How do we feel about Trader Joe’s?

30 Sep

In an effort to save money-slash-boycott overpriced NYC groceries, I’ve been taking the 4/5 to Union Square after work to The Trade. I’d like to hear from more TJ’s-savvy people than myself here, because so far? Not all that impressed. Here are my pros and cons. Help me add to this list!

Loving:

OK, T-Joe's, this is just sad.

OK, T-Joe's, this is just sad.

• No-Pudge Brownies, Salsa Autentica, spicy sushi, smoked salmon, etc.
• That fellow shoppers in the aisles are always enthusiastically recommending products.
• Extremely friendly cashiers (with conversation-starting hometowns on their nametags).
• Frozen food selection. TJ’s prevails here moreso than in any other category. Their reasonably priced OJ is a close second, however.
• $5 delivery that always shows up well before your scheduled timeframe is up, as opposed to just a couple minutes before. (I’m looking at you, Fresh Direct.)

Not so loving:

• The produce is sub-par at best. My apple was mealy, and the banana? It had a black stringy part down the middle. Gross.
• That many items aren’t actually a good value for the price. (See my photo at right: Because hello, wtf?!?)
• That the line is constantly blocking people from getting to the food. That can’t be good for sales, or shoppers’ psyches.
• That most times I’ve been there (either before 1 p.m. or after 8 p.m.), everything is picked over. I’ve yet to find a good time to shop there.
• The salads. The first time I had a prepackaged one, it was great. The second time? It was spoiled and I almost barfed.

READERS: Where do you shop for groceries (if it’s not Trader Joe’s)? What are your favorite TJ’s meals? Snacks? What do you stay away from? What are the good values? Bad ones? Is it overrated, or am I being too hard on them?

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7 Responses to “How do we feel about Trader Joe’s?”

  1. Hilary 09/30 at 11:24 pm #

    I buy most of my groceries from fruit and veggie stands in sunset park because my life sucks and I don’t live in Manhattan! I do hit up TJ’s for a few staples. I totally agree that their produce is gross and I pretty much avoid that section unless it is a huge emergency. I love their peanut butter for 1.79 a can and soy milk for 1.49 a carton. They also sometimes have killer deals on coffee and tea. If I didn’t avoid prepackaged food, I think I would shop there a lot more frequently. You are spot on with your complaints. The line sucks, the apples suck (and it annoys the shit out of me they sell apples by the apple not by the pound…) and lots of times I feel like unhealthy people shop there in an attempt to be healthy, but ultimately fail because TJ’s basics (fruits, veggies etc) are not up to par!

  2. Mac 10/02 at 10:12 am #

    I’ve been an avid TJ’s shoppers for years, and have definitely continued that after moving to NYC. Here are my TJ’s words of wisdom:

    *Don’t even try to buy produce, or anything fresh for that matter at TJ’s. It is never good, but that is not what they are known for. I do all produce from my neighborhood fruit stands, and then stock up on dry foods every other week at TJs.

    *If you have any possible time to go during the day M-F, that would be the best possible time. The line is much more manageable. I find Sunday mornings are also do-able, but watch out early Friday evening and all day Saturday.

    *Definitely recommend: whole wheat English Muffins, their guacamole is TO DIE FOR, frozen meat, fish, frozen yogurt [better than Pinkberry, a $3 for a quart], cereal, peanut butter, condiments. And of course, 3-buck Chuck, which our apartment buys by the case.

    *Like any other grocery store, you gotta read those labels. Organic does not mean healthy.

    I find, on the whole, their stuff to be more affordable and much better tasting than what I get in my neighborhood grocery store, and since I can’t afford Whole Foods or another specialty organic market, this is definitely my best option.

  3. Eric Barth 10/06 at 5:51 pm #

    So obviously TJ produce sucks, which I’m used to awesome produce in CA. How do the NYC farmer’s markets fare (also are they year-round like in CA)?

    Also, I’ve always been curious as to how you get your groceries home in NYC. I normally like to buy a lot, so do you use some sort of cart?

    • Nowooski 12/02 at 4:56 am #

      I find my self going to the grocery store much more frequently after moving to New York. Of course, there is a grocery store literally on the ground floor of my building. But because you have to carry everything, I imagine most New Yorkers shop nearly every other day or so.

  4. cara_mia 11/29 at 8:24 pm #

    We don’t have TJ’s in Albany – though we want one! I travel a lot for work, though, and sometimes stay at Residence Inns and SpringHill Suites, which have kitchenettes. Trader Joe’s is awesome for dinners when I’m staying at those! My favorite thing about TJ’s – the ingredients lists. Puff pastry that isn’t made with trans fats, but butter, for example. Their lists are more like what I have in my kitchen at home and less chemical names.

    • Maria 02/15 at 8:22 pm #

      We do now. 3 years strong 😊

  5. dancewalktalk 03/07 at 6:28 pm #

    I guiltily shop at Whole Foods, but I shop smartly and manage to keep my costs down. Once in a while I’ll freshdirect but their service is spotty.
    As to how often I shop. Once a week, and I usually just carry two reusable shopping bags home. I’ve used a cart once or twice but found that its typically unecessary.

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