Confessions of a Trader Joe's Junkie

Lately I've been jonesing for Trader Joe's pretty badly. My husband and I lived just outside of Philly for about a year, where we had our choice of about five TJ's. Now that we're back in Des Moines, the closest Trader Joe’s is now at least three hours away in the Minneapolis area. There are often times I contemplate driving up there and back just for the day so I can get my chile-spiced mango fix or my delicious spicy black bean dip. Or the vodka marinara sauce. Or the gyoza. Or the lime juice popsicles. Or the soycatash. But I digress.

Photo: Comp4Me [Flickr]

Every time I travel I check Trader Joe’s store locations to see if there’s one close that I can stop at. I have my cousin ship me stuff from New York. I have friends in Minneapolis who keep an eye out for me. One of my best friends drove to St. Louis and I actually made her take a cooler so she could bring me back some frozen food. It’s seriously become an obsession. I went on a trip with some friends last year and the first thing we did after getting our rental car was make a TJ’s pit stop. I figured we would need some snacks for the hotel room, you know? I’m pretty sure they all thought I was insane… except for the aforementioned friend who went to Missouri. She immediately picked up on the allure of Trader Joe’s. I was trying to figure out exactly what makes Trader Joe’s so great, and here’s what I found out during my research:

  • Trader Joe’s was founded by Joe Coulombe. He was running a number of Pronto Markets when 7-Eleven started to monopolize the market. He had the idea for a grocery store with more exotic offerings but at decent prices. It took off (obviously) and he started converting all of his Prontos into Trader Joe’s. (Photo: Private Label Magazine)

  • Many of their products are given a quirky name based on their origins – Mexican food is sold under the label Trader Jose’s, Chinese food is sold under Trader Ming’s, Japanese food is sold under Trader Joe-San and vitamins are sold under Trader Darwin’s.

  • The reason TJ’s can sell good-quality stuff so cheap is because they buy directly from small vendors instead of going through a corporate middle-man. This makes the products cheaper for them, which in turn makes them cheaper for us. What a concept.

  • Because they keep their products so cheap, you’ll never find anything on sale at Trader Joe’s.

  • For a grocery store, their benefits and wages are pretty great. Business Week reports that their wages are better than most ($8-$10 an hour three years ago), they give generous bonuses and contribute an extra 15.4 percent of every employee’s gross pay into a retirement plan. They even offer health insurance to part-time workers and their dependents, as long as they work an average of 20 hours per week. My favorite perk is the 10 percent discount. I’d be all over that.

  • Trader Joe’s is the home of Two Buck Chuck! TJ’s is the exclusive dealer of Charles Shaw wine. It’s technically Three Buck Chuck in some states, but at any rate, it’s worth it. For cheap wine, Two Buck Chuck is pretty darn tasty. It took me a while to figure this one out, though, because in Pennsylvania, it’s illegal to sell liquor in grocery stores. It took a trip to Virginia to finally procure the famous Two Buck Chuck.

  • The company has a great sense of humor. Exhibit A: one of the questions in the F.A.Q. on the Trader Joe’s Web site: “Will Trader Joe's products turn me into a superhero, a professional athlete or one of the great brainiacs of humankind? Sorry (seriously, we are because that would be neat). But they will hopefully make your taste buds tingle and leave you with a happy tummy - and wallet. Way better than being a superhero.” Their “Fearless Flyer” is pretty good reading too.

  • You won’t find any overhead P.A. systems at Trader Joe’s: they operate solely on a bell basis. A huge bell is rung every time something comes up – one bell is to open another register, two bells means a customer has a question and three bells calls a manager over.

  • If you’re like me and DESPERATELY want a Trader Joe’s within an hour (I’d even take two hours… Omaha would be great) of you, you can go here and request that they come to your area. If there’s already a TJ’s in your area, I’d appreciate it if you went there anyway and requested that they open one in Des Moines. Thanks.

  • I know there must be some other rabid Trader Joe’s fans out there like me. So spill it: what’s your favorite TJ’s product? What do I need to cart home with me the next time I am in Minneapolis or Kansas City? Better yet, what can I badger my cousin or brother-in-law into mailing me??

    Turkey sausage stromboli, sun-dried tomato bruschetta. Truly the full list would be the whole store. I really don't shop anywhere else. I am always experimenting and finding something new there. I am always amazed at how much high-quality food I can get so cheap!

    If you haven't tried it, you need to. Then you too will understand why it deserves a post on Neatorama!
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    I <3 Trader Joe's! I'm so happy I live closer to one. My favorite food there is their one serving cup of potatoes that you just add water and microwave. Very tasty! I haven't been in so long....

    Must... visit.....
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    I checked out the Minneapolis location when it opened and I have to say I was underwhelmed. They don't have much for produce or anything fresh. It seems like a Hawaiian themed 7-11 to me. I drive by the store on my way home from work every day and I always end up going to the co-op instead. I must be missing something.
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    The closest one to me is 45 minutes away, which is way too far to go for groceries. I haven't tried too much there that's worth the drive, but if I'm in the neighborhood, the Organic Candied Ginger pieces are absolutely the best.
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    My husband works for TJ's and yes, it is an excellent company. A few more reasons: They operate under a no-debt policy, which means they rent instead of own their locations, they only pay cash for their contracted products and get better deals as a result and they do treat their employees exceptionally well. Also, their standard for products is very high - no preservatives or crap in about 98% (my guess) of their inventory. Also - produce is definitely not what they specialize in; they just carry it for customer convenience. They're a "specialty" grocery store, not a one-stop carry-all.

    The best part is their plans to expand hugely in the next five years (too bad they aren't publicly traded), including an Iowa City location.
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    Funny I should come across this article. I'm sitting here eating their Rainbow's End Trail Mix--to die for!!! Yum! Way better than other trail mixes that are loaded with fat and salt!
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    Echoing Average Jane.... There is no TJs in KC. When my brother worked in St. Louis, he was my connection and I'd drive halfway across Missouri to get stuff. Alas, now I'll have to drive the whole way. That's my biggest regret from moving away from Las Vegas... I worked a couple of blocks from one and I loved the gorgeous, cheap flower bouquets - only time I've ever been able to justify having fresh flowers in my house every week!
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    I'm a little spoiled in the bay area. We have many many Trader Joes.

    Best stuff:
    The spicy black bean dip (as you mentioned)
    The blue cheese stuffed hamburger patties
    The array of simmer sauces - just add chicken and veggies..omg.

    I also bought some rosemary and balsamic marinated chicken there once and have NEVER found it again. Such is the danger of Trader Joes. They went the way of another favorite, the indian curry patties.

    If we weren't in the middle of a biblical rainstorm out here, I'd go RIGHT NOW. ACK!
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    a trader joe's just opened up in my town, and in the past month, i've become totally obsessed! i make bento lunches for my boyfriend and i, and their frozen section is PERFECT for that. i've totally fallen in love with their "eggplant cutlets", jarred tapenade, and frozen asparagus. it's one of my favorite quick lunches ever now. =D
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    i need a bigger freezer to keep stocked on the frozen fruits and veggies. try the yum-mee frozen roast corn. i go through a jar of olive tapenade every few days. but goddammit when are the veggie gyoza coming back!!! it's been over a year!!! they got the chicken ones back!! NOT FAIR!! WANT WANT WANT!!!!
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    I live in greater Boston, so the nearest Trader Joe's to me is a 7 minute drive. :-) My favorite product? Besides the inherent usefulness of really big jars of secret evil pleasure is a candy bar they sell with Belgian chocolate enrobing peanut butter ganache. Mmmmmmm.
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    Oh man, I love that place! Powdered chai mix! Roasted red pepper dip! Dried cheese ravioli! Organic lemonade mixes!

    My mother recently went to one while out of town and brought back twenty bags of almonds, since they're so much cheaper. That was a bit much, though.
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    A package of 10 chocolate bars, each one with chocolate from a different country of origin, all for $10. Spicy frozen green beans. Santa Maria style tri-tip. Greek style yogurt cheese. Many different frozen veggie blends. Lots of prepared main dishes. Everything.
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    I have Celiacs disease, which is an auto Immune disorder resulting from the consumption of most grain glutens. It's almost impossible for me to shop for pre-made foods anywhere, everything has wheat or some related grain. However, trader joes carrys many products that are not only gluten free, but labled so. That makes my day a whole hell of alot better.
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    We currently live nowhere near a TJ's, as central/southern VA lacks in that respect, but we used to live in northern VA, where there are several, and indeed it rocks. For Christmas, my in-laws--both my wife's parents and her her aunt&uncle--gave us bags and boxes of TJ's goodies. :D
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    Glad to so many happy customers cheering joes. All the stores in Tucson especially my eastside store are a shopping necessity and along with Costco get the bulk of my food bill.Great selection,quality products,unbeatable prices and good service make this my store of choice.I have the highest praise for these stores and like so many check out the internet to see if any are in the area when I travel,everything is fresh and healthy read the ingredients Trader joes foods are made the old fashioned way with real food products instead of looking like a label from a chemical company and always without those stupid gourmet prices other stores charge. These stores are head and shoulders above the chains.Thanks Joe Coulombe.
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    I moved to Australia six months ago, and boy, do I miss T.J's! I miss most:
    Two Buck Chuck.
    Mini Tacos.
    Frozen Three Cheese Canneloni.
    Just a Handful nuts (perfect portion controlled sizes!).
    Avocado/Mango Salsa
    Trader Joe's Teas

    I have told my Australian husband that if we ever move to the U.S., we need to live near a Trader Joe's. It is teh awesome.
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    Trader Joe's cajun salmon is to die for! I find Trader Joe's food are much better tasting than the expensive stuff at Whole Foods. The only thing that Whole Foods excel at is displaying everything nicely.

    I've heard one bad thing about Trader Joe's from their suppliers: the company tends to knock off successful items and then stop buying from these small businesses.
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    I used to love Trader Joe's, but I've switched to Whole Foods in the last few years. Whole Foods is just more convenient for me. They've got all of the specialty foods (being a vegan that's allergic to soy makes shopping an interesting experience) and a massive selection of fresh foods as well.
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    We live 1.5 hours from a TJ's and do a "once a month" shopping.
    The thing we couldn't live without? Jo-Jo's! They even had candy cane Jo's for the holiday season.
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    Omaha would suit me just fine.

    Whole Foods annoyed me they pulled the dishonest shenanigans with Wild Oats (RIP) which I did enjoy shopping at. (Not a replacement for Trader Joes in any case.
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    I've been shopping at TJs since 1984, and I can say that the only thing I have to watch out for is that they use the EPA registered pesticide ( Canola oil in a LOT of their products.

    Nothing like cheap poison to start the day with...

    Other than that, they're great.
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    I love TJ's tzatziki dip (which my newly opened Pittsburgh store does not carry, sadly) with their Sea Salt Pita Chips. They also have some mighty tasty jarred artichoke crowns.
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    I love TJ's. I used to pass one every day on my walk to work in Seattle, and I lost 10 pounds effortlessly by pretty much only eating TJ's delicious frozen meals. Also? No stupid 'membership' crap, which every other store in Seattle seems to have jumped on.

    Unfortunately I moved to Calgary, AB, where there is tons of money and no taste. This place NEEDS a TJs. Serious. Please, please send TJs to Canada!
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    Oh, Trader Joe's -- how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

    The Creamy Corn and Roasted Pepper Soup
    The Roasted Soynut Butter (crunchy and smooth)
    The Frozen Chicken Fried Rice
    The Egg Rolls
    The Flash Frozen Chicken Tenders (breaded or plain)
    Trader Darwin Vitamins for the whole family
    Frozen Berries for smoothies
    Key Lime Pie
    Chocolate covered soynuts
    Almonds, Almonds, Almonds!
    Joe's Frosted O's
    "This blueberry walks into a bar..." Cereal bars
    Fair Trade Coffee (samples available while I shop!)

    And all the other goodies that you other folks listed!

    About the stores: I have two within 7 miles of my home (I live in Northern VA.) And yes, I do know how lucky I am. The facilities are always clean, and the people who work there are helpful. When I go shopping with my son who is Deaf and has other challenges, the staff is friendly and tries to communicate with him. We both love going to TJ's!
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    There's this great little-known store called Wal-Mart. Somebody should do an article on it.
    You know, get the word out about how wonderful it is to shop there, and stuff.
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    My wife and I love TJ. I still can't believe that frozen nan can taste that good.

    Of course, here in southwestern OH we have Jungle Jim's. The names seem similar, but Jungle Jim's is huge. Domestic groceries, ethnic/national food sections for many countries, a cheese section that is too big for me to make a decision, wine, beer, cigars, pet foods etc. There are used animatronic exhibits from all kinds of out of business amusement parks. People drive for hours (with several coolers) to shop there.

    The deals aren't as good as TJ's though.
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    the orange cardamom cookies were my fav but they discontinued them. I LOVE TJ's but am sad because they also discontinued my friends' fav ginger Joe Joe's. They have a bad habit of discontinuing the good stuff -- but then again, maybe because ALL there stuff is so good they need to make room for new stuff.
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    Awesome store!!! I have one 2 miles from me in San Jose, CA - I could walk if I had too.

    My favorites are:

    Organic Vegetable Lentil Soup, Reduced Guilt Kettle Cooked Potato Chips, their cheeses, crackers, yogurts, eggs, juices, lemonade, bittersweet chocolate chips, pumpkin bread mix, chocolate truffle brownie mix, gingerbread mix, most of their meats, great pork loin, coffees, they had an awesome organic eggnog during the holidays. I could go on and on. Anyway, they are awesome. Its a great store if your having a party.
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    I enjoy treating company to TJ's desserts (very tasty cheesecakes). We in Delaware also can't buy alcohol in grocery stores, so Two Buck Chuck is news to me!
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    I've vetoed moving back to Texas for several reasons and the biggest one is "not until there's a Trader Joe's." Most of my favorites have already been listed except for the frozen Penne Arrabiata -- penne in a spicy red pepper/tomato sauce that gets even better when you finish it in the pan with a little cream. Their three-kinds-of-ginger gingersnaps are also pretty great, and the chocolate cat cookies are, like 10 calories each and super-chocolatey so you can have a whole handful with your afternoon coffee. The sun-dried-tomato-and-chile-pepper tortillas are also great -- spicy and flavorful, and they make a great quick wrap with hummus and cucumbers. And you can't beat their prices on raw ingredients like pine nuts, 12 oz for around $5.50. Also, they've got the best prices around on Dr. Bronner's soap products and on earth-friendly dishwasher and laundry detergent -- as ethical as Method and other cleaners, 33 to 50% less expensive. And it's one of the few places that carries 85% dark chocolate. Oh, I love me some TJ's.
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    OK, I'll stop complaining that I'm an hour away from all of the MA TJ's. We go once a month. Faves: the marsalla veggie burgers (very yummy with chutney); ginger cats; the instant oatmeal with blueberries; my elderly mother LOVES the veggie lasagna; the peanut butter filled pretzels; the sprouted wheat bread.
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    I love, love, love Trader Joes!

    I always stock up on frozen food when I am there: garlic nan, madarin organe chicken, kung pao chicken, teriyaki beef,nasi goreng, and gyoza. I love trying new types of wine from TJ's, especially since the prices are so reasonable I don't feel so bad if I don't like a particular bottle and it goes down the drain.

    My dog loves thier dog treats too, I always pick him up a box of the assorted flavors. So much cheaper than Milk Bones - and I love the pics of the employees dogs on the box.
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    i live in the san francisco area, with about 10 TJ's around and i've never found one item there i like. it's all weird stuff like popcorn flavored chocolate and strawberry flavored beef jerky. i tried their V8 vegetable drink knock-off once and almost threw up. i love V8 but TJ's version tastes like toxic waste. so i've given up on them and will never shop there again. i do appreciate the way they treat their employees and I like that they aren't a typical corporation, but I can't find a single thing there I want to eat.

    also one more thought, i don't like the way they seem to only hire "attractive" people. I think that's kind of regressive to give people more opportunities based on their appearance.
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    We do most of our grocery shopping at the two TJ's here in Columbus, Ohio. We definitely eat better for it and save a couple hundred a month on our grocery bill.

    Locally, the two-buck chuck sells for four bucks. Great wine for drinking and cooking. Friends of mine buy it by the case.
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    Joe are you basing your concern on your TJ's just have attractive employees or do you have some info on them turning down... "nonattractive" people?

    Sounds pretty strange to me, but of course attractive is different for each person, and sure wouldn't care if all my local grocery employees were "attractive"

    Sadly no TJ's in my area, in fact I have not been to one since I lived up north!

    Definitely the trail-mix and two buck chuck for yummy treats though!
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    I don't ever remember being bowled over by the good looks of the TJ employees.

    But they are kind and patient, and always greet us with a smile. Maybe that's what makes them seem so attractive. :-)
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    This post reveals my exact sentiments!! We just moved from So Cal (abundance of TJ's) to Denver (none in the whole state!!!). It's awful. Our favorite by far is the Orange Chicken, but I also love the Decaf Chai powder, cheap eggs, and pretty much everything else. I love the atmosphere, the nice employees, the artistic price tags/descriptions, the grass roots feel, etc! Thankfully we did receive a nice TJ's care package from a loving family member recently!
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    Trader Joes uses MSG in almost every single packaged food item they sell. It is always hidden and cleverly disguised though as various items such as "spices," "yeast extract," and "natural flavoring."

    MSG is not only bad for you, its a neurotoxin = that means its toxic to the BRAIN. Epecially in children who are still developing.

    As someone who is very sensitive to MSG, I cannot even shop at trader Joes. They put it in almost everything, salsa, hummus, curries, frozen foods, canned foods, you name it.

    It is actually very VERY frustrating and infuriating to see Trader Joes sell themselves as this "healthy, wholesome food company" throwing around words such as "natural" and "organic," while at the same time spiking every product with MSG to boost flavor, and of course to boost whats ultimately more important than everything including its customer's health and well being: PROFIT.

    BOO TRADER JOES!!!!!! BOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Google "MSG hidden names" and read all about this. Check out Truthinlableing or msgmyth or any of the various other sites who detail this information.
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    I really appreciate the wide variety of fair trade coffees that they stock. TJ's can't be beat for quality for a fair price. I love their fat-free yogurt. Fat-free yogurt isn't the easiest to find without artificial sweeteners which I have trouble metabolizing. I think my favorite thing at TJ's is the red curry simmer sauce. It tastes exactly like the stuff they serve at a Thai place I like but theirs is about $14 per entree. I can make about 4 servings at home (I add chicken breast, green pepppers and basil to make it just like the restaurant version) for I'm sure less than half the price of one entree at the restaurant. That's what I call a deal! The challah is delicious too.
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    I love TJs, but it's a bit too inconvenient for me to go to the one in Manhattan and there's always a line to get in! I used to go all the time when I lived in AZ and I had a car to pile up all the great stuff.

    I love the Lowfat Granola (mixed berry).
    I wish they still had the Salmon hot dogs. Yes, I said Salmon hot dogs!
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    their Pound-plus chocolate. if you're a baker, they are awesome. why buy Callebaut or Guittard when TJ's PP is just as good if not better? and at about $4 each, it's a steal. i swear by it.
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    I work at a TJ's in Northern Virginia (seems like some of the other commenters could be my customers, like Leah!) and it's fun to see my store mentioned on neatorama! You are not the only ones who come a long way, or ship things to relatives in other states that don't have TJ's. I'm always meeting people who are stocking up for relatives, or need freezer bags for the 5 hour drive home. It's pretty funny when people buy 30 bags of snap pea crisps because they're leaving the country for a while.

    I love the sea salt brownie bites, tarte d'alsace, horseradish hummus, Chinese mustard wonton chips, vegan pea soup with mint and lemon and maryland corn and crab chowder. I have to agree that TJ's doesn't do produce (or sandwiches) very well, but we do get some unique fresh stuff that I don't see often (trimmed leeks, sunchokes, super sweet blackberries even in the winter). I also LOVE the cheap, gorgeous flowers, and sneaking up to the demo station when I get a moment to breathe.

    When I started working there, I was really surprised at how low the prices are, but since there's no middle man, most of our stuff is private label, and we don't charge for shelf space (we just put things wherever they make sense, mostly), the prices make sense.

    The hardest thing to explain to uninitiated customers, though, is why their favorite things always disappear or get discontinued. I had to get used to this, too. It's because we have a very limited amount of space compared to supermarkets, we like being a "neighborhood" grocery store. We are constantly getting rid of slow sellers to make room to try new items as they become available (I'd say we get new stuff weekly). Things go temporarily out of stock frequently for a ton of reasons as well, so if you don't see your favorite thing, ask a crew member and they can tell you what's up and if/when it's coming back. I've noticed that (NOT an official site) has a nice board dedicated to disco'ed items.

    A few responses to comments here:

    Jason said:

    "It is actually very VERY frustrating and infuriating to see Trader Joes sell themselves as this “healthy, wholesome food company” throwing around words such as “natural” and “organic,” while at the same time spiking every product with MSG to boost flavor..."

    Trader Joe's doesn't bill itself as a health food store at all, though it does get mislabeled that way by others fairly often, maybe because our privately labeled products don't contain artificial colors or flavors and we carry some organic, vegetarian, and gluten free products, and have a big vitamin section, but we are definitely NOT a wholesome food store and don't pretend to be. A lot of our products are decidedly unhealthy, our giant candy and cookie section, for example. What we say is that we're "unique" or "specialty" because you can't get a lot of our stuff anywhere else. I can't respond to the whole MSG comment because I don't know if it's true or not. I don't know if MSG is normally hidden as a natural flavor. How do you know that "spices" or "natural flavoring" really mean MSG in these particular cases? I wouldn't be too shocked. I see those words on lots of things that I assume are loaded with MSG at other stores, but frankly, so many of our products are too bland and it's hard to believe that they're all loaded with MSG, which is like salt on steroids. Did you try getting a list of low sodium products from the office or demo station? Those might be a safer bet with your restrictions. Did you really do the research and find out how much MSG is in our stuff, or are you assuming? While I understand your concern and hate when companies are deliberately misleading, I've come to my own conclusion over time that TJ's isn't really that sort of company. We're smaller on purpose, and still privately owned. I think your belief that the profit is more important than the customer is inappropriate here. I've seen quite a few products voluntarily pulled from shelves due to concerns for the customer's welfare even though there was virtually no chance that we had been supplied with damaged goods (cat food from a totally different country than the one with the problems, for instance, during the cat food recall [another aside: I DID have poisoned cat food in my house, from PetSmart]). I'd like a little more proof, because that was a pretty incendiary comment, what with all the BOOs. Spices and natural flavoring do actually exist some places.

    Joe said:

    "also one more thought, i don’t like the way they seem to only hire 'attractive' people. I think that’s kind of regressive to give people more opportunities based on their appearance."

    Maybe that's true at your TJ's (that you've given up on, oh well), but at my store we really run the gamut from hot to not, all shapes, sizes and colors. They try to hire on personality and work ethic. I'd love to believe I was hired in part because I'm cute or whatever, but I'm pretty sure that's not the case, heh.

    Overall TJ's is a very good employer. I have health insurance and a retirement plan even though I'm only a part timer. I made more than twice as much at my last (desk) job, but the atmosphere is so much better overall that I don't mind the pay cut. Everyone has off days, but we really like almost all of our customers and will bend over backwards for them.

    I know I sound like an ad, and I just got off work and I have to go again tomorrow, so maybe I should just relax, but that's just proof that it's a good place to work, right? It was my mom's favorite store for years, but I didn't even like it before I worked there and really saw what it's about.
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    I love our TJ's here in Dayton, OH. I try new micro-beers, new wines, and LOVE the Dubliner Cheese and Smoked Salmon for Sunday morning bagels at really excellent price.
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    I visited a TJ once, walked through the store, and ended up leaving with nothing. So I can't say I'm a fan of TJ, maybe I should give it another try since there is one across the street from where I work.

    I can understand the longing for a good grocery store that you've grown to love. I'm from Rochester, the home of Wegmans, the best grocery store ever, and I would now need to drive at least 1 hr to get to the closest one. It's sad.
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    The word is that they're looking at building one here in Des Moines. There's a big building going up in the Drake area, south of McDonalds on Forest and 30th. The upper floors are supposed to be niceish apartments, with retail on the first floor. The retail store I've heard mention most is Trader Joe's.
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    I sure wouldn't. My roommate works on campus (we live just a few blocks south of there) and says that what he's been told is that the apartments are being built to attract the wealthier students, and one of the draws is they're putting retail stores on the first floor. I haven't heard a date, but I'm intrigued as I've never been to a Trader Joe's but my roommate and friends swear by them.
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    My favorites are the chicken gyoza and the sesame seed/honey almonds. I go there only about every few months so I love that they change the stock--I always find something new to love.

    And to the guy that said all the employees are, they're not.
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    "Jason Says:
    January 6th, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    MSG is not only bad for you, its a neurotoxin = that means its toxic to the BRAIN. Epecially in children who are still developing.

    Google “MSG hidden names” and read all about this. Check out Truthinlableing or msgmyth or any of the various other sites who detail this information."

    - Neurotoxin doesn't necessarily mean something is harmful to the brain. A neurotoxin is a toxin that acts on neurons, not always associated the soft tissue that is the brain. In the case of MSG, research is being conducted to see if the regular consumption of MSG leads to unhealthy increases in excitotoxicity (over-presence of glutamate in the synaptic cleft triggers apoptosis. In this case, the brain is the locale). Thus far, no large-scale scientific research has concluded that MSG is harmful for normal human consumption, even in infants. Just to put it all in perspective, even soy protein is being researched as an excitotoxin. Certain people have been shown to have severe adverse reactions to MSG, but, in general, weekly dinner from the greasy Chinese place around the corner isn't going to kill you. At least not through glutamate... I agree that correct labeling is important, but unless you're 100% certain that the company is mislabeling products (just because it says spices on the label, doesn't mean they're sticking MSG in it), you might want to lay off the caps lock... Just a thought...
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    People are a little fanatical about their Love of Trader Joes. Yes it's wonderful to get 2 Buck Chuck and cheap processed frozen dinners at a good price. I want to tell you that this was no dream job or a good place to work at. Hyping up a place because they pay their workers 8 to 10 dollars an hour is comical. I used to work at several locations Westlake, Culver City, Camarillo, and Emeryville. When I worked at the Emeryville location, I called it the revolving door TJ's. People were constantly being fired for very mundane problems. It's interesting when the costumers were the ones that noticed this and commented about it while checking out at the cashier,"Why are there different faces every I shop here? Every 3 months you've cycle through new people, why did they fire..." It wasn't fun visiting a chiropractor from all the heavy lifting either. It's a busy store so its hard to keep up at the pace they want you work at. Most of the blame goes to management at that store.
    TJ has an awesome business model and has an excellent customer following but don't confuse that with it is a wonderful place to work at.
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    Lately, TJs has been selling many products grown in China. There's something deeply immoral about importing food from a country that limits its citizens' own right to have children because they can't feed their own people. I've lost a lot of respect for TJs for this mercenary trend. Think of the oil resources used to ship all that food across the seas. Taking food from the Chinese for the sake of a few more cents is greedy and short-sighted. Be sure to check the country of origin for many of the frozen foods.
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    the delicious fat-free Greek yogurt and the fatty, but also delicious Greek yogurt with honey. They are wonderful. I don't think I've ever bought anything bad there, ever.
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    I moved my family to a certain location in our town to be near a TJ's after years of badgering my MIL to bring me things from her local store.

    But then I found The Fresh Market. And I got a job there (TJ's never called me back). Our benefits are similar, the pay is higher than TJ's, and the discount is 20%! Our employees don't just stock shelves and ring bells. They actually MAKE THE FOOD and assist customers in menu planning, food prep, ingredient selection and substitutions, and will break down or re-package many fresh foods to suit the customer. We're foodies! We'll order practically anything special, even if the customer only needs one of a 12- or 24-pack of something. At TJ's, the shoved a piece of fudge in my one-year old's face and were out of Pirate's Booty in the same trip.

    TJ's is good for a lot of things, but TFM has the magic touch.
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    Thought I'd throw in my two cents as I go specifically to TJ's for:

    -Pesto Sauce

    -Mediterranean Hummus Dip (make sure it's the one with the pine nuts on the top)

    Their rosemary bread is really good as well as the chicken teriaki frozen dinner bowl.
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    Here's a short recent interview with Joe:

    He's no longer with the company, but they've stayed very true to his vision.
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    I was wondering...who makes Trader Joe's Chocolate Chips? I keep hearing it is Callebaut. Is that correct? I tasted them and I almost said Nestle but I think Callebaut might be right. It is for sure not Ghirardelli

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    Hahahaha! I don't want to rub it in, but there are TWO Trader Joe's within a mile or so of my house.

    Their prices have recently been skyrocketing, though. I'm shopping more at my local grocery store (one block away).
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    I live near Des Moines but used to live in Seattle. I used to make Trader Joe's trips a few times a month when laid over in Kirkland for the bus. Are you kidding? A TJ in Des Moines? Oh, manna from Heaven! Do they have a page on the TJ website about this and WHEN??
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    My faves:

    Avocado's Number Guacamole (wow! chemistry humor!)

    16-ounce cans of energy drink (basically TJ's version of Red Bull) for 99 cents

    Has anyone noticed that the three-cheese wood-fired frozen pizzas cost more than the four-cheese ones?
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    I am also sensitive to MSG. I ate the TJ's eggplant Parmesan about 1-1/2 hours ago and I am having symptoms. Anyone who is sensitive to MSG knows when they've eaten it. It obviously won't kill you but there are many nasty side affects. There are too many people experiencing reactions to MSG to deny that it is unhealthy. I had the Mediteranian Hummus the other day and I believe there is MSG there too. I lost a little faith in TJs that day. I understand it is not a law, but it would be nice or can I say ethical if TJs would label their products when MSG is present (glutamic acid, glutamate...). 'Spices', 'Natural Flavors' is misleading - I agree.
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    I found this while looking up "The Scoville Scoundrel", a sauce I have found unmatchable. It's one of several items that Trader Joe's no longer sells. What a bummer. It's happened to me several times that I feel in love with something and then, gone!! Well, I still love this store, none other like it.
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    Just fell upon this blog via StumbleUpon, and I have to say... it's gotta be hard not having a TJ's near you. I happen to live in St. Louis, and I can basically chuck a rock at about two locations.

    So, while feeling for your current situation, I decided to send a request on over to ol' Joe. Here's hoping something is done about this, eh?

    Here's what was said. Hopefully the funniness and such will act as a big persuasion.

    "I'm making a request on behalf of a blogger. Her nearest Trader Joe's is approximately 3 hours away. Not cool! This poor thing has been begging friends, family, acquaintances, and possibly random strangers to arrange for the pick up and delivery of her favorite Joe's goodies.

    That's dedication, Joe.

    I say bring the poor girl some awesomeness and drop a Trader Joe's on her doorstep. I'm sure she'd be grateful... AND, if she's rich, you guys could benefit from that. I have a feeling she'd be a big spender. Thing big, guys. Think big.

    Here's a link to her blog:

    Totally. You guys have to now. She NEEDS it. I think she may have an aneurysm if she doesn't get a Joe's in the near future. That could be messy."

    You're welcome. :)
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    I just went to Trader Joe's for the first time and really enjoyed the store. Unfortunately, I'm already seconding the two posters above who mentioned MSG. About 1.5 hours after having their chicken shumai I had a very bad reaction. I looked at the label and saw "natural flavors," which is usually a codeword for MSG or some sort of MSG compound. I know that studies say different things, but I know from my own experience that when I have MSG (and products with "natural flavors"), I have a particular reaction whose details I will spare you. I'm disappointed and will be careful as I eat the other products I bought there, especially any containing "natural flavors."
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    Today I was driving from work and listening to this radio show talking about the effects of MSG on people...It was mind blowing to hear the stories and research done on the effect of MSG on people..The whole time I was thinking"Good thing I only shop at TJ'S"..Well, well..I came home and check the TJ products that I have at home and I would say that the VAST majority contains MSG which now is hidden under 52 different names..Yeast extract, autolyzed yeast, hidrolyzed protein and so forth..Then I found out that TJ's not only carries a ton of products that contain MSG but they also mislead their customer by saying "NO MSG ADDED" on product labels that actually have the substance..Here's a list of these products..I am really disappointed and already contacted the company because misleading label is a crime!
    Trader Joe's Split Pea Soup
    "No MSG Added"
    Contains yeast extract

    Trader Joe's Caribbean Brown Rice & Black Beans
    "No MSG added"
    Contains yeast extract

    Trader Joe's Vegetarian Vegetable Soup with pasta
    "No MSG added"
    Contains natural flavor (yeast extract)

    Trader Joe's Tex Mex Brown Rice & Beans
    "No MSG Added"
    Contains yeast extract

    Trader Joe's Low Fat Vegetarian Lentil Soup
    "No Preservatives or MSG Added"
    Contains modified food starch; yeast extract

    Trader Joe's Northwest Territory Premium Beef Stew
    "No MSG Added"
    Contains autolyzed yeast extract; natural

    Check this website that has a list with all the different names used for MSG and then spend some time checking the ingredients on your TJ'S products and see it for yourself!
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    I tried the Mango Passion Torta Cotta. It was a disaster. As much as I have loved TJ when I first found out their BBQ flavor potato chips in the bright red bags. Then, tried their coffee several times and bought bags of them home, and some fruits also. All of a sudden, it was around last July 09 when I saw the ginger and banana flavored bread mix. I tried to bake some of the bread, the taste was horrible. And just last week, I tried the Mango Passion Torta Cotta, boy it was sour, and the bottom cookie crust was supposed to be crunchy, it wasn't; worse, it was hard to break it apart, and was too tough to chew at times. It was such a bad experience. Now that, my mom also start to feel stomach ache after eating some of the soup, which are said to contain msg. Boy, it is a mixed bag for TJ.
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    I have a similar obsession in the opposite direction. I grew up in Des Moines and now live in San Jose. I have no shortage of TJ's to satisfy my craving for Orange Chicken or Thai Lime Rice Pilaf, but I miss A&E Dairy products terribly. I dream about their Old-Fashioned Cottage Cheese and their Chive Dip. Maybe we could set up a trade?
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    I love Trader Joes, I get a high every time I shop there! I'm so sad they discontinued the Cereal Bites (chocolate and strawberry), they were so dang good! I love their Australian Red Licorice and their potato latkes!
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    A problem with late night surfing, I get hungry and then I happen on to your site and this entry talking about food. I have been living overseas for over 13 years now. I don't think I've been to a Trader Joes; however, I have heard of them. I may get a chance to go to Minnesota soon so I will definitely find the one there and try it out.
    Thanks for this post!
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    Girl, I feel for ya! BUT, I live 65 miles from anywhere! So any and all of my shopping is an all day event. I go about every 3 weeks to a large city here in Cali and do TJ's first! I take a cooler and 6 or so of those blue ice gel packs, everything makes it home in great condition and haven't lost an item yet to spoilage. Some of our favorites and the vanilla merigue's, orange chicken, cinnamon bread and the tea's. So once a month maybe you should make an all day excursion!?! Good luck with your quest for a store nearer to you!
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