Grocery prices are always on the rise, and shoppers continue to hunt for new strategies for saving money. To cut costs, some turn to no-frills supermarkets like WinCo Foods, where bulk bins offer grains and legumes at big discounts. Others look for savings at cut-rate grocers and dollar stores, where you can find off-brands at super-cheap prices.
One of the places many shoppers head to for savings is Trader Joe’s, the island-themed grocery chain known for its staff in Hawaiian shirts, quirky in-store signage, and its “Two-Buck Chuck” line of discount wines.
Trader Joe’s has built a reputation among consumers for offering low prices on high-quality house brands, without employing the usual gimmicks other retailers use.
” ‘Sale’ is a four-letter word to us,” the company says 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.”
That doesn’t mean you can just shop blindly at Trader Joe’s. Here are some shopping strategies that can help you maximize your TJ’s dollars.
Read the Fearless Flyer
To keep prices low, Trader Joe’s doesn’t do traditional advertising. But it does publish this unusual newsletter/catalog, which comes out eight times a year. It showcases new and seasonal products (the issue that comes out in early fall is loaded with all that pumpkin-spice stuff, while the late-spring edition emphasizes things that can go on the grill and lighter warm-weather fare). It also showcases TJ’s staples that are a particularly good buy.
The Flyer is a fun read, too, with Victorian-style cartoons, copy that’s loaded with jokes and the occasional regrettable pun.
The Flyer can be picked up at the store – there’s usually a stack near the entry, and they have them at the customer service desk. You can sign up to receive the Flyer in the mail, electronically, or both.
Included with the printed version of the Flyer is a cut-out grocery list, with check-boxes next to listings for every product featured in that edition. There also is a small place to add other grocery items to your list (along with, oddly, a space for listing things you don’t need … is this really a problem?). The online version of the Flyer also features a checkable list of featured products that you can print out.
Of course, making a grocery list – and sticking to it – is an age-old shopper’s trick for staying on budget.