Target Is Better than Trader Joe’s, and I’ll Fight Anyone Who Says Otherwise

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: From Left to Right: EQRoy/Shuttertock; Carina Romano/Apartment Therapy)

When I went to college, I became somewhat of a Trader Joe’s snob. Truthfully, I cringe to even say those words. Having grown up in suburban Pennsylvania where Wegmans was the height of fanciness, I found an easily accessible Trader Joe’s to be a legitimate luxury, so much so that I became a total devotee to the temple of brandless, often organic, inexpensive products.

Every Friday I’d toss a reusable shopping bag (another novelty at the time) into my school bag and walk the half-mile from my university’s Washington, D.C. campus to TJ’s after my Journalism 101 class. I raved about the trail mix, became loyal to the frozen vegetable stir-fry, and reveled in the protein bar selections. It became a family joke when I went home to visit my parents: “Sorry, we don’t have a Trader Joe’s for you here.”

See? I was kind of a snob.

While I’ve continued to shop at Trader Joe’s, my attitude toward the store has mellowed. In more recent years, my status as a regular TJ’s shopper is largely a matter of convenience and affordability, rather than blind devotion to a vague lifestyle built around quirky groceries.

A few months ago, though, my husband and I moved to a new apartment. Rather than being three blocks from a Trader Joe’s — the sole supermarket in the area — like our old place, this one is two blocks from a new high-rise complex that houses both a TJ’s and a Target. And while I tried to stick faithfully to my beloved Trader Joe’s when we first moved, I’ve found myself steadily drifting to the other side, finding more and more excuses to do my grocery shopping at Target instead.

Look, I’m not saying that I’m a full convert — I’m not ready to go that far — but there are a few things about Target that are just fundamentally better than Trader Joe’s, and I’m comfortable arguing that point with anyone who says otherwise.

6 Reasons Target Is Better than Trader Joe’s

1. You can find all the name brands.

Yes, Trader Joe’s lack of branded products means lower prices and a more straightforward inventory, but now and then a girl just wants to buy some Jell-O or Progresso soup. And as cleaner, healthier brands become more mainstream and more easily available at large chains like Target, I find I still have a sizable selection of good-for-me options among the so-called “junk” food that’s also sold there.

2. The baking section is much better.

Maybe I’ve just lived near Trader Joe’s with especially lame baking aisles, but as someone who finds baking to be the best-ever stress reliever, I was excited to find the baking section at Target to be a major step up. Now, I can choose from a wider range of alternative flours, baking mixes, cake decor, and more. Stop by my apartment for cupcakes anytime. We can go to Target together afterwards.

(Image credit: Heather McClees)

3. It’s kind of nice to have options.

At the height of my Trader Joe’s snobbery, the simplicity of the TJ’s inventory was a huge selling point. I loved the ease of beelining through the aisles, grabbing items off the shelves without having to consider various options based on their prices, ingredient lists, and more. Now I find it refreshing to mosey through my Target supermarket with a choice of multiple products within each category. Maybe this means I’m now fully adulting?

(Image credit: Target)

4. Target’s private-label brands are nothing to sneeze at.

For as much as people rave about the snacks, cool ingredients, and interesting finds at Trader Joe’s (from its own in-house brands), they should at least give half of that same amount of attention to Target. Target has Market Pantry, Archer Farms, and Simply Balanced — and the offerings are comparable to Trader Joe’s. Take these Parmesan Cheese Puff Pastry Wrapped Mini Dogs, for example. Or any of the trail mix options! Or these rolled tortilla chips! You get the point.

More on Target’s Private-Label Groceries

5. Target has self check-out.

Maybe your Trader Joe’s is more tech-savvy than mine, or maybe your Target has yet to adapt to the self check-out trend, but in my case, the latter has adopted the technology and the former has not. Self check-out is hardly a perfect science, but it can seriously cut back on the time it takes to grocery shop … and couldn’t we all use a little more time?

6. Target (obviously) has way more than just groceries.

It doesn’t hurt to have a one-stop shop. I try not to make a habit of browsing other sections of Target when I’m there for groceries unless it’s actually necessary, but hey — if I do need to stock up on candles or restock on nail polish or find the perfect picture frame to finish styling the bookshelf in my family room, it doesn’t hurt to have all of those items on the other side of the store.