Tag Archives: budget minded

Trying to Understand The Hype – Trader Joes’

I had an opportunity to do some research and find out for myself about Trader Joe’s. For those that don’t know, Trader Joe’s is a grocery store located on Route 73 near the old Marlton Circle. I’ve heard a few comments about TJ from some people about the saving and the low prices.

I use Shop Rite as a base because my household does the majority of grocery shopping there. Previously, I’ve checked out Aldi’s and found that for the most part the prices there are less than those at Shop Rite.

Now, for me I find that there is extremely little difference between national name brands and regional brands and store brands. After all, I’m not a food-snob. Foods have to taste reasonably good. That said I have found that Skippy brand peanut butter has a slightly sweeter taste than any other. But this is minor and peanut butter is peanut butter. Whole wheat bread is whole wheat bread, I’ve never been able to taste that much of a difference between the different brands.

So, now back to Trader Joe’s. Right from the git-go I saw that almost all of the brands were store brands (Trader Joe’s). I didn’t notice any national brands (like at Shop Rite) or regional brands (like at Aldi’s). The other thing I noticed was the diverse selection of items that I never saw at any other grocery store. Specifically, in that I mentioned peanut butter before, Trader Joe carries, in addition to 2 varieties of peanut butter (saled and unsalted), almond butter plus others made from different variety of nuts.

The last thing, and the most important, was price. Some prices were higher than Shop Rite (store brand PB is $1.88 for 16 oz jar) while Trader Joe brand is about $2.29 for a 16 oz jar. Aldi charges $1.67 for the same size in a regional brand. Shop Rite prices their store brand eggs at $1.99 for large size and Trader Joe has them for $0.99 for large size.

Conclusion is that Trader Joe’s is not as large as a Shop Rite but larger than Aldi, the price difference between Trader Joe’s items and Shop Rite’s does not warrant the drive of the extra distance to Marlton. The money saved would be negligible. Aldi’s, on the other hand, is worth the extra few minutes drive. As long as you don’t mind not having national brands to choose from, no deli or bakery, and smaller store.

A money saving haven 

If you are like me and not some brand elitist then you look for items that meet your basic needs.  What do I mean by brand elitist?  I don’t mean it in any derogatory manner.  Brand elitists are also referred to as brand loyalists by many manufacturers. Essentially, brand elitists/loyalists will stick with a product brand regardless of the price or value.  But this blog entry is not directed toward them but to those people who work hard for their money and want to make sure they get their values worth and are able to stretch a dollar.

Some years ago I came across a store that sold items at an extremely low cost.   That store was Dollar Tree Stores.  I’ve been to many other similar stores but this one seems to be the best of the best.  Not to take anything away from stores like Dollar General, Family Dollar, etc., but those really don’t sell the majority of their goods at a $1.  The Dollar Tree Stores do.  For $5 per week I can buy lunch for each day of the week.  As an example, you can buy a packet of 8 hot dogs (why do the hot dog makers packet them in 8’s?  I don’t know) for $1 and if you add a package of hot dog rolls for another $1, you can have 1 hot dog once a day.  That comes out to about $0.25/per day.  If you want to add condiments then you have a one time purchase of $1 for either ketchup or mustard.  Now the hot dog rolls brands are not nationally known brands such as Arnold’s, Pepperidge Farms, or Wonder Bread but they are safe, tasty, and nutritious.  The hot dogs aren’t Oscar Meyers or Ballpark but brands as Bar-S.  Bar-S is not a slouch name.  I use to work for a food wholesaler and I remember that the wholesaler stocked quite a few items from Bar-S, including hot dogs.

Can you save money on all things at The Dollar Tree Store?  No, but you can if you just compare national brands but not always with store brands.  Let’s take peanut butter as an example.  At the Dollar Tree Store you can buy an 8 oz. jar of creamy peanut butter (I’ve not seen them offer the crunchy style) for $1.  Now, I don’t remember the price of 8 oz jars at my local Shop Rite but I do remember the price of 16 oz jars; the one national brand, JIF, sells for almost $3 for a 16 oz jar and the Shop Rite brand sells for just under $2 for a 16 oz jar.  To make an even comparison, you’d have to buy 2 jars of DTS items for $2.  This makes the DTS item cheaper than JIF but the Shop Rite brand is a better buy.

Another item I like to buy at DTS is the knotted rawhide bones for our pet dog, Bella.  It isn’t only the price that is of concern to me but the amount being offered.  I can buy one at DTS for $1 but when I go to Shop Rite in the Pet Section I may have to pay almost $9 for a packet of 6.  I saw prices of about $6.99 to $7.99 for a pack of 3 knotted rawhide bones at Petsmart, this comes out to about $2 to $3 per.  Of course, Shop Rite carries Hartz brand and Petsmart carries most national brands.  But Bella doesn’t care…she just wants something to chew.

Lastly, food storage containers.  You know those plastic containers with lids.  These are the ones that are sold at local groceries stores for about $4 per pack of 3.  At TDS you can get a packet of 3 for $1.  I bought 3 packs (a total of 9) of the medium sized and 2 packs (a total of 6) of the small sized ones.  They’re in perfectly fine condition even though they’ve been through the dishwasher numerous times. No distortion or melting.  Good value for the money spent.  And I like them better than plastic wrap or aluminum foil because they are reusable a number of times and survive the dishwasher.  With the lids leftovers stay fresh for a while.