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What to buy at Trader Joe's?

  • j

It's finally open but the lines look sooo long! What's particularly worth that mile long line?

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  1. They have lots of great food, but we love it because the prices are so cheap compared to other stores. Also, they have many organic products which are hard to find where we live. The staff is awesome and always helpful and smiling. If you don't like something you've purchased, you take it back and they refund you happily. It's just an all around great place to shop.
    Hope that helps!

    1. The items they sell are relatively cheap and of quality. At the moment I can't really do too much cooking so my favorite items are Trader Joe's soy nuggets (like chicken nuggets) and soy milk.

      1. Absolutely nothing.

        The produce is pretty crappy. Some organic, but most of it is flown in from California, and is not local, so it doesn't look all that tasty. Organic bananas were kind of cheap, but not cheaper than Fairway.

        Organic milk is cheaper than at the Met closer to my apt, but again, not cheaper than Fairway.

        Nuts and dried fruits looked not as good as the stuff you can get across the street at Sahadi's.

        I'm only exaggerating a bit when I say there appeared to be an entire aisle dedicated to jarred salsa. So I guess you might find a trip there worthwhile if you really like salsa out of a jar.

        I just don't get the appeal of this place.

        1. Go there for their boysenberry preserves alone. They are only certain times of year, and God knows when the season is, but high fruit to sugar ratio and inexpensive.

          1. Freeze dried mango and banana
            Frozen artichoke hearts and wild organic blueberries
            Frozen roasted corn
            Frozen mac & cheese, AKA crack & cheese
            Frozen rice (fabulous in a pinch)
            Tarte d'Alsace
            $1.99 cheesecakes
            Ice cream bars
            Frozen croissants (proof overnight then bake)
            Cookies!
            Wine
            Olive oil
            Breakfast cereal--comparable cereals cheaper than WF. Many of their own cereals are tasty and inexpensive
            Goat cheese
            Refrigerated lemonade, sweetened with sugar not HFCS
            FAGE yogurt
            Flowers
            Soup (creamy tomato in box is our always-have)
            Snap pea crisps
            Kettle corn
            Ritter sport chocolate bars
            Pumpkin butter in season
            Niman ranch applewood smoked bacon

            Helpful and cheerful staff, and great return policy: if you don't like it, they refund your money no questions asked without a receipt, and one time for me, without the product--I just mentioned that I wasn't crazy about a salsa and they just subtracted the price of the salsa from the groceries I was buying at the time!

            Wait till the lines go down, they will eventually. Not sure why Oolah is so hostile to them--it's pretty universally agreed that their produce can be iffy, and you might find items like organic milk cheaper someplace else. You can't shop exclusively there; I have one a mile away so I pop in fairly frequently but I can go weeks without a visit.

            12 Replies
            1. re: coney with everything

              Fairway is a better source for all of these things and more, and you have the added benefit that you don't have to wait in a ridiculous line that snakes around the entire store.

              TJ's seems entirely hype-driven. It's really no better than any other supermarket in the area, but for some mysterious reason people get all excited about it. I think they just like to stand on line.

              As I said, if you don't like their salsa (and it sounds like you don't) I don't see the point.

              1. re: oolah

                No Fairway here, so can't speak to that. Also, unless you go on Saturday morning/Sunday afternoon or right after work, no ridiculous lines here either. I might have to wait behind one person most of the time.

                I agree there's a bit of a cult thing with TJ's but I'm OK with that because the products I like, I REALLY like and am willing to make the extra trip for them. One a mile from home, and one 2 miles from work so it's not like it's some big ordeal to shop there.

                1. re: coney with everything

                  This post was originally on the Outer Boroughs thread and referred to a new TJs in Brooklyn, where the checkout line waits can exceed 20 min and there are *many* other supermarkets and specialty food stores in close proximity. My comments made more sense in that context.

                  1. re: oolah

                    That does make more sense, then.

                    I would definitely make fewer trips to TJ if the line were that long!

                    1. re: oolah

                      Oolah, let's get real for a second. I live in Los Angeles but just came home from visiting my sister in Brooklyn, and we drove out to the new Fairway in Red Hook. The only reason that Fairway isn't overrun with insane lines of people is because it's out in industrial sticksville and you need a car to get there... which eliminates a huge swath of potential customers and makes shopping there a much more pleasant experience than, for example, the new Trader Joe's that just opened in Brooklyn, which is just a few short blocks from the F/G and 4/5 trains.

                      There are three TJ's within a mile of my home, and countless others further afield. It's not like in New York City where there's 1 to service all of Manhattan, and 1 to service all of Brooklyn. It's a bit ridiculous, to be honest.

                      One of those locations near my house (3rd and Fairfax) is regularly packed with writhing streams of humanity bumping and dodging one another, and it is because of this that I rarely go to this location. Thankfully there are two much less busy locations in West Hollywood, and the one near La Brea and Santa Monica in particular has wider aisles and is overall a much more pleasant shopping experience. I have to say, if all I had available to me was the 3rd and La Brea location, I'd go much less often, so I can understand your gripe. But try to measure TJ's by its merits and what it does right. Imagine 100 TJ's dotted all over the boroughs.... lines wouldn't be so insane and people like you wouldn't consider it a cliquish farce. TJ's is well established in Los Angeles for 30 years for a good reason.... they provide interesting food at no-name brand prices. I respect them for creating an environment that encourages people to try new and different foods without demanding they pony up huge sums of cash for the privelege, as nearly every other grocery store does.

                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        hmmm...

                        "imagine 100 tjs dotted all over the boroughs."

                        i'd rather not.

                        i appreciate tj's for certain items but i don't think that it can be compared to fairway, which is a much more extensive market (the produce, cheese, and deli sections alone attest to that.)

                        at the same time --- i wish that the trader joes in ny could sell liquor like they do in cali. i bought a bottle of scotch for way under what i pay at my discount liquor store in nyc.

                        1. re: oystersallday

                          Trader Joe's does not pretend or aspire to be a supermarket any more than a 7-Eleven does. To compare Fairway and Trader Joe's in this regard is a bit like comparing Fairway to, well, 7-Eleven.

                          The more people that try to pigeonhole it into something it is not, the more people will be needlessly disappointed.

                          Accept Trader Joe's for what it is, which is a unique grocery story (*not* a supermarket) with unique and unusual items for a great price.

                          Mr Taster

                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            thanks for repeating your point. i agree that fairway and trader joes are different animals -- nor is trader joes the only place in which i've stood on a long line. (try whole foods in union square on monday night.)
                            but to get back to the original post. here's what i like at tjs:

                            dumplings
                            ritter sports
                            greek yogurt
                            bacon
                            nuts
                            oils
                            cat cookies
                            prepared soups
                            and some non-edibles.

                            i steer away from produce although i will occasionally buy lettuce or broccoli slaw.

                            1. re: oystersallday

                              So it sounds like you've got a grasp on the TJ's concept... so why the unfair comparisons to Fairway?

                              Mr Taster

                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                I guess I just don't see what's "unfair" about it. Fairway has many of the same products and they're equal or better values.

                                As a shopper, I'm not really concerned with their aspirations or intentions -- I'm just saying that it seems ludicrous to me to stand in a 20 minute line to buy things that are available elsewhere for the same price or less. And that the few unique things that TJs has seem like junk food to me (e.g., all that jarred salsa). And to top things off, TJs doesn't even deliver.

                                As I said, I just don't get the appeal of this place. YMMV.

                        2. re: Mr Taster

                          This reminds me of a great Yogi Berra quote:

                          "Nobody goes there anymore because it's too crowded."

                          1. re: Richard 16

                            That's one I'll definitely need to remember :)

                            Mr Taster

                2. I love the place, and one is in the same strip mall as my favorite sushi bar. ($igh). Two things I always get: Villa Italia sodas (usually the lemon) and lox pieces. The latter are usually all or mostly whole slices. I often try one of the trail mixes.

                  1. Turkey Jerky
                    Fage (cheapest I've found it)
                    Frozen blueberries (also cheaper than other places)
                    Sprouted Wheat Farfalle
                    Pickles
                    California Grapefruit Vinegar
                    Organic Marinara Sauce
                    WINE

                    1. This has been discussed MANY times already. If you search this board you will find long lists of products that are and aren't favorites. My impression is that the TJ's fans (I am one) far outnumber the foes.

                      1. Everyone has TJ's favorites. Price is a consideration. For example, they have great, cheap candles. It's kind of a hunt and peck. One person's treasure . . .

                        And some of their stuff is regional. I'm not sure how it works. We live near a big local brewery, and they bottle Trader Jose's. It's pretty much the same beer, and cheaper. We also live in wine country, and it is known that sometimes the good stuff gets bottled for TJ's under their own labels.

                        1. I'm in Brooklyn too. I have been a couple of times, but at off hours so the lines have not been crazy. Generally, I am slightly disappointed.

                          The decent:
                          Frozen appetizers--puff pastry with feta and caramelized onions. About $5, so not ridiculously cheap, but pretty good.
                          Mango-tangerine sorbet. Tangy and tasty.
                          Already-peeled butternut squash. I know that they have this at many suburban grocery stores, but not so much in NY. It is good for making soup without so much labor.
                          Turkey sausage with sun-dried tomatoes. (not precooked)

                          The Bad:
                          Frozen fried rice (three different kinds--Chinese, Indonesian, and Indian--all funny tasting and yucky chewy texture.)
                          TJ's potato chips, barbecue and salt and vinegar. Too thick, too greasy, and overly seasoned. Felt like I'd poured a seasoning packet into my mouth.
                          TJ's milk chocolate. Just really bad chocolate. Tasted like brown sugar, a la cheap Easter candy.
                          TJ's organic yogurt (strawberry flavor). Tasted too sweet. No yogurty edge at all.

                          Those are high- and lowlights. The milk prices are good. They do have Fage yogurt, but no other interesting brands. The house brand of yogurt is very middle of the road--to a fault.