I’m finally ready to admit it: I’m a Trader Joe’s groupie.
So if you blow your whole paycheck on $34.99 per pound Roquefort cheese at Whole Foods or fancy pre-made skirt steak with chimichurri from your posh local market, this article is not for you. This is for the those bargain loving, appreciate-organic-but-also-a-slice-of-cheddar-on-cracker type gals.
I’m a Cali native, so I grew up on the floral red-and-white buttondowns, pristine aisles and earthy smells of Trader Joe’s, or as I like to call it, TJ’s, because he and I are tight like that.
“I’m running to Trader Joe’s!” is a phrase I grew up on.
The other day my mother called me just to tell me how their soy chorizo tasted just like regular chorizo, and I should go and buy it like right now. Apparently TJ addiction is hereditary.
I stood in disbelief in the middle of Union Square trembling when I first saw a sign that an outpost of my favorite more-than-just-a-store was opening in New York City in 2006. I was awe-struck. As though I'd just seen Jesus do "the dougie."
I called everyone I knew, including my California friends, whose responses were pretty much what I thought they’d be: “You’re JUST now getting a Trader Joe’s? I thought you all were supposed to be a progressive city?” But they couldn't steal my joy. No, no.
And the line that snaked around 14th street just proved that I wasn't alone in my excitement. I knew it all along. But I also knew that I would cut the NYU kid who got the last bag of chicken gyoza dumplings. College students shouldn’t be eating dumplings anyway. They should be eating ramen like the rest of us did.
Fast forward to today, and I am still just as enamored by Trader Joe’s signage as I was back then. I consider it a victory every time my cart bursting with food totals less than $100 dollars. Take that Whole Foods!
The best thing about TJs is every time is like the first time. I see a new product added and my passion is intensified. Last week it was coconut oil. This week it was mini turkey meatloaf muffins.
I’ve been trying to figure out why I love this store so much, and came up with six reasons that help me legitimize my love affair with a grocery store:
1. The Employees
Have you ever had the shittiest day ever and looked into the eyes of anyone who works at Trader Joe’s? It’s like looking into a pool of infinite possibility. I don’t know if it’s the job training, the perks or just a general ability to ward off evil spirits, but the folks who work at TJ’s are some of the kindest, most cheerful people on planet earth. It’s like shopping for groceries at Disneyland. I consider Trader Joe's personnel my enablers.
2. Creative frozen food that actually tastes good
Call me easy to please, but anytime I can buy mini chicken tacos, paneer tikka masala with spinach basmati rice or coconut curry chicken sticks for under five dollars, and all of it's actually good, you’re going to steal my heart. Period.
3. Organic produce that's actually affordable
What is it about seeing something labeled organic that makes you feel you’ve done your body good? Despite the fact that you slammed five martinis at happy hour the night before? I like the idea that I can buy organic fruit and veg and still have money left over for the stuff that really matters: more martinis.
4. Snacks on Snacks on Snacks
If you stand in line at Trader Joe’s, I guarantee that at least two people will have a cart full of just snacks. Host a party. Any party! With only TJ appys on the menu and NO ONE will leave unsatisfied. Beef taquitos, kettle corn, spinach artichoke dip, mushroom turnovers, shrimp wrapped in phyllo -- I feel like Martha Stewart on steroids every time.
5. Junk food that seems harmless
How many times have I eaten vanilla meringue cookies or French onion soup from Trader Joe’s and thought to myself “well, it’s from Trader Joe’s, so it can’t be that bad”? I can't even count. That’s the power of TJ. He’s such a smooth talker.
6. Two-Buck Chuck
The nickname is so classy, who wouldn’t want to try TJ’s alarmingly cheap wine? This is college students’ kryptonite. Oh who am I kidding, it's my kryptonite.
So when I’m low on cash but still craving a three-course gourmet meal, Chez TJ comes through with the win. To start I'll have the spinach artichoke dip followed by the Gorgonzola gnocchi. And for dessert? Key lime pie, please. Pair all that with some excellent 2012 Two Buck Chuck, and I’m a happy gal. What about you all?