Shopping on a Budget: Why I Switched to Trader Joe’s

By Jessica Lewis

Asst. Copy Editor

My freshman and sophomore year living on campus at Sacred Heart consisted of Outtakes runs in lieu of grocery store trips and Linda’s salads counting as well balanced meals. Since then, I’ve not only graduated from dorm life and moved off campus, I’ve also moved on to cooking more than just mac and cheese cups and Lean Pockets. With this new food freedom comes the responsibility of grocery shopping on a college student’s budget.

As most college students know, mastering the art of budgeting money between necessity and leisure can be tricky. Oftentimes, buying that new shirt to wear to Johnny Utah’s is far more enticing than spending money on fresh produce at the grocery store.

With the help of my thrifty, bargain hungry roommates and a full year of the off-campus cooking experience, as a senior, I have finally found the tricks to balancing my needs versus wants budget in a very unexpected place.

Like many Sacred Heart students living off campus, I did most of my food shopping at Stop and Shop. Being so close to both campus and many off campus houses, Stop and Shop was the most convenient option. As my friends left this grocery chain behind, I too began to question my monotonous grocery shopping routine.

For many years, I had been under the false impression that Trader Joe’s was an all-natural, pricey food store. It turns out that this earthy-crunchy grocery chain is actually quite budget friendly. Before I knew it, all four of my roommates had become Trader Joe’s advocates. Skeptical, I decided to join them on a food-shopping trip in hopes of learning what all the hype was about.

With their reusable grocery bags in hand, I was guided through what my roommates refer to as the Trader Joe’s experience, a grocery shopping experience that combines great prices with an even greater store atmosphere.

To my surprise, the colorful murals on the walls were just the beginning of the store’s unique and cheerful air. With almost all of their products being under the Trader Joe’s name, the store has the creative license to design their product’s packaging in a way that matches the store’s upbeat and quirky feel. Best of all, instead of spending twice the amount on a 12-pack of Dunkin’ Donuts K-Cups, I have happily accepted the switch to the Trader Joe’s $4.99 equivalent, which tastes exactly the same.

While perusing through the aisles I was lucky enough to stumble upon the free sample stand, immediately whisking away any hesitations or doubts I had about the store. My mid-shopping snack was filled with friendly conversations and I quickly learned that Trader Joe’s not only offers its customers free samples, but also allows employees to open any product in the store for a customer to try upon request. How cool! I also discovered that all customers shopping with reusable grocery bags are entered into a store raffle every time.

Rolling up to the cashier, I took note of the products in my cart. Differing only in exterior packaging, the items mirrored that of my Stop and Shop cart after a big food shop. As the last items were being scanned I was shocked by the total price-a-fraction of my usual weekly grocery bill.

While Linda’s will always hold a place in my heart, with a little push from my roommates and some help from Trader Joe’s, managing an affordable yet well balanced diet and the social life of a college student has never been easier.

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