Here's What You Need To Know About The Food At TJ Maxx

Whether it's a designer handbag from last season or a comfortable new pair of name-brand sneakers, TJ Maxx has just about everything you could be looking for at a discount. But what about groceries? Surely you've wandered the home goods section just to find a random bag of heart-shaped pasta or a single jar of artisanal, seasonal jam. Perhaps a package of spirulina caught your eye. But if regular ketchup is on your shopping list, you know you likely won't find it here. So what's the deal with these other strange products left askew on a few shelves in the back corner of TJ Maxx?

It turns out TJ Maxx actually thrives on its weird, wonderful collection of food items. There really is a method to the madness. Whether you have questions about sourcing or what to expect to find on your next trip, here's what you should know about the eccentric foods you'll find at TJ Maxx.

TJ Maxx relies on FOMO

FOMO, or the fear of missing out, describes the feeling of wanting to be part of something before it's over or gone. TJ Maxx capitalizes on this phenomenon by sourcing limited quantities of seemingly random products to keep consumers coming back for more.

According to David Bell, former marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, the fact that the store regularly runs out of items puts pressure on the consumer. Simplemost explains that with a smaller quantity of each product, it seems as though there is always a demand. Shoppers are encouraged to make a purchase right away or lose out on the deal. It might not be there on their next visit. Even a lap around the store could be enough time for someone else to snatch up the last of a product.

Plus, this keeps customers coming back because they'll just never know what they might find that they didn't know they needed.

The food items are typically made specifically for TJ Maxx

Although TJ Maxx does stock overstock or unsold items in its clothing and accessory departments, its food products are often made specifically for the retailer. Andy Oliver, president of Braswells, explained to Bon Appétit, "They want top quality. I don't think people realize it's not blowout stuff. You're manufacturing for them." That means that you're not getting knock-off or low-quality food when you decide to show in a TJ Maxx food aisle.

But wouldn't selling to a discount store cheapen a brand? Not necessarily. In fact, many brands are happy to do business with TJ Maxx because the company is reliable. Maggie Lange of Bon Appétit explains, "There's some hesitation on the part of food manufacturers to sell to a store known for discounts, but TJ Maxx is reliable, both in a high volume and in their payments."

TJ Maxx purposely chooses random, weird items

As part of its "treasure hunt shopping experience," TJ Maxx stocks unique items, especially when it comes to food. Most people aren't going to run to TJ Maxx for a jar of traditional marinara — that's what the grocery store is for. But by stocking items that are hard to find anywhere else, plus limiting the quantity available, TJ Maxx creates what Hidden Brain host Shankar Vedantam calls a "sense of scarcity."

Vendantam said, "Companies have known for a long time, if you provide people with the sense there's an infinite supply of whatever they're buying, for some products that will drive down the demand: Why do I buy this today, I can buy this tomorrow?"

Even a single jar of regular marinara on a shelf isn't going to urge someone to make a purchase before it's gone. But five bottles of beautifully packaged truffle-infused olive oil will certainly make a passerby stop to consider a purchase. Because if they don't grab it now, it might be gone before the end of the week.

TJ Maxx products are often cheaper than buying them elsewhere ...

Some products that TJ Maxx sells can be found at other retailers, but TJ Maxx can sell them at lower prices. Bon Appétit writer Maggie Lange spoke to multiple brands that all said TJ Maxx buys merchandise in large quantities but will often ask for mixed cases of product. This makes sense because TJ Maxx doesn't want too much of any one particular product. This way, TJ Maxx can keep quantities of specific flavors low while also benefiting from bulk pricing discounts. As such, TJ Maxx can pass those savings on to the customer. What's not to love about that?

The company also prides itself on its simple design and shopping experience. "Our lean, no-frills way of working helps us pass spectacular savings onto you," TJ Maxx explains. "So, don't expect fancy extras in our stores — just amazing merchandise at fantastic prices."

... But TJ Maxx's vendors are kept top-secret

TJ Maxx has a team of buyers that scour the globe for unique items that it can buy for a discount or in bulk to then transfer savings to consumers. But where it finds these funky, innovative brands is kept a secret. In a Bon Appétit article, Maggie Lange wrote, "Every manufacturer I spoke to said that TJ Maxx orders a high quantity from their sources so they can buy at the lowest price. TJ Maxx, sadly, guards their sourcing like a trade secret and declined to comment for this story."

TJ Maxx is transparent about how it acquires its inventory, stating, "We take advantage of a wide variety of opportunities, which can include department store cancellations, a manufacturer making up too much product, or a closeout deal when a vendor wants to clear merchandise at the end of a season. These are just some of the ways we bring you tremendous value." But its sources are part of the store's success, so it keeps that information private. The company doesn't want you finding all this great stuff somewhere else, after all.

You'll find many healthy and organic options at TJ Maxx

Sure, you probably won't run into TJ Maxx with a list for gluten-free crackers, chia seeds, and organic dried fruit and expect to find everything there right where you need it. But that doesn't mean you won't find those things on your trip! TJ Maxx often offers fun, hard-to-find specialty grocery items that are healthy to boot. Grab that bag of spirulina from an end cap to add to smoothies. Pick up a package of kale chips to munch while you are on the go. And don't forget the dark chocolate by the register as a better-for-you dessert option.

Like its designer clothing and accessories, the specialty health and organic foods you'll find at TJ Maxx are often trendy and up-to-speed with what you'll find all over your Instagram feed. So if you see something that piques your interest, grab it here at the discounted rate. You might be surprised at all of the healthful goods you can find at TJ Maxx — often for much less than they cost anywhere else.

You can't get TJ Maxx food items online

The internet has made it easier than ever to get anything you could possibly need with just the click of a button. But if you want that jar of artisanal spicy mustard from TJ Maxx, you'll have to drive to the store and find it among the messy shelves. As another key component to creating contrived scarcity and playing hard to get, TJ Maxx does not sell its selection of food items on its website.

You can purchase discounted designer purses, seasonal home decor, pots and pans, and even makeup and skincare at TJ Maxx's online shop. But not even a package of pasta or bag of sea salt chocolate is available on the website. The thrill remains in the chase — and keeps TJ Maxx shrouded in mystery. Plus, you might just be more tempted to purchase more in the store, especially knowing you won't find those unique gourmet products online, either.

You can get great deals on gourmet foods at TJ Maxx

To get the most bang for your buck, shop for gourmet foods at TJ Maxx. You probably shouldn't stop by with specific items in mind, but take some time to wander the food aisles to see what you can find there. You can be sure you'll encounter some high-end items at excellent prices.

In an interview with Business Insider, shopping expert Michelle Madhok explained that you can find some of the best bargain prices on gourmet and specialty foods, including manuka honey, truffle salt, and infused olive oils. Stock up and stash these items away to show off at your next dinner party.

The gourmet finds extend past pantry staples too. You can find everything from gourmet popcorn to artisanal crackers, shaped pastas and even designer cake mixes along the purposefully disorganized shelves. And these items all retail at significant discounts compared to similar items found at other retailers and grocery stores. Even if you don't think you'll eat that box of designer cake mix, it's smart to grab it anyway. Gourmet foods make great gifts, and it's even sweeter at a discount.

Starbucks, Dunkin', and other top coffee brands are sold at a discount at TJ Maxx

Any coffee lover knows that those morning (and afternoon) cups of coffee and espresso can get expensive. It's much more cost-effective to get your caffeine from home, but even store-bought coffee beans can be pricey, especially from name brands like Starbucks and Dunkin'.

Luckily, TJ Maxx carries these favorites and other unique coffee finds at steep discounts. According to The Kitchn, TJ Maxx is great for finding deals on popular coffee brands and K-cup varieties. It is especially convenient to grab some while you're there, even if you're at the store for something else entirely. Taste of Home also praised the store's selection of specialty coffees: "From cinnamon roll to banana nut bread to plain espresso, TJ Maxx has entire shelves dedicated to bags of beans and flavored syrups."

Especially as fall comes around and more people look for pumpkin spice drinks, TJ Maxx should be your new go-to, as you'll find pumpkin-flavored coffee and syrups as well as all the autumnal mugs to complement your seasonal brew.

TJ Maxx's discounted foods can be a sore spot for other major retailers

Although TJ Maxx doesn't totally rely on overstocked food items from other stores, it does occasionally sell the same brands that you can find at other major retailers. It's not uncommon to find a fancy pasta sauce for a fraction of the cost compared to the same sauce at Williams-Sonoma. This can be an annoyance to other retailers selling the same product at full price.

Anyone who has shopped at TJ Maxx is familiar with its "Compare At" price tags. As TJ Maxx explains on its website, "Prices vary among other sellers and change over time, but our buying staff's goal is always to provide you with a useful comparison based on prices at which we believe substantial sales of the same or a similar item have been made at full-price department or specialty retailers in the area or online."

But according to Dan Gross of Dangold, other retailers aren't fans of this comparison pricing. "Williams-Sonoma, Macy's, some lines don't like to see product in other places," Gross told Bon Appétit.