The Top 4 Grocery Stores for Free Samples

updated May 1, 2019
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Some families go to houses of worship on weekends. Some spend the day with loved ones, cuddling on the couch or playing touch football.

My family goes grocery shopping at the store that offers the best samples. We love samples and I’m willing to bet we’re not alone. The question is, where are the best samples? Where are samples most frequently offered? If you’re equidistant from a Trader Joe’s and a Whole Foods, this could be the difference between a womp-womp grocery trip and high-fiving your way to sample heaven.

Here are some of our favorite stores and what they have to offer the sample connoisseur in your family. I’ve included the pros and cons of each grocery store so you can make up your mind on where to go.

1. Costco

Pros: King of samples.

Did you want to try some BBQ pork? How about some trail mix? A wedge of brie, some organic coffee, or a frozen egg roll fried in front of your very eyes? Costco is the place for you. The sheer variety will astound you.

Cons: Must have membership.

Yeah, it’s pay to play. You have to purchase a yearly membership in order to get access to the bulk paper towels, store-brand granola, and plethora of freshly baked goods. It’s worth it.

(Image credit: @wholefoods/ Instagram)

2. Whole Foods

Pros: Excellent customer service.

Did you want to try some of that imported speck? How about that truffle-infused cheese made upstate? Ask and your wish is (usually) their command. Don’t ask to dig into a tub of ice cream, but if you want to see if those blood oranges are really juicy, just ask a staff member to cut into one for you.

Cons: Pricey.

They don’t call it whole paycheck for nothing. Free samples aside, this might not be the place you want to frequent if you’re watching your dollars or are short on rent that month (although there are some good deals to be found).

(Image credit: Rob Wilson)

3. Publix

Pros: Cult items.

The subs. The cakes. The cult that is Publix. It’s hard to tell if the food here is really as great as people say it is, but everyone walking around the store is so damn happy it’s impossible not to feel that same infectious joy. The cake won’t always be on sample, but the soft iced cookies are delicious.

Cons: Standard samples.

This isn’t necessarily the place you’re going to find preserved lemon baba ganoush sourced from Lebanon or single-origin chocolate-covered espresso beans harvested by Tibetan monks. You’re going to find the good staples and, depending on where you are, a good selection of region-specific foods (the Publix in Naples, FL, has a pretty great Latin American section).

(Image credit: @christensenemma)

4. Trader Joes

Pros: Every day is sample day.

Literally, every day. There is a specific station handing out samples of soup, French toast, cured ham, and any other number of things you might crave from your friend, the Trader. The samples change every day and many stores also have a coffee station so you can get your afternoon pick-me-up while you snack.

Cons: Ever-changing stock.

Don’t get too hooked on what you tried yesterday morning because Trader Joe’s is notorious for mixing it up and discontinuing even favorite products. Here today, gone tomorrow — much to the chagrin of those who loved the grocery store chain’s frozen Mexican mini quiches, Balti chicken pies, and African smoke seasoning grinder. Easy come, easy go.

What are your favorite grocery stores to visit for samples? Let us know in the comments.