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  • Writer's picturesariahsebastian

Trader Joe's Newbie Guide

This is the Trader Joe’s guide from a woman who lived near one for three months. (AKA I’m not an expert but I’ve rodeoed with the store several times because in those three months I ended up jumping on that Trader Joe train HARD!)

A few weeks ago, I announced on my Instasotries I would be in a town that had Trader Joe’s and asked if anyone had something they wanted me to try from there for the purposes of Reviewsday. I received zero suggestions, but SO many questions! Several of you asked me what I think is good from there, what I think of the store, some shared their experiences with the store etc. I was really surprised!

At first.

But then I remembered how I felt about Trader Joes when I went the first time and I realized all the questions were completely warranted. (Skip to the list now if you don’t want to hear my Trader Joe’s conversion story and just want to hear about my tips for having a good TJ experience)

Flashback to an enthusiastic Sariah February 2018. I heard so much praise for Trader Joe’s, some people put it in the same category as Whole Foods. I LOVE me some Whole Foods (she says, without being able to buy any of it because it is expensive AF) so I was excited to check it out!

So, I go to the Trader Joe’s in Boise one chilly day while on a walk with Albie.

Now, to give you some context, Boise has a huge pedestrian/biking path called The Green Belt, and it is glorious! You can avoid virtually all roads and traffic while walking from your apartment to the city center. It took about 45 minutes for Albie and me to walk from our place near BSU to the Idaho State Capitol Building. The winter of 2018 was very warm for us, especially coming from snow-logged East Idaho. We could even wear tees sometimes! WHAT? Anyway, this day was chilly so I had Albie pretty bundled in his stroller but bundled in a way where I could take layers off if it became warmer. (ya dig?) I realized he needed a diaper change as we approached the area where Trader Joe’s was and thought it would be a great opportunity to check the store out. IT WAS NOT. If you are in a larger city and have to deal with maneuvering a jogging stroller through a store you will know what happened next. Basically, the two-stall restroom was already small, I didn’t realize I came to Trader Joe’s as school was letting out, I had to strip all the millions of layers off Albie, the changing table was right next to the door and my stroller took up half the space in the bathroom. It was a nightmare. We survived.

I was already anxious and annoyed because of the bathroom situation and then it was crazy busy in the store. One of the most anxiety-inducing things for me is a busy grocery store so it was not ideal to say the least. But I looked around anyway because I was eyeing this store for so long! How could I not? Turns out the store was confusing, packed, I couldn’t tell what it really provided etc.

I left hating it completely and with a passion.

Another day a week or so later Chris was walking with us back home from a day at the capitol and we stopped to grab him some lunch. It was busy and confusing.

I still hated it.

A few weeks after that Albie ran out of snacks on our walk. We had to go there because Trader Joe’s is really the only grocery store downtown. We had some of their pre-packaged lunch items.


And a beautiful relationship blossomed from there. *cue any favorite romantic song *

Here’s how to have a good experience at Trader Joe’s if it’s new to you.

1. Do yourself the favor of not going at a peak time and giving yourself browsing time. Google the local Trader Joe’s and see when it tends to be a slower time of day and scope it out then. Even if you don’t have anxiety around busy stores, I would highly recommend this. I’m not sure who organized Trader Joe’s stores, but they were not in a good mental place when they did. These stores are so confusing to the new customer! So, go when you have some time to really look around at all it has to offer and there aren’t a ton of people getting in your way. TRUST ME.

2. Checking out is different than most US stores. You’ll be fine though if you know two things; first, your shopping cart goes behind your cashier who will then feed it through the line. If you haven’t been, it might not make sense to read that, just go with it. Second, you will bag your own groceries. This means it is 100% easier for you to use your own, reusable bags compared to when you go to the big-box stores because you’re doing it all yourself. If you decide you need some reusable bags, they sell very good ones at the store. You can also use paper bags they have at check outs.

3. If you have a kid, or take care of a kid, this place is gold. Albie loves walking around stores and sometimes that’s completely fine, but if we have actual groceries to shop for it can be hard and then he’s stuck in the shopping trolley. No one is happy. I live for stores who make this whole process easier and more fun for everyone. Trader Joe’s is THE BEST. They have mini shopping trollies for kids to push around (which you can fit actual food into) and they also have a game for the kids. Look toward the front of your store as entering, and you will find a scavenger hunt for kids. At the end of the shopping trip they can even sometimes win a prize!

4. This is not Whole Foods. I was told it was similar and I just want to let you know right now it is not. There is a plethora of organic, vegetarian, vegan, local etc foods to be found, but it’s not the same. I will say though I think, (besides the lack of fresh bakery/meat deli/hot food counter), it’s better because it is WAY cheaper.

5. Don’t expect to do a one-stop shop for all your needs. This is not Walmart people. You will most-likely have to go to another store to finish off your list for the week. (See # 4 where I said there’s no fresh bakery, meat counter, deli etc.)

I hope this helps! I really like the stores. I REALLY like them. If you’re a Trader Joe’s newbie, just try it out! It could be fun!

If you’re a Trader Joe’s veteran let me know if I missed anything a new person should know!

Next Reviewsday I will be talking about some of the products I found during our Salt Lake Trader Joe’s excursion!


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