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Save money at Trader Joe’s? Here’s how to get more ‘Two Buck Chuck’ wine and pumpkin everything

Save money at Trader Joe's? Here's how to get more 'Two Buck Chuck' wine and pumpkin everything


Save money at Trader Joe’s? Here’s how to get more ‘Two Buck Chuck’ wine and pumpkin everything

You know the old saying carpe diem? Well, it could have been written for Trader Joe’s.You can save some serious coin shopping there, but you have to seize the day when you spot any seasonal products because these deals won’t linger on the shelf for long.First off, shopping at TJ’s – not to be confused with T.J. Maxx where you also need to be fast to score the best bargains – is not your average trip to the grocery store. It’s an experience and adventure rolled into one.And since it’s officially fall on the calendar (I live in Florida so seasons are hard for us to decipher down here), it’s my favorite time to shop because it’s “pumpkin palooza.”►It’s not your imagination: Food prices are climbing amid worker shortages, supply-chain problems, extreme weather and more►Target Deal Days 2021: Target to kick off holiday sales early with ‘Deal Days’ and new price match guaranteeTrader Joe’s has one of the largest pumpkin spice collections out there with around 75 items including pumpkin spice espresso beans, ice cream, pumpkin hummus, ravioli, alfredo sauce, and tortilla chips – there’s even pumpkin maple bacon dog treats.For those who loathe pumpkin, it’s also the season of cinnamon, maple and apple cider products along with cute succulent skulls. And with seasonal products when you find a favorite, you might want to stock up since supplies are limited and you might not get another chance until next year.It was pumpkin that first lured me into Trader Joe’s, but it’s the prices and unique items that have turned me into a regular shopper.Here are some tips to filling your shopping cart for less.No sales or couponsBefore I made that first pumpkin pilgrimage, I was skeptical that I could save money at a store that doesn’t accept coupons or run weekly sales.Trader Joe’s sums up the reasons on its website: “We have low prices, every day. NO coupons. NO membership cards. NO discounts. NO glitzy promotions or couponing wars at our stores. We offer the best everyday values, every day.”Of course, the major reason for not accepting coupons is most items sold at Trader Joe’s are store brands. Very few national brands line TJ’s shelve and this means you won’t have as much selection when it comes to some products like toilet paper for instance.Shopping tip: No matter the store, buying store brands versus national brands is a way to save. Many of the products have similar quality but with lower prices.Many of the brands for ethnic foods are variations of Joe, including Trader Ming’s, which is used to brand the chain’s Chinese foods, Trader José’s for Mexican foods, “Arabian Joe” for Middle Eastern foods, “Trader Giotto’s” for Italian foods and “Trader Joe San” for Japanese cuisine. Last summer, Trader Joe’s said it was looking to change some of these names after a petition asked the company to remove “racist packaging” following moves by other brands including Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s. Trader Joe’s later said it disagreed its labels were racist and hasn’t changed the products.The Aldi connectionAldi, Trader Joe’s distant “cousin” and another of my favorite stores to save money, doesn’t accept coupons either but does hold sales. The discount grocer also has many private-label brands but is no-frills while TJ’s is a gourmet, specialty grocer. (Here’s my guide on how to save at Aldi.)Privately-owned Trader Joe’s says it is “owned by families that also own part of Aldi Nord” and that the two companies operate independently.”Trader Joe’s has no business or ownership relationship with Aldi Sud (including Aldi U.S.),” TJ’s said on its website.One of the biggest differences between Aldi’s U.S. stores and TJ’s is staffing. You can easily find employees, who are called “crew” at Trader Joe’s wearing Hawaiian shirts who will also bag your groceries. At Aldi, staffing is minimal and you have to deposit a quarter to rent a cart and bag your own groceries after checkout. And like Aldi, Trader Joe’s stores are much smaller than typical grocery stores at around 15,000 square feet. Traditional grocery stores are closer to 50,000 square feet.Shopping tip: Looking for a hard-to-find item? You might want to call before you head out. Trader Joe’s employees will answer the phone while Aldi stores don’t even have phone numbers. Two-Buck Chuck, Trader Joe’s wineTrader Joe’s most popular wine was introduced in 2002 under the Charles Shaw label. The wine debuted at $1.99 and got the nickname “Two-Buck Chuck’’ because it was so affordable.Nowadays, the wine – which is available in several blends including merlot, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and white zinfandel – ranges from $2.99 to $3.99 a bottle depending on location.Shopping tip: Don’t expect to find wine and alcohol at all locations. Some states don’t allow this, so check the store locator search first. Be aware prices can vary.In recent years, other stores have started selling lower-priced wine including Target and Walmart. Aldi sells wine for $2.95 in many locations and is bringing back its wine Advent calendar this November.Other TJ’s savings and must-havesMost grocery stores charge for produce by the pound, but at Trader Joe’s expect some set prices per item, like the 19-cent bananas, a price that hasn’t changed since 2000.So that giant butternut squash could end up being just $1.99 at TJ’s compared to that same price per pound.Meat, cheese and milk prices are also lower than most competitors – at least for me in Florida.And the real draw is those off-the-beaten-path items. Trader Joe’s had riced cauliflower and cauliflower crust pizza before it went mainstream.The same thing happened with “everything bagel seasoning.” TJ’s made it famous, then others followed. That’s why the store brand products are so popular. I recently tried the retailer’s Cold Brew Latte Dessert Bars. A box of five cost $1.99, and it took weeks before these coffee popsicles (45 calories each) were available again. Now I make sure to buy two boxes when I’m running low.Shopping tip: Don’t like something you purchased? Trader Joe’s says bring it back with its product guarantee. Before COVID, you also could ask to taste a product, but that practice has not returned along with the sample station.How to not overspendI’ve warned you to act fast and that you might want to buy extra seasonal products. I’ve shared produce, dairy, meats and wine are deals compared to competitors.And yes, now I’m suggesting you not overspend. Here are my top strategies:Don’t go there hungry if you can help it. This can be said of every single grocery trip. Don’t go when you are famished because you won’t be able to contain yourself.Get price smart. I regularly track prices at stores so when I noticed grape tomatoes were $1.99 recently at Trader Joe’s, I knew that was cheaper than other grocery stores around including Aldi.Make a list. One of the best ways to stay on track is to prepare is to write it down or type it on your phone. Need eggs? Write it down or the main thing you planned on buying you might forget. Look at the Fearless Flyer. Check out the store’s pamphlet to see what new products are available or coming soon. It’s available in stores and online at You can also sign up for a subscription to be emailed or physically mailed here.Use the product guarantee. I know many people who throw out items they don’t like, especially if it’s not much money, but Trader Joe’s makes it easy and no receipt is needed.What’s your favorite part about shopping at TJ’s? How do you like to save? Share your thoughts on the form below or emailing me at►Lowe’s first responder discount: How nurses, firefighters, police and doctors can sign up for 10% off ahead of First Responders Day►Save better, spend better:  Money tips and advice delivered right to your inbox. Sign up hereFollow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko. For shopping news, tips and deals, join us on our Shopping Ninjas Facebook group. 

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