Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s?

A new Trader Joe’s store has opened in Washington, D.C. in the same neighborhood as an existing Whole Foods. This is causing some confusion in the area, so Dan Zak designed a helpful flow chart for readers of the Washington Post to figure out which store best suits them. They are both foreign to me, as my small town has three groceries (four if you count Walmart), and Kroger is the fanciest of them. But at least they will accept a check. What this chart tells me is that both stores carry foods not normally found at a mom-and-pop grocery, but how they differ from each other is still confusing. The real question for me is: which one is more affordable? -via Laughing Squid

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I live halfway between two Trader Joe's, a couple blocks in either direction. I often wander in a half hour before closing time, and get in and out in ten minutes, back to the house in another five. It's heaven. TJ's can be very inexpensive if you keep an eye on the prices. Around here we call Whole Foods "Whole Paycheck". The place is an enormous ripoff.
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I haven't found either to have to be too packed inside excluding the rush when 8-5 people get off from work (although parking is a different story). But then some cities have something like a Woodman's, which despite being larger than a normal supermarket, can be packed and difficult to move a cart through unless you can go shopping after midnight and/or don't work normal hours. Though, the only times I've been inside a Whole Foods is when I needed something unusual on short notice, that I could have found somewhere else in town a lot cheaper with a little more diligence in looking/asking, or online with more patience.
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I spent most of my adult life within a short jaunt of Trader Joe's locations around L.A. and am a big fan. It was THE place for good cheese that wasn't TOO expensive, had various frozen semi-ethnic goodies well before other places, the best prices for frozen shrimp (until recently), and some of my cheap-wine drinking friends swear by the "Two Buck Chuck". My one experience with Whole Foods was in the mid-90s when Kroger was combining chains in L.A. and left an empty Ralphs market in Pasadena that WF took over and that shopping trip was total sticker-shock. I also love TJ's advertising - the Fearless Flyer is my favorite junk mail, mixing pitches for seasonal products with self-effacing humor and very-old illustrations (a sample of which is on TJ's website: http://www.traderjoes.com/fearless-flyer/index.asp )

One other thing: way back in the 1970's when I was in College Radio and trying to break into Commercial Radio, their radio advertising was all "live copy" with wordy product descriptions, puns and tongue-twisters that half of L.A.'s radio people loved and the other half hated. I got copies of a few of the scripts and included one in every audition tape I made, just to show I could do it.
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Yesterday I was at one of them with my wife, standing off to the side, when somebody who just had to get to another aisle oh so fast, walked past me from behind, said 'excuse me' (as if it did) and pushed my cart forward with their hand enough to make it roll out of my grasp. I'm not even sure how my cart would have been in their way.
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