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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.

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7573...

      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:
                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9122...

                        Mr Taster

                2. Hard to say. Have you actually bought anything? That might help you "get" it.

                  1. What kinds of groceries do inspire you? which departments do you just them by?

                    There are plenty of groceries that wow my by their displays, and repel my by their prices.

                    1. I don't get the rabid fandom either and I grew up with TGs. I've shopped there, but it's just one more place to go to because there is no way I could get all my shopping done there.

                      19 Replies
                      1. re: rasputina

                        Who talks about doing all their shopping there?

                        Yesterday I shopped at a butcher, an Asian produce market, and Trader Joes. I also shop Grocery Outlet and Ranch99. And occasionally Target or a regular grocery to fill in the gap.

                        1. re: paulj

                          There isn't anything at TG that makes it worthwhile for me to make a special trip there.

                          1. re: rasputina

                            Not even their 500g blocks of 72% chocolate? :)

                            For me it's only 3 miles. So it's not a special trip. But if I didn't have TJ, and few other stores for inexpensive meat and produce, my grocery bill would double.

                            1. re: rasputina

                              Well, to each their own obviously, but they have fantastic deals on things that you just don't happen to use. I mean, Kerrygold butter and quality coconut oil - there is no where in Chicago that can beat their prices on just those two things.

                              1. re: Violatp

                                I can buy kerrygold at two other stores I go to already if I want to. My regular grocery store carries it.

                                1. re: rasputina

                                  Is it $2.99 at your regular store? I see it for $3.99 at some of the local markets. I've seen it at Jewel for $5.49!

                                  Only Trader Joe's has it for $2.99.

                                  1. re: Violatp

                                    I don't know what the price is. Regardless I don't want to stand in yet another line at another store just to save a dollar.

                                      1. re: rasputina

                                        my sentiments exactly. I would take a wild guess and say most people don't have the time or desire to hit up 5 stores for groceries like paulj.

                                        1. re: Lambowner

                                          Lambowner: Chowhound is, to me, not a board for "most people."

                                          imho, it is a board for people like me who understand and value a wide variety of good food. This often leads to shopping in many stores and, in my case, frequenting many different restaurants.

                                          "most people" don't care as much as most chowhounds.

                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                            Nodding strongly in agreement. We recently had family come in including little grandchildren who eat somewhat different things. After shopping for SIX HOURS (full disclosure, we did pick up the dogs from the groomer!) I counted up and we'd been to seven stores. Including TJs. We had great meals.

                                          2. re: Lambowner

                                            In the bay area, which is very food centric, it's very common for people to shop for groceries at multiple markets, often in the same day.

                                            1. re: virtualguthrie

                                              That's my pattern here in metry NY suburb.

                                              1. re: mcf

                                                Mine too, here in Houston.

                                                I think that the more you enjoy cooking, the more you enjoy grocery shopping. (Just a guess.)

                                              2. re: virtualguthrie

                                                Shoot- that's the way I shop, and i'm not in a foodie or niche market (so to speak). I feel blessed to have two Trader Joe's stores near me, plus a Whole Foods, aka Whole Paycheck, as well as Fry's, Safeway, Albertson's, and the WalMart grocery stores if I want to go there- they have some good stuff that caters to the loca hispanic market. I will travel to Food City (a state local chain that includes AJ's and Basha's, local treasures). I feel really fortunate to have that much diversity at my doorstep. The first Trader Joe's in Tucson opened about a half-mile from my house. I've gotten to know them well, and love them for what they bring to me- routine offering of goat milk yogurt? Who the hell else has that? My dog loves it.

                                              3. re: Lambowner

                                                I do.

                                                (I knew you would want to know that, Lambsy.)

                                                1. re: Lambowner

                                                  paul lives in my general neighborhood. all the stores paul mentioned are within a 4-5 mile radius easily accessible by bus or a straight shot drive by car.. none of the stores are out of the way from each other. i am very fortunate that i have such a wide variety of grocers and markets to choose from within my neighborhood. :-)

                                    1. If your everyday beverage is wine, and if your grocery shopping is on a daily basis, and if you tend to buy a lot of packaged ready-to-cook vegetables and are cooking for two, then you and TJ's will probably fit each other nicely. I like the unit pricing for a lot of the fruits, because I get to pick the ones I want and buy just enough for a week's breakfasts … pricing on canned goods, olive oils and good breads is much better than most supermarkets too.

                                      82 Replies
                                            1. re: linguafood

                                              Mine either. Weird Massachusetts law.

                                            2. re: ipsedixit

                                              Wine is not liquor. Do some TJ's sell liquor like Costco? Of course anyone can buy the liquor at Costco in Texas without a membership there, but the prices are not as good as other places.

                                              1. re: Lambowner

                                                I also think you can buy liquor in Costco's and Sam's Clubs in Iowa, but the prices on liquor and wine are sometimes up to 33% better ....

                                                1. re: Lambowner

                                                  Here in Colorado they are building 3 locations of TJs, but only one of them will have a wine/liquor store. The liquor laws here are a little wacky. Even the Costcos that have wine/liquor have to have them in a separate area, with it's own dedicated entrance. I don't know if you need to have a membership to buy there.

                                                  You cannot buy liquor or wine at most regular grocery stores here, and the beer they sell is a lower alcohol percentage than what you'd find at a dedicated liquor store..

                                                  1. re: juliejulez

                                                    Well, at least you can toke a doobie! :) Odd juxtaposition of mood altering substance laws in Colorado.

                                                  2. re: Lambowner

                                                    Whether or not any grocery in the US can sell wine or liquor is dependent on state/local laws that vary widely. You can thank Prohibition for this.

                                                    1. re: Lambowner

                                                      In Calfornia TJ's sells liquor, wine and beer. So do Costco, major supermarkets, small corner markets and drug stores.

                                                      TJ's just has to go along with the state/local laws in each location in which they operate.

                                                      1. re: pamf

                                                        In AZ, or at least Tucson, they only carry beer and wine. I've heard that the package liquor licenses are the absolute worst to qualify for and especially pay for here. Hence the beer and wine

                                                        1. re: EWSflash

                                                          The location store nearest to us (20th St @ Camelback in Phoenix) started selling liquor recently (maybe 6 weeks ago?). I haven't been in the market for booze, so I haven't taken time to look at the prices very carefully, but my general sense was that they were competitive with those at Total Wine and BevMo.

                                                          1. re: hohokam

                                                            If you drink wine and you are not an oenophile, try a bottle of two buck chuck. It's darn good

                                                            1. re: cujo

                                                              My experience with the Two (and a half) Buck Chuck is that is is really variable. If you find one you like, go back soon and get a case of the same one. However, TJs other wines in the $4 to $6 level are usually very good for the price.

                                                              1. re: Tripeler

                                                                Last I knew, Charles Shaw winery was the supplier for two (and a half) buck chuck. It was consistently good. Is Charles Shaw no longer the supplier? If that's the case, who is the new supplier?
                                                                If you don't like two and a half buck chuck, each store usually has an employee or two that is a wine lover and will gladly guide you in selecting a bottle that matches your taste preference and price point.
                                                                Yes, knowledge of varietals and vintners is helpful. But it is not necessary, if you are willing to trust the employee's expertise.

                                                                1. re: cujo

                                                                  I have only had the Charles Shaw wines at that price point, and they haven't always been consistently good. I don't know if there are any other suppliers. I have had good luck just buying the more expensive wines ($4 -6) without knowing much about them, but have sometimes asked clerks for advice, with great results.

                                                                  1. re: cujo

                                                                    Charles Shaw Winery is just a name for a label. It's owned by another brand.

                                                                    I've had very mixed results buying wine at Trader Joe's. Most of the time the wine is not good. Rarely there will be something that is OK.

                                                                    You don't need to be an oenophile to recognize that Two-Buck Chuck is plonk.

                                                                    1. re: Josh

                                                                      josh - If you asked for employee assistance, you wouldn't get stuck buying wines you dislike. BTW, oenophiles consider Two Buck Chuck to be a decent table wine, even if they don't personally consume it. There is no reason to insult a palate that differs from your own. That's the first rule of wine appreciation.
                                                                      There are respected California wineries selling their second or third labels to better restaurants. The restaurant calls it their house wine. It is table wine. It could even be Two Buck Chuck at four times the price.
                                                                      .

                                                                      1. re: cujo

                                                                        cujo: really?

                                                                        <<oenophiles consider Two Buck Chuck to be a decent table wine, even if they don't personally consume it>>

                                                                        there really isn't one, real, "two buck chuck,"
                                                                        NO true oenophile, who was in the least bit knowledgeable about this company would back their very variable product.

                                                                        there is NO charles shaw winery.

                                                                        the company that sells charles shaw wines is Bronco Wine Company.

                                                                        Bronco buys whatever grapes/wines it can at that price level and bottles whatever they have at the moment with the "charles shaw" label.
                                                                        because this is the system there is NO consistency.

                                                                        in 1993 Bronco pled No Contest to federal charges of conspiracy to defraud by misrepresenting cheaper grapes as premium Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon and paid a $2.5million fine.

                                                                        Also, the president of Bronco PERSONALLY pled GUILTY to those criminal charges and stepped down.

                                                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                                                          For heaven's sake, the Bronco scandal was 20 years ago. Why do you still harbor a grudge? Things change. And in this case, for the better.
                                                                          Using your line of reasoning, no adult would ever shop at Barneys for clothing because for many decades it was called Barney's Boys Town.
                                                                          And no Jew would ever shop at Trader Joe's because the original owners were Nazi sympathizers. The sins of the father do not automatically get passed on to the sons. Or do you want to argue about that, too?
                                                                          I am well aware that Charles Shaw is a brand and not a winery. There used to be a Charles Shaw winery that went out of business and is unrelated to the current Charles Shaw brand.

                                                                      2. re: Josh

                                                                        http://www.winebusiness.com/news/?go=...

                                                                        Charles Shaw Wins Triple Gold in Orange County

                                                                        Charles Shaw Winery, known as "Two Buck Chuck," has received high honors

                                                                        (CERES, Calif.) – Three wines from Charles Shaw Winery, the super-value brand also known as “Two Buck Chuck,” have received high honors at a large and respected wine competition. The 2011 Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 Charles Shaw Merlot and 2012 Charles Shaw White Zinfandel – each won a Gold Medal at the 2013 Orange County Fair Wine Competition, while the 2011 Charles Shaw Chardonnay received a Bronze Medal. All are current vintage California appellation wines that retail from $2.49 to $3.49 nationally.

                                                                        1. re: RussTheRaccoon

                                                                          Russ - Thanks for the rescue. I didn't want to be a lone voice in the wilderness.

                                                                              1. re: RussTheRaccoon

                                                                                What an excellent reference book for anyone wanting to learn about California wines. With regard to Charles Shaw, the Cab and Merlot took the gold in their class. The White Zin scored high, but I am always reminded of the old joke: What food do you pair with a white zin? answer: roast leg of salmon.

                                                                                1. re: cujo

                                                                                  What are the medals that were won by the 2 Buck Chuck?

                                                                                  1. re: Josh

                                                                                    Orange County Fair. They have been around for a very long time. The judges are well respected in tn the wine industry.

                                                                                2. re: RussTheRaccoon

                                                                                  I've done many horizontal tastings and there are definitely times when the inexpensive bottles (usually around $6) in these tastings did well, often ranking second and sometimes ranking first against much pricier bottles. So I do get that wine needn't be expensive to be good. My own past experiences with Two Buck Chuck were pretty negative, but it's certainly possible that the quality of the wine has improved.

                                                                                  1. re: Josh

                                                                                    the quality of the wine is wildly inconsistent.
                                                                                    there is no "trend," it just fluctuates wildly.

                                                                                    this would be the wine for folks who like games of chance.

                                                                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                      You are so right. I had their Cabernet at a friend's house at lunch some years back, and it wasn't bad. Several months later I broke down and bought a bottle. The bottle I bought was so bad that not only was it undrinkable, I wouldn't even use it for cooking! It was as though it was a totally different wine.

                                                                                      1. re: josephnl

                                                                                        it actually was a totally different wine.

                                                                                        1. re: josephnl

                                                                                          There are two reasons your wine tasted different from the one you consumed at your friend's home, assuming both were cabernets and from the same year. Mishandling and poor storage on the part of the seller, buyer and/or both account for nearly all "bad bottles."

                                                                                          1. re: cujo

                                                                                            There are far more than just two reasons why the wine may have tasted different.

                                                                                            1. re: Fowler

                                                                                              correct. the ones i mentioned are the two main reasons.
                                                                                              have you ever had a bad bottle that wasn't the result of mishandling & poor storage? i once had a corked wine. but that was a function of age.

                                                                                              1. re: cujo

                                                                                                >>>have you ever had a bad bottle that wasn't the result of mishandling & poor storage? i once had a corked wine. but that was a function of age.<<<

                                                                                                Yes, plenty of times over the years. Also, TCA contamination ("a corked wine") has nothing to do with age. It has to do with the TCA molecules present in the cork NOT the ages of the wine or the cork.

                                                                                                1. re: Fowler

                                                                                                  I have no further interest in this topic. If you wish to continue this discussion, you may want to contact other chowhounds. who enjoy discussing "bad bottles.".

                                                                                        2. re: westsidegal

                                                                                          I respect your opinion, even though I disagree. Why don't you respect mine?. How about the opinion of the wine judges at the Orange County Fair? You imply they are neophytes who don't know wine from windex.
                                                                                          This is supposed to be a friendly discussion and an exchange of ideas. Most Chowhounds like it that way. I hope you do, too.

                                                                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                            "this would be the wine for folks who like games of chance."

                                                                                            If we are only talking a few dollars, why not? It's like buying a few pounds of heirloom tomatoes from the green market; many times they are very tasty, but I've had my fair share of clunkers.

                                                                                            1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                              if you know, going in, that is fine.
                                                                                              if you see it as a little experiment or like paying $2 for a bingo card, certainly there is no harm,
                                                                                              but to RECOMMEND this stuff as though it is a consistent, quality controlled product, instead of being a bet, is where i draw the line.

                                                                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                You may draw the line where you wish. The rest of us trust the opinion and palate of the judges in the Orange County Fair Wine Competition. The cab and merlot won first place in their class. Both are currently on the shelves.

                                                                                                1. re: cujo

                                                                                                  Please furnish the link showing that Two Buck Chuck won medals at the OC Fair. I just perused the Fair posting: http://www.ocws.org/competition/compe...
                                                                                                  and see no mention of Charles Shaw wines winning medals.

                                                                                                  Also, mishandling and poor storage account for some "bad bottles of wine", but are by no means the only, or perhaps even the main reasons. There are many crappy wines being made which will taste like swill regardless of handling or storage. Also, of course, a certain percentage of wines become corked...I've heard numbers from 0.5 to >1.0%. Some wines age very poorly regardless of how carefully they are stored. I'm sure that others far more knowledgeable than I can expand this list greatly.

                                                                                                  1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                    The link you are looking for was posted by RussTheRacoon earlier in this thread. In addition to listing all of the wine entries and winners, it is an excellent reference book and guide to California wines. I think you will find it informative.

                                                                                                    1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                      "Please furnish the link showing that Two Buck Chuck won medals at the OC Fair."

                                                                                                      http://www.winebusiness.com/news/?go=...

                                                                                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                        . There is a second link that has the entire 2013 OC wine competition info. It runs 200+ pages and includes an index.
                                                                                                        It's well worth reading and keeping if you are interested in California wines.

                                                                                      2. re: RussTheRaccoon

                                                                                        whatever awards those specific bottles of wine won, since there is really no quality control, it says nothing about the wine that may be on the shelf now.

                                                                                        Bronco is a marketer and a distributer, NOT a winemaker.
                                                                                        even a stopped clock is accurate twice a day.

                                                                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                          The Cab & Merlot that won the gold is currently on their shelves.
                                                                                          Your concern about the role Bronco plays in getting the wine into the bottle and delivered to TJ's is interesting. Are you suggesting the wines that were blind tasted by the judges were ringers? And not the same as the bottles sold to consumers? Wow! That is quite statement.
                                                                                          To successfully get away with that trick, Bronco would have to be Harry Houdini.
                                                                                          Quality variance differs from one year to the next. This is true across the board, be it first growth or two buck chuck.. It would be highly unusual to find quality variance within the year. When you get a "bad bottle" it is likely the result of poor handling and storage on the part of the seller or consumer.

                                                                                          1. re: cujo

                                                                                            << It would be highly unusual to find quality variance within the year>>
                                                                                            that would only be the case if the wine that goes into the bottle in any given year is the same stuff all year long.
                                                                                            bronco's system would not necessarily provide for any similarity.
                                                                                            they buy several different wines from different sources as they go along.

                                                                                            i am not necessarily nixing all distributers that are not, themselves, vintners.
                                                                                            one of my favorite low-cost labels doesn't, in fact, make their own wine. the difference is that, to my palate, the other distributer has a much tighter grip on the quality control part of the equation.
                                                                                            although their wines differ from each other over time, all in all, all the wines from the acceptable distributer have been, to my palate, well over the "good enough" bar for an inexpensive wine.
                                                                                            imho, this is not so with CS (bronco).

                                                                                            1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                              I think you're beating a dead horse----a bronco, to be exact.
                                                                                              Most wine buyers trust the opinions & choices made by the judges in the wine competition. You don't. That is your option.

                                                                                              1. re: cujo

                                                                                                It's been since this summer since I have had any $3 Buck Chuck (East Coast) and I can't recall whether I had the 11 Cab-Sav (don't typically drink the other two), but the last Chuck Chardonay was overly sweet plonk. I will try to stop by again soon to try the Cab, but I'm not rushing out to buy it when they have a lot more palatable wines at $3-$4/bottle.

                                                                                                1. re: Dax

                                                                                                  Five years ago when we here in CA hadn't drank all the surplus wine yet, CS was passable. Now it's just gross candy wine. The private label Chilean wine (Vinas Chilenas) for $2.99 is way better for the price point. Not sure who the judges were, but the Orange Co. Fair isn't a contest I've heard of before. Is it a widely reputable competition in the SCA neck of the woods?
                                                                                                  (BTW, I do work at my local store heading up the Wine Team)

                                                                                                  1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

                                                                                                    You live in California. You are a wine buyer and head the wine team where you work. You claim you never heard of the O.C Fair Wine competition. I hope you are putting us on.
                                                                                                    No one in the California wine industry is unaware of this respected annual event. Not even you. What is the name of the store that employs you?

                                                                                                    1. re: cujo

                                                                                                      Just about every county in California (58 counties) has a county fair wine competition. I don't know why you think that the Orange County judging is so important. OC is not even a large wine producing county.

                                                                                                      Those county fair wine competitions award lots of medals, kind of like kids soccer teams.

                                                                                                      Bronco wines buys surplus grapes from whatever grower is selling at a cheap price. Then they make wine from what ever blend they have available. There is no concept of single vineyard or vintage year.

                                                                                                      You will see the date and time of bottling printed on the labels of the cases of 2BC, that is the only way you can tell if bottles may have come from the same batch.

                                                                                                      1. re: pamf

                                                                                                        "Those county fair wine competitions award lots of medals, kind of like kids soccer teams."

                                                                                                        Or giving out candy on Halloween to any kid that stops by. You are right pamf, and in addition, most of the best producers of the single vineyard and single block wines really do not need to seek any sort of validation by submitting their bottles to CA county fair competitions. One will never see some type of comment on a bottle label of Togni or Peter Michael boasting about how they won some silver medal at the Bernadino County California Fair.

                                                                                                        1. re: pamf

                                                                                                          i suggest you google the OC wine competition. It is the oldest and largest wine competition in the USA for California wines, which is the subject of this discussion.
                                                                                                          There is no point in engaging you on this topic if you know nothing about the OC wine competition.

                                                                                                          1. re: cujo

                                                                                                            I'm not sure if it has come up in this subthread, but it might be worth noting that the medals CS wines won most recently are of the Best of Breed variety (Best Under $14, Best Under $5), not Best of Show--nobody is awarding their Cab Sauvignon a gold medal in a head-to-head vs. Duckhorn (for example).

                                                                                                            This isn't meant as a slam, but merely as a potentially overlooked point of reference that might help temper the heat of the discussion.

                                                                                                            And in the interest of full disclosure...I'm in the "too much of a crap shoot" camp. I've had some CS wines that were OK, and I've had some that I pitched after 3 sips (the final 2 sips of each glass taken of "scientific" interest). Sure, I could keep trying their wines in hopes of finding bottle or a run of bottles I actually really like, but I don't care to spend my time, money, liver capacity, or palate space playing that game.

                                                                                                            1. re: hohokam

                                                                                                              Liking/disliking a wine or brand is a matter of opinion. Winning an award in the foremost California wine competition is a fact.
                                                                                                              Knowing the difference is key to wine appreciation.

                                                                                                              1. re: cujo

                                                                                                                I know my opinion doesn't count for much, but in my eyes, you are now the world champion of the internet.

                                                                                                                1. re: hohokam

                                                                                                                  You are too kind and probably need eyeglasses. How about we close this discussion by wishing all wine lovers (who commented on this thread) a vintage year.

                                                                                                  2. re: cujo

                                                                                                    They were lucky to get bottles from a good batch of CS. The point that wsg and others make is that CS wines vary greatly. I and others have repeatedly reported some bottles from the same varietal are pretty good, and others are plainly awful.

                                                                                                    1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                      Understood.
                                                                                                      Again, the problem is more likely due to mishandling and/or poor storage on the part of the buyer, seller and/or both. Varietal quality differs from one year to the next. It does not differ within the same year or from bottle to bottle.
                                                                                                      I realize it was a mixed experience for you and it has influenced your opinion. Opinions are subjective. Facts are not.
                                                                                                      The fact remains that CS award winning wines are table wines. In that category, they are good. A table wine cannot be judged against a premier wine, just as a hamburger cannot be judged against a filet mignon.

                                                                                                      All of the CS award winning wines are bottled at the same time. They are not bottled in batches throughout the year. There seems to be some confusion about this. Also, there would be no point in conducting a wine competition if the quality varied from batch to batch or bottle to bottle within the same year.

                                                                                                      Many people do not like or buy table wine. That doesn't make the wine bad, swill or plonk. Although oenophiles rarely drink California table wines, they still respect the classification and understand that others do enjoy it.

                                                                                                      Wine appreciation is never about one upmanship. It's always about what tastes good to your palate.

                                                                                                      I encourage you and others to participate in blind tastings at your favorite wine shop. I'm finished discussing CS wines.

                                                                                                      1. re: cujo

                                                                                                        " I'm finished discussing CS wines."

                                                                                                        Can I get an AMEN!?! :-)

                                                                                  2. re: hohokam

                                                                                    That was the first ever TJ's I ever went to- kind of a stroll down memory lane fror me. I remember getting the gingersnaps with the crystallized ginger in them, and a bunch of other stuff. The first TJ's in Tucson opened a half-mile from my house, I'm so grateful for that, and they opened one right near my work too, so I have a soft spot in my heart for TJ's, I wish they sold ice, because that would make them perfect in my opinion.

                                                                                    1. re: hohokam

                                                                                      I haven't done much comparison but I bought a bottle of Hendrick's at that TJ's and it was a couple of dollars more than it would be at the nearby Total Wine. So -- more expensive, but not by much. That day it was worth paying more so as not to make an extra stop.

                                                                                      I haven't noticed other Phoenix-area locations selling liquor, but then again I haven't been intentionally looking.

                                                                                      Seattle-area TJ's carry liquor now too. Prices are probably not as good as Total Wine/BevMo/Costco but TJ's is way more convenient for a lot of people, and cheaper than the grocery stores etc.

                                                                                      1. re: Bax

                                                                                        You'll always find an exception here and there. I've not seen Hendricks anywhere in my area for less than Costco's price and the prices for other spirits are typically better across the board or offer larger sizes for comparable dollars.

                                                                                        1. re: ferret

                                                                                          I haven't done any systematic comparison either; though, this weekend I did note that the bottle of Famous Grouse I bought at Top's was a dollar cheaper than the same bottle at TJ's. Generally, TJ's is a much more convenient stop for me than Top's, so I would gladly eat that difference on any $15+ bottle.

                                                                                          My general impression, based on a deeply flawed memory for such things, is that the TJ's prices are fairly close to Total Wine/Bevmo prices and appreciably better than the regular prices at Safeway.

                                                                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                Actually the Wegmans near me has wine and liquor at some excellent prices.

                                                                              3. re: Will Owen

                                                                                This probably sums it up the best. TJ's in MD don't have wine, I generally cook from scratch, very rarely using pre-packaged items, for a family of four (including two teenagers who eat like stevedores). I also have a dozen grocery stores between my home and TJ's, including a Wegman's that has most everything I need.

                                                                                I was just wondering if I was missing something. It just sounds as though TJ and I aren't right for each other. :o)

                                                                                1. re: Christina D

                                                                                  I go to TJs for fresh mozzarella, raisin bread, hummus, brussel sprouts on the stalk, bananas, mushrooms, organic brown sugar, oatmeal, milk, heavy cream, Greek yogurt, eggs, canned tomatoes, nuts, Roquefort, flour, wine, olive oil, canned beans )white and refried), tuna in olive oil, scallions, cereal, dark chocolate with almonds, vanilla ice cream--well that's the short list. My husband puts wine and olive oil as 1 and 2. (We never buy prepackaged meals.)

                                                                                  Oh yes, and friendly service, no questions asked returns and I understand they treat their employees well with good benefits.

                                                                                  1. re: escondido123

                                                                                    Our TJ's is a stone's throw from Wegmans (my primary supermarket), so it's not a hassle to stop in for the admittedly few items I like there -- the fresh buffalo mozzarella being one of them, at $2 less than Wegmans, and other cheeses; the yellowfin tuna olive oil, canned sardines and other fish, really good olive oil from Crete and Spain, and the rare frozen appetizer -- the mushroom turnovers come to mind, which are pretty excellent for a pre-made frozen meal.

                                                                                    Their sweets can be dangerous, so I tend to stay away from those, but I totally understand the appeal -- hello praline pecans or frozen lemon bars :-)

                                                                                    That said, I usually walk out of there with no more than 4-5 items for which I specifically visit TJ's. It's hardly ever crowded, so the lines go fast -- even more important if you only have a couple of things.

                                                                                    I did *not* understand the huge buzz going around, as I was pretty happy with Wegmans, but I believe some people were naive enough to think they could get cheap booze there. Not in PA.

                                                                                    But the price difference for select items really makes it worth the occasional visit.

                                                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                                                      Hmm I never knew of this TJs near wegmans, is this the Hunt Valley or Columbia store?

                                                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                        Columbia has both a TJ and a Wegmans fairly close. TJ is off of 104 and Wegmans is on Snowden River Parkway. It is at least three miles or so though.

                                                                                    2. re: Christina D

                                                                                      If we had a Wegman's (especially if it's anything like the Wegman's Superstore in Rochester/Pittsford, NY), I'd never see the need to shop anywhere else, including TJ's which I really do like a lot!

                                                                                      1. re: josephnl

                                                                                        I used to do all my shopping at Wegmans but it is 20 minutes away and I usually spent at least $90 per week for two. Now I shop at Giant and Karns and spend 30-80 per week. That is 40-200 in savings plus less gas.

                                                                                      2. re: Christina D

                                                                                        I love Wegmans but sadly do not have them in NC... yet. However, Wegmans is expensive and much of the organic & specialty items folks go to Wegmans for can be found at TJ's. Quinoa, nuts, cheeses, specialty crackers, some produce, pasta, yogurts, protein and nuts bars, nut butters, coconut oil, etc.

                                                                                        I too have a family of 4 and cook from scratch most nights but I hit up TJ's maybe one a month for certain things. But if it's not right for you, it's not right for you. Having choices is a good thing. :)

                                                                                        1. re: Christina D

                                                                                          I cook from scratch. I love TJs for many items, such as nuts, cheese, produce, oils, dried fruit, etc. Their products and prices are unique and well-suited to the scratch cook.

                                                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                                                            Like you, I cook from scratch. I don't know why this argument, in relation to TJs, is even an issue.

                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                              I think it's because they are so well know for their frozen, prepared meals and other packaged foods. It is a niche that is geared towards people like many of my single, younger coworkers who want to eat healthy but don't have the time, inclination or skills to cook that way.

                                                                                            2. re: sandylc

                                                                                              as an example, to add to sandylc's point:
                                                                                              i LIKE being able to get a package of two leeks.
                                                                                              really don't want to buy a whole bunch of leeks when i'm just making soup for 4.
                                                                                              their prices on the organic tomatoes and organic celery that i put in the soup are the best.
                                                                                              their prices on organic yellow onions are better than that of other markets.
                                                                                              they are the only ones that carry the organic Dulcinea mini watermelons. (all the other markets carry the pesticide treated watermelons only)

                                                                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                But as someone else said, your local TJ's produce section is only as good as what is available from their suppliers. This will vary around the country. Where I am in NJ, my mega-supermarket (not talking price club) carries a great selection of produce, most at good prices. Many were comparable to the TJ's I shopped last weekend.

                                                                                        2. The big advantage to me is that trader joes has organic products at nearly half the price of other stores. I live in nyc and have some really astonishingly expensive grocery stores, so $3 for wild organic blueberries makes me happy. I go every few weeks to buy puffins ($3 per box less than other stores), organic quinoa, frozen organic fruits, fresh organic veggies and end up with assorted hummus and dips.
                                                                                          The price advantage for high quality products is a draw- but you may have more options than i do.

                                                                                          1. I would rather praise TJs for the many small things they do well, rather than resent them for the few things they fail at.

                                                                                            1. My store has: High quality cheeses at half the price, organic grass fed meats, a huge selection of nuts, big daily drinker wines, a terrifically huge organic and healthier cracker and chip selection, enviro friendly household products at half price from other stores, healthier canned fish, and a big organic dairy selection. I think the vegetables and breads look good, but go bad too quickly so I don't purchase much of those things.
                                                                                              Oh, I don't buy the candy and cookies, but they look really great for price.

                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                It sounds as if the demographic is big wine drinkers and organic, crunchy types.

                                                                                                1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                  None of the TJ's around my area sell alcohol at all (weird Massachusetts laws) but they're still packed with people who aren't "organic, crunchy types". Heck, their best-selling item is frozen mandarin-orange chicken. Folks who like quality, cheap convenience foods, unusual cooking ingredients at great prices, and people who like to find unique flavors... I think that's more their demographic.

                                                                                                  1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                    I based my comment on the posts here. It seems many said they buy their wine and organic foodstuffs there.

                                                                                                  2. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                    Well, I drink a lot of wine, eat organic, and live in the left coast golden triangle of Vancouver-Seattle-Portland....so as they say...
                                                                                                    "If the foo shits"

                                                                                                    But I actually (as Boston otter above) think the demographic is more about people that like to shop at many stores to search out unique ingredients, like at Asian markets, Mexican marts, farmers markets, etc. rather than at standard American chain grocery stores. IMO.

                                                                                                    1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                      I go for specific items like protein and nut bars (Power Crunch and Kind Bars) because they are cheapest at TJ's (60 cents cheaper than other grocery stores... surprisingly WF has them cheaper than regular grocery stores too). I also get my nuts, cheeses, water crackers, coconut oil, dark chocolate, and a few other specialty items there as well. There are prices on these items are simply better than our regular grocery stores.

                                                                                                      To the OP, It's a big deal for some of us and not so much for others. No big whup.

                                                                                                2. I live within a mile and a half of four grocery stores and TJ's is my least favorite by far. I never go there. I used to for cheap olive oil but now you can get that at Whole foods. Their frozen berries are cheap but are from far away countries. Most of their stuff is packaged and processed and they never have good produce, at least the one by my house in Portland.

                                                                                                  1. I do not "get it" either. On the other hand my brother in law and his lady go completely ga-ga for TJ's.

                                                                                                    1. Cheap wine, smoked salmon during the holidays. Nothing else that I would ever miss. The parking lot here is a demolition derby of minivans and most of the customers seem to think they can leave every vestige of common sense and courtesy at the door. I will gladly do without Trader Guiseppe and HoJo cookies or whatever they are. We are fortunate to have two family owned grocery stores along with the chain stores. Whatever floats your grocery boat though.

                                                                                                      1. From what I've read it seems the TJ's near me is a smaller location, but I'm not overly impressed. The majority of the items are frozen or pre prepared meals which never appeal to me, their meat selection(s) are limited and I had a problem with the pricing of their produce.

                                                                                                        I forget if it were peaches or plumbs or what it was I saw the price of and thought "wow great deal" and loaded up.

                                                                                                        I got to the register and it didn't add up to what I had expected, so I questioned the price vs. the price advertised on the bin. Turns out the price I assumed was per lbs (as most fruit near me is normally sold) was actually a price per piece or item. So what I thought was $.79 per lbs was per item, 2 or 3 equal a pound so the price was no better than other area groceries.

                                                                                                        Now mind you I am blessed to live in an area with many shopping options, including a Whole Foods, which I personally prefer the products and selections better.

                                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                          i have found that shopping at whole food and shopping at trader joe's are not mutually exclusive activities.
                                                                                                          not unusual for me to stop at both on any given day.

                                                                                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                            Obviously speaking for myself, there is nothing that my TJ's carries that I can't get at WholeFoods. I don't touch any of the pre-made items at TJ's so it's just produce or meat for me. WholeFoods (and other markets around me ) has a superior produce section AND and actual butcher / meat section.

                                                                                                            1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                              Prices for some equivalent items (Greek feta in brine, French cornichons, Roquefort cheese, Kerrygold cheese, etc.) are at least 40-50% higher at Whole Foods than at TJ's.

                                                                                                          2. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                            Per piece pricing on produce is a pretty big change from the per pound pricing at most stores but the point of it is that the person checking you out doesn't have to take the time to weigh produce and that speeds things up considerably.

                                                                                                            I've been shopping there for yeas and I just found out the other day that they don't have different prices for different varieties of apples either. I always choose a variety when I bake and I assumed that like most stores some varieties are more expensive than others. But at TJs the only price difference is for organic or non-organic. Same concept, it speeds up the checker not to have to identify the variety.

                                                                                                            And those check out lines are speedy and the checkers consistently and genuinely friendly!

                                                                                                            1. re: rainey

                                                                                                              The conventional honey crisp apples (currently unavailable) are the only exception-- I think they were a good $0.50 more, but still less than paying $3.98/lb elsewhere.

                                                                                                          3. Whole Foods is closer to my residence, but I've been seen entering a Trader Joe's about as often as I would be seen entering an H-Mart or Grocery Outlet.
                                                                                                            Variety spices my life.

                                                                                                            1. I can understand your perspective. Different strokes, and all. For example, I can see how someone who would get excited for a store that focuses on selling high quality and diverse produce would find TJs to be a disappointment. We go often b/c it is three blocks away and because it has well-priced organic dairy, wine, great nuts and dried fruit, and various other bottled type things we use, the occasional yummy cookie, etc.. But we rarely buy the prepackaged meals, frozen products, etc., that many people seem to love. And a weekly trip to at least one other store (usually two others though) is always on our list as well. So I "get" TJs, and we do enjoy what we get there, but for us, convenience is the primary motivation. I wouldn't drive great distances to get there, whereas I will drive far to get to Russo's market or Market Basket, which have the produce I like.

                                                                                                              1. To me it seems like a good store for urban folks who don't cook much and stop in for prepared foods. That's not me, so no, I don't go to the stores near me either. I'm in a spot where I am moving away from prepared foods, and toward freshness found on the outer edges of my big grocery store.

                                                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: Lambowner

                                                                                                                  I cook all of my meals from scratch. That said, the occasional Alsatian tart finds its way on our plate when we feel lazy, despite my man's efforts to recreate it.

                                                                                                                  Also -- MUCH cheaper prices than, say, Wegmans for items I love: fresh buffalo mozzarella, crème fraîche & any variety of cheeses, great olive oils....

                                                                                                                  The frozen vegetables are pretty awesome, too.

                                                                                                                  But hey -- more for me!

                                                                                                                  1. re: Lambowner

                                                                                                                    That is what I was thinking. I also think that TJs are good if you do not live in a area that does not have a lot of specially or ethnic stores. The people I know that love TJ's did not grow up with a lot of ethnic or specially foods and they love that they can experiment and learn new things. The appeal hit home when I spent a week making christmas tamales (this is after waiting an extra week for the ingredients to be shipped from my grandma) my roommate comes home sees all the hard work I had been doing and says "oh I did not know you can make those I just get them at TJ's for lunch" (sad trombone)

                                                                                                                    1. re: l0b0SKI

                                                                                                                      I grew up withTrader Joes, it's no substitute for an Asian or Indian market.

                                                                                                                        1. re: l0b0SKI

                                                                                                                          Even with good access to ethnic food stores, many of the best TJ products are from other countries.

                                                                                                                          Frozen green beans from France by been a regular purchase for years. Their frozen naan from India is the best I've had outside of restaurants. For a while they had great frozen mini baguettes from France. There was crostini from Italy, frozen chestnuts from Italy, frozen mushrooms from Latvia. The 500g chocolate bars are from Belgium, the 85% chocolate from Columbia. Relatively inexpensive cheddar from Ireland or New Zealand. Cookies from Holland, pickled peppers from Spain (or Peru). Various items for Korea (including freeze dried kimchi).

                                                                                                                      1. You need to learn their products. The staff is knowledgable & fun! Triple Ginger Cookies. Large Dark Chocolate Bar. Low priced eggs & butter. Castello Blue Cheese. Smoked Salmon.
                                                                                                                        Great breads, good prices. Spring onions in sealed plastic bag. Guacamole. Nice cracker and EVO, well-priced.

                                                                                                                        1. They treat their workers well (health, vision, dental, vacation pay and retirement) and sell food for a reasonable price. I don't love everything they stock, but there are some good things to be found on their shelves.

                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: Josh

                                                                                                                            Starting in January, the benefits are over for the part-timers. But each one will get $500 and be guided through their particular Health Care Exchange.

                                                                                                                            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09...

                                                                                                                            Because it's a business, which exists to make a profit. If it doesn't, prices go up or the business ceases.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Cathy

                                                                                                                              That's a shame. They should raise prices or the execs should take home less.

                                                                                                                              "Maximizing shareholder value" is an idea Milton Friedman made up in the 1970s. Unfortunately it's been used as a ruse for a bunch of mendacious corporate raiders to destroy the middle class.

                                                                                                                          2. I have only been in the TJ on Cape Cod and frankly, it was dirty and offputting. My husband couldn't even stay in the store, he felt it was so nasty.

                                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                                              That's odd. Our local TJ is as clean / bright as any grocer I've ever seen plus they actually have space in their aisles.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Clams047

                                                                                                                                It was in a little mall in Hyannis. There was also a Yankee Candle, Christmas Tree Shop and some sort of candy store. It really looked low rent. We were very surprised because we heard people rave about it and thought we'd love it. Alas it wasn't to be. I guess we are spoiled by, you know, cleanliness.

                                                                                                                              2. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                                                I've been to 4 of them in NJ (Marlton, Princeton, Shrewsbury, Westfield) and have never seen an issue with cleanliness. The stores are always mobbed though.

                                                                                                                                We drive an hour and 10 minutes to get to Princeton or Westfield because those locations have wine. We make the trip a couple of times per year.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Njchicaa

                                                                                                                                  Oy. I don't even want to drive 15 min to Costco in Brick let alone an hour ten to Princeton. If i am ever in the area of aTJ I will give it a second visit, but we don't buy organic and rarely drink wine so I guess it's not for us.

                                                                                                                              3. I don't think there is anything to "get". It's a speciality store that you either like or don't.

                                                                                                                                We have TJ's near me that I hit at least twice a month. I go mostly for the cheese, frozen organic fruits and veggies and easy-to-make prepared foods that my son can pull together quickly for pre/post sports. He particularly likes the frozen gyoza, the individual pizza's, breakfast burritos, chicken fried rice and bags of shelled edamame.

                                                                                                                                I really like TJ's around the holidays even though it's a zoo. They sell these unbelievable salted caramels only during the holidays. My house has a revolving door from Thanksgiving thru New Years and I can count of TJ's for easy entertaining stuff.

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                  when my daughter was in college she basically lived on TJ's food.

                                                                                                                                2. You're not alone. I too don't "get it." And to answer another poster's question, no, I never bought anything there because every time I have walked into one the lines are tremendously long. I have had quite a number of their foods though from coworkers and friends who shop there and I have never found anything to be outstanding or any different from other markets I frequent. And for those saying there is nothing "to get" the reason we are using that phrase is because so many TJ shoppers are so fervent and fanatical about the place that it seems like there is something "to get."

                                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. if you enjoy TJ's, go, have fun & save money. if you don't like it, don't go. that easy.

                                                                                                                                      1. Christina,

                                                                                                                                        It took me nearly two years to really like TJ's.

                                                                                                                                        My advice to you is to start off with replacing your condiments with Trader Joe's stuff. I love their brands for that and they are cheaper than the national brands.

                                                                                                                                        I then moved on to their frozen foods (I don't eat a lot of prepared stuff), but it's nice to have some things on hand.

                                                                                                                                        Good luck. And also, if you try something and don't like it, they take it back, no questions asked.

                                                                                                                                        One time I bought a whole bag of avocadoes and the quality was terrible (must have gotten a bad bag), and I threw out my sales slip and even threw out the entire net bag they came in. The next trip in, I asked a sales person if they had a lot of complaints about them and he said no. He then told me to grab another bag and to tell them at the check out, that so and so, said they were a free replacement. Now to me, that was great customer service. :)

                                                                                                                                        Good luck.

                                                                                                                                        www.saffron215.blogspot.com

                                                                                                                                        1. I recently returned foul-smelling scallops to a local grocery chain with nary an acknowledgement of the fact that they sell rotten seafood, no apology, and insistence on my receipt for the return. Yesterday, I went to TJ’s for a few items and to return an open bag of dog food that had a small hole in it – no receipt, no questions and the friendly manager extended apologies to my pup. I appreciate their customer service model. The staff are always friendly, know their products and there are always a few staff working the floor to ask where things are shelved (TJ’s does have some odd product shelving).
                                                                                                                                          I’m guessing that the fact that there is an ongoing TJ’s Yay/Nay thread gives the impression that people are rabid, fanatical worshippers of the chain. In reality, TJ’s is just one stop of several that I make for groceries. I generally cook from scratch, so the frozen foods are not an attraction for me, but price does matter to me, so savings on Kerry gold, Bob’s Red Mill products, dairy, olive oil, real maple syrup, crème fraiche, mascarpone (and many other items) adds up. If saving money makes me a fanatic, so be it.

                                                                                                                                          1. Trader Joe's provides my in-flight meals. When I'm abroad, I appreciate their products more when the snack du jour is a smoked duck neck.

                                                                                                                                            1. Not sure I have a lot new to add here with respect to reasons for shopping there. We go primarily because they carry items we like that aren't found elsewhere and their prices on organic dairy products are much lower prices that at other stores.

                                                                                                                                              Many of the things that people seem to fault it for (lots of frozen/convenience items, meat under plastic, failure to carry every item I want/need for my household) apply to just about every store I can think of around here. The places that don't have meat under plastic charge more for dairy (and everything else) or don't have specific items I want. The places that sell foil and batteries (but do have meat under plastic) don't sell hazelnuts or 3-year old Gouda.

                                                                                                                                              I don't know if there's anything to "get" except the fact that people shop at stores offering items they want at prices they feel comfortable paying. For some (the vast majority of?) people, this involves shopping at multiple stores, one of which just might happen to be Trader Joe's.

                                                                                                                                              The End.

                                                                                                                                              1. trader joe's is basically a very nice food convenience store,with reasonable prices. Also (for the most part) their buyers have done the comparisons and chosen a "good" if not great quality item, so rather than be overwhelmed with choices, one can safely choose a fair priced quality assured (generally) item. one stop- no, but very convenient

                                                                                                                                                1. I'd love to have the time to make everything from scratch; but after a twelve hour day I can come home, throw some vegetables and chicken in a pan with their yellow curry sauce, and have a wonderful hot meal in 20 minutes. They have good, fruity olive oil, a great champagne pear vinaigrette that is other worldly on spinach with pears, apples and their spicy candied pecans. The produce is fresh and less expensive than my local grocery. It is not a weekly trip, but once I've accumulated enough on my TJ list, I enjoy the trip. Oh yay, and a bottle of wine.

                                                                                                                                                  21 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Girdletocrave

                                                                                                                                                    I guess my problem is with the people who think they are eating healthier by going to TJ's. Now, I'm not picking on you Girdletocrave, but you just happened to mention something I once considered buying. The ingredients list reveals many of the same "chemicals" people badmouth other storebrands for. I have no problem with TJ's as a store; it's the people (my friends included) who think everything they sell is "organic" or "all natural."

                                                                                                                                                    "water, canola oil, sugar, dehydrated coconut milk (coconut, sodium caseinate), garlic onion, coconut milk, salt, contains 2% or less of" ginger, red chii, cornstarch, spices, cultured whey, onion and garlic powder, citric acid, cultured dextrose, inulin, natural flavor, xanthan gum. made on equipment shared with wheat, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish and shellfish."

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                                      I don't get it. What on that list do people complain about? All of those items are found in any typical health food store. I buy Bob's Red Mill Xantham gum and inulin and dextrose from Netrition.

                                                                                                                                                      People complain about additives like formaldehyde, aspartame, food dyes, HFCS, partially hydrogenated oils, MSG, etc. Not these ingredients.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                                        'natural flavor' is codeword for MSG actually. In fact MSG now has around 50 different obscure or vague names, and its in most food items regardless of origin. Yay food additive companies and the FDA. :)

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: NekoNekoFancyPants

                                                                                                                                                          "(3) The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. Natural flavors include the natural essence or extractives obtained from plants listed in 182.10, 182.20, 182.40, and 182.50 and part 184 of this chapter, and the substances listed in 172.510 of this chapter."

                                                                                                                                                          "(5) Any monosodium glutamate used as an ingredient in food shall be declared by its common or usual name "monosodium glutamate.""

                                                                                                                                                          http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts...

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                            This is probably not the place to debate MSG, but I could go on and on about the FDA. Products that have MSG made in the processing or creation do not have to list it as an ingredient which is the most common case today. Protein Hydrolysate is one of the popular 'clean label' solutions for the food industry today.

                                                                                                                                                            http://www.truthinlabeling.org/Here%2...

                                                                                                                                                            "When manufacturers produce MSG through the hydrolysis process, Food and Drug Administration regulations do not require the manufacturers to list MSG as an ingredient on the packaged food product."

                                                                                                                                                            Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/481...

                                                                                                                                                            For example, if a food label states No Added MSG, No MSG Added or No MSG the food product can still have MSG in it without violating labeling rules. As long as the MSG was not directly added to the product, the manufacturer can use this loophole to avoid listing MSG as an ingredient.

                                                                                                                                                            Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/481...

                                                                                                                                                            But if you'd like me to site 100 or so more sources please PM me, a Trader Joe's thread as funky as they may be is probably not the place for it.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                                        I can't even imagine what is in the ever popular "cookie butter." Ugh.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Lambowner

                                                                                                                                                          "57% speculoos (wheat flour, candy sugar, margarine [palm oil, canola oil, coconut oil, rapeseed oil, water, salt, emulsifier {vegetable mono-and diglycerides from fatty acids}, citric acid, lactic acid, color added {beta carotene}, butter flavor (non dairy)], sugar, soy flour, sugar syrup, raising agent {sodium hydrogen carbonate}, cinnamon, nutmeg), palm oil, canola oil, sugar, emulsifier: rapeseed lecithin."

                                                                                                                                                          Nothing horribly scary other than sugar, oil, sugar and more sugar.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                                                                              In the case of brewing Belgian beer, candy sugar is used, and in the U.S. it is also known as Rock Sugar or Rock Candy.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Lambowner

                                                                                                                                                            basically what you would expect to find in European cookies ...

                                                                                                                                                            Currently I have a jar of the Biscoff spread (which I bought at Walmart), not TJ's Speculos.

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Girdletocrave

                                                                                                                                                          I recently heard an interview with the Joe who founded the company. That's exactly what he said his model for the store was. He wanted a hard working teacher who came home exhausted to be able to afford a good quick meal with a good bottle of wine. And he shaped all his business decisions around solving that problem.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: rainey

                                                                                                                                                            TJ is owned by a German family. Always. Not a former school teacher.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: cujo

                                                                                                                                                              Quick, fast, and wrong cujo. Trader Joe's is named after its founder, Joe Coulombe. He owned a chain of C-Stores in California starting in the 1950's. His first store named "Trader Joe's" opened its doors in 1967. Theo Albrecht, of Aldi Nord, bought the company in 1979.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                                                                                                                                thanks for the correction. I was told a different story and never checked the veracity.

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: cujo

                                                                                                                                                                >>>TJ is owned by a German family. Always. Not a former school teacher.<<<

                                                                                                                                                                I thought rainey was speaking of the target demographic of the store customers and not claiming the owners were former school teachers.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: cujo

                                                                                                                                                                  rainey didn't say who owned it, but here's the history:

                                                                                                                                                                  "Trader Joe's was founded by Joe Coulombe and has been owned since 1979 by a German family trust established by Aldi Nord's owner Theo Albrecht.[6] The chain has offices in Monrovia, California and Boston, Massachusetts.[7]"

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

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

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: cujo

                                                                                                                                                                    "TJ is owned by a German family. Always. Not a former school teacher."

                                                                                                                                                                    The "former schoolteacher" in rainey's post is the "model" customer the store was built around. rainey never said the owner was a schoolteacher.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: cujo

                                                                                                                                                                      Nope. It was founded in Pasadena, CA by a Stanford Business School graduate who operated it for a long time before selling to the German company.

                                                                                                                                                                      The founder was never a school teacher himself but that was the model for his target customer.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: rainey

                                                                                                                                                                      If that's true, I love it. My Dad has always been a devotee of Trader Joes, and he WAS a hardworking teacher who would stop there for dinner and a bottle of wine frequently :)

                                                                                                                                                                  2. Fun fact, Trader Joe's canvas bags are actually quite popular in Japan, for 'posers' (not my wording). They don't know what it says, and have no idea what the store is, but its in English so its western/cool.

                                                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: NekoNekoFancyPants

                                                                                                                                                                        I live in Tokyo and I think I have only seen Trader Joe's bags only once or twice. Some TJs products used to be imported by the Hanamasa store chain about ten years ago, but it was only for a short time.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. Appeal and inspiration are personal, and there's no reason why the same store (or the same anything) should be right for everybody.

                                                                                                                                                                        That said, Trader Joe's doesn't put a whole lot of their resouorces into making their packaging look tempting. Some is quite drab and cheap-looking, probably because it is cheap. What matters, of course, isn't the package itself but what's inside it.

                                                                                                                                                                        If you want to know what TJ's is about, try eating some of their best stuff. The Yea/Nay threads help to sort the good from the not so good, and the prices are low so taking a gamble won't cost you much..

                                                                                                                                                                        1. Not sure what there is to "get". Perhaps where you live there are better choices in markets, but where we live there is a host of choices from Whole Foods, high end "gourmet markets", the big chain markets, and also Trader Joe's. We don't get everything at any one market, but TJ's is a market I'd miss greatly if we had to do without. Why?

                                                                                                                                                                          • Many cheese products...Jarlsberg cheese, parmesan reggiano, Greek feta, etc. are far less expensive than elsewhere and of top quality.

                                                                                                                                                                          • Their produce is of excellent quality and less expensive than at many other markets.

                                                                                                                                                                          • Their lavosh and other breads are preservative-free and of very high quality, and well-priced.

                                                                                                                                                                          • Some (obviously not all) of their prepared foods are of pretty good quality and are terrific for a quick meal when there's no time to cook.

                                                                                                                                                                          • They have some imported products that are otherwise hard to find at the same price and quality...Greek kalamata olives packed in olive oil, Greek feta packed in brine, French cornichons, capers, spices, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                          And...TJ's is a pleasure to deal with if you are unhappy with any purchase. Indeed, they encourage you to try new products with the clear understanding that if you are displeased with anything, for any reason, a refund or replacement is given without question. So...what's there to not "get". If you don't like TJ's shop elsewhere. No place is everyone's "cup of tea".

                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                                                                            Agree with this.

                                                                                                                                                                            For me, a large draw is that I can get gourmet products or organic produce oar really nice cheese, for a much cheaper price..... If I shopped at whole foods for the equivalent stuff, I could not afford it.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. What I like about TJs:
                                                                                                                                                                            cereal price and selection
                                                                                                                                                                            cheese price and selection
                                                                                                                                                                            snack food (chips, pretzels, tortilla chips, salsa, nuts) price and selection
                                                                                                                                                                            Dairy (yogurt, milk, eggs) price and selection

                                                                                                                                                                            If I really don't like something, they will take it back/exchange it. In the nearly 4 years (2-3x/month) I've been shopping there, I brought back 1 thing because I didn't like it, and 1 because it went bad. No issues, no questions---just an apology and offer to refund or replace. Beacuse of this policy I don't heistate to try anything there. And I have rarely been disappointed.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. I don't dislike TJs and think it's a great store which suits many people's needs but I don't get it for myself. I love the atmosphere and the products seem high quality. All of my friends and coworkers are obsessed with TJs but the rage is always about packaged foods. I don't eat many packaged foods and every time I am disappointed by the fresh meat supply at least in my local stores. Also, it's not very close to me and so I don't frequent often but many people I know have it as a weekly destination which just doesn't make sense for me.

                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                                                                                                I think you're right about the meat. I love TJs but I go to other stores for my meat. There are other things I don't buy at TJs either but it's still my go-to for most things.

                                                                                                                                                                                They do have a package of ends of bacon that's really tasty and great for soups tho. And I get a large can of very nice crab and think they have some very nice for precut deli meats.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. A common thread here seems like people go here for cheap goods. Maybe they use it as an alternative to a SuperWalmart?

                                                                                                                                                                                12 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                                                                                                  Not for cheap goods, but quality goods that are much less expensive than mainstream markets.

                                                                                                                                                                                  One example, Trader Joe's private label brand Dijon mustard. It is a product of Dijon, France. Quality is as good as the national brands but you get a larger jar for a lesser price than you would find Grey Poupon or Maille in a standard supermarket.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: pamf

                                                                                                                                                                                    I didn't mean cheap as in poor quality, I meant cheap prices. The comparison was that people also use Walmart for low priced Items. For example, I buy Dukes mayo there because I can get it cheaper than Helmanns at my regular supermarket. It seems a common thread that people go there to buy their wine and organic food, cheaply.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                                                                                                    Jerseygirl111: maybe this will help you understand:

                                                                                                                                                                                    trader joes does not carry the Kraft/General Mills kind of "food".
                                                                                                                                                                                    walmart does.

                                                                                                                                                                                    you won't find velveeta at trader joe's.
                                                                                                                                                                                    you will find velveeta at walmart.

                                                                                                                                                                                    i haven't found chocolate bars in trader joe's that have been made cheaply by substituting the cocoa butter with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.
                                                                                                                                                                                    i have seen such things at walmart.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                                      <Trader Joes does not carry the Kraft/General Mills kind of "food" walmart does>

                                                                                                                                                                                      Exactly - It would be VERY difficult to find any common item between TJ & Walmart, except perhaps fresh fruits & vegetables, but in that case, the quality is typically far superior at TJ so even fresh fruits & vegetables are not really a common item.

                                                                                                                                                                                      One place sells generic foodstuff at a low price (although I much prefer Aldi for low-priced, albeit limited selection), the other focuses on quality, again limit selection, but with very reasonable pricing.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                                        Yes, yes! Essentially Walmart and TJs are entirely different planets.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                                                                                                                          Maybe in specific items but not what they sell and how people use them. As I mentioned above, I buy Dukes mayo at Walmart. I buy things like aspirin, tampons, cereal, Ghirardelli brownie mix, etc at Walmart because it's cheaper. I bought fantastic fresh cherries there the past couple months. You buy your wine and Dijon mustard and organic figs at TJ because they are cheaper than at Whole Foods or wherever. You are using the store in the same way others use Walmart, buying cheap store branded products.

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                                          We split out some debate about WalMart's business practices over to a new thread, so people could focus on talking about the available products in this thread. You can find the new discussion here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/915012

                                                                                                                                                                                        3. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                                                                                                          Yeah. When WalMart is out of mozzarella di buffala , arbequina olive oil, and organic figs, I shlep over to TJ's to buy them.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: hohokam

                                                                                                                                                                                            Almost spit out my dinner laughing at this!!!!!!! Hahahahaaaa!

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Mellicita

                                                                                                                                                                                              After actually going into a WalMart with my mother yesterday (filial obligation trumps all), I had another laugh at it too. ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                              That said, I grabbed some organic spinach while there, as my mother requested creamed spinach. Amazingly, I made the dish without resorting to a sauce packet or frozen chicken nuggets or whatever it is we TJ's shoppers are hooked on. Highly unusual I know, but occasionally the muse of scratch cooking deigns to visit us too.

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: hohokam

                                                                                                                                                                                              "Yeah. When WalMart is out of mozzarella di buffala , arbequina olive oil, and organic figs, I shlep over to TJ's to buy them."

                                                                                                                                                                                              http://www.walmart.com/ip/Sage-Valley...

                                                                                                                                                                                              http://www.walmart.com/ip/Spectrum-Na...

                                                                                                                                                                                              Okay, I admit the prices are ridiculous and they are only available online (and in the case of the olive oil through a third party), but they do sell them. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                                                                                I occasionally go to a Walmart grocery to get few Hispanic items, such as Nido whole dried milk.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Last time I was there I saw (but did not buy) uncooked flour tortillas - i.e. formed disks ready for the comal.

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. i don't get it either.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. I buy only a very few things there, but the ones, I do are a very good bargain. Notably, frozen wild caught fish, organic pre brined chickens, nuts, and moderate carb flax chips, uncured bacon and grass fed steaks from the freezer.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. I think at the heart of this 'get' or 'not get' argument there is simply a misunderstanding. I have been fortunate enough to have lived in many parts of the country and world. In some areas like where I live now there is literally more then 12 different (different companies) full grocery stores within 5 miles not counting specialty stores. I have lived on an island where there was only 1 within the same distance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                From my experience the people who value TJ or Costco very highly tend to have not great options around or at least not a huge variety. The people who don't 'get' stores such as these often tend to be fortunate enough to have a large variety of good options. There are still many food deserts in the world.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Now of course there are personal preferences and tastes that may associate with liking a store or not, but imagine yourself in a place where you only have one option and they were over priced because there were a monopoly, dirty, produce was half rotten, and so on. Quality and value are very subjective and really depend on what you have been exposed to and what you have available. What is high quality to you, may be entry level to me. What is good priced for you may be the standard for where I am.

                                                                                                                                                                                                I think the fans and the dislikers could both do each other good if they simply understood we come from different worlds/backgrounds and we live in different situations and perhaps a bit more objectiveness.

                                                                                                                                                                                                15 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: NekoNekoFancyPants

                                                                                                                                                                                                  "From my experience the people who value TJ or Costco very highly tend to have not great options around or at least not a huge variety."

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Nah. I live in NY metro. I value every different type of store, and use them each for different things. I have gadzillions available.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I use both stores, but could live without, too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Same with me. Within a block of the Brooklyn TJ's is a "normal" Key Food store, a "gourmet" food store (its produce is better than TJ's), two Middle Eastern food stores, and two convenience/drug stores. A couple of blocks away is a farmer's market open two days a week. So I'm not a "captive" Trader Joe's.customer. I just prefer many of their products - and their prices - to the many nearby alternatives.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    If all you want is raw ingredients, TJ's would be a poor choice; their meat and fish are fine, and some of the commodities are first-rate (olive oil, for example), but the produce is hit-and-miss. Most Americans don't cook every dish of every meal from scratch, and Trader Joe's sells healthier and more varied prepared foods at a friendly price.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    When the Brooklyn store opened, I was curious and walked in, was put off by their selling only their house brand that I didn't know about, and turned around and walked out. Only when a friend encouraged me actually to try a few TJ's products did I begin to think of them as an alternative. Now they're my first and often my only go-to on my weekly food run.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: John Francis

                                                                                                                                                                                                      John Francis: often the TJ's "house brand" is really a nationally known brand that has been rebranded and packaged more simply just for them.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      (i.e the Amy's bean enchiladas are the EXACT same product as the one that TJ's sells. (down to the chives that are used as garnish.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: NekoNekoFancyPants

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Well I grew up with both Costco and Trader Joes along with a lot of other shopping options so I'm quite familiar with both. I've also lived without both. I didn't even miss Trader Joes unlike Costco where the savings I get on my car insurance through them easily pays for my membership not counting my executive member rebate check. Plus a years worth of my allergy medicine for less than a box that would last 1 month if I bought it at Walgreens. And then there is the meat I buy in bulk to feed my dogs that is better quality and cheaper than available in most of the local grocery stores.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I don't buy a lot of packaged foods. I notice that many of the responses from people that like Trader Joes list many packaged food items.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: rasputina

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Yea, most people I know that love it refer to the packaged foods, not to say that they are bad but it seems to be the draw for many.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: rasputina

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Yes, that's why there's so little I get at TJs, the biggest fans seem to be listing prepared foods. And coffees, which sucked badly when I tried them long ago.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: NekoNekoFancyPants

                                                                                                                                                                                                        <<From my experience the people who value TJ or Costco very highly tend to have not great options around or at least not a huge variety. The people who don't 'get' stores such as these often tend to be fortunate enough to have a large variety of good options. There are still many food deserts in the world.>>

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Interesting POV. I am one of those people who "get" TJ's and in less than a 10 mile radius I have TJ's, multiple chain grocery stores-Stop& Shop, Hannafords, Fresh Market, Whole Foods, a big box club (BJ's), a large Asian market, 2 good sized HFSs and 4 large specialty stores. In addition I have at least a dozen small speciality markets ie: an Italian grocer that sell house made pastas, imported meats/cheeses, speciality italian items and house made breads, etc. A small german market with house made sausages and imported german items. A cheese shop, local fudge/chocolatier/candy store, multiple fish mongers. I could add to the mix the Walmarts and the Targets but I rarely buy food there except things like Halloween candy. No food desert here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: NekoNekoFancyPants

                                                                                                                                                                                                          "From my experience the people who value TJ or Costco very highly tend to have not great options around or at least not a huge variety...."

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Precisely. I live in the food (and actual) desert of Las Vegas. There's lots of high-end restaurants that fly in their ingredients, but just try to get decent organic produce at the grocery store, if they even have an organic section. I mentioned to my daughter, who lives in the Bay Area, that we buy most of our produce at Trader Joes. She replied that she never buys produce at TJ's. I pointed out that she didn't have to, with all her other options. There's one organic farmers market here, with sky-high prices. Even the produce at Whole Foods here is barely above regular grocery-store level. The packaged organic greens and other veg at TJs beat anything at the regular market (organic or not), at less $$.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Steve Green

                                                                                                                                                                                                            What, no movement in Las Vegas to save the area farmers from encroaching urbanization? :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: NekoNekoFancyPants

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I think what I object to in this thread (not to single you out, NNFP) is the generalizations that the not TJ's getters are throwing out about the TJ's devotees. They must only like TJ's because (a) they drink a bottle of wine a night (b) they only eat packaged foods (c) they are organic crunchy types (d) they have no other options.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I happen to live in the town where TJ's first opened. It's a good sized town, that is part of a major metropolitan area. Within 5-10 miles of my house are several supermarkets, the flagship Whole Foods for the western region, several excellent farmer's markets, one of the largest "Chinatowns" in the US (with the associated markets), several Armenian/Middle Eastern markets, and a whole slew of Latino markets of various stripes. I do drink wine, but no more than 3-4 glasses a week, and I frequently cook from scratch (in fact, I write a food blog).

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I shop at Trader Joe's because I like a lot of the products they offer at the prices at which they offer them. Salami, cheese, milk, cream, butter, yogurt, chicken broth, olive oil, wild arugula, fresh peaches, rice, nuts, dried fruits, smoked salmon, chocolate, crackers, cereal, coffee, wine are all as good as or superior to products I can find elsewhere at better prices. There are also several things which are "good enough" for regular weeknight cooking - boneless chicken, frozen shrimp, ground beef, some steaks (not special occasion steaks, just regular steaks), hearts of romaine, sliced bread, coconut water, not high-season tomatoes, garlic, onions, potatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, fennel bulbs, organic apples. I can do the bulk of my shopping at Trader Joe's and I'll end up spending less than if I bought the same stuff at a different store. There are some things that I can't find there or that are genuinely better elsewhere - I'll go to Whole Foods or the FM for produce and fish, or "special occasion" meat - I get Asian ingredients at the Asian markets, and Mexican at the Mexican markets. I get ziploc bags and laundry detergent at the supermarkets, and track their sales on meat and produce. And sometimes I buy those prepackaged meals because I have kids and I'm busy, and having (really good) frozen mac and cheese in the freezer is a great backup.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            It's not for everyone, but people who shop at Trader Joe's don't all fall into some "less than" category.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Savour

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I'm sorry you feel this way about the comments. I don't really get TJs but I understand why many love it and they are in no way inferior.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Savour

                                                                                                                                                                                                                You said what I was thinking, so eloquently.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Savour

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  "They must only like TJ's because (a) they drink a bottle of wine a night (b) they only eat packaged foods (c) they are organic crunchy types (d) they have no other options."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I don't get that impression from this thread at all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Alright one more time, then I will remove myself from this thread. Skim through all the posts as to why people shop there. Those are the common threads. Cheap prices on organic food and to buy wine. I didn't just make it up out of the blue, I read all the posts and summarized. Enjoy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Sorry!! I never seek out organic foods, and I rarely if ever buy wine at TJ's. I have posted on this thread more than once and have never mentioned either. I like TJ's because: great prices on many cheeses and other unique imported grocery items; products that are unusual, tasty and unique to TJ's; great customer service and return policy; a fun sopping environment; and unlike Walmart and other big box stores..they take good care of their employees!

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Nope. You're not alone. I went once after friends and relatives raved about it. What I found was a lot of house-brand packaged food, OK produce, OK meat, not terribly great pricing. We bought a few things and none of them really impressed us. But then, we have Jungle Jim's and Findlay Market here in the Cincinnati area, so Trader Joe's is not only inferior, it's a chain.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. I got the most use out of Trader Joe's when I was single and worked a lot of hours, so the pre-packaged/processed food was a godsend, as it's much better than what most grocery stores have. At that time, I also lived where I drove past it every night on my way home from work, so it was convenient.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Now, I live an area where there are none, and while I miss a few items there (chicken sausages, pasta), it's not the end of the world that I can't go there. Even when they finish building them, it's not going to be that convenient for me to go there, so I won't miss out. Plus, I cook from scratch most of the time these days so the stuff I used to buy there isn't that useful at this point.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Interesting! I'm a from scratch cook myself and I still find that the quality of the basics I buy there is great and the prices are consistently lower than other large chains.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I will admit that it's a tad wacky to see that some things like condensed milk are considered "seasonal" items but they've taken confectioners' sugar off that list finally and I've learned which things to stock up on. Like that condensed milk that I use to add a subtle sweetness to my yogurt and which comes in a resealable plastic bottle instead of the cans that every conventional chain carries.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The huge and excellent quality chocolate is great for baking as are the enormous varieties of nuts and dried fruit. But I'm solo sorry they stopped carrying King Arthur Flours. Frustrating too that they don't carry dried beans. I much prefer the texture and flavor of beans I cook myself.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    They carry a wide variety of very fine cheeses. The only other store in my area that is not a specialty store with prohibitive prices is Whole Foods and their prices are just below prohibitive. TJs' prices are much better for many of the same cheeses and nearly the variety of specialty and aged cheeses.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Even tho I consider myself a from scratch cook there are other things that are great shortcuts. Like their corn relish -- which my husband just loves -- makes a super easy bean salad if you add a can of their black beans and then your own fresh veggies and herbs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Anyway, I tend not to buy much prepared food at TJs and still find it an excellent and very pleasant place to shop.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Must be. I love the place. Much less inexpensive that normal grocery stores, and they have such great frozen dishes and baking mixes and pizza sauce....and everything. Awesome awesome store.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. As I said in an earlier post, I am one of those that do not "get" Trader Joe's. I, like others here, live in an area with an abundance of supermarkets, mom & pop's, green markets, specialty stores, etc. In any given week, I probably visit at least 10 stores to do my weekly grocery shopping. Every Saturday I can be seen at our local 20+ aisle ShopRite doing our weekly basic shopping which I supplement with visits to many other stores and green markets throughout the week as I like to shop for certain fresh items the day I plan to use them. Still, I have never been able to find anything really appealing at a TJ's that I could not get somewhere else. Also, as I said in an earlier post, the items I have tried from friends and family have not bowled me over.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      That said... I will make a vow to go to TJ's within the coming weeks and purchase a couple of items (no matter how damn long the lines are). I will have an open mind and give them a chance. You TJ's enthusiasts can't all be wrong. There must be something I'll like! :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      26 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Just for starters:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Jarlberg sliced cheese: Local market $6.79; TJ's $3.99
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Large fresh lemon: Local market $.99; TJ's $.29
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Mochi's ice cream ~ 50% discount at TJ's
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Greek feta packed in brine...have never found better, anywhere.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Prewashed salad greens as good as at any local market for about 1/2 off.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Excellent preservative free breads.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Very good prepackaged nuts and dried fruits.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Of equal importance:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        TJ's treats their employees well...good wages, health insurance, and generous other benefits...ask any TJ's employee!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Unsurpassed customer service. If you are unhappy with any purchase for any reason, TJ's will refund your money with no questions asked. Indeed, they encourage customers trying new products with no risk guarantee.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Fortunately, there are 4 TJ's within 10-20 minutes of where I live in southern CA, and there is rarely a wait of more than a few minutes to check out. TJ's is not a supermarket where you can get everything, but they have many excellent products and pretty much everything is fairly priced.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "Fortunately, there are 4 TJ's within 10-20 minutes of where I live in southern CA, and there is rarely a wait of more than a few minutes to check out."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          There are plenty of TJ's in my area and the lines are always long. I will just have to deal with it. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "Very good prepackaged nuts and dried fruits."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This is the main thing I want to try and like. And hope are less expensive than my local supermarket.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Thanks for your suggestions!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I love the unsulphured Blenheim apricots. Inexpensive and much better than Turkish, IMO.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Jarlberg sliced cheese: Local market $6.79; TJ's $3.99

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Does your TJ's have a deli section or is that pre-sliced and pre-packaged?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Pre sliced and packaged. They do not have Jarlsberg for slicing at my local deli/market.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Gracias! While that does sound like a good deal (can someone tell me when average deli meat and cheese became $7/8/9 a lbs?) I'm not a fan of the pre-packaged stuff. Especially cheese I like sliced very thin, most pre packaged I've seen are to "thick" for my liking.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  "Especially cheese I like sliced very thin, most pre packaged I've seen are to "thick" for my liking."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  When I look for cheeses at TJ's, it's more than american, swiss or provolone. Along that line, I particularly like their packaged roast beef (among many other items) - much better than the gum-filled products typical at grocer deli counters.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Actually, its Whole Foods that I don't get. Except for breads which I now try to minimize, I find them to be significantly more expensive for occasionally marginally better quality vs. what I get elsewhere.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  About once a year, I walk through a Whole Foods to see what I'm missing and rarely find anything of interest. On my last visit, I tried their food bar. $10 later, that was a real mistake.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Clams047

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Have you shopped their produce? It is very good, at least here in the NYC metro area. Much better than what I saw at TJ's yesterday.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Clams047

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'm told that Whole Foods' fish is very good. Have never bought any there (or much else), so I wouldn't know personally.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: John Francis

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Fish and grass fed beef at very competitive prices, IME. Also, they carry Wellshire Farms uncured cold cuts, our favorite brand.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: John Francis

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The fish is great although I like the selection and service better at Wegmans. I know the different fishmongers here and will only have certain ones filet a fish as the others do an awful job, but that's probably a local thing. I also love that Whole Foods labels all fish as fresh or previously frozen and also provides a source location. The grass fed beef as mcf noted below is also wonderful. Wegmans has a few pre-packaged cuts but my local Whole Foods is the only place that I can get cut to order grass fed beef and they carry nearly all the same cuts as they do with grain-fed beef. Also, I 2nd and 3rd the Wellshire Farms products. I usually buy Applegate cold cuts at Whole Foods but I love the Wellshire bacon and sausage products.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Trader Joe's has begun carrying frozen grass fed steaks, but they're thin and lmiited to strip and boneless rib steaks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Clams047

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          SInce a WF opened nearby, my purchases have been in the $10 or less range - mostly bulk grains. Sometimes a sale price, sometimes a grain that my neighborhood hippie market (natural foods) doesn't carry. The produce is pretty, but as expensive as TJs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The first time I shopped WF was in San Francisco on a business trip. I had several good suppers in my hotel room based on their hot deli items. Now though they are far from unique in that category.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    As promised, I shopped at TJ's today and came away with:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Dried mangoes
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Dried mandarin orange slices
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Slivered almonds
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    12-oz honey bear
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Dried cranberries
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Banana chips
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Pistachios
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Jar of smoked paprika

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I held back from buying these items during my weekly shopping at our local mega supermarket where I usually purchase them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    So far I have tasted the mandarin oranges, cranberries and slivered almonds. They are all very good. In fact, the slivered almonds are much better than the ones I am used to buying.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    As for price, I paid $1-$2 less for the packages of dried fruits and nuts, comparing an 8-oz. TJ's package to the 10-oz. package I usually buy. Quite a savings (though I have 2 oz. less on hand; no big deal). The honey was about $2 less. I haven't compared the rest of the items yet, but I am almost positive they were cheaper also.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    So far I like what I have tasted. I have saved money. The lines were long, but moved quickly. What little interaction I had with the staff was pleasant. The place is somewhat hokey looking and the packaging is less than inspiring (but if it cuts down on coast, so be it).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The bottom line: I will be back and can see making a stop at TJ's a regular thing a few times a month. Thanks to all for helping to convince me to try it. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The one area that I did not see an advantage to is the produce: while many said the produce departments in their local TJ's were great, the one I went to had a lackluster assortment. I can shop my local supermarket, greenmarkets and Whole Foods and get much better looking produce at comparable prices.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      One of my very favorite things in life is an open mind :) Thanks for having one and reporting back. It will help some others certainly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Another one to thank you for reporting back.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Glad to hear you were not disappointed. The produce at Trader Joe's is better described as "adequate" than great, though there are a few really standout items (Heirloom Navel Oranges in winter,peaches in summer. And their bagged salads can be great.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          One thing to keep in mind as you read others' assessments of items like produce at TJ's is that produce, fresh dairy (milk, etc.), eggs, some bread and bakery items, and are regionally sourced. So quality (and sometimes availability) isn't uniform across the country, and how it stacks up for various shoppers depends on where they are and what else is available in their local market (as well as their pickiness).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Absolutely. With all the resources available to me, I would have no need to buy my produce at TJ's. I was just reporting my observations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'm actually planning and anticipating my next visit to Trader Joe's. Who knew? lol

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            A little more about produce. My local TJ's is half a block away from a Korean-owned produce and oriental market, where most items are cheaper and fresher. For example, yellow onions are 59¢ a lb,, about half of TJ's price, and they show no signs of age. Whether these are organic and pesticide- and preservative-free, as TJ says its produce is, I don't really know; the store makes no claims one way or the other.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Whole Foods does, but there's no Whole Foods store in Brooklyn yet, and if there were I doubt it would be price-competitive with the Koreans. They're building a store in Greenpoint, next to the Gowanus Canal, which is to have a hydroponics greenhouse run by Gotham Greens on the roof. If you care enough about freshness to pay Whole Foods prices, plus the cost of transportation to and from, that would be as fresh as it can get. When and if it all happens as planned.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            It may be that TJ's doesn't find it worthwhile to try to compete for quality and price in perishable goods. That's not why people buy there.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            However, I've found their frozen produce to be very good. The petite peas, chopped organic spinach, and various vegetable and fruit melanges are excellent, at least as good as Birds Eye and the other national brands and cheaper too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: John Francis

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              "However, I've found their frozen produce to be very good. The petite peas, chopped organic spinach, and various vegetable and fruit melanges are excellent, at least as good as Birds Eye and the other national brands and cheaper too."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Now that is something I'll look into. Thanks!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Yes, the frozen stuff has been mostly very good there for us. They have nice frozen artichoke hearts, too, which I have trouble finding elsewhere (at least of good quality).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              "The bottom line: I will be back and can see making a stop at TJ's a regular thing a few times a month."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              This weekend we made our second trip to TJ's and bought the following:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              More dried fruit (it's a bargain and quality is very good)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Frozen blueberry waffles (almost $1.50 less than the Kashi I usually buy and just as good)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Instant apples & cinnamon oatmeal (haven't tried it yet)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Sliced, packaged colby/jack cheese (no savings here at all; in fact, could be cheaper at our local supermarket when on sale; same ingredients, too)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Bananas (nice quality and inexpensive; they were the only produce I found "attractive")
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Multigrain sandwich thins (compared to Arnold's brand, almost $2 cheaper than our supermarket; haven't tried them yet though)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              64-oz. organic lemonade/iced tea (compared to Honest Tea brand which we usually buy, about $1 less at TJ's; have yet to try it)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              So, it's a process of trial and error. So far, not much error. Many good bargains for quality stuff. I will say that their prepared frozen food items hold no appeal for us though. I forgot to look at the frozen vegetables, which I wanted to do. Next time (and their will definitely be a next time)!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The frozen vegetables are of excellent quality and relatively inexpensive. The ones I buy regularly and consider staples are the haricots verts, tri-color bell peppers, peas, corn, spinach, artichoke hearts, broccoli, brussels sprouts, asparagus.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Frozen fruits are great, too, try the Very Berry blend and the mango chunks. The ice creams (coffee!!!) and sorbets (blueberry-pomegranate) are definitely worth a try.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Some of the seasonal fresh fruits are very good such as peaches, pears, honeybells, figs, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Also, pick up a pack of the mint lip balm if you use lip balm.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: RussTheRaccoon

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The yea/nay threads talk a lot about the prepared frozen items, the heat and serve ones. Mostly I've been disappointed with those. But I stock the basics, especially the frozen vegetables that you list.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The frozen kale has too much stem, but that's true of frozen kale from Wholes Foods as well. The frozen leeks have too much green, but they are still handy to have on hand.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The frozen fruit is good.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          3. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Yeah, Ttoommyy! Taking one for the team. Here is a TJ's top 5 thread to get you started. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/891169
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'll add a few more of my favorites:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Maple syrup - my store doesn't carry the highly praised B grade, but the A grade tastes just fine to me.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Dairy - cheaper than grocery stores
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Baked goods: Lavash, corn tortillas and the Tuscan Pane - bakery quality sliced bread
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Spices: 21 Salute (a spice blend) and dukkah (spice and nut blend)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Organic chicken breasts (individually packaged)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            And they do carry some name brands for less like McCann’s steel cut oats, some Bob’s Redmill items, Kerrygold butter and Applegate Farms cold cuts.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            There are things that I have bought there that I don’t care for:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Lentil soup with ancient grains (refrigerated) – too thick and salty
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Lentil soup (canned) – tasted fishy to me
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            3 Spanish cheese sampler – kind of boring
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Vanilla and cookies and cream ice cream – both had a strange whipped texture
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Coffee ice cream – received a thumbs down from my auntie, a coffee ice cream expert
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Happy shopping!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          4. T.J. has healthy convenience food. I like the various prepared salads and fresh cut fruit.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            And they also have the best premium canned cat food. My cats are crazy about their once a week tuna treat.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            If you like gourmet candy, they have an excellent selection from all over the world.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I don't find their prices cheap. What I seriously dislike are the parking lots. They are too small, poorly designed and an accident waiting to happen,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: cujo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I regularly buy a bag of Charlie Bear dog treats. Other places sell this, but TJ is cheaper. It's an example of TJ selling a good quality namebrand item at a good price. I've also been buying their dry dog food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              In my store, the dog and cat food is next to the soaps and tooth paste (including Toms), and across from the beer and wine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: globocity

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Just came here to post the same thing...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. I don't get it, either. I'm in the middle of Nowheresville (Columbus, OH) and I much prefer Whole Foods or Giant Eagle's Market District locations to TJ's. Admittedly, I liked it when I was a broke college student. Far more affordable.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Just plain fun. I'm from the Twin Cities and we have wonderful coops and grocery stores including plenty of ethnic ones. I shop at all of the above and just enjoy going into Trader Joes to try new and interesting things. I also have some reliable favorites, also, like Kerrygold butter, Gerolsteiner mineral water in glass, varieties of good pecans, and so on.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I do the same with Costco, though I do buy some items in bulk.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Something that I don't think I have seen mentioned on this topic is that TJ's has been offering their mix of gourmet-ish products for a long time. I have been shopping there for about 15+ years and back then there were no alternatives, other than super expensive specialty stores, to get a lot of the products that TJ's offers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Chains like Whole Foods and even the mainstream grocers now make these type of products much more accessible. Not to mention being able to order pretty much anything you want online.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I think some of us TJ's loyalists remember those days.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. I agree with you I have visted TJ's many times and I do not understand why people like this store so much, same with Whole foods we just had a new store open and they don't sell anything we buy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      16 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Tucker23

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        If WF doesn't carry anything you buy, I'm curious what you DO buy? I find their selection simply amazing which is basically why I do some shopping there. They carry some things I can't find elsewhere either at all or dependably.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Couldn't agree more. WF's is so big and carries so much that I actually don't like shopping there because it's so overwhelming. "They don't sell anything we buy" is rather incomprehensible to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            there are only a handful of products that drive me to whole foods:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1) their 365 brand of refrigerated organic soy milk, original flavor
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2) their bulk department: organic lentils (french green, red), organic yellow split peas, unsweetened dried coconut. organic popcorn
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            3) the 365 brand of organic cooking oils in GLASS bottles
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            4) valrhona cocoa powder (they will give you a case discount if you buy a 3 kilo case)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            5) organix dog food

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              as an example we buy fat free half and half they sell fat free milk but don't carry fat free half and half, another product we buy all the time is Special k, I can go on and on thats why we dont shop there.I
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              shop where we can buy eveything we need.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Cathy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Here are the ingredients for the fat-free "half and half":

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ingredients: Ingredients: Skim Milk, Corn Syrup, Cream*, Contains less than 0.5% of the following: Carrageenan, Sodium Citrate, Dipotassium Phosphate, Mono and Diglycerides*, Vitamin A Palmitate, Color Added (Ingredient not in regular half & half).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Here is the definition of half-and-half:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The United States dairy product known as half and half is a mixture of one part milk to one part cream.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Not the same thing at all. One is a chemistry experiment which has borrowed an inapt name, the other is food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Carrageenan and sodium citrate -
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      one is a thickener derived from seawead. The other is an emulsifier, that is used in this Chow recipe for a perfect melting cheese (i.e. process cheese)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      http://www.chow.com/recipes/30493-per...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Carrageenan is used in Silk soy milk, and I suspect many other fake milks. TJ carries a good selection of those.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Yup, familiar with them. Still don't choose them, as a general rule. And that isn't half-and-half.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Should be a law.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Yes, carageenan is associated with digestive dosorders and possibly cancer. http://www.medical-hypotheses.com/art...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          You pays your money, you takes your chances.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Tucker23

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  "same with Whole foods we just had a new store open and they don't sell anything we buy."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Nothing? The many WFs we have here have a lot to offer. At least the produce section has to have some items you buy. No?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The produce is generally what brings me in the door. If I can't find it anywhere else, it's probably at WF and the quality if generally good. Once there I seem to find plenty more to tempt me :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Here in New England WF is pretty much the only place I can consistently find good produce in the dead of winter. Once in the door I often find quite a few other things too. There 365 brand is priced competitively and the sales on top quality meats are competitive as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Tucker23

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Interesting. The only way I can understand that is if you are not at all interested in more health-conscious options or a different variety that the typical supermarket, which both WF and TJ's offer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. No, you're not. I avoid it as well - prefer Costco or Aldi.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    24 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: danweiss

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Interesting that you prefer Aldi over Trader Joe's considering they are one in the same.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Fowler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Wha-a-a-t????? Aldi and Trader Joe are the same? Really? I have never heard this before.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          They're run by the same folks, IIRC.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I would be happy to do your homework for you jrvedivici, but I have noticed that others have beat me to it regarding what you misunderstood.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Aldi North owns the Trader Joes in the USA.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Aldi South owns the Aldis in the USA

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The same company does NOT own both.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Cathy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Well, thanks for clearing that up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Aldi North and Aldi South have slightly different wares in Germany, but most of the stuff is identical.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: Fowler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Owned by the same company, but as far as I can tell, there is little, if any, overlap in terms of the actual product offerings.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: hohokam

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Aldi North owns the Trader Joes in the USA.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Aldi South owns the Aldis in the USA

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The same company does NOT own both.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Cathy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Correct, different companies with origins in the same family.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  There is some overlap in products because they use some of the same suppliers. There is also overlap with private label products from other grocery chains because they are sourced from the same manufacturers of private label goods as well as private label goods that are camouflaged brand name products such as the Rainbow ice cream sold under TJ's label or the 1-800-Flowers assorted boxed candies they sold for a couple of years at Christmas and Valentine's.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Cathy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ah. Thanks. I stand corrected.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Fowler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I have only been to Aldis once but never saw anything that even remotely reminded me of TJ's. Would love to read your correlation and the details of what is similar. An Aldi's opened near my sister and we have been talking about whether its worth checking out. Most of her friends said it is more like a MB.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    RussTheRaccoon can tell you everything you want to know about the similarities. If i'm not mistaken, he's part of the TJ team ----obviously, the part that is assigned to Chowhound.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    His info is accurate and helpful.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: cujo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'd rather have a consumer perspective. I am sure an insider can give me all the technical differences. I am curious if your average consumer would walk into Aldis and say "meh- not gonna replace TJs" or visa versa. It would also be interesting to hear from an average consumer what they found to be the exact same, what was worse and what was better.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Kinds of like me when I used to work for Gap inc. I can tell you all differences of between Banana, Gap, Old Navy, etc but a true consumer would most likely have a different perspective.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It is important to understand that one or two consumers reporting on their subjective shopping experiences does not represent an accurate sample of customers. Consequently, the information will be relatively useless.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: cujo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I disagree that its useless unless you feel all of CH is useless. Not looking for a dissertation here, LOL.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Isn't the whole basis of CH the opinions of a few 'hounds?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I don't need (or want) the PR/owner/manager of a place telling me that theirs is the place to eat/shop. They can chime in but I have found that the weight of a few regular hounds call outs far out weigh those whose have a vested interest.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            No problem. When it comes to restaurants, I prefer personal opinions. When it comes to market products and availability, I prefer factual info. Sorry if I offended you. Not my intention.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. You get a shopping cart at Aldi's by putting in a quarter (and get the quarter back when you return it to the same spot in the parking lot).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. Aldi's sells clearance, overruns, and 'special purchase' items as well as private label staples-cleaning supplies, paper products, some food and beverage items. TJ's, sells far more private label food items. Trader Jose, Baker Josef, Trader Ming, Arabian Joe's, Pilgrim Joe, Joe's Kids, Joe's Diner (frozen items), JosefsBrau (private label beer), Trader Darwin (vitamins and supplements).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          3. Aldi's will have employees at the cash register; not really any within the aisles-the items are displayed on pallets and packing boxes cut down, restocking happens when new products are brought in to take over an empty space. TJ employees are visible throughout the store and are willing to help/walk you to the item you have a question about, answer questions/find the answer, open a product for you to try.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          4. A lot of Aldi items have a purchase limit (eg. 2 per customer), TJ's doesn't.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          5. Aldi's doesn't accept credit cards.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          6. You bag it yourself at Aldi's-and you pay for the bags.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Cathy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Ok so why are there posts saying they are the same thing? Color me confused. It sounded like people were saying they are one and the same but your description make it appear one would never confuse one for the other.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Hi foodieX2, Perhaps I have never said this before, but I hold you in the highest regard and really respect your opinion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              But I must say that the TJ's and Aldi stores I have visited in the Great Lakes area of the USA are very similar. If they vary considerably where you live I would understand that issue.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I shop at TJs regularly and in an Aldi's once on vacation. I wouldn't bother going to an Aldi's again and there was nothing to make me think the two were related at all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  We use Aldi's for commodity goods (eggs, milk & common fruits & vegetables, etc - superior quality / typically cheaper than Walmart and full size grocers) and TJ's for the specialty products. They compliment one another very well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Cathy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I don't know the Aldi return policy, but on more than one occasion mentioned to the cashier at TJ's that I didn't like something I had purchased prior/had to throw it out and received an immediate refund. Without a receipt.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: cujo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              No, I have never been employed by TJ's or Aldi and am not otherwise an insider. I have lived where there was an Aldi and live where there is a TJ's and shopped at them as my first-line grocery source.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              One particular item that was absolutely identical (except for the packaging) was the TJ's Early Grey tea bags and the Grandessa Earl Grey tea bags at Aldi. I think Aldi no longer uses the Grandessa label for their more select items, though.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Any overlap is because of sourcing items from the same suppliers, not because it's the same company or ownership. For instance, several of the regional grocery stores here have private-label mayonnaise that is identical in ingredients and the jars are the same except for the labels.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The biggest similarity between the two is the concept of a limited selection including a lot of private label products sold at lower than usual prices.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              TJ's has more prepared products, is more upscale, emphasizes natural products, has a larger selection, many more employees. Aldi emphasizes do-it-yourself with bagging and has a much smaller selection. They also have specials including non-food items.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Aldi definitely would not replace TJ's and they look and feel nothing alike but both are appealing to people who are willing to use store brands to save money.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              To add to the confusion, the company that owns Trader Joe's operates Aldi stores in some countries. Wikipedia has a good article explaining the corporate structure and the similarities and differences.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The only other country where they both operate is Germany--where they each have Aldi stores. At least they have different names in the U.S.! Aldi Nord bought Trader Joe's in 1979.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: RussTheRaccoon

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                thank you for clearing up the confusion

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. I haven't met a grocery store I don't like and always find tons of interesting products and ingredients which have resulted in fabulous meals and snacks. I don't go to TJs often although in college when it was the only store around I loved it. I've commented here that I don't get it now since I buy much different things than I bought then but from reading all of these posts I'm committed to trying it out again after 8 years. I think I might really enjoy it, even if I don't buy packaged frozen foods, I'm sure I can find a dozen condiments or baking products or cheeses I can't live without. I guess I'll make up my mind about the store after a reintroduction on Friday. Thanks for all of your recommendations and tips, my list of things I'd buy there has grown and I think it's worth a trip.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        13 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Can't wait to read your update. This thread made stop by again before leaving on vaca. I tried approaching with fresh eyes as I tend to run in and grab the same things. I bought:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -bag of small/individual packs of raw almonds
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -ginger/almond crisp cereal
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -fresh haricot verts
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -soy sauce
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -fresh ginger
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -scallions
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -kerrygold butter
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -whole wheat english muffins

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I will do. If they have reasonable kerrygold butter I'm in :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I think some have said that WF has the best price on Kerrygold. I know it's decent, have to remember to compare.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I can't remember exactly but I it's $2.99 at my local WF or perhaps $3.99 either way it's the cheapest I've come across

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Costco has a killer deal on Kerrygold - I think it's $6.49 or $6.99 for three half-pound bars. I haven't seen it on Long Island, but I spotted it for the first time at the Rego Park store a couple of days ago. I'm happy it's there - up to this point I've had to try to snag it when I'm out in Jersey.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: biondanonima

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I'll ask at my Costco in Melville!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Finally found it at Westbury. It is shelved with the cheeses.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: EM23

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        In Plainview, it's shelved with the other European butters on the dairy aisle. I had a hard time figuring out the organization of Westbury!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I should have been more clear - I was referring to finding the KG 3 pack at Costco that Bio mentioned upthread.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: biondanonima

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Thanks for the heads up on the Costco deal, Bio. That's a great price.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Fldhky & MCF - Kerrygold is $2.99 at the two TJ's that I shop at, and $3.99 at WF. I live on Long Island.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: biondanonima

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Absolutely! I used to get my Kerrygold butter at TJs because Costco carried it only for St. Patrick's Day but I've noticed that this year they kept ordering after the holiday.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Costco also regularly carries that lovely basic Kerrygold cheddar year round but last St. Patrick's Day they also got an aged Kerrygold that was fantastic. I got 3 enormous blocks and still have a small piece of the last one. Can't wait for next March to get another haul of that one.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  if you go to trader joes, not expecting a supermarket, but a very varied convenience store then you probably will not be disappointed. that is both its strength and its weakness, it is also why it really has no direct competitor, it has it's own business model' and within that imho it succeeds