Oh, So This Is Why Trader Joe's Is So Affordable

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
When it comes to buying groceries, prices are immensely important. Need proof? Take millennials' obsession with Traders Joe’s. It isn’t just TJ’s innovative products like everything bagel seasoning, coffee flour, and pepperoni pizza macaroni and cheese that keep customers coming back almost every single week. It’s also the fact that when you're feeling thirsty, you can pick up a bottle of wine for two bucks, or that you can easily throw together a summer feast that doesn’t break budgets. Yep, it all comes back to money. Usually we just accept the real good, but real cheap identity of TJ’s without question, but Business Insider just explained how the grocery chain maintains this status, and the reasons are actually pretty interesting.
According to Business Insider, the main reason Trader Joe’s stays so affordable is by selling private-label products. You may have noticed that there are never bags of Cheetos or pints of Ben & Jerry’s in TJ’s aisles, and that’s one of the chain’s secrets. Staying away from big brands names helps keep consumer costs down. Just like generic items are cheaper at other grocery stores, the same applies here. Business Insider reports that, "eighty percent of the products carried by Trader Joe's are in-house," which means the groceries are purchased straight from source: suppliers. With the middlemen removed, costs are reduced. It's basic supply chain economics and it makes all the difference.
Two other factors that contribute to TJ's low prices are the fact that it doesn't spend much on marketing and its simplistic store design. Trader Joe's doesn't advertise much and primarily relies of fans sharing their love for the chain with their friends as a way to attract new customers. It seems like that tactic is really working out, since people Instagram the launch of new Trader Joe's products with similar fervency to that of a new Frappuccino or Oreo reveal.
To prove just how effective the grocery store's methods are, we asked R29 staffers to share their favorite Trader Joe's steals: the bargain buys they can't get anywhere else. Ahead, find nine products that really benefit from that private-label product model we just learned about.
1 of 9

"When it comes to living cheaply, the name of the game is grains, grains, and more grains. Alas, the trendy grains can get expensive — especially quinoa. My local grocery store sold it for upwards of $10. Trader Joe's sells it for less than $5. The only word I can come up with for that price different is "stupid." Ten dollars for quinoa is stupid. I buy the red quinoa probably once every two weeks and it goes towards my weeknight dinners — praise be for warm quinoa salad, the MVP of quick meals."
2 of 9
Riced Cauliflower

"I had never heard of riced cauliflower before Trader Joe's. I knew there were people somewhere who made pizza crusts out of cauliflower, but for a lazy cook like me, it's enough work just chopping the florets off the cauliflower head. But Trader Joe's, king of pre-cut vegetables, does all the work for you — and thanks to TJ's, it couldn't be easier to whip up healthier versions of fried rice and risotto dishes. Plus, it's cheaper than what you'd pay for an unchopped cauliflower at another grocer.”
3 of 9
“Fancy" Cheese

"Trader Joe's *Cave Aged Blue Cheese* for $6.99 cannot be beat; it's soft, crumbly, creamy, with an understated and smooth punch of blue tang — the perfect crowd pleaser cheese for a super steal. The best part? People never believe that I snagged this dairy stunner at TJ's ("It must be gourmet!). I refuse to cheese shop elsewhere (unless forced) because the cheese selection at Trader Joe's is just that good."
4 of 9
Almond Butter

"No matter where you buy it, almond butter is always kind of pricey. But, my obsession with the spread leaves me always choosing it over its cheaper cousin — peanut butter. Leave it to TJ’s to have the cheapest version of the mainstream store options. And we’ve got proof!"
5 of 9
Frozen Meatballs

"I prefer pre-made meatballs to homemade ones - don't tell my Italian-American friends. And their party-sized meatballs are a truly genius item. You get about 40 for $3.99! They really are great to serve at parties — put them in just about any dip or sauce in the slow cooker and impress your friends with your retro flair (toothpicks not required but highly suggested). But don't think their party girl rep fool you: they are great to keep around to add to add protein to quick weeknight dinners, and since they're small, they heat up fast.”
6 of 9
Almond Milk

"As one of the many passengers aboard the dairy-free milk train, I think I’ve finally settled on almond milk being my favorite alternative option. But have you seen the price of almonds lately? As much as I’d love to pull a GOOP and make my own, I don’t have the money or time to be constantly soaking nuts to refill my supply. TJ’s has the best almond milk $1.79 can buy & in a variety of unsweetened and vanilla options.”
7 of 9
Medjool Dates

"Most grocery stores individually package pricey dried fruit by the pound–but not Trader Joe’s. Lucky for me, a large container of medjool dates only rings in at around $5, about 1/3 of what it would cost me elsewhere."
8 of 9
Organic Chicken

"When it comes to chicken, I only buy organic. What I love about TJ chicken is they package the organic drumsticks and breasts separately and the price is very reasonable."
9 of 9
Two Buck Chuck

"As twenty-somethings living in Brooklyn who spend the majority of our paychecks on rent, my roommates and I are always looking for cheap booze that will make us feel better about our cost of living. So, in our apartment, we actually have a rule, anytime one of us passes a Trader Joe’s location, we are required to pick up as many bottles of 2 Buck Chuck as we can carry. Lately, the Charles Shaw Merlot, which really is just $1.99, has been our favorite to bring home bags of. It might be a cliche, but we always have it on hand, and it never lets us down."

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