Columns, Opinion

HOFBERG: Trader Joe’s

Confession: I am a full-blown shopaholic.

There’s nothing I love more than spending my financial aid money on crop tops from Urban Outfitters, Lush bath bombs, fuzzy socks and bangle bracelets.

I’m also a girl that loves to eat. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could afford to eat all my meals out? If I could, I would eat Domino’s pizza every night. Cooking for one isn’t always so much fun, but since my student budget doesn’t allow for me to eat out as much as I would like, I’ve had to learn how to stock my fridge with groceries.

Luckily, my affinity for shopping isn’t just limited to retail. Actually, I love to spend money at the grocery store almost as much as I love spending it on Newbury Street.

My favorite errand of the week, besides picking up my weekly paycheck, is visiting my neighborhood Trader Joe’s. I cannot imagine a more wonderful grocery shopping experience.

Trader Joe’s started out as a small string of convenience stores in the 1950s in Los Angeles under the name of Promo Markets. In 1967, the founder, Joe Coulombe, the original Trader Joe, changed the name of the store, established a brand, expanded the chain to over 400 locations brand and decked his employees out in Hawaiian print button ups.

Since the establishment of Trader Joe’s as a brand name in the 1960’s, the grocery store has been dedicated to maintaining low costs for customers by buying products directly from suppliers and bypassing supplier fees for putting an item on a shelf. The store describes itself as “your neighborhood grocery store,” stocking about 4,000 items, 80 percent of which bear its own brand name.

Beyond staple products like bread, dairy and produce, Trader Joe’s products include gourmet foods, organic foods, vegetarian foods, unusual frozen foods, imported foods, wine and beer, personal hygiene products, household cleaners, vitamins, pet food and flowers. They pride themselves on the value of their innovative, hard-to-find, great tasting foods at reduced prices that make customers slobber and drool.

The misconception about Trader Joe’s, however, is that all of their food is good for you. The store insists that its private-label products contain no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, MSG or trans fats, and that they are sourced from non-genetically modified ingredients. They also claim their dairy products are made from milk from cows not given artificial hormones.

But the truth is, that even shopping at Trader Joe’s is problematic for my hips. So maybe their products are all natural, but I promise that their brand name cinnamon rolls, at 280 calories a serving, compared to Pillsbury’s 180 calorie version of the gooey breakfast treat, aren’t doing my love handles any favors.

But still, I’m willing to pretend that the Trader Joe’s version of anything is healthier for me, because any excuse I can make to throw Madagascar vanilla bean cake mix or Italian truffle cheese, that only runs for $11.99 a pound, into my shopping cart, I’ll take it. I’ll just continue to act oblivious to the jiggle in my thighs that can only be explained by my obsession with their Chocolate Kona Coffee Truffles that only set me back $3.99.

But, as much as I love the sweets section, I’m no stranger to the produce aisle either. Bananas for 19 cents each? I dare you to find a better deal in town. Some of my favorite products are their bags of wild rocket arugula, baby bok choy, pomegranate seeds and mini heirloom tomatoes. My mouth is watering just thinking about all the culinary possibilities.

Still, let’s be honest, no trip to the grocery store is complete without a trip to the alcoholic beverage aisle. So let me tell you about Trader Joe’s best-kept secret. Their finest bottles of $2.99 cabernet sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc wine hold the keys to my heart. It’s an indulgence that my student budget definitely allows for. Although it’s wine that may or may not produce, what I call every time, the worst hangover of my life, at the register I always defend it as the best purchase of the day.

And not to mention the Trader Joe’s flower shop! From tulips to African roses to gerbera daisies to hydrangeas, Trader Joe’s boasts the best selection for the best price in town. A bunch of seven of the most beautiful roses you could ever hope to find only cost $4.99! You can’t even order a double cappuccino at Pavement Coffeehouse for less than five dollars. So go ahead, treat yourself. I do it every time I visit the store, because let’s be honest, no one else is buying me flowers.

So do yourself a favor and make Trader Joe’s your go-to grocery store. If their competitive prices, delicious food products or full blooms don’t win your heart over, then you must be crazy.

Kate Hofberg is a graduate student in the College of Communication. She can be reached at[email protected]



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