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Ode to...Grocery Shopping

Mercer Island is overflowing with Starbucks and specialty pet shops, but what we really need is a Trader Joe's.

Ode to...Grocery Shopping Ode to...Grocery Shopping

There were lots of things I expected to miss when we moved to a new community, new city, new coast. I knew I’d miss our friends, our summer barbecues, and familiar routines. I didn’t really expect that I’d miss my grocery store.

Oh, but I do.

And it wasn’t as if it was some one-of-a-kind market known only to those in the wilds of suburban Connecticut. It was Trader Joe’s.

Before you write in, of course I know there’s one in northeast Bellevue and one way up in Kirkland and out in Issaquah. Call me lazy if you want, but I’m rarely in the mood to drive 15 or 20 minutes each way every time I need milk or cereal or shiitake mushrooms, which is often. (Okay, not the shitakes so much, but the other things.) I’ve always wanted to be someone who plans out meals for the week and does one big shopping trip to tide us over for the next 21 meals. I’m embarrassed to admit there are many nights when I’m trying to come up with something for dinner at about, oh, 5 p.m.

All of that means I’m a regular in the produce aisles. And isn’t a bad market at all. But still, I miss Trader Joe’s -- and so does my wallet.

At TJ’s, the prices are always the same – no tricky sales, no membership card, which I’m plenty sick of. More importantly, I don’t have to examine every label for things like partially hydrogenated oil and high fructose corn syrup. Sure, some foods are still processed, but at least they’ve taken out the junk. And another thing: the check-out aisles aren’t packed with gum and candy right at a 6-year-old’s eye-level like they maliciously are most everywhere else. We moms appreciate that.

Of course TJ’s isn’t perfect. They don’t always have what I need, like fresh rosemary or chili powder or bread crumbs. The produce aisle isn’t huge and it’s not the place for fresh fish. And sometimes they staffers are too friendly and feel free to comment on every item I buy. I’ve heard plenty of remarks (and once a complaint) about the sheer volume of items in my cart like “Got a lot of kids at home?” or “Feeding an army?” Stuff like that. Plus, they don’t have baggers. So you either pack up yourself or be prepared to wait.

But the best advantage, really, is how much cheaper the food is. Here’s a short list of products I’ve noticed that are significantly less pricey at Trader Joe’s:    

Product:QFCTrader Joe’sRice Dream rice drink $2.99 $1.69 Goat cheese $5.99 /4 oz. $2.49 /4 oz. Pine nuts $13.99 per 1/2 lb $7.99 per 1/2 lb. Gruyere cheese $9.49 per 1/2 lb $5.49 per 1/2 lb. Parrano cheese $7.99 per 1/2 lb. $4.99 per 1/2 lb. Wheat thin-type crackers: $3.79 $1.69 Annie’s mac & cheese $6.29 $2.99 Nutri-Grain-type cereal bars  $4.39 $1.69 Artichokes (each) $2.50$.99

Say I bought one of each item in this admittedly unscientific survey, I’d spend $30.01 at Trader Joe’s, or $57.42 at QFC. If one lays down, say, $150 a week on groceries, shopping at the less expensive store would result in a pretty substantial savings each month. With what I’d save over the course of a year, I could to take my family on a little vacation. Either that, or buy a tank or two of gas.

Maybe it’s worth the drive out to Issaquah after all.

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