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Wednesday Welcome: How to Save Money at Trader Joe’s

If you’ve ever shopped at Trader Joe’s, you know it’s a discount store that can make you leave feeling a little poor. There are so many specialty, unique items, it’s hard to say no, which adds up to a full shopping cart and an empty wallet. You need a strategy — so we were happy to welcome this guest post idea from Aaron, who blogs anonymously at Three Thrifty Guys.

aaron_smI was first introduced to Trader Joe’s on a trip to California to visit my brother and his family. They told me about this quirky, smaller grocery store chain that had the best chips and hummus. That was more than five years ago – and I am still munching on the delicious baked goodness.

While Trader Joe’s tends to focus on larger markets, they are growing and could be arriving at a location near you. Visit their store location page to see if one is nearby (or soon to be arriving).

TJ’s is known for having very affordable pricing on all their products. They maintain lower prices by buying directly from suppliers when they can and not charging any “shelf fees” to their suppliers. Because of this, TJ’s doesn’t offer any coupons. As their website states: “Sale” is a four-letter word to us. We have low prices, every day. No coupons, no membership cards, no discounts. You won’t find any glitzy promotions or couponing wars at our stores. If it makes you feel any better, think of it as all our items are on sale, day in and day out.

Saving money at TJ’s is more about buying select items that you can’t get cheaper anywhere else. Here, a few other ways to keep your grocery tally down:

Manufacturer Coupons. While TJ’s does not offer any sales or coupons on their products, they do accept coupons put out by their vendors. An example would be the Annie’s Homegrown product line that is available at many stores. If Annie’s is offering a coupon on one of their products, TJ’s will honor it.

Giveaways. Most TJ’s locations that I’ve been to offer a drawing for a store gift card, which you can enter if you bring your own bag. The details will vary by location, but this is a neat offering each store does to reward their customers. Take advantage of this chance to win.

Floral needs. I seriously have not seen more affordable prices on flowers than at TJ’s. While they aren’t the “freshest” out there (I’ve had to return some flowers after they quickly wilted), I’d say that overall, they are a really good bang for your buck. And that brings up an important note — the store has a very flexible return policy. If you don’t like it, don’t keep it.

Spices. My wife and I buy most of our spices and seasonings from TJ’s. From sea salt to their original mixes of pepper, you just can’t beat their prices. Here’s a great price comparison chart that TJ’s published on their website:

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Sin foods. We buy a lot of our “sin foods” – i.e., chips, dips, frozen goodies and candies — from TJ’s. Not only can you save a buck or two, but they are all great. Like I said before, I’m still eating the tortilla chips I was introduced to back when I first started shopping there.

While the store maintains a strict “no coupon” or sale policy at their stores, you can still save a lot of money by comparison shopping and swapping the items you would have purchased elsewhere for lower-priced TJ’s products.

About Aaron: Aaron helped start Three Thrifty Guys with his friend Charlie after being inspired by how he lived his life “on the thrift.” A designer by day, Aaron was once $40,000 in debt. After 5 years, he dug himself out and lives to tell about it.

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