as a carless mainer, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that i’d never been to a trader joe’s before monday. i’d heard rumors about them. passed them on the highway on the odd bus trip into more populous and lucky territories. i’d theorized about what might be inside their walls, but the only information i had to go on was that they sold natural foods and that their employees wore hawaiian shirts. i pictured it like whole foods, but with more tiki torches and styrofoam palm trees. i’d heard rumors that it was cheaper, but cheaper is a relative term when it comes to natural foods. they don’t call it whole paycheck for nothing.
the rumblings started back in march, and the excitement built steadily as portland prepared for our trader joe’s cherry to pop. as it turns out, as a city we were so collectively turned on by the prospect of low cost hawaiian shirt clad health foods that there was a need for at least one cop stationed outside of the parking lot to direct traffic for the first week or so. seeing as that i don’t care for crowds or waiting in lines, i’d been pretty much keeping away, but monday night after yoga, a half empty parking lot presented itself to me. here is what i learned on my fact finding mission:
1. trader joe’s is about 90% trader joe’s brand food. almost all of which has really hot packaging, and all of which is reasonably priced.
2. the powers of basic math and logical reasoning would tell us that the remaining 10% of traders joe’s goods are other brands like kashi, morningstar farms, larabar, and some other healthy crap that wouldn’t surprise you.
3. trader joe’s is small and totally not fancy. whole foods seems like a ludicrous display of excess and puffery compared to the stripped down beigeness and industrial shelving of TJs. it’s not pretty in there.
other than that, i’m still in the beta testing phase. i bought approximately $20 worth of trader joe’s brand eatables, and have been slowly picking my way through over the week. so far everything is super tasty (veggie corn dogs!), although i was appropriately warned by a more trader joe’s savvy friend on the west coast that cooking instructions tend to be a more or a ballpark or a starting point than actual followable instructions. i also learned that peppermint jojos (their seasonal version of oreos with real candy cane peices) are pretty much the best idea ever. so far, i would say that my impression is favorable. atlthough for my next trick, i’d like to actually try to do my grocery shopping there. is this the week? any other trader joe’s recommendations?