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Trader Joe's - I don't get it.

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dynastar Jan 4, 2011 08:23 AM

I know people love TJ's, but I can not see why. One just opened up by me and I was very excited because of all the hype. So I gave it a try. Everything seems to be just processed food with their label on it. I went to buy the non-processed items (veggies and meat) and they were some of the worst quality items that I have seen. I walked out with nothing. Thinking that it may just be a fluke, I went again and came to the same conclusion.

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    Christnp Jan 4, 2011 08:27 AM

    TJ's does not really specialize in fresh, perishable foods. They have a few fresh items to support one-stop-shopping, but they are more about high quality processed foods and shelf stable foods (such as nuts, dried fruits, pasta).

    Give it another try, but reset your expectations about buying fresh meats and produce. Check out their frozen items (including frozen fish and meat, fruits, etc), olive oil, pasta, cereals, nuts, etc.

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      salvatoregianpaolo Jan 4, 2011 08:34 AM

      I agree with your assessment. I used to think TJ's was pretty useful... until I found WF. Now I cook 6nights/week with barely a processed item on the menu.

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      1. re: salvatoregianpaolo
        Mr Taster Jan 4, 2011 09:40 AM

        Yeah, I have a similar story. I used to do all my shopping at Trader Joe's until I began cooking for real at home. I used to be excited when a new new frozen entree would appear (again, minimally processed, high quality) but nonetheless, I find myself now staring at their newest offerings like frozen coq au vin, and think to myself "hm, I can probably make that better and cheaper". So I pass.

        I still do shop there, but not exclusively. By the way, I do "spot shopping" at Whole Foods but overall I find it to be a bourgeois yuppie, expensive experience. I buy chicken from a local poulterer and beef from a local butcher. Other stuff like produce I tend to buy from the Korean markets, which have a great selection of affordably priced organics.

        Mr Taster

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        fourunder Jan 4, 2011 08:39 AM

        There are only two items I found in TJ's worth a return trip.....

        Chocolate Covered Dried Cherries and their TJ's Ice Cream in quarts for 4 Bucks.

        Their packaging is eye catching....but their quality is fair, to good, at best.

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        1. LaPomme Jan 4, 2011 08:40 AM

          I actively avoid fruits, vegetables and bread at TJs. I've brought home far too many of these items only to find them moldy, or for them to become moldy within a day or two. Where these things are stored, and under what conditions, one can only imagine.

          That said, their cheese and alcohol selections are good and well-priced.

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            Jay15206 Jan 4, 2011 08:56 AM

            It's gotten better. At one time, TJ seemed to have nothing that needed cooking. Eventually, they got chicken and fish. You can buy individual pieces of fruit now. You used to have to buy an entire bag. You couldn't even buy an individual avocado. They came too-many-for-me-to-the-package, in what they called a "guacamole kit" that included a jalapeno, a lime, and an onion IIRC. I live alone. I never eat more than a single avocado, and it's not something that keeps.

            I have a friend who likes to shop for food, but not to cook. He loves TJ.

            I have found some things I like at TJ's, though. Their English Breakfast tea makes the best-tasting iced tea (the competition: Twinings Ceylon, Luzianne), and costs significantly less per glass. They have an excellent extra-extra-sharp cheddar that makes the best grilled cheese sandwiches. It's $5.99/lb. I like some of their breads, though I'm never quite sure I'm buying the same thing I did last time I was there.

            Their "good" cheese section looks skanky, mostly precut, and wrapped in "cheese sweat" packaging in somewhere like Jersey City.

            It's not a place I can depend on. I wanted dried beans last week. They just don't sell them. Too unadulterated, I guess.

            If TJ were to drop off the face of the earth, I wouldn't miss it except for the tea. But I end up going there with this friend, so I buy what I can, and look for beans, and most other "real" food, elsewhere.

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            1. invinotheresverde Jan 4, 2011 08:59 AM

              I think they're great for tofu and cheese. Their jarred marinara is solid for when I'm feeling lazy. I love the roasted red peppers, which are a fraction of the price of anywhere else. Also, their flower department is pretty good and super reasonable.

              Their milk always goes bad a few days before the expiration date.

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              1. re: invinotheresverde
                huiray Jan 4, 2011 09:25 AM

                Not sure why you would go to TJ for tofu. Aren't there any Asian grocers near you?

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                1. re: huiray
                  invinotheresverde Jan 4, 2011 09:39 AM

                  Nope.

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                yfunk3 Jan 4, 2011 09:02 AM

                I don't really go there to get anything healthy, except for brown rice. Their prices for brown rice are so much better than Whole Foods. But yes, I really like to get fresh items from WF and do most of my food shopping there (due to lack of car and real supermarkets near my apartment). Before I moved to my current place, the Trader Joe's was the closest (about a mile, walking) grocery store to me, and that was the worst five months of food in my life - mostly processed food and junk.

                I do like TJ's, but I don't go there expecting to buy healthy stuff, and I find a lot of the prices to be only 10 cents or so less than WF, which is so much closer that I'd rather pay that extra few cents (and am grateful that I can afford to do so!). I fear that if I ever get a car in my current city, that I'd be tempted just to buy a whole boatload of the frozen/prepared junk foods at TJ's and my eating would REALLY go down the hole moreso than it already is! :o)

                At the same time, if you can't really afford to eat out every now and then and want a special treat of some kind sometimes, I can really see how a place like TJ's can be a great treasure trove for a foodlover.

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                  sedimental Jan 4, 2011 09:32 AM

                  You really need to know what to buy there and not consider it a substitute for your regular grocery store. I never buy the bread or veggies and only buy a few dairy products. I buy some quick frozen meals for lunch, I like their jarred goods (olive oil, condiments, sauces,etc.). There are some great deals on everyday wines and flowers. The nut selection is terrific and prices are great on all of those things. At my store, the crackers and chips section is huge and really interesting.

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                  1. huiray Jan 4, 2011 09:34 AM

                    About the only thing there that I have picked up and liked is their packaged cooked pork carnitas. Not bad and it is convenient. Nothing else, really, that grabs me particularly and that I can't get elsewhere in some form. Stuff like their bottled curry sauces etc I picked up after a friend talked fondly about them - but, well, they're still sitting in my cupboard. Their frozen various fish types in sauce ready-for-panfrying or whatever -- I've tried a few, MEH to ick. Tried one of their frozen apple strudel - baking required - it was pretty bad.

                    Never been drawn to go to the ones in my area more than a handful of times. Oh, screaming kids with weirdly dressed/trash-dressed parents seen almost everytime (at least on those times I went), or kids who seemed out of control and/or almost-climbing-the-shelves...

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                      AdamD Jan 4, 2011 09:40 AM

                      I like TJ's.
                      I find their prices on organic stuff to be cheaper than elsewhere.
                      Mentioned above, the jarred pasta sauce is good in a pinch.
                      And I too buy some of the frozen foods-the margherita pizza, chicken teriyaki.....not the best but very convenient and, in most cases, better than what I would eat if I grabbed take out.
                      I do not buy meat or produce there.

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                        Heatherb Jan 4, 2011 09:47 AM

                        I HATED Trader Joe's the first time I went there. Third or fourth time around, I kinda came around to the idea. The one by me has some reasonably good produce, so I will on occasion buy organic fruit or carrots there, but not often. I buy English muffins, cheese, olive oil, jarred tomato sauce, frozen foods and snacks there. I don't have a lot of time to cook, so the conveniences are great. But TJ's is right next to WF by me. I hit TJ's and then go to WF afterwards. And I almost never walk into TJ's with a list - it will just frustrate me.

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                          sueatmo Jan 4, 2011 10:16 AM

                          For awhile I bought cheese there and coffee. I thought the coffee was good and priced reasonably. I also liked buying the sliced almonds for use in cooking, which are/were reasonably priced. I found Fage there several years ago and requested my grocer begin carrying it, which it did. I also found reasonably priced coffee at the grocer and there went my reasons for shopping at TJ.

                          The wine is supposed to be very good and priced right. Almost everything else is either too high in carbs or fat for the way I eat.

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                          1. re: sueatmo
                            greygarious Jan 6, 2011 09:26 AM

                            Many people prefer TJ's own (and cheaper) brand of Greek yogurt to Fage. Have you compared the them?

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                            1. re: greygarious
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                              small h Jan 7, 2011 08:18 AM

                              I have. I like Fage better, but TJ's is pretty good, too.

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                              1. re: small h
                                Mr Taster Jan 7, 2011 08:57 AM

                                Yup, Total is significantly better than TJ's. It's somehow richer, creamer, more full bodied. Though for the significant price difference, I'm usually willing to compromise.

                                Mr Taster

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                          2. MandalayVA Jan 4, 2011 10:25 AM

                            I like Three Buck Chuck--great to use for a cooking wine--and their house EVOO. I've tried a few of their prepared entrees which were okay. The main thing I hate about TJ's is the stores are horribly laid out and I have NEVER been to any store where some one didn't ram me with their cart because they were too busy trying to get little Beckett or Emily's attention. The TJ's in the Richmond area isn't convenient to where I live so on the rare occasions I go it's to the one in Virginia Beach since it's right across the street from where we stay. Between Elwood Thompson's (local organic store), my co-op and Kroger I'm pretty well-covered, I'll leave TJ's to the yuppies and their pups.

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                            1. re: MandalayVA
                              erikschwarz Jan 4, 2011 11:00 AM

                              If you find Trader Joe's unbearable because it is overrun with yuppie families, you had better take medication before setting foot in Whole Foods. It's Yuppie Gothic in there!

                               
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                              1. re: erikschwarz
                                MandalayVA Jan 4, 2011 07:30 PM

                                The WF in Richmond is literally located within three minutes' walking distance of the TJ's. It's pretty big, though, so I can avoid the backups.

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                                1. re: MandalayVA
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                                  Heatherb Jan 5, 2011 03:14 AM

                                  I've begun to think that the two companies deliberately choose locations close to each other. Or do you think it's just TJ's piggybacking off of WF, knowing that there are a lot of people that go there with pricetag fatigue?

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                                  1. re: Heatherb
                                    MandalayVA Jan 6, 2011 06:05 AM

                                    I've been to WFs in various areas and the set in Richmond, which are really in the Short Pump suburb about twenty miles outside the city, are by far the closest I've ever seen the two stores together. TJ seems to have a hold in southern Virginia while WF has the northern part (only a couple of cities in Virginia other than Richmond have both). There might be a WF coming to the Carytown section of Richmond and there's been a big controversy about it because that's considered Richmond's quaint little shopping area. Elwood Thompson's is located there and I have no doubt that if WF came in it would deal them a blow, possibly fatal.

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                                    1. re: MandalayVA
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                                      yfunk3 Jan 6, 2011 06:54 AM

                                      There's over 20 Trader Joe's in the DC Metro area, so I don't think Whole Foods has anything over TJ's in NoVa.

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                                      1. re: yfunk3
                                        MandalayVA Jan 7, 2011 09:13 AM

                                        But like I said, even those NoVa towns who have both don't have them on top of each other like Short Pump does. And south and east of Richmond you'll find NO WF stores but plenty of TJ stores. I find it hilarious that Newport News got a TJ's before Virginia Beach--the largest city in Virginia population-wise--did.

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                                        1. re: MandalayVA
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                                          Heatherb Jan 7, 2011 02:36 PM

                                          It's funny in Jersey. I know of two Whole Foods and two TJ's within an hour of me, and both are literally down the street from each other or across the street. I guess the demographics are more responsible for it than anything else.

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                                          1. re: Heatherb
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                                            Chowrin Jan 7, 2011 09:37 PM

                                            same here. they're both in the shittiest part of town, and people walk through broken glass to get to both.

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                                2. re: erikschwarz
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                                  sueatmo Jan 10, 2011 06:42 AM

                                  The Whole Foods I patronize seems to attract a pretty good cross section of suburbia. It isn't located close to a TJ either.

                                  I agree about the layout of TJ. I think it is a fun store, but I am moving away from prepared foods.

                                  Most of their stuff is high fat, as well.

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                                chowtogo Jan 4, 2011 11:16 AM

                                What Trader Joes IS:
                                *Great packaged items with terrific ingredients (I can actually read the ingredients and be happy for a change, unlike the Safeway option)
                                *Excellent quality at terrific prices. And, for that matter, a good alternative to Whole Paycheck (I mean Foods) which gouges you just because you want decent ingredients.
                                *Great alcohol selection at lower prices (it's an issue for wineries to sell to TJs because of their pricing policy, they can undercut other wine shops etc.)
                                *Good dairy (in my area they get their milk from Clover, which costs a lot more if I buy it under the Clover brand) including a terrific cheese selection

                                What Trader Joes ISN'T:
                                *The place for produce. I buy my bagged salad greens and a few occasional items (bananas, potatoes) there, but nothing else.
                                *A one stop shop. You have to stop elsewhere. Sometimes they try to be one-stop, but IMHO I don't think they should even bother with produce or with personal goods (tissue papers, etc).

                                For me this means I shop at TJs regularly but I also have a local produce store I go to as well as a local store (I'm in the North Bay so it is Olivers Market), and when desperate for something I cringe as I go into Safeway. I do make occasional stops at Whole Paycheck, but I can't abide their pricing policies, and Olivers offers some of the same products but more reasonably priced.

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                                1. re: chowtogo
                                  coney with everything Jan 5, 2011 03:49 AM

                                  +1, chowtogo

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                                  azveggieguy Jan 4, 2011 04:39 PM

                                  I was used to shopping at TJ for 10 years, then moved to a town without one, the nearest a hundred miles away, so I've learned to shop wisely on my "Trader Joe's run" every few months. I stock up on frozen dishes unique to them (e.g. masala burgers), hard-to-find nonperishables (like unsalted nuts), and items I may be able to get locally but can buy at TJ for considerably less ("chickenless strips" @ $2.99, same as Morningstar's frozen product at my local supermarket for around $5.50). But while I've learned to do without when I use things up, what usually motivates my trips are an item that nobody's mentioned: vitamins. Great prices on vitamins!

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                                  1. mcel215 Jan 4, 2011 04:53 PM

                                    I didn't like Trader Joe's at first, but it's grown on me for sure.

                                    Their Greek Olive oil is a great tasting oil for a great price.
                                    Their blue can tuna solid albacore packed in water is excellent. It's $1.48 a can, compares to the solid white albacore BB brand that is over 2.00 a can.
                                    I buy my cheese there and especially the (Cave) Gruyere, it's affordable and tastes great.
                                    Their Greek yogurt, eggs, orange juice, all excellent.
                                    The chicken meatballs in the refrigerator section are great, when I am not in the mood to make them myself.
                                    The nuts, chocolates, are all top quality, with much cheaper prices than my grocery store.
                                    I also buy their whole grain mustard, white balsamic vinegar and Ginger Mango Chutney. (almost half the price of Major Greys)
                                    I can't do my grocery shopping at Trader Joe's, but do stop by every once in awhile. There are 3 of them in my neighboring towns and they are convenient for me.

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                                    1. re: mcel215
                                      LaPomme Jan 5, 2011 09:03 AM

                                      I almost bought the mango chutney instead of Major Grey's, but the "locust" ingredient kind of scared me off. Is that still in there?

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                                      1. re: LaPomme
                                        mcel215 Jan 5, 2011 02:55 PM

                                        One of the ingredients listed is locust bean gum. Here is what wiki says about it:

                                        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locust_b...

                                        And I just found a new source of the Mango Ginger Chutney, that's even a bit cheaper for me. My local Indian Grocer, so guess I'll let you decide if it's safe to eat. I have used about three jars of TJ's and never got any weird sides effects. ;)

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                                        1. re: mcel215
                                          LaPomme Jan 6, 2011 02:26 PM

                                          What a relief! I thought it was some kind of insect extract. Ha!

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                                      GSM Jan 5, 2011 03:54 AM

                                      As others have said, TJs is good for pantry items. I stock up monthly on coffee, oatmeal, olive oil, capers, crackers, breadcrumbs... never the meats or produce though. Good for frozen edamame too. Lots of non-proessed options.

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                                        Cathy Jan 5, 2011 06:38 AM

                                        None of the hype on CH is about the nonprocessed items, except maybe the kosher turkeys being sold at half the price of Kosher turkeys elsewhere. Almost every item TJs sells is also sold similarly elsewhere.

                                        It has been mentioned more than once, and should be generally understood, that floral, bakery. fruit/vegetable and dairy items are locally sourced and not the same nationwide.

                                        The hype on CH is that overall, prices are better for pantry items sold under the "Trader XXX" name...Trader Darwin for vitamins, Trader Jose for Mexican items, Trader Giuseppe for Italian items, Trader Josef for German items...The fruits, vegetables bakery and dairy items have great prices, but you have to check for freshness /dates. I do go to TJs once a week, but also shop elsewhere. I know prices and TJs, even though not sale prices, TJs has great ones.

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                                        1. re: Cathy
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                                          Chowrin Jan 7, 2011 09:40 PM

                                          and they have the best german imports in america.

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                                          1. re: Chowrin
                                            buttertart Jan 10, 2011 06:40 AM

                                            What in particular? Haven't noticed any German stuff in our TJs.

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                                            1. re: buttertart
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                                              Cathy Jan 10, 2011 06:55 AM

                                              The frozen apple strudels are made in Germany. There are other items in the frozen section, but I can't thinkof any right now...it's Monday.

                                              There is a beer (or beers sold in summer/Autumn) with Trader Josef name on it and I have seen Baker Josef items -Bagels and flour.

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                                              1. re: Cathy
                                                buttertart Jan 10, 2011 07:40 AM

                                                Thanks. I'll keep an eye open. Was hoping for mustards, etc.

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                                                1. re: buttertart
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                                                  Cathy Jan 10, 2011 08:07 AM

                                                  There had been, but it's been decades...

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                                                2. re: Cathy
                                                  toodie jane Jan 14, 2011 07:24 AM

                                                  makes sense, they're owned by a German food corporation.

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                                            ediblover Jan 5, 2011 06:58 AM

                                            I consider TJ to be the 2nd best grocery chain in the area (say, 1 hour drive), second only to WH. The top reason for that is trust. Their operation is solid and proven over the years. Unlike most places, they're very careful about their selection and ingredients.

                                            I don't recall ever coming across (let alone purchase) any wilted or spoiled item from either TJ (or WH). A few weeks ago I got some brussels sprout stalks from TJ. Was it farmer's market fresh? No, but it was in fine condition and more than acceptable.

                                            Overall, I'm very skeptical of the criticism here, especially consider that dynastar didn't even buy anything. Good produce doesn't always look perfect and I don't know how you can tell that meat is of awful quality without actually tasting the thing (Minus the obvious like it being too old and marbling).

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                                            1. re: ediblover
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                                              yfunk3 Jan 5, 2011 09:01 AM

                                              "Overall, I'm very skeptical of the criticism here, especially consider that dynastar didn't even buy anything. Good produce doesn't always look perfect and I don't know how you can tell that meat is of awful quality without actually tasting the thing (Minus the obvious like it being too old and marbling)."

                                              There are obviously regional differences and differences between stores even in the same area. I've bought items from TJ's (both unprepared meats and frozen/prepared foods such as hummus) which had clearly been stored improperly or kept too long on the shelves and had gone off. Their good return policy meant that I was able to recoup some of my money and notify the manager of off product on the shelves, but as I don't have regular access to a car, most of the time I'm left to just suck up the loss of both money and product.

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                                              1. re: ediblover
                                                Mr Taster Jan 5, 2011 10:24 AM

                                                Do you mean W H Lung Cash & Carry?

                                                http://www.yell.com/b/W.H+Lung+Supermarket-Supermarkets-Manchester-M139TX-6025653/index.html

                                                If not,
                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/555190

                                                Mr Taster

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                                              2. EM23 Jan 5, 2011 05:47 PM

                                                The first 2 times I went to TJ's I walked out empty-handed and confused as to why it is a favorite of many on these boards. So I went back again and now it has become my source for several pantry staples (at prices better than reg. supermarkets) inc. McCann's steel cut oats, Bob's Red Mill flax seed meal, saffron and extra virgin olve oil (esp. the California Estate).
                                                I agree that their dairy products seem to go off quickly so I don't bother w/ the milk or eggs. They do carry Kerry Gold butter at a much better price than I have seen elsewhere.
                                                Also v. good corn tortillas and the thick cut bread is great for french toast.
                                                I don't buy meat, produce, packaged or frozen (except the salmon which I like) from TJ's so I can't comment on them.
                                                Weird store layout is true but great customer service and return policy.

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                                                1. mels Jan 6, 2011 05:55 AM

                                                  iI used to be (6 years ago or so) a Trader Joe's devotee but find myself going there much, much less now that I don't eat much in the way of processed foods (prepared sauces, frozen meals, etc.). Staples I will stop by for include saffron, oils, hand soap and shampoo/conditioner, Greek yogurt (cheapest price around in my area), and coffee beans. I also like their flax seed tortilla chips and pretzel thins. I find myself going there maybe three times a year these days.

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                                                    malibumike Jan 6, 2011 12:29 PM

                                                    Trader Joe's used to have a much better selection of cheese' years ago, It had something to do with import tarrifs imposed that resulted in the selection of quality cheese' being reduced, that said they do ocassionally have some good wine buys. Their produce is horrible and many of the customers I see buying prepackaged food seem to be yuppie mothers that either dont know how to cook or are too lazy to learn.

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                                                    1. re: malibumike
                                                      LaPomme Jan 6, 2011 02:29 PM

                                                      So true about the yuppie mothers. I had a co-worker give me a "recipe" for orange chicken once, that consisted of TJ's frozen orange chicken re-heated and mixed with their frozen, bagged rice. I know another woman who brags that she doesn't eat processed foods, and yet boasts about "outsourcing" her cooking to Trader Joe's. Methinks she doesn't understand what "processed" really means.

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                                                      1. re: LaPomme
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                                                        Chowrin Jan 7, 2011 09:42 PM

                                                        trader joe's serves restaurant cuisine. many restaurants just get stuff out of the freezer and deepfry it. and tj's is cheaper.

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                                                      pasuga Jan 7, 2011 03:05 PM

                                                      I have a Trader Joe's about a block away from me... only go there for specific things. I like their cheeses, inexpensive wines, their prosciutto (smaller package, the stuff in the larger one is terrible.) Got some tomatoes there a week ago that actually had great flavor! Some of their soups are good - the chicken with barley especially. and I like their grilled lemon chicken. Haven't been impressed with the few frozen or prepackaged meals I've tried. Tend to stop in their when I don't feel like cooking - will pick up some soup or the chicken and some greens for have a salad.

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                                                        soupkitten Jan 9, 2011 11:28 PM

                                                        it's a terrible excuse for a grocery store, full of processed food for people who think that reheating equals cooking. terrible quality. i visited one when it first opened up in my area and bought some soap and some dead-nasty snacky thing i later threw away. walked around the whole store and nothing was fit to buy. all of the sad-looking produce was in a little open cooler smaller than a corner bodega's, and shrinkwrapped in layers of plastic. prices higher than the area co-ops. attracts rude people. no local products. crappy meat. everything frozen, or stale. no idea how they expect to compete with existing groceries in this area-- oh yeah, they've scaled back their expansion plans here. don't diss this abominable chain on the chowhound boards though, or you'll get piled on by all the folks who think it's the bees knees. sad.

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                                                        1. re: soupkitten
                                                          Mr Taster Jan 10, 2011 11:03 AM

                                                          Soupkitten, I used to be a great deal more enamored by Trader Joe's than I am now, but I think your assessment is needlessly harsh.

                                                          I essentially lost my addiction to TJ's once I started cooking seriously for myself. I started to realize that my own cooking was a lot tastier than their reheatable frozen entrees. For example, I just saw they have a new coq au vin frozen entree. Perhaps 5 years ago, I would have snapped it up in a second. Now that I make my own coq au vin, I see the package in the freezer case, say to myself "oh, that's interesting", and move on.

                                                          However, it's important not to lose sight of the fact of the history and context of TJ's within the wider world of American supermarkets. Virtually all of the processed TJ foods you're dismissing out of hand are of much poorer quality at a regular supermarket. For example, TJ doesn't sell low quality Banquet brand frozen salisbury steak dinners with ingredient lists that read like a chemistry book. That's a really important distinction. And while a TJ's frozen coq au vin will cost more than a $1.50 frozen Banquet dinner, it costs MUCH less than a comparable, minimally processed entree at a place like Whole Foods. That's a really important distinction too. TJ's is in the unusual position of competing with several totally different categories of markets... ordinary supermarkets, fancy/expensive supermarkets, health food stores, and corner grocery/liquor shops. And where TJ competes directly, their prices are almost always not just lower, but significantly lower than their "mainstream" competition, and that absolutely makes them a unique and valuable resource to consumers.

                                                          Their wine prices are categorically lower than virtually anywhere else (including winery tasting room prices). Their pantry staples are extremely well priced (organic sugar, organic milk, various TJ branded (and national branded) crackers are lower at TJ's by as much as 50%. And their store band items (like the TJ's Triscuits) tend to be of equal or even higher quality than the national brands.

                                                          I'm not disputing your assertion that TJ's sells some items of questionable quality, primarily in the bakery and produce departments. And they've certainly got their share of flavorless, gummy, supermarket cheese (although they do have some interesting ones as well, and for an outstandingly good price compared to "fancy" supermarket prices). And sometimes I've seen some questionable meat (however, their organic chicken is extremely well priced, much better than comparable fancy/healthy grocers).

                                                          So it's really as others have said here. You have to pick and choose at TJ's. Is TJ's the answer to your grocery prayers? Of course not. Nobody is claiming that. But there absolutely are phenomenal values and some very interesting, unique items for very low prices. I respect them for turning the "minimally processed/healthy/organic = expensive" paradigm on its head. It is really unfair to dismiss the whole store concept and philosophy out of hand based on your minimal exposure. They've done a lot of good for the mainstream consumer and they're fighting a good fight.

                                                          Mr Taster

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                                                            Midlife Jan 14, 2011 12:48 PM

                                                            Off the main topic, so excuse me, but.........."Their wine prices are categorically lower than virtually anywhere else (including winery tasting room prices)."

                                                            Interesting comment. My experience has always been that winery tasting room prices can be matched or beaten at just about any wine retailer in the LA area. That's the reason that many smaller production CA wineries don't want to sell their wine to retailers. Once it's out in the retail arena their winery pricing is too easily undercut. Many will sell only to restaurants for that very reason.

                                                            That said, I agree about TJs pricing in general but I did find our daily drinker Hogue Washington Chard regularly selling at Total Wine & More for $5.99, when it's $6.99 at TJs and $8.99 at BevMo.

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                                                              Mr Taster Jan 14, 2011 01:20 PM

                                                              Definitely off the main topic, but I'll clarify.

                                                              I am alluding to one specific incident when my inlaws were visiting from Taiwan and we took them to the Santa Ynez valley for a little round of wine tasting.

                                                              Her mother fell in love with one particular wine (don't remember which one) and we subsequently found it at Trader Joe's for about half the price. We were both shocked and amazed that a retailer could sell it for so much less. I never bothered to price it out anywhere else (never heard of "Total Wine & More") as I don't drink a lot of alcohol.

                                                              The places where I usually see (and occasionally buy) wine is TJs, World Market, BevMo (when I feel like being gouged), and Vendome. And if I'm desperate with no other options, Ralphs/Vons etc.

                                                              Mr Taster

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                                                          2. re: soupkitten
                                                            greygarious Jan 10, 2011 11:05 AM

                                                            I cook - not reheat - virtually all my meals. I have been a TJ's devotee since they opened in the Boston suburbs a decade or so ago. I shop there for staples every 3 months or so, with other occasional stops for a few items. My most recent stock-up trip had the highest total so far, ($208) because of the extra holiday items, like their excellent frozen puff pastry sheets. The rest included dried fruits and nuts (better in quality and price than any conventional supermarket), whole grain crackers, vinegars, jams, imported cheddar, butter, eggs, dog biscuits (much superior to national brands), and coffee. Also excellent quality, and very reasonably priced: all-butter palmier cookies, frozen pear-frangipane tart, frozen chocolate croissants, frozen pithiviers.

                                                            The mind boggles when people who have only tried a couple of items, if any, condemn this chain. And it's not only Chowhounds who like TJ's. They are regularly among the top supermarket chains in nationwide surveys.

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                                                              buttertart Jan 10, 2011 11:58 AM

                                                              They even have reasonably good Canadian cheddar, which you almost never see even in NYC. For that and their nuts and chocolate, I hope they prosper.

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                                                            2. re: soupkitten
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                                                              sueatmo Jan 12, 2011 01:44 PM

                                                              My TJ's isn't like that at all. There isn't a lot for me there, but it is a pleasant place. I do enjoy looking at their cheeses. I discovered Fage yogurt there! Most people don't have access to a food co op, by the way.

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                                                                soupkitten Jan 13, 2011 11:47 AM

                                                                well my post was deleted. it's pretty clear that TJ's is a sacred cow and that criticizing the chain or its products is seen as some sort of blasphemy around here. matches my experience in other threads. i am disinclined to participate further, but i'd like to know why people on this thread think that other folks should go to a bad store if they already have access to many good stores. i doubt that you would tell someone to drive past 20 good mexican restaurants to get to a taco bell "because it's so cheap, everything is so cheap, and some people don't have access to good mexican restaurants, so how can you possibly justify *not* going to taco bell and trying everything on the menu-- how can you possibly consider going to a good mexican restaurant instead?"

                                                                also that repackaged horizon factory farm "organic" milk is somehow a completely different product, just because it's purchased at TJ's, and suddenly better than the local grass-fed organic milk? or shipped-frozen imported kerrygold butter at a buck more than the higher quality local creamery never-frozen butter? why should people who live in the local foods capitol of the country be excited to pay more for an imported product that isn't as good as the easily accessed local brand? btw WFM has a difficult time competing with the regular local grocery retailers here, and the co-ops whup WFM's butt off the map. i am sure that some consumers and communities are pleased when a wal-mart or TJ's opens near them, and just as sure that other communities don't want them.

                                                                so many people assume that people don't like TJ's because there is something they don't *get* about the store. there is nothing to *get,* it just doesn't measure up to the decent standards of the 7-10 existing chain grocery stores in many areas. that's before the co-ops and the independents even enter the picture. when a store is <50th in quality in any area, folks probably won't go out of their way to go there (unless they live off cheap frozen dinners and cheap booze). okay done repeating myself now.

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                                                                  ediblover Jan 14, 2011 07:05 AM

                                                                  The argument you're presenting is the locavore one (with a touch of pro-small business). That's more of a political criticism than one of food.

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                                                                    soupkitten Jan 14, 2011 01:24 PM

                                                                    what food? TJ's is not so much a grocery store as it is a snack & chip aisle with a hefty freezer section full of processed prepared-food frozen meals, blown up to fit inside a liquor warehouse. it's not as if it's possible to shop there for produce or cooking ingredients. the staple-type products they do sell such as the horizon milks are mass produced industrial products which are uninteresting, untasty, and inferior. folks can and do do better getting real actual food products at super target, super kmart and wal-mart. . . if you want to toot TJ's horn as a great cheap lq store or a great place to buy 17 kinds of cheezy poofs, please go ahead-- as far as i'm concerned it isn't a valid grocery store, any more than a super america or kwik-e-mart is.

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                                                                      Mr Taster Jan 14, 2011 01:35 PM

                                                                      >> can and do do better getting real actual food products at super target, super kmart and wal-mart

                                                                      It seems to me that the stores you mention above are the ones selling multiple varieties of cheezy poofs. TJ's sells one :)

                                                                      I would honestly love to hear specific examples of "real actual foods" you'd prefer to buy from super k-mart over TJs. We've all agreed that produce is bad at TJs, so let's cross that off the list straight away.

                                                                      Mr Taster

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                                                                        soupkitten Jan 14, 2011 02:08 PM

                                                                        heh heh. i haven't had super-k as one of two grocery store options in 15 years or so, in another state. there aren't any that i know of in my area-- doubt very much that super-ks could compete with super-target in the msp area (target is based here), for that type (total one-stop, pick up milk&eggs, bedsheets and golf balls) shopping demographic. there is no reason nowadays for me to be doing actual grocery shopping at a super k or super target, but some people do, because some people have good access to these stores and poor access to others. there is a super target in the burbs that i have bought fresh produce and some miscellaneous groceries from in a pinch. i remember specifically being very pleased with the high quality and freshness of the bunched broccoli.

                                                                        i meant "cheezy poofs" in the vague sense of the word, as snack junk-- wasabi poofs, mixed nut poofs, flax enhanced poofs, whatever. i know that TJ's limits its offerings to its own house brands, and will only offer the one kind/brand, though in a multitude of flavors and riffs, while the average decent grocery store that is focused on non-house brand selection is more likely to offer 3-4 different kinds/brands of actual cheezy poofs, ditto butter, ditto canned beans, ditto add-water boxed dinner.

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                                                                      2. re: soupkitten
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                                                                        ediblover Jan 14, 2011 02:02 PM

                                                                        Last time I was there I picked up some greens, milk and snacks. I was satisfied with the purchases. Now, if you knew of a national chain/brand that carries dark chocolate peanut butter cups that are better and at a similar price, I'd love to know about them (so I can get and plan to eat them over the week, only to make them disappear in 2 days). But, if TJ is among the best available, then buying from there would make it a smart purchase, no?

                                                                        Last month I drove for over an hour and spent over $80 for pizza (I was alone, since most people are more sensible than me). I liked it. I also like the local Dominoes. Just because one place had a vastly superior product doesn't make the other one, with its chain mentality, inferior methods and processed ingredients, awful. Both, for what they respectively are, are good in my book.

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                                                                          Mr Taster Jan 14, 2011 02:09 PM

                                                                          I was with you until you compared TJ's with Domino's. Holy cow, what a buzzkill!

                                                                          Mr Taster

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                                                                repete Jan 10, 2011 08:20 AM

                                                                Wow, a lot of feisty 'tudes here about a store. Most folks I know go there for special items and maybe fill in around the edges with other stuff. It's nowhere close to being my produce store (HMart), but I will grab a bag of blood oranges or fill an immediate need there from time to time. I've been to TJ's in six states on both coasts and in Minnesota and have never seen a bodega-sized contained for produce.

                                                                For us, there's no real emotion about it, it simply fills a need. Our house is a hub for teenagers and we are also soda free. The TJ's juices will satisfy the horde and my strapping son packs the tropical carrot juice on athletic and school trips. Likewise, I haven't found anything to compare to the "fruit floe" frozen bars. We also stock up on the yogurts.

                                                                Then we pick around for things like the peri-peri peppers and other bottled and can stuff that doesn't show up elsewhere, including WF.

                                                                Yeah, it's not a go-to spot for "special" cheeses either but their selections cover a lot of day-to-day needs. Some chocolates and cereals are solid, although I miss those huge broken bricks from Ghiradelli.

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                                                                  uwsister Jan 11, 2011 01:22 AM

                                                                  All the other 'hounds have said everything I wanted to say for me... but I wanted to add my lactose-intolerant husband haven't found goat milk AND goat milk yogurt anywhere cheaper than TJs in NYC and for that he is very, very thankful.

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                                                                    Chulacat Jan 14, 2011 07:32 AM

                                                                    I like the smoked salmon from TJs. Maybe I could get it from a local purveyor but the version at TJs is pretty good. Is there anything wrong with that?

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                                                                      samjam101 Jan 14, 2011 02:19 PM

                                                                      I concur with the majority of the opinions regarding TJ's...more hype than anything else. I still prefer to find a well stocked Asian food market where the produce and prices are consistently good! If one is looking for organically grown /produced, go to WF or a local natural grocers!

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                                                                      1. The Chowhound Team Jan 14, 2011 02:42 PM

                                                                        We've had to remove a number of angry responses from this thread, and the discussion as a whole is increasingly unfriendly. We're going to lock this topic now.

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