HOME > Chowhound > Chains >

How to survive without Trader Joes & Costco???

l
lauraghall Aug 13, 2013 05:30 AM

Hi All! So I live in grocery store paradise now--1 m from Trader Joe's, 1.5 mi from Whole Foods, 4 mi from Costco, a bit farther from a couple of great farmer's markets in the summer... there's also a Super Target and so normal grocery stores nearby, though I don't frequent those as much. Over the past 3 yrs that we've lived here, I've gotten to the point that I do about 1/2 of my grocery shopping at Trader Joe's (breads, frozen veg, some produce, chicken sausage, nuts & dried fruit, etc.), and 1/2 at Costco (tons of produce, diary, deli meat, nut butters, baking, meatless products, bulk meat, cheese, and non-food items like diapers & paper products).
And now we're moving.
To St. Joseph, MI, which has only normal grocery stores. I'm kind of devastated. (Well, the homemaker part of me is. Otherwise I'm excited.)
St. Joseph is 90 min east of Chicago, which of course has TJs & Costco, so I could potentially do a monthly stock-up trip at my two favorite stores. But I am so used to going to Costco about 2x/mo and TJs weekly, that I am just bracing for a painful withdrawal...
Has anyone had to give up these stores? Or even if you haven't, do you have any ideas on how to make do, without breaking the bank??

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. tokyo RE: lauraghall Aug 13, 2013 05:50 AM

    I live four hours from the closest Costco/TJs, so, I feel your pain. ;) I'm only able to do stock-up trips every three months (don't forget your cooler!). In the meantime, I rely on local specialty shops & health food stores -however...interesting... they may be ;)- as well as making use of local farm stands & markets. Prices will generally be higher at local shops, so I do try to wait for sales.
    I'd say what helps me get through withdrawals is finding one little gem and savoring it until the next trip! Our motto is "enjoy this place for what it IS, and don't resent it for what it is not."
    Hope this helps!

    2 Replies
    1. re: tokyo
      l
      lauraghall RE: tokyo Aug 13, 2013 06:24 AM

      Good attitude! I'm trying to keep in mind that I grocery shop to live, not live to grocery shop... I think it'll be an adjustment to forge new habits, but hopefully I'll adapt :)

      1. re: tokyo
        n
        neilmcginnis RE: tokyo Aug 15, 2013 09:48 AM

        good advice

      2. Lambowner RE: lauraghall Aug 13, 2013 05:57 AM

        We have both (TJ's only recently) and I rarely visit them and would quite easily live without them. I prefer the local markets and particularly the ethnic markets. Moving away from the box stores may be the best thing that could happen to your dinner table and open your world to better foods than they can offer. As to diapers, that's another matter. Good luck with the move.

        10 Replies
        1. re: Lambowner
          carolinadawg RE: Lambowner Aug 13, 2013 06:08 AM

          The OP is moving to a community of 8,000 with virtually no demographic diversity, versus your home of Houston with over 2 million people and nearly every nationality represented. How many local and ethnic markets do you think the OP will find?

          1. re: carolinadawg
            l
            lauraghall RE: carolinadawg Aug 13, 2013 06:25 AM

            Yup, St. Joe is pretty white bread... blah

            1. re: lauraghall
              kitchengardengal RE: lauraghall Aug 19, 2013 11:15 AM

              I've always liked St. Joe! And it's in the midst of some beautiful wine country, and the most gorgeous beaches you could ask for.

            2. re: carolinadawg
              Lambowner RE: carolinadawg Aug 13, 2013 08:46 AM

              Well 6 million in the metro area actually, so yes that is a bonus to living here. People don't move to Houston for the weather. But the question is, would I miss those two stores? No. But I would be excited about searching for local produce and other foodstuffs. Immigrants have settled all over. I used to live in Missouri. I'm sure she will find lots of good things. And with Chicago so close, well that is enviable!

              1. re: Lambowner
                t
                treb RE: Lambowner Aug 13, 2013 11:35 AM

                Is she moving to St. Joseph Michigan or Missouri?.

                1. re: treb
                  Lambowner RE: treb Aug 13, 2013 11:50 AM

                  Well I read Missouri, but looking up St. Joseph, Michigan, it looks even better!

                  1. re: treb
                    l
                    lauraghall RE: treb Aug 13, 2013 05:55 PM

                    St. Joseph, Michigan--sorry, should have specified!

                    1. re: lauraghall
                      t
                      treb RE: lauraghall Aug 14, 2013 05:01 AM

                      Another tid bit to consider, I have the exec membership and between that and the Costco free AMEX, I receive back about 500.00 per year (and that's just normal shopping) nothing extraordinary. It will more than pay for the membership, gas and time plus you get better quality than a super market..

                      1. re: treb
                        l
                        lauraghall RE: treb Aug 14, 2013 09:37 AM

                        I agree. We have the exec membership too, and my husband is always equally excited by the rebate and astounded by how much we spend at Costco. (We got back $182 last year... which means we spent avg. $758/mo, including new mattresses and some household items.)
                        I am pretty sure that we will keep the membership even with moving, though. And buy a large freezer for the basement/garage.

                      2. re: lauraghall
                        mcf RE: lauraghall Aug 14, 2013 06:39 AM

                        You did specify! MI is Mich, MO is Missouri.

              2. f
                ferret RE: lauraghall Aug 13, 2013 06:04 AM

                On the plus side, you'll never be wanting for blueberries in the summer, you're close to Meijer and right down the road from the Blue Plate (great breakfasts).

                4 Replies
                1. re: ferret
                  l
                  lauraghall RE: ferret Aug 13, 2013 06:28 AM

                  True story. I used to live in Ann Arbor, and Meijer was a fav.
                  We picked up a pint of MI blueberries at a farm stand when we visited the area last weekend, and snacked on them on the plane on the return flight. Perfection!
                  I suppose that's a key here: adapt and focus on the fabulous things that are available, instead of whining about not being able to do things the old way...

                  1. re: lauraghall
                    h
                    hawkeyeui93 RE: lauraghall Aug 13, 2013 08:50 AM

                    And you are in a pretty State to boot ... and although inferior, you are about 30 miles from a Sam's Club in Mishawaka [South Bend], IN.

                    1. re: hawkeyeui93
                      l
                      lauraghall RE: hawkeyeui93 Aug 13, 2013 05:57 PM

                      It is beautiful, overall I am really looking forward to it. This thread is really helping my positive outlook :D

                  2. re: ferret
                    m
                    Mestralle RE: ferret Sep 14, 2013 07:29 AM

                    I live in Grand Rapids, and at least for "regular groceries," I definitely wouldn't underestimate Meijer; they're in fact one of the main reasons why Trader Joe's and Whole Foods are so reluctant to enter West Michigan (and also why the Wal-Marts around here have few customers and are rather devoid of grocery offerings). Their various stores tend to be a little different, but they've all come a long way from the old "Thrifty Acres" days and now have what I think is a great selection at great prices, using local suppliers when possible/practical and offering a lot of organic and ethnic options. Check the weekly ads.

                    As a slightly funny aside, my husband's grandparents, when they used to visit from the East Coast, actually used to make a point to go to Meijer (in Grand Haven) every day because they were so amazed.

                  3. t
                    treb RE: lauraghall Aug 13, 2013 08:05 AM

                    I also am blessed with 2 Costco's near by, couldn't live without them. I'd suggest that you plan for a well organized monthly trip and do some significant stocking up. Shopping at regular grocery stores will put a huge dent in your budget and probably motivate you to make the trek to Costco.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: treb
                      c oliver RE: treb Aug 13, 2013 08:21 AM

                      We've not live as far as OP will from a Costco but we used to make a 100 mile RT and, as you say, we'd go about once a month. Take the cooler, do other shopping, have a nice lunch, etc. We did fine.

                      1. re: c oliver
                        f
                        ferret RE: c oliver Aug 13, 2013 11:06 AM

                        Well, the 90-mile trip may not be the shortest but the Costco does come attached to Chicago.

                        1. re: ferret
                          c oliver RE: ferret Aug 13, 2013 11:18 AM

                          Exactly!

                          1. re: ferret
                            l
                            lauraghall RE: ferret Aug 13, 2013 05:58 PM

                            True!

                      2. c
                        conniemcd RE: lauraghall Aug 13, 2013 11:39 AM

                        I feel your pain. I live 2 1/2-3 hours from a Costco in Fargo, and 6 hours from another near my daughter in Minneapolis. Occasionally, I go with her. I was told by a Costco clerk in Fargo last summer that we were getting one in Bismarck. I could not find anything on their website saying they were coming here. I'm so disappointed.
                        Regarding TJoes, we get to Minneapolis about 3 times a year and load up with lots of dry goods and a small cooler. I'll keep hoping with our growing economy that one or both will eventually come here. We have a Sam's, but I don't like it nearly as well as Costco so I don't belong. We have three nice grocery stores, but neither have as many choices and the quality I find at Trader Joes and Costco. I'm going to consider joining because I get to Fargo 3-4 times a year. I'd bring a big cooler so I could haul home some decent seafood.

                        1. Monica RE: lauraghall Aug 13, 2013 11:59 AM

                          Get a large freezer and stock them up whenever you do go.
                          Know exactly what you need to buy by making a list.

                          If i didn't have Costco and Trader joe's near me, I'd go to my Shop Rite supermarket store. There are other Shop rite stores but this particular store has great prices and great selections plus they have tons of managers' specials all the time. They have organic produce section and they carry different cuts of meats I normally don't see anywhere..probably because of so many ethnicities who live around that supermarket.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Monica
                            m
                            mutti RE: Monica Aug 13, 2013 02:30 PM

                            I just got back from making a 250 mile treck to Costco I do this 3 times a year and I totally load up,loosing those places is and was one of the hardest things to bear.
                            As everyone has already said take a big cooler,I always load up with the steak's, pork chop's and the organic gound meat,I have bought steak's from my area but it just does'nt have the same flavor as Costco,never had a bad steak from them.I also load up on the roasted chicken's then cry vac them when I get home.
                            So hang in there you only have a 100 mile trip to do.

                            's

                            1. re: mutti
                              l
                              lauraghall RE: mutti Aug 13, 2013 06:02 PM

                              Great advice! Thank you :)

                          2. girloftheworld RE: lauraghall Aug 13, 2013 05:49 PM

                            I dont have a Trader Joes....
                            Dont have a cosco membership
                            Am not allowed to shop at Target or Walmart

                            But I do live 10 miles from Whole Foods world headquarters
                            two farmers markets are bike riding distance and my friend owns a farm... I order a lot off the internet! It is amazing what you can get delivered right to your door!

                            13 Replies
                            1. re: girloftheworld
                              l
                              lauraghall RE: girloftheworld Aug 13, 2013 06:03 PM

                              I've been really considering online options--could you share some of your fav sites??

                              1. re: lauraghall
                                girloftheworld RE: lauraghall Aug 13, 2013 06:14 PM

                                here are a couple that i have had good luck with

                                http://www.artizone.com/Dallas/Hirsch...
                                http://www.spicesforless.com/Spices-A-Z/
                                http://gourmetfood.about.com/od/where...

                                1. re: lauraghall
                                  v
                                  vstock RE: lauraghall Aug 13, 2013 07:12 PM

                                  Hard to believe, but I strongly suggest checking out Amazon. They seem to have everything for very fair prices and they send it straight to your front door. I just bought some shallot confit that I first found at a specialty store locally that no longer were carrying them. It you spring for a prime membership the shipping is generally free.

                                  1. re: vstock
                                    khh1138 RE: vstock Aug 13, 2013 09:58 PM

                                    I've had great luck with Amazon as well - in the last few months I've bought Austrian spice mixes, another spice I use for gumbo that is always out of stock locally, duck fat that has revolutionized my fried potatoes - all kinds of goodies. We have the prime membership and it pays for itself over and over.
                                    I feel for the OP, though - we do so much shopping at Sam's and Costco. I regularly travel to one Costco about 30 minutes away, though, so if I had to, I would go farther and just take a big ice chest. For the meat if nothing else.

                                    1. re: khh1138
                                      Monica RE: khh1138 Aug 14, 2013 07:52 AM

                                      I tried the duck fat with potato over the weekend but i still prefer potato with bacon fat...haha.

                                2. re: girloftheworld
                                  carolinadawg RE: girloftheworld Aug 13, 2013 06:08 PM

                                  "Not allowed"?

                                  1. re: carolinadawg
                                    Lambowner RE: carolinadawg Aug 13, 2013 06:38 PM

                                    girloftheworld is, uhm, a girl! If your folks don't like Walmart, gotw, I understand that, but Target? Perhaps too far away.

                                    1. re: Lambowner
                                      girloftheworld RE: Lambowner Aug 13, 2013 07:02 PM

                                      Target bills itself as an "ethcial" company...but that doesnt extend to the treatment of the employees. We prefer to shop locally owned stores when we can and if we cant we try to support locally owned stores in other towns via the internet.

                                      1. re: girloftheworld
                                        v
                                        Violatp RE: girloftheworld Aug 14, 2013 09:54 PM

                                        I commend your parents. I can manage w/o stepping foot in a Walmart but just can't shake Target.

                                        1. re: girloftheworld
                                          westsidegal RE: girloftheworld Aug 14, 2013 10:58 PM

                                          i completely agree with your parents about Walmart.
                                          as for Target, the only thing i buy there are paper towels.
                                          the food they sell is primarily the highly processed, GMO, insecticide laden, agribusiness-produced, stuff that i don't buy.

                                          1. re: westsidegal
                                            Monica RE: westsidegal Aug 15, 2013 06:58 AM

                                            Target has its own gourmet brand called Archer's farm. some of the products are pretty good. i especially love their dry pasta...one of the best pasta I've ever tasted actually and I have tasted a lot of different gourmet brand pastas.
                                            their sausages are pretty good too(without a lot of additives and nitrite,etc) and they offer a lot of organic options in freezer section and other grocery items. I don't normally shop for groceries in Target but whenever I can't make to Trader joe's, I buy stuff from Target but I make sure I read the ingredients first.

                                          2. re: girloftheworld
                                            linguafood RE: girloftheworld Aug 19, 2013 11:06 AM

                                            http://reclaimdemocracy.org/walmart_t...

                                            You couldn't pay me to set foot in a Malwart.

                                            1. re: linguafood
                                              girloftheworld RE: linguafood Aug 20, 2013 03:05 PM

                                              I wouldnt dream of trying :)

                                    2. r
                                      Ray2 RE: lauraghall Aug 14, 2013 01:32 AM

                                      Never chose to shop at either one of them. "Breaking the bank". I thought people went to these places to save money?

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: Ray2
                                        c oliver RE: Ray2 Aug 15, 2013 07:32 AM

                                        We DO save money at Costco. Unless you let things go to waste, it's almost impossible not to save.

                                        1. re: c oliver
                                          n
                                          NekoNekoFancyPants RE: c oliver Aug 15, 2013 02:53 PM

                                          I watched my mother-in-law who is a Costco fanatic for years. I found that often when there was more of something around they house (bulk items) more was used and more was wasted. We do not shop at either of these stores for personal preference and compared often our bills to hers with the same family members. She typically spent about 40% more then we did. Often items are less expensive on sale locally or bought online. That is not counting the extra space and storage costs. There is a fine line between bulking up and hoarding.

                                          A tip for those toiletries, check out janitorial supply companies online. If you eat lots of produce check out your local distributor.

                                          1. re: NekoNekoFancyPants
                                            f
                                            ferret RE: NekoNekoFancyPants Aug 15, 2013 03:38 PM

                                            I pay attention to prices and while I find that Costco is not always the best price for everything, it's the best price for many, many things by far. I don't buy 100% of my needs from any single place but I easily get 60% or more from Costco and it's a genuine and substantial savings be it frozen foods, paper goods, pet food. Here's an example (maybe not typical), my family enjoys Wild Planet tuna, which is generally over $3 a can (albacore, not skipjack) anywhere you can find it (Amazon has it for roughly $4-$5 a can with shipping). Costco sells 6 cans for under $15. Every day of the week. I don't have to wait for sales. There are many, many more examples. Can I get mustard or canned green beans for less elsewhere? Probably. But when it comes to specialty or higher-quality items I prefer Costco (and their house-brand vodka and tequila put better name brands to shame and at far lower prices)

                                            1. re: NekoNekoFancyPants
                                              Lambowner RE: NekoNekoFancyPants Aug 16, 2013 12:52 PM

                                              Agreed, Neko. No way I break even on the annual fee. The prices just aren't better than grocery stores. I don't get it.

                                              1. re: Lambowner
                                                knowspicker RE: Lambowner Aug 17, 2013 06:07 PM

                                                I save the most at Costco on things like the Wild Planet Tuna [we wait for $5 off sales and stock up]. Organic Chicken breasts are cheaper than even on sale price on those in grocery stores. Organic eggs are also a good buy. Other things like good cheeses. Meat is generally a savings if you are comparing similar quality meat in grocery stores. Rack of lamb $12.99 per pound at Costco and usually $29 at a local grocery store. Seafood is also usually a good deal. But there are many items than I can find cheaper if I shop sales especially on fresh produce.

                                                I do use the Costco True Earnings Amex and get more than my membership fee back each year on that even with Executive Membership.

                                              2. re: NekoNekoFancyPants
                                                westsidegal RE: NekoNekoFancyPants Aug 20, 2013 12:43 AM

                                                first of all, i should point out that i LOVE costco.

                                                that said, most of the people i know who buy the bulk of their food at costco seem to end up eating the disgusting brown and pink dregs of salad that has been in the bag too long.
                                                i see huge bottles of salad dressing filling up their refrigerator and it appears like it is the SAME bottle i see every time for a year or so.
                                                olives for a martini same story.

                                                the flats of raspberries that they buy turn mouldy after 3 days or so after their shopping trip . gross!

                                                basically, once the teenagers are out of the house and the party has been thrown, the food there either ends up being thrown out or consumed when it SHOULD have been thrown out.

                                                also, their pet food has, in the past been produced by Diamond so i would NEVER feed it to my dogs.
                                                their cookware is mostly from China, and i have plenty of reason to avoid that.

                                                to me costco is great for:
                                                1) their pharmacy
                                                2) paper products (napkins, tp, etc)
                                                3) britta filters
                                                4) towels
                                                5) sugar snap peas
                                                6) when i am having a party with a lot of guests
                                                7) buying a new flat screen TV

                                            2. re: Ray2
                                              t
                                              treb RE: Ray2 Aug 18, 2013 11:38 AM

                                              Breaking the Bank, is Costco's issue? take a little responsibility and admit that you have a control problem. Never heard of a case where Costco forced someone to buy anything at their stores.

                                            3. coney with everything RE: lauraghall Aug 14, 2013 04:32 AM

                                              I'd gladly give up my urban life to live near Lake Michigan! The best beaches anywhere.

                                              But I'd seriously just go with the stock-up idea...even with those stores near me, I have tapered down to a monthly TJs run and Costco every six weeks.

                                              And you're so near amazing farming and wine country. If you go to farmer's markets around Chicago, half the vendors advertise "Michigan x"; it's a selling point.
                                              there's always Grand Rapids, about the same distance but 90% less hassle.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: coney with everything
                                                h
                                                hawkeyeui93 RE: coney with everything Aug 14, 2013 04:45 AM

                                                Good point. Farmer's Markets are great in the Upper Midwest until growing season and late Fall set it. My guess is that the OP will also be able to find a nice, family owned butcher/meat locker within 15 minutes of where she lives as well.

                                                1. re: hawkeyeui93
                                                  l
                                                  lauraghall RE: hawkeyeui93 Aug 14, 2013 09:47 AM

                                                  I'll have to look--good advice!

                                              2. t
                                                truman RE: lauraghall Aug 14, 2013 06:07 AM

                                                You can shop Costco online for some nonperishable items, as well as bulk meat.

                                                10 Replies
                                                1. re: truman
                                                  l
                                                  lauraghall RE: truman Aug 14, 2013 09:48 AM

                                                  Wait, for real?? Going to costco.com right now...

                                                  Hmm... the grocery items seem to be pretty "premium". Like 20 steaks for $225 and gift items. But I will keep it in mind! Thanks for the lead!

                                                  1. re: lauraghall
                                                    f
                                                    ferret RE: lauraghall Aug 14, 2013 01:52 PM

                                                    Let's not ignore the "prepper-ready" dehydrated year's supply of food for a family of 4. Very economical at $3,499 (under $10/day).

                                                    1. re: ferret
                                                      l
                                                      lauraghall RE: ferret Aug 14, 2013 04:34 PM

                                                      Done. Can't believe I've been wasting money on hydrated food all these years. I just need to order a couple of cases of water, and we'll be set for the next 12 mos!
                                                      :)

                                                      1. re: lauraghall
                                                        girloftheworld RE: lauraghall Aug 14, 2013 04:56 PM

                                                        did you get a free gas mask with the jumbo pack?

                                                    2. re: lauraghall
                                                      t
                                                      truman RE: lauraghall Aug 15, 2013 08:03 AM

                                                      I was thinking more of the non-food items you listed like paper products and diapers. I'd have gone bonkers/broke if I had to buy those at non-warehouse stores...

                                                      1. re: truman
                                                        trolley RE: truman Aug 15, 2013 08:12 AM

                                                        actually, after buying diapers at costco we found that Amazon mom is the cheapest per diaper. Costco was about ¢.25 and amazon mom was about ¢.21 or something like that. yes, pennies difference but when you're buying hundred of diapers it can save a little.

                                                        1. re: trolley
                                                          Monica RE: trolley Aug 15, 2013 08:35 AM

                                                          On the baby topic, I exclusively used Costco's baby formula...never bought Similar or Enfamil....there is just a huge difference in price for the exact samething. Also love Costco's baby wipes...and it has no chlorine just like 7th generation brand which costs a lot more...though I only use 7th generation diapers.

                                                          1. re: Monica
                                                            westsidegal RE: Monica Aug 20, 2013 12:51 AM

                                                            Monica: i second your recommendation of the Costco Tercel baby wipes.
                                                            we don't even have a baby, but find them incredibly useful for many other purposes. my daughter recently bought a new car and keeps a box of the wipes in her car to wipe of any bird poop/sap/water stains that might ruin the paint before she can get it to a car wash. also works on the interior upholstery between "real" cleanings.
                                                            the wipes also work for wiping up spots on the laminate floor between "real" cleanings,

                                                          2. re: trolley
                                                            t
                                                            truman RE: trolley Aug 15, 2013 10:52 AM

                                                            to be fair, we never bought diapers at Costco (only Kirkland wipes) because we used Pampers. But their prices at BJ's, with store and manufacturer coupons, were well below Amazon and diapers.com. (Yes, we belong to two warehouse clubs... sigh.)

                                                            1. re: truman
                                                              h
                                                              hawkeyeui93 RE: truman Aug 16, 2013 05:17 AM

                                                              We bought all of my daughter's Pampers at Sam's Club due to it being the only warehouse store in the small college town we reside it. Probably save a thousand alone doing it.

                                                    3. Firegoat RE: lauraghall Aug 14, 2013 06:15 AM

                                                      When I lived in a larger area I had a Sam's Club membership and easy access to a Whole Foods. Since moving to a smaller town I find I don't miss either. There is a Sam's Club here, but I didn't bother to renew my membership. I enjoy the small, independent grocers, as well as the local butchers and farmers markets. Something to keep an eye out for if budget is an issue, is an Aldi's.
                                                      If it is specialty ingredients you need, my brother-in-law who has worked in the industry for years has always told me, if there is something you want that they don't have. Just let them know. They will almost always get it for you. Tried it once. It worked :D.
                                                      That said, I don't have a large family so if the issue is buying in bulk, everyone else's advice about planning a trip once a month and stocking is a good plan.

                                                      1. juliejulez RE: lauraghall Aug 14, 2013 11:13 AM

                                                        I moved to an state where there is no TJ's (well, they're building some, very very slowly), and honestly, I haven't had much issue doing without. There's a few things I miss, like their chicken sausages and some of their frozen items, but overall I can find equivalent items at the regular grocery store (King Soopers, which is owned by Kroger). I do have a Costco membership but it's not in a convenient enough location to go to more than every couple months. For me it's only 30 minutes away but that's far enough to not be able to run by after work. I keep a cooler in my car for that purpose.

                                                        With savvy shopping, it's actually cheaper for me to buy at the regular grocery storef or most items. Like, they will put chicken breasts on sale for 1.99 (or more like 2.49 more recently), so I can stock up then. At Costco, they are 2.99/lb. Just have to time it right and stock up when the price is lowest, which gets easier once you start seeing their sale cycles. Also, my store has a "Private Selection" store brand which has higher quality prepared/frozen foods. They frequently do digital coupons that I can load directly onto my shoppers card for that brand. Same for their "Simple Truth" organic line. They also double paper coupons, but I don't do many paper coupons, I don't have time for that. I know that Safeway does the same thing, it's just not convenient for me to shop there. The only things I still like to buy at Costco are paper products, beef, and sodas/bottled water, and non-food products like dog treats.

                                                        Another thing I do, when the season is right, is shop at a farm store that is near my house. They have crazy cheap produce (like a bushel of zucchini for 3.50!). Sometimes it's too much for me to buy but even their regular non-bushel products are cheaper than the regular store (49 cents a pound versus 99 cents for zucchini for example). I'm guessing you can find similar places in your area in Michigan, at least during summer months.

                                                        And, the suggestion of shopping online is a great one. I go to a brick and mortar spice shop, Savory Spice Shop, but they sell online as well. So does Penzeys.

                                                        I think as long as you can stock up at Costco every few months, you'll be totally fine. Just invest in a good cooler :)

                                                        Also, I googled "grocery store St Joseph michigan" and quite a few options came up. There's even an Aldi in Benton Harbor and I know some people have had great luck w/ the produce at Aldi. https://www.google.com/search?q=groce...

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: juliejulez
                                                          l
                                                          lauraghall RE: juliejulez Aug 14, 2013 04:40 PM

                                                          Thanks for the thorough & thoughtful post! I think you're right about grocery stores' sale prices vs Costco. I spent a couple of months deliberating before joining Costco, even walking through and taking careful notes on prices/unit prices of groceries I'd buy, and I came to the same conclusion. We decided to join for the convenience of not having to wait for sales, and for the savings on gas.
                                                          Thanks again for taking the time to share advice!

                                                        2. RussTheRaccoon RE: lauraghall Aug 14, 2013 09:23 PM

                                                          Guess what? There is an Aldi in Benton Harbor. It is certainly no substitute for Trader Joe's but there are a few things there that are exactly the same except for the packaging and they have some great stuff, especially staples, and it is *very* inexpensive. Aldi will have also have special short-term deals and seasonal items and many of those are good.

                                                          There is also a Meijer there which is a lot like Wal-Mart but with a much better selection of groceries, wine, etc. Again, it is no substitute for Trader Joe's, especially if you have favorite products that aren't generally available elsewhere, but you certainly won't starve.

                                                          There are also hispanic grocery stores there that will be worth checking out.

                                                          6 Replies
                                                          1. re: RussTheRaccoon
                                                            h
                                                            happybaker RE: RussTheRaccoon Aug 15, 2013 09:55 AM

                                                            Aldi's actually owns trader joe's!

                                                            And yup, they are not the same but they are HANDY.

                                                            I actually miss the one by my mom's, none out here in LA. The cost of the land, I guess...

                                                            1. re: happybaker
                                                              f
                                                              ferret RE: happybaker Aug 15, 2013 02:24 PM

                                                              The Aldi/Trader Joe's relationship is a complicated one but there's a definite familial connection.

                                                              1. re: happybaker
                                                                RussTheRaccoon RE: happybaker Aug 15, 2013 05:09 PM

                                                                No, they were owned by two Albrecht brothers but as completely separate companies. Some of the imported items are sourced from the same suppliers, though.

                                                                1. re: RussTheRaccoon
                                                                  v
                                                                  Violatp RE: RussTheRaccoon Aug 16, 2013 02:11 PM

                                                                  There are some things Aldi sometimes carries that I absolutely recognize as a Trader Joe's product.

                                                                  Of course, I can't think of any right now, but I know when I shop that I recognize them!

                                                                2. re: happybaker
                                                                  h
                                                                  hawkeyeui93 RE: happybaker Aug 16, 2013 05:21 AM

                                                                  My limited understanding of the Albrecht brothers is that Aldi's split into two separate entities: Aldi Sud and Aldi Nord. One of the two [I cannot recall] is the part that owns Trader Joe's. The other owns/runs Aldi's. It is uncanny that they both employ the same core concept, except one was able to make it cool/hip to buy private/store label goods.

                                                                  1. re: hawkeyeui93
                                                                    f
                                                                    ferret RE: hawkeyeui93 Aug 16, 2013 06:41 AM

                                                                    The Albrecht brother who owned Aldi Nord purchased Trader Joe's. Aldi Sud runs the Aldi's in the US.

                                                              2. b
                                                                BuildingMyBento RE: lauraghall Aug 14, 2013 09:49 PM

                                                                Although there are Costcos in Japan and Metros (I think they're German) in China, I was lamenting the absence of Trader Joe's while living in that part o' the world.

                                                                When I wanted a salad in China, IKEA was the easiest and/or certainly the cheapest place to get one. They covered chocolate and biscuits too (not to mention, macadamias seem to be a staple at duty free shops), but sometimes you want a blue-colored flax-specked tortilla chip, and to complement that a salsa, or even a ho-hummus.

                                                                But then, sometimes you want knife-shaved noodles. Shoot.

                                                                Jonathan
                                                                http://buildingmybento.com
                                                                http://collaterallettuce.com

                                                                1. westsidegal RE: lauraghall Aug 14, 2013 10:52 PM

                                                                  i had to give up those stores for a three year stint.
                                                                  ended up buying restaurant food the whole time.
                                                                  most of the food available at the "regular" markets were highly processed, agribusiness, concoctions that i found to be inedible.
                                                                  even the spices they sold were awful and old and low quality.
                                                                  having food shipped in was just too costly, it was less expensive to get food from restaurants.

                                                                  1. trolley RE: lauraghall Aug 15, 2013 07:53 AM

                                                                    i feel your pain. I just moved to a state 2 weeks ago with NO TJ's. They're supposedly building a few in the state (one in my town) but all I see is dirt and and some wood at the site when I drive by. I've always lived walking distance to a TJ's since 1992. My last residence was Pasadena, the home of TJ's and I lived walking distance to the original TJ's and I had about 10 TJ's within 10 radius miles. I did make a TJ's care package but that's almost long gone.

                                                                    It pains me to buy things for double the cost for products that seem inferior to TJ's like coffee filters but it is what it is.

                                                                    I tried Sprouts but I've had terrible customer service there that I decided not to go back. The incident that made me decide this was when the bagger accused me of trying to steal a gallon of water that I put in my cart after the girl had scanned it. He started to panic and started shouting to the check out girl "the water! she just put the water in the cart!" I joked that I came to buy a ton of groceries to lift a gallon of water and the checkout girl looked at me with a serious face and said "he's just doing his job". Other times it's been unacceptably long lines into the aisles while workers chatted and looked on. or the time i started to put all my groceries on the belt only to be told "i'm not open" then another worker watching me put all my groceries back in the cart so I can move to her line. also workers making out in aisles etc. don't get me wrong, i'm into young grocery love but it was a bit over board.

                                                                    anyway, i've having the best luck at King Soopers, a part of the Krogers/Ralphs/City Market chain. The best prices and selections. I do a little at Target which isn't ideal either but again decent prices for items like coffee and yogurts. I'm adapting to the KIng Soopers thing but it's not without pain and sadness. and i have a beautiful farmers market but again, coming from SoCal where farmers markets are probably the best in the country not only for the selection but for the year round availability, it's a tough adjustment. Barely any fruits. Lots of kale but good kale. I miss citrus :(

                                                                    I know my reply isn't helpful but just lending moral support and to let you know we're in the same club. hay at least you can go to a TJ's 90 minutes away. it's a trek but probably doable once a month. good luck.

                                                                    Just and fyi, my biggest problem is the lack of Japanese Groceries. I'm originally from Japan and I replied on the Japanese chain stores for my goods. there are NONE in my area. that's right, NONE.

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: trolley
                                                                      trolley RE: trolley Aug 15, 2013 10:25 AM

                                                                      *relied not replied.

                                                                      1. re: trolley
                                                                        v
                                                                        Violatp RE: trolley Aug 16, 2013 02:16 PM

                                                                        Wow. I've only ever lived in three CA cities plus Chicago so I have no idea what it's like to not have access to pretty much anything.

                                                                        And even in Chicago I can find things to bitch about, especially for produce.

                                                                        1. re: trolley
                                                                          juliejulez RE: trolley Aug 18, 2013 08:53 PM

                                                                          You must live in the Denver area. I have a Brighton address but sort of live in the middle of nowhere, so I feel your pain! I will say though, Sprouts can really vary by location :) I've had good luck at the Greenwood Village location on Arapahoe and the location in Thornton on 120th :). The meat department is especially great at the Greenwood Village location, super helpful and friendly.

                                                                          1. re: juliejulez
                                                                            trolley RE: juliejulez Aug 20, 2013 07:00 AM

                                                                            yes, i loved to Boulder. i'm going to try Alfalfa's today. expensive but maybe they'll have what I need. I was told by others that the big Sprouts on Arapahoe in Boulder (everything in CO seems to be on Arapahoe!) has nasty employees by some locals. I miss the employees of TJ's and store policies like opening up new lanes once there is more than a few people on line. the time I went to Sprouts and stood on one line that extended into the grocery aisle while other employees chatted and watched was enough to make me never go back. but i went back and it just got worse.

                                                                            being in a new town can stink. you don't realize how stuck you get in a grocery routine with trusted items. it's even more difficult for us as we have a 4 yr old with food restrictions. it's enough that he's 4!!

                                                                            1. re: trolley
                                                                              juliejulez RE: trolley Aug 20, 2013 11:15 AM

                                                                              I've heard pretty much most stores in Boulder suck, in terms of customer service. Maybe because many of the workers there are students? I know at the Sprouts locations I mentioned, most of the workers are older folks.

                                                                        2. n
                                                                          neilmcginnis RE: lauraghall Aug 15, 2013 09:29 AM

                                                                          All you are doing is buying bulk so just make a twice a year trip to costco with a trailer and invest in deep freezers to store the low cost/quality products. lol

                                                                          1. n
                                                                            neilmcginnis RE: lauraghall Aug 15, 2013 09:44 AM

                                                                            No one seems to care about the quality of food, only the price. A chicken egg sold at Costco comes from a chicken that was raised indoors never even allowed to see the light and pumped full of antibiotics to prevent disease that spurs from a unnatural concentration of animals in these pens. These eggs do not contain the same nutritional value as an egg from a free ranch chicken consuming food natural to it's evolutionary track. Just because it looks like real food does NOT mean that it is.
                                                                            Trying looking for and supporting your local Farmer's Market.

                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                            1. re: neilmcginnis
                                                                              trolley RE: neilmcginnis Aug 15, 2013 10:28 AM

                                                                              to be fair to the OP there are things at TJ's and Costco that can't be bought at the farmers market. Keep in mind I've never bought meats or produce at Costco and only once in a while bought meat, fruit and veggies at TJ's. it's all the other stuff. I'm finding that reprogramming my grocery habit is a tough one along with moving itself.

                                                                              1. re: neilmcginnis
                                                                                n
                                                                                NekoNekoFancyPants RE: neilmcginnis Aug 15, 2013 02:47 PM

                                                                                While I dont disagree with you neil, I would add that today many vendors at farmers markets sell things that are purchased from the same distributors as the major markets near by. I know this is not all vendors, but some of then have no relation to farms at all and just mark up the same apples or corn you get in your local super market. Different markets have different rules and some are actually run or sponsored by local supermarket chains.

                                                                                1. re: neilmcginnis
                                                                                  v
                                                                                  Violatp RE: neilmcginnis Aug 16, 2013 02:17 PM

                                                                                  When you have a limited budget, you do the best you can. Why food shame people?

                                                                                  1. re: Violatp
                                                                                    trolley RE: Violatp Aug 16, 2013 04:03 PM

                                                                                    agree with Violatp. everyone has their preferences. I have friends who only buy at Coscto and maybe a chain big box shop for smaller items. it's not my preference but it's theirs. who am i to judge? also for the person who says millions of others don't have a TJ's or a Costco and they survive, well, that's just not the point. SO many people don't have running water or a sanitary sewage system. how about you take the bathroom out of your home and use a hole in the ground? The OP is looking for other suggestions or perhaps some support.

                                                                                    This is turning into "i'm looking for a good jarred marinara sauce" on CH. that conversation ALWAYS turns into...""you should make your own, blah blah blah" not everyone has the time or skill to make their own bread. i used to make my own bread. yes, it saved money but it took a good 4 hrs for a decent rise then bake. time = money. frozen veggies? not everyone has the resources or the space to buy an extra freezer. i sure didn't when we lived in a 2 bedroom apartment.

                                                                                    so my point is let's make suggestions that works within the scope of what the OP is asking for.

                                                                                    1. re: Violatp
                                                                                      juliejulez RE: Violatp Aug 18, 2013 08:55 PM

                                                                                      Agreed, and not to mention that many of us don't have a good "local Farmer's Market" nearby or open year round. The farm store near me is only open from the end of June to October/November (depending on the weather).

                                                                                    2. re: neilmcginnis
                                                                                      mcf RE: neilmcginnis Aug 20, 2013 07:15 AM

                                                                                      Costco also carries eggs from certified humane producers. They carry both types.

                                                                                      1. re: mcf
                                                                                        westsidegal RE: mcf Aug 27, 2013 11:30 PM

                                                                                        i will check again.

                                                                                    3. Jpan99 RE: lauraghall Aug 15, 2013 02:41 PM

                                                                                      I get that you will miss the places you shop, but what's the trade off? Do you have a house on the lake? I'd trade Costco for that any day! You'll find other ways to shop once you get there. Ask the locals. Clip coupons. Enjoy your new life! Michiganders are very nice people.

                                                                                      1. RetiredChef RE: lauraghall Aug 15, 2013 04:19 PM

                                                                                        At least 7 Billion people on this planet don't have access to Trader Joes % Costco and they seem to survive, so I am sure you will somehow manage ;)

                                                                                        I moved from Los Angeles to the inland Pacific NW, the closest 'town' to me has about 2,000 people Just over 1 1/2 hours away we have the big city of "Spokane" (200,000) which has two Costco's and one brand new TJ's (opened winter 2012). To be honest there isn't a whole lot of things I miss about them. Let's run down you list.

                                                                                        Breads - Really????? I always find their bread to be terrible but to each his own. Learn to bake, it's very simple and nowhere near as time intensive as everyone thinks. Besides I bet you will find at least two bakeries in your town, my little 2000 person town has a marvelous bakery.
                                                                                        Frozen veg - Buy a extra freezer and load it up if you must or, better yet use fresh.
                                                                                        some produce - Our local markets and farms have wonderful produce much better than Costco or TJ's.
                                                                                        chicken sausage - We have a local butcher that makes all of his own sausages again much better than the Costco/TJ stuff.
                                                                                        nuts & dried fruit - OK Tj's does rock in this area but you can buy in bulk and store it.
                                                                                        diary - Costco wins but only in price, you will be able to find the same items where you live.
                                                                                        bulk meat - local butcher, yes they exist in small communities and they are awesome.
                                                                                        cheese - Another win for TJ's and Costco.
                                                                                        non-food items like diapers & paper products - It's been a long time since I bought diapers but I can tell you that paper products are cheaper at Wal-mart and Spokane's local restaurant supply stores.

                                                                                        The bottom line is to look at what you can find locally and embrace it, moving to the pacific NW was a eye-opening experience for me. The abundance of fresh food, grains, meat, fresh water fish blew me away and I am sure you will find new foods and styles of cooking. You will be fine, enjoy the new community.

                                                                                        Cheers

                                                                                        1. t
                                                                                          tzurriz RE: lauraghall Aug 18, 2013 12:00 PM

                                                                                          We did this exact thing when we moved from Chicago to Lansing MI in January. It has been an adjustment, but we've found some excellent stores and make a monthly run to Costco in Grand Rapids as well.

                                                                                          It can be done.

                                                                                          1. KaimukiMan RE: lauraghall Aug 20, 2013 01:31 AM

                                                                                            Keep in mind that you are moving to a new place. Don't try to make it the same as the old place. It's not going to be. There will be things you miss terribly, but there will be new things you appreciate almost as much.

                                                                                            Make the most of what is available and don't dwell on what's not. Thats the best way to make yourself miserable that I know of. At least when it gets real bad you can take a two hour drive each way and get what you want, many people don't have that option (you should see my suitcase some years coming back to Honolulu from LA.) When it runs out, it runs out. Move on and find a new favorite.

                                                                                            Good luck, you will be fine.

                                                                                            1. Berheenia RE: lauraghall Aug 24, 2013 06:08 AM

                                                                                              A little late to the party but I could have written this post. We moved less than two months ago and went from having TJ's and WF within walking distance of our place to a 100 mile round trip in a car to both. (They are conveniently located in adjacent shopping plaza's and there is a Costco in this area). I miss the meat at Costco and WF very much but am able to get good meat if I'm willing to pay in our new town. But nothing beats TJ's and two trips back have made me even more of a devotee. There are certain products, like British muffins, that are part of my daily diet and the prices for so many other things I regularly buy at TJ's are ridiculous out here, in spite of the large grocery chains and their loss leader pricing. When the local farmers markets close in the next few months I'll be back at WF for eggs and veggies too. We've decided against a chest freezer for now and I can save enough shopping at TJ"s to pay for the gas involved. I'm lucky that we have the time and energy to make the 100 mile round trip every now and then, but I miss the spontaneity of shopping for the evening meal.
                                                                                              Good luck. Someone should start a TJ's shopping coop.

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: Berheenia
                                                                                                trolley RE: Berheenia Aug 24, 2013 06:56 AM

                                                                                                i agree about the prices for the large box stores. for me it's little things i miss like organic baby carrots or coffee filters for a great price. just bought a teeny tiny box of 40 filters for the same price as 100 at TJ's. And I find the quality of these more expensive items inferior. oh how I miss those British muffins!

                                                                                                the closest TJ's is 8 hrs away. they're supposedly building one so hopefully 'll stop whining soon.

                                                                                                1. re: trolley
                                                                                                  Berheenia RE: trolley Aug 24, 2013 08:39 AM

                                                                                                  Had the same experience with the coffee filters- sticker shock!
                                                                                                  Hang tough!

                                                                                              2. i
                                                                                                INDIANRIVERFL RE: lauraghall Aug 24, 2013 09:40 AM

                                                                                                Cheer up. You could be moving to Benton Harbor.

                                                                                                Anybody who has served in the military has put up with these adjustments. Those who don't get divorced or out.
                                                                                                You could be moving to Ft. Polk or Minot Air Force Base. Widely regarded as the left and right armpits of the world.

                                                                                                Being a glass is half full type, let me try to accentuate the positive aspects of your move. Have you looked at the local agriculture? We are talking pears, apples, peaches, sour and sweet cherries. Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries. When buying your local strawberries, ask for sunshines for cooking and midways for eating.

                                                                                                You are in the home of winemaking in Michigan. And some are wonderful. Hire a baby sitter to drive you and your spouse while also watching your scion. A wonderful day and the chance for some great meals.

                                                                                                While the finest cheeses in North America are a short ferry ride across the lake, Michigan does have some notable creameries. And that also means butchers. Shame on you if you sit at home belaboring what you are missing, rather than venturing out and discovering new tastes.

                                                                                                And if a source of cheap coffee filters and baby products are a major worry, 150 lint free are a buck at Dollar General, and you only have a few more months worth of diapers. If you get involved with the locals, you will soon find out the best farm stands, butchers, and wineries close by. Which is why so many from Chicago come up for the weekend.

                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: INDIANRIVERFL
                                                                                                  coney with everything RE: INDIANRIVERFL Aug 28, 2013 04:46 AM

                                                                                                  Why not Minot, LOL. My dad came perilously close to being stationed there when I was a kid..instead we got sent to Germany!

                                                                                                  I was also going to suggest to the OP that Ann Arbor is about 2 hours away, less of a cluster than Chicago, and has the requisite stores plus other good stuff.

                                                                                                  1. re: INDIANRIVERFL
                                                                                                    RetiredChef RE: INDIANRIVERFL Sep 10, 2013 11:09 AM

                                                                                                    USMC Air station at Yuma, AZ is the left armpit. Average temps for 4 months out of the year top 100 every day. Nothing to do but watch the melons grow in the blistering heat.

                                                                                                  Show Hidden Posts