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General Discussion => Welcome and General Discussion => Topic started by: tag on June 10, 2013, 06:20:23 PM

Title: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: tag on June 10, 2013, 06:20:23 PM
Huge selection of packaged goods. The bell peppers that were selling for a crazy deal the other day were the smallest peppers I had ever seen (priced per pepper). Their bananas are always .19 but that is per banana. No other grocery store I've shopped at sells bananas per banana. Just felt like tricky pricing to me. "Organic" cookies are still cookies and are still processed. Same goes with all of their TJ brand frozen meals. I think people think anything with the name Trader Joes on it is healthy.

I don't get it.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: jrhampt on June 10, 2013, 06:24:40 PM
Finally, I am not alone!  Yes, I have no idea why people love Trader Joe's and claim it is cheap.  It really isn't.  Maybe compared to Whole Paycheck, it is, but certainly not compared to anything else.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Eric on June 10, 2013, 06:32:36 PM
I don't get it either.  Other than the 2 Buck Chuck.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: tag on June 10, 2013, 06:36:21 PM
Somebody there did a great job building their reputation.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: footenote on June 10, 2013, 06:38:09 PM
Ridiculous pricing exceeded only by Whole Paycheck. You are not alone.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: innkeeper77 on June 10, 2013, 06:45:25 PM
The trader joes I have been to (in Chicago) had some good deals on meat- only slightly more expensive per pound than walmart, jewel, etc, but far nicer tasting, and organic. However, most of the packaged crap is extremely expensive, and I have never bought any.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: dragoncar on June 10, 2013, 07:55:39 PM
Trader joes is great for certain items.  Alcohol, grass fed beef, frozen veggies, frozen berries, and fancier cheese in my case.  Other people live it for the tasty, reasonably priced prepackaged food and snacks (I don't get those).

The frozen broccoli is about the same price as Safeway, but higher quality.  They tend to have more specialty foods cheap.  Coconut oil and California olive oil for example. 

Are you guys in California?  I think we tend to get the best deals here.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Worsted Skeins on June 10, 2013, 08:03:53 PM
I buy ingredients as opposed to processed food. TJs may have organic stuff, but a lot of it is processed.  There are great farms near where I live and a long growing season so in general I find grocery store produce to be less than desirable.

Every once in a while I stop at Trader Joe's for nuts.  That is about it for me.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Frugal_in_DC on June 10, 2013, 08:26:07 PM
I don't get it either. A lot of processed stuff in pretty packages and the bells get on my nerves. I can get basic staples for much less elsewhere without the crowds. I go to TJ's mainly because they have the best price on Weetabix cereal and for some of the wines featured in their Fearless Flyers.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Jamesqf on June 10, 2013, 10:03:28 PM
The thing I like about Trader Joe's is that I can get stuff there that I seldom if ever see anywhere else, as for instance their cherry cider (which I love).  But I wouldn't buy my ordinary groceries there.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: jamccain on June 10, 2013, 10:34:31 PM
I love to hate them because I have TWO within a mile of me here in LA and I can't go to either because of the points mentioned.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Christof on June 10, 2013, 10:37:11 PM
ALDI has 50 years experience in painting an image of high quality offerings for a really low price. Kind of a Robin Hood image even though the two owners are the richest persons in Germany and are not known for donating anything to charity (TBH, they might just not talk about it).
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: binkley on June 10, 2013, 10:44:55 PM
TJ's has just been part of the background the entire time I've lived in California.  They have a limited selection of good quality products, at mostly good prices - certainly cheaper than Whole Foods, competitive with Safeway (and better quality), but not as cheap as Costco. I get lunch meat, dairy products and snacks there, occasionally beer and wine.  Are they hyped as something more special in other parts of the country?
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: zinnie on June 10, 2013, 11:24:37 PM
Their produce is generally a rip off. So is prepackaged food, but when is that ever not?

We have staples we always get there because they beat our grocery store. Big tubs of hummus, good marinara sauce for the same price as a can of crushed tomatoes, sprouted bread, canned corn, nuts and raisins, butter, big jugs of olive oil, wine, crackers, whole milk mozzarella, dark chocolate. I'm sure there is more I'm forgetting...

Their quality has gone down over the years, I've noticed, but they still have some good deals. For lazy nights, we keep a tray of their roasted veggie lasagna in the freezer. $5.50 and it feeds my husband and I dinner two nights in a row and one lunch of leftovers.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Bigote on June 11, 2013, 02:29:03 AM
I'm a fan, but for select items.   And pricing I suppose is relative, here in NYC they are much cheaper than most other options.

Produce - hit or miss.  A couple things I like there are the leeks (very uniform length of the yummy white part) and the haricot vert, which are good and inexpensive.  I also buy their bananas.  But that's about it unless I'm just being lazy - we have a fabulous geen grocer who is generally higher quality and has good prices.

Bread - I like one of their breads and we eat it every day.  Their ciabatta rolls are good and I usually keep a supply of them in the freezer.

Dairy - the real reason to go there.  Organic milk much cheaper than I can find anywhere else in the neighborhood.  Eggs are also less expensive.

Meats, fish - not so much.  We have a fabulous butcher and fish monger close by.





Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: ScienceRules on June 11, 2013, 03:14:14 AM
To be contrary... I like TJ's. I think it can be really great for some things and certain situations. Growing up, my parents didn't really cook and I'd get home super late from swim practice. TJ's prepackaged food gave me an okay dinner option that wasn't very expensive. Their turkey chili or corn chowder would last me two meals and they are only $2 and 3.29(?) each. When I got a little older (haha, 21) TJ's was great during my first year of marriage. My husband and I can share a frozen orange chicken for a dinner and lunch. It was a great way to save time and to figure out things we both like (I didn't like Sichuan food, and my husband doesn't like bread, cheese, or pasta). Now that I actually learned to cook (at 23) I don't rely on TJ's very much, but it's still nice to have the option of healthier, not expensive prepackaged food when I'm super rushed (ie, finals week). 
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: NumberCruncher on June 11, 2013, 06:57:42 AM
We rarely shop there, but when we do, we often get some of the prepackaged food for those nights we get home really late and just want to heat something up on the stove quick - like the vegetable biryani and other foods you normally don't see at grocery stores. Yeah, it's expensive, but it's better and lower priced than other comparable things we could get at the cheaper grocery stores around here (and takes away lure of eating out). We need to work on meal planning a little more so we do this less...but until then Trader Joe's will be our once every couple months grocery shopping treat!
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: mushroom on June 11, 2013, 07:11:19 AM
Most of their stuff is pretty pricy, but there are a few items here and there I like to buy that are not too bad compared to elsewhere in Chicago: olive oil, soy milk, cage-free eggs, canned garbanzo beans, almonds (cheaper than Aldi). Oh, and the soy chorizo for $2 a pound is a great deal and tasty, too - I've never seen a prepackaged meat substitute sold that cheaply before. I usually make my own seitan, veggie dogs and burgers, etc. but TJ's soy chorizo is probably cheaper to buy than it is to make those things.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: SnackDog on June 11, 2013, 07:31:25 AM
The main attractions are 1) huge range of cheeses at amazing prices, 2) good deals on staples like oil, 3) frozen unprocessed foods like seafood, 4) and of course the wine.  You generally will not find the same variety, quality and price elsewhere.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: zhelud on June 11, 2013, 07:49:15 AM
In our area, the prices are comparable to (even cheaper sometimes) the local supermarkets. Even for produce. (I know because my husband is obsessed with this stuff.) If you can avoid the temptations of the premade dinners and expensive snack items, you will be fine.

One feature I like is that they are small. I hate pushing a shopping cart around a big cavernous supermarket. At TJs, I can just go and grab a basket, pick up a few things, and be done in 5 minutes.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: anastrophe on June 11, 2013, 08:02:51 AM
TJ's makes no sense to me either. I can get better produce at more attractive prices from local farms, and other staples from Asian grocers, discount stores, etc.

I'll admit their prepackaged snacks are extra tasty, but I try not to eat that kind of stuff.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: PantsOnFire on June 11, 2013, 08:05:56 AM
TJ's is OK, but not as special as they used to be.  Around here, 5 or 6 years ago it was almost impossible to find anything organic outside of a member-owned co-op, farmstand, or Whole Foods.  TJ's was one of the first mid-priced grocery store chains to really market organic foods.  Mainstream grocery stores have started to come around though, so TJ's only fills one need for me--cheap, decent charcoal.  No 2-buck-chuck here so that's not a factor. 

Another thing that probably keeps them going... If you don't really cook, but rather "heat 'n' serve" semi-cooked meals, TJ's offers some more attractive alternatives to the Kraft/Stauffer's/Swanson slop that is the staple of so many Americans' diets.  It's meaningless to me, but a lot of people don't even own a sharp knife or know how to do anything in the kitchen other than open a refigerator door and push buttons on a microwave, so TJ's gets high marks from them. 
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: lisahi on June 11, 2013, 08:16:33 AM
I don't get it either.  Other than the 2 Buck Chuck.

Yep, I always bought the cheap wine (which was actually quite good).

I also would get the Scharffen Berger chocolate, which was hard to find (it's easier now that it's owned by Hershey's), and the crumpets (which, to this day, were the best crumpets I've ever tasted).

I haven't been in awhile--not since I lived in San Francisco, but I only ever really went there to get items I couldn't find elsewhere. And alcohol.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: adesertsky on June 11, 2013, 11:00:14 AM
I actually do all my regular shopping there.  I get:
-citrus fruits
-almond or coconut milk
-organic eggs
-red oak lettuce, cucumbers, onions when they aren't in season in the garden or in my CSA box
-dairy- cheeses, sour cream
-organic bread
-handmade tortillas
-nuts (almonds and sweet/spicy pecans which are the best thing on earth in a salad)
-pasta
-wine
-my dog's favorite organic chicken and brown rice treat sticks

I am realizing that costco has some of this stuff cheaper so I am shifting a little bit in that direction for some things. 
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: BigRed on June 11, 2013, 11:29:08 AM
For Milk, Eggs, Pasta and Staples, TJs is very good.  The bananas work out to be well priced also.  The greek yogurt also used to be good, but seems to have taken a quality nosedive recently.  Also, my TJs carries kosher chicken and meat, otherwise I'd have to go a much farther distance to get that stuff.  So, it's limited usefulness, but worth it if youare selective.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: samustache on June 11, 2013, 11:35:02 AM
Like anywhere else they have a few "doorbusters" and then some margin producing items they hope you buy to ring up some profit. I pretty much buy Trader Jose Dark, or a mixed 6 pack there. Not the greatest beer, but definitely the best price/quality ratio I've ever found.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: naners on June 11, 2013, 11:42:25 AM
For organic it's one of the best deals. Can't comment on how their organic compares to Costco since I don't have a car to drive the 6 miles. Their dairy, even the non-organic, is all free of rBST, which I like. Their frozen prepared foods are tasty and cheap for the level of quality; so much cheaper than takeout for the couple of times a month I'm tired or not organized enough to cook! Finally, their food has many fewer unpronounceable ingredients than is typical at a regular grocery store - I don't buy bread at regular grocery stores because of that. Bread should contain flour, yeast, and maybe some salt, nothing else.

Agreed that they are not so great for some ingredients, and you have to avoid impulse buys to keep on-budget. But I think they have a very useful niche.   
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Rebecca Stapler on June 11, 2013, 11:55:07 AM
I'm a bargain shopper, so I'll only go there for the things I can't find cheaper anywhere else or for the 1 item my spouse is picky about. So far, the list looks like this:

* canned chickpeas
* natural peanut butter
* multigrain pancake mix

Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: mpbaker22 on June 11, 2013, 12:26:06 PM
WINE!!
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: mlipps on June 11, 2013, 12:32:57 PM
I love Trader Joes, but I'm pretty sure I make up any savings there on a few items on my other splurges. I do love their prepared foods on rare occasion. My cooking is better, but when we've been extra busy or out of town, I'll stop & get a few for lunches to save me cooking a meal or two that week. $10 for 4 meals is still less than eating out most places.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: anastrophe on June 11, 2013, 01:01:01 PM
I'm a bargain shopper, so I'll only go there for the things I can't find cheaper anywhere else or for the 1 item my spouse is picky about. So far, the list looks like this:

* canned chickpeas

* multigrain pancake mix

Not to be annoying, but...I rather think these come out cheaper and tastier when made at home.

Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Gyosho on June 11, 2013, 01:13:50 PM
Since trying to add more protein to my diet, I have come to love TJs for one thing - their cheap sustainable flash-frozen-at-the-dock fish! I get about 3 packages of frozen fish or shrimp per week from TJs; it's always delicious, and much cheaper than anything I can buy in any of our local grocery stores.

I also love their "chocolate lover's dark chocolate bar" which is very low in sugar.

I also love their cottage cheese, tofurky and soy milk, which are all at least a dollar cheaper than our local grocery store (the famous Berkeley Bowl, for those who live in the Bay Area).

I get some strange looks from the cashier when I pull up with my cart containing frozen fish, tofurky, tempeh, cottage cheese, soy milk, and chocolate bars, but I love it! Especially when I follow some old alcoholic with a cart full of wine, whiskey, chips, and frozen dinners.

We get a weekly CSA farm box so I don't need TJs for vegetables.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Rebecca Stapler on June 11, 2013, 02:21:03 PM
I'm a bargain shopper, so I'll only go there for the things I can't find cheaper anywhere else or for the 1 item my spouse is picky about. So far, the list looks like this:

* canned chickpeas

* multigrain pancake mix

Not to be annoying, but...I rather think these come out cheaper and tastier when made at home.

ITA with you. The spouse is not so keen on making his own pancake mix. (And I don't want to make pancakes at all, but I'll eat them if he's making them!) And again the lazy factor on the chickpeas ... I've had a jar of dried chickpeas in the cabinet for at least 2 years :(
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: CNM on June 11, 2013, 02:27:52 PM
My local TJ's is good for dried fruit, nuts, cheese, and booze.  I don't buy much else there with any frequency.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: destron on June 11, 2013, 06:05:47 PM
Every time I see a post like this, I can't help but be reminded that grocery store prices and options vary greatly depending on where you live. It is possible that your opinion is swayed by different prices in your region added on top of different priorities.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: newideas2013 on June 11, 2013, 08:18:42 PM
One of the biggest problems I see in western culture right now is so many people sucked into this notion of healthy foods vs. unhealthy foods but ignoring total calories and macronutrients.

YOU CAN EAT TOO MUCH OF A HEALTHY FOOD. Ooh your Organic Grape Juice has Anti-oxidants, you don't need to drink 3 jugs of the sugary stuff. You can definitely eat too much whole wheat bread, or too much peanut butter, nobody is paying attention to total calories over an extended period of time, but they pat themselves on the back everytime they eat out at Subway because they think a bit of shredded lettuce on a bun with processed meat and a few tomato slices is "healthy"
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: bogart on June 11, 2013, 08:19:44 PM
Another fan of select items, but not the prepared foods.  They have the best price on a decent blue Stilton cheese I can find, for example, and are the only place locally (unless maybe WF sells them, but I rarely shop there) where I can buy smoked trout or pickled herring.  They're good on a decent chocolate bar, and fine on dairy products relative to other local options (not great, but I don't cringe if I need to grab milk there). 

I won't go into the one near me (which is the only one I know) unless I have earplugs with me, though.  There are limits.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: PantsOnFire on June 11, 2013, 08:41:02 PM
smoked trout or pickled herring.  They're good on a decent chocolate bar
For some reason those two phrases ran together in my mind and it was NOT a good image. 
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: sheepstache on June 11, 2013, 10:30:30 PM
ALDI has 50 years experience in painting an image of high quality offerings for a really low price. Kind of a Robin Hood image even though the two owners are the richest persons in Germany and are not known for donating anything to charity (TBH, they might just not talk about it).

How is that contradictory?   Why would you say selling a superior product at a lower price means they're trying to look like Robin Hood?
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: cats on June 11, 2013, 11:02:40 PM
Agreed that the "awesome" factor of TJ's may vary a lot by location.  In my case, I find having a Costco membership means a lot of things I used to get at TJ's are now purchased at Costco because they offer better pricing (e.g., cheeses, eggs, olive oil).  Produce has always been very hit-or-miss: I usually try to keep my prices down by shopping the loss leaders at the grocery store or whatever's in season at our local produce market, but if I need something specific that is not in season, TJ's will often have the best price (they do generally have a wider range of produce than Costco, plus for a family of two the bulk factor at Costco is not so good for perishable goods). For baking, their whole wheat flour is cheaper than the bulk prices at Whole Foods or any local co-ops.  Also, they have the cheapest (and best tasting, imo) almond milk in our area.  Coconut milk and coconut cream are also usually cheapest at TJ's.

However, most of the people I know who do the majority of their shopping at TJ's tend to eat a lot more packaged food than I do, or they aren't aware of/interested in costco.  I do occasionally like to buy a bag of their salt-and-pepper ridge cut chips or a bag of sesame sticks though, so there's only so much I can snark about the packaged food thing.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Christof on June 12, 2013, 01:37:26 AM
How is that contradictory?   Why would you say selling a superior product at a lower price means they're trying to look like Robin Hood?

What I'm saying is that ALDI managed to build up a perception that quality is higher than it actually is and prices lower than they are. There's a widely accepted rumor that most ALDI products are made by well-known brands and are the same products just in a different package. Over the years ALDI has created followers very similar to Apple, just on the other side of the price range, that will immediately come up with any justification, why ALDI is so much better than any other chain.

When there's sort of a hype about ALDI stores (ALDI and TJ) then this hype been designed on purpose by someone with half a century of experience of doing exactly this. There's a reason that the two owners of ALDI (one of them died recently) combined are worth $42 billions (not far away from Warren Buffet).

Don't get me wrong: From a business perspective that's brilliant. If they weren't privately owned, I would have bought ALDI shares years ago.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: sheepstache on June 12, 2013, 08:08:11 AM
How is that contradictory?   Why would you say selling a superior product at a lower price means they're trying to look like Robin Hood?

What I'm saying is that ALDI managed to build up a perception that quality is higher than it actually is and prices lower than they are. There's a widely accepted rumor that most ALDI products are made by well-known brands and are the same products just in a different package. Over the years ALDI has created followers very similar to Apple, just on the other side of the price range, that will immediately come up with any justification, why ALDI is so much better than any other chain.

When there's sort of a hype about ALDI stores (ALDI and TJ) then this hype been designed on purpose by someone with half a century of experience of doing exactly this. There's a reason that the two owners of ALDI (one of them died recently) combined are worth $42 billions (not far away from Warren Buffet).

Don't get me wrong: From a business perspective that's brilliant. If they weren't privately owned, I would have bought ALDI shares years ago.

Ah ha, that makes sense.  I thought you were saying there was something contradictory or inherently bad about it simply because they had made money.  I felt like I was in an Ayn Rand novel :)

The spouse and a friend mentioned to me the other day, "Oh, did you hear our supermarket is being turned into a Trader Joe's?"  I let out a shocked and dismayed, "Noooo!"  Thankfully they were just trolling.  They found my reaction hilarious because either of them would have been delighted if it had been true.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: mustacheme on June 12, 2013, 12:47:17 PM
I'm with you. I'm practically scared to say I don't worship at the altar of Trader Joes in my city! People are so adamant in their love for that store. I've been in a few times, didn't see anything special and left. I'd rather go to the farmer's market.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: MrsPete on June 12, 2013, 01:41:44 PM
I like one Trader Joe's item very much and will make a special trip to buy several jars at a time.  Other than that, I don't have much use for the place.  The item:  Cookie butter.  It's a bit like peanut butter. 

I do like Aldi's and shop in their store frequently.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: daymare on June 12, 2013, 03:25:22 PM
ALDI's always makes me sad when I go.  Everything I've bough that's 'similar' to another packaged food has been far inferior. (ex, cheddar penguins, protein bars, cheese slices).  80% of the store is really bad quality, packaged & fake, or frozen stuff.  On the other hand, their cheap produce can't be beat (OMG $.60 avacados).  So lesson learned -- I buy a ton of produce ('real food') and avoid most of the other things.  The cashiers always comment that my assortment is 'so healthy', but mostly I've realized that actual food tastes better and I feel better when I eat it.

On the other hand, I lived in DC for ~2 years and have a huge, huge amount of love for TJ's. I lived only a few blocks away from the Foggy Bottom TJ's, so it was really convenient & worth battling the huge crowds.  Growing up, my parents always called TJ's an expensive place, and went there exclusively to buy nuts, dried fruit, and desserts.  But for me, in DC, it was wayyy less expensive than other options around (WF, Safeway, etc).  I worked crazy hours at a consulting job -- so when I didn't work late enough to have my company pick up the dinner tab, I'd often come home tired or wanting to veg out, or at least to not cook.  Soo, I enjoyed their selection of frozen food.  They have some pretty unique offerings, as well.  I would constantly see people loading up on their seafood wraps.  I, on the other hand, am obsessed with their cheese.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: netskyblue on June 12, 2013, 04:19:47 PM
On the other hand, their cheap produce can't be beat (OMG $.60 avacados).

OMG!  Is that a sale, or regular price?  I only buy avocados when they go under $1.  A few times a year, we can find them for $.88, and I buy 2 or 4, but they don't keep, and I've never tried freezing.  Sometimes I'll cave at $.99 if I really want avocados.  I just can't stomach a $1.50 avocado, which was the advertized price in the store a few days ago, 2/$3.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: binkley on June 12, 2013, 04:37:07 PM
I find both the scorn and the alleged hype baffling.  It's just a mid-price grocery chain with a limited/specialty selection.  What's the big deal, one way or the other?  Does anyone really "worship at the alter" of TJ's?  Sounds a bit hyperbolic to me.

For those up in arms about their prepared foods, what are you comparing them with?  Are you suggesting that there are grocery chains that have better prepared foods?  Or are you suggesting that there are grocery chains that banish prepared foods altogether?   'Cause everywhere I'm familiar with has prepared foods that are no better (usually worse) and no cheaper (usually more expensive) than TJ's.  Why single them out?
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: footenote on June 12, 2013, 05:02:13 PM
For those up in arms about their prepared foods, what are you comparing them with?  Are you suggesting that there are grocery chains that have better prepared foods?  Or are you suggesting that there are grocery chains that banish prepared foods altogether?   'Cause everywhere I'm familiar with has prepared foods that are no better (usually worse) and no cheaper (usually more expensive) than TJ's.  Why single them out?
binkley - I double-dog-dare you to cook much of anything from scratch shopping at TJ's. The proportion of pre-packaged or kit food per square foot at TJ's far exceeds that at a traditional grocery store. And what non-packaged food they do carry is not competitive with traditional grocery stores (much less compared to Costco).

I agree there are no grocery stores without prepared foods. But if you want to cook and consume healthy and cost-effective, TJ's is a very poor choice for anything but a few select items.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Eric on June 12, 2013, 05:50:58 PM
A few times a year, we can find them for $.88, and I buy 2 or 4, but they don't keep, and I've never tried freezing.  Sometimes I'll cave at $.99 if I really want avocados.  I just can't stomach a $1.50 avocado, which was the advertized price in the store a few days ago, 2/$3.

Don't freeze them.  It'll only ruin them.

If you can find giant ones, $1.50 each isn't bad.  Usually they have more meat (is that the right term?) then the smaller cheaper ones, so you get more avocado for your $.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: binkley on June 12, 2013, 06:16:41 PM
binkley - I double-dog-dare you to cook much of anything from scratch shopping at TJ's.

You would win that one.  We typically spend ~20% of our weekly grocery bill there.  If we were limited to one store, it would not be TJ's.

Quote
And what non-packaged food they do carry is not competitive with traditional grocery stores (much less compared to Costco).

That is certainly not true here (SF Bay Area).  For what I buy (milk, yogurt, cheese, lunch meat, occasional snacks and beer), their prices are as good or better than Safeway, and the quality is better.  I can certainly believe that it would be a different story in other parts of the country.

Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: footenote on June 13, 2013, 06:51:46 AM
Quote
And what non-packaged food they do carry is not competitive with traditional grocery stores (much less compared to Costco).

That is certainly not true here (SF Bay Area).  For what I buy (milk, yogurt, cheese, lunch meat, occasional snacks and beer), their prices are as good or better than Safeway, and the quality is better.  I can certainly believe that it would be a different story in other parts of the country.
[/quote]

I find dairy and snacks cheaper at Costco in our area, but you're right, that varies regionally. And their beer and wine prices beat Costco hands-down.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: binkley on June 13, 2013, 08:03:35 AM
I find dairy and snacks cheaper at Costco in our area, but you're right, that varies regionally.

Most everything is cheaper at Costco for us, but Costco is much farther away, and we can't always deal with Costco quantities - if I bought snacks at Costco, pretty soon I'd be too fat to walk to TJ's!
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Gyosho on June 13, 2013, 08:47:45 AM
Cooking from scratch at Trader Joe's? EASY!

- roast chicken with potatoes and salad
- chicken fajitas with onions and bell peppers
- baked salmon with zucchini
- scrambled eggs and turkey bacon

etc.

I do it all the time? What CAN'T you cook from scratch with Trader Joe's ingredients?
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: binkley on June 13, 2013, 11:23:13 AM
I do it all the time? What CAN'T you cook from scratch with Trader Joe's ingredients?

The point is not so much that I can't, but that there are sources I prefer for certain ingredients (especially produce).

For the examples you gave, I would typically only get the chicken and eggs at TJs.  I'd get produce at a farmer's market, salmon at a fish market, and wouldn't touch turkey bacon (or any of TJ's fake/uncured bacon) with a ten-foot pole.

Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: footenote on June 13, 2013, 01:31:56 PM
Cooking from scratch at Trader Joe's? EASY!

- roast chicken with potatoes and salad
- chicken fajitas with onions and bell peppers
- baked salmon with zucchini
- scrambled eggs and turkey bacon

etc.

I do it all the time? What CAN'T you cook from scratch with Trader Joe's ingredients?

I could not cook the majority of my go-to recipes if I only shopped at TJs. They simply don't stock enough basics. There is nothing wrong with 3 - 4 ingredient recipes. (Although TJ's prices for basics are generally much higher than Costco's in my region. YMMV.) But if you cook more complex recipes, you can't get even close to the basic ingredients you need there.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: dragoncar on June 13, 2013, 02:03:45 PM
Yeah I can hit tj on my walk home from work and cook a simple meal for one from scratch.  Costco I'd have to drive, and would be dating the exact same meal for weeks.  Aldi i would have to fly.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: mpbaker22 on June 13, 2013, 02:14:01 PM
On the other hand, their cheap produce can't be beat (OMG $.60 avacados). 

Local farmer's market has them as cheap as 10/$1 when they're on the verge of going bad, but still very usable.  The problem is grocery stores want to maintain an image, so they throw usable stuff away.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: anastrophe on June 14, 2013, 11:40:32 AM
On the other hand, their cheap produce can't be beat (OMG $.60 avacados). 

Local farmer's market has them as cheap as 10/$1 when they're on the verge of going bad, but still very usable.  The problem is grocery stores want to maintain an image, so they throw usable stuff away.

How I wish I lived somewhere that avocados were sold at the farmer's market. But substitute "squash" and the same applies here--I would never buy anything at TJ's that is grown locally, the prices are abysmal and it's shrinkwrapped too.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: TrulyStashin on June 14, 2013, 02:31:23 PM
The main attractions are 1) huge range of cheeses at amazing prices, 2) good deals on staples like oil, 3) frozen unprocessed foods like seafood, 4) and of course the wine.  You generally will not find the same variety, quality and price elsewhere.

+1
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: minimalist on June 14, 2013, 02:48:02 PM
I do it all the time? What CAN'T you cook from scratch with Trader Joe's ingredients?

The point is not so much that I can't, but that there are sources I prefer for certain ingredients (especially produce).

For the examples you gave, I would typically only get the chicken and eggs at TJs.  I'd get produce at a farmer's market, salmon at a fish market, and wouldn't touch turkey bacon (or any of TJ's fake/uncured bacon) with a ten-foot pole.

What's wrong with uncured bacon? Sodium nitrate is a carcinogen.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: MakingSenseofCents on June 14, 2013, 02:55:51 PM
I don't get it either. The prices for many things are much higher for the same brands.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: dragoncar on June 14, 2013, 06:18:33 PM
I do it all the time? What CAN'T you cook from scratch with Trader Joe's ingredients?

The point is not so much that I can't, but that there are sources I prefer for certain ingredients (especially produce).

For the examples you gave, I would typically only get the chicken and eggs at TJs.  I'd get produce at a farmer's market, salmon at a fish market, and wouldn't touch turkey bacon (or any of TJ's fake/uncured bacon) with a ten-foot pole.

What's wrong with uncured bacon? Sodium nitrate is a carcinogen.

I love this bacon, and the "bits and pieces" are a particularly good deal ($2/pound). 

But what I think op was getting at is the "uncured" bacon isn't truly uncured.  Instead of being cured with chemical nitrites, "celery juice" is used which contains natural nitrites.  This may not be better for you, because "cured" bacon is now required to include vitamin c to deter nitrosamine formation, whereas it's unclear whether "uncured" bacon is similarly regulated.  So the bacon at TJs is "fake uncured" just like all other mass produced uncured bacon (vs. local butcher who may truly leave the meat uncured).
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: minimalist on June 14, 2013, 09:20:09 PM
The following things are cheaper at TJ's than most other stores in the DC area:
-olive oil
-coconut oil
-canned coconut milk
-organic yogurt
-organic milk
-eggs
-frozen vegetables
-bags of apples
-bags of oranges
-bananas
-dry lentils
-canned beans
-nuts
-coffee
-chocolate
-alcohol

TJ's prepared meals are good and cheaper than eating out, which is another reason people like TJ's, but I prefer making my meals from scratch.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: jenscaffidi on June 15, 2013, 03:14:53 AM
Our house also acquires most of our produce, dairy, and select staples from TJ's. In our area, those fresher items aren't available at the same quality and price elsewhere.

I'm also fond of the fancier items for date nights -- we are people who will make you a fancy sandwich or treat you to all the chocolate bars on your birthday instead of going out or buying you extravagant gifts. And the snack aisles are fun for road trips (better than gas station snacks and cheaper than fast food). Most of the time, we stick to the outside aisles of the store.

We don't get a lot of hype for our local TJ's, though. It's just the only place to buy good cheap fresh ingredients (and the only place to buy snacks that isn't Walmart).
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Joel on June 15, 2013, 09:40:28 AM
When I am working out of town living in a hotel, collecting per diem for meals, I will shop at trader joes for my food for the week, this allowing me to pocket a good chunk of money. Otherwise I stay away from anything frozen or prepackaged like that.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Taryl on June 16, 2013, 01:17:56 PM
I don't buy anything in a package.   Eat out of our front yard garden or whole foods for a bigger selection of fresh food than any other grocery store has.   Buy organic meat in bulk from the farms. If your grandmother wouldn't  recognize it, pass on the purchase.  Eating fesh and seasonally can be somewhat limiting and time consuming.  Fortunately herbs grow year around in Southern California.  Lucky me.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: oldtoyota on June 16, 2013, 02:08:30 PM
ALDI has 50 years experience in painting an image of high quality offerings for a really low price. Kind of a Robin Hood image even though the two owners are the richest persons in Germany and are not known for donating anything to charity (TBH, they might just not talk about it).

The ALDI near me is a total dump although they do have good prices for toothpaste. I would never buy produce there.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: 2527 on June 16, 2013, 04:20:38 PM
I think TJ is really good at the core of its business:  somewhat upscale prepared and semi-prepared foods.  Other things are not so good.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: oldtoyota on June 16, 2013, 06:55:14 PM
This thread made me curious. I went on a recon mission to find the prices at the local HFS and compare them to TJ's. TJ's showed less expensive prices for 99% of the items I checked.

These are a handful of the items less expensive at Trader Joe's. So, I will rejoin the cult. ;-)

--honey
--peanut butter
--organic yogurt (I can't even make it at home for less than I pay for it at TJ's)
--lentils
--sunflower seeds

And, as someone mentioned earlier, TJ's doesn't sell dairy with BST in it.



Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: bogart on June 16, 2013, 07:25:20 PM
smoked trout or pickled herring.  They're good on a decent chocolate bar
For some reason those two phrases ran together in my mind and it was NOT a good image.

haha, just back and saw this, and you're right.  Enough to throw a person off fish and chocolate for life!  Well, maybe not off chocolate ...
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: MrsPete on June 16, 2013, 09:25:39 PM
About the "this is cheaper at this or that store" conversation. 

If you really want to lower your grocery bill, I strongly recommend you try the price book method in Amy Daczyn's (spelling?) book The Tightwad Gazette.  It's worth reading her whole description, but -- in a nutshell -- she spent months and months recording prices on her go-to items at the stores in her area (which likely bear no resemblance to the stores available in your area or my area).  It's not a fast process, but it gives you powerful information: 

- Which store offers the cheapest price on _____? 
- Is today's sale really great or just okay?
- How often does ____ go on sale? 
- What items are on super sale at what time of year?

Things I've learned by using this method -- and they aren't likely to be true for your area:

- Peanut butter, dried beans and canned foods are cheapest at Walmart
- Bread, milk and eggs and sometimes chicken are cheapest at Aldi's
- Paper products tend to be cheapest at Target
- No point in stocking up on chicken, our go-to meat; it goes on sale about every third week
- Canned goods are dirt cheap in the fall; it's worth buying loads

Anyway, try her method.  It'll take you a year to really complete a price book . . . but you'll be glad in the end. 
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: grantmeaname on June 16, 2013, 09:52:59 PM
And, as someone mentioned earlier, TJ's doesn't sell dairy with BST in it
Where would you find bst milk if you wanted it? Kroger, Costco, and Wal-Mart don't sell it...
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: dragoncar on June 17, 2013, 01:29:03 AM
And, as someone mentioned earlier, TJ's doesn't sell dairy with BST in it
Where would you find bst milk if you wanted it? Kroger, Costco, and Wal-Mart don't sell it...

I just buy my BST in bulk and add it as needed to my non-BST milk.  It's cheaper that way.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: mushroom on June 17, 2013, 12:16:39 PM
Today, for instance, I also thought the pricing was too tricky (funny that I see your post today of all days). If you want to buy almonds, the packages vary from 8 oz to 12 oz to 16 oz. The prices vary. So, I had to sit there doing math in my head to see which kind and package size of almonds would cost the least. I am thinking I could do better at the local health food store where almonds are sold by the pound.

Hm, I just bought almonds yesterday at TJ's and all of their packages had the price per ounce clearly labeled, so I just scanned them quickly and picked up the cheapest (one pound of the raw almonds). I'd be really surprised if they didn't list the price per ounce where you were?
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: oldtoyota on June 17, 2013, 01:46:20 PM
About the "this is cheaper at this or that store" conversation. 

If you really want to lower your grocery bill, I strongly recommend you try the price book method in Amy Daczyn's (spelling?) book The Tightwad Gazette.  It's worth reading her whole description, but -- in a nutshell -- she spent months and months recording prices on her go-to items at the stores in her area (which likely bear no resemblance to the stores available in your area or my area).  It's not a fast process, but it gives you powerful information: 

- Which store offers the cheapest price on _____? 
- Is today's sale really great or just okay?
- How often does ____ go on sale? 
- What items are on super sale at what time of year?

Things I've learned by using this method -- and they aren't likely to be true for your area:

- Peanut butter, dried beans and canned foods are cheapest at Walmart
- Bread, milk and eggs and sometimes chicken are cheapest at Aldi's
- Paper products tend to be cheapest at Target
- No point in stocking up on chicken, our go-to meat; it goes on sale about every third week
- Canned goods are dirt cheap in the fall; it's worth buying loads

Anyway, try her method.  It'll take you a year to really complete a price book . . . but you'll be glad in the end.

Thank you. I've been wanting to get her book from the library, and I'll be sure to look up that section first.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: rtrnow on June 17, 2013, 02:42:42 PM
I do it all the time? What CAN'T you cook from scratch with Trader Joe's ingredients?

The point is not so much that I can't, but that there are sources I prefer for certain ingredients (especially produce).

For the examples you gave, I would typically only get the chicken and eggs at TJs.  I'd get produce at a farmer's market, salmon at a fish market, and wouldn't touch turkey bacon (or any of TJ's fake/uncured bacon) with a ten-foot pole.

What's wrong with uncured bacon? Sodium nitrate is a carcinogen.

I love this bacon, and the "bits and pieces" are a particularly good deal ($2/pound). 

But what I think op was getting at is the "uncured" bacon isn't truly uncured.  Instead of being cured with chemical nitrites, "celery juice" is used which contains natural nitrites.  This may not be better for you, because "cured" bacon is now required to include vitamin c to deter nitrosamine formation, whereas it's unclear whether "uncured" bacon is similarly regulated.  So the bacon at TJs is "fake uncured" just like all other mass produced uncured bacon (vs. local butcher who may truly leave the meat uncured).

I don't want to start a food debate, but I think the fear of nitrites is overblown. There is a very tiny amount in most cured meat products. Eat in moderation and know your supplier. There is certainly a lot of other crap in many commercial products. I cure my own meats and use both chemical and celery based products. A bit longer life without cured pork is not a life I want to live. :)
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: infogoon on June 17, 2013, 02:54:24 PM
About the "this is cheaper at this or that store" conversation. 

If you really want to lower your grocery bill, I strongly recommend you try the price book method in Amy Daczyn's (spelling?) book The Tightwad Gazette.  It's worth reading her whole description, but -- in a nutshell -- she spent months and months recording prices on her go-to items at the stores in her area (which likely bear no resemblance to the stores available in your area or my area).  It's not a fast process, but it gives you powerful information: 

- Which store offers the cheapest price on _____? 
- Is today's sale really great or just okay?
- How often does ____ go on sale? 
- What items are on super sale at what time of year?

Things I've learned by using this method -- and they aren't likely to be true for your area:

- Peanut butter, dried beans and canned foods are cheapest at Walmart
- Bread, milk and eggs and sometimes chicken are cheapest at Aldi's
- Paper products tend to be cheapest at Target
- No point in stocking up on chicken, our go-to meat; it goes on sale about every third week
- Canned goods are dirt cheap in the fall; it's worth buying loads

Anyway, try her method.  It'll take you a year to really complete a price book . . . but you'll be glad in the end.

Also, a lot of this information is available on the Internet these days for free. There are web sites that will list the sales circular for the week, along with all the applicable coupons and how to get the best prices on things.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: oldtoyota on June 18, 2013, 10:06:21 AM
And, as someone mentioned earlier, TJ's doesn't sell dairy with BST in it
Where would you find bst milk if you wanted it? Kroger, Costco, and Wal-Mart don't sell it...

Later, I realized the OP probably meant rBGH. TJ's sells dairy without rBGH. I quoted the mistaken name.

As for Walmart, I won't shop there anymore no matter how cheap it is. That's one lousy store, and it smells inside.

Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: grantmeaname on June 18, 2013, 10:34:25 AM
Same thing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bovine_somatotropin).
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: meadow lark on June 18, 2013, 11:51:59 AM
I like TJ's.  Big, bushy basil plants for $2.99.  Cans of coconut milk for $.99.  Dried fruit and nuts reasonably priced.  Seaweed snacks $.99. 
  I don't get the love of Costco.  Walmart is cheaper where I live.  Got a card to Costco 2 months ago and I have already returned a bag of oranges and a box of Asian Pears because they had no taste.  The only thing I do like is the dog food.  The dogs are crazy about the salmon and  sweet potato flavor.  Considering canceling my membership.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: reverend on June 18, 2013, 11:40:57 PM
I had two TJ's right near my house in Redondo Beach, but since I am currently stuck in Texas, there's only one and it's not particularly close.

What people usually don't get is regional variances and cost of shipping.  In my mind, being able to get non-GMO foods, my kefir (closest to filbunke/filmjölk as I can get in the US) and that they actually treat their employees very well matters to me.  They are non-union, because they never had the need to unionize.

Some of the TJ stores are pretty small with a lacking selection, and of course they carry processed foods.


The prices are typically, despite shipping costs here in Texas, far better than Whole Foods next door, and the grocery stores.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: mushroom on June 23, 2013, 10:29:09 AM
I like TJ's.  Big, bushy basil plants for $2.99.  Cans of coconut milk for $.99.  Dried fruit and nuts reasonably priced.  Seaweed snacks $.99. 
  I don't get the love of Costco.  Walmart is cheaper where I live.  Got a card to Costco 2 months ago and I have already returned a bag of oranges and a box of Asian Pears because they had no taste.  The only thing I do like is the dog food.  The dogs are crazy about the salmon and  sweet potato flavor.  Considering canceling my membership.

Yeah, I don't get it either. We just moved and live right by Costco so was debating getting a membership since MMM seems to love it so. But I went into a Costco with my in-laws who have a membership and the prices were the were about the same or worse than my usual stores (combo of TJ, ethnic markets, and Aldi) except with a commitment to buy much larger quantities.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: OldAndInTheWay on June 26, 2013, 11:42:56 AM
I don't get the TJ hype either. But we do spend 90% of our grocery budget at Aldi. Ours is clean and has great deals. The rest of the money we spend at Wegmans/Giant/Safeway etc...$1500 total per month. Maryland suburbs of DC

BTW-My wife and i have 13 kids. 1 married and moved out. 12 at home. So that $1500 is for 14 people total. 9 of them boys/men that eat like they are going to the chair. Come to think of it the girls can pack the food away too.

First post here. Just discovered this place the other day. Loving it so far.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: notquitefrugal on June 26, 2013, 02:25:17 PM
Their prices on olive oil seem to be lower than Kroger's, and their cereals have really good flavor. The fruits and vegetables I buy there seem to be fairly priced, but I don't get many refrigerated/frozen goods there because I live over an hour away and don't always bring a cooler.

They also sell $9.99 3L box of wine (chardonnay or a red wine). I have only tried the chardonnay, and it's comparable in quality to Bota Box. It's much better than Franzia, even though it's priced like Franzia.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: BZB on June 27, 2013, 08:52:25 AM
Thanks for mentioning the price book, Mrs. Pete. That's why I am starting my price book - to get the raw data so I can make educated decisions. TJ's opened up in Houston recently and Mr. BZB and I went as a date night once, and bought some prepared foods to take home for a fancy dinner. It was fun to look at all the interesting stuff they had, but I wasn't impressed enough to return. I'm spoiled - I can go to Spec's warehouse for great prices on beer, wine and other fancy foods, and we have Whole Foods, Central Market, and a handful of HEB-spin-offs, multiple farmer's markets, Fiesta for international foods, and a whole slew of Asian and Indian markets. Also, Costco and Sam's Club, and several grocery store chains having ongoing price wars. I have so many choices that a price book will be very helpful.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Marmot on June 30, 2013, 01:15:40 PM
I would say the hype is largely due to the novelty of a lot of their packaged items (ie chili lime cashews, chocolate covered espresso beans, etc.). I enjoy going there every 2 months or so...
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: kimmarg on June 30, 2013, 08:13:57 PM
About the "this is cheaper at this or that store" conversation. 

If you really want to lower your grocery bill, I strongly recommend you try the price book method in Amy Daczyn's (spelling?) book The Tightwad Gazette.  It's worth reading her whole description, but -- in a nutshell -- she spent months and months recording prices on her go-to items at the stores in her area (which likely bear no resemblance to the stores available in your area or my area).  It's not a fast process, but it gives you powerful information: 

- Which store offers the cheapest price on _____? 
- Is today's sale really great or just okay?
- How often does ____ go on sale? 
- What items are on super sale at what time of year?

Things I've learned by using this method -- and they aren't likely to be true for your area:

- Peanut butter, dried beans and canned foods are cheapest at Walmart
- Bread, milk and eggs and sometimes chicken are cheapest at Aldi's
- Paper products tend to be cheapest at Target
- No point in stocking up on chicken, our go-to meat; it goes on sale about every third week
- Canned goods are dirt cheap in the fall; it's worth buying loads

Anyway, try her method.  It'll take you a year to really complete a price book . . . but you'll be glad in the end.


YES! Kroger runs the same loss leader sales every 8 weeks. Buy an 8 week supply every time and you're good.

TJs undercuts all on peanut butter (which we eat a ton of) as well as coffee (at least for the quality, cheaper coffee is possible, but not that I'm willing to drink) wine if corse too
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: clutchy on July 02, 2013, 01:13:47 PM
Trader joes is great for certain items.  Alcohol, grass fed beef, frozen veggies, frozen berries, and fancier cheese in my case.  Other people live it for the tasty, reasonably priced prepackaged food and snacks (I don't get those).

The frozen broccoli is about the same price as Safeway, but higher quality.  They tend to have more specialty foods cheap.  Coconut oil and California olive oil for example. 

Are you guys in California?  I think we tend to get the best deals here.

This.  This is the ticket here.

Prices here are stellar.  Maybe they are pricing CA prices for other places in the country.  You really can't get stuff much cheaper than TJ where I live.  Maybe sometimes at Stater Bros.


They also have an excellent selection of cheese and the grass fed beef is worth the $7 a lb.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: clutchy on July 26, 2013, 10:58:16 AM
that's an extreme example. 

Grass fed organic beef is almost impossible to find where I live.

I'll gladly pay a premium for quality that isn't hopped up on steroids and corn.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: dragoncar on July 26, 2013, 01:00:43 PM
that's an extreme example. 

Grass fed organic beef is almost impossible to find where I live.

I'll gladly pay a premium for quality that isn't hopped up on steroids and corn.

I found it quite interesting that cjottowa could instantly write off an entire chain just by hearin one price point for one product at a particular store in another city.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Tony_SS on July 26, 2013, 02:47:33 PM
We don't have a TJ here, but do have an ALDI. Ours is great.. their food isn't bad at all and they're produce is way less than any other store in town. They've been a savior for us.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: rob in cal on July 27, 2013, 09:23:24 AM
TJ's is my main shopping place.  For organic stuff, which is most of what I buy, they are either as cheap or cheaper than WF's or a local health food store.  Their produce isn't perfect by any means, but they often have an adequate selection.  Also, it might be that in California we have better produce selection than in other states. 
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: clutchy on July 30, 2013, 05:16:26 PM
We don't have a TJ here, but do have an ALDI. Ours is great.. their food isn't bad at all and they're produce is way less than any other store in town. They've been a savior for us.

It's the same company :)

zee germans...
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: clutchy on July 30, 2013, 05:17:12 PM
that's an extreme example. 

Grass fed organic beef is almost impossible to find where I live.

I'll gladly pay a premium for quality that isn't hopped up on steroids and corn.

I found it quite interesting that cjottowa could instantly write off an entire chain just by hearin one price point for one product at a particular store in another city.

the correct descriptor is curmudgeon. 
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: golden1 on July 31, 2013, 05:10:50 AM
I like TJs a lot!  I see them more as a supplement to my grocery shopping though.  Once in a rare while I will do all my shopping there for the week, but usually I go every few weeks for stuff I can't get elsewhere, and then do the rest of my shopping at the lowest price grocery store in the area (DeMoulas Market Basket).
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Tenderfoot on August 22, 2013, 01:18:44 PM
I have to say, Trader Joe's is my favorite grocery store, by far. But I understand those of you who find it hard to get into. I would never have gotten the Trader bug if I hadn't lived right near one.

At first going into a TJ's is like shopping in a different county. They have different brands and a different way of doing things. But in general, nobody can touch their prices...and I live in the land of plenty (California, plenty of freaks too I'll admit.)

MMM himself even tips his hat to wine prices at TJ's and he's right. I buy a ton of wine there in the mostly 7.99 and under price category. Most bottles I buy are $5 or less, and at that price point no national chain can touch the quality (I abhor 2 buck chuck BTW....it's alwful.) Total Wine is close, but in that price range TJ's is best. Can't have Harlan every night.

Other areas of huge savings with TJ's:
-nuts (any kind...nuts or sun seeds at a Safeway will put you in the poor house.)
-oils (olive oil, grapeseed, coconut, canola...all very cheap. The only place cheaper is Costco but you have to buy a large amount.)
-raisins
-organic anything (basmati rice, bell peppers...they're small because they are not engineered by monsatan....tomatoes, raisins, etc. etc.)
-chocolate candy (variety)
-cereal/oats
-tomato sauce/pasta sauce
-dog treats
-spices
-flowers
-ketchup (TJ's was the only ketchup a few years ago that did NOT have high fructose corn syrup in it.)
-bread (check out the sliced sourdough rounds!)
-coffee (again, only costco is cheaper and not by much.)

I could go on, but I hope you get the idea.

True, you cannot buy everything there. I have always supplemented my shopping there. For example I buy meat only from Whole Paycheck (they are the only store that sells grass FINISHED beef. All beef is grass fed, it's the final three months of their lives that they are fed grain.)


Anyway....TJ's is awesome if you're cool with the limitations. That's my $0.02.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Basenji on August 23, 2013, 05:57:41 AM

Thank you. I've been wanting to get her book from the library, and I'll be sure to look up that section first.

OMG Amy Dacyczyn is the Original Gangsta of Mustachianism. I read her books over and over.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Worsted Skeins on September 18, 2013, 05:45:09 PM
Well I stepped into Trader Joe's this week.  I do most of my shopping at a co-op (staples), local farms (produce and eggs), the butcher (poultry) or fishmongers.  As noted earlier, I occasionally go to TJs for nuts. I also like their dried apricots.

The promotional item that greeted me near the front door was a flat of nectarines. Boxes of 14 very pretty pieces of fruit for $5.99, a seemingly good deal.  I should have known better.  They are pretty.  They smell nice.  But the fruit is mealy in the center.  I halved a couple of them and added them to the pan of barbecue chicken that was roasting in the oven.  Texture was no longer a problem.  So I guess I'll put the rest in a pie or cobbler.

The problem is probably not Trader Joe's but grocery store produce in general.  Because I get most of my fruit and veg (exceptions are citrus and bananas) from the local farms, I am regularly disappointed with produce from the grocer.  I will admit that I was sucked into the hype of the good deal.  I guess I deserve a face punch although my husband won't complain about a fruit pie.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: FrugalEsq. on September 20, 2013, 10:01:27 PM
For small families, TJ's works well for an occasional prepackaged dinner because the portions are the right size.  Also, it has a decent selection of vegetarian options. 
We don't really shop at TJ's for anything else.  Costco has cheaper produce, paper goods, and snacks.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: MsGuided on September 20, 2013, 11:55:43 PM
About the "this is cheaper at this or that store" conversation. 

If you really want to lower your grocery bill, I strongly recommend you try the price book method in Amy Daczyn's (spelling?) book The Tightwad Gazette.  It's worth reading her whole description, but -- in a nutshell -- she spent months and months recording prices on her go-to items at the stores in her area (which likely bear no resemblance to the stores available in your area or my area).  It's not a fast process, but it gives you powerful information: 

- Which store offers the cheapest price on _____? 
- Is today's sale really great or just okay?
- How often does ____ go on sale? 
- What items are on super sale at what time of year?

Things I've learned by using this method -- and they aren't likely to be true for your area:

- Peanut butter, dried beans and canned foods are cheapest at Walmart
- Bread, milk and eggs and sometimes chicken are cheapest at Aldi's
- Paper products tend to be cheapest at Target
- No point in stocking up on chicken, our go-to meat; it goes on sale about every third week
- Canned goods are dirt cheap in the fall; it's worth buying loads

Anyway, try her method.  It'll take you a year to really complete a price book . . . but you'll be glad in the end.

Thanks, Mrs. Pete!  I love The Tightwad Gazette & Amy D.  Years ago I started a price book but never really followed up or got into it.  I will now.   Do you do yours old school, with paper & pen?  I'd love to hear more about yours.

BTW, I live in Colorado and we are about to get a few Trader Joe's.  I've never been to one, but am looking forward to seeing what all the excitement (or derision in some cases) is all about.  I'd love to have ALDI here in CO.  I shopped there as a stupid but impoverished student in Illinois years ago.  It was CHEAP
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: chardog on September 21, 2013, 07:56:57 AM
Now we Austinites have Trader Joe's as an option to Austin based Whole Foods and San Antonio based HEB/Central Market.

The beloved cult grocery chain opens its first of three Austin stores.
http://www.austinchronicle.com/blogs/food/2013-09-20/its-about-bloody-time-austins-first-trader-joes-opens-today/

I probably won't frequent TJ's as they will all be a few miles away from my place.  We have a Texas based chain (HEB) that is my go-to grocery store and close to home.  They have more than 350 stores in Texas and northern Mexico including Central Market, an upscale organic and fine foods store which competes with Whole Foods.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: RootofGood on September 21, 2013, 08:38:15 AM
We shop there occasionally and don't feel bad about it.  Nice higher end groceries with generally lower prices (on those items) than the Aldi/Walmart/Food Lion/Kroger we usually shop at.  What we buy when we go every 3-6 months: hummus, naan, edamame, cheeses, wine, beer, capers, marinated artichokes, pesto.  Sure, many of these are "luxuries" but we spend almost nothing on dining out, and these ingredients allow us to cook dishes we enjoy that cost us 20% of what a restaurant charges.  And we can make it more healthy at home.  We spend around $6-7k/yr on a family of 5's groceries, and maybe $100-150/yr at TJs, so it impacts our expenses very little. 

The alternative would be us dropping $30-50+ at a restaurant a few times a month to get a taste of what we like. 
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: hybrid on September 21, 2013, 07:00:52 PM
We frequent Trader Joe's only a few times a year (they are on the other side of the city, a full 30 minute drive, and not at all convenient to us) but I like them for a few things they do well.  Like a poster just said, for me and the missus some of the prepared foods are tasty and very reasonably priced and appropriately sized for us.  There are some things I don't think they do well at all, but that's OK.  They don't have to do all things well to get some of my business.  If they were on my side of town I would go there a little more often.  They definitely aren't worth a special trip though. 
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Thegoblinchief on October 13, 2014, 03:31:57 PM
Resurrecting this thread because I just checked out my TJ for the first time. NOT someplace I can shop with kids on the first few visits.

I am enjoying their tortilla chips quite a bit. Tortilla chips plain, with cheese, or with salsa is a frugal not-terrible snack food I like to keep around. At $0.10/oz it's almost half the price what I normally pay. ALDI has okay chips, but the TJ chips are much better and way less salty.

A co-worker raves about Joe's Dark coffee. I picked up a can but I'm waiting for my new Aeropress to try it out.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: gimp on October 13, 2014, 04:49:44 PM
I like their liquor, not so much their food.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Jon_Snow on October 13, 2014, 05:00:52 PM
I REALLY don't understandd the hype of Trader Joe's since I live in Canada and they don't have stores here.

Although, there must be some Canadian appetite for the product because there is a store called "Pirate Joe's" in my city which is basically re-sells and marks up Trader Joe's merchandise and sells them to the Canadian customer. Apparently the owner drives down to the states, buys hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Trader Joes stuff and stocks the shelves of his "Pirate Joe's" store.

Trader Joe's tried to sue the guy a while back, but it was tossed out of court. Might have to check out "PJ's" one of these days. I wonder how much they jack up the prices?
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Caoineag on October 13, 2014, 05:53:45 PM
I was sadly disappointed at the one that opened up down the street as I didn't realize everything was prepackaged, including the produce (i.e., no I don't want to buy a weird plastic container of 10 oranges, I prefer to grab my own and a much smaller quantity as well). We do the bulk of our shopping at Sprouts and hit various other stores for their cheaper items throughout the year.

They did have a couple of interesting items and a few cheaper prices but not enough to justify a run there especially since they are so busy that there is no parking unless you go right at opening. We generally grocery shop on our way home from work so I would have to make time on a weekend morning, too much work for maybe 3-5 items.

I think we are spoiled because we appear to have better pricing and selection than a lot of other places so TJ's just wasn't all that unique.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: plainjane on October 13, 2014, 06:08:27 PM
A few times a year, we can find them for $.88, and I buy 2 or 4, but they don't keep, and I've never tried freezing.  Sometimes I'll cave at $.99 if I really want avocados.  I just can't stomach a $1.50 avocado, which was the advertized price in the store a few days ago, 2/$3.
Don't freeze them.  It'll only ruin them.

I love avocados, and have decided that I am willing to work a bit longer to have them covered in the budget.  That being said, one of the guys at my local market makes guacamole and freezes it in plastic bags to keep out the oxygen.  So next time you see a good sale, it might be worth trying. 

And I love visiting TJs when I'm on the west coast USA.  Great cheeses, and fun ideas for meals and snacks to make when I get home.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Beric01 on October 13, 2014, 06:29:56 PM
Trader Joes's isn't cheaper on everything, but it is on a lot of things (bananas for $0.19!), and their quality is excellent. My local Trader Joe's is right by Target, so I just hit both and get the cheapest items across the two stores.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: DecD on October 13, 2014, 08:24:11 PM
When I lived in Los Angeles, I lived half a block from TJs, so naturally I did a lot of shopping there.  Compared to the other grocery stores in my neighborhood, TJs was significantly cheaper across the board. I wasn't impressed by their packaged produce, but otherwise, loved the place.  Small enough to not be overwhelming, good prices, great beer/wine selection, and Joes Os are the breakfast cereal of champions, seriously love them. 

But mostly, for me, I could walk there, and I could get my groceries there much cheaper than Vons.  I'd get staples (sugar, flour, etc) elsewhere, but for most things, it was TJs for me. 
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: tofuchampion on October 13, 2014, 08:58:52 PM
I love TJ's.  Love love love, and I don't care what y'all think.  :P

My husband introduced me to TJ's kettle corn on our first date - we snuck a bag into a movie theater - and I tell people that's one reason I fell for him.  When they opened one in our current city a couple of years ago, we were just about counting down the days.

We get some basics there because they're cheaper and (imo) tastier than other local grocery stores.  Sometimes I go through sales for other stores, combine with coupons, etc., and yeah, I can get things cheaper that way, but if I don't have the time or don't want the hassle, I don't feel bad shopping at TJ's because their prices are better than non-sale prices anywhere else.

Husband loves their beer & wine.  I'm not much of a drinker, and am pregnant right now anyway, but I do like their wine when I'm in the mood.

Someone above mentioned their ketchup.  They have the best ketchup.  Ever.  It's one of those things where you'd think it's all the same, but it's not, and TJ's organic ketchup is absolutely the best I've had.

We do like the convenience foods.  It's cheaper for us to buy snack food at TJ's than for me to get things at the work cafeteria or Husband to stop at a gas station on his way to work every day, as we tend to do.  I recently discovered their graham crackers, and it's like the ketchup - you think a graham cracker is just a graham cracker, but these are far and away better than any others I've had.  I mentioned the kettle corn.  The frozen meals (OMG their mac & cheese!) and things like Asian noodle boxes are more expensive than making our own from scratch, but we've accepted that we're just not going to cook from scratch all the time, especially for work, and this is less expensive than buying food at work - which, again, we will do otherwise.  It's not perfect, but it's an improvement over our former habits.  We both work 12-hour overnight shifts, and it's worth it to us to pay a little extra for the convenience.

Like someone else mentioned, I appreciate that they're not huge.  I can go in, find what I need easily, and get out.  If I forget something in one aisle, it's not going to take me 5 minutes to make my way back and find it again.

My 8-year-old loves the samples (okay, we ALL love the samples), and the "hidden" stuffed animal to find.  (For those without kids: they take a stuffed animal, different for every location - here it's a seahawk bc that's our local college mascot - and put it in a different place every day.  Kids are supposed to look for it, and then they can tell the customer service desk where they found it and get a prize like a piece of candy or some stickers.  It's fun and keeps him occupied while I'm shopping.)

So yes, shameless TJ's love here, and that's not going to change.  Maybe I'm just a hipster or a sucka or whatever, but they have food I love at reasonable prices.  I'm pretty sure when Baby Tofu arrives (in approx 5 weeks), we're going to be eating a lot more of their frozen meals, bc I won't be cooking and Husband doesn't care to, and this doesn't bother me in the least.

These are the basics we get at TJ's:
- nuts & seeds
- dried fruit
- frozen fruit & veg
- canned tomatoes
- spices
- olive & coconut oils
- bagged salads
- coffee
- yogurt
- almond milk
- steel-cut oats
- frozen chicken breast
- ground beef
- maple syrup
- honey
- baking soda & powder
- whole wheat cinnamon raisin english muffins
- salsa
- other condiments/sauces (the sweet chili sauce is great, also curry simmer sauce, peanut sauce, etc)
- hummus
- tofu

favorite novelty/convenience foods:
- graham crackers
- flavored cream cheese (pumpkin! peanut butter!)
- kettlecorn
- tortilla chips
- single-serve frozen meals (mac & cheese, ethnic dishes)
- Asian noodle boxes
- veggie straws
- chocolate in all forms
- frozen waffles

I also like their flowers.  I like to have a vase of fresh flowers on the table, and their cheapest ones are $2.99, which I don't mind spending for a weekly bouquet.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: iris lily on October 13, 2014, 09:27:38 PM
I find both the scorn and the alleged hype baffling.  It's just a mid-price grocery chain with a limited/specialty selection.  What's the big deal, one way or the other?  Does anyone really "worship at the alter" of TJ's?  Sounds a bit hyperbolic to me.

For those up in arms about their prepared foods, what are you comparing them with?  Are you suggesting that there are grocery chains that have better prepared foods?  Or are you suggesting that there are grocery chains that banish prepared foods altogether?   'Cause everywhere I'm familiar with has prepared foods that are no better (usually worse) and no cheaper (usually more expensive) than TJ's.  Why single them out?

Yes, the granola types who can't cook do seem to worship at the alter. And the store has a higher % of processed foods than, say, the international store I frequent.

When TJ's first opened here in town  (it's a 20 minutes drive) I tried to get excited about it. I found a few specialty items that I got jazzed about, but then two of them went out of stock. Then one came back. Then went long time out of stock. I learned that's kinda how it goes there.

I don't go there any more, well, maybe 1X annually.

It's also the only place I have EVER purchased Swiss chocolate I didn't like. I thin they were lying and it wasn't Swiss.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: happyfeet on October 13, 2014, 11:08:53 PM
Not a big fan of TJ. But if you have gluten issues the almond flour is the cheapest out there.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: dragoncar on October 14, 2014, 12:03:39 AM
(http://college.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/CookieButter.jpg)

Nuff said
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Pigeon on October 14, 2014, 05:58:35 AM
Some people like it, some people don't, some are meh.  There's no more worshipping at the TJs altar than there is worshipping at the Costco altar, which seems to be a thing, too.

I'm in the meh category.  They can't sell wine in my state due to ridiculous laws.  If they did, I'd probably shop there more often for wine for DH or company. 

Their parking lot is ridiculous.  It's about 500% too small.  I understand they do this on purpose, but I'll never understand why.  It means I don't shop there very often because I can only get there at times when I would need to spend half an hour waiting to snag a parking space, and my life is too short for that.

Their prices on some things were better than my other grocery stores, which is true of every place I shop.  I don't eat a lot of convenience food, but if I did, that would be the place to get it.  They do have tasty and inexpensive snacks, exactly the kind of thing I should avoid.  Their dried fruit and nuts are great.

I like Aldis very much and find the shopping experience similar, except with better parking.  Small, limited selection, not a lot of name brands, easy to breeze through.  We don't have a Costco, so that's not an alternative for me.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Kansas Beachbum on October 14, 2014, 08:55:17 AM
Nope...I totally don't get it either.  We have two of them here in metro KC.  Went to one shortly after it opened a few years ago.  Overpriced deli stuff and really, really bad wine.  Haven't been back.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: iris lily on October 14, 2014, 09:18:50 AM
....  Their dried fruit and nuts are great.


Yes, and I developed a taste for dried Michigan sour cherries that I bought at TJ's. Then 2X within 2 years they were out of that product when I went, and I have to go out of my way to go to TJ's. That was a PITA.

So I do think of TJ's for these cherries and nuts as well.

But really, it's all of the packaging that bugs me.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: dragoncar on October 14, 2014, 12:01:53 PM

Their parking lot is ridiculous.  It's about 500% too small.  I understand they do this on purpose, but I'll never understand why. 

I'm guessing because it's ridiculous for our society to dedicate so much space to the storage of cars?  That said, I was always able to find a spot at TJs.  Don't go right after Yoga class lets out mkay?
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: golden1 on October 14, 2014, 12:08:39 PM
Love Trader Joes.  I started out skeptical, but now I do about 20-30% of my shopping there.  You can't do all your shopping there, and you have to know what to buy and what to avoid and that takes time. 

Produce is hit and miss.  I like their organic pears and the seasonal box of peaches they get sometimes.  While peaches at my supermarket rarely ripen properly (they often go from baseballs to sauce in two days) the trader joes peaches ripen gradually and stay good for a week.  They also get good blueberries in season.  I can get meat cheaper elsewhere so I usually don't buy it there. 

Their toiletries are also a very good deal.  They have cheap oatmeal soap that doesn't dry your skin or smell too perfumey.  They have a great face lotion that costs $7 a bottle and has lasted me over a year. 

They have an excellent variety of coffee at very good prices.  I grind my own beans and use a french press so I buy their coffee quite often.  They also have lots of amazing chips, desserts and crackers for those of us who like to indulge occasionally.  I love their ginger snaps, quinoa and black bean tortilla chips, and sea salt butterscotch caramels. 

They have some short cut preprepared things that are yummy.  I am a fan of their italian meatballs. 
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Beric01 on October 14, 2014, 12:12:57 PM

Their parking lot is ridiculous.  It's about 500% too small.  I understand they do this on purpose, but I'll never understand why. 

I'm guessing because it's ridiculous for our society to dedicate so much space to the storage of cars?  That said, I was always able to find a spot at TJs.  Don't go right after Yoga class lets out mkay?

Their bike racks always have room! When I was still driving I would agree it was hard to find parking, but now that I bike I have no problem at all. :)
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Thegoblinchief on October 14, 2014, 12:13:51 PM

Their parking lot is ridiculous.  It's about 500% too small.  I understand they do this on purpose, but I'll never understand why. 

I'm guessing because it's ridiculous for our society to dedicate so much space to the storage of cars?  That said, I was always able to find a spot at TJs.  Don't go right after Yoga class lets out mkay?

If I go without the kids, I'll just ride my bike and get the best spot of all.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Pigeon on October 14, 2014, 12:20:06 PM

Their parking lot is ridiculous.  It's about 500% too small.  I understand they do this on purpose, but I'll never understand why. 

I'm guessing because it's ridiculous for our society to dedicate so much space to the storage of cars?  That said, I was always able to find a spot at TJs.  Don't go right after Yoga class lets out mkay?
If I go without the kids, I'll just ride my bike and get the best spot of all.
You'd be taking your life in your hands if you biked to ours, and we have no public transportation worth the name. 
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Beric01 on October 14, 2014, 12:21:58 PM
You'd be taking your life in your hands if you biked to ours

Bicycling: The SAFEST Form of Transportation (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/06/13/bicycling-the-safest-form-of-transportation/)

If you're having trouble getting to the store safely, post a thread and we'll use Google maps and help you plan a safe route. :)
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: blackomen on October 14, 2014, 12:30:08 PM
I've lived in Europe briefly and I feel TJ has the feel of many of the small European supermarkets.  Hell, they have quite a selection of European products, namely imported olive oils, cheeses, pasta, etc.  Also, maybe my sensitivity to various unnamed ingredients is unproven but I seem to sense less artificial chemicals and preservatives in the packaged foods from TJs (i.e. canned fish, snacks, etc.) than elsewhere, similar to the packaged foods I bought in Europe.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: oldtoyota on October 16, 2014, 08:36:47 PM
Yeah. Their packaging used to weird me out, but I just stopped buying most produce. Shrink-wrapped zucchini bothers me. For some reason, I don't mind apples in a plastic bag. Call me crazy. =-)

These are the items which I buy there. I have researched and they have the lowest price on the following:

Organic yogurt
bananas
carrots
GF bread
GF flour
rice milk
red lentils
cage free eggs
almonds
walnuts (they taste better than at other groceries)
apples
chicken
beef--only buy this once a month and price is good

They used to have a good price on oatmeal, but that changed. I don't buy it there anymore.


Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: votu on October 16, 2014, 08:48:26 PM
The only thing I buy from there is Dr. Bonner's soap since they have the best price around.  I tried to pick up some of their packaged snack food, but since they don't disclose the food source I ended up putting them back.  "Dist. and sold exclusively by Trader Joe" doesn't inspire any confidence.  That's the type of wording I often find on products sourced from China.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: dragoncar on October 16, 2014, 10:38:35 PM
Yeah. Their packaging used to weird me out, but I just stopped buying most produce. Shrink-wrapped zucchini bothers me. For some reason, I don't mind apples in a plastic bag. Call me crazy.

Don't most people put their produce in one of those little plastic bags anyways?  Or do you just put it directly in your canvas hippie bags?  Honest question.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: vern on October 16, 2014, 11:05:03 PM
Although, there must be some Canadian appetite for the product because there is a store called "Pirate Joe's" in my city which is basically re-sells and marks up Trader Joe's merchandise and sells them to the Canadian customer. Apparently the owner drives down to the states, buys hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Trader Joes stuff and stocks the shelves of his "Pirate Joe's" store.

Trader Joe's tried to sue the guy a while back, but it was tossed out of court. Might have to check out "PJ's" one of these days. I wonder how much they jack up the prices?

I remember reading an article about that guy a while back.  I'm glad he won his court case!
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Thegoblinchief on October 17, 2014, 07:00:10 AM
Yeah. Their packaging used to weird me out, but I just stopped buying most produce. Shrink-wrapped zucchini bothers me. For some reason, I don't mind apples in a plastic bag. Call me crazy.

Don't most people put their produce in one of those little plastic bags anyways?  Or do you just put it directly in your canvas hippie bags?  Honest question.

I never see people complaining about the shrink wrapped produce at ALDI in threads praising that store...
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Pigeon on October 17, 2014, 01:44:25 PM
Aldi's shtick is very low price, not hipsterism.

I don't like shrink wrapped veggies from anywhere.  My Aldi's sells a lot of produce that isn't shrink wrapped, but more than I wish they did.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: minimustache1985 on October 17, 2014, 02:29:48 PM
When I lived in California TJs was my go-to, everywhere else was so expensive.  Organic 100% (not 51% like some marketed ones) whole wheat pasta for $1.19?  Yes please.

Then a Sprouts opened.  They are hands down my favorite store for produce, and I have one in my current location as well.

Now TJs is a filler for me to pick up occasional purchases, some of these things are cheaper at Costco but with a 2 person household I don't use enough to buy them there:
100% whole wheat pasta
WINE, both 3 buck chuck and better wine in the $4-$10 range
Fancy cheese (not the sandwich slices, but manchego, goat cheese, etc)
Spinach
Bananas
Vacuum sealed Beets <--- yes this is convenience, those suckers are a PITA
Organic boxed soups (tomato especially)
Udi's products <---- when we have GF house guests coming
Frozen veggies/fruit
Frozen vacuum sealed wild caught fish
"Just a handful" nut products for my briefcase <--- yes I could ziplock package the costco ones myself, but the $/oz is comparable enough for me to just get these

Chocoholic tip, the square containers they package their chocolate wares in are great for storing bulk-bought chocolate in a desk drawer.  Can't remember the last time I bought TJs chocolate, but I use those containers for a long time.  Don't get the chocolate covered almond bits though, I'm 98% sure they have cocaine in them.

As for 3 buck chuck, if you don't care for it try throwing some frozen fruit in it.  I'd never do that to truly good wine, but 2 pieces of frozen mango in charles shaw does a lot for it without going all the way to sangria.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: The Architect on October 17, 2014, 03:21:15 PM
They have *excellent* condiments. So I stock up on those there every few months, but do the rest of the shopping at the bi-monthly Costco and weekly Kroger trips.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: carozy on October 19, 2014, 03:50:06 AM
The only thing I get at TJ's is shampoo and conditioner.  I like the Trader Joe's brand because it has natural ingredients and not tested on animals.  Works fine, lasts long, and pretty cheap.

I use Costco, Bargain Market ($0.99 store), and FoodMax.  I've been impressed with Bargain Market -- blueberries, strawberries, and cauliflower head for $0.99 each, among other things.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: 10dollarsatatime on October 19, 2014, 11:21:06 AM
I go to Trader Joe's every couple of months.  For their cookie butter.  And their coconut chips.  That's pretty much it.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Iron Mike Sharpe on October 20, 2014, 08:17:23 AM
I found this article amusing.

http://priceonomics.com/the-man-who-smuggles-traders-joes-into-canada/


Quote
The Man Who Smuggles Trader Joe’s into Canada

Oct. 3, 2014 · 70,104 views

Michael "Pirate Joe" Hallatt and his unmarked white van are Canada's number-one supplier of Trader Joe's items. And, so far, Trader Joe's hasn't been able to stop him.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: MoneyCat on October 20, 2014, 09:24:13 AM
Hipsters love Trader Joe's because it ticks all the right boxes for pretending to be an environmentalist -- including the weird veganism springing up everywhere, which I assume comes from a lifetime of watching Disney movies.  I personally never shop at Trader Joe's unless someone gives me a gift card, because it's overpriced and far out of my way.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: MayDay on October 20, 2014, 10:32:33 AM
I put my produce directly into my reusable shopping bags! Except lettuce.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: BaldingStoic on October 20, 2014, 10:38:25 AM
As a big fan of Trader Joe's, I feel compelled to speak up in their defense.  While pricing may not be especially cheap, the beauty of TJ's is that they have damn good buyers and staff that are knowledgeable about what they sell.  Thus I'm happy to pay a small premium, because I'm confident that someone with solid culinary taste has already vetted the products.  Additionally, I have no patience for monitoring the constant discounts of the conventional grocery stores - especially the frequent game of marking up the list price beyond reason and then offering a fictitious 20%-off which brings the price back in alignment with reasonable list-price, without any real savings.  Trader Joe's may not be particularly cheap but at least they avoid such pricing shenanigans.

My main complaint with TJ isn't the pricing, it is the fact they don't have a good spicy Mexican-style salsa.  Caribbean salsa just doesn't do for me...   

Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: lauren_knows on October 20, 2014, 10:54:35 AM
As a big fan of Trader Joe's, I feel compelled to speak up in their defense.  While pricing may not be especially cheap, the beauty of TJ's is that they have damn good buyers and staff that are knowledgeable about what they sell.  Thus I'm happy to pay a small premium, because I'm confident that someone with solid culinary taste has already vetted the products.  Additionally, I have no patience for monitoring the constant discounts of the conventional grocery stores - especially the frequent game of marking up the list price beyond reason and then offering a fictitious 20%-off which brings the price back in alignment with reasonable list-price, without any real savings.  Trader Joe's may not be particularly cheap but at least they avoid such pricing shenanigans.

My main complaint with TJ isn't the pricing, it is the fact they don't have a good spicy Mexican-style salsa.  Caribbean salsa just doesn't do for me...

I love Trader Joes, and we have one within walking distance of our house.  Though, groceries is a generally unmustachian area for myself...
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: horsepoor on October 21, 2014, 09:20:12 AM
Loved TJ's when I lived in California, and pined for it for years after moving to Idaho.  Well, they finally opened a store in Boise last fall, and I've been there exactly twice, and spent about $10 total.  I cook almost everything from scratch now, buy many ingredients at CostCo, or the bulk bins at Rosauer's or WinCo, and that leaves precious little that TJs has to offer me, such as the frozen enchiladas or packets of trail mix I used to buy there.  I'm just pretty much over it.  The beer and wine selection and prices didn't seem that great when I was there, either. 
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: DollarBill on October 24, 2014, 02:43:48 PM
I was down in Austin visiting my Sister and she took me there for the first time. Not a fan...I couldn't believe the prices and how much processed food they have (I always thought it was a health store). When I mentioned this to my Sister she said "this is where all the rich single people that don't know how to cook shop". I did find it to be a great place to people watch...but then I found out that is all of Austin! It's a strange City...lol.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: OSUBearCub on October 24, 2014, 03:02:51 PM
I don't get it either.  Other than the 2 Buck Chuck.

+1

I got a fancy wine decanter for Christmas one year and have been serving "outstanding" and "delicious" and "very fruit forward" wines to guests for years now.  I'm a rube so I always spill the beans at some point before the bottle is done ha ha
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Davids on October 24, 2014, 05:18:04 PM
I am glad there is not a Trader Joes near me or my wife would go there constantly as she loves Trader Joes. I do not get the hype. Aldi is way better than Trader Joes.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Jane on October 24, 2014, 06:04:17 PM
I always buy a couple of their refrigerated whole wheat pizza doughs and freeze them. They are only $1.19, which I realize is more than making from scratch, but I've never been able to make a whole wheat version that tastes as good. We like our pizza very thin, so I can make a large pizza that will feed my husband and me dinner with a little bit of leftover using one dough.

The pound plus chocolate bars are delicious and reasonably priced. They are great for eating or using in baked goods.

I'm a fan of their breads. For the quality of the bread I think the prices are good.

Ditto on the nuts there. The prices are very reasonable. I saw an article recently that TJs beat out Walmart for pricing on nuts.

I do like the occasional processed treat, and some of their chips and cookies are better than the standard stuff at regular groceries.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: prof61820 on October 25, 2014, 07:42:54 AM
I am always amazed by TJ's prices.  They are always lower than what I would expect to pay.  Whole Foods, on the other hand, always produces bills larger than what I would expect to pay.

Fan of: Salads, fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen fish, meat, coffee, bread mixes, sunflower butter (for a peanut free school), cereal, organic milk, box wine and friendly service.  I even bought TJ's bags so I no longer have to figure out what to do with a multitude of their paper bags.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: citycat on October 25, 2014, 04:57:54 PM
I recently checked out TJ and was not impressed after all the hype.  Almost everything is less expensive at Costco.  But I'm adding it to my monthly rotation for the following specific products: 

-organic potatoes
-organic yellow onions
-brown rice pasta
-organic marinara sauce
-wine!!! ($4.50-$6 range)
-chocolate bars!!
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: sunnyca on October 25, 2014, 05:16:33 PM
I'm a fan of their nuts, nut butters, bagged greens, and cheeses.  They're the only store I've found near me that carries haloumi cheese :)

If I had to pick only one grocery store to shop at it wouldn't be TJ's, but it is part of my regular rotation. 
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: RootofGood on October 26, 2014, 04:52:03 PM
I'm a fan, but TJ's isn't on my normal rotation (it's almost 3 miles away so a bit of a drive compared to Aldi/Walmart/local grocery that are walkable or <1.5 miles drive). 

I get $3 wine, cheap fancy beers, $5 champagne, fancy cheeses, hummus, nuts, frozen seafood like scallops, and maybe a few other things. 

Produce seems overpriced as does their fresh meats and dairy.  I'll have to try their Joe Dark roast as recommended by others in the thread if it's competitively priced. 
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: OSUBearCub on October 27, 2014, 09:07:14 AM
This thread prompted me to check out our local Trader Joe's this weekend and I used this list:

http://www.foodbeast.com/2014/05/07/trader-joes-most-popular-items/

Some thoughts:

1. Generally, if you need to add a little froufrou to your meals for a special occasion, this is the place to pick up a specialty item.  In my former, spendy, life, I used to frequent gourmet groceries for stuff like TJ's sells.  A $10 splurge on a special occasion is going to stretch a lot further at Trader Joe's.

2. Cookie butter is just gross.  I don't understand it in my brain. I'll pass and you can have the rest of my jar. :-)

3. Charles Shaw wines are an exceptional value if you don't want to commit to a big box o'wine or like a little variety.  They just released their Charles Shaw 2014 beaujolais nouveau a full month before the French would dare to (3rd week in November).  Incidentally, this wine pairs amazingly with turkey dinners.

4. The one pound chocolate bars for $5 are going to make spectacular Christmas gifts.  The dark chocolate is very well made with good bitter cocoa flavor.

5. Spinach and Kale Greek Yogurt Dip - I hope it freezes well because I intend to have this on hand for every office potluck and neighborhood barbecue for the next decade.  I will also lie and say I made it from scratch - I have no scruples. :-)
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: dragoncar on October 27, 2014, 10:15:23 AM

2. Cookie butter is just gross.  I don't understand it in my brain. I'll pass and you can have the rest of my jar. :-)


We need to get this man to a neuroscientist!  By figuring out what broke in your genetic code, we can solve America's obesity epidemic!
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: MrFancypants on October 27, 2014, 10:22:05 AM
I'm sure it has already been said, but...

Like every other store, it all depends on what you buy.  An example, there's a certain kind of lotion (body butter) my wife likes to use.  I think it costs about $10 a jar.  To get the same quality product elsewhere you're spending $40 or $50.

Not only that, but my wife enjoys cooking as a hobby, and being somebody who enjoys eating tasty foods I like to encourage that hobby.  So if this means spending some extra at Trader Joe's on specialty items, I'm totally okay with it.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: MooseOutFront on October 27, 2014, 10:24:00 AM
TJ's is a bit out of my way, so I only make the trip when we're out of wine.  Last week I was in a hurry so I only bought wine.  3 boxes of shiraz and 3 bottles of 3 buck chuck cab was about $48.  The cashier asked what's the occasion.  He seemed to backtrack when my answer was "we were out of wine." :)

Thanks to this thread I'll be looking to price compare almonds, peanut butter, coffee, and marinara.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: OSUBearCub on October 27, 2014, 11:58:57 AM

2. Cookie butter is just gross.  I don't understand it in my brain. I'll pass and you can have the rest of my jar. :-)


We need to get this man to a neuroscientist!  By figuring out what broke in your genetic code, we can solve America's obesity epidemic!

I just don't understand it.  It's the same as Biscoff Spread (http://www.biscoff.com/indulge/biscoff-spread) and I would put money on them as the manufacturer of Trader Joe's house brand.  Biscoff cookies are addictive and my favorite part of every Delta Airlines flight.  But I want to meet the deranged man who looked at a pile of cookie dust and crumbs at the Biscoff factory and said "why don't we crush up our delicious cookies and mix them with oil into a spreadable cookie paste?"  :-)
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: 4alpacas on October 27, 2014, 12:11:32 PM
This thread prompted me to check out our local Trader Joe's this weekend and I used this list:

http://www.foodbeast.com/2014/05/07/trader-joes-most-popular-items/

Some thoughts:

1. Generally, if you need to add a little froufrou to your meals for a special occasion, this is the place to pick up a specialty item.  In my former, spendy, life, I used to frequent gourmet groceries for stuff like TJ's sells.  A $10 splurge on a special occasion is going to stretch a lot further at Trader Joe's.

2. Cookie butter is just gross.  I don't understand it in my brain. I'll pass and you can have the rest of my jar. :-)

3. Charles Shaw wines are an exceptional value if you don't want to commit to a big box o'wine or like a little variety.  They just released their Charles Shaw 2014 beaujolais nouveau a full month before the French would dare to (3rd week in November).  Incidentally, this wine pairs amazingly with turkey dinners.

4. The one pound chocolate bars for $5 are going to make spectacular Christmas gifts.  The dark chocolate is very well made with good bitter cocoa flavor.

5. Spinach and Kale Greek Yogurt Dip - I hope it freezes well because I intend to have this on hand for every office potluck and neighborhood barbecue for the next decade.  I will also lie and say I made it from scratch - I have no scruples. :-)
I agree!!!  Especially about the cookie butter!  It's so gross!

I go to Trader Joe's every few months.  Usually I go before we have house guests.  I pick up a few fancy cheeses, prosciutto, and the chocolate croissants.  A meal of cheese, prosciutto, and wine keeps us from going out at least one night while the visitors are in town (we have an excellent wine selection).  The chocolate croissants provide a decadent breakfast with no effort (toss them on a cookie sheet before bed to rise).  We also bought some of the almond croissants when our last guests were in town. 

For our basic grocery shopping, we stick to one store.  Trader Joe's is a way for us to get fancy food for a reasonable price.  And two buck chuck.  We keep bottles of it for cooking and sangria. 
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: sobezen on October 27, 2014, 01:59:50 PM
Confused by the popularity here in California but I feel the same way about Whole Foods. I prefer local ethnic markets, Ranch 99, Sprouts and Costco. :)
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: mlipps on October 27, 2014, 06:53:22 PM

2. Cookie butter is just gross.  I don't understand it in my brain. I'll pass and you can have the rest of my jar. :-)


We need to get this man to a neuroscientist!  By figuring out what broke in your genetic code, we can solve America's obesity epidemic!

I just don't understand it.  It's the same as Biscoff Spread (http://www.biscoff.com/indulge/biscoff-spread) and I would put money on them as the manufacturer of Trader Joe's house brand.  Biscoff cookies are addictive and my favorite part of every Delta Airlines flight.  But I want to meet the deranged man who looked at a pile of cookie dust and crumbs at the Biscoff factory and said "why don't we crush up our delicious cookies and mix them with oil into a spreadable cookie paste?"  :-)

I agree that the butter alone is a little weird. But the cookie butter ice cream is addicting!
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: frugalecon on October 27, 2014, 07:15:10 PM
TJs is in my rotation, but primarily for: coffee, nuts, dried fruit (esp. tart cherries), chips (esp. black bean quinoa corn chips), salsa, pasta, frozen green beans, emergency black bean and corn enchiladas, and chocolate. Not much else, though I do try the odd new thing.

I do a fair amount of shopping at Whole Foods, mainly because their produce is good and it is possible to buy non-factory farmed meat there. We don't eat much meat, and for ethical reasons I try to favor humanely raised stuff. Wish I could find a good meat CSA. Plus, the WFM private label stuff is a pretty good deal. Oh, and the store is only 3 blocks away from the house.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: fa on October 27, 2014, 07:54:32 PM
We went to TJ a couple of times.  Every time was kind of a disappointment.  Very limited selection and the prices were not great.  All in all, there are better organic grocery chains in our area and of course there is always Costco.  I just don't see a need for TJ.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: aspiringnomad on October 27, 2014, 08:22:31 PM
I'm a fan of TJ's for what it is. Cheap sub par produce, well-curated specialty items, and bargain wine (that happens to agree with my taste buds). If you're expecting more, I guess it's bound to disappoint. Have seen this discussion on multiple blogs though. It's just a different strokes for different folks thing.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: RootofGood on October 28, 2014, 05:03:33 PM
TJ's is a bit out of my way, so I only make the trip when we're out of wine.  Last week I was in a hurry so I only bought wine.  3 boxes of shiraz and 3 bottles of 3 buck chuck cab was about $48.  The cashier asked what's the occasion.  He seemed to backtrack when my answer was "we were out of wine." :)


+1  "Oh, cool, you're having a party!" the TJ cashier says.  To which I respond, "Yep". Every day is a party in my life.  :)  And paying $3 for some delicious wine only makes it more awesome.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: 1967mama on October 28, 2014, 05:38:52 PM
I wouldn't shop at TJ's because its a 25 minute drive for me. But when I'm in the area for Costco, its a nice place to stop in for some fun foods instead of eating out. We liked the cheeses and yes, the Cookie Butter.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: dragoncar on October 28, 2014, 07:36:15 PM
TJ's is a bit out of my way, so I only make the trip when we're out of wine.  Last week I was in a hurry so I only bought wine.  3 boxes of shiraz and 3 bottles of 3 buck chuck cab was about $48.  The cashier asked what's the occasion.  He seemed to backtrack when my answer was "we were out of wine." :)


+1  "Oh, cool, you're having a party!" the TJ cashier says.  To which I respond, "Yep". Every day is a party in my life.  :)  And paying $3 for some delicious wine only makes it more awesome.

This is crazy.  Happened to me the other day with like 3 measly bottles.  Ok he didn't say the word " party," but he acted like people don't regularly buy multiple bottles.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: RootofGood on October 29, 2014, 12:29:30 PM
TJ's is a bit out of my way, so I only make the trip when we're out of wine.  Last week I was in a hurry so I only bought wine.  3 boxes of shiraz and 3 bottles of 3 buck chuck cab was about $48.  The cashier asked what's the occasion.  He seemed to backtrack when my answer was "we were out of wine." :)


+1  "Oh, cool, you're having a party!" the TJ cashier says.  To which I respond, "Yep". Every day is a party in my life.  :)  And paying $3 for some delicious wine only makes it more awesome.

This is crazy.  Happened to me the other day with like 3 measly bottles.  Ok he didn't say the word " party," but he acted like people don't regularly buy multiple bottles.

I know.  It's TJ's.  I've had the same thing happen at the grocery store when I was buying a case of light beer and a 12 pack of some fancy beer and a couple of other regular food items.  Nothing fancy.  "Oh, having a big party for the game this weekend?".  No, just restocking my pantry for the next few months of occasional beer drinking by buying in somewhat bulk quantities.  I usually lie and just agree that yes, I am in fact hosting a party.  Makes it easier. 

Maybe it's being in a lower income area where buying a case of beer or case of wine is an investment not lightly made by most folks.  Why put yourself out of $13 for a case of 24 beers when you can spend $5.99 each week on a six pack instead? #mathchallenged  :)
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: galliver on October 29, 2014, 01:56:09 PM
TJ's is a bit out of my way, so I only make the trip when we're out of wine.  Last week I was in a hurry so I only bought wine.  3 boxes of shiraz and 3 bottles of 3 buck chuck cab was about $48.  The cashier asked what's the occasion.  He seemed to backtrack when my answer was "we were out of wine." :)


+1  "Oh, cool, you're having a party!" the TJ cashier says.  To which I respond, "Yep". Every day is a party in my life.  :)  And paying $3 for some delicious wine only makes it more awesome.

This is crazy.  Happened to me the other day with like 3 measly bottles.  Ok he didn't say the word " party," but he acted like people don't regularly buy multiple bottles.

I know.  It's TJ's.  I've had the same thing happen at the grocery store when I was buying a case of light beer and a 12 pack of some fancy beer and a couple of other regular food items.  Nothing fancy.  "Oh, having a big party for the game this weekend?".  No, just restocking my pantry for the next few months of occasional beer drinking by buying in somewhat bulk quantities.  I usually lie and just agree that yes, I am in fact hosting a party.  Makes it easier. 

Maybe it's being in a lower income area where buying a case of beer or case of wine is an investment not lightly made by most folks.  Why put yourself out of $13 for a case of 24 beers when you can spend $5.99 each week on a six pack instead? #mathchallenged  :)

It's like this in reverse:
(http://www.funniestmemes.com/wp-content/uploads/Funniest_Memes_i-don-t-always-take-out-the-recycling_2445.jpeg)
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: galliver on October 29, 2014, 02:25:21 PM
Things we consider TJ good for now/here (SoCal) include uncured bacon ends (bits&pieces?), cherry tomatoes, our giant basil plant/potted herbs/potted plants generally, frozen desserts, cheese, good bread, and chocolate. And of course wine.

Growing up I remember getting the sense that TJ's was a place for a more "European" shopping experience. Basically, if your list of "bread, cheese, chocolate" are satisfied by "Wonderbread," cheddar, and Hershey's, it's understandable how you wouldn't see the point. My parents went there for things that are unpopular in the US or for things that didn't taste right in the US "standard versions" if you will: cheese, cured meat (salami, etc), crackers, chocolate, mineral water, desserts/treats. Sometimes we got bread or pre-marinated meat as a treat, and I think the price (or perhaps quality) of milk, eggs, canned goods (esp salmon), nuts, and of course wine was comparable/better than traditional grocery stores. We hardly/never got produce, cereals, frozen meals, juice, chips/snacks there.

So I guess my point is: the prices may not be great in general, but on many products the quality/price is fantastic (i.e. same quality elsewhere would be MUCH pricier). It's a matter of taste/choice/preference if that quality (or specialty) in any given product is worthwhile.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Thegoblinchief on November 03, 2014, 05:18:59 PM
The whole wheat spaghetti is quite good. Much better than any of the supermarket brands I've tried.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Penny Lane on November 03, 2014, 05:53:38 PM
The nearest Costco is 2 states away so I've never been. I hit the TJ's ( only one in the state) about once a month for nuts, the 17 oz dark chocolate almond bars, frozen baby peas, canned artichoke hearts, etc.  I don't get cheese there as it seems to mold quickly.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Little Nell on November 04, 2014, 09:07:09 PM
We go for pasta, olive oil, nuts and dried fruits, cheap cheeses, Cliff bars in bulk, the large bars of chocolate (the dark is great for covering candies), choc. chips, and wine. We go every six weeks or so, and the bill is huge. But most of this stuff costs much more elsewhere.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Thegoblinchief on December 04, 2014, 05:36:42 PM
I really like the tortilla chips and the 'salsa autentica'.

The whole wheat spaghetti is some of the best pasta I've ever tried.

We've been doing cheese, wine, and smoked salmon date nights. Huge fans of the smoked salmon and Unexpected Cheddar, which I believe are regular items. This month we tried the French Truffle Chevre. ZOMG. Don't calculate the price per pound, it's ridiculous (okay, facepunch, it works out to $16/lb) but so delicious. Definitely worth $4 for the small 4oz log package they sell it in for a special dinner.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Mesmoiselle on December 04, 2014, 06:22:45 PM
Huge selection of packaged goods. The bell peppers that were selling for a crazy deal the other day were the smallest peppers I had ever seen (priced per pepper). Their bananas are always .19 but that is per banana. No other grocery store I've shopped at sells bananas per banana. Just felt like tricky pricing to me. "Organic" cookies are still cookies and are still processed. Same goes with all of their TJ brand frozen meals. I think people think anything with the name Trader Joes on it is healthy.

I don't get it.

I'm vegan and I don't get the hype either. Same pricing as Whole Foods without the same selection of fruits and veggies. It's like a Trendy Expensive Aldi's.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: MooseOutFront on December 05, 2014, 11:09:44 AM
Thai Lime Almonds = legit.  Thanks for people mentioned that I should check the nut aisle.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: Helvegen on December 05, 2014, 11:47:34 AM
I was not impressed either by it. I do 95% of all of my grocery shopping at Costco and Winco.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: MandalayVA on December 05, 2014, 12:09:30 PM
The nearest one to me is a twenty minute drive and I don't get it either.  True, what little I've gotten from there is good, true, but the aisles are laid out diagonally (?) and it's always packed.  And I ALWAYS have some kid ramming a cart into my Achilles.  Whole Foods is out that way too but one's being built about three miles from me, so I'll just wait for that. 
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: ruthiegirl on December 05, 2014, 02:07:28 PM
The Trader Joe's by me has excellent, HUGE avocados.  They also sell mint tea that I like and they have free coffee in those little cups. 

Not much else.  I was excited to move close to a TJ's, but the shine has worn off.  It seems expensive for snack-y stuff that we don't really need and I am always pissed by the incredible amount of packaging.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: 2lazy2retire on December 05, 2014, 02:21:21 PM
Close by and small - ie in and out in minutes + free coffee. We have all the stores within 2 mins drive - I hate Wegmans, far to big and pain in the ass to find anything
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: notquitefrugal on December 06, 2014, 09:07:14 AM
The frozen spinach and kale bites are outstanding. I could eat a whole package of those (or more!) as a meal.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: MrFancypants on December 06, 2014, 11:04:39 AM
Another thing to consider with Trader Joe's, they have a "no questions asked" return policy.

If you buy a box of cookies, eat one, and decide that it's the most awful thing you've ever taken....  bring it back and get your money.

Like people are saying, not everything there is a good deal, but I can't think of a single store where that's true (Dollar Tree?).  But Trader Joe's is definitely a good place to go for certain items.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: blub on December 06, 2014, 01:35:27 PM
Are there any better deals on wine than at Trader Joe's (here in Dallas, it's $3 per 750ml bottle)? I haven't found any, but I'd love to.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: notquitefrugal on December 06, 2014, 03:20:31 PM
I've probably said this before, but TJ's boxed wine is quite good. Here, it's around $10 for 3 liters, which is about the same price as Franzia (or maybe even a little less), but TJ's tastes better than Franzia. If you buy a case of bottled or boxed wine, they will give you a discount.
Title: Re: Am I the only one who does not understand the hype of Trader Joes?
Post by: 1967mama on December 06, 2014, 03:40:18 PM
I made myself a list of the "favourites" from these 4 pages of comments and thought I'd post it here in case anyone else might find it useful. I plan on taking the list with me next time I go to Trader Joe's. I've only been once and was a little overwhelmed by all of the choices! (NO! I won't be buying everything on this list! haha)


-frozen spinach and kale bites
-huge avocados
-mint tea
-lime almonds
-tortilla chips
-salsa autentica
-whole wheat spaghetti
-olive oil
-dried fruit (esp. tart cherries)
-cheap cheese
Cliff bars in bulk
-large bars of chocolate
-chocolate chips
-17 oz dark chocolate almond bars
-frozen baby peas
-canned artichoke hearts
-uncured bacon ends
-cherry tomatoes
-potted herbs (esp. basil)
-frozen desserts
-good bread
-cured meat (salami, prosciutto,etc)
-crackers
-mineral water
-cookie butter
-chips (esp. black bean quinoa corn chips)
-black bean and corn enchiladas
-cookie butter ice cream
-chocolate croissants
-Charles Shaw wines
-Charles Shaw 2014 beaujolais nouveau
-spinach and kale greek yogurt dip
-one pound chocolate bars for $5
-shiraz
-body butter
-cheap fancy beers
-$5 champagne
-hummus
-frozen seafood like scallops
-naan
-edamame
-capers
-pesto
-bananas
-Joes 0's
-kettle corn
-craft beer
-ketchup
-graham crackers
-frozen meals (esp. mac and cheese)
-Asian noodle boxes
-spices
-flavored cream cheese (pumpkin! peanut butter!)
-fresh flowers
-oatmeal soap
-face lotion
-ginger snaps
-sea salt butterscotch caramels
-italian meatballs
-walnuts
-coconut chips
-shampoo and conditioner
-whole wheat pizza dough
-cookies
-sunflower butter
-lemon pepper in grinder jar
-parmesan/romano mix
-sundried tomatoes in a vacuum pack (dry, not packed in oil)
-haloumi cheese
-honey
-coconut milk
-seaweed snacks
-cereals
-sliced sourdough rounds
-frozen green beans
-mahi mahi burgers
-frozen berries
-frozen broccoli
-Scharffen Berger chocolate
-crumpets
-multigrain pancake mix
-cottage cheese
-tofurky
-tempeh
-soy milk
-Stilton cheese