I grew up in southern California, where Trader Joe's are very prevalent. While living in Redlands, California, I shopped at two grocery stores each week, Trader Joe's, and a more streamline grocery store. I was unable to acquire all of my grocery needs at only one of them.
In 2009, my husband's job brought us to Colorado. We lived in Colorado for 4 1/2 years before Trader Joe's opened in Colorado. One obstacle for Trader Joe's coming to Colorado was the Colorado liquor laws. Liquor is not sold in grocery stores here as it is in California.
During those 4 1/2 years without a Trader Joe's, I refused to shop at Whole Foods, otherwise referred to as Whole Paycheck. A musician without a full-time job, we did not at all have the income for me to spend that kind of money. I made about 3 trips there the entire 4 1/2 years without Trader Joe's for things I just could not find at the streamline grocery stores.
February, 2014, Trader Joe's opened in Colorado with stores in Boulder and Denver. We live in Thornton, pretty equidistant between these two cities. Even though Denver is the only Trader Joe's in Colorado that sells the liquor, Mike and I used to live in Boulder and know my way around well, the Boulder location has a better parking lot, and traffic is usually better that direction. I did wait about 3 months after the store opened before I braved a shopping trip. My daughter was also born in March, 2014, and I was in mama of newborn hibernation mode. The crowds at the store were making a lot of press.
As a busy mama of a toddler, it is not as easy to make the 35 minute drive each way to the Trader Joe's in Boulder as I would like. Between my daughter's school schedule, naps, meal preparation, and my teaching schedule, I make it to Trader Joe's about once a month. I made a trip to Trader Joe's in Boulder this morning. I realized the last time I had made a trip there was the beginning of May.
I about had a heart attack with the receipt shock. $244! I had to remind myself that spread over a month, that is not bad. It also means I buy less at the streamline grocery store on my weekly grocery runs. I mostly buy frozen items, or items with far off expiration dates. I also make notes in my phone of what I have on hand so I can add it to meal planning over the following month.
What do I get? This is not my complete list, but the following are some of my favorite items.
- ground beef (can be frozen, and at $4.99 a lb., cheaper than the streamline stores
- whole milk yogurt cups (My daughter's FAVORITE! She cries when the cup is empty.)
- frozen chicken teriyaki (serve with steamed broccoli and rice)
- frozen fruit for my morning smoothies (much CHEAPER than the streamline grocery store. I like the mango chunks, raspberries, and strawberries).
- black Irish Breakfast tea
- Giant Peruvian Inca Corn (so addictive!)
- jalapeno artichoke dip
- string cheese (so much CHEAPER than the streamline grocery store, and my daughter gobbles it up!)
- trail mix
- Next to Godliness lavender chamomile soap (My dad is allergic to sodium laurel sulfate, present in most soaps. I use this hand soap on a daily basis, and am all ready for his visits.)
- frozen turkey meatballs
- frozen battered halibut fish (meant for fish tacos!)
- General Tsao's stir fry sauce (YUMMY with cornstarch coated and stir fried chicken and veggies)
- red thai curry sauce (delicious with either tofu or chicken, spinach, pineapple, and onions)
- masala curry simmer sauce
- precooked and refrigerated turkey breast (One day before the Colorado T.J's opened, I asked my hubby for any grocery requests or needs. He said, "We haven't had that turkey for a long time." I had to reply, "That's because I used to get it at Trader Joe's! :(
- pollo asado or carne asada (to throw on the grill for a yummy taco bar)
Trader Joe's has been a wonderfully healthy and frugal alternative for grocery shopping for me. I wish they would open a store in Thornton, of course, but I love Boulder and never mind spending time there.
ODE TO TRADER JOE'S:
Your parking lot sucks, and you suck all my money out of me, but I sure do LOVE you!