I love Trader Joes, I would profess my love on a mountain top. Or even let TJ’s stand behind me as I hang off the bow of a massive ship. “I’ll never let go!”
I mean that, I will never let go of Trader Joes. I recently started anew with my grocery and budgeting habits. I adapted them from favorite housewife guru, Jordan Page (go check her out here).
1. Go to grocery store 1 x a week
2. 100$ a week
3. Groceries are all consumables and includes cleaning products and toiletries
If you shop at Trader Joe’s you can imagine that this may be a challenge and yes, I realize I may be able to stretch my dollar further at another store, but there are too many items sold exclusively to Trader Joe’s that I would terribly miss. To have both value and my beloved TJ items I have some tips and tricks up my sleeve.
I alternate Aldi’s, Trader Joe’s, and Walmart. This method works for me and I am lucky enough to have all three near. I enjoy Aldi’s but mostly for their value versus the quality of their items. Walmart is a must for toiletries and cleaning supplies. If you have no Aldi’s, I suggest just shopping at Walmart as your alternative. Target sometimes has better prices on items, and Sprouts can also be worked into the rotation as some weeks they have killer deals on meat and produce.
Do not start with Trader Joe’s
When your pantry and freezer are empty start at your value market. A big haul at Trader Joe’s can be pricey (check my last post). Staple items are (for the most part) more expensive so your haul would have to controlled to just necessities, and what a sad trip to TJ’s that would be. So, my first stop is Aldi’s. I can do a massive haul with 100$ that stretches weeks. I buy the meat in bulk and freeze what I need to. I also stock up on things like egg whites, eggs (even cage-free/organic options are cheap here), frozen items (quick meals, Texas toast, and veggies) canned goods, and finally BREAD. There is ALWAYS some type of loaf on special. I will buy 3-4 for 45 cents a loaf… I repeat 45 CENTS a loaf, let THAT sink in. I take two loafs to make sandwiches for that current week. I stick the other two in the freezer to use later.
The next week depends on whether I need toiletries or not. If I do, it’s Walmart. If I can hold off a week, Trader Joe’s. This is when I will stock up on VALUE* items (described below), and my Trader Joe’s treats. I am mindful of what’s in my freezer and what I will need the following week.
The week I go to Walmart I will already have many of the food items at home in my pantry or freezer. My 100$ budget will mainly consist of toiletries and cleaning supplies apart from some fresh items needed such as; milk, eggs, produce.
Know your value
Beyond knowing what items are sold cheaper at each store, know what’s the cheapest they sell for. If you have an idea of the lowest price you’ve seen for a specific item, stock up on that item when they hit that bottom line. Trader Joe’s prices rarely change, and they do not run sales like other stores. Maybe that sounds awful to you, but likewise you don’t have to worry about markups. They do have items that sell considerably cheaper than comparable items that are named brand (Dorito’s, Velveeta, Alta Dena, etc.). Aldi’s can be cheaper or equal price, but EVERYTHING at Trader Joe’s tastes better. Off the top of my head here are some items that can be considered value at TJ’s:
· Soups (always keep Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato soup stocked)
· SPICES- They have the best prices and packaging for their spices, almost all of them are 1.99$
I have a couple of go to meals that my family can eat frequently and don’t cost much to make. I have loads of Mexican recipes that are cheap to eat and utilize the same ingredients. Pastas, quesadillas, soups are all options that can be filling and are cheap dinners. Plan at least 3 filler meals for the week and watch your grocery bill go down drastically! My go to filler meal at Trader Joe’s is the Red Pepper and Roasted Tomato soup. You can add or pair it with so many things!
Create a budget with wiggle room when going to Trader Joes, you must expect there are going to be some new finds/seasonal items that catch your eye. Make sure that your budget is prepared for that and keep in mind you can not live off candy cane/chocolate covered pretzels. Let’s not even talk about fall when everything is pumpkin flavored, it’s obviously my weakness (this blog’s name is no accident). Now, having wiggle room and impulse buying may seem contradictory to a frugal lifestyle, but I need me some treats! So, although I enjoy adding new items to my basket to try, I am aware of what items I need for meals I have planned prior to entering the market. A huge difference between my Aldi’s and Trader Joe’s trip- At Aldi’s I will have an IDEA of what I want to make or what I can make. My meal plan is not made up unless I have a ton of freezer food or I know what’s on sale (like Sprouts). At Trader Joe’s, I know exactly what I NEED and because prices don’t change I know how much that will cost and budget my impulse buys to the remaining amount.
What happens if you over spend? This last week I went way over budget (Again check out last week’s blog). I was hungry and excited to see all the Christmas items. I spent 170$ but this week, I will be spending only 30$ for some cleaning products and a few fresh ingredients. I have all the ingredients for the meals I am making this week. Be smart about how long items last in the fridge and utilize your freezer.
Check out your resources
Always keep an eye out for a sale, even if it’s not your usual shopping location. I have Cartwheel and Sprouts apps on my phone. When you spot a great deal take advantage. I understand that dietary needs/ organic buys may be your priority. If that is the case, see what you can cut out to accommodate those needs. Do what works best for you! Frugal doesn’t have to mean Mac & Cheese and Ramen every night. And you don’t have to sacrifice your savings for healthy, delicious meals.
I hope these tips help. Happy shopping!