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Trader Joe’s Unintended Side Effect

August 16, 2012

Hoarding might be genetic. I feel like I have a propensity deep in my bones to stock up on items and hold onto things. There is a famous story in my family about my father having similar instincts at a young age. And my sister, who has known me all of her life, gave me the best birthday gift ever, two packs of astronaut ice cream. One so I could save it, and the other so I could eat it.

Mrs. Fussy is the exact opposite. She’s a tosser. And her streamlined ways have had a profound effect on me. Food now rarely gets wasted. I’ll even find myself voluntarily thinning out piles of my own paperwork, instead of stacking new piles on top of old piles.

When I go grocery shopping I tend to stock up on staples. Instead of buying a twelve pack of seltzer at Price Chopper, I’ll by ten twelve-packs of seltzer when they are on sale. Boxes of 100% whole wheat pasta get put in my shopping cart in multiples of three. Once tomatoes stop coming in from the CSA I’ll buy twelve cans diced tomatoes, hoping that this one purchase will get me through winter.

And when I used to travel to a faraway Trader Joe’s? Oh my. The cart would be overflowing. I’ve still got bottles of pomegranate juice and bags of tart dried cherries on a high shelf in the closet from a trip six months ago.

But then Trader Joe’s came to Albany. And this sounds weird, but it changed me.

Earlier this week I headed back to our new store, because I was looking at a shopping list that was filled with TJ’s staples: cereal, baby carrots, coffee, toothpaste, snacks, crunchy peanut butter, skim milk, yogurt, hummus, and butter.

My go-to peanut butter as of late has been at Hannaford. I get the Smucker’s natural with just peanuts and salt, which comes packed in glass jars. It satisfies all my crazy issues for the least amount of money these days. (In the past, Walmart’s price on Teddy natural peanut butter was lower, but no longer).

The TJ’s peanut butter is packed in plastic, which I’m not crazy about. But it’s delicious, and the rest of the family look forward to having it in the house, so I make the compromise, and in this case give the wife and kids what they want.

Peanut butter lasts, and we go through a fair bit of it here. So usually when I buy it, I pick up three to four jars at a time.

Except at TJ’s I only bought one.

Later that day I realized somehow capers didn’t make my shopping list. I’ve actually been in dire need of capers for a while now. And like peanut butter, capers last.

Except when I pulled into TJs the following day, I bought just one jar of them as well.

Usually I would have at least doubled up. But I also picked up just ONE pack of 100% whole wheat spaghetti, and two cans of black beans (that’s one meal’s worth in a household where Little Miss Fussy has earned the nickname Bean). And I did it with glee.

Pretty much I walk through the store now without the pressure to fill the cart with eight boxes of cereal, and with no concern as to whether I’ll be able to fit four bags of sweet potato chips in the back of the car. I’ve got a shit-eating grin on my face, and one simple thought repeating over and over again in my mind.

I can come back here anytime I want!

Parking sucks. But parking sucks at almost every Trader Joe’s everywhere. And I’ve already got my parking strategies figured out. So I now find it to be pretty painless. But gauging by the snarl of traffic and honking of horns as cars try to exit onto Wolf Road, there are still some who are experiencing a fair bit of pain.

Parking sucks at the co-op too. But as both of these businesses have proven, you can have bad parking and still make money hand over fist.

Anyway, I’m still walking on air. I don’t know how long it’s going to last. But I’m going to enjoy the feeling for now. Probably when TJ’s pulls one of my beloved products from the shelf, as they are sometimes inclined to do, I’ll remember why I started stashing away bags of pad prik king in the first place and revert to my old ways.

Change is good. But it doesn’t always last.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. -R. permalink
    August 16, 2012 10:29 am

    Speaking of ‘natural’ peanut butter, I’m curious if you or Mrs. Fussy have found a good method of homogenizing a fresh jar? While I won’t buy any other type, I do hate the wrist-breaking process of stirring the floating oil back into the peanut slurry settled at the bottom.

    • August 16, 2012 10:33 am

      AMEN! One thing that makes it a bit easier is “pressing” instead of stirring. I use my marble pestle.

    • enough already! permalink
      August 16, 2012 10:08 pm

      Stir well when you first open it then store in refrig, and it won’t separate. I like smucker’s too.

  2. Matt permalink
    August 16, 2012 10:45 am

    We have a good trick – store the jar upside down. The oil migrates back through the peanut butter. Cooks Illustrated recently published a similar tip – but we were there FIRST. That’s right, I’m the Magellan of Peanut Butter…

  3. Eric Scheirer Stott permalink
    August 16, 2012 11:00 am

    It opened?

  4. August 17, 2012 12:07 am

    Off topic: When the new Shop Rite opened they had a great selection of flavors from the Ice Cream Man. Now they’re down mostly to chocolate, coffee, & vanilla- and I wonder if it’s the same stock they opened with? I don’t know if SR isn’t ordering new stock, or if ICM isn’t supplying, but I’m sad now. I tried the Adirondack Creamery on the shelf above but it didn’t thrill me and seemed a bit icy – and since it’s made in Kingston I’m not sensing the Adirondack connection.

  5. August 17, 2012 9:06 am

    As you can imagine, I’ve also visited our Trader Joe’s several times and have experienced the freedom of not having to “stock up.” Trader Joe’s is here, it’s just a short drive away, and it will be a great place to shop and to meet our friends and neighbors.

    Bruce Roter

  6. Amy permalink
    August 17, 2012 9:24 am

    I’m so glad you wrote this because I’ve been feeling the same way. I had TJ’s items stored away, afraid to use them because I wouldn’t be able to get more for a long time. And these were only shelf-stable cans, boxes and jars, of course. It’s such a wonderful feeling to be able to pop over to Wolf Rd, pick up a couple of things, including frozen and fresh, and then eat them!

  7. Third Auntie permalink
    August 17, 2012 3:56 pm

    The thrill of hoarding TJ’s products until the next shopping trip is gone. Every time I went home to NYC, I would lug home at least 10 bags of the Thai Chili Lime Mixed nuts and several packages of the Green Chili Cheese tamales. If I could bear the weight load, I would add a few Pound Plus chocolate bars (they should be called slabs). Now, shopping at TJ’s is more relaxed. We only left with 3 bags of nuts, 2 pakages of tamales, and 2 chocolate bars. We are glad to have easier access to TJ’s but the thrill of of the next shopping stock up is no longer there.

  8. August 18, 2012 10:22 am

    I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am that we no longer have to buy 15 boxes of cereal while in Long Island and cart them back to Albany. It’s the only cereal C will eat, and now he can buy it a couple boxes at a time. :)

  9. August 21, 2012 11:18 am

    I finally went yesterday. We still got two reduced-sugar strawberry jams and two lemon pepper pappardelles. Other than that we were in control. No 10 boxes of Israeli couscous this time around.

  10. kathleenlisson permalink
    August 21, 2012 4:44 pm

    The German mineral water!

  11. Mer permalink
    August 23, 2012 11:05 am

    Glad to hear that I am not the only one who’s had to totally shift the way I shop at TJ’s. The first time I went I grabbed for items that I would normally buy to stock up on them and realized that I already had a pretty good backlog at home. I’ve been to the new store 3 or 4 times now and since I know most of the products I want and don’t need to look at every single item on the shelves, I’ve been able to zip around the store pretty quickly and efficiently.

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