Shopping at Trader Joe’s With the Kids in NYC: Our Insider Tips

TraderJjoe's store

Where else can you walk into a ship-inspired grocery store and find Hawaiian-shirted managers, Pirates Booty, and jars of Cookie Butter? Trader Joe’s is truly a shopping experience like no other. With great prices and specialty food items, it’s a no brainer why these stores are always so packed in NYC with lengthy lines. Doing your weekly grocery shopping for the family can really be a hassle during the busiest times, but it doesn’t have to be if you know the ins and outs of how these stores operate. We have all the Trader Joe’s secrets when it comes to finding what you need, the best times to shop, and more! Also, this post is NOT sponsored, we’re just big-time TJ fans. 

Psst… also check out our guide to The Best Trader Joe’s Healthy Snacks for Kids: Delicious and Easy to Pack for some quick items that you can throw into your cart with zero regrets.

Trader Joe’s Motto and Business Model

When it comes to Trader Joe’s products, they don’t believe in packing their food with extra ingredients that you can’t pronounce. You’ll never find GMO’s, artificial preservatives or artificial colors when you buy food at Trader Joe’s. They also believe in giving the customers the best value possible for their products. How do they do this? By focusing on private label items (that means those that have the Trader Joe’s label on it) they cut out the middle man, and don’t end up paying marketing fees. They also manage to score the best prices by bargaining directly with the suppliers, buying in volume, and going into contract early for the best costs. This makes shopping for the family easy — better food at a great value.

Trader Joe's food

The Ins and Outs

Return Policy
If you or the kids don’t like the product, simply return it with no hassle. Bring the product or your receipt into the store to get your money back or receive a store credit on a gift card. Where else can you find a return policy like this for a grocery store? If you have picky eaters and are introducing new food to them, this policy works great for parents.

With so many new products flooding into the store annually, you’ll always be tempted to add new items to your weekly grocery shop. If you are not sure if your taste buds are going to be thrilled, ask a Trader Joe’s Crew Member if you can sample that one item that you were iffy about. As long as the product is easy to sample, you will get the green light.

Customer Holds
You head to Trader Joe’s and that one item that you need is sold out – oh no! Many New Yorkers know exactly what I am talking about. Since the products are priced at the best value, there is always a high demand for Trader Joe’s items. To ensure that you get your fix of the Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, you can place a customer hold on whatever item you are looking for. Most people are not aware of customer holds, but all it takes is a phone call to the number which we have listed below. Ask a Crew Member to place your fave item on hold and you can pick it up the same day. And, if what you are looking for is not in stock, the Crew will be able to let you know when it will be delivered to the store.

Dietary Lists
Looking for diet-specific foods? Rather than carefully examining each ingredient on the label, strategize your grocery shopping with these dietary shortcuts: Gluten-Free Products, Kosher, Vegan. Each list is sectioned off by the different grocery categories, making it super easy to identify specific diet foods you are looking for. If you don’t have the list readily available when shopping, ask a Crew Member and they will gladly provide one for you.

Where Did it Go?
Trader Joes functions differently to most grocery stores. There are new products coming in and out constantly. It’s inevitable that you will get hooked on a new item but then have to say goodbye and part ways with it. Many ask why Trader Joe’s does this, and we have the golden answer:

  • Seasonal: Trader Joe’s loves to be festive and will bring in items for a specific holiday or a seasonal change. Seasonal items are available for a short period of time. If you see a new item, there’s a good chance that it’s seasonal. So if you love it and don’t want to let it go, ask a Crew Member to check its status so you can stock up.
  • Discontinued: These items can be discontinued for a number of reasons. Sometimes the suppliers want to raise the price, the item doesn’t sell as well or they need to make room for other new, delicious items.
  • Temporarily Out of Stock: This means that the item is temporarily gone because of production delays, quality reasons, and other factors. Sometimes these products can be gone from a week to a month. Ask a Crew Member for an estimated time of when your favorite item will be back in stores.

Moving Around the Store:
When it comes to shopping at your TJ’s in New York City, you really can’t meander around and spend time grazing over the specialty cheeses. Most New Yorkers want to get in and out ASAP! The best way to do this is to have someone from your family stand in line right away while another grabs items for the cart. Alternatively, if you know what lines wrap around which aisles, you can grab and go as you make your way up to the cash register.

Delivery Update:
There used to be an option at Trader Joe’s Manhattan locations where you could buy as much as you want for a fixed priced depending on where you lived. However, as of this past year, this service does not exist anymore. If you are planning on doing a huge grocery haul, it may be best to take a car. Even though there is no delivery service, you can still get help with your groceries. A Crew Member will most definitely help you carry all your items to your car that is parked right outside or even down the block. Make sure to ask a Crew Member when you are checking out at the cash register and the will gladly help you out.

Bag Raffle
Although you can’t save money by bringing your own bag, you can definitely win money. Every time a customer brings their own bag to go shopping, your name gets entered in the bag raffle for a chance to win a TJ’s gift card. All you need is to write out your name and number to be entered. If you get a call from a random number, you might be the lucky winner since Trader Joe’s pulls daily for each store. So maybe think again when a random number appears on your phone, you may be the winner!

Bottle Return
If you ever buy a bottle or can from Trader Joe’s that says you can get 5 cents back, you definitely can! Bring your empty cans or bottles back to TJ’s when you are at the cash register and they will be able to give you some cash in return for recycling at the store. It’s that easy to gain a little chunk change and help the planet at the same time.

Trying to find a bathroom in NYC is always a hassle when running errands around the city, especially if the little ones really need to go. Fortunately, at most TJ locations you will be able to find public restrooms and even changing tables, so need to worry when you head to the grocery store.

How to Navigate Your Trader Joe’s Store in NYC

Each Trader Joe’s operates in slightly different ways. When shopping with your family, TJ’s keep your children in mind. Although there isn’t an official stroller parking area in the stores, every store in New York City will be able to accommodate your stroller while you shop. Your kids will also be thrilled to be on the lookout for spotting the store’s “quirky item” to receive a sweet treat (we’ve listed the items below so your kiddos can keep their eyes peeled!). Also, find below the best times to shop at your local TJ’s store. Remember that most TJ stores receive their nonperishable items at night and their perishables in the morning before opening. This means that the store is fully stocked first thing when they open their doors. Take a look below at our Trader Joe’s New York shopping cheat sheet!

Court Street 

130 Court St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Store hours: 8 am – 10 pm (Mon-Sun)
Strollers: Can accommodate at the front of the store
Kids’ games: Spot the lobster in the store to receive a treat
Best time to shop: Early morning, aisles are spacious

City Point

445 Gold St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Store hours: 9 am – 10 pm (Mon-Sun)
Strollers: Can park strollers along the side of the store
Kids’ games: Spot the parrot in the store to receive a treat
Best time to shop: 10 am-12 pm, any day

14th Street

142 E 14th St, New York, NY 10003
Store hours: 8 am – 10 pm (Mon-Sun)
Strollers: By Captain’s Square
Kids’ games: Spot the parrot in the store to receive a treat
Best time to shop: Early morning, Wednesday or Thursday


400 Grand St. (Cellar), New York, NY 10002
Store hours: 8 am – 10 pm (Mon-Sun)
Strollers: Near elevators in the front
Kids’ games: Spot the guitar and dragon in the store to receive a treat
Best time to shop: midweek, any time


233 Spring Street, New York, NY 10013
Store hours: 8 am – 10 pm (Mon-Sun)
Strollers: Ramp near customer service
Kids’ games: Spot the NYC pigeon in the store to receive a treat
Best time to shop: 9 am-12 pm; Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

Murray Hill

200 E 32nd St, New York, NY 10016
Store hours: 8 am – 10 pm (Mon-Sun)
Strollers: Customer Service Desk
Kids’ games: Spot the lobster in the store to receive a treat
Best time to shop: Early morning, midweek


675 6th Ave, New York, NY 10010
Store hours: 8 am – 10 pm (Mon-Sun)
Strollers: Front desk
Kids’ games: N/A (sad face)
Best time to shop: Early morning, every day

72nd & Broadway

2073 Broadway, New York, NY 10023
Store hours: 8 am – 10 pm (Mon-Sun)
Strollers: They accommodate at the front
Kids’ games: N/A (sad face)
Best time to shop: Early morning, midweek


9030 Metropolitan Ave, Rego Park, NY 11374
Store hours: 8 am – 10 pm (Mon-Sun)
Strollers: Against windows
Kids’ games: N/A (sad face)
Best time to shop: Mid-morning, midweek

Upper West Side

670 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10025
Store hours: 8 am – 10 pm (Mon-Sun)
Strollers: Along the flowers
Kids’ games: N/A (sad face)
Best time to shop: Early morning

Now that you have all the insider tips, you can tackle your family grocery shopping trip to get exactly what you need! Food shopping in the City doesn’t have to be difficult after all.


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