Maybe this is just the 'been stuck on an island all winter' in me talking, but Trader Joe's is bleeping awesome!
Our nearest store is 40 minutes away, so when I do go I get kind of excited. I used to live within spitting distance of at least 6 Trader Joe's and I have to say I took them for granted. Where else can you find a bag of potatoes the size of marbles? A tub of dark chocolate peanut butter cups so good you have to stash it in the freezer to avoid devouring them all in one sitting? A decent bottle of wine for $1.99? I just feel healthier shopping at TJs because the aisles are stocked with such an exotic variety. Instead of Peanut Butter I can get Cashew Macadamia Butter, or Raw Crunchy Almond and Flaxseed Butter. Sitting right next to the raisins are bing cherries, banana chips, dried white peaches and chile spiced mango! I love the fact that so many of the fresh veggies are already cleaned and prepped so I'm tempted away from the boring broccoli. I like the cooked beets, the ready to steam haricots vert, and the little jicama sticks.
Trader Joe's inspires a fierce loyalty and fanatical cult followings for lots of its products. Everyone has their list of favorites and we love nothing more than swapping our finds with other TJ enthusiasts Have you tried their Caramelized Onion, Ham and Gruyere Tart? Tempura shrimp? Korma sauce? Frozen rack of lamb? Trader Joe's built its reputation on a good selection of the basic food items at competitive prices. But they've branched out; these days a trip down their aisles is like an international treasure hunt. They have everything from Irish cheddar veined with beer to Thai string beans, Indian butter chicken,
chocolate covered blueberries, Italian blood orange soda, and rosemary Marcona almonds. Their prices are unbeatable. Try buying an 8 oz bag of Pingoli nuts, a big hunk of triple cream brie and a large bottle of extra virgin olive oil anywhere else and you'd have to mortgage your house. How do they do it?
For one thing 80% of what TJs sells is under its own private labels. Sometimes these products are actually manufactured by big name companies but TJs cuts out the middle man and sells the products at a much lower price. No one has managed to imitate them and I think that's because the business model involves so many unique, quirky features. They promise that anything with a Trader Joe's logo contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, contains no MSG or trans fats, and is sourced from non-genetically modified ingredients. They will not sell anything imported from China due to unreliable quality issues. They keep their selection pared down and use their bulk buying power to keep prices low. I recently learned that they have a no questions asked return policy on everything they sell. They pay above union wages and offer health, vision and dental insurance even to their part time workers. And they wear cute Hawaiian shirts and ring bells to communicate in the store (one bells means cashiers are needed. two bells, a price check, and three bells calls a manager). They've definitely put the fun back in grocery shopping.
So what am I going to do with those itty bitty potatoes---any ideas?
Sue/the view from great island