12 Tips and Secrets to Make the Most of Your Next Trader Joe's Trip

Learn a few pro Trader Joe's shopping tips even the savviest, TJ-obsessed shoppers may not know.

Trader Joe Store sign
Photo: Getty Images

Trader Joe's is lauded and beloved for its tasty and convenient foods, its robust section of flowers, cards, and gifts, and, of course, its low prices. However, anyone who has ever set foot in a Trader Joe's will tell you that the well-known chain—which has popularized items like frozen Cauliflower Gnocchi and a scrumptious cheese dubbed Unexpected Cheddar—isn't a typical supermarket. But it is, in part, this commitment to doing things differently that has registered with consumers across the country.

First, the California-based brand doesn't have a weekly coupon circular, but shoppers are permitted to use coupons from various other brands (such as Annie's and Bumble Bee) in TJ's stores. Another thing that truly sets Trader Joe's apart from its competitors is the chain's commitment to both quality products and its shoppers. To that end, TJ's has a no-questions-asked return policy and allows customers to sample any ready-to-eat food of their choice.

Eager to learn more about how to make your next TJ's trip easier, less expensive, and more enjoyable? Read on for a list of Trader Joe's shopping tips and tricks.

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Scan the Fearless Flyer

Trader Joe's may not have a loyalty rewards program, but you can discover deals through the store's newsletter—the Fearless Flyer—which is published eight times a year and highlights featured products, new items, and details on promotions. It even includes a printable shopping list to make your trip as easy and organized as possible.

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Return Items, Hassle-Free

The chances that you'll need to return something to Trader Joe's are slim, but it's good to know that you can. TJ's has a "no-questions-asked" return policy on all its goods, so if you find something that's not to your liking—whether it has gone bad, is damaged, or is just not your taste—you can return it at any time.

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Know the Purpose of the Register Bell

Confused by all the dinging at checkout? Ringing bells is how the floor team communicates: One ring means it's time to open another register; two means there's a question at checkout; and three is a call for the manager to come over.

RELATED: 19 Healthy Foods Nutritionists Always Buy at Trader Joe's

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Filter for Dietary Needs

Whether you are gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, or dairy-free, Trader Joe's has something for you. Most of the products are clearly labeled, but you can also visit TJ's site to filter products by diet and type.

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Grab Free Samples of Any Product

Most locations have a free sample station in the back that features new items and some longtime favorites to snack on while you shop. However, if you're curious to try something, ask an employee. Team members have permission to open any ready-to-eat item in the store, so you can test it out before taking the plunge.

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Keep Clipping Coupons

Trader Joe's may not offer sales and discounts on their products, but you can still save money on name-brand items like Annie's, Kashi, and Fage when you present manufacturer coupons at the register.

RELATED: 6 Genius Ways to Save Money When Shopping at Trader Joe's

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Don't Forget Shopping Bags

Nowadays, most people use reusable shopping totes, but there's even more incentive to bring them to Trader Joe's. Did you know that if you bring a shopping bag and spend at least $25 in-store, you can enter to win a $25 gift card in Trader Joe's weekly raffle? If you don't see the raffle tickets at checkout, make sure to ask the cashier.

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Send Kids on a Scavenger Hunt

Trader Joe's is known for its friendly and helpful staff; that's one of the reasons why it's a great place to shop. If you bring your kids along for your shopping trip, ask one of the employees about the TJ's scavenger hunt. Each store has a stuffed animal hiding somewhere within it, and once the child finds the missing toy, they can bring it to customer service and receive a prize.

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Know When to Shop

No matter where you live, your local Trader Joe's is likely slammed most hours of the day. If you're looking for a peaceful shopping trip, most employees suggest the best time to shop at Trader Joe's is between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. local time (during the week) or making an evening trip.

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Stock up on Favorite Items

There's no shame in stocking up on favorite seasonal products, especially since they're only available for a limited time. If you're pumpkin-spice obsessed or can't get enough of the Candy Cane Joe-Joe's, stock your pantry with a few extra boxes—your future self will thank you.

RELATED: 12 Holiday Foods From Trader Joe's That'll Make Entertaining So Much Easier

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Start Shopping on the Opposite Side

If you've ever felt overwhelmed walking into a Trader Joe's, it's likely because everyone starts in the produce section. On your next trip, try shopping on the opposite end of the store first to have a more relaxing experience. You'd be surprised at the difference it can make.

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Save Big on Cards and Flowers

Where else can you grab a beautiful flower bouquet and cards for under $10? Trader Joe's has the best selection of flowers that never break the bank, and the buds are known to last over a week if you change the water every few days. The greeting card selection has something for every occasion, and the cards usually cost less than $4. You seriously can't beat it.

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