Going to the grocery store is one of my favorite simple pleasures (second only to visiting Target). I love wandering the aisles sans list and tossing random treats into the cart without anyone shaking their head at my eight varieties of cereal. I have very little grocery-store loyalty – any old Albertson’s, Dominick’s or Piggly Wiggly will do. I’d heard about the legendary Trader Joe’s for years, but I never lived close enough to make it worthy of a trip – besides, I had it on good authority that they didn’t sell Cocoa Pebbles. So it wasn’t until I moved to California two years ago that I made my first journey, and years later I’m officially drinking the organic local-grown sugar-free Kool-Aid.Allow me to give you a tour of some of my favorite TJ’s spots:
Produce: Trader Joe’s takes all the annoyance out of eating your veggies and serves up couch-potato proof packages of pre-washed, pre-chopped and sometimes even pre-seasoned fruits and vegetables. I managed to avoid brussel sprouts for thirty years but TJ’s makes them so adorably inviting I’ve made them a staple. But if you’re one of “those people” who prefer your produce DIY-style, they have that too.
Tower of Bananas: This little gem deserves to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. TJ’s bananas are the svelte-blemish-free-class-president-head-cheerleader-always-sit-at-the-cool-kids’-table bananas. In no other store in all the land can you expect to always find hundreds of perfect bananas clamoring to be taken home to your banana hook.
Cookies & Candy: Clear containers letting you peek directly at your future stash of chocolate-covered almonds with sea salt or organic mini chocolate chip coconut cookies give every treat a homemade vibe which automatically negates any potential calorie or carb concerns. And if that alone doesn’t do it, the labels usually have enough other adjectives like “natural” or “gluten free” to make it a health investment akin to eating a stalk of asparagus.
Freezer Aisle: This is where favorite comfort foods like pizza, macaroni and cheese, chicken pot pie, and cheeseburgers get a glamorous makeover. Out with the orange boxes with giant bubble letters screaming “extra cheese” and in with the sleek packaging and script fonts touting “imported Italian basil.”
Wine: In a blind taste test involving some very snooty wino friends of mine, the majority voted two-buck Chuck to be the best-tasting wine of the bunch. Granted, we’d been drinking.
Check-Out: Whip out your reusable tote and you’ll feel like you’ve won some ten-thousandth customer sweepstakes every time. First, there’s a celebratory ringing of the cashier’s bell and then you get to put your “raffle ticket” in a drawing for a TJ’s gift card. It’s all wonderfully exciting.
The best part about Trader Joe’s is you just feel like a good person for shopping there. You swagger outside the land-of-many-adjectives with your canvas bags full of free-range cage-free grade A brown eggs and grass-fed locally-grown organic lean turkey breast so fired up on your healthy finds it powers the rest of your day. And after your salad dinner and a long walk with the dog you settle on the couch with your Charles Shaw cabernet and a block of Peruvian dark chocolate and watch Bachelor Pad – ‘cause by golly you’ve earned it.