Monday, July 14, 2014

Why I Love Trader Joe's.

Mondays are grocery shopping days in the Lemmons household. As food-lovers, this is always an important and organized process with lists and trips to multiple grocery stores. However, our main stop is usually Trader Joe's.

I'll be honest with you -- I actually cried the first time we went grocery shopping in Los Angeles. I had spent the past two years shopping at Winco every two weeks. I found everything I needed and usually kept the bill under $150 (for two weeks). When my pregnant self shelled out that much for one week at the local Ralph's, I was sure that our family would never survive the expenses of La-La land. I didn't even try at Trader Joe's. If Ralph's, the neighborhood grocery store, was exorbitant, wouldn't a "fancier" store like Trader Joe's be even worse? When I finally ventured in a few days later out of curiosity, I was shocked to see that not only did they have unique food and great produce, but the prices were frequently better (or close enough that the better quality was worth it, unlike other stores with great produce *coughcoughWholeFoods!coughcough). It wasn't long before Trader Joe's was my biggest stop every week. Or couple of days. Whatever. The last few weeks I have been thinking about why I love good old TJ's so much (and why I'll probably cry even harder than I did about losing Winco when we eventually move...)

1. Delicious, seasonal produce. Also, it looks pretty. Those shining, colorful rows of bright tomatoes and peppers makes me want to eat my vegetables. 

2. Friendly staff. Thank you for giving stickers to my child when he is screaming his head off in the checkout line. Thank you for remembering me every week and starting up our conversation where we left off last Monday. Thank you for always having a smile. I like you people. 

3. Convenience. Yes, it would be cheaper if I bought all my cauliflower heads intact. But as a working mom (and let's be honest, I bought them as a stay-at-home mom too -- no such thing as a mom who isn't busy), I appreciate having my veggies pre-cut and pre-washed. It's nice to be able to just throw everything into the pot.

4. And with that, not only do they have conveniently cut baggies of broccoli, fruit, cauliflower, and so on -- but they also have veggie mixes, like stir fry mixes, mirepoix, etc. 

5. Interesting things to try. They are always incorporating something unique into their store, and I await my mailed Fearless Flyer eagerly each season to see what unique flavors are being featured. 

6. Healthy. I haven't done specific research into this or anything, but it seems like Trader Joe's really makes an effort to keep things as healthy and organic as possible. So it's okay that I eat a couple of servings of the Cowboy Bark, amirate?

7. Freezer section. Again, I know that in an ideal world, I would prepare everything from scratch and only eat whole foods. But no, it doesn't always happen. And I love me some Reduced Guilt Mac and Cheese.

8. And also, the frozen fruits and vegetables. In arrangements that I actually want. Like the mixture of pre-cut bell peppers (have I mentioned I like the pre-cut thing?). Or the pineapple tidbits, or the frozen berries, or the whole green figs. No limp cardboard packages here. 

9. Pork gyoza pot stickers.

10. Dark chocolate everything (but especially the peanut butter cups and the speculoos bar).

11. Cookie butter. 

12. Cookie butter.

13. Cookie butter.

14. 99 cent greeting cards. Which are cute, and a little tongue-in-cheek, and 99 cents

15. Fresh flowers, usually for less than $5 a bouquet. I am queen of buying myself flowers, and I can only justify it when they don't break the bank. 

16. Macarons. I came back from my study abroad to France in 2008. I walked two miles in Salt Lake City to pay $3 for a stale, brittle pistachio abomination. So I was kind of excited when I came to LA and found that I could buy macarons at dozens of little bakeries and at Whole Foods. More excited when I tasted Trader Joe's 12-pack and discovered that they can be done well on a budget (the coconut one, you guys). 

17. Sample table. Cal has a Pavlovian response to the sample table by now. He knows there is goodness awaiting there, and he demands to enjoy it. 

18. Pumpkin explosion in fall. They do so well with satisfying our nation's seasonal obsession. 

19. Homemade flour tortillas. 

20. Champagne grapes. Just picked these up today for the first time, and they are a win. 

21. Latkes -- a breakfast staple in our house (yes, I know I should make them myself).

22. Vegetable flaxseed chips. 

23. The best oatmeal. 

24. Good meat that is well priced. 

25. Cheap sushi. 

26. A huge variety of tasty ravioli. Definitely lived on that for the first few month's of Cal's life. 

27. Amazing, inexpensive EVOO. 

28. Clever product names. "This blueberry walked into a bar..." and so on.

29. Trader Joe's international personae. Trader Giotto, Trader Jacques, Trader Ming, Trader Jose, Trader Josef.

30. Plenty of cheese selection. Also, the moist mozzarella string cheese sticks. 

I'm sure after I press "publish," dozens more reasons I love Trader Joe's will pop into my head. But just know it is best. And go buy yourself some cookie butter.

**Edit** 31. The music!! I don't know if all Trader Joe's have phenomenal music, but whomever is in charge of the radio at about 9 am on Monday mornings at the Palms/Sepulveda store, thumbs up. 

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