Kroger vs Trader Joes: The Grocery Gauntlet

Any human that ever goes grocery shopping knows that grocery stores are cumbersome, expensive, and more than just a little bit unorganized. Why the precooked pizza dough is never near the sauce and pepperoni will forever plague me. But we've all been there: we've got the list but we overspend; we bring the kids but they lose their minds; we start with the best intentions but always end up going astray somewhere between the ice cream aisle and the beauty section. We're here to help you figure out which grocery store is best for you and your family.

In my family, groceries are one of the biggest expenses next to rent and college savings. That was a personal financial decision I made to put quality food above modern conveniences (take out, maid service, other unnecessary-type expenditures) so it's no wonder I spend an inordinate amount of time optimizing the grocery shopping experience.

Read More about Meal Prep for Beginners

So in the name of thoroughness, here's my weekly food budget for a family of three (sometimes four) - two kids under nine and one (sometimes two) adults:

  • 7 home cooked breakfasts

  • 5 boxed lunches (five per child and five for one adult for 15 total boxed lunches)

  • 6 home cooked dinners

  • 1 Oh Shit dinner out in a restaurant

    GRAND TOTAL:

  • 7 days

  • 19 meals

  • 55 servings of food between 3 to 4 people

  • $130 for all of it, averaging $2.36 per person per meal

    I do not joke around with my budget. It is set in stone when it comes to grocery expenses. So how do I get the most out of my money?

Well, I sure am glad you asked!

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KROGER
Currently, we live in Tennessee, the land of Publix and Kroger. I'm a fan of Fuel Points so I've spent a good amount of time in Kroger, leaving my Publix days in the sunny lands of Florida. While I could be better at maximizing my Kroger membership, I'm in it for the cheap gas.

 

 

KROGER PLUSES

  1. Convenient in the neighborhood - seriously, can there be anymore?

  2. FUEL POINTS!!

  3. Digital coupons

  4. ClickList, which is the greatest solution to the OverBusy Parent in literally ever

KROGER MINUSES

  1. Basically just a cleaner WalMart

  2. Too big to "get in and out" with just what you need

  3. Starbucks, which just leads to unnecessary, unplanned money spent

  4. The kids have grown to despise the amount of time it takes to traverse the store weekly

Kroger is happy to take every penny of my $130 weekly, sometimes more and in fairness sometimes less. And even when I make an effort to shop deals, purchase less meat, buy in bulk, or use any of the other money-saving trade secrets, it seems like I can't walk out of there for less than $130. And at $550 a month in the grocery store alone, that's a whole bunch of money I could be doing something else with.

 

TRADER JOES

I am a TJ newbie, having just discovered it in the last few months. It has been in driving distance for the past year and a half, but I've been loyal to Kroger all this time. 

Until now.

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You guys. Trader Joes isn't just a grocery store. It's a feeling. Ever have someone ask "What are your plans this weekend?" and get excited when you says "Grocery shopping at Kroger."? No, no you have not. But you have had people ask if they could join you on a trip to TJs and/or suggest their favorite TJ staples. This "neighborhood grocery store with amazing food and drink from around the globe and around the corner" is all of that and more. They are a time saving, penny pinching, senses-stimulating wonderland.

They greet you with a bounty of affordable floral bouquets and some weekly offering of sweets on sale from the get go. Right off the bat, they know how to woo you. Their organic produce offering is at least twice that of conventional grocery stores but in four times less space and for half the price. So you get more bang for your buck and your time. 

And if you've ever heard a group of people wax poetic about their love for Trader Joes, you've undoubtedly heard them all list off their favorite frozen food items. Organic blueberries, vegetable lasagne, chicken and cilantro wontons. Or maybe it's their canned bubbly and Two Buck Chucks that's captured the hearts of your Trader Joe Alcohol Enthusiasts. There is literally something for everyone.

 

 

TRADER JOES PLUSES

  1. Samples of coffee, select delicious items, or anything you'd like to try - seriously just ask the Tasting Table to pop open a box and they'll sample it out until it's gone

  2. Fresh fruit and treats for the kiddos (to be fair, Kroger has started this now too)

  3. Reduced offerings and store footprint mean less time spent in the store

  4. Budget friendly options throughout the store

TRADER JOES MINUSES

  1. Too many excellent choices

  2. Can feel busy due to the volume of TJ Enthusiasts packed into the store at once

  3. No fuel points, but the amount of money I save makes up for it

  4. They don't deliver or shop for you but that might be a good thing honestly

The best part about the shopping experience at Trader Joes is the worst part about Kroger: the cost. I can get all the same ingredients for all 55 servings of food for remarkably less at Trader Joes. So much less than I'l willing to forgo the occasional Starbucks and even the frequently used ClickList. 

At Kroger, I'll spend $130 for a week of food. At Trader Joes, I'll spend $99. 

LESS THAN 100 DOLLARS FOR SEVEN DAYS
OF FOOD FOR FOUR PEOPLE!!!!

Sure, there will still be days I go to Kroger for trash bags and massive food hauls following total pantry clean outs that take place during the holidays. But for my weekly grocery shopping experience, Trader Joe and I have a beautiful working relationship that I'd like to keep up.

 

PS That great image at the top of this post is courtesy of Lia Griffith. Check her guide on making your own Reusable Produce Bags.