Trader Joes

If you’re going to Trader Joe’s to buy “raw” groceries (produce, meat, etc.), yeah, it’s not very impressive. The amazing part of Trader Joe’s is their semi-prepared and prepared foods. There’s basically three main categories of things that I like to buy at Trader Joe’s.

Prepared Foods

Their frozen foods are higher quality that brands that other grocers carry. What is quality? In this case, it is the use of real spices, less artificial flavoring, better cuts of meat, etc. They also have a much broader cuisine selection, ranging from East Asian, Indian, central/South American, and European. Personal favorite are cauliflower gnocchi, mandarin orange chicken and butter chicken.

“Value-Added” Foods

There’s another category I like to call it “value-added foods”. This could also be summarized as “food with a lot of adjectives in the name”. For example, Trader Joe’s caries Coconut Cashews, which are just cashews roasted and glazed with shredded coconut. You could EASILY make this yourself and any grocery store sells ingredients to do it, but Trader Joe’s sells it in a pre-packed bag. Personal favorites are Gone Bananas frozen banana slices (they also sell the same thing but with strawberries instead of bananas), Coconut Cashews, Sesame Cashews, Kale pesto, Syrah Toscano cheese, blueberry/cranberry chèvre cheese.

Raw Ingredients where there are supply chain advantages

There are some raw ingredients that I think are better to buy at Trader Joe’s due to the way their supply chain is managed. Trader Joe’s white-labels almost all of their products, which gives them leverage over the contract manufacturers. For example, their yogurt is produced by Danon, but is labeled Trader Joe’s. Continuing to use yogurt as an example, most grocery stores carry a wide selection of different brands, including Yoplait, Danon, Chobani, etc. Every week, a particular brand of yogurt goes on sale for approximately 20% off MSRP. This changes from week to week, so if you want to buy fairly priced yogurt, you have to get whichever one happens to be on sale that week. There's some differentiation between brands with flavorings, mix-ins in flip-cups, fancy glass jars, etc. However, for the most part, each brand effective sells the same product. Trader Joe’s yogurt has a stable price and is less than the “major brand” yogurts at other grocers. Different products have different underlying supply chain advantages, however cheese, eggs, yoghurt, cured meats, and coffee (some types) are products that I think are often a better value at Trader Joe’s.