If you aren't slightly obsessed with it, then you probably haven't truly experienced it. With consistently low prices and a frozen meal section guaranteed to make any single person cry tears of joy, there's plenty of reasons why Trader Joe's should be every college student's go-to grocery store. Whether you're a Trader Joe's Virgin, or a self-proclaimed connoisseur, you're likely to learn something new from these Trader Joe's tips. 

1. Know Your Shirts

cake, tea, beer
Emily Baxter

Trader Joe's is essentially set up to make you feel like you've just stepped off of a cruise ship onto your very own tropical paradise. The reason all of the employees are dressed in Hawaiian shirts is just to brainwash you into thinking you're actually on vacation instead of grabbing some Sublime ice cream sandwiches or a box of Joe-Joe's on your way back from spending an entire Saturday studying in the library in your sweatpants. 

The distinctions between the shirts represent rank in the Trader Joe's hierarchy. The employees sporting the button-down Hawaiian print shirts are the store leaders. Unless you have a customer service concern, there's no real reason to seek these guys out specifically. The ones wearing solid colored t-shirts with large hibiscus flowers on the back are your run-of-the-mill store employees, or "crew members" as they're technically called (refer to cruise ship metaphor). Go to these guys for your basic food questions.

2. Learn the Bell Code

tea, beer
Emily Baxter

This was undoubtedly the most frequently asked question from customers when I worked at Trader Joe's. Simply put, the bells are the cheery Trader Joe's version of an overhead intercom system. There are three bell codes that you are hearing when you are in the store. 

1 bell = Lines are backed up, and somebody needs to open up another register.

2 bells = The cashier needs help from any available crew member. 

3 bells = A crew leader needs to come over.

3. Check Out What's on Demo

Emily Baxter

Working the demo counter is the VIP position among Trader Joe's employees. (I learned the hard way that you don't get to stay in the winner's circle if you eat all the samples.) The demo counter is a great place to score some free snacks while also providing customers with recipes combining some of the products that Trader Joe's offers. If your first instinct when you see peach slices is not to sprinkle them with nutmeg, bake them, and smear mascarpone all over those suckers, the demo counter might help you step up your snack game.

#SpoonTip: try that combo to impress your significant other, or your friends at a party.

4. BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag)

ice, beer
Jocelyn Hsu

There are lots of reasons to bring your own bag, but most importantly, at Trader Joe's you could actually be rewarded for it. Every time you use your reusable bags, you get to fill out a raffle ticket with your name and number to enter for the chance to win a $25 Trader Joe's gift card every week. TJ's tries to be an environmentally conscious company, and one way to do that is to cut down on paper/plastic waste. Your reusable bags are also handy because they're generally more insulated than a paper bag. Better insulation equals more time before your cookie butter ice cream melts in the back of your car.

5. Buy This, Not That

cream, sweet, chocolate, milk, coffee
Molly Prosser

Although there's much debate about what Trader Joe's products are best, there's little to no talk about what to avoid. Although I am an advocate of Trader Joe's, here are two things the wise men and women might advise you to skip from now on: 


tuna, sushi
Rachael Piorko

If you believe that Trader Joe's could never lead you astray, the sushi presents all the necessary evidence that says otherwise. I'm not sure what went wrong here but Trader Joe's sushi is something you will only buy once. During training, the managers flat out told us not to purchase the sushi. If you need any more convincing, you can watch a review from an actual sushi chef here.

And Produce

Molly Prosser

The quality of the produce at Trader Joe's is not bad, and it's not going to make a difference whether you buy your fruits and veggies at Trader Joe's or at a supermarket. However, almost nothing is locally sourced and it's often imported, so you're much better off going to a local market.

6. Try Something New

candy, chocolate, sweet, coffee
Grace Goettman

Have you ever felt like trying a new Trader Joe's product but not enough to commit to purchasing it? What most people don't know is that you can grab just about any product that doesn't need to be cooked (say Dark Chocolate Roasted Pistachio Toffee) from the shelf and tell a crew member that you'd like to try it. If you like it, you buy the box that we just opened up for you. If you don't want it, the opened container goes to the back room for the employees to snack on. So if you're wondering if the Dark Chocolate Covered Pomegranate Seeds are any good (they are), don't be afraid to ask to try them. 

Did You Know?

Malyna Sanchez

Trader Joe's donates 100% of its salvageable food waste. All products that are unfit to keep on the shelves, but are safe to eat, are packaged for community homeless shelters and food banks to pick them up. Trader Joe's claims that in 2016, $341 million worth of food products were donated. That's an incredible amount of food that would get thrown away in an average supermarket just because it's a day past the expiration date or the container is broken.

Trader Joe's can seem overwhelming in the beginning because it has so much product in such a small space. With every trip into the store you will find something you didn't see last time because new product is constantly being phased in. Don't be afraid to try it all, because just about everything there is sure to delight you. So go forth and enjoy your next Trader Joe's adventure, and I hope that these tips will help guide the way to an enlightened TJ's experience.