food waste is costly, as is buying duplicates, but there are some solutions. “There are apps that allow you to create meals based on the ingredients you already have,” Williams notes. Cooklist, for one, allows users to scan pantry items, find recipes using those ingredients and create grocery lists.

Leave room for a few impulse purchases. Seasonal items are part of the fun of shopping at Trader Joe’s, but “you can very easily get swept up in all the things you want to try,” Williams says. “Decide ahead of time how many new products you’re willing to pick out. … That way you’re not feeling too restricted by your budget.”