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Is Trader Joe really that amazing??

As a person living in Florida I'm unfortunate not to have any Trader Joe
in our State... Is it really that great??
In pretty much any CH post somebody will mention TJ.
Are we gonna be ok without it? or is this the 1 missing thing in my life? ;-)

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  1. I think you will be okay without! Our closest store is two hours away and they have a few items I like but nothing worth making the trip for by itself. I used to really miss having one closer to home but we have gotten better local grocery stores so I have moved on.

    1. if your grocer choices are major food chains you will like TJ. If you have choices you will not understand the big deal. Hear in FFD county CT there are lots of choices and jfood went to TJ a couple of times. Then thinking he was missing something he called TJ and had a nice chat with the Regional director. He agreed that if there are lots of fresh fruit and meat choices it will not have the appeal (that's where jfood sits) but for many without the choice they will love it.

      So for jfood, can live without TJs.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jfood

        I'm totally with jfood on this one. If one has choices, then Trader Joe's is not any where near the vicinity of a big deal. I went to the one by Union Square and did not understand the hype. My neighborhood is chock full of stores with incredible selections and prices. I found TJ had lots of processed foods, sad looking produce, sorry looking cheese in plastic wrap, and did not find anything I would consider unusual/unique. But I can understand that if your choices are only national chain supermarkets, then TJ might be an option. I also think (as other posters have pointed out) that where you are makes a big difference as to the *kind* of TJ you get -- it sounds like the ones in CA are way better than elsewhere.

      2. As jfood said, if you have choices, you aren't being deprived to begin with, so what's to miss. Where I live (small town of 45K on Calif central coast), we have precious few specialty items, e.g., trying to buy Boursin cheese for a New Year's Eve party proved to be futile, and evidently there's no such thing as ladyfingers in these parts. So for us, TJ's is a godsend. What I'd do a Whole Foods...

        1. In Loma Linda, CA when I went to dental school all the markets carried was white or yellow cheese. I thought I was going to be miserable until I found TJ in Redlands. There I could find gourmet cheeses and other produce that I was used to finding in the S.F. Bay Area where I grew up.

          As others have stated if you already have wonderful specialty grocery markets near you , then TJ will not be anything amazing.

          1 Reply
          1. re: septocaine_queen

            tj's is the kind of place that if you never had it you wouldn't miss it. (well, that may be true to almost anything...) but once you have one near by you won't be able to live without it. mostly b/c they have pretty good quality items for really low prices. tonight i bought a bag of penne for $.69 and a big can of crushed tomatoes for about $1.29 and a bottle of red spanish wine for $4.99. i was able to have a lovely meal tonight and some leftover for tomorrow for around $7. that's hard to beat for quality.

          2. A lot depends on how you cook. I realy like TJ, but I couldn't do all my shopping there.
            For me: What Doesn't Work- Produce: pretty basic & mostly prepackaged, Meat & Seafood, fresh: same, also many preped with seasonings. What does work: Good prices & selection of dried fruits, nuts. Cheese & applegate sandwich meats priced right, interesting, unusual frozen fruits & vegetables, many staples are priced nicely. Flowers & breads good too.
            If you cook mainly from scratch you'll find less. Friends who don't cook that way absolutely love the pre-made & preped items. What they do, they do well. They know their customer & work hard to keep them happy.

            1. My Mom lives in Boise and had heard about Trader Joes, but never been. She's originally from California, so she knows what she's missing out on up in Idaho. Speciality products, ethnic cuisine, selection, etc., there isn't a lot to be had up there. So, we met up in Scottsdale AZ a year ago for a vacation and I took her to Trader Joes since our hotel had a fridge. She loves the speciality items, the little gourmet treats, and the prices. She raves about the mixed nuts and their other various snacks. When she recently went to Seattle, she made a TJ's run there too. I know that she hasn't tried much of their items since she's never been able to really stock up on stuff, but I'm pretty sure she's written to TJ's begging them to put one in Boise.

              Personally, I like Tj's but am not crazy about it. I think you sorta have to be in the mood for it. Their pre-packaged meals are great (mac n cheese, fried rice, potstickers, etc.) and the prices on things like frozen vegetables can't be beat ($1.09 for a bag of frozen spinach.) Eggs, Milk, and butter all have good prices too. You often see a lot of college students in there, which makes perfect sense. So, if you're not a big cooker, it's a godsend.

              1. I grew up with Trader Joe's in CA. I don't really think it's mindblowing, it's just positioned well to appeal to a lot of people. Unlike many other gourmet and specialty grocery stores, e.g. Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, Gelson's, etc., the prices are actually quite competitive; much like grocery store prices. However, you do find many specialty and natural-ingredient items you wouldn't find in a typical grocery. Also, TJ-Brand items, categorically, do not contain preservatives, chemicals, articificial flavors, which appeals to many to people. Lastly, the prepared, frozen, and ready-to-eat stuff is actually pretty good! And that's with no preservatives, chemicals, etc. It's the best place to buy frozen, ready-to-eat, and convenience foods.

                I shop most often at a combination of Costco, Trader Joe's, and my local farmer's market. At TJ's, the staples I most often buy are things like their thick, Greek-style yogurt, mayonnaise, their California Estate olive oil, canned beans, cheap wine for cooking, prepared guacamole, sourdough bread, and other such staples. In each case, these are examples of staples that are of good quality, and taste better than your average cheap, supermarket variety, but are roughly equivalent in price. I could find better examples of each, with a little more work, but TJ wins out with me because, ultimately, the price is right.

                Hope this helps.

                1. It is a store of inexpensive gourmet foods.

                  You *can* try somethng you have only read about and not feel guilty.

                  15 Replies
                  1. re: Cathy

                    Exactly.... its great for everyday gourmet, healhty cooking. The stuff you typically find at TJs would be considered specialty products at the mainstream groceries and carry much bigger price tags. TJs is easy on the budget freeing up funds for when you went some Jamon de Pata Negra instead of the overpriced, low quality packaged Prosciutto commonly available etc.,

                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                      I've only shopped at TJ's a few times, but I basically agree with what Eat Nopal said. There are times I don't want to cook, don't want to go out, and don't want to eat standard frozen grocery store convenience food. Several items I've tried from TJ's fit the bill perfectly and are a cut above anything I can find elsewhere, like the frozen chicken lime patties, the TJ's cheesesteak pizza, and the garlic naan.

                      1. re: Emm

                        Yup- I use TJ's for some frozen products- the naan, some of their appetizers, and I loke to try their desserts. DOn't buy and of my produce there- go for the Fage yogurt, the sea salt and pepper grinders ( under 2 bucks for a large grinder), their cereal ( cheerio knock off), some of their grinder spices- like the lemon pepper.
                        I have a box of their pad thai in my cabinet, but have not tried it yet.I will admit their frozen fish sticks are good. They are a favorite of one of my nephews, so I picked them up to have on hand for him. I was surptised at how good they were. All white fish, not chopped pieces.
                        I like it- a fun place to shop,good prices, great return policy.

                        1. re: macca

                          I made fish tacos from their fish sticks - they were actually pretty good!

                          I grew up with TJ's, and it offers a lot of unique products, so people who had one and then don't miss it. I shop there regularly -- they have fantastic prices on some staples, like milk and eggs and other dairy, olive oil, cereals I happen to like, etc. I do also buy some of their frozen and convenience foods, because as those go, TJ's are a cut above what you'll find elsewhere. I can't do all my shopping there, but I like to shop there.

                          1. re: Amuse Bouches

                            Will have to make fish tacos for my nephew. He will love them. I probably shop there once a month or so. Will have to check out their oils on my next trip. Each trip, I usually buy something in their freezer case to try. Last time, it was a frozen charlotte- it was good, and I think it was less then 3 bucks!

                          2. re: macca

                            I have not noticed that they have Naan there.. is it quality?

                            I really wish they started up a lunchtime salad bar- hot and cold.. Id live there.

                            1. re: yankeefan

                              Bought some last weekend- it is in my freezer. It is not too bad- as a matter of fact, it is better than the last naan I had at an area Indian restaurant! But I do want to add that I am by no means an expert on Indian cuisine!!

                              1. re: yankeefan

                                The frozen naan is much better than the naan in the bakery section.

                              2. re: macca

                                glad you pointed this out...imho, their return policy & customer service are unparalleled.

                                i typically don't like to make a nuisance of myself, so i sometimes suck it up & don't bother to return something to a grocery store unless it was truly offensive, or obviously rotten. even then, if it was cheap, sometimes it's not worth the time or gas money to go back, so i'll just toss it.

                                a few years ago, my local tj's at the time [la jolla, ca] kept getting shipments of fage 0% yogurt that contained random cups of moldy product...which, of course, i wouldn't know until i got home & peeled back the foil only to discover that an insidious lump of green fuzziness had invaded the container and perched itself atop the creamy goodness. the problem was on the distribution end...the shipments from greece just weren't refrigerated properly. the manager at the store could not have been more accommodating about the situation. they gladly took back & replaced every container i brought in, and it pretty much became a running joke. whenever they saw me walk in the door they almost expected me to be carrying a plastic bag with spoiled fage in it. the whole thing became so ridiculous that they stopped carrying it for a while until the issue had been resolved...a decision that nearly killed me because at the time they were the only local store that carried it.

                                after a couple of months i had pretty much given up hope of ever seeing it again, so i just stopped looking. so imagine my surprise and delight when i went to grab a container of plain yogurt one day and spotted my beloved fage back in its rightful place on the shelf! i literally let out a whoop of joy. well, the manager heard/saw me, and obviously remembered what i had been through with all the spoiled yogurts. he smiled at me & nodded, walked into the stockroom in the back, and emerged with AN ENTIRE CASE of fage yogurt which he insisted i take FOR FREE.

                                come on now, where else would that happen??

                                more recently, i purchased what was, without a doubt, the worst tj's product i've ever encountered, and perhaps one of the nastiest items i've ever tried, anywhere, period. it was a container of their 'just chicken.' that stuff was beyond vile. [i ranted about it on another board.] this time, instead of bothering to return it, i simply threw it out. when i made my weekly pilgrimage to my current store [santa monica, ca] last week, i happened to be standing right next to the customer service desk while i was waiting to check out. the line was long, so i had a few minutes to kill. i turned around and asked one of the guys behind the desk if they'd ever had complaints about the 'just chicken,' and he said no, that it was actually one of their most popular items, and asked why. i told him that i'd had a bad experience with it...of course, he told me that i should return it for a refund, and i said i knew about their return policy, but that i just hadn't wanted to bother [or keep the offensive item in my fridge any longer than necessary]. i said that it was no biggie, i was just wondering and wouldn't buy it again. i also told him WHY i had such a problem with it in case they wanted to make a note of it. satisfied that i'd had the opportunity to say my piece & give them some feedback, i turned back around to continue waiting in the checkout line. well, a minute later i felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around again...there he was, arm outstretched, holding a credit for the item! he actually apologized for my bad experience, and insisted i accept a full refund...with neither a receipt nor a returned product for evidence.

                                now THAT, my friends, is how you keep your customers happy...and loyal.

                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  Great post, and don't you wish all stores had su;ch good customer service?

                                  1. re: macca

                                    if only.

                                    surprisingly, whole foods also has a really good corporate policy about returns/exchanges. the problem there is that depending on the employee who's helping you, sometimes they'll give you SERIOUS atittude about it.

                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                      Well- I will admit I have never been to WF. Buy all my produce at a nearby farm, and do not buy organic meats ( or anyathing, for that matter). Never really thought WF result in better eating for my family. Of course, I could be way off base.

                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                        ime WF has a great return policy. on 2 different occasions was able to return nut butter that when opened turned out to be rancid for full credit, second time w/o reciept.

                                    2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                      I had a similar experience to goodhealthgourmet--one day the enthusiastic cashier was chatting with me while ringing up my order and said something like "have you ever had ANYTHING you didn't like from here?". I said I liked pretty much everything except the pineapple salsa, which was just OK and kind of boring. He immediately sent someone over to get the price for the salsa and took it off my order!

                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                        I shop at the same store and have had similar experiences. Also, when I've been in the aisles deciding whether to buy an item I've never tried before, I've had cashiers open items for me to try without my even asking. This particular location is one of the highest grossing and busiest in the country, yet many of the cashiers and managers know me by name because they're so incredibly friendly. I can't say enough good about the excellent customer service TJ's offers.

                              3. Not that great, I have been there a couple of times to see what the hype was about, and left still wondering what the hype is about. I do not use them for any grocery shopping. I find them similar to Whole Foods, an overpriced niche store that does not carry items that interest me. With the above said i know I am not who places like TJ's and WF market to. I am not a vegetarian, and I do not care about an organic diet, or eating diet foods in general. I luckily have top notch meat, seafood,a groceries, and produce available without needing to go to TJ's, or Whole Foods, and pay a premium for these items. I also cook from scratch so I have no need for their prepackaged, heavily procesed items.

                                Some love these places, and thats great, I dont need them.

                                16 Replies
                                1. re: swsidejim

                                  each to his or her own and hey, if i had the time and money to cook from scratch everyday and had great butchers and seafood shops like i used to in berkeley...but overpriced?? i find TJ's to be opposite. i find regular grocery store label items more expensive than TJ's. I don't think TJ's is worth a road trip. nor would i ever shop there for all my goods such as meats and vegetables but it's really great for what it is. plugra butter for $3.29? i'm not sure anyone not unless wholesale can do better than that.

                                  1. re: trolley

                                    i agree! i remember reading an article about TJ's once that said their philosophy is that they stock an item only if they can price it competitively (ie the same or cheaper than others). now i live in toronto, so i am without and i can't say that i'm suffering greatly. however, there are definitely things that i appreciate about trader joe's. one being the wine selection - back in boston there were a few items they carried in common with the local liquor store, and they were always cheaper. produce not so much. dried nuts and fruits, great prices!

                                  2. re: swsidejim

                                    Most things at Trader Joe's are much cheaper than anywhere else (for an equivalent product). Their sicilian olive oil is $6 a bottle and is almost as good as very boutique expensive olive oils... yet it costs less than the average piece of shat, rancid & dusty "olive" oil carried at the mainstream stores. Most things are fairly similar to this example..... their nuts... Whole Cashews at $4 a pound AND fresh.. few places can match that. High quality organic, granola cereals with things like flax & hempseed... $2.50 a box.

                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                      Question about the olive oils: I like an olive oil that is pretty fruity. I can't find the brand I used to get that is expensive but not break-the-bank expensive. We have a new TJ's here in Minnesota. What kind of olive oils does TJ have and what should I get (if I like the fruity ones)?

                                      1. re: kary

                                        They have at least 20 different ones and on the shelf/price markings there is a hand written description. Just like with the wines.

                                        1. re: Cathy

                                          Great. Thanks. I'll go and look at the descriptions.

                                        2. re: kary

                                          The Sicilian one is what you want.... I swear you really have to start dishing out in the neighborhood of $20+ to get a better product.

                                          In California they also carry a local Calfornia olive oil featuring Manzano olives... its the opposite of fruity more grassy & herbal with intense black pepperish flavors... its the opposite of what you are looking for but if you are ever curious, and they stock it... its pretty good.

                                      2. re: swsidejim

                                        I can see not having any use for TJs depending on how you eat and cook; but overpriced is of the mark. The products they carrry (and they don't carry that wide a range compared to Whole Foods or other large super markets) are almost universally less expensive and more cost effective for what they are than comparable products (if you can find them) at other markets. TJs doesn't it seems to me, market particularly to vegetarians or people who are after largely organic items (I'm not either of those). The great thing about TJs frozen and prepared items is that they're not as heavily processed as other options at other markets. They are not good for fresh produce and they have very limited selections of fresh meats and seafood (the only thing I can think of that I actually buy there of the later two is their kosher chicken items in San Francisco).

                                        As I say, I can see having no use for them...but to say that they're overpriced or marketing specifically to vegetarians or organic food eaters strikes me as inaccurate. I find them to be a great place for coffee, nuts, dairy, some pantry items and a wide array of good frozen options.

                                        1. re: ccbweb

                                          I dont buy or drink coffe, I dont eat nuts, or prepared foods, and I do not purchase frozen items.

                                          TJ's cannot supply the things I do eat, Prime beef, high quality produce, Italian deli items, fresh poultry, and fresh fish. I can get any of the imported items, and olive oils TJ's has, and more at an Italian market I go to, for less money than TJ's sells them for.

                                          Like I said above, I am obviously not part of the demographic, or lifestyle TJ's markets to.

                                          1. re: swsidejim

                                            Hey, if I had an Italian market that sold stuff for cheaper than TJ's, I'd go there too! I've never seen such an animal around here, though. Italian market, yes, a couple of them. Less $$$? No way. The Italian stores are also not open late enough to drop by after work on a weekday, so it would mean an extra trip to a place 20+ miles away just to get a few items we might want to get there.

                                            We've tried to get to where we're not driving too far out of the way for any of these things. That kind of defeats the purpose.

                                            1. re: CrazyOne

                                              I drive a bit on grocery day to get the food products I want, Meat at one store, produce at another store, fish at another store, etc.. I dont mind the travel, I figure I drive 140 miles per day to get to work and back home 5 days a week, a little driving on a Saturday to get the food i want isnt a big deal.

                                              As far as the pricing of the products @ Italian markets, they have higher quality olive oils, and cheeses, and perhaps some may cost a couple of pennies more than TJ's, thats not always the case though. Still, thats not enough $$ to include TJ's as one of the stores I choose to go to.

                                              Its a matter of choice I guess, I am just glad I have other options available.

                                              1. re: CrazyOne

                                                Crazyone took the words right out of my keyboard... it's not like Italian delis outnumber Trader Joe's around the Westside of LA, but I'm always humbled by the prices that people are willing to pay for items at Italian delis. It's one thing to pay for items that only they will carry. It's another to pay considerable premiums on basic olive oils that TJ's does carry as well. A couple of pennies more? I'd be very surprised - at least here in LA.

                                                1. re: CrazyOne

                                                  Agreed- I dont get how TJs offers such low prices with such quality. One thing you cant say of the place is that its overpriced. The same dried fruit at whole foods is literally 3x as expensive and not as good!

                                                  Hell, its cheaper to shop at TJs than it is at Shoprite or path mark.

                                                2. re: swsidejim

                                                  I am sure you don't go to Trader Joe's on a regular basis so you have no idea of its evolution (as you know if you have ever shopped there are constantly revising their product mix and don't carry anything that doesn't turn over quickly).

                                                  I recently bought some grass fed rib eyes there... then a week later when I craved the same dish... I wasn't making a TJ's run so I bought them at my local gourmet shop at twice the price and no perciptible difference.... both were saggy, tender with a beautiful purpleness to them.

                                                  I congratulate you on your Italian market... outside of the Italian markets in New York like DAG... I have never seen any Italian market that even comes close to Trader Joe's prices.

                                                  The produce I agree is suspect but there are things I enjoy... they consistently carry the best non-farmers market petite green beans, at half the price their romaine heads are far superior to what my Whole Foods stocks and there are a few other things... while not spectacular... certainly not a bad purchase.

                                                  With that said... if you don't drink coffee, nuts, cereals... don't like dried whole wheat pastas... or kick ass whole wheat sourdough etc., then you are right you don't have a reason to shop there.

                                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                    Italian markets, plural... the competiton they give each other demands their prices stay low, and quality stays high..

                                                    I stopped going to TJ's probably about 3 years ago. It was easy to give up. I found the couple of items I purchased there elsewhere, either for less money, or higher quality.

                                                    I did admit I do not drink coffe, eat nuts, cereals, premade/processed foods, frozen fish, or processed frozen foods, so TJ' has little to offer me. No prime beef, no fresh fish, & poor produce.

                                                    For those that enjoy TJ's more power to you, I do not. Its America, people are entitled to different opinions, otherwise imagine how boring of a world we would live in.

                                                    1. re: swsidejim

                                                      You started out by saying you had been there a 'couple of times' and that you were not vegetarian, did not eat organic or diet foods, that TJ's was a niche store that was overpriced and carried overprocessed foods.

                                                      That initial statement was what brought a lot of comments to you because it sounded like you had not really looked at Trader Joe's enough to notice that a considerable amount of the products were not for just people on diets, vegetarians or those that searched out organic foods, had lower priced items than other stores and was not exclusively carrying overprocessed foods.


                                            2. Trader Joe's has slowly evolved from a budget purveyor of things with decent shelf life - wine, cheese, nuts/dried fruits, candies/chocolates and dry goods - to a grocery store that offers alot of basic essential kitchen goods for good to great prices (dairy, eggs, breads, etc.), "gourmet" items at fire sale prices (white truffle oil, fresh mozzarella in various shapes and sizes, Valrhona chocolates), food items that are usually of some ethnic origin (gyoza, hummus, labneh), or fusion items that are/were totally unique to TJ's (vegetarian taquitos, eggless egg salad, chocolate-coated roasted soybeans, edamame soycatash).

                                              Trader Joe's gradually worked its way into So Cal grocery shoppers' shopping habits by not only offering these items but by professing no pricing gimmicks, offering good service, and keeping stores' sizes to managable dimensions. The nitrous oxide kick that TJ's got was when the Retail Clerks went on strike a handful of years back, thereby forcing many grocery shoppers to seek out alternatives to the grocery chains. This was a sea change for TJ's as many "scab" shoppers who were probably looking at TJ's as a temporary venue (until the strike was settled) ended up staying and doing at least some if not most of their grocery shopping there.

                                              Probably their weakest area is in fresh produce - the offerings can be limited and the quality varies alot. However, if you seek out their refrigerated and frozen produce, those items can be fair to quite good and at good to great prices. Just about everything else they offer is at least pretty good, with their dairy, deli, nuts, and wine sections probably being their strongest on a consistant level where if drawn on a graph, quality (x-axis) has a longer run relative to the rise in price (y-axis).

                                              If you've always done your shopping at a typical grocery store and wished they carried a greater variety of items that would add a little more spice to your culinary life, and then walked into a Trader Joe's for the first time, it would probably be like eating Quaker Oats oatmeal and steak and potatos all of your life, and then being offered a buffet table of dishes from all over the world for the first time. Some would find it odd, some would find it interesting, and probably the majority of folks would find at least a good handful of things to be appealing.

                                              1. You definitely can't do all of your shopping at a Trader Joe's. It is not a supermarket. I do not go there for any fresh food, which they have a very limited selection of anyway. I go for frozen h'or doerves (sp?), which are very good and nice to have on hand and other frozen foods, such as their imported pizza, eggplant, Asian items etc. They are very good and priced well They have excellent prices on things like pine nuts, capers, fresh mozzarella, etc., too.

                                                1. The closest TJs is 4 hours away but I get up to that area about twice a year. Their natural peanut butter is about $1.19 a jar and big jars of natural jam is about that much. Their canned crabmeat is much better than any other canned crabmeat and is about $1.77 a can. They also carry a store brand granola line that is really good and about half the price of anything similar. So I stock up on those things when I have the chance. They also have really good motz and feta I can't get comparable at home.

                                                  1. I went to visit my family back home in Quebec and I DID MISS TRADER JOES... Sure I could have found the quality gourmet products at several other stores... But it would have cost me An Arm, A Leg, A Neck, And a Spine... TRADER JOES IS THE BEST STORE ON THE PLANET. For Quality , Price and SERVICE ! No other store comes close...
                                                    Thanks, Brian the Food Dude :)

                                                    1. As other posters say, you can live without it. You can also live without Costco and cable TV and cell phones.

                                                      I like TJ's for certain things, but as other posters have mentioned you can't do all your shopping there. I don't do all my shopping in ANY one particular place--the monster cheap grocery store doesn't have good meat, and the fancy-schmancy produce/meat market doesn't have paper goods, and Costco's produce isn't local...

                                                      Before TJ's opened near me I would have never felt the need to include applewood smoked bacon or Greek yogurt or Tarte D'Alsace on my "must have in the fridge at all times" list.

                                                      Now that I know how fabulous these things and oh so many others are from TJ's, I would feel deprived not to be near one. Our plan is when we retire to our theoretical cabin in the woods, we'll come into the city once a month to stock up at TJ's and WF!

                                                      12 Replies
                                                      1. re: coney with everything

                                                        The west coast TJ stores are actually very good; the midwestern ones are generally not all that great when you are talking about the fresh foods. The dry staple goods are pretty identical in both cases.

                                                        Anyone who compares TJ's prices to Whole Foods doesn't shop those stores very often.

                                                        1. re: jlawrence01

                                                          Right, A 5 lb bag of King Arthur flour (both all purpose and whole wheat) was $2.99 at Trader Joe's this morning. The KA all purpose was $4.99 at WF last weekend. The whole wheat was $5.49 Huge difference in prices.

                                                          1. re: Cathy

                                                            I agree TJs is the most economical. I also believe the more one shops there the more they find they will miss. For example, their boxed tomato puree for sauce-I believe is great. I have also noticed in N.California they are beginning to sell produce not prepackaged which is a good idea. Staples like oils,nut butters,and vinegars are good and inexpensive. The best feature of TJs I believe is the store policy of try it and if you don't like it you can bring it back. I have never done so but just makes you happy to think you can.

                                                            1. re: Cathy

                                                              I keep a price book on those things which I buy frequently. In Chicagoland, the lowest prices are generally found in independents, Aldi's and Trader Joe's. Regional chains like Meijer's and Woodman's are slightly higher. The large national chains - SuperValu (Jewel) and Safeway (Dominick's) are pretty much higher, Whole Foods is by far the most expensive across the board even on the organic foods.

                                                              Sure, you can find several SKUs where a high-cost market is lower (generally, they are called weekly advertised specials) but overall, you'll pay more.

                                                              1. re: jlawrence01

                                                                Aldi and Trader Joe's have the same ownership, in case you weren't aware. They are run, from what I can tell, fairly separately. I haven't seen evidence of overlapping planning or anything, though there may well be at some level. Dunno about suppliers, but maybe real estate and such are shared. Since it's a private operation, there doesn't have to be a lot of public disclosure. The ultimate home office is in Germany, so there isn't much to be heard around here.

                                                                I just wish they would open more TJ's around here! There are several Aldi stores now.

                                                            2. re: jlawrence01

                                                              Some things are comparably priced at TJ's and WF -- energy bars come to mind.

                                                              1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                                                Which energy bars do you mean? I've found in San Francisco that TJs is about 20 to 30 cents a bar lower for Cliff Bars and Luna Bars than WF. TJs is usually a dollar a bar for those in the two different SF stores we go to.

                                                                1. re: ccbweb

                                                                  In L.A., TJ's and WF have the same price for Luna Bars ($.99) and I think Lara Bars are slightly lower at WF ($.99 at WF as opposed to $1.29 at TJ's, last time I checked, which was a few months ago).

                                                                  1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                                                    Good to know, thanks for the info, I eat a lot of Luna Bars, but my wife eats enough Lara Bars that the 30 cents can really add up.

                                                                    1. re: ccbweb

                                                                      for someone who eats those things on a regular basis, it's silly to waste the money on single bars. buy them by the box/case at one of the warehouse stores [costco, sam's, smart & final], at vitamin shoppe if you have one near you [you can buy all their products online as well], or from any nutritional supplement web site. you'll save a ton of money.

                                                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                        The lara bars are on sale for $25 per 16 count box at Vitamin Shoppe (normally $32 per box).

                                                                        $1.29 per bar at TJ's would be about $21 for 16 bars.
                                                                        At Whole Foods, it'd be $16 or so.

                                                                        1. re: ccbweb

                                                                          Target has boxes of 6 Luna Bars for $5. Cheaper than anywhere else, with less of a selection.

                                                          2. Not only did I have a TJ's less than a mile from my last house and the one I'm in now, they both were a quick right turn in/out on my way home from work! I live alone, don't cook a lot, try to eat healthy, and can do much, but not all, of my shopping at TJ's. Great prices, great variety, value and quality in such a limited space ... good vibe from the crew ... I would miss them terribly if they disappeared.

                                                            1. I'm not that impressed with Trader Joe's. I went into one in Boston and walked out. I also went to the one in Manhattan...still not impressed. I have decent shopping options so it's not something that I feel is absolutely needed. I am curious about what the hype over Two Buck Chuck is.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: MrsT

                                                                Not that impressed with the layout, with the options, the prices?

                                                                The hype is just that for a while there, Charles Shaw was pretty solid wine for $1.99 in California. Dirt cheap but worth drinking. Personally, I don't think the wines are that good any more but TJs does have a good selection of other low priced wines in my experience.

                                                                1. re: MrsT

                                                                  I'll agree the first time I walked into a TJ's I thought, "WTF is the hype here?" But then I went back a few more times, and now I'm hooked.

                                                                2. It's weird no one has mentioned the wine. They have bottles of red for $2 to $3.50. It's overstock from wineries. The source changes every few days or so. Whatever you buy on one trip will not be there the next. It is often great. It is probably often also bad, but I can't remember any bad ones.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: KateC.

                                                                    this also depends on what state you're in. i think the one in manhattan has a separate liquor store (not sure) but i know the one near my mother's house in westchester doesn't sell wine b/c of NY liquor laws. I also noticed that the one near mom's house doesn't carry half of what my west coast pasadena store carries. it's not as impressive as far as stock and selection so i can see how impressions of TJ's can vary from region to region.

                                                                    1. re: KateC.

                                                                      I did mention wines... I referred to wines as one of the lines to which they started their empire-building as wines and other products with decent shelf life were the mainstay of their inventories in the beginning...

                                                                      With that said, what you mention is highly accurate. They do have a pretty decent selection of wines when considering price and selection. Since wines are unlike ball bearings, one should expect alot of variance in supply and quality. Their strength is in the $5-$9 range. Anything above or below that can be very hit and miss.

                                                                    2. When TJ first opened here on LI ( used to shop at Oceanside - now Merrick is closer to my home), I bought foods I couldn't find at the local grocery stores (Waldbaums & Stop & Shop which was then Foodtown). My favorite purchace at the beginning was Kashi Good Friends - was considered the lowest point cereal at that time. Also, it was the only place I could get edemame a few years ago. Now many of the unusual items are sold at Waldbaums as well - no need to go to TJ.

                                                                      TJ & my local Waldbaums are right next door to each other. Though I don't love WB, they have most of the foods I need - I'm too lazy to go to more than 1 store at a time unless I absolutely need something. Lately I use TJ as a source for nuts - they're way cheaper than the other stores. Would buy dried fruit there, but it's better at a small Israeli grocery nearby.

                                                                      1. Saying that TJ's has high prices a la Whole Foods is just flat out wrong. One of the charities we support helps low-income women. They specifically request donations of TJs gift cards because the women can get good bang for the buck there (they are DEFINITELY not requesting WF gift cards!)

                                                                        TJs has many strong points, in California they have a great selection of micro brews, usually for about $5-6 six pack. They also have a good selection of Belgian beers. Sadly, the beer is not refrigerated! They have a good dairy section (Fage yogurt, much cheaper than at WF) a nice cheese selection, and good snacks. Their frozen dinners that people tend to rave about don't do it for me, simply because many of them are surprsingly high in fat. I was looking at a friend's turkey meatball calzone, and the fat content seemed highish...then I looked closer, and realized that a serving size was 1/2 a sandwich! One time I got a personal sized pizza, and the serving size was 1/3 a pizza! Who eats 1/3 a personal sized pizza? If fat content's not an issue for you, their frozen meals certainly are tasty.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: writergirl

                                                                          Funny, I used to buy some of the frozen stuff - pot stickers, shrimp egg rolls, other stuff I forgot. They sell chicken egg rolls - lowish in fat, but not nearly as good as the shrimp. Stopped buying the pot stickers after cutting back on our fat consumption. Used to buy edemame at TJ. Can now get it at a traditional grocery store.

                                                                          1. re: amymsmom

                                                                            We've had TJ's in Boston for 10 plus years and it was a wake up call for grocery and wine/beer stores. They had to re think what they stocked and try to compete with TJ's so now there is a lot more variety and more imports.

                                                                        2. I went to my first one recently. I was pretty dissappointed with the wine store, but the rest was nice. Good to great prices on gourmet and organic stuff and some very good private label stuff.

                                                                          1. Well, as others have said, it's hard to miss what you don't have. And it's not amazing if you're used to choices or used to seeking out the best ingredients from many different sources around town, or whatever.

                                                                            For us, it used to be out of the way as the only one in the Pittsburgh area is probably 30 miles from our house. But now one of us works just a couple miles from the store, so it's not such a big deal to make a run over there on the way home from work one night (we commute in together).

                                                                            We find it to be a useful addition to our other sources of stuff. The regular supermarket main local chain (Giant Eagle) is really not too bad in its selection, although they sure aren't known for being cheap. Sometimes Whole Foods is cheaper! (Although for us WF is just as inconvenient as TJ's.) We still get some things there. We've also been going to a farmers market weekly and new this year get a weekly box of CSA. This is good because one thing that TJ's doesn't do well is fresh produce. But now we have almost no excuse to buy any there, at least through the summer. And when we need any in the winter, it'll be from somewhere else. After getting a couple of bad things we've sworn off buying any fresh produce there.

                                                                            What we do buy, though, are interesting dry and frozen foods. These are items that are under the Trader Joe's brand and some concoction they've come up with that just doesn't exist elsewhere. Examples include some of the frozen bowl entrees which I eat for lunch at work, frozen Vegetable Masala Burgers, just amazing packaging of those flavors, nuts and freeze dried fruits, and occasional "Hey, let's try this" items. Additionally there are some brand-name items or otherwise stuff that might be available elsewhere but is just much more economical to get at TJ's. For us this includes boxed cold cereal (Barbara's Shredded spoonfuls, for example, larger box *and* costs less than Giant Eagle), maybe staple items like milk or butter or eggs if we need them at that point and small blocks of cheese for snacking. We can get large blocks of cheese for good prices at Costco, but the one time we got a nice big hunk of yummy Manchego there we went through it way too fast. Better to only keep smaller amounts. ;-) Per pound TJ's equals or is pretty close to Costco on some decent cheeses without having to buy 1.5lb or so at once. Oh, and 99 cent cartons of tofu.

                                                                            It's certainly not some grand solution to all that ails you in your quest for the greatest grocery experience, but it is fun, the service is good, the employees are happy, and there are some interesting finds that we don't find anywhere else. Worth an occasional trip every few weeks for us.

                                                                            1. i am so not impressed with tj's. i was all excited to go (other people's raves), but when i got there it was all overprocessed food for people who don't know how to cook, and the produce was appalling and wrapped in plastic, and the prices on everything else weren't good. i bought some soap and have not returned since.

                                                                              1. No, it is not all that. I do go to one in Indianapolis when I am up there but don't buy much. They do have some things that are hard to find in Bloomington, like McAdam cheese, Cabot butter but I can't always count on the fact that they are going to have what I want.

                                                                                1. I am in Sarasota during the winter, and yes, I really miss Trader Jo's. I keep begging them to come down, and they will one of these days. I love the store, and store up on all the nuts, olive oils,crackers, and maybe this year a case of 2 buck chuck wine!!!

                                                                                  1. It actually took me a while to figure out why I like TJ's so much, so here goes...

                                                                                    I do most of my shopping at TJ's out here in California. Prices are consistently good for what I consider staples: milk, yogurt, butter, cheese, flour, bread, eggs, veggies, meat. I don't have to shop at the regular grocery stores and wait for sales, which is convenient. I sometimes buy meat at TJ's. The quality is usually good, if not great. I have to go to the regular grocery store to buy stuff like soda.

                                                                                    Here's where TJ's shines: when you are throwing a party, this is the place to buy appetizers & drinks. Partly because they've created a really good niche here, so they have good stuff, and you know people are buying it, so you don't have to worry about purchasing bad hummus. They have this sun-dried tomato/pesto/cheese torta dip that is out of this world. Guacamole is really good. Unlike the regular grocery store, where you wonder how long it's been sitting on the shelf. If I can't find a specialty cheese here, I pretty much have to go to a cheese shop. Good selection of cheeses, cheap wines (and unless you are entertaining wine snobs, people are actually okay with drinking two-buck chuck). And, it's not going to break the bank. Candies are good (chocolate peanut butter malt balls are so addictive I actually can't buy them any more), and the nuts are great.

                                                                                    Also, they do stock some key items that would make many bakers happy and they're well priced. King Arthur Flour beats the regular flour you can buy at the market, and it's not crazy expensive. Their chocolate chips are bigger and better than Nestle. The nuts are always good, and they have a huge selection. I think the butter is $2.99 a pound. The heavy cream and buttermilk are totally reasonable.

                                                                                    To be honest with you, their selection of meats and vegetables is rather basic, and the quality is on par with any grocery store, but what they have will do for getting you through the week. They are much better about carrying organic/grass-fed/kosher, and again at reasonable prices. And they do carry some marinated meats, like the korean bbq skirt steak (bulgogi), or carne asada. Can't remember the last time I saw bulgogi at the local grocery store. The nearest Korean grocery store is about 35 minutes away, and my local TJ's is 10 minutes away. It's not as good as the Korean grocery store, but it's pretty darn good. If you're looking for non-basic veggies, I wouldn't buy it at a local grocery store either. The last napa cabbage I saw at the local Ralph's was pathetic. Of course, farmer's markets are going to have better fresh vegetables. I think that's one of the selling points of farmer's markets.

                                                                                    I used to buy more processed foods before I learned how to cook, though every once in a while these days I buy their pre-packed salads and pizzas. Their tamales are pretty good, if I recall. Their chicken nuggets and fish sticks are better than most. Their pad thai is pretty good, though I haven't tried their frozen one - the problem with the pad thai noodles & sauce packet they sell is that TJ's doesn't sell fresh bean sprouts (they do carry green onions, limes, and peanuts, though!).

                                                                                    So, in a nutshell, I wouldn't want to live very far from TJ's. My grocery bill would definitely go up, and it would significantly reduce the variety of food I can eat at home.

                                                                                    1. Prices are terrific, especially on wines.
                                                                                      And, brand names that you don't always find in the regular super markets.

                                                                                      1. I live in Canada but everytime I am in LA or PHX I pack my cooler with ALL kinds of Trader Joes GREAT STUFF to bring home.. Great food at great prices friendly staff. I am a little obsessed with TJ's... I am also in the fan club (not associated with the store) ..ok I've probably said too much....

                                                                                        1. I think it's okay. The parking at the new one in Charlotte is down right dangerous but whatever. The thing I really can't stand is the people. I'm from NY so I'm allowed to say that it seems like most of the people shopping at ours are NY/NJ transplants who know their way around TJs and aren't going to let a woman with a small child get in their way. They are so aggressive! They push and shove so you have no time to read labels or compare things. I actually had to go down the frozen food aisle and circle back for a second look so I could avoid getting run over. It's very unpleasant and reminds me why I left NY a long time ago. :(

                                                                                          1. Nada ! No ! Non !

                                                                                            South Hampton Roads, VA ( Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk & Virginia Beach) recently gained a TJ & I'd much rather have a Whole Foods, which we're still deprived of, but I hear it's coming to the beach - hallelujah!

                                                                                            In the meantime, Fresh Market, Harris Teeter & our local chain, Farm Fresh are fine. Farm Fresh has managed to maintain our local Boarshead relationship. Many of our local Mom & Pop delis recently lost Boarshead provisions due to local franchise disagreements - boy what a difference & not to the good.

                                                                                            For all of you folks with convenient food choices, count your blessings, as we in Hampton Roads must mail order, travel or do without for many quality staples.

                                                                                            8 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: JayVaBeach

                                                                                              I have to again respectfully disagree. Whole Foods does offer a salad bar- hot and cold- which is one advantage but their stuff is always past expiration, beaten up, overpriced, and often times very very poor customer service.

                                                                                              I think TJs is exceptional and far superior. AGAIN, everyone is entitled to opinion and I do respect yours but hope you do try another Trader Joes- it is truly addictive.

                                                                                              1. re: yankeefan

                                                                                                the exact opposite is true in other areas of the country.

                                                                                              2. re: JayVaBeach

                                                                                                Years ago, there was a Green Grocer, (oddly enough, named "The Green Grocer") on Granby Street (we lived on East Ocean View) and it was great. People just didn't 'slum it' into Norfolk and so it only lasted a few years. Back then Giant Open Air was the other 'gourmet' choice...

                                                                                                The prices on dried fruits and nuts and snacks as well as dairy and 'fancy staples' have to be less expensive at TJ's than WF. Go shopping there when it isn't crowded(right at opening and not on a weekend) and look around.

                                                                                                1. re: Cathy

                                                                                                  CATHY - I vaguely recall the Green Grocer & "oddly enough" my grandparents (Norfolk natives - North Shore Point/Barberry Lane) had a driver/helping hand named "Green" who worked @ Green Grocer when not at their house. Green was my grandmother's version of "Hoke" in Driving Miss Daisy back in the 70s. He "carried" my Gram all over town in her "big black Cadillac" (he was famous for slipping you a tiny tootsie-roll too) & while we didn't have The PigglyWiggly (where "Miss Daisy" shopped), we did have Giant Open Air, founded by Norfolk's Mastracco family (they were my grandparents' neighbors) what eventually merged & became what is now Farm Fresh. Their newest spot is in Norfolk's downtown Harbor Heights Condo Tower on Main Street @ Waterside called The Market - swanky grocery for our little metro Norfolk! CATHY - you might enjoy the following website (nickle tour)... http://www.rkpuma.com/ov/nickel20.htm

                                                                                                  1. re: JayVaBeach

                                                                                                    Very *very* cool site, Jay. Great memories. There was a Piggly Wiggly in VB when we first moved and rented for a few months before we bought the Norfolk house.

                                                                                                    Still you should go to TJ's- they have some great stuff at lower prices. I always go when first opening or 20 minutes before closing. Less crowded.

                                                                                                    1. re: Cathy

                                                                                                      Okay Cathy - I visited TJ's in San Francisco this week. It was wonderful; however, so was San Fran's Banana Republic, Williams-Sonoma & the awesome Caper, San Francisco's answer to Dean and Deluca - I love San Fran !

                                                                                                      1. re: JayVaBeach

                                                                                                        and you can re-live those wonderful memories of TJ's in VB now...

                                                                                                        Someday I will go to San Francisco. I will.

                                                                                                        1. re: Cathy

                                                                                                          You'll be pleased to know that I'm taking my 80 yo aunt to TJ Virginia Beach this afternoon. She lives in Westminster-Canterbury, an upscale senior highrise on the Chesapeake Bay offering everything but a grocery store (practically) on premises; however, even at her age, she still enjoys "going to the market" & TJ's is her favorite. I'm looking forward to it. <grin>

                                                                                                          Do yourself a favor & plan a San Fran weekend. People go nuts-oh over NYC & don't get me wrong, I like it too, but there's something special about San Fran - unsurpassed & extraordinary. When you go, make sure you hit Caper & Gumps - my two favorite stores in the world !

                                                                                              3. I hate to give too much Kudos to one place, but outside of the parking ticket I received I had another amazing TJ experience in my first visit to the westfield NJ store. The staff, like other TJs, was exceptional and they are more than willing to open anything you want to try.

                                                                                                It is truly so much different than shopping at any other store and the prices are just icing on the cake. Tried out the frozen naan bread, freeze dried mango, and lobster ravioli this time- all terrific.

                                                                                                1. When I'm in Los Angeles, TJ's is a bi-weekly destination. When we are in Virginia, however, the closest TJ's is almost two hours away. We have to suck it up and go to the chain stores. Yes, there is a farmer's market, but I'm at work Saturday mornings, which is the only time they are open. And there's only one Asian market, which is also not open after work hours. So this week when we were coming back from a business trip, my SO and I stopped at TJ's. Here's what we got:

                                                                                                  - Just Grilled Chicken Strips. No artificial seasoning or other weirdness.
                                                                                                  - Frozen Mahi Mahi & Swordfish (just fish, nothing else in or on it)
                                                                                                  - Cuban Black Beans
                                                                                                  - Habenero Lima Salsa - Rockin!
                                                                                                  - Flaxseed Chips
                                                                                                  - Romaine & spinach (so much cheaper than chains!)
                                                                                                  - Thai Green Curry Sauce. I can make it, but like this version a lot.
                                                                                                  - Unsalted Sunflower Seeds & cashews
                                                                                                  - Dried cranberries, apricots & bananas
                                                                                                  - Oatmeal
                                                                                                  - fresh bananas
                                                                                                  - frozen asparagus, blackberries, green beans
                                                                                                  - frozen basil (already separated into little cubes - pop one out when you need it!)
                                                                                                  - various chicken sausages (pesto, jalapeno, sundried tomato)
                                                                                                  - Gyoza frozen
                                                                                                  - Gyoza dipping sauce (SO loves theirs)
                                                                                                  - a number of different cheeses (at least half the price found elsewhere)
                                                                                                  - a mixed case of wine
                                                                                                  - a big insulated carrier to keep it cold on the way home!

                                                                                                  Some of this is convenience food, but when I get home from a 10 hour day on my feet, sometimes I just want to heat and eat. And I'd rather have healthy, low sodium, preservative and artificial flavoring-free foods that I get at TJ's, rather than a frozen dinner from anywhere else.

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: mojoeater

                                                                                                    I just visited the newest & largest (68,000 sq. ft) Whole Foods Market; a healthy walk later finally found the tea (computer directory didn't help). The Safeway near my house is being remodeled & is going to be huge. Sometimes I just want a quick in & out...buy some chicken for dinner, eggs, or perhaps a bottle of wine for the dinner host, etc. Trader Joes fits the bill for this purpose not to mention all the previously posted items. I realize I'm very lucky to have so many options nearby.

                                                                                                  2. i have 3 of them around me
                                                                                                    yes they are kinda fun
                                                                                                    but produce sections are small and lousy, fresh meat the same.
                                                                                                    the processed frozen foods are ok but the fresh frozen meat and fish manytimes looks freezer burned
                                                                                                    you can get some nice processed foods(jellies, canned goods etc..) coffee ,cereals and baked goods though

                                                                                                    1. As a single guy who eats alone after long days of work, TJs is the best. You can mix and match and get a great meal with 5 minutes prep.

                                                                                                      Frozen cooked turkey meatballs + marinara + pasta
                                                                                                      Frozen cooked turkey meatballs + marinara + hamburger buns
                                                                                                      Cooked BBQ pork + hamburger buns
                                                                                                      Canned chicken (a la tuna) + spanish rice + frozen corn

                                                                                                      I'm skeptical of anyone who has eaten a lot of TJ's food, cooks for themselves, and doesn't love it. You cannot 'walk through' and then form an opinion. That's not where the charm is.

                                                                                                      Although I'm not representin' the fresh produce.