Trader Joe's grocery store in campbell California


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I recently gave in to the siren song of Trader Joe's addictive orange chicken and trekked over an hour away to the nearest TJ's with my best friend to get my fix. After loading our carts with frozen vegetables, dips, refrigerated dressings, juices, and — obviously — frozen orange chicken, we looked at each other with "Uh oh" in our eyes as we realized we didn't bring a cooler or ice. 

We had a few hours before we'd be back to our own refrigerators. Luckily for us, our cashier let us in on a little-known hack at Trader Joe's: The store sells frozen water bottles for 17 cents a piece to keep groceries cool if you have a long drive home.

@cookiterica 🤯 Trader Joe’s life hack… this will help keep your groceries fresh on your travels home! #traderjoes #lifehack ♬ original sound - COOK IT ERICA

Conveniently, near the checkout lanes, there are a variety of bags available for purchase. We each bought an insulated "cold bag" for $6, and our cashier nestled four frozen water bottles in the bottom of each one. While we didn't see the bottles anywhere in the store, the cashier was able to radio to his coworker and they were swiftly brought to the counter. After he put the bottles in the bags, he filled them with all of our cold groceries, zipped them up, and we were on our way.

When we unzipped our bags five hours later, the water bottles were still frozen and our groceries were still nice and chilly. The orange chicken was intact and my only regret was that I didn't buy 10 bags of it.

Not only are four 17-cent water bottles and a $6 insulated bag you can reuse a better deal than a bag of ice that will melt by the end of the day, but 17 cents for a single bottle of water is pretty much unheard of. In fact, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, the average price per gallon of domestic non-sparkling bottled water was $1.23 in 2021.

We set the bottles on the counter after unloading the bags and let them thaw out a bit and then drank them. As a bargain shopper, there's pretty much nothing more satisfying than finding more than one way to use a product that was cheap to begin with. 

Cheapism reached out to Trader Joe's public relations manager, who confirmed that each store is responsible for its own merchandising, so while the store we visited in Ann Arbor, Michigan, sells frozen water bottles for 17 cents, prices and availability elsewhere may vary.

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