Trader Joe's Cherry Creek
Trader Joe's Cherry Creek by Aranami (CC BY)

12 Things You Should Skip at Trader Joe's

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Trader Joe's Cherry Creek
Trader Joe's Cherry Creek by Aranami (CC BY)

Trader No-Nos

While many consumers feel like Trader Joe's can do no wrong (and we agree most of the time), smart shoppers still shouldn't walk in and buy everything they see without a little research first. To help you save some money, avoid buying inferior products, and seek out healthier options, we scoured the aisles of Trader Joe's to compare prices with other retailers, give nutrition labels a close read, and check the quality of some staple items. Based on our experience, here are the products you should consider skipping on your next Trader Joe's run.

Pizza 4 Formaggi
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Pizza 4 Formaggi

Most of Trader Joe's frozen food is a grand slam, but in our comparison of frozen pizzas, the Pizza 4 Formaggi was truly disappointing. The cheese wasn't anything to write home about and the wood-fire taste touted on the box was undetectable.

Charles Shaw Wines
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Charles Shaw Wines

Famously known as Two Buck Chuck, because it used to be priced at just $1.99, Trader Joe's signature wine is now $3.99 a bottle — still suspiciously cheap. While there are good, reasonably priced wines at Trader Joe's, this particular bargain scores poorly in taste tests.

Trader Joe's Burritos
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Burritos

According to the American Heart Association, the average adult should aim for no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day; 1,500 is more ideal. Trader Joe's Chicken Burritos pack 940 mg of sodium in just one burrito — that's nearly half of what most people should consume in a day. The Chicken Chile Verde Burritos have even more: 1,110 mg in one burrito. It may not be a bad idea to get your burrito fix elsewhere.

Trader Joe's Broccoli and Cheese Quiche
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Broccoli and Cheese Quiche

Like quite a few other premade items at Trader Joe's, the broccoli and cheese quiche is high in sodium. The seemingly healthy meal totals 840 mg of sodium per serving. Each quiche also has 30 grams of fat, including 15 g of saturated fat — 75 percent of the recommended daily value.

Trader Joe's Milk
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Lactose-Free Milk

Trader Joe's has a great milk selection, but to save money, it may be wise to look elsewhere. In a price comparison of lactose-free milk, Walmart's Great Value brand is nearly a dollar cheaper per half-gallon than the Trader Joe's version.

Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Fries
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Sweet Potato Fries

The sweet potato fries (or frites as they are called at Trader Joe's) come in a smaller bag than you can get most other places for the same price. Kroger's sweet potato fries are roughly 6 cents cheaper per ounce — and that's before you use a loyalty card or coupon.

Shredded Cheese
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Shredded Cheese

The bottom line here is price: Shredded cheese is generally cheaper at other places. The Trader Joe's blend comes to 33 cents an ounce, compared with just 23 cents an ounce for the Kroger brand blend. You can often use coupons to save a bit more, while Trader Joe's doesn't accept coupons.

Trader Joe's Meat
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Meat

Trader Joe's has a decent meat selection for not having a meat counter. But all the meat is prepackaged, so it's likely not going to be the freshest you can find. For truly fresh cuts of meat — not to mention more variety — try a butcher, or at least a grocery store with a full meat counter.

Trader Joe's Fruit
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Sliced Fruit

Don't be fooled by Trader Joe's display of succulent-looking sliced fruit. For 50 cents less, buy the whole pineapple and slice it yourself. (It will definitely taste just as good.) For a dollar less than the sliced apples, you can get nearly a pound more whole apples and cut them up yourself.

Trader Joe's Granola Bars
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Granola Bars

Granola bars are a weekly staple for many families. While Trader Joe's offers a fairly wide selection of flavors and varieties under its house label, quality granola bars can be found cheaper other places. According to the grocery app Basket, Walmart sells a box of eight traditional Quaker Chewy granola bars for just $2 — a price that can come down even more with coupons. The Trader Joe's equivalent is 50 cents more for only six in a box.

Trader Joe's Cereal
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Cereal

Cereal can definitely be found cheaper at other grocers, especially if you factor in manufacturer and store coupons. Trader Joe's popular Honey Nut O's cost roughly 17 cents per ounce, while Kroger's version, Honey Nut Toasted Oats, was 10 cents an ounce on the day we shopped — and that's without using a coupon. While 7 cents doesn't seem like a big price gap, when you buy 13-ounce boxes, it adds up.

Related: 30 Things You Didn't Know About Your Favorite Childhood Cereals

Trader Joe's Paper Towels
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Paper Towels

Trader Joe's paper towels ($3.99 for three rolls) are made from recycled paper, which appeals to some consumers. But the jury is out on their absorption, and there are many cheaper options at other stores. At Walmart, for example, Great Value Ultra Strong paper towels come in 160-sheet rolls, double the size of Trader Joe's 80-sheet rolls. That means a two-pack is the equivalent of four rolls, one more than the Trader Joe's package, yet it costs less ($3.64). Consumer product experts who tested the Walmart paper towels gave them above-average marks in all major categories, including absorbency, scrubbing power, and ability to resist tearing when wet. You can potentially save even more if you have room for a bulk package.