July 31, 2013 by Dan
I do a bunch of my shopping at Trader Joe’s; it has that (less-pain-in-the-ass) + (kinda-hippie-organic) vibe that middle-aging urbanites like me enjoy. I’ve been shopping there for well over ten years, since I lived in Boston and used to go to the branch in Cambridge near the river. When I lived in Chicago, I was incredibly excited when a branch opened on the north side of the river. TJs was, I figured, going to be a cheaper way to live-while-broke than bargain-hunting at the Jewel near my apartment.
What I didn’t know, and what I’ve never bothered to calculate, is exactly how much cheaper TJs is than your average grocery store. Inspired by this post, I hopped on my bike today and went up to the store for a bit of staples buying. When I got home I hopped online and compared my trip today to the list prices at Safeway. I was shocked.
|Woven Wheats Wafers||$2.49||$5.49||You can occasionally get Triscuits on big sales, and I'm very aware that Triscuits taste better, but still.|
|Indian fare||$1.99||$3.34||Walmart Tasty Bite|
|Grana Padano (price per pound)||$11.99||$19.99||Vs. Primo Taglio Parmigiano Reggiano. At TJs Reggiano is about $13.99/lb, but where we are here they're about the same. Really good Parm Reg is a different story. Also - a can of Kraft Parmesan Cheese at Safeway works out to $13.12 per pound. More than real Grana. I'm floored.|
|Prosciutto||$3.99||$8.80||TJs Prosciutto vs. Primo Taglio. Obs, we're a step down from Parma ham here, but it's a fair comparison|
|Chocolate||$1.99||$3.00||Select w/ Salt + Nougat|
|Dish Detergent||$3.99||$1.99||Safeway detergent vs. all-natural stuff (7th Gen is about $5 for 45 oz)|
|Goat's Milk Cheddar Cheese||$9.99||$7.20||Price per pound here. I compared the TJs cheese with Tillamook Special Reserve Extra Sharp, which is not really as good.|
|Tofu||$1.99||$2.79||Comparing O Organics again - there was a club card deal for Azumaya tofu at $1.50|
|Organic Tomato Paste||$1.78||$2.78||Compare w/ O Organics; regular is even at $0.89|
|Shampoo||$2.49||$1.95||Club Card price - may be more expensive|
|Joe's O's||$1.99||$5.58||And I'm comparing the bigger 18 oz Safeway box here|
|Pepper Jack||$4.49||$4.39||A bit of apples/oranges here - only bought 0.57 lbs of pepperjack at TJs, and compared with 16 oz of Lucerne Pepperjack.|
|Mac N Cheese||$5.96||$13.20||4 boxes vs. Annie's Organics|
|Spicy Brown Mustard||$0.99||$2.59|
|Cashews - Roasted, Salted||$6.99||$13.98|
|Fresh Mozzarella Cigliene||$3.49||$4.39|
|Avocado (bag o' four, unripe)||$3.49||$4.39|
Crazy, huh? One shopping trip, on a bike, and it’s nearly $40 cheaper! And it’s not including some other stuff which would really exacerbate the difference (booze, olive oil, maple syrup, coffee, laundry detergent, etc.). This data won’t change my life much, as I do most of my non-vegetable shopping at Trader Joe’s. But it sure does make me feel validated.
Some explanations for objections:
- “You didn’t use a Club Card!” Yes, I know that Safeway sometimes has better deals if you use a club card. Some of the prices above are with a club card, and I’m certainly not above going down there and taking advantage of such deals when I run into them. However, I’m not going to waste time by checking club card deals and delaying my shopping on the hope that the store puts something that I want on discount. I needed stuff; I went and bought it. That’s how most of us shop.
- “They don’t have (x) brand that I absolutely like.” If you’re saying this about Triscuits, I get it. Triscuits are amazing. But they’re not $3/box amazing. And for most of the stuff I buy, it’s either interchangeable, or TJs is actually better. Especially on the cheese front.
- “You can’t buy fresh vegetables at TJs because their vegetables are terrible.” Arguably, Safeway’s are worse. I buy veggies either at our local farmer’s markets or at a couple of little vegetable markets. Don’t have a vegetable market? Well, I feel sorry for you – they’re always going to be better than the mass-produced supermarket stuff.
- “Their meat isn’t what I want.” Can’t help you here – again, because I’m a Certified Urban Snob, I get what meat I buy at one of three different small-market butcher counters, where things I order are wrapped in paper in real-time. For meat-in-cellophane, I see no difference between TJs and Safeway.
- “What about dried beans?” Dude, I love dried beans. TJs doesn’t have ‘em. Feel free to buy them at Safeway or (even better) a Latino market. Cheap, delicious, etc. The point of this exercise is that, for things you can get at TJs, it’s marketdly less expensive.
- “I don’t like their (Hawaiian shirts/cheerful tattooed checkers/non-union-yet-fairly-paid employees/German ownership/whatever).” Can’t help you here. Maybe you should calm down.
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