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Jun 13, 2011 01:02 AM

trader joe's type place in the uk?

I'm living in the Cambridge area and really missing places like Trader Joe's! Is there anywhere 'fun' like that in the uk? I don't mind driving, in fact I quite like it.
I've been checking out the local farm stands and farmer's markets and also I have heard about a place called The Borough (?) in London that is supposed to be a fun experience. I know I'm all over the place in this post but it's early and my second cup of coffee hasn't kicked in yet!
Any help will be much appreciated!

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  1. As many people on this board are British, it would help if you could tell us what Trader Joe's is, otherwise we won't be able to help.

    17 Replies
    1. re: Theresa

      No national chains as far as I am aware, though there are plenty of markets as you have found out. Borough market is a huge market with lots of vendors - quite fun, though I reckon if you are not a tourist and are looking to do your shopping there it could get quite crazy.

      There are Wholefoods in London - that is the closest I can think of to Trader Joe's though my experience of TJ's having only sometimes frequented a pretty small one.

      The UK likes PYO fruits in the summer - always a fun experience too.

      Sorry not to be more help

      1. re: alisonk

        ah, I have experienced the PYO and just finished a batch of strawberry-lavender jam and I am totally in love with tayberries! I hate to seem as if Im being whiny because I miss the US because, quite honestly, I don't! I just miss Trader Joe's and drive through coffee shops!

        1. re: anotheryankee

          You are not being whiny - I only lived in the States for 2 years and I am missing quite a lot about it:

          Swiss chard
          Cascadian Farms Organic Chewy Granola Bars
          Cypruss Grove Midnight moon cheese
          Le cremont cheese
          Frozen yogurt - stonyfield farm as well as my local JP Licks
          Craft beers...

          The list continues - I need to go back for holiday soon!!

          1. re: alisonk

            oooh, Swiss Chard! especially the red ones.
            the "Eat Natural" bars are a pretty good substitute for the Granola bars and have you checked amazon.com (not .uk) for them? they have a pretty good selection of dry goods to ship.

            1. re: anotheryankee

              Thanks for the tip re eat natural - Ill check them out. There is a decent range of stuff to ship., I emailed Cascadian Farms before I left - such a loser. They don't have an export contract, and dont ship out of the US - but it is more to look forward to when I go back I guess - and for when I get an emergency package from my friends.

              1. re: alisonk

                lol, not a loser....a dedicated customer!

              2. re: anotheryankee

                A farmer at my local farmer's market in Peckham on Sunday always has Swiss chard. I also found some in St. Ives in Cornwall in September one year. So it is around.

              3. re: alisonk

                you mean the vegetable swiss chard? you can get that here... and craft beers? england has so so so many ales....

                1. re: t_g

                  Yeah the vegetable - not found it anywhere in scotland yet. Many people just look blankly when I ask if they grow it. I posted a thread asking for sources a few months ago. I am going to grow it myself when I move into a place with a garden.

                  I know we do have some amazing beers but I guess that I found a real wide-spread appreciation of microbrews in the States with local pubs and restaurants having a much wider range of non-usual stuff than we do here. You really need to go to a CAMRA pub to start moving away from Tenants, Peroni, Bud etc. Even supermarkets in NE stocked a range of good stuff - you didn't have to source a specialised shop or anything.

                  1. re: alisonk

                    If you're in Scotland, you should check out Brewdog http://www.brewdog.com/

                    Great craft beer, they have their own bars and I'm sure you should be able to find it.

                    I'm surprised you can't get Swiss Chard in Scotland. It's very easy to get down south. Maybe look into a local organic box scheme, I always found it in my Abel and Cole box.

                    1. re: spli

                      I don't think it is the weather for swiss chard here yet...maybe later in the summer. I do like brew dogdidn't realise they had their own bars though

                2. re: alisonk

                  Chard? If you have I garden, it is one of the easiest things in the world to grow. Not even I can ruin it.

                  1. re: Gordito

                    Good to know Gordito. I am intending on growing it when we move into our new house. But I wouldn't bet that it is so hardy to be alison-proof.... I don't think I have managed to keep any plant alive for more than a few weeks......!!

            2. re: Theresa

              hmmm, how to describe a Trader Joe's....imagine if Whole Foods and Iceland had a baby and named Waitrose as the nanny.
              here is a link to their site.
              they do a lot of product searching from small vendors and there is always something new.

                1. re: anotheryankee

                  Whole Foods would have to be pretty wasted to spend the night with Iceland.....

              1. I believe that Aldi owns Trader Joe's. Although I don't think there is much cross over of product.

                1 Reply
                1. re: relizabeth

                  This from Google...

                  At Aldi, 95 percent of the goods are the retailer's own brands. They are, in other words, not the obvious owner of a chain like Trader Joe's ...

                2. I empathize completely... have missed TJ's for 7 years now and moved just when one opened five minutes from where I was living outside NYC!

                  You 'd enjoy Whole Foods, but it's pretty much like most of the large health food stores found in the U.S. - and many of the same brands. TJ has so many meals that are fast to heat up, but I think the ones from M&S or Waitrose etc. are just as good at times and there's more variety. I do miss the blintzes!

                  1. I live in San Francisco and shop at TJ's at least once or twice a week. I also have the good fortune to spend several weeks each year in the Scottish Highlands, where I shop often at Lidl. It is not the same as TJ's, but it is similar in that they have a lot of house brands & labels, many of which are very good and reasonably priced. Their products are sourced from all over Europe and some are even from the U.S.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: DavidT

                      thanks! I just looked and I have 3 within 15 miles! totally going to check them out. I sooooo miss the corn salsa at TJ's! Think it's time to tell my sister to go shopping for me!

                      1. re: anotheryankee

                        If you like lasagne, be sure to try the heat & serve lasagnes Lidl carries under the Alfredo label. They offer a Bolognese and a Verdi. They are stocked in the refrigerated section.

                        1. re: anotheryankee

                          I go to Lidl a lot. I recommend their hummus. Olive oil is good too. They have a good but limited selection of snacky crackers and bread stick type things with cheese. Have a look at the chocolate section as there is a wide selection of European stuff with a wide selection in the hazelnut range. Their biscuit/cookie section is also very good.

                      2. If I understand Trader Joe's correctly it doesn't directly correspond to anything in the U.K.

                        But it seems to me the signature of the TJ's I've been in is a large amount of exotic prepared foods, often processed, appealing to foodie/trendy sensibilities, very little of it fresh and quite a lot of it with a long shelf life. If it is distinct from most U.S. supermarket chains it's in part because of the diversity of prepared foods.

                        I feel most U.K. supermarket chains, but especially Sainsbury's, Waitrose, and M&S, share a lot of the TJ's ethic -- in Sainsbury's you'd look for the Taste the Difference stuff, etc. Are you not finding this to be the case? What is it about Trader Joe's that you think is missing from those places?

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: chickendhansak

                          I would take issue with your assertion that the "signature" of TJ's "is a large amount of exotic prepared foods, often processed, appealing to foodie/trendy sensibilities, very little of it fresh and quite a lot of it with a long shelf life." I shop at TJ's regularly in San Francisco and that is simply not the case. I certainly do not shop at TJ's for those kinds of items.

                          1. re: DavidT

                            really? i thought it was mostly prepared foods as well

                            do you get a lot of fresh fruit/veg/meat from there?

                            1. re: t_g

                              I don't understand the fuss - I've seen them all over the U.S - Waitrose is better.

                              1. re: t_g

                                The Chowhound police probably don 't want this thread to become hijacked by a discussion on TJ's, as there are plenty of TJ threads on the Chains board.

                                That being said, the items I buy regularly at TJ's are milk, eggs, cheese, bread, English muffins, cereal, ice cream, cookies, bananas, sparkling water, dry pasta, pasta sauce, salsa, chips, dried fruit, shaving cream and toilet paper. I sometimes buy wine and liquor there.

                                Those are also items I buy when I shop at the Lidl store when I am vacationing in Scotland.

                              2. re: DavidT

                                My assertion was that this was the signature of the TJ's "I've been in." That was a deliberate qualification. I'm not trying to assert universal knowledge of TJ's, but rather to understand what it might be that the OP is looking for.

                                1. re: chickendhansak

                                  I think the inventories of almost all TJ's are pretty much the same. Since I buy very, very little prepared food at any store, maybe I just don't pay much attention to the prepared foods at TJ's.