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Aug 16, 2013 01:06 PM

Am I the only person on the planet that doesn't "get" Trader Joe's?

I've gone into that store probably half a dozen times and honestly, I can't understand where all the accolades come from. Nothing about that store looks either appetizing or inspiring. What am I missing?

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  1. You don't really need to "get" it. It either appeals to you or it doesn't. They're much more limited than a full-line grocery store so unless you're looking for specific types of items it might not match your needs or expectations on any particular visit.

    1. No, you're not. There has already been a nice long discussion.

      1. Every time I visit family in Milwaukee, I go for cooking wine and chocolate for Mom. I don't feel the buzz either.

        1. Their food is very high quality, very reasonably priced, and they stock items that are unique and hard to find elsewhere. I'm not sure why that's hard to "get" for anyone, but I guess if you don't like any of those things...?

          Quite frankly, if you don't find anything in Trader Joe's to be appetizing, I sort of feel sorry for you.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Boston_Otter

            and to add to Boston_Otter's list:
            1) they package their food in small enough packages that you can easily cook a meal for 1 to 4 people with NO waste.

            2) their organic fruits and vegetables are priced lower and their quality is just as good or better than at other stores. (just try to even find organic persian cucumbers at another store).

            3) their organic fresh orange juice tastes better than any other prepackaged orange juice out there, period. to get better you need to get fresh squeezed.

            5) their frozen organic prepared rice is a godsend.

            INDIANRIVERFL: if the only wine you buy there is cooking wine, you have completely missed the point of their wine selection.

            1. re: westsidegal

              I have bought a wide variety of types as well as prices. But the majority have ended up in the pot or in the cook.:-)

              There are some wonderful purveyors of quaffable spirits in the Waukesha/Milwaukee area. And a lot more knowledgeable.

              1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                in southern california, they carry a wide variety of wine at very good prices.
                knowing which ones are good, though, is up to you.

                do agree, though, that it is not a specialty wine store.
                also, agree, that you need to know something about the wines they carry before you walk in.

                1. re: westsidegal

                  and also be willing to go with the flow...unless it's a TJ house brand, the other selections vary over time

          2. I tend to agree. I stop in about every other month for a few items (primarily oatmeal cookies, coconut oil & cheeses plus peaches in the spring (typically outstanding to the point I no longer can buy peaches from a regular grocer where I must wait until mid summer to otherwise get decent orchard peaches), but otherwise, I'm not so sure why anyone gets worked up about frozen food and plastic sealed meats.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Clams047

              i think this commenter makes a valid point - many of us have specific "on the list" items for TJ's shopping ---- we don't go there every day or for the entire household food supply.

              Kerry Gold butter? yes.
              Certain cookies? yes.
              Certain other products - yes.
              some cheeses - yes.

              if you still "don't get it" - move to Canada - then you'll miss it.

              1. re: Georgia Strait

                Pretty much this. There's a list of about a dozen things we get. Pastas are perfectly fine and very cheap. There's one pasta sauce we like. We get our coffee there. There's the occasional frozen product like the battered halibut that we quite like for fish tacos. The prices on dairy are good enough that if we need stuff when we're in the store we'll pick it up but not so good that we go out of our way for it.

                We don't do our regular grocery shopping there but there are a handful of things that are somewhat unique to them that we like.

                1. re: ccbweb

                  ccbweb: i don't know anybody that does their "regular grocery shopping" there because IT IS NOT A REGULAR GROCERY.

                  tj's is a food broker that carries specialty items.

                  their entire marketing approach is to provide "a handful of things that are somewhat unique to them."
                  there is nothing accidental about this. this is EXACTLY what they are intending to do!

                  1. re: westsidegal

                    This! Yes, specialty items, exactly. I have a list of certain things that I always go for. But most times I go, I try something new, and that gets added to my list!!

                    1. re: westsidegal

                      I do! But after years of shopping at Trader Joe's, I've edited my list to include mostly things that are available. The prices on dairy are so good (and I've got two small kids at home, so we go through a lot of dairy) and there are a few items we really rely on that they have exclusively. I do have to hit Safeway or a regular supermarket every other week or so to get things like ziploc bags and to fill my husband's soda addiction.

                      1. re: westsidegal

                        >> i don't know anybody that does their "regular grocery shopping" there

                        Westsidegal, nice to meet you!

                        I'd say TJ covers about 70% of my grocery needs.

                        I do the bulk of my general shopping at TJs. Milk, eggs, butter, yogurt, cheese, crackers, beer & wine, sometimes the prepackaged deli meat or cookies, or frozen desserts.

                        TJ's produce can be wildly hit or miss, so unless it's something bulletproof like grapes, packaged salads, broccoli, cauliflower or green beans, I prefer to buy produce from the Hollywood farmers market, or (rarely) at Whole Foods. The fresh fish can be good, but the frozen fish fillets are generally wretched. (I tend to buy thin fillets like cod, so perhaps the frozen heavy fish steaks fare better). As for the rest of my shopping, I buy raw meat and chicken from the butchers and poultry shops LA Farmers Market, which is on my walk home from work. My trips to the ordinary supermarkets (or the grocery section of Target-- better prices) is really just to pick up some DeCecco pasta, boxed chicken stock, or King Arthur Flour. And of course for Chinese groceries & produce, the 99 Ranch and other Chinese supermarkets of the San Gabriel Valley.

                        Overall, prices at TJ's are far below equivalent (or even the same) products at other retailers, and their unique items really are what send it over the top. For the cultural cache, uniqueness and quality, they could be demanding FUB™/Whole Foods prices, and yet they don't. I love the place.

                        For those who need FUB™ defined:

                        Mr Taster