Last Updated on May 22, 2023 by Michael Brockbank
I was turned on to Trader Joe’s when living in Los Angeles for six months. I’ve never heard of it before, but apparently is a pretty big chain. As I was trying to lose weight, it was the closest store in walking distance…about two miles round trip. After comparing prices and food quantity, it’s easily become one of my favorite store chains.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not some new-age individual who has a cupboard full of teriyaki seaweed snacks. In fact, I think they’re completely disgusting. However, there is a far greater selection than merely vegan products.
And, the price compared to alternatives is just about par for the course.
How Does Trader Joe’s Compare in Terms of Pricing?
Originally, I thought Trader Joe’s was going to be something along the lines of Whole Foods…meaning extremely out of my budget. In reality, it’s not all that much different from what I pay for certain goods at stores like Walmart. And I find most of the products to be of superior quality as well.
For example, let’s take what I normally buy at Walmart which is Lean Cuisine. For $2.50, I can have a decent meal of some sort. Usually it’s some kind of Italian dish or perhaps an Asian lunch. Now consider that I pay $4.99 for a pre-frozen and cooked bag of Kung Pao Chicken, which is one of my most favorite foods from Trader Joe’s.
In this bag of Kung Pao Chicken, I get easily get about 2.5 servings or so. When you break down the price “per serving,” it averages out to about $2.00 per meal.
Coincidentally, I often cook and then freeze my leftovers for lunch throughout the week. It’s really no different from buying a Lean Cuisine at this point.
Now, $0.50 savings may not sound like a lot in terms of a single serving. Then consider lunch and dinner each day of the week. In the long-run, I save about $3.50 per week just in meals alone.
Personally, I prefer most dishes from Trader Joe’s as opposed to Lean Cuisine. So for me, it’s a savings while buying a superior meal.
How Healthy are the Meals at Trader Joe’s?
For those who are trying to burn away some weight like myself, the food you’ll find is comparable to other mainstream products. For instance, the nutrition factor of the Kung Pao Chicken is comparable to something you’d find by Lean Cuisine.
Sure, you’ll have to heat the dish up yourself and mix everything together. But for me, it’s worth the 10 minutes it takes to make most of the pre-packaged foods. Then I can easily nuke the leftovers the next day in the microwave.
You can also find a variety of kale-based products, organic alternatives and various vegan-friendly goods. I don’t personally go to those lengths when trying to be healthy, but many of you probably do. And this store is a great place to find many of those types of foods.
The $2 bag of veggie chips were essentially a staple for me back in Los Angeles, and it’s something I buy every time I go into the store. It’s an exceptional alternative to chip brands such as Doritos and Lays. You get far more chips with fewer calories.
What Kind of Foods and Snacks are Available at Trader Joe’s?
You’re not going to find many mainstream brand names at Trader Joe’s. In fact, most products fall under the company’s label. What you will find is a selection of alternatives that are of great quality.
While I won’t find Progresso Soup in the store, another one of my favorite meals, I will find tempura chicken, honey walnut shrimp, dark chocolate-covered blueberries and gnocchi. When I budget $50, I usually buy enough food to last me about two weeks including snacks.
One snack I found to be a personal favorite is the vanilla meringue puffs. I wish we had the cappuccino style here in Denver, but sadly I am only able to find them in Los Angeles.
I was surprised to see dark chocolate almond milk from Silk to be cheaper at Trader Joe’s than my local Walmart…something else I was turned on to while living in LA.
You Don’t Have to be Health-Minded or Eco-Friendly to Appreciate Trader Joe’s
When I started shopping at Trader Joe’s, I wasn’t looking for some eco-friendly outpost or a way to eat healthy. It was simply the closest store to my apartment and I don’t have a car to go further. However, it easily became one of my favorite places to shop.
The store is full of all kinds of goodies whether you’re looking to eat healthier or just want to save money on various goods.
One element I love about Trader Joe’s is the lack of plastic bags for shopping. Part of that is because I am eco-conscious and don’t like the fact I have a 13 gallon trashcan full of nothing but Walmart and Safeway plastic bags. I know I can recycle them, but everyone in the house is too lazy to take them in.
What Would Make Trader Joe’s Better?
At the moment, the store is already full of some of my favorite foods. There really isn’t anything major I would change. However, I would like my local Trader Joe’s to stock the cappuccino meringues.
One thing that upsets me, and many manufacturers are guilty of it, is the display of “Serving Size” on each package. Most brands say you can get about so many servings out of a single package. I have yet to see Trader Joe’s actually hit that number. Otherwise, the savings would be even greater.
So far the only product I eat with multiple servings, and stays true to the size statement, is Progresso. I have yet to come across a can of soup that doesn’t deliver about two cups.
Still, the budget and taste will drive me Trader Joe’s as often as possible.
Try Something New, You Might Enjoy It
Life is all about experiences. In this instance, I gave a store a chance and it turned out to be one of my favorite locations for grocery shopping. I’ll still pick up the random food here and there from Safeway, but I would prefer to go to Trader Joe’s.
Now, if there was just one closer to me…