HOW TO: Shop at Trader Joe’s

Slate has a primer on surviving Trader Joe’s madness. Just a few tips and tricks to keep in mind while you’re commodifying your dissent.

  • Adopt a Soviet Mentality. This is the first thing nearly every regular TJ’s shopper mentions: Products appear suddenly, work their way into your daily routine, and then disappear with no warning. Example: no-boil lasagna noodles. Here one day, gone for months. If you really like something, hoard it. You never know when it will vanish.
  • Best Bargain: Orchids. Every shopper I surveyed had a different best bargain, so I’ll give you mine
    beautiful, long-lasting orchids for $8. I can’t tell you how many last-minute gift fiascos these have helped me avoid.
  • The Shopping-List Guarantee. If you go to TJ’s with a shopping list for a dinner party or even a moderately complex recipe, you are guaranteed to leave the store without finding at least one item on the list. Just accept the fact that you will have to hit one or two other stores on the way home. This raises a bigger issue: TJ’s has great prices on many staples, and it’s easy to forget that its selection is tiny compared to a real supermarket. It is not a one-stop shopping solution.

Be advised, Trader Joe’s is called “TJ’s” over in its hometown of LA, so you New Yorkers better start doing that before your friends do.

Previously: Trader Joe’s Lacks Team Spirits

Related: Commodify Your Dissent: Salvos from the Baffler [p]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Bubba Barney says:

    No-boil lasagna is all they sell out here. Let me know if you need me to start a ‘noodle-ring’ to get you east coasters hooked up.

  2. Paul D says:

    Apparently there are no other places in the US besides New York and LA.

    I’ve never heard of Trader Joe’s and could care less what they do or do not sell there.

  3. AcidReign says:

    …..Oh! Big industrial size Stouffer’s you stick in the oven for two hours, and it makes your house smell like Sicily! (and your kids eat all 76 oz. at dinner that night.)

  4. Danilo says:

    AcidReign, I discovered just such a lasagna at the supermarket a few weeks back. With the missus out of town, I baked the sucker one night and had enough leftover lasagna to feed me for many evenings afterward. Amazing value on the $12 spent.

  5. Transuranic says:

    Paul, thanks for your, um. yeah. Anyway, I grew up in an out-of-the-way place, so I was accustomed to bad produce, two kinds of cheese, and snacks as exotic as Fig Newtons until I moved to a city.

    Trader Joe’s carries gourmet-level things at fairly cheap prices. My favorites are their ‘simmer sauces’ – cook some meat, add one of these $3 jars of some Moroccan or Cuban or Indian sauce with spices you’ve never heard of, and you’ve got a quick REALLY TASTY meal for, like, eight bucks. So best. Trader Joe’s is worth all the buzz.

    And from what I hear, they don’t position themselves as an organic or natural store when they’re buying real estate (even though much of their stuff is branded like that.) In Seattle, they opened one near two organic co-ops and a standard grocery.

  6. flyover says:

    We have a Trader Joe’s, and I live in a, uh, flyover state.
    It’s pretty humorous that my mother in Muskegon, MI was shopping at TJs before the NYC elite. Then again many people in MI were wearing leggings before they resurfaced in NYC.