I finally visited one of our two new Trader Joe's stores this morning. Color me not especially impressed. On a 10-point scale, I give it a good, solid 5.
- They have a nice selection of cheeses at decent prices. Prices were comparable to cheeses at warehouse clubs, but the selection was probably a bit better and the package sizes weren't mega.
- I saw some hard-to-find ingredients like white (clear) balsamic vinegar. I've been looking for it elsewhere for a while.
- AT $2.49 per pound, they have the best price I've seen anywhere for organic free-range chicken. I usually don't find it for less than $4.00 a pound (and therefore, don't buy it).
- Most produce was being sold by the piece when it is usually sold by the pound in other stores. This makes comparing prices difficult. Bananas seemed cheap at 19¢ each, but I weighed them at home and they came to 42¢ per pound. That's a very average price around here.
- I had hoped for better prices overall, but most prices were just average. For example, non-organic milk was about the same price I pay at Aldi (which shares the same parent company as Trader Joe's), and organic milk was right in line with the prices I see in most supermarkets.
- I had been told TJ's was a great place to buy bulk ingredients for scratch cooking, but instead I saw an extremely large variety of processed foods and semi-prepared foods. There were lots of bottled sauces, mixes, frozen entrees, frozen vegetables in sauces, frozen pies, pre-cut vegetables and salads, etc. Some of these were quite interesting (like a frozen pasta entree with brie and asparagus), but they were expensive. Because I cook primarily from scratch, these items were a huge turn-off for me.
- Being on the Kansas side of the state line, the store doesn't sell beer or wine, which is a big draw in other locations.
- The store was uncomfortably cold inside. Even the employees were complaining about it.
Now, I'm not saying I didn't buy anything there (I did) or that I won't go back (I probably will), but I don't plan to make this store part of my weekly shopping routine. I can't imagine I'd want or need to go there more than every couple of months.
If you're curious about what I bought, or the prices, here's the list:
1 qt. buttermilk - 1.19
1/2 gal. whole milk - 1.99
17 oz. (1/2 ltr.) white balsamic vinegar - 2.29
7 oz. Fontina cheese - 2.15
2 lb. oat bran - 2.69
16 oz. plain Greek-style yogurt - 2.49
4.5 pound organic, free-range whole chicken - 11.11
2 pounds sweet potatoes - 1.79
2.25 pounds bananas - .95
Is there a Trader Joe's store in your area? If so, what do you think of it?