The Trader Joe’s Dilemma

You walk the aisles, faintly hungry, tired, and harried by the craziness of the parking lot. MUZAC-appropriate lyrics drizzle over the line-up of cellophane veggies: iceberg lettuce, broccoli, shredded carrots, broc-o-slaw. In the freezer section you’ll find faintly exotic items like the veggie dumplings and everything tamales. These are warm-up and eat items. And like much in Trader Joe’s, everything is packaged–apart from bananas and apples. Even limes get a netting of containment, leaving you with the sensation that nothing need be messy or in disarray. This German-owned chain is the office worker’s dream. It’s truly the greatest market to hit the earth, because no mess means no headache. And everything can be microwaved–or almost everything. Even the “10 minute” barley packets that recently slapped the shelves are no-brainers. What a dream. And still, amid all that fantastic convenience, one wonders why kale–the wonder vegetable which has risen to an all-time high in local markets from $0.89 to almost $2.00 a bunch–should be packaged as a “wasabi” or “cheeze” drummed chip. Do we need every healthy alternative to become another packaged alternative? If this kind of commodity grabbing continues we’ll no longer be able to purchase our daily vegetables from the fresh bins at our local stores. Everything will cost twice or three times as much, all in the name of convenience. Meanwhile, those kale chips–inside bags made to look and crinkle like potato chip packaging–will certainly fall short of “healthy.” Because, let’s face it: once you mess around with nature to improve shelf-life, you’re going to mess up the whole-healthy-point.

So, we all love Trader Joe’s, but come on. Let’s keep the fresh stuff fresh for everyone.

Next time: shop for fitness.



One thought on “The Trader Joe’s Dilemma

  1. Dear writtenfornow,

    I agree with your stringent mixed review of Trader Joe’s. As you probably know, the discount food chain Aldi’s was founded by the brother of the German entrepreneur who started Trader Joe’s. To this day these two Deutsch foodies remain sibling billionaires with bitterly rival empires.

    Trader Joe’s has recently specialized in ready-to-eat packaged items, from the kale chips you mention to legs of lamb you certainly wouldn’t want to barbecue like chopped toad. The only item I’ve found worthwhile in Trader Joe’s is their peanut butter from unblanched peanuts. This item is less costly and freer of added sugar than, say, Skippy or–bleagh!–Jif.

    Anyway, I found your latest post worthy of consideration. If Trader Joe’s is a dilemma for fresh-foodies, there’s an establishment in the East Bay Area, Farmer Joe’s, that specializes in organic and natural foods. If Farmer Joe’s doesn’t pleased you, why not check out local farmers’ markets specializing in seasonal goodies?


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