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Five Reasons To Love Trader Joe’s

April 1, 2014   60 Comments

Snack Girl has been reticent to write about Trader Joe’s because many of you can’t get to one easily.

Trader Joes

For example, I have heard that people drive down from VERMONT to shop at my Trader Joe's. Vermont, hang in there, because TJ's is coming to South Burlington soon.

I don’t like featuring a product or store that isn’t everywhere, but I am going to make an exception. Why? There may be people who live near one of these and have never been in one.

First, what is Trader Joe’s? It is a smaller grocery store with food that is mostly private labeled (Trader Joe’s brand). The food tends to be healthier, tastier, and less costly than a regular supermarket. Do not get me started on Whole Foods because TJ’s is about half the cost of that bank account sucking store.

When I first starting visiting Trader Joe’s, it was because of advice from my doctor. My diet of leftover Chinese food was leading to a spike in cholesterol and he wanted me to eat healthy so I checked it out.

TJ’s seemed more like a cool place to hang out than a store. People were handing out samples, and neighbors were blocking the aisles talking about the latest in goat cheese. I was hooked.

Here are the top five reasons I keep going back:

  • The quality of the food is high (tasty and usually healthy) and the prices are low compared to most items in my supermarket.
  • TJ’s stocks frozen fish and other frozen meats that are easy for me to store and use when needed.
  • There are fewer choices on the shelf so it saves me time. For example, I don’t have to look at 40 brands of peanut butter to choose the best one.
  • Coca-Cola, Doritos, Pepsi, Snickers, Oreos, Lucky Charms (among others) are not sold there. I don’t have to avoid the end of the aisles that may result in an impulse purchase.
  • I don’t need a value card or other such nonsense to get a deal.

There are downsides. For example, TJ’s doesn’t stock everything so I end up going to two stores and there are foods that are very high calorie (1600 calorie salad anyone?). I doubt there will ever be a store where you don’t have to review the nutrition facts label.

Below I have listed a Trader Joe's cookbook which is a brilliant source if you shop there a lot. There are plenty of great recipes that feature what TJ's stocks.

What do you think of Trader Joe’s? What are your favorite items?


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The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook: 150 Delicious Recipes Using Only Foods from the World's Greatest Grocery Store

The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook: 150 Delicious Recipes Using Only Foods from the World's Greatest Grocery Store

  $41.98 Buy on Amazon.com

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60 Comments:

Before trashing Whole Foods, think what it has done for the organic foods movement...then think of what that means to the farmworkers and consumers of the world...I'm just sayin'.

on April 1, 2014

TJ's has been my favorite since my first visit to the L.A. store in 1995. Many years later we got one here in Baltimore and now we have several. I will not patronize Whole Foods for the very reason Lisa mentions. When I need milk chocolate for my baked goods TJ'ss Pounder Plus is the best out there. Another favorite are their Ginger Pear White Tea bags. Great service and Paper Shopping Bags with handles! Spread the word...

on April 1, 2014

The nearest trader joes for me is three hours away. There is no store on the planet that I'll drive that far for to buy tea bags. I doubt I'll ever see the inside of one unless I move away from southeast Kansas.

on April 1, 2014

You guys must not have a Wegmans.

We have both, and Wegmans beats Trader Joe's on nearly everything. (Not everything. Nearly.) Best produce ever, store brand much less expensive options, all KINDS of information and food about eating healthy..

on April 1, 2014

Don't forget that if you buy something and don't like it, you can return it. Yes, return it, even if you simply don't like the taste of it! The customer service is phenomenal- at least at my store. I am hooked on TJ's and feel bad for those that don't have access to one. They have the best prices on quality cheese. I shop there every week!

on April 1, 2014

Pam, Wegmans came in #1 in grocery stores with Trader Joe's #2 and Publix #3. We don't have a Wegmans down here in SW FL, but I wish so I can check it out. With that being said, I love Trader Joe's. I don't get to go there much, as it is an hour from where I live, and the traffic this time of year down here makes it a miserable 2 to 3 hour trip or so. So about once a month off season, I make the trip to Trader Joe's cause I love it that much.

on April 1, 2014

I love Trader Joes, but I think you're too quick to dump on Whole Foods. Yes, some of their stuff is ridiculously priced but I can consistently get nuts, Earth Balance (and other weird vegan items) and other goodies for a better price than the grocery or Trader Joes--assuming TJs even has the item in stock! It can be such a crap shoot at TJs and they don't carry everything reliably. Plus, WF and TJs both pay their employees a decent wage. I can't help but want to support stores that practice fair pay. Both have their merits and neither are magical stores of health and happiness!

on April 1, 2014

Love Trader Joes! It is only about 20 min from where I live & I should go more. They do have great cheeses & frozen fish items. I love their red pepper/eggplant spread -- yummy & good for you. They also have delicious Gorgonzola crackers - not so healthy, but still yummy. The frozen brown rice is a great way do make healthy rice in 3 minutes. Plus, always friendly & their Fearless Flyer is fun to read. I have to plan a trip!

on April 1, 2014

There are still plenty of junk food options at trader joe's, IMO. Beware the impulse buy of the candy and junk food they stock. And the wine!!

on April 1, 2014

It's amazing how quick all of you ladies are to protect your favorite food store. But I think Snack Girl was just trying to get some info out there for those who have never been to a TJs before. Where I live we have almost every fresh food organic market you can think of. Except for a Wegmans. That being said, I don't think anyone was "trashing" Whole Foods.

I've been to one..... once. It's not the only store that sells organic. Nowadays you can buy organic everywhere you look. I'm sure that makes the farmers very happy. But, if you look around out of WF, you can find a lot of the same items for less. Warehouse stores like Costco sell many organic items in bulk. I too read labels and nutrition facts and want the best product for the best price. I think we are very fortunate to live in a country that provides such a variety. I shop at many different grocery stores in order to get the best deal. My sister and I make a day out of it. Throw in some lunch and its a wonderful outing! Thank you Snack Girl for mentioning TJs and thanks to the rest for all your comments. I love my shopping days with my sister. Maybe you all should try going with a friend some time. Try out a new store once in a while. You would be amazed at how much fun and interesting each store is, individually.

on April 1, 2014

I have been a faithful Trader Joe's shopper for 15 years. Yes, I do need to hit another store for occasional items, and usually around the holidays for something odd that goes in a favorite recipe...but I honestly would never consider doing my regular shopping anyplace else.

on April 1, 2014

Check out foodbabe.com for her take on Trader Joes.

on April 1, 2014

For the most part, we shop primarily at Harris Teeter. But, my sister does like to go to TJ for cheese. They have a good selection at better prices.

I have found that Whole Foods carries items in bulk I can't get at other stores. Some of the items I can get at other stores are actually cheaper at Whole Foods. And when I can't get to the farmers' market for eggs, they carry my next favorite pastured eggs. We also shop at Lowes Foods, The Fresh Market, and Sams. It all depends on what we need and who has the best quality and value.

on April 1, 2014

Everything is too expensive.

on April 1, 2014

I, too, love Trader Joe's. I always finish at the cash register feeling it was money well spent for the value/quality. One of my favorite ploys is to watch other shoppers and see what they take off the shelf without studying the product. I realize they've already used the item in their house and it's a given that it's a good item. This observation has introduced me to try several of TJ's sauces or some unusual food I might not have tried. Also, most shoppers there are very friendly and love to talk about their staple choices.

on April 1, 2014

I love TJs and am so happy to have them close to work and home (Former WA resident now in NC, y'all). I have a gluten sensitivity, and the gluten free options, while still pricey, are not as bad as at other places.

Plus, it's a foodie's paradise! Choosing among the multitude of cheeses at TJ's makes me feel like a kid in a candy store!

on April 1, 2014

LOVE TJ's sunflower seed butter with the bright yellow top…just need a spoon!!!!!

on April 1, 2014

LOVE LOVE TJs! A group of us go once a month driving almost an hour away. So worth it! The prices, the quality, organic, non gmo, tons of super healthy options for us plant based eaters!

We can get staples, non dairy, and fresh veggies and fruits all in one place! THE BEST!

on April 1, 2014

Trader Joe's moved into our area about a year ago. I love their jumbo raisins, low sodium roasted red pepper soup, mango ginger chutney and almond butter which I buy consistently and regularly. Most of those candy options near the register have become favorites with my children- they don't have any dyes in them; and I have one child that is very sensitive to food dye. I am SO thankful that TJs carries dye free treats much cheaper than WF. I still have to get a few dye free foods at WF; but Costco carries Annie's products, Pirates Booty and Welch's fruit snacks with natural colors as well as lots of other choices for dye sensitive people.

on April 1, 2014

We love TJ's and are fortunate to have one 10 min. from where we live.They do have some unique items that we are hooked on.When my husband travels, he fills up a suitcase with all the TJ staples he loves so much.

on April 1, 2014

I to love TJ's. They have a multigrain cracker (140 calories for 14 crackers) that makes a good tasting snack. The one thing I haven't found there is lactose free foods. Our Jewel Food store is the only place I can find Lactaid cottage cheese and Meyers has Lactaid ice cream which are lactose free. I love TJ's extra virgin California Estate olive oil. And I love all their different frozen vegetables.

on April 1, 2014

We got a Trader Joe here right down the road, they are less costly than the rising WH

julie

on April 1, 2014

Unfortunately Trader Joe's will not come to the Wichita Kansas area. I would drive 45 minutes to get there if they would.

on April 1, 2014

I notice that both Whole Foods and Earthfare (I live in Asheville) have become a little more competitive since Trader Joe's moved next door. And they are ridiculously expensive at our expense. I agree, that people need to make a living wage but stores can still pay people a living wage and not rip off the public.

on April 1, 2014

In Arizona we have Whole Foods, Trader Joe's AND Sprout's. You can't beat prices at Sprout's - amazing! and good quality. TJ's has fun stuff and its just a fun store to shop in.

Never freeze fish! It loses 90% of its flavor. Buy fresh! and if it smells fishy, it is not fresh!

on April 1, 2014

I absolutely LOVE Trader Joe's but was sad when ours moved a little further away. Love how they sell pre-portioned salmon (and it is delicious), they have healthy items and some that aren't (lol), their frozen food case is unreal, love everything about the store! Yes, you can't use it for some mainstream items, but for having company, or making foods that you can't find everywhere, they rock!

on April 1, 2014

The other downside of Trader Joe's is their excessive packaging. If you care about the pervasiveness of plastic in the environment, the pollution that goes into manufacturing it and disposing of it then shopping there needs to be carefully considered. Every time someone brings something to a party that's from TJs I can't believe how delicious it is. But I never shop there because I do care about the environment and TJs does not.

on April 1, 2014

The closest to me is Spokane. I go every chance I get and stock up. Have visited every where I am that they have one. Can't wait to get one here. Tho most asked for store on surveys in my area. Love Trader Joes!

on April 1, 2014

Trader Joes is such fun, my husband likes to go with me every week. We buy cheese there (Laughing Cow Lite is much better price there), also hummus, low sodium soups, spiced chai tea bags. The bagged salads are much better and cheaper than at other supermarkets. A couple ounces daily of their 100 % cranberry juice will keep bladder infections away . We love the affordability and that their merchandise is different from other stores.

on April 1, 2014

I love all of the gluten-free store brand options they have!

on April 1, 2014

My kids love their Joe's Os (Spaghetti Os). They have less sugar than the leading brand. Once on vacation I bought the other brand and neither of my kids would eat them! Gotta love their nuts in mini-packages as well. They're a great to-go snack.

on April 1, 2014

You can point out what you like about tj without trashing whole foods! Whole Foods has been a leader in the industry and helped implement new, better standards. While, they may be expensive, they are so accommodating and will order whatever I need. When they build a new store, they use products free of VOCs and other toxins. Air quality is important to them.

on April 1, 2014

I live outside of Burlington VT and have been literally counting the days until TJ's opens!! Even my kids are excited! Whenever I travel, I stock up on non-perishable items to bring home but I am really looking forward to trying many more items that are not so easily transported.

on April 1, 2014

I have shopped at Trader Joe's for about 24 years. Their best deals used to be their coffee and wine. I used to be able to get my favorite French champagne for $3 a bottle! Not anymore. Most of their other food is processed and packaged just like everywhere else. They do, however, try most of the foods and wines they sell (or used to).

Whole foods is outrageous unless you buy bulk. It is nice they pay a good wage to their employees but who do you think pays for it? We do! I am sure corporate greed has nothing to do with their prices. Any idea how much top execs make? I know and it is obscene in many cases. With that in mind, Farmer's Markets are a better option. The middle man is cut out and the products are fresh and inexpensive. We had a huge one in So. Pasadena in CA but not where I live now. Many of them have fresh cheeses and other dairy in addtion to freshly picked fruits and vegetables that haven't spent several days in a truck in changing temperatures to reach their destination or sitting on supermarket shelves spoiling the minute you get them home.

They often have pickled veggies and homemade preserves. This is the way to go and most of what you will be buying is better for you than anything supermarkets or TJ's can provide.

on April 1, 2014

I wish you had mentioned their frozen veggies. I go to TJ's about once a month and buy their organic frozen corn, peas, broccoli, and green beans (these are not organic). It makes it really easy to make sure I have a veggie to put on my kids dinner plate every day. I have two pre-schoolers so I put half a cup of frozen veggie in the microwave with a little water and presto! Also, I don't waste a lot of food because I just use the amount of frozen veggie I want.

on April 1, 2014

TJ’s has changed my life. I even did an entire video of some mashups for BuzzFeed: http://theactorsdiet.com/2014/03/02/trader-joes-hacks-video…

on April 1, 2014

Closest TJ is 1 1/2 hours, but we go when in the area. My favs are: cereal- Organic High protein high fiber O's (good price - cheaper than grocery stores); pecans - chopped and toasted - great for salads and cereals; dried cranberries; great bakery breads - favorite is French rolls - similar to German Broetchen.

By the way, the Trader Joe's cookbooks are NOT published or sponsored by TJ! I asked at the store why the book is not carried at the store and that is why. It is written by a fan of TJ!

on April 1, 2014

If you are near a MOM'S organic market, try their produce. Prices are comparable to Whole Foods, but selection and quality are better, in my opinion.

on April 1, 2014

You have just found a subject which I am passionate about. We are so very lucky to have a TJ's half an hour from our retirement community. I keep a list of all the wonderful foods we have tried and loved on the computer so when we shop we don't forget anything. Wish TJ's was right next door. Oh, I love that their peanut butter is made with just peanuts- something which is rare in any supermarket anymore. : )

on April 1, 2014

We don't have Trader Joe's here in OK, but we do have Aldi's. They also have a limited variety but the prices are so low. The produce is so fresh and they also have non food items that are very reasonable priced. I would like to see Snack Girl do a review of Aldi's!

on April 1, 2014

I too, like TJs . . my alltime favorite item is the packaged beets in the vegetable aisle. They're from France, freshly cooked, peeled and vacuum sealed. They last for months in the fridge and are DELICIOUS cold and sliced. One pkge serves 2. I stopped buying the frozen fish . . did not like the taste or that it came from China/Asia. They have good prices on eggs and dairy (they do not carry light cream). Excellent nut choices . . but you need to read the labels, not everything is healthy. Good bread choices, not so for fruits and vegetables. Always need to go to another store to complete my grocery shopping. Service people are A+

on April 1, 2014

I love Trader Joes I get everything I can there and I love their shampoo the tea tree one o\and the one that has grapefruit scent the are great clean sweet smelling hair and such a good price and last long time doesnt need as much shampoo and rinses out so nicely

on April 2, 2014

I love TJ's! For many of the same reasons you stated but I also love their fresh flowers! All winter long my dreary kitchen table has been brightened with fresh cut flowers. Where else can you spend under $5.00 for flowers that last over a week?

My favorite frozen item...the Pacific flounder stuffed with crab meat has become a staple in our house. If you haven't tried it, you must.

on April 2, 2014

2 words: Cheese and Nutz! My basic buys at TJ's. Hoping against hope for a TJ's in Lehigh Valley where Wegmans reigns BUT plenty of room for TJ's too; not really competitors. Current TJ's is over an hour away.

on April 2, 2014

T.J.'s has the BEST selection of breads out side of a bakery! We have one store here in Philadelphia, PA as well as two Whole Foods stores. I like Whole Foods for certain items (their bulk items section is great) and the stores are accessible. T.J.'s is very good for somethings (much better prices compared to WF and of course the wonderful varieties of breads). I also shop at a great Food Co Op that has even better bulk items selections much closer to where I live. I want to try Wegman's, however, the only one that I know of is in New Jersey, one day I'll try them if in that area! Choice is always nice when you can get it! Thanks Hungry Girl for the info!

on April 2, 2014

I work next door to a TJs, 99% of my shopping is there.

on April 2, 2014

We don't have a Trader Joe's in Hawaii. Do you know if they have online?

on April 2, 2014

Victoria Cary - one Arizonan to another, if you've got an AJ's Fine Foods in your area by all means check it out! They're locally owned (by the Basha family) so your money is staying in the community, and my own AJ's has a produce section half as big as my nearest <i>entire</i> Trader Joe's store.

on April 2, 2014

:( sadly in Canada (at least in AB) we don't have them :( I love TJ's

on April 3, 2014

Love TJ and WF. Go to both each week for different items. WF has the best veal florentine feta burgers. Staples each week for us at TJ: butter lettuce in the bag with the pink label, fresh chopped kale in the bag, Kaleidoscope chard in a bag, blackberries, lemons, pomegranates, grapefruit, FAT FREE FETA - not nearly as salty as others, chia seeds, flax seeds, unsalted raw cashews, almonds, and sunflower seeds, 73% Dark Chocolate covered almonds, wasabi roasted seaweed snack, Dijon mustard with white wine, red pepper spread with eggplant, red split lentils, frozen no sugar added berries, frozen edamame, cinnamon, turmeric, and pint of FAGE 0% Greek Yogurt, cheaper than anywhere else. Wish we had a Wegmans here in North Jersey - but we don't :-(

on April 3, 2014

My usual Wednesday consist of going to Trader Joe's first and then stopping at Whole Foods that is right around the corner. The 356 brands at WF are reasonable as is their bulk items. The ONLY problem I have with TJ's is I find something I love and they do away with it.

on April 4, 2014

TJs is my main store, I supplement with a little bit from other stores. They have by far the best prices on cheese, organic produce & nuts than other stores. Favorites: The nut/dried fruit in little bags already portioned, The almond & peanut butters, the baking mixes, organic salad mixes & spinach(almost all $1.99). Organic microwaveable brown rice (lifesaver), frozen foods for parties. For a super special treat...the frozen croissants that you defrost/proof overnight and bake fresh in the am. Had that for guests and they were impressed! For my celiac friend they have great gluten free products as well as dye-free candy for her kids. Also love their frozen veggies & fruits. In the fall they have a pumpkin cream cheese that is outrageously good on their mini bagels. At Christmas they have the best food gifts....beautifully packaged olive oil sets, cookies, chocolates, gourmet wines or hand lotions. Great for quick gifts! Love me some TJs. We are lucky in California they are in most major cities.

on April 7, 2014

I'm one of those people that hits 3 or more grocers/markets each week, and TJ's is always my first stop, with Whole Foods being last. Whole Foods is very pricey, especially compared to TJ's, but they carry so many things I simply can't find anywhere else (anyone trying xylitol out there?). I love the TJ prices on organics, especially produce and meat, and I get lost in the cheese cooler every time. I love their olive oil, coconut oil, pure maple syrup, and the brown rice blend with barley & daikon radish seeds, YUM! As mentioned, there are also booby traps -- a whole aisle of chocolate-covered anything you can imagine. My weakness is the chocolate-covered frozen banana slices (Gone Bananas!) -- my kids and I make our own now for a treat. TJ's are still better but mine are way cheaper! The holidays are even worse, when they have stacks of Cocoa Truffles and Chocolate Stars everywhere!

on April 12, 2014

I love Trader Joe's. I buy almonds and cashews that come packaged in individual serving size packages in a big bag. It's call "just a handful". It let's me eat nuts while helping me control my portions. They also have great frozen vegetables and fish as well as many other things. But my home is never without the nuts!

on April 15, 2014

My coworkers are fanatics! There is not and will not be according to Trader Joe's one placed in my county...

on May 8, 2014

When we were in Calif for a wedding, we finally got to see tj's. I loved it. And even bought fresh Lavender and took it home. We bought some items to also take home in our suitcases. I am happy to say that Ft Lauderdale, Fl will be getting their own Tj. Maybe in 6 months or less. Speaking of whole foods, I went there to buy Freekeh. And they didn't have it, but they had a nasty female ?MANAGER? and she was so rude that I reported her to the head guy. They now have Freekeh and the head guy called to tell me about it. But I ordered it on line instead. I have not returned to that store since! ...so I will wait for tj's, thanks so much.

on May 21, 2014

I am one of those that do not have a TJ anywhere close to my house. So when I go back home for a visit I stock up and all my friends give me their list too. The top thing on my list and everyone else is their coffee. It's cheaper than the other gourmet coffee and taste even better. My other all time favorite is the TJ Bruschetta on their Asiago bread, very yummy for a quick lunch. My daughter loves their chocolate chips, we add a little to our trail mix. Not to mention the $3 Chuck wine.

on May 21, 2014

We are really spoiled in Columbia MD-in addition to all the "regular" chains, we also have TJ's, Wegman's, Mom's and we're getting a Whole Foods-all within about 15 minutes of my house!

I go to Mom's most bc it is small, easy-in-and-out, and they carry almost everything I can eat on my severely restricted diet. Wegman's is the best for selection and pricing, just overwhelming sometimes. TJ's is small but too hectic, and not having the gluten-free stuff together just makes shopping too hard. They DO have great prices on produce though, and I love their plastic clamshell "guacamole kit" for like 3.99. Includes tomatoes, avocados, limes, onion, garlic and jalapeno. Can't beat it. Also their circulars are the best out there. I hold onto them for the stories, food ideas and more.

on May 30, 2014

I just discovered a whole new reason to love Trader Joe's: cocoa almond butter that is just about like Nutella, but 1,000 times tastier thanks to the chocolately, roasted almond aftertaste!

I also love their "Mid-summer night's cream" unscented lotion, thick enough to really moisturize but not so greasy it messes up your clothes if you slather it on before getting dressed. And their pet food. And shelled edamame for the kid. And frozen seafood. And international wine selection. And coffee. And natural blueberry pop-tarts. And restaurant-quality ready-to-go salads for a too-busy day. And flowers & greeting cards!

on September 17, 2014

Pot stickers are the best! With some Sriracha and Rice Vinegar, Yumm!

on September 18, 2014


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