There’s a Trader Joe’s roughly one block from my apartment complex, and while I always knew it was so close, it took me six months to find the desire to shop there. We live across the street from a Fred Meyer grocery store and my girlfriend gets a nice little discount as an employee. I was able to put off shopping at Trader Joe’s for six months.
What happened? What changed? Charles Shaw wine, my friend, or what’s better known as “three-buck Chuck.”
I’ve never fancied myself a wino. I bartended for just over two years at the kind of place where your whole bloodline would be shamed if you asked for a glass of merlot. I’d grown accustomed to Bud Light, vodka-Rock Stars and shots of Jameson. My glory days have passed, so I’m OK with being a wine drinker now. And if it’s going to be wine, why not cheap, quality wine?
You could say I’m a Trader Joe’s shopper now, but I’m usually there for just the one thing. But, since we live across the street from a Fred Meyer and go there almost daily, I’ve become a little bored with always buying the same things. I thoroughly believe that switching the store where you buy groceries will ultimately change the groceries you buy. It’s a layout thing and it’s entirely subconscious, but it’s also about selection. Trader Joe’s and Fred Meyer offer a lot of the same foods, but only a few of the same brands.
Can I subsist on Trader Joe’s alone? Obviously, their meat offering leaves a lot to be desired, so immediately, I’m doubtful. Not to mention the clientele, which unlike myself seems to consist of people who, when it comes to fine dining, know their shit. I’m from the Midwest where all meals must consist of three things: meat, vegetable and starch At Trader Joe’s, people dig exotically grown produce, obscure condiments and products that are somehow made without gluten, sugar, corn, animal products or flavor. Every time I go there, I feel like a tourist.
But I embrace Trader Joe’s. Is that weird? I think it’s just as simple as tasting something different. We tried out their store brand yellow-corn chips and chipotle salsa the other night. Chips and salsa — hardly a unique blend. But, their interpretation was a knockout. The chips tasted a little like salted mud flaps, but that was some of the greatest salsa I’ve ever had.
I used to scoff at those I would see at Fred Meyer with half their groceries already purchased from Trader Joe’s. I’m a big believer in one-stop shopping, so I never saw the point of making multiple stops for food when you can get it all at one place. But the past month has schooled me otherwise — you gotta shop around.
An old friend just added me on Facebook. He’s living in Columbia, South Carolina. I couldn’t help but notice he’d joined a Facebook page called “Bring Trader Joe’s to Columbia, SC.” Before I kicked up my wine intake and became a Trader Joe’s apologist, I would’ve thought this page pure idiocy.
Now, I can’t imagine living somewhere without a Trader Joe’s.