I’ve never been a big fan of grocery shopping. I do it out of necessity as my family tells me they need to eat. I’ve sometimes marveled at those happy go lucky shoppers in the grocery store – you know the ones who seem to float through the aisles enjoying the challenge of picking out the perfectly ripe melon all the while swiftly crossing out items neatly written on their well-organized lists. That was never me – not even close. I waited as long as I could to hit the aisles, and my list consisted of random items scratched on half ripped receipts or a few notes that I emailed to myself only to forget what I meant when I sent them. It wasn’t pretty.
That’s all changed though thanks to my new favorite grocery store and perhaps one of my favorite stores of all time - Trader Joe’s. I love everything about the store from the size of it (not too big and overwhelming) to the people who work there (so helpful and fun to talk to.) I actually look forward to grocery shopping there, and I no longer make excuses as to why I can’t feed my family. My fridge, freezer and pantry are now fully stocked with Trade Giotto’s vodka sauce, Trader Jose’s quesadillas and Trader Ming’s dumplings. Good branding right? Shopping at Trader Joe’s is a truly enjoyable experience for me, and I’ve realized it’s because I feel better about my whole life when I shop there. Here’s why:
Everything seems so healthy: I like to eat and serve my family healthy foods, but more importantly, I like to think that I eat and serve my family healthy foods. Trader Joe’s makes this all possible. The produce aisle contains beautifully pre-packaged kale, brussel sprouts, cucumbers and berries. These healthy and fresh items are super easy to grab, and you don’t have to worry about those annoying plastic bags that never break off on the perforated lines from the role. There are other healthy-ish items that I like to buy at Trader Joe’s even though I have yet to determine if they are in fact legitimately healthy. Items like yogurt covered pretzels and trail mix (which let’s face it is really just M&Ms, chocolate chips, peanuts and raisins) strike me as pretty healthy snacks when purchased at Trader Joe’s. It has something to do with the unique packaging and the fact that there are essentially no famous food characters or mainstream name brands to be found in the store. I’m also totally okay buying Trader Joe’s O’s, and I would not feel that way about milk’s favorite cookie - the Oreo. The vanilla cream in the middle of TJ’s Os has real vanilla bean speckles in them. I say totally healthy.
They make is so easy to entertain. I sometimes feel a bit like The Barefoot Contessa or perhaps Giada as I stroll through the aisles of Trader Joe’s picking up items for a party at my house. I have the hors d’oeuvres (both light and heavy) covered with TJ’s mini pizza bagels, spanakopita and party meatballs. The fact that Trader Joe’s has actually named them party meatballs makes me feel good about my overall entertaining skills as I pick them out of the freezer section and throw them into my red cart with an extra swing in my step. I love their assortment of crackers (multi grain and cheese swirl sticks) and their cheese aisle is quite impressive. Trader Joe’s Gouda cheese served with their fig butter spread is just about as gourmet as anyone needs to get. I’m also quite impressed with their selection of candies and nuts, which my mother taught me is the key to any good party. Filling my antique candy dishes with Trader Joe’s salted chocolate almonds and dark chocolate nonpareils makes me feel like the hostess with the mostess.
It’s completely affordable: Every time I reach the cash register at Trader Joe’s I imagine that I’ve spent way too much money. I watch the lovely cashier ring up my items (way too many to count) as I try to do some quick math in my head figuring my bill will be at least $150 maybe $175. I am so wrong. My bill is almost always in the $80 range – usually the high $80s. I don’t get it. It’s like there’s some kind of Trader Joe’s algorithm, which won’t allow me to spend more than $89 in the store – no matter what I buy. I guess it has something to do in part with the really cheap (yet still really good) wine. I honestly and truly like Charles Shaw Two Buck Chuck and I am not ashamed to admit it.
The free food samples and coffee are amazing: No matter what time of day I end up at my food store mecca, I always manage to make time and room for the free samples. The paper shot class of Trader Joe’s coffee (into which I pour a good sized splash of TJ’s half and half) is the perfect pick me up. It gives me that boost of energy I need to shop for my favorite items and do it with a smile on my face. I have tried some amazing free food samples from the super nice free sample lady. Some of my favorites include the apple pie, the grilled peach with balsamic dressing and the mac ‘n cheese bites. There is something about getting one of these tasty gourmet free samples that just makes me feel good about everything – in my whole life. I am one of those annoying customers who has gone back for a second sample (and sometimes a second shot of coffee) as I say out loud “oh that was so good and I am definitely going to buy it.” I mean I don’t want my friend giving out the free samples to think I’m a mooch. She seems like a really nice person.
The employees are awesome people: From the free sample lady, to the man who always reminds me where the chocolate chips are (up high on the right hand side of the baking aisle) to the super organized cashier who packs a grocery bag like nobody’s business, all of the Trader Joe’s employees I have come into contact with seem to be really great people. I’ve engaged in some memorable conversations with several Trader Joe’s employees. One cashier and I really got into it about our favorite yoga poses after she noticed my Namaste necklace (true story), and another cashier once showed me one of his writing samples. It was really good. Whenever I have a question, a smiling employee in his/her Hawaiian inspired shirt guides me to the item I am looking for and doesn’t just give me the “it’s in aisle 6” brush off.” Maybe it has something to do with those happy shirts they wear. It makes the shopping experience all that much happier for me. And that really makes me feel better about my whole life – for real.