There are plenty of reasons to like Trader Joe's: helpful employees in Hawaiian shirts, a no-questions-asked return policy, unusual items such as cookie butter and rosemary marcona almonds, and -- best of all -- low prices.
However, not everything is a good deal at Trader Joe's. We compared its regular prices on a variety of items with the regular (non-sale) prices of similar items at Harris Teeter, Kroger, Walmart and Whole Foods. While we found that it's tough to beat Trader Joe's everyday prices, there are a few things that are better bargains at other stores.
Take a look at the items you can get for less elsewhere -- and in some cases we're talking dollars less, not just pennies. For each one, we've suggested related items you might want to purchase instead at Trader Joe's because the regular prices are better than you'll find on competitors' shelves.
What to buy instead at Trader Joe's: organic peanut butter. If you stick with good ol' peanut butter, the organic variety is a good buy at Trader Joe's. The price on a 16-ounce jar at Trader Joe's was the same or lower than the prices on organic peanut butter at the other stores we checked.
What to buy instead at Trader Joe's: almond and soy milks. If you want an alternative to cow's milk, Trader Joe's has low prices on its almond and soy milks. At $2.99 for a half-gallon carton, the price on both almond milk and soy milk was about the same or lower than at the other stores we checked.
Conventional Fruits and Vegetables
What to buy instead at Trader Joe's: organic fruits and vegetables. If you shop at Trader Joe's, there's a good chance that you're picky about what you consume. So if you prefer organic fruits and vegetables, know that you're getting a lower price on them at Trader Joe's than at most other stores.
What to buy instead at Trader Joe's: specialty cheeses. If you like imported and artisan cheeses, you can find a good selection at low prices at Trader Joe's. We compared two common varieties: French brie and goat cheese. We found that brie was between 50 cents and $4 cheaper per pound at Trader Joe's that at competitors; a 4-ounce package of goat cheese was at least $2 less.
What to buy instead at Trader Joe's: organic ground beef. At $5.99 per pound, Trader Joe's organic ground beef is $1 less per pound than its organic chicken breasts and between 50 cents and $2 less per pound than organic ground beef at the other stores we checked.
What to buy instead at Trader Joe's: organic plain yogurt. Trader Joe's price on a 32-ounce container bests other retailers' regular prices by at least 50 cents.
What to buy instead at Trader Joe's: frozen meals. Although frozen fruits aren't the best deal at Trader Joe's, the chain's frozen meals are a bargain for those who don't have the time or talent to cook from scratch. For example, the price on its individual serving of pesto tortellini beat the prices other stores had on Amy's brand pesto tortellini by 50 cents. And Trader Joe's paneer palak -- an Indian dish with spinach and cheese -- was about $2 less than the Amy's brand version sold at the other stores we checked.
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