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Beautiful Moms in Their Yoga Clothes

June 30, 2010

It’s our favorite place, it’s that store Trader Joe’s.

I’ve been a fan of Trader Joe’s for some time.  In fact, over three years ago I documented my list of TJ’s staples on Yelp.  It is pretty amazing to see how the food I buy hasn’t radically changed over the years.  But love it as I may, I never wrote a song or produced a video.  The link at the top of the page is to a magnificent three-minute pseudo-commercial about why one fan of the market loves the place.  It manages to capture a lot of what is wonderful about the store, but it may not be entirely convincing to someone who has never shopped there before.

While I have stood up to be counted with Bruce Roter’s grassroots organization (aptly named, We Want a Trader Joe’s in the Capital District), I have not yet been to any of their events.  Nor have I helped them with their commercial.

The group and I couldn’t come to an agreement when it came to the FUSSYlittleBALLOT.  I was hoping to get their endorsement for Trader Joe’s as the Best Wine Store in the 2010 Times Union poll.  But the group held out for the much more competitive Best Grocery category.  Maybe we can reach common ground in 2011.

Anyhow, I just came back from the Trader Joe’s in Newton, Massachusetts and thought that I should try and give my pitch for why I think the store is the bee’s knees.

This is the store for people like me.

If you would prefer not to eat genetically modified organisms, dairy products that come from cows treated with rBGH, or foods that have been heavily treated with pesticides, Trader Joe’s has got you covered.  I even found vegetable chips that were cooked in expeller-pressed safflower oil, which covers my concern with both hexane and GMOs.

Did I mention all their shade-grown and fair-trade coffees from around the world?

On my last trip I discovered that Trader Joe’s has an organic version of Fritos called Corn Dippers with just three ingredients: organic corn, organic sunflower oil and/or organic safflower oil, salt.  This is big for me because:
a) I like corn chips.
b) I prefer things with few ingredients.
c) The only way to ensure your corn is non-GMO is to buy organic.

But it is not just about having foodstuffs that line up with my philosophy on food.  It is also that the food is delicious and significantly cheaper than similar-quality items elsewhere.

Even Young Master Fussy was able to notice how much better the natural peanut butter from Trader Joe’s tasted than the stuff we are able to find in the markets in Albany.  Then again, he eats more peanut butter than he probably should.  Describing flavor is tricky, but it tastes richer and more deeply nutty.

Identical brands of cereals that sell for over $5 a box at the Honest Weight Food Co-op are available for under $3 at TJ’s.  Tasty first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil costs only $6 per liter.  That is less expensive than buying inferior oil in bulk (AKA two-liter cans) and on sale at Price Chopper.  The organic 100% whole grain pasta at Trader Joe’s is only $1.29 a pound.  I shudder to think how much they charge for the stuff at the co-op.

And it is not even just about having better prices on better food you can get elsewhere.  Trader Joe’s seems to have very tasty things you cannot get anywhere else.  Specifically, I’m thinking about their Thai mixed nuts, which are seasoned with kaffir lime, chili pepper and lemongrass.  Also a few years ago I picked up a bag of dried mangosteens, which I had never seen before in this country.

Sadly, the Newton store does not sell wine or spirits.  Trader Joe’s built its business around the wine aisle, which goes far beyond Charles Shaw (AKA Two Buck Chuck) which I never really liked much anyhow.  Not getting wine at TJ’s is like going out to dinner and not ordering dessert, it’s fine but somehow feels like you are missing out.  I also couldn’t return with any of the products from their freezers, which are a cornucopia of delights.

So in the meantime the beautiful moms of Albany will just have to keep shopping at the Slingerlands Price Chopper.  They deserve better.  Please join Bruce Roter on his very own quixotic quest to get a Trader Joe’s in the region.  Somehow I think he and I are cut from the same kind of cloth.  Except he seems to actually get stuff done.

Kudos to him.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    June 30, 2010 9:32 am

    When I’m in the Trader Joe’s in Cambridge, MA, where one of my kids lives, I walk around mouth agape, in a kind of blissful daze.

  2. Phairhead permalink
    June 30, 2010 9:49 am

    I’m also a Trader Joe’s fan. But in all honesty, do you believe TJ’s will ever come to the Vapital District? I say no because of the stronghold the Golub Corp lords over us

    • June 30, 2010 11:02 am


      I’m not sure Golub has anything to do with TJ’s not coming to our region.

      If so, how could one explain the Fresh Market situation on the way?

      If memory serves correctly; TJ’s is reluctant to put stores in NY State due to the laws banning wine from grocery stores. Was it something like that, folks in the know?

  3. llcwine permalink
    June 30, 2010 10:55 am

    I too am a member of Mr. Roter’s group and have not attended any of the events. Every time I go visit my folks in Tucson, TJ’s is a must stop. I do love all the different wines to peruse through as well as the wonderful selection of cheeses. If we can get a Fresh Market (opening in the fall in Latham), then I can be hopeful that TJ’s will come to the area as well.

  4. June 30, 2010 12:32 pm

    I do not understand the Trader Joe’s love. I went to one in Jersey recently and was left very disappointed. It felt like a place to go if you don’t want to cook, or maybe if you were having a picnic.

    Have any of you been to a Whole Foods? WF is for cooks, TJ’s is for picnicking.

  5. June 30, 2010 3:52 pm

    I’m with bk: I’ll take Whole Foods any day over getting a Trader Joe’s.

    By the way, this has nothing to do with the fact that the WWTJ club annoy the sh*t out of me. In a nice way, of course.

  6. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    June 30, 2010 3:54 pm

    Whole Foods! Hell yeah. I get a chubby just thinking about it.

  7. June 30, 2010 11:46 pm

    If I had to pick, I think I would choose a Whole Foods too.

    My parents live near a Trader Joe’s in Connecticut and I stop by when we are in town. They have some good stuff that is exclusively theirs – like a 3-pack of really good, cheap Belgium dark chocolate and organic jellies. Those dunker cookies aren’t that great, but for some reason one must continue eating them until they are gone.

    On the other hand, a lot of what I used to be excited to buy in a Trader Joe’s can be found elsewhere. Maybe at a higher price point though.

  8. July 1, 2010 9:39 am

    Count me in as someone who’s been to Trader Joe’s and isn’t quite a fan.

    My best TJ experience was a weeklong stay in LA where it was the only walkable grocery. I went just about every day, but that was mainly because I eat a lot of cheese and drink a lot of wine. I didn’t find more than four things on each trip I wanted to buy. It was nice to see Valhrona stocked, though.

    Not to mention it was horribly overpriced, compared to what else was available in that area. If we get a Trader Joe’s here, expect prices to be well above Honest Weight. You don’t have to believe that, but next time you go to a Trader Joes, check out the other markets in that area to compare — don’t compare an out of state TJ to something in Albany.

    Between Honest Weight, local farmer’s markets, and the increasing organic availability at Hannaford and Price Chopper, I’m covered. I agree that a Whole Foods would be better, I don’t need more packaged food. Even if it’s minimally processed, it’s still processed. Corn Chips? Come on.

  9. Elyse permalink
    July 1, 2010 3:34 pm

    I was gonna hold my tongue but I can’t. I think that everyone comparing Whole foods to TJs is completely missing the point of TJs. TJs is NOT your one stop grocery store. However- it fills a special niche and, contrary to what B says (don’t know where you’ve been shopping, dude), Trader Joes offers items that are much cheaper than local competitors, at least the places I’ve shopped (washington state, NY state- maybe this isn’t true in Manhattan but normal rules never apply there).

    This is why I shop at trader joes:
    inexpensive basic cheeses (gruyere, cheddar, etc)
    inexpensive organic breakfast cereal (seriously- we saw a box of cereal that cost $10(!!!) at Honest Weight that you can get for $3 at TJs)
    Kosher organic chicken
    inexpensive decent quality “gourmet” stuff (saffron, vinegars, olive oils)
    And yes, I admit, we love their frozen burritos and pot pies for nights that we don’t want to cook.

    Things I don’t buy at trader joes:
    Produce (though the one in Seattle used to carry inexpensive frisse- alas, no longer)
    wine (sorry)
    pre-packaged ready to eat food like salads (sorry- the stuff at TJs is super gross)

    Note that I used to work across the street from TJ’s so I got to know the place a little too well. Also it was super convenient to stop by whenever I needed sundries.

  10. July 1, 2010 9:03 pm

    I could cry! The grocery stores here are pretty pathetic. When I go back to MN, I always bring cases of TJ wine (two buck chuck!) and all the staples back. I also load up at Whole Foods. Honest Weight is such a freaking rip off…$10.99 for a small bag of whole-wheat flour. No thank you!

  11. mirdreams permalink
    July 7, 2010 11:42 am

    Elyse, B, even the TJ’s in Manhattan is much cheaper on most items that Capital Region stores. I know ’cause I schlep things up from there every time I’m in the city.

  12. July 7, 2010 8:42 pm

    Hi Daniel,

    Your article reinforces what so many of us believe–that we need a Trader Joe’s for our community! I have every reason to believe that Trader Joe’s will expand here and I believe that our efforts will hasten their arrival. We have 4,000 members but we can use all the help we can get! For those interested, please email me at

    Thanks Daniel for your support of this important campaign!

    Bruce Roter, President
    We Want Trader Joe’s in the Capital District

  13. September 21, 2010 6:11 pm

    I love Trader Joes.

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