Nerd consensus: the hype is worth it.
The main reason we love Trader Joe’s is that it is cheaper than other grocery stores in our area, for pretty much the same stuff. TJ’s doesn’t market, do coupons, or shout brand names from the roof top, but a lot of the times there’s actually brand name stuff behind the TJ’s labels–just for WAY less. A box of the same cereal in Kansas City costs $2 at Trader Joe’s and $5 at our neighborhood grocery store. It makes a huge difference in our overal food bill.
We also love that, even though it’s an extra 10 minute drive for us to get there, the small size of the store makes the overal trip shorter, even with the 20 extra minutes of drive time. We do not love shopping in this family, so that’s a major plus. I don’t have to wander down 20 isles filled with 60 different kinds of crackers. It speeds things up considerably. Sometimes fewer choices are good. It’s rare that they don’t have everything we need (We need yeast more than just around the holidays!), but we generally only have to shop elsewhere about once a month to pick up extras, but mostly TJ’s has everything we need.
Additional plus: it’s super kid friendly. Eliza loves “finding the walrus,” there are kid-sized carts, employees engage the kids and treat them like people. In other words, it’s not a nightmare to take them. And that is a big deal.
There is a lot of TJ brand stuff that is really awesome, but mostly we get boring stuff: cheese, raw almonds, yogurt, cereal, soy sauce, that sort of thing. But they do have a few Trader Joe’s brand things that are irresistible and are worth raving about. Here are a few of our favorites:
// Jonas loves Freeze Dried Banana Slices, which he calls banana cookies. // My go-to coffee is Free Trade Organic Five Country Espresso. I love that the coffee is strong enough to hold up to the large amount of milk I add in, but isn’t as bitter as many strong coffees are. The coffee snob in me HATES that it’s called espresso: espresso is made through the process forcing a small amount of nearly boiling water under pressure through finely ground coffee beans and does not refer to the strength of the bean itself. But I’ll get over it. That know-it-all thought just pops into my head every time I pick it up. // Double Creme Brie. Need I say more? // TJ’s non-condensed Creamy Tomato Soup is seriously the best tomato soup I’ve ever had. Best friend to grilled cheese. // Dark Chocolate Carmel Bars with Black Sea Salt: I’d eat a whole bar myself everyday if they were in the house. So I only allow myself to buy one a week. I’m so in love. Salt might seem weird in chocolate, but if you’re a dark chocolate lover you won’t want to miss this. // A recent favorite for all of us is Pork Gyoza Potstickers with Gyoza Dipping Sauce. They are delicious and satisfy our Po’s Dumpling Bar cravings when going out to eat isn’t in the cards. // Pineapple salsa is a favorite snack. I ate a lot of it when I was going through soda withdraw and needed something sweet. // The Mac and Cheese. Oh, the mac and cheese. I’m quite certain that there’s no frozen mac and cheese out there that can even come close to comparing. We pretty much buy one for lunches every week. It’s dangerous. You’ve been warned. // I forgot to put in a picture of this, but I love their Dishwasher Detergent. // Also worth mentioning and needing a warning: frozen chocolate filled croissants. //
*Not everything about Trader Joe’s is great. They are accused of mislabeling products to mislead consumers, not putting proper warning labels on meat containing antibiotics and lead in candy, and haven’t announced if they’ve ment their promised deadline for carrying sustainable seafood. Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, points out in his speech “Where Does Your Food Come From” that the distance organic produce travels–especially to Trader Joe’s–makes it a problematic choice. We are trying to buy the majority of our produce from our local farmer’s market and are filling in the gaps at Trader Joe’s. These things might be nit-picking for some of you, but they might be things some of you REALLY care about, so I like to try to give a whole-picture view as best I can.
Do you have Trader Joe’s favorites?