Is it OK to Shop at Trader Joe’s for Your Food and Produce? : Exclusive Renegade Health Article

Monday Oct 27 | BY |
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white-pineapple-cant-find-at-trader-joes
Can’t find produce this fresh at Trader Joe’s. (White Pineapple in Quepos, Costa Rica, in 2009)

My mom loves Trader Joe’s…

She loves the prices, the fact that it’s a small, local-seeming grocer and she raves about the “quality” of the food. In her mind, it’s a health food store – at least she’s told us a few times that it has some “great healthy options.”

When we go home for the holidays, I can guarantee that there are at least 5-10 boxed products from TJ’s in the fridge, freezer and cabinet.

My mom’s not the only one.

Recently a reader named Blythe wrote in this question on the blog…

“In your opinion, do you think Trader Joe’s is a fairly reliable place to buy products? Of course not EVERYTHING is going to be 100% okay, but for the most part have you had good experiences with their products if you’ve ever shopped there?”

Today, I’m going to give you a few thoughts about Trader Joe’s, maybe tell you some things you didn’t know about it and then let you decide if you want to shop there or not.

Here’s our experience…

1. Their produce is always tired, wilted, overripe or unripe.

We’ve shopped at many Trader Joe’s stores around the country when we were traveling in the RV. Sometimes it was the only game in town and other times it was the closest place to us when we were in a time crunch.

I don’t think Trader Joe’s is a bad place to shop, I just know that it doesn’t have the best quality food… particularly their produce.

Of all the dozens of times we’ve been to a TJ’s, I can’t remember leaving with really fresh, delicious produce. The avocados are usually over ripe or never get ripe, the fruits are usually always perpetually hard, and many of the organic vegetables are stored in plastic – which creeps me out a little bit (one, because they can grow mold, and two, because they might be older than we think.)

We’ve bought their romaine lettuce in the bag before and when you pull it out it’s waxy and totally unappetizing.

So bottomline for me is that you can get better produce at a farmer’s market (of course!), but even further I’m going to go out on a limb and say you might even be able to get better quality produce at your regular grocery store (even though it may be a little more expensive.)

There is one exception though… the only fresh food they sell that I DO like is their packaged pomegranate seeds – I’ve never seen them like there anywhere else and I love that they’ve done all the work for you.

2. Dairy, Eggs, Meats?

I’ve never purchased meat at TJ’s so I can’t vouch for it.

We’ve bought eggs for Jonny 5 there and he seems to like them, but since he licks his own butt from time to time, his opinion is out.

We have bought goat yogurt in a pinch, when I couldn’t find farm fresh and I was eating goat yogurt therapeutically. Their goat yogurt, at least in California, is produced by Redwood Hill Farms and it’s the same exact product about $1-2 cheaper with the Trader Joe’s label.

So if you happen to eat the Redwood Hill Farms brand and TJ’s is close to you, I just saved you some cash.

3. Everything else is in a box or a can.

So besides the whole foods, everything else is in a box or a can… so I can’t say I recommend any of it for regular use.

I think this is where my mom gets a little mixed up.

Trader Joe’s has done a great job with their small-town store style of marketing. Their labels are nicely done and make all the products seem healthy and clean – almost like what you’d find at a smaller, gourmet grocery that sources and private labels their own foods.

And, in fact, TJ’s does private label its foods. I’ve seen reports that up to 80% of the products are produced for Trader Joe’s, but these foods are generally not produced by small, organic operations. Their private labeled foods come from companies like Pepsi, Tasty Bite, Annie’s, and more.

So just because it has a nice, earthy Trader’s label on it doesn’t mean it was made and packaged by all those fun, energetic, and helpful employees who wear those colorful Hawaiian shirts. It’s made by machines.

4. There are products that you can buy at Trader Joe’s that are cheaper and are the same name brands or same quality.

So again, depending on what you eat, I can’t completely knock Trader’s.

You can get organic rice, organic muesli, some organic nuts and seeds (though not raw, even if they say they are), and a few other items that would be worth the trip and the savings.

You also can find some toiletries and cleaning agents at a good price that are natural name brands if they say Trader’s on them or not. These also are cheaper.

Some have even told us the selection of wine is really good and very inexpensive – if that’s your thing.

If you have the time to bargain shop and bounce from store to farmer’s market to CSA, then a trip to Trader’s might keep some extra coin in your wallet. (As long as the gas prices don’t go up any higher.)

5. The verdict?

Trader Joe’s is not a go-to place for Annmarie and me. With that said, we have shopped there before, and will shop there again in a pinch. (We probably haven’t been to one in 8-9 months, even though there is one two miles from us here.)

The bulk of the groceries we buy (in volume) is produce, so there’s no reason to get sub-par quality food when there are other options – more expensive or not.

If TJ’s is the only game in town (which it probably isn’t), then I’d say go for it. Otherwise, take some time to shop around, look for the best quality – it will in the long term, bring you the best health.

I want to know your thoughts: Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? Is your experience like ours or better?

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog RenegadeHealth.com — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.

184 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

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  1. Vitamins says:

    Its better than fast food! But trader joes has some equally bad “meals” and pre-pre-box and packaged foods that your body ideally couldnt tell a difference from fast food and trader joes .. im with Kevin, im stayin away unless I feel like binging.

  2. I’ve definitely had issues with their produce. I remember buying Strawberries once and at the store they looked great, but the next day were covered in mold. I took them back and they gave me my money back, no questions asked. I’ve never had a problem with the produce that’s been cleaned and then bagged up- like the trimmed green beans. I too haven’t tried their meat or poultry since I get a better deal on it in bulk from a different store. They do however have the best deal on fresh herbs in my area. I don’t buy every single one of my groceries there, but it’s fun to buy things that aren’t normally offered at other places- like their Salsa Autentica that I use in a lot of my cooking.

  3. Tara Burner says:

    well now I’m glad there’s not one near me! lol

  4. claudia says:

    We LOVE Trader Joe’s.
    It is there that we buy most staples like: Olive Oil, Apple Cider vinegar, sea salt, dishwasher and other cleaning agents, and hemp milk.and yes, wine.
    We are the type of people who do the CSA, Farmer’s market and Trader Joe’s as well as belonging to a local Farmer’s coop for raw goat milk, eggs and the occassional grass fed meats/wild salmon.
    We also have to go to “Whole Paycheck (aka: Whole Foods)- to buy Nori, Tamari and occasionally treat ourselves to Greek Olives….

    Kevin, I had no idea that Trader Joe’s almonds labeled “raw” really are not…. that is news to me, bad news indeed.

    🙁

    • Jacek says:

      Claudia, I think the labeling of the almonds as raw when they’re really not is consistent with any almonds coming out of California. Whole Foods almonds have the same type of labeling.

  5. Jo says:

    I shopped at Trader Joe’s when I lived in Virginia Beach and I want to warn everyone about their Pine Nuts. I made an effort to go on a completely raw diet and pine nuts were in a lot of the recipes to mimic meat. I bought their raw organic pine nuts and after eating them I could taste nothing but metal for two and a half months. If you search on the web for information about their pine nuts, you will see how many people have had the same result. They get theirs from China and apparently, the trees they get them from have a genetic propensity towards giving you a horrible metal taste that doesn’t go away for a long time. I haven’t eaten a pine nut since then, even though other people have told me they’ve never tasted a pine nut that gave them such severe results. I have used their other nuts, again because of the price, but Kevin’s right. Their produce is the worst I’ve ever seen. My experience is their organic products that I use in a recipe (like organic lemons or limes) always go bad way before any other organic fruit I’ve purchased in the past. If you are not on a raw diet they have a lot of items that you don’t typically find in a regular grocery store, but even they aren’t made with much quality. The only thing I ever really loved from their store was the panko-breaded tilapia. My sister does like their store a lot because they offer a lot of regular food items that don’t contain a preservative that she’s highly allergic to.

  6. Chris says:

    To me, TJ’s is not food store.. Being raw and vegan they have very little to offer me.

    I agree with you. . if they depended on me to shop there, they’d go out of business, as would Jewel, Dominicks, and most of them.

    Sorry TJ’s.. but facts are facts. . you have aisles and aisles of boxed and processed stuff.. none of which I consider a food.

  7. Trinka says:

    I have a TJ’s within walking distance from where I live and in the beginning, it was a “fun” to shop due to the look, feel and energy of the place.One day I walked in, really looked around at what was on the shelves and realized that it was a “health food” Junk food store! I do agree there are some very interesting items there and the prices are much better than whole Foods, but still, now I go to the farmer’s market or the Mom and Pop shops around here and the food and prices are so much better- Yes they do carry organic produce and if the produce looks bad, I’ll swear someone reports it and the whole batch is replaced!!
    P.S.- the food “replaced” is given to the homeless instead of thrown out completely since not all of the food was/is bad.

    Trader Joe’s- good for transitional vegies and healthy junk food, not so good for the raw food movement.

  8. Susan says:

    Question.. even if the nuts are packaged as “raw” at TJ’s they aren’t? how so? the only reason i go is to get the nuts because it’s much cheaper than any other source around here.

  9. Jonathan says:

    1) Organic whole wheat pasta about half the price that you can find it in a supermaket.

    2) Ezekiel bread is $2 cheaper than elsewhere but pop it into the freezer when you get home.

    3) You can get calcium, magnesium, and vit D in a green food base.

    4) They have a bottled enchilada sauce that is pretty good.

    5) I like the Indian curries in the pouch that one can buy there for $2 each. Good for keeping in my drawer at work – hey we can’t all make fresh food when we want it. Veg chili in a can is a good buy too.

    6) The nuts are not always the freshest.

    7) TJ’s frozen organic chunks make a good smoothie when combined with two cups of spinach.

  10. Veronica says:

    Nice Kev!

    Enjoying our delicious white pineapple from the Quepos Farmer’s Market. Man those things are good. But you actually have to eat them in 1-3 days and store them in a fridge and be very careful with them. They are softer and juicier and less acidic so they cannot be shipped.

    We sure don’t get any of those here in Vancouver. That is one thing we liked about Costa Rica, there was great pineapple and great papaya.

    We don’t have Trader Joes in Canada. There is only Wholefoods in Vancouver and Toronto as those are the health meccas that are a good market for them to come up from the USA.

    I buy some stuff from Wholefoods, but some from farmer’s markets, we get a CSA box every week of some stuff and then here and there from Asian Markets and grocery stores.

    No one place seems to be the solution for the best and affordable produce here. It changes all the time.

  11. Jane Guyette says:

    Trader Joe’s is not my store of choice ever since I saw a tomato from Sweden…I wonder how old that was. It’s all about continuing the education and getting people to look for quality and not the price tag. Our society is so driven by advertisement and money. Keep talking and educating. Another neighorhood store popping up these days is Fresh and Easy. Another one to stay away from with the tremendous amount of packaging used.

  12. Jonathan says:

    7) Meant mango chunks

  13. Diana says:

    I have to tell you that reading about Johnny licking his own but made me laugh so hard, I had to share it with you 🙂
    That, and I totally agree with you- great blog!

  14. Jill says:

    I had the best pineapple I’ve ever had in my life from Trader Joe’s just this week. It was 1/2 the price of Whole Foods and perfectly ripe. I’m sure the one from Peru is way better, but it the one from TJ’s was pretty awesome! I blended it up with some grapefruit, parsley, mint, spirulina, coconut oil and ice ; )

  15. Maria Shere says:

    I do shop at Trader Joe’s. When I am in a cash crunch, I will buy some organic veggies and fruit there as well as frozen fish. I buy the bulk of my food directly from United Foods (through my Coop) and the local farmer’s markets and usually buy the small amount of meat I eat at Whole Foods on the day we eat it. I have bought the packaged organic meat at trader Joe’s and found it to be good, but I question eating produce or meat that has lain in plastic packaging, due to the potential for the plastic leeching into the food.

  16. Candice says:

    I shop at 3 to 4 stores/markets every week to get the things my family wants and needs, and Trader Joe’s is one of them for a few items. I’ve had great luck with avocados there, and it’s hard to find good ones in my town.

    Their nuts aren’t raw, but the seeds are. I’ve bought sunflower and pumpkin seeds there and had no problem sprouting either one.

    Since “Raw” isn’t defined by any law or governing body, it could just mean “not roasted,” as opposed to what raw food enthusiasts expect (not heated over 1xx-degrees.) For example “raw” almonds sold in Trader Joe’s and other stores are almost always pasteurized–heated at high temps to kill bacteria.

  17. Karen says:

    I do shop at TJ’s. They have some good stuff. But, for instance, when I was going to the last Longevity Conference, I stopped there to find some healthy treats to take with me (I had no refrigeration). It pissed me off that there was so little “healthy” to choose from, especially from a store that acts like it’s “healthy.” (I bought only organic apples.)

    Another time I bought some “organic” romaine lettuce in a bag from TJ’s. Two weeks later I found that it had been pushed to the back of the fridge and was still green and looking beautiful. You can’t tell me it was organic and that there there weren’t chemicals on it!

    You always have to pay attention when you’re shopping! Thanks, Kevin

  18. aMAIzingVu says:

    I LOVE TJ’s too. I also agree with what Kevin said. A couple of things that I found worked well over the years: their bag of grapefruits are awesome! sweet yummy and plump. I usually buy a bag of avocados and hang them up for 3 days. They ripe perfectly. I never expect to get a good ready to eat avocado from TJ. They need to ripen. Ditto on the pomegranate seeds and the whole fruits too. When in season, they are great. Oh and don’t forget the flowers. Yes, a combination of TJ’s and farmer’s market and we are good to go.

  19. Kitty says:

    I’ve shopped at Trader Joe’s since the very first one opened near Pasadena 20 yrs ago, and now I have 2 within a few miles of home. While I buy most of my produce at various farmer’s markets nearby (we are blessed here in the SF Bay area!) I like TJ’s for various organic staples, frozen wild fish, fresh organic chicken legs, organic eggs/butter/yogurt, some cheeses (no BHf!), and various organic staples at really good prices. While I avoid a lot of packaged/processed foods, some things like organic canned garbanzos and organic peanut butter are great. That said, they have some really gross stuff as well. And I buy produce there very selectively — it’s not always the greatest.

    One bad thing — they really squeeze their suppliers on margins and many of the private label deals are forced upon them as the price to pay for TJ’s volume biz. On the other hand they treat their employees really well. So it’s a mixed bag for sure!

  20. Teri says:

    In my opinion, TJ’s is better than regular stores like Safeway, but not as good as health food stores like Whole Foods. I agree that their produce is not good, with a few exceptions, like their bagged organic baby spinach. Their cheeses are better than regular stores, but again, not as good as Whole Foods – but cheaper. Their wine is good and cheap. And their packaged foods, while packaged, don’t have the chemicals, HFCS, etc., that the mainstream stores have. Things I buy there include frozen organic brown rice (very quick and convenient yet healthy), organic baby spinach, hummus, cheese, raw nuts, eggs, coffee, coffee filters, Himalayan salt, wine, and a few other things. Also bagged lemons, limes and oranges. But I think if I were a millionaire and could afford to do 100% of my shopping at Whole Foods, I would.

  21. David King says:

    Great post!

    I shop at trader joe’s every once in a while, the employees there are great and do a great job at the one by me but I agree the food quality and choices are sub-par, they don’t have much produce selection and most of the food is packaged and if you look at the ingredients it’s not all that great… it’s just a bit better than regular packaged food. The owner of Trader joes also own’s aldi’s (very cheap “produce”) among other things so I think they use the produce for both… who knows.

    I have a really good smaller health store near me though which has practically everything, a lot of raw and organic produce plus other great stuff such as healthier snacks, kale chips, nuts, goji berries etc…

  22. Sheldon says:

    TJs is better than most big chain stores, but for someone eating cleanly, they really don’t have much to offer. Very nice article!

  23. I’ve had bad experiences with Trader Joe’s produce. Thanks for the tip on goat yogurt.I buy goat yogurt for my kids and since I usually pass by Trader Joe’s anyway, I’ll pop in and get some next time. Oh, and one thing you haven’t mentioned is that they have really nice gluten free pancake and waffle mix.

  24. Teri says:

    For a while TJ’s raw nuts said “almost raw” – when by law they were required to be pasteurized. (Apparently there was a new law and then it was repealed.) Now they just say “raw” again, and nowhere on the label does it say they are pasteurized.

  25. Carolyn Landry says:

    Occasionally but not on a regular basis. Like you I think I can get better quality produce elsewhere.

  26. Kate says:

    This doesn’t even cover the whole push on TJ to donate their leftovers to an organization such as Second Harvest – right now they throw away all of their “bad” produce and bread products instead of donating them. There have been documentaries and general video clips of people dumpster diving outside of TJ and finding edible food that would be welcomed by a local food kitchen.

    • ebp says:

      I would guess that they don’t donate to food banks because they feel that if the food is not suitable for people who can afford it, it’s also not good enough for people who can’t afford it. Seems only right.

  27. Christina says:

    I’ve never had any issues w/ TJ’s produce. In fact I’ve had good luck with there produce (now I am in S. CA so maybe that makes a difference) but then I have only been shopping there occationally to supplement what I get from my CSA for the last few months since it gives me a good excuse to meet my husband for lunch as he works in the same business center. I never really thought of them as a health food store, but did think of them having some healthier choices than the local grocery stores. I’m lucky that we have a mother’s Market a few miles away and they run a bit less expensive than whole foods. But that is good to know about their nuts not being raw even when packaged as raw, I haven’t bought any there yet but now Iknow to make sure to buy elsewhere when I do decide to buy nuts.

  28. Gina says:

    Hi Kevin,

    I am sorry, but I am like your mom, I love Trader Joe’s!:)

  29. Carol Lani Johnson says:

    If you google “pine mouth” you will see that (perhaps because they are getting solid gold prices for them)it appears to be the inedible chinese pinenuts that are being introduced into the supply that are suspect and you don’t want to buy pinenuts ANYWHERE that are from China! Suddenly, despite Anastasia, I am not as interested in pinenuts/pesto! Trader Joe’s organic eggs are rated one out of five on the Cornucopia Institute egg list, along with Walmart’s and Whole Foods. I have always felt that they are one of those places cashing in on organic and people assume they are but they are not commited in a way that shows integrity! (Love their staff and the co-op feeling of the place, but it is not authentic, unfortuantely.

  30. Gerry says:

    I like some of their stuff, but like Kev said, the produce is bizarrely bad. I bought edamame and it was brown but not “expired” according to the date. same with romaine. so, I think they are labeling the dates incorrectly, or not refrigerating properly, or in some other way screwing up the produce.

    Their cashews seem somehow greasier than other cashews- not sure why.

    I DO like the toasted seaweed for $1.

    Sometimes they have a seeded baguette that is out of this world. I eat it with Tofurky deli slices they sell. this does not exactly help you lose weight however.

  31. Nick says:

    I usually buy organic frozen strawberry and blieberries, td rice milk,td hemp protein powder iis pretty good,baked popcorn,organic oranges,apples and grapefruit are usually decent price and quality.

  32. rachel says:

    I do shop at TJ but only every few months or so.
    I buy very few items, but like their carrot juice, organic brown rice pasta, unsalted organic tomato sauce, organic pea sprouts…
    Many people do like TJ but as with anything they have their issues.
    WF by the way sells frozen organic vegetables
    from CHINA where the certification process cannot be tracked down.
    The best we can all do is buy land and grow our own foods. Barter your goods for what other people have, and so on. namaste’, rachel

  33. Friederike says:

    We often shop at Trader Joes.I don’t trust regular grocery stores and we rarely have issues w/ their produce. I also love Farmers Markets. Sure the latter is the best choice.I know Tr Joes makes better health choices then regular grocery stores. We get their apples, peas, red peppers,lettuce etc all the time and are happy w/ them. Just our experience.Sure the packaging is a problem.

  34. Kathy says:

    Sorry – Trader Joes does not claim to be a health food store. They have some great products at great prices. I also shop at Henry’s for produce which is not wrapped in plastic. I am thrilled that I have a Trader Joes close by. The Mango Chunks are good for frozen smoothies, their dairy is much better priced. They have raw cashews.

  35. Ellen says:

    I shop religiously there because there gluten free products are cheaper. I buy the organic bagged spinach, cauliflower, organic broccoli slaw, bananas, avocados, tomatos, Tahini sauce, celery. Their organic walnuts per lb are 5.95! Not to mention sunflower seeds and pumpkin.

    My trader joes has great deals on organic fruit and organic beans such as black beans and garbanzo, Plus the coconut water they sell in the tetra pack. I am not crazy about the supplements or beauty products. I just can’t afford Whole Foods anymore as much as I love it.

    I just wish there were more farmer’s markets in my area. The irony is it used to be all farmland here and you could find fresh produce but now they have bought all the farms and put in strip malls.

  36. roni says:

    just planted another 25 pineapple starts this morning, bringing the total up to about 200 plants. Not in Quepos, but in the mountains at 3,000 feet where the temperature is much better, and the pineapple do fine! When I go back to the US (about once a year) I would go to TJs for the nuts, organic quinoa, and those terrible chocolate covered power berry thingies that are highly addictive. (chocolate is my kryptonite) I come with a suitcase full of homegrown organic coffee and return with TJ nuts, and sometimes a power or kitchen tool. Last trip I got a spirooli, which makes the best coleslaw, beet salads and squash noodles!

    I am now looking for a couple of partners now to create a small intentional sustainable community on my farm here in southern costa rica – folks are welcome to contact me if interested!

    Jonny 5’s opinion is out because he licks his butt? how narrow minded of you! 😉

  37. Christine says:

    I see everyone’s point about Trader Joe’s being a junk/health food store due to the fact that they have a lot of prepared foods. Well, fortunately, they have a lot more than prepared foods. It may not be an ideal place to shop for people who only eat raw foods, but I think it’s relatively a great place for vegetarians/vegans/others who want to eat healthy to shop.
    Some thoughts on TJ’s:
    1) While I do try to buy most of my produce at farmers’ markets, I haven’t had the negative experience with Trader Joe’s produce as everyone else seems to have. Yes, there’s generally too much packaging on the produce, but I think everyone should assess the quality at their local TJ’s and compare with their other local options instead of letting other people’s comments on this blog affect their decisions to shop there or not.
    2) Are raw almonds available anywhere? I heard there was some reason why you actually cannot buy raw almonds in the US, unless you buy directly from the person who grew them. TJ’s is false-advertising, but I think all the other stores are also. I think the overall quality of their nuts is good. Maybe depends on the store or which nuts you buy.
    3) There are some packaged foods that I consider pantry staples that you just can’t buy as cheap anywhere else (atleast in my area of Connecticut). For example: quinoa, other grains & rices, pasta, tofu, tempeh, nut butters, oil/ vinegar, other condiments, chocolate, coconut ice cream, Zico, almond milk, energy bars e.g. Greens+, and a million other (yes, packaged but not “prepared”) foods that cost significantly more at other grocery stores, generally are not to be found at farmers’ markets, and make eating healthy a heck of a lot easier – and more satisfying.
    4) When I lived in NYC, I shopped at a store that put me in a rage every time due to the store clerks’ horrible attitudes. The positive attitudes of TJ’s clerks, in my opinion, should not be overlooked as a reason to shop there alone.
    5) I agree that their cleaning products are good and cheaper than elsewhere, making it more of a one-stop-shop since you don’t need to go elsewhere for dish detergent.
    6) This is a great discussion because many people think they’re shopping at a health food store and therefore stop reading labels or questioning where all the food in the store comes from. As long as you still do those two things and keep looking for better and healthier options, I don’t see why there should be an overall negative view of TJ’s.

  38. HarDarshan says:

    My experience with TJs is similar – not a great selection of organic produce and what they do have is not good quality. I think their produce is warehoused before shipping and is not as fresh as produce found at Whole Foods and elsewhere. Saving money doesn’t help when the strawberries mold before you can eat them!

  39. April says:

    I go to TJ about every other month to get a freezer full of frozen organic fruits for when I don’t have any on hand. They don’t always have them, but their organic mango chunks are about $2 for a pound, can’t beat that! They do always have the non-organic mango chunks and they’re even less expensive.

    My daughter loooooves “mango ice cream”; just put at least 70% frozen mangoes and 30% any other frozen fruit, plus a little thawed fruit, chia gel, or liquid, in the food processor. Best ice cream ever! But it has to be frozen mangos or over-ripe frozen bananas to get the right texture, and the mangos taste a lot better (except bananas are awesome with cacao) It’s a great way to sneak in some MSM and algaes too. My fave is mango/raspberry with chia gel. The mango chunks alone have a great texture to just eat frozen, they’re like little ice cream chunks.

    So we’re all about the frozen mango chunks, and they have great deals on frozen organic berries too. They’re always from Washington or Oregon, in my experience, not imported like most Whole Foods frozen foods are.

    I don’t like TJ’s household items like dish soap and that kind of thing at ALL. I’ve thrown away full bottles. And the produce isn’t good, just go straight to the freezer section!

  40. Maia Alpern says:

    I agree with most of the above comments, especially regarding the tired produce. (I have a small garden and get 2 CSA boxes a month.) I do get gluten-free tamari and olive oil due to the cost savings. The other area where the cost savings are substantial are some of the gluten-free packaged products. I very rarely eat them, but for those that do, you can often save $1 – $2 per package and they are made by the same manufacturers. For example their gluten-free granolas are made by Bakery on Main which sell for far more in the health food stores. I also used to enjoy their Savory rice crackers and hummus for a quick meal with a salad. I also will buy their frozen organic fruit for smoothies or to make a frozen “ice cream” on occasion. So there you have it.

  41. April says:

    btw ALL stores that sell “raw” almonds are selling pastuerized almonds. Sucks.

  42. maureen gianni says:

    Thanks for clarifying a few things about Traders! Whole Foods is opening in Danbury.. How do they compare??
    Love,
    Mom

  43. Diane says:

    I consider Trader Joe’s a great gateway store, particularly for those transitioning from traditional supermarkets to health food stores. While I love Whole Foods, my pocketbook doesn’t. For $135 I get one bag (maybe and a half) of groceries vs. TJ’s where I can get a whole week’s worth + Maybe 6-8 (of my own reusable) bags. With that said Kevin you’re right, not everything there is “good” for you. i can’t shop anywhere without reading or asking questions and with wheat, sugar, soy, corn, milk and yeast allergies even at Whole Foods we have to read labels. Always love a good farmer’s market, the on we have nearby isn’t great.

    I’ve had good luck with the organic produce/fruits at TJ’s: grapefruits that are soooo sweet, bananas, apples, oranges, etc. They used to carry a pancake mix that was awesome (didn’t have any of our allergens in it) used it to make waffles, toasty pouffs and even birthday cakes (I have a 3-year old) ’cause even Bob’s pancake mix has sugar in it. In general I like TJ’s and they offer things i don’t see elsewhere.

    Kevin & Annemarie – keep up the good work, always appreciate your perspective on things and love to learn. Peace.

  44. Irina says:

    I agree with Kevin’s assessment of TJ. Their fresh produce is always unappealing. Wine is good sometimes, breads and cheeses, can be good depending on locality, natural cleaning products definitely a bargain, so is honey (pasteurized though), and there are some fun items from overseas for gastronomically curious. You have to read the labels though, because a lot of stuff they sell is junk or has junky ingredients. I get my produce from the farmers market and dairy/eggs from the farm, but yes, I would use them in a pinch, or to stock up on less expensive cleaners, so I end up going 3-4 times a year.

  45. Diane says:

    Follow up: Maybe I just eat my produce fast enough as I don’t seem to have a problem! The few times I’ve ever had a problem, TJ’s return policy is so awesome, nothing but a smile and a replacement of whatever I bought.

    They also have a great almond butter with flax seeds. YUM!! The almonds are raw but the flax seeds are roasted. Super on carrots, apples, etc.

  46. Janet says:

    TJ’s near me has some great organic squash, onions, broccoli and cucumbers, and occasionally some organic blueberries and strawberries. They also have some great coconut shrimp. I agree that most of their produce leaves a bit to be desired (I’m not fond of their lettuce either) but I do sometimes get their frozen fruit. My mom likes their spanikopita. They also have some organic whole chicken there which I occasionally get.

  47. Sharelyn Dietz says:

    It must be nice to have all those options. I live in a city of over 50,000 in northern central CA. The nearest TJ’s is 30 min. in 2 different directions. It’s an hour and a half to get to a Whole Foods. The very tiny farmers’ mkt that we have a few months a year offers fruit with heavy pesticides (I’ve asked the sellers) and very few vegetables. My aunt lives over 2 hours away and she has a decent farmers’ market with some organic produce. I go to it when I visit her. Not all of us can go to Costa Rica to fetch our pineapples. Not all of us have wonderful farmers’ markets or Whole Foods or Henry’s around the corner. But, all of us have to eat. I do the best I can with what is available to me.

  48. Angie says:

    FYI: Most “raw” nuts aren’t raw whether you get them at TJ’s or any other place.

    I don’t have a Trader Joes in my state. I worked right by one when I lived in California (before I was eating healthy), and I just thought it was an expensive, gourmet grocery store – not a health food store. Of course, I did move there from a place where everything was cheaper in general. 🙂 Anyhow, there is a store near me now that doesn’t specifically claim to be a health food store, but their name (Sunflower Farmers Market) makes people think they’re shopping at a health food store, so people think they’ll be healthy if they eat there. It seems deceptive to me. I also think that “health food stores” aren’t always that healthy, selling things like processed soy “meat” and organic versions of Pop Tarts, cotton candy, etc. Things like that are not really promoting health as much as the price tag would lead us to believe. 😀

  49. David B says:

    I usually go for the pumpkin seeds and buy 3-4 pounds at a time. They are lightly roasted and only have a little salt.
    I also bought their wine that didn’t have the sulfites (sp). It was relatively good.
    To me TJ’s is a specialty store with some good items, but mostly not what I buy.

  50. Jacque says:

    Trader Joe’s products all seem to have canola oil. What’s with that?

  51. Scott says:

    Healthy Bargains: TD Medjool Dates are a great bargain as compared to Whole Foods. ( I make a lot of date paste). Their Figs (when in season) are pretty good too. These are pretty much the only reasons I go over to the produce section. Aside from that, I have always stated verbatim Kevin’s opinion on Trader Joe’s produce. I have always found their avocados to be more appropriate for a 90 mph fast ball.

    BUT, in the other isle you have savings on Jojoba oil, 100% tea tree oil, as well as TD facial cleansing pads, deodorant, mango shaving cream, and tea tree oil bath soap. All good products. Someone mentioned Trader Joe’s apple cider vinegar. It is not raw so I get Bragg’s elsewhere.

    I get Trader Joe’s Hemp Protein Powder for $9.99 a can. A very good bargain. I also “still” get TD Raw Organic Blue Agave (yes, I read the most recent suspicions).

    When company comes I will get their frozen and already seasoned Chimichurri Wild Pacific Salmon, frozen Quinoa with vegetables, etc. I despise cooking and the frozen section is where I feel Trader Joe’s really excels.

  52. Kim Ward says:

    I have not shopped at TJ’s yet, but appreciate the review. I have found that even at my local health food store, one still needs to read labels, not everything is good for you there as well.

    Thanks to Ellen and Maia for mentioning that the gluten free products are cheaper. I may go there and check it out.

  53. Scott says:

    Ooops. All the TD’s are meant TJ’s. Have no idea what I was thinking? Ha

  54. mike says:

    okay the good they have some good california producted stuff. the bad bad bad they are a huge non local german company that is very bottom line oriented employees come/go no benefits worse than whole foods and they buy the CHEAPEST EVERYTHING SO WATCH WHERE THE STUFF COMES FROM…..SO THE FRUIT IS ORGANIC/FROZEN YEP ITS FROM SOUTH AMERICA….
    as we all know support your local farmer eat seasonally, local organic.

    peace

  55. Suzy says:

    I totally agree with Kev’s assessment. It’s fun to shop at TJ’s from time to time but I do not consider it a “health food” store. As he said, there are a few items you can get a very good prices. Otherise, it’s reasonably priced but not good quality food, according to my standards.

  56. Lisa Cohen says:

    as a holistic nutrition consultant, I love TJ’s for a couple of things…according to what I have been told by TJ’s managers and what I have read: they do not sell anything with transfats or high fructose corn syrup. They do NOT claim to be a “health food store”. They specialize in packaged and processed foods and wine. They also sell a good amount of frozen produce and meats. I love their wild blueberries and keep them in my freezer when they are not in season here. I also enjoy very small amounts per serving of their goddess and basalmic salad dressings which are actually Annie’s and at least $1 cheaper than anywhere else. Their dairy products are bovine growth hormone-free and overall, much of their packaged foods, if you were going to buy them anyway..like granola bars and dry cereals..are going to be as good or better ingredients AND lower priced. I live in Atlanta and buy most of my produce from outdoor local organic markets and a huge international indoor farmer’s market. However, one thing I love about TJs is that if you buy ANYthing there that you do not like or is not what you were expecting, you go back and TELL them (they TRUST you and do not ask for the product of receipt…) and they will give you your $$ back or credit on your groceries. I also know from personal friends who have worked there that they treat their employees VERY well and offer full benefits for part time employees after 6 months. I do not shop there every week, but I do go 2-3 times a month and pick up some staples. Oh..they also attempt to only stock BPA free cans and avoid genetically modified foods..though I am not so sure I believe ANY store is truly able to do that 100%..Whole Foods included.

  57. BRIAN MILLER says:

    MY AID & I SHOP @ PJ’S ALMOST WEEKLY, ONLY ONE TIME DID I HAVE SOMETHING GO BAD ON ME, THAT WAS A BAG OF SALAD, THAT I HAD FOR 1.5 WEEKS. HONESTLY, I THINK TJ’S IS MUCH BETTER THAN FRESH & EASY. WITH F&E, I’VE HAD A LOT OF FOOD GO BAD, WITHIN ONLY A FEW DAYS.
    THANKS FOR THE AWSOME INFO & REPORTS KEV. I ALSO DON’T LIKE, NOR UNDERSTAND WHY 90+% OF TJ’S PRE-COOKED/ PACKAGED FOODS HAVE CANOLA OIL.
    GOD BLESS BOTH YOU & ANNMARRIE
    PS- I BUY ALOT OF THE SEAWEED EVERY TIME I GO TO TRADER JOES.

  58. Jonathan says:

    I shop at trader joes regularly and I get some there and a selection of other items like soaps, cleaning supplies. We eat about 1/2 raw and the other things we munch on as we weem ourselves to managing higher ang higher raw it’s a pretty good choice. IT IS NOT A 1 STOP GROCERY SHOP by far. We generally stop at 3-4 markets as we grocery shop and for Some Items TJs beats out all the others.

    Fruit, maybe bananas and or apples sometimes.
    My advice is to be saavy 😉 and learn your way around your local stores and get the best quality and the best prices from the folks in your area.

    Peace & Blessing to you & your Folks!

    Jonathan

  59. Jean says:

    Many of the negative comments I read are true for every grocery stores – too much junk, not enough food. The same criticisms apply to our health foods store which stocks organic produce from Mexico, chile and Peru. Farmer’s Markets are wonderful but pickings have been slim this year with the late spring.

    Trader Joe’s is one of my primary stores for groceries but it’s not a one stop shopping experience. To get what we need I usually have to go to 3 or 4 stores.

    TJ’s provides a good variety of special products at very reasonable prices. They also have a list of their products that are gluten-free, which is a great help to me. They provide good customer service, too, also pretty rare.

    I buy TJ’s organic romaine lettuce and celery at a price lower than the same items at the health food store. I buy their almond meal, nuts, rice tortillas, NZ grass-fed cheese, GF sausage, frozen fish and shellfish, fresh organic chicken, organic eggs, frozen organic strawberries, and their canned cat food. Many of these products I really can’t find at any other local stores. I was thrilled when they finally opened a Trader Joes!

    Additionally, since day 1, TJ’s has been great about donating food to our local Rescue Mission and community events. They’ve been a real positive asset to our community.

  60. kim says:

    Where on earth can you find raw nuts! Even the almonds at whole Foods are not raw. I make my own almond milk and would love to know where I can find the real deal. I live in Virginia.

  61. Page says:

    Our first Trader Joe’s opens this Friday. I have heard the produce stories, so I will continue to shop for my organic produce at Whole Foods, which is within 1/2 mile of where TJ’s is opening. I don’t buy many processed or prepared foods, but I will check out TJ’s for their selections.

  62. Thomas says:

    No TJ’s around here, so I can’t comment on that.

    If you want real raw almonds you can only get them from a farm. Here are two that sell online:

    http://www.homegrownalmonds.com/natural-raw-almonds.html?gclid=CNT1zfPSyKMCFRtinAodKBTWvA

    and

    http://organicalmondsraw.com/?gclid=CKWzkKj7saMCFSRiswodjGzwqQ

  63. Jane says:

    I’ve never been to a Trader Joes as I’m in Australia but as they sell frozen mango chunks etc so wouldn’t mind if one opened here! I’m on a crusade at the moment to get Australian supermarkets to sell frozen fruit. Americans who move here ask why they can’t buy it here like in the US and the UK. Crazy. The big 3 supermarkets (Coles Woolworths Aldi- not much competition here…) only sell berries and seem completely unaware that our fruit is frozen and sold to an overseas market. I would love a bag of tropical fruit chunks in my freezer to use in green smoothies!!!

  64. Linda says:

    @Kate: I have been employed at TJ’s for ten years and have worked at three stores. Every store I have worked at has religiously donated every potentially edible spoiled item, including hundreds of dollars of produce on a daily basis. As employees, it is in our mindset to not waste, but to donate.

  65. Angelica says:

    I love Trader Joe’s! I don’t buy everything there, but the things I do buy – even the produce have been good quality. I haven’t purchased the meat – I go to a local butcher. I am so happy I started shopping at Trader Joe’s, what a find! Santa Fe, NM

  66. Linda says:

    Trader Joe’s is NOT a health food store.
    They buy in bulk so they can sell at cheaper
    prices. I don’t trust much of what they
    sell. Its a privately held company and hard
    to get information on where they purchase
    their food products. Like you Kevin, I only
    go there in a pinch…when I can’t get to
    my local health food store or farmers market.
    If you are raw or vegan it’s not a place I’d
    recommend.

  67. Liz says:

    Trader Joe’s is like any other store. You have to be discerning when purchasing. It seems in just the past year or year and 1/2 their produce (fruits and vegetables) have left a lot to be desired. I have had the same problem with mold issues on their produce. It looks good in the store, and the next day, bam! It got so bad, I started returning it for a refund because I was throwing out so much stuff. I think it’s that plastic packaging they put it in. The pine nuts I bought there were horrible. They had a real bad aftertaste I had never tasted before in pine nuts. Trader Joe’s has just taught me to be very selective now when I shop there. They do sell a very reasonably priced nitrite free wine there that I pick up occasionally. But no more fruits and vegetables…or pine nuts.

  68. lori says:

    I agree with Kevin about their packaged pomegranate seeds (I just wish they were organic). And I also agree that the produce, especially the vegetable produce is best to be left on the shelf for the next, less discerning customer. However, there are some exceptions: organic microgreens for salads, organic frozen wild blueberrie for smoothies, organic unfiltered apple juice (to soak my daughter’s oatmeal in overnight before cooking), limes (when I can’t find them at a farmer’s market or Whole Foods. Yes, I’m willing to buy them ‘out of season’. I must have lime juice on my papaya.) Papaya, given the fact that 90% of papaya from Hawaii is GMO, TJ carries papaya from two South American countries that is conventional but at least non-GMO. Buffalo milk mozzarella imported from Italy. My most recent discovery is unpasteurized coconut water in the refrigerator case.

  69. lisa says:

    this is not a fair summary. first of all, not “everything else is boxed or in a can” is completely wrong. i go there for the frozen stuff. if you don’t happen to live in California, believe it or not, you can’t always get easy access to fresh amazing produce. they have TONS of great organic frozen vegetables that are a good deal and very healthy. and sometimes you have to be realistic and make things affordable. if you have kids, especially. i believe that our health is the BIGGEST INVESTMENT and food is our BIGGEST BILL for the whole household (despite private school), but you have to not stress out that much about it.

  70. Jed says:

    Just a quick comment on nuts – almonds from California are required to be pasteurized so they can’t be truly raw – though, if you can get almonds grown in Europe they aren’t governed by that law. I’ve been getting organic almonds & other nuts by mail order from Jaffee Brothers in California and they do have truly raw almonds that aren’t grown in the USA. The price of nuts has been increasing substantially in the last few years.

  71. Alex says:

    When I moved to Portland, OR from Virginia 5 years ago, it was my dream to live right next to a Trader Joe’s. In fact, I was lucky enough to land an apartment that was right across the street from a Trader Joe’s. As the years went on, I frequented Trader Joe’s less and less as I started to eat more vegeatables and change from conventional to organic. For the average shopper, Trader Joe’s is amazing and beats any of the big box stores like Safeway and Albertsons. However, like the article mentioned, the produce just isn’t that good and everything else is in a box! Regardless, I have had good memories with Trader Joe’s and it was my stepping stone into healthier eating.

  72. zyxomma says:

    I have visited Trader Joe’s, but have never made a purchase there. In Manhattan, they’re a block away from the Union Sq. Greenmarket AND Whole Foods, AND A&P (which has a decent, if overpriced, selection of organics). Every time I visited, the produce selection was poor. I saw one or two items (of produce) worth purchasing, but NOT worth standing on their long lines.

    I have two live food stores and four health food stores within 10 minutes’ walk from home. TJ is out of the way, and since the bulk of what I buy is produce, not worth the trip. However, I have friends who swear by them, so it’s all a matter of perspective.

  73. hyesun says:

    i love trader joe’s! i get their organic limes, organic quinoa, organic frozen wild blueberries and sometimes organic wine. i also get their organic nuts. and organic valencia peanut butter (besides raw jungle peanuts, valencias are the only other ones, supposedly, without aflatoxins.) and they have great prices on raw european cheeses, like pecorino romano and parmegiano reggiano. it’s just a fun store and everyone’s so friendly, and they have great customer service!!

  74. Darilyn says:

    Awwwwe, they are basically for “bad”…good wines inexpensive and I like their chocolate covered ginger & 72% cacao dark from Belgium..shame on me once in a while!

  75. Mary says:

    Get this right: ALL nuts, except those you pick yourself are pasturized, even though they can be labeled “raw” because they are not roasted. So, for those who think Trader Joe’s is cheating you, get that out of your heads! Also get this right: Trader Joe’s has never pretended to be a “health food store,” whatever that is, these days. Go to a “health food store” and you see a lot of sick people standing in the vitamin aisles looking for the Magic Pill. All stores that sell organic produce have a shelf-life problem; T.J.’s does sell some organic produce (look at the numbers on the labels; the ones starting with “9” are organic; any other number means GMO or irradiated). The store has great frozen, willd blueberries; often has organic strawberries and blueberries in season, and their organic zucchini is always fresh and tasty and makes the best “noodles.” I’m high raw, and have never, ever had any of the problems most of the writers to this post have in finding what I’m looking for at Trader Joe’s. I’ve shopped at a TJ’s for abour 30 years. No. I’m not the owner. 🙂

    • mary kay says:

      Mary, this is not true. I agree you cannot buy truly raw nuts in a store, but you can buy truly raw nuts directly from farmers and order online, which is what I do. Thanks for commenting though!

    • Mike Gosmer says:

      Mary makes a good point, if you are buying produce with a number code starting with a “4” or anything other than a “9” rest assured it is not organic and it’s likely been nuked, sprayed or tampered/preserved in some way. Thank you for pointing that out.

  76. Lauren says:

    First I am not a raw foodist, though I eat some raw–more in summer. I am 100% organic, unprocessed. I do a Veggie and fruit organic CSA, organic free-range farm eggs, grass fed organic beef I can pet! These farms are all near my home and I know the owners and can vouch for the impeccable standards. I also go to another farm for grass fed organic raw milk on occasion.

    That said, I think Whole Foods is a lying, slimy store! It advertises itself as an organic store and I am hard put to fill a cart with organic produce. You can’t get a cup of organic coffee there and now they allow products with GMO ingredients! YUK!

    I like many things about Trader Joes. First, their friendly, helpful staff can’t be beat.
    If there is any trouble with a product, their return policy is great. The products are all priced better than at Whole Foods, coops, and grocery stores. Products I love: organic, extra virgin olive oil, canned organic beans, organic frozen fruit for smoothies, organic frozen veggies in the winter, the bagged baby spinach for scrambled eggs, organic butter and occasional half and half, frozen wild sockeye salmon, their cheese selection (organic cheddar), recycled toilet paper, kleenix, and paper towels, great wine selection–skip the beer–their Sushi is the worst I’ve ever had,
    love organic popcorn made in olive oil, their charming greeting cards, some organic teas and coffees, good cleaning products, organic maple syrup, organic dark chocolate bars, and probably a few other things I’ve left out. It’s definitely worth a trip from time to time. Just spend the time to check out what’s really there. I get my other dry goods, nuts, etc. at a coop monthly.

    So yes, I do feel Trader Joes is worth the trip for what they do have, but one needs to have other sources for good food as well. Just for interest they are owned by the same German family that owns Aldis and I would never set foot in an Aldis.

  77. Danette says:

    I completely agree with you regarding TJ, you must know your product and pay attention to the ingredients. I buy very little from them as well, but I would say that is because I am more extreme in my eating habits then your average health nut. In a pinch, I probably could find something that would be okay but for my normal everyday, day in and day out, they are not my go to store either..Thanks for all the info. you both share, it is very enlightening..Keep up the great job!!

  78. Emily says:

    Here in Nashville I’ve had great luck with TJ avocados. Some of the best tasting I’ve ever had. And I’m a major foodie :-). The frozen wild blueberries are great for smoothies. The “raw” almond butter is much better tasting than several other brands I’ve had. I know it’s not really raw, but better than roasted and $4.99 for 16 oz.! I shop at 3 different stores here, including Whole Foods, but TJ’s definitely has a few great items.

  79. I really like their micro-greens…always fresh, and a great assortment of micro sprouts…also, haven’t had problems with their avocados here in Southern Cal…

  80. melissa mango says:

    I prefer to shop at places that don’t contribute to landfill shi#$ piles. So that means fresh foods for this Hot Momama! We love the farmer’s markets and we bring our own little baggies to reuse ans reuse and reuse again.
    I hear supposedly some of the containers TJ uses are compostable. That would be great! Not sure which ones since a majority look like the plastic wrapped foam or the general cottage cheese container look.
    Thanks Kev! a lot of the clients do shop at TJ since the next “health food store” is a vitamin department. so we are all doing our best yes!?
    MM

  81. Mary Artemis says:

    The reason to go to trader joe is for non-gmo, some organic, and money savings. Like everything, you have to read all the labels…and no one’s saying it’s the raw food, non-gmo, organic palace. However, they have good deals on organic oranges which many times you cannot even find in a mainstream store and are very expensive at organic markets.

  82. Ann Wooledge says:

    We live in a relatively small city, Lincoln, NE, but compared to our relatively large neighbor, Omaha, we have many more and better choices than they do for healthy and/or fresh food. Whole Foods is ridiculously overpriced and I don’t even like to go in there, but is really the only show in town in Omaha except summer time farmers’ market that’s way too crowded to even think about going. We have two locally owned small health-food stores, one has good supplements and the other has really good produce. For the rest of our stuff, we go to Trader Joe’s. We didn’t have a Trader Joe’s until Nov. 2010 and it has since become our favorite place to go. If you look at their ingredients in their frozen food section (good grief we all have to resort to that sometime!) they are good. I’m a nutritionist, raw food wanna-be and researcher, registered nurse, and my husband and I have been reading ingredients for a long long time. No, TJ’s produce isn’t good – their avocado’s though are better than our local stores, but it’s just really hard to find a decent avocado in this part of the country, which is sad because it is one of my most favorite foods! We have our own organically grown garden and we have farmers’ markets all over town on different days of the week. We participate in one on Sunday and the produce is amazing, but surprisingly not a bargain dollar wise. So – to end this diatribe – we LOVE Trade Joe’s and don’t know how we ever lived without it. My husband finds the same products (i.e., Earth Balance products which we love) for much cheaper at TJ’s. One question though and I’ve seen others ask it, but haven’t seen the answer – we eat only raw nuts and we now buy them from TJ’s and they LOOK a lot better than the ones we bought from the bulk section of the other health food stores. I like the plastic protection – we aren’t bringing home moth larvae anymore. But WHY, WHY, WHY did you say their nuts aren’t raw?? Please answer this question.

  83. Betoman says:

    We don’t have a TJs here in Austin, but I shopped at one in Oregon a few times when we lived there. TJ’s, like so many “natural” foods chains is a green washing pretender and 90% of what they sell isn’t worth it. You have to be selective. Go organic to avoid GMOs and don’t buy anything with more than 5 ingredients on the label. This will keep you from buying a lot of “food products” that promote inflammation, oxidation and disease. Sadly, Whole Foods, here in Austin where the mother ship store dominates west Austin, is only one third of what it should be in terms of changing the industry. They do deserve credit for reviving the organic, whole food movement. Earlier this year, they took a weak position on GMOs. Here’s a link covering that development. http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_22485.cfm

  84. Ann Wooledge says:

    Ah – and yes, I forgot to mention their customer service – it is definitely above the norm.

  85. Esther says:

    I LOVE TJ’s!!!!! I have shopped at TJ’s for over 30 years and absolutely love this company. They have amazing customer service and overall their quality is far superior than the chain markets.

    I noticed many comments about raw almonds at TJ’s. All almonds are pasteurized and no commercially available almonds are truly raw. You must buy online or directly from a grower to obtain truly raw almonds.

    While I do not purchase all of my produce at TJ’s – overall I have found their organic produce to be very fresh and the prices cannot be beat. I have shopped at TJ’s in both California and Arizona.

    Like everything else in life – take what you want and leave the rest. TJ’s has something for everyone at good prices and outstanding customer service. I have several friends who are employed by TJ’s and they are treated very well. This is a good thing!

  86. Natalie says:

    Ocasonally when I am budgeting; I will purchase some of their products. Produce is horrible, with the exception of their arugala, spinach,and banannas. Their organic avocados have been fine (california ones) I dfo not want to but organic anythng imported from Mexico. Sorry. My Mom is from there and I know first hand how corrupt the system is. (I don’t trust them. Forget their raw nuts. ALWAYS rancid. I prefer to support local farmers market when I am available on the days they have limited hours. My back-up is Whole Foods. I live in CA and they carry Full Belly Farm produce which is great. The rest; I purchase my nuts and oils and some other misc. item on live from various Raw Food Stores. I just did a Whole Foods run and bought some lovely striped pink beets, organic hemp seeds, Jungle peabuts, and brazils nuts, and some organic strawberries and bannanas. I do eat a bit of organic cooked foods. No dairy, just some grain (no wheat. Amaranth, Quinoa, Milley, Buckwheat Groats, Rice, potatoes, beets, and some steamed broccoli. For now’ I jice 1x perday, do mono meals, and would say my diet is almost 70% raw. Personally sonce I am healthy; I do feel the need to be 100% anything.

  87. claudia says:

    ah yes…customer service at TJs rocks! And yes….9to someone who posted re: my previous post…:at our TJs (Washington DC area) the apple cider vinegar they sell IS Braggs…and much better priced than over at WF!
    Also, their tea tree oil facial wipes are outstanding!

    And did I mention their Chilean wines are great?

    Kev: hate to ask yet again…but can you please address my question:
    What is your opinion re: Mercola & Ori’s workout drink of whey protein?

  88. Gail says:

    I was not at all surprised to see 81 responses to this topic! Hey – it’s TJ’s and that’s ‘home’ to many folks!
    When I lived in LA, there was no going to a TJ’s because you could never get a parking spot, and it was wall to wall people (literally), so you couldn’t even move inside, so I was never able to enjoy. When I moved to San Diego, I was finally able to enjoy shopping there and there were many to choose from – all closeby.
    When I moved across country 5 years ago, I was devastated to be without them; and now that we have ONE in the whole state, I go maybe once a year.
    I still love my TJ’s, but do agree that they are only so-so in some areas, but that is true for all places. I have NEVER ONCE had a decent TOMATO from TJ’s. But, I LOVE being able to get Meyer Lemons; Persian cucumbers and Lambsquarters. I knew about the nuts but buy them anyway as well as the seeds. I also love the jars of Indian curry sauces; the most fantastic chocolate truffles; wines, beers; fabulous Rum; the flowers, Burts Bees, almond butter, etc, etc.
    Farmer’s Markets are usually too far away or wrong days/times and same with CSA’s; Whole Foods too far and too expensive.
    If I were still back home, I’d be shopping at Boney’s, Henry’s, Sprouts and Jimbo’s along with Trader Joe’s, but no matter where you live, you just do the best you can.

  89. Tim Miller says:

    I live in Knoxville TN and we don’t have a Trader Joe’s, but we do have a Sam’s Club which I imagine to be similar. There’s definitely a lot of crap at Sam’s, but a discerning shopper can find some really great stuff. There are organic spinach greens and organic baby salad greens, for example. The prices are vastly better than in grocery stores, and the spinach and salad greens are not wilted. They are vibrant looking, last for many days, and are delicious.

  90. Laura Emily says:

    I dunno, I think I disagree with you on the produce thing- but that could be because Trader Joe differs from store to store (I’ve been to quite a few- some I love, others I could do without!). I live in Vancouver WA, which is part of the Portland OR metro area- and the TJs here work heavily with the local organic farms. Their produce is always fresh, local and I hate to say it: sometimes cheaper than our CSA subscription.

    But I do think it’s dangerous to call it a health food store- but I think ALL stores shouldn’t hold the title. They all include processed/boxed/canned foods that should not be considered a “health-food item.”

    All in all, I love my Trader Joe’s. I’m not 100% raw, so when I want my cooked goodies and special treats, I head to TJ’s. Cheaper prices, unique options, and just darn yummy.

    Loved the articles this week!

    -Laura Emily

  91. Bela says:

    I like the positive atmosphere at TJ’s. We have a TJ’s and Whole Foods store in the same area, so I make a quick stop at TJ’s for some favorite items (one of them is their Arabiatta pasta sauce) and do most of my grocery shopping at Whole Foods. It may not be the healthiest place to shop, but it is good for people who are just getting into healthier eating and do not want to spend a fortune.

  92. Cristina says:

    I realize there may be issues about produce at some TJ stores. It all depends on the store. If it is a busy location they have have great produce.I am lucky to live in a very popular one. I agree with their nuts, not always fresh, but that depends on the time of year also. I buy mainly organic foods and their selection suits me fine. If I buy anything packaged I email them to be sure there are no GM ingredients.They are very curtious and seem sincere. I also am Gluten intolerant and their selection is wonderful.I love their Raw cheese and organic wines. I never have a hang over.We always buy our wild caught Salmon there as well as their labeled organic chicken breasts.Their temph is wonderful as well. Their organic corn chips are terrific. I could go on but I love that store. You will never find me in a regular food store again. OH, I also complement my shopping at the local farmers market for my other item.

  93. jackie says:

    I was surprised to hear about you and some of the readers experiencing bad produce from TJs. I’ve shopped there for years, albeit sporadically since there are no stores nearby, and have never had a problem. They have great prices on organic apples, oranges, etc. and they always are fresh and taste good. All the veggies I’ve purchased have been fine as well, and much cheaper than Whole Foods. If they had a store closer to me, I’d go more often, although I don’t buy most of their packaged stuff.

  94. Erina says:

    Hi – I always think someday I’m going to read an article about TJ’s being a fraud – I don’t know they do have some decent items especially for the “non-raw but organic family members” but I kinda don’t trust them. I can’t believe how many posts you got about TJ’s – they’d love that.
    Anyways, thanks kev & a.m I always love listening to ya/ reading ya every day.

  95. Cheryl says:

    My husband and I have shopped at Trader Joes. Their prices on almond milk is much better than in the stores.

    I was able to find sprouted pea shoots, and they were very fresh.

    You can save money if you buy in bulk. Their brown rice pasta is really good and cheaper than in the supermarket.

    If you know what to look for you can get some good deals there. I do prefer shopping at my local Myers… Produce is fresh and organic, and their prices on organic produce is just a few pennies more than regular produce.

  96. Emma says:

    I agree that some of the produce is sub-par – there are certain items that tend to mold quickly, but if I have it happen I bring it back and have never had an issue. Some of the packaged food is no good, but at least if you do purchase pre-made/packaged food you can get many items without preservatives, that is where people probably see the “healthy” part within the packaged products. The prices are definitely competitive so I shop there along with my CSA and like 3 other stores…one stop shop doesn’t exist for me and I’m guessing it doesn’t for many others as well.

    PS LOVE THE PEARL CUTCO!! Hope you still have all you fingers 🙂

  97. Renee says:

    The canned beans (not the veggie chili yet) are organic and they have no BPA, which is a rare finding wherever you shop. This is a good emergency food item because you can eat them w/o heating, can use for other dishes.
    Yes calling the almonds raw is really fraud. But all the stores do it. They are pasteurized at high temps or chemically treated by law, thanks to the CA Almond Board cartel. You can only get truly raw if imported or you go thru a buying club that buys direct from the farmer (min. 50 lb lots and must sign for it).

    I buy beans, spagetti sauce, olives, mango chunks, Dr Bronners soap, organic maple syrup, and fair trade organic coffee. The produce – eg. organic lemons – will often mold within a couple days. The organic apples have wax on them. Organic avos are fine.
    I always wonder about their produce tho, as much is from Mexico – so do they irradiate when it comes in, even tho is ‘organic’?
    A great thing about thing is they take back ANYTHING – no questions asked!

  98. Renee says:

    Oh yes, I have asked about this on many occasions – they avoid all GMO products. I think they are ahead of the average food sources on this account.

  99. mindy says:

    frozen organic raspberries area godsend. They do not get moldy like those bought in stores fresh. I can use them frozen for smoothies for my husband. They run out certain times of the year, so I buy and store them.

    their dried mango is an immense treat. They have different varieties. I love only the one that is unsweetened, no flavors added. I check each bag to feel which are overdried and which are more chewy still having moisture.

    I use a csa, local gorgeous farm eggs from farmer, during the year, however I live in New England. In winter, TJ’s organic cukes are the best i can get for juicing.

    They have found the niche markets that sell big: junk food (candy, frozen meals, frozen meats, fish) and produce. They skip alot in the middle. They only carry what sells big.
    they once had gorgeous frozen garbanzos.I loved them. They discontinued. I traced them down to little OREGON farmer. I asked TJ’s why and the farmer why, and finally discovered that because he couldn’t produce dependable consistent volume they wouldn’t carry them. From business angle, I see how that makes sense, but DARN DARN DARN.

    Same with whole foods. They don’t respond to quality needs or customers. I suggest things that they even carry in their CA stores, and they have no flexibility (it take years and years) to add new things without huge reviews, and hoops to jump through. Not like the old BREAD AND CIRCUS days.

    Life changes. I now shop at many different spots for different things, though along a “strip” so efficient travel. I long for year round csa. We now have winter farmer’s markets indoors in new england. This is such a new delight! High expense, as you might imagine with storage of food, greenhouse greens, etc. BUT food is where I know spending for quality reverberates through life and health.

    Thanks Kevin.

  100. Cindy says:

    I’ve shopped at Trader Joe’s a few times, but was not thrilled. I prefer shopping at Whole Foods, Tanaka Farms in Irvine, California & Mother’s Market & Kitchen in Huntington Beach, California. Mother’s Market is a great little place, & I’ve found that their prices are usually better than Whole Foods.

  101. Jackie says:

    Trader Joes for frozen organic berries, raw cheeses, and maybe a few pieces of organic fruit. I go once every few months. Farmers Markets and the Coop for most of my food. What is your opinion of Whole Foods?

  102. Crystal says:

    I was sitting at my kitchen table thinking about how much I used to LOVE Trader Joe’s and raved about it to everyone. Fast forward seven years, and I no longer think of it as a healthy place to shop. I was thinking about the rancid, toxic oils used in most processed foods etc. Then I walk into my office and the first e-mail in my inbox was titled “Is It OK To Shop At Trader Joe’s For Your Food And Produce”. Craziness. We were on the SAME page!!!

  103. benita gettel says:

    Trader Joes uses Canola in almost ALL their prepared house labeled foods. I wrote to them complaining and they replied that their Canola is from the Brassica Family , same as broccoli and cauliflower and it is safe to consume. Idiots… Brassica is the Latin name for the ‘family’ of plants, of which the toxic rapeseed is a member. I rewrote them but NO reply. I have also been told that Canola oil has been ‘hybridized’ to remove the toxic components by other companies, in their feeble attempt to disguise the truth.. CANOLA IS TOXIC. Their ‘fresh’ raw chicken reeks when you remove it from the plastic sealed bag.. Obviously NOT fresh, their veggies are iffy at best.. I do purchase Ezekial bread, laundry soap, Himalayan salt, organic sugar from them. Their ‘raw’ almonds are not raw thanks to our FDA for nuking them first for a non present E.Coli rumour…They have good junk food..that’s it…

  104. PE says:

    How to forage food:
    1. grow it. Yes you can, if only on the sill.
    2. go to a farmers’ market, beware cheats and nonlocals. As a rule, prices are lowest.
    3. Shop co-op (you may not have one; start one.) Some items cheaper than #2, most not.
    4. chain soopermkt if no honorable local grocers (we have one). Trader Joe is above their average in our area.
    5. Go multicultural with a brain– some items are fresh, some better than what you eat now, some trash. Bon appetit!
    6. Avoid WholeFoods=Whole Paycheck, Wal-Mart= (the Chinese Connection) and other malicious or otherwise phony giants. And online is almost never local, even when the food is from the next town over.

  105. Selene says:

    I’m in Southern California.

    TJs has fresh pea green sprouts – for juicing.

    TJs has fresh organic blueberries – yummm.

    Packaged salad greens slimy before their time – they sit in sun at loading door for sometimes hours unrefrigerated — yuck.

    Yay to Melissa Mango for her words of mama wisdom! Still miss your restaurant down here!!

  106. Dukh Niwaran says:

    They have a great price on individual organic bananas so we buy all the bananas we use for cereal and smoothies there. My husband likes the organic bean and rice burritos in the frozen section. They have a good selection of goat and sheep cheeses (as well as cow) at good prices from all over the world–but they will not last a long time so get what you will use quickly. Their gluten free rice bread is cheaper than at other stores. Santa Cruz, CA has lots of natural food store choices and farmers markets so I normally shop at them and freeze my own fruit in the summer for the rest of the year. When I run out though, TJ’s has cheaper, quality fruit and some of it is from U.S. or Canada I think. I stopped shopping at Whole Foods when their founder (and those of Stoneyfield Farms and another one _____ Valley…I forgot the brand) caved on GMO’s totally…just wanted compensation. They basically stopped fighting and gave their blessing to GMO alfalfa, beets and corn for ethanol.

  107. Monica says:

    Trader Joe refused to sign an agreement that would make sure it’s produce wasn’t picked by a slave (migrant workers). Whole Foods has signed it and a bunch of big name companies signed this aggreement, but Trader Joe will not. The tomatoes are cheap in Trader Joe’s because they are picked by slaves.
    http://ciw-online.org/TJ_point_by_point.html

    Fact Check, read this. And this is why we shouldn’t shop at TJ because they pretend to be local, pretend to be fast food organic, but really they are just as bad as Walmart.

    TRADER JOES READ IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE:
    Trader Joe’s attempt to foist its social responsibility obligations off on its wholesalers will not in fact satisfy ‘all of the expressed goals of the CIW.’ Trader Joe’s buys tomatoes from Florida through several totally separate, competing produce wholesalers, not one of which knows the specifics of the others’ business, much less the total pounds of Florida tomatoes Trader Joe’s buys across its supply chain. Only Trader Joe’s knows that, and only allowing an independent auditor to review its records can insure that the company is not buying from non-participating farms, or even banned farms, without reporting those purchases.

  108. Nita says:

    I have only been to Trader Joe’s 3 times but coincidentally, I was there the day before this post to meet a client in the parking lot to pick up a package. I wandered in to see what was going on inside and against my standard rule of not buying produce in packages (and MOST of TJ’s produce is wrapped), I bought a bag of arugula since the price was so good. When I opened it later that day, it was slimy and obviously not fresh.

    I don’t see what the hype is about this store.

  109. Arthur Cataldo says:

    I have long been a fan of Trader Joe’s. I have never bought produce there. It never looked as fresh as the produce at our farmer’s market. What we do buy there is raw almond butter, recycled paper products, and some toiletries — all cheaper than they would be at our health food store. And the wines are excellent for the money.

  110. Erica says:

    Long before my foray into veganism and raw food I had a negative opinion of Trader Joes. The first time I walked in I was shocked at the lack of fresh food and the row upon row and freezer upon freezer of processed crap. I’ll gladly to pay extra for my organic almond butter from Living Tree and have it shipped across country. As for Whole Foods, if you cook and bake from dry and scratch as we do Whole Foods’ prices very competitive. They carry unprocessed products that are “hard to find” in our area. Otherwise, I shop at my local groceries and markets for “organic” items. Our household smoothie intake is so great that shopping for frozen fruit at Gordon Food Service is the only affordable way for us to drink them every day. We buy strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, blackberries and raspberries in bulk figuring some nutrition is better than none and hoping that our liver can continue detoxifying the pesticides we’re subjected to.

  111. We LOVE Trader Joes! I agree sometimes their produce is over ripe. But they are one of the few stores in my area that offer organic produce at a decent price. I have to use food stamps and could not afford to feed my faily a decent organic meal if it weren’t for trader joes. it may not be the best choice, but our store is always clean and organized. anything that looks old on the shelf, if you let someone know, they immediately pull it off the shelves. They donate a ton to the food banks. If ever something goes bad before I can use it, i dont even have to take it back, they give me another for free just for telling them. I would rather buy the “organic raw nuts” at an affordable rate and be able to feed my family well even tough it may not be perfect, it is better than processed. At least the boxed and canned products in TJ’s have no high fructose corn syrups or MSG as your typical grocery store. I think you must do everything in moderation, buy the best when you are able, but do what you can with what you have. Even conventional is better than canned, processed or frozen. just wash it real good try to stay away from GMO. Thanks for bringing this up Kevin!

  112. April says:

    Some of the cheap items you can get… if you eat these items:

    Organic peanut butter and almond butter for WAY cheaper than I have seen it elsewhere.

    Organic frozen fruit for smoothies much cheaper than any other stores

    Almond milk, they have a new kind in the refrigerator section, that is cheaper and tastes better than the brands on the shelf. No oil added.

    Sprouted bread, much cheaper

    I do agree that it is mostly processed food, without preservatives, and since changing my diet to mostly raw I don’t have much of a need to shop there anymore.

    However, my daughter loves the samples!! She wants to go even when we don’t need food, because I let her have the sample even if I would never buy it or let her eat it at home just for fun. It’s a great way to make our shopping trip exciting, since the drive is long.

    Always a pleasant trip to Trader Joe’s. Love the atmosphere! Just wish they were more “healthy” than most of us realize after reading this blog.I know some TJ’s shoppers that are not going to be to happy about the new information.

  113. Anmari says:

    If it’s allegedly fresh — We don’t buy it. We only buy boxed or canned and sometimes frozen foods. The produce can’t be trusted, always looks bad. The bigger thing I went for was the chunk chocolate in bins. Great for baking and eating. Whole foods, a no no. I think they thrive on the small store general store kind of look. People look for that. That’s what keeps it going. Not its fresh foods.

  114. David says:

    I feel it depends on the individuals needs and budget in this case. I do feel it is unfair to generalize TJ’s to being a unhealthy alternative when your on a budget. There are far worse stores to shop at. From my experience i have never went into a TJ’s seeing wilted veggies or poor produce. Although there produce may not be the best you can still find some descent quality. Bottom line you get what you pay for and if your looking for optimum health TJ’s is not the place to shop. Although it is a much healthier alternative than many other stores i can think of. I have found many products that are healthy, organic, and process free. I definitely would suggest if you buy there nuts or seeds to germinate them before consumption. For people who are on a budget I feel as long as your purchasing the right foods you can find a few things from traders that suits a healthy lifestyle. Remember TJ’s is not a Farmers market or farmers co-op. All stores have there share of packaged and processed foods. So ruling TJ’s as an unhealthy option to me is too generalized.

  115. Kaila says:

    I’ve been shopping at trader joes since i moved to los angeles in 2004. In that time I’ve gone between raw food vegan, vegan, pescetarian, healthy cooked non red meat, so basically you name it I’ve done it diet wise. With regards to trader joes I’d like to address a few things. First off, I hate that so many people (including myself until recently) feel the need to label themselves and the things they consume. It wouldn’t be a problem if we limited ourselves to health-sustaining and health deteriorating. There are things that we as a society have always know to be less than ideal for daily consumption, things like fried foods, rich desserts full of sugar and lard, or drinking or eating ANYTHING in superfluous portions…it’s just common sense and we choose whether or not we want to “listen to our guts”. But now we are too busy labeling ourselves into a box to actually live and enjoy life. One day we are all going to die and there’s no way of knowing if what you put in your mouth will be the things that does you in. Trader joes as a grocery store chain far exceeds many of it’s competitors in price and value regardless of your dietary choices…well I should say especially if you are making your dietary choices on a budget and/or in a place with limited “healthy” resources. When I was raw vegan I bought nearly all of my grocery items there and supplemented the rarer items with whole foods. Being in California I also had access to a wonderful farmers market which, believe it or not, was considerably MORE expensive than trader joes and items usually spoiled ALOT faster than my other produce. And here’s another thing About being raw, perfection if execution shouldn’t be the goal, healing you body should be. If you eat almonds that are pasteurized but otherwise unprocessed instead of a handful of frito lays I think you’re ahead of the game. And if we are talking about energy, spending half of your life worrying about whether this whole nutritious food or that one MAY damage you thyroid takes away time that could be used to enrich your life in other ways. Trader Joes offers choices just like every other supermarket but strives to be the best choice it can be for you while keeping pricEs low. Sure you may get fresher produce elsewhere and if you can afford it then do it. But if you DO eat trader joes produce you are still making a healthy choice. If you choose naturally made organic potato chips over doritos, again you’ve made a better choice than you could have made. Don’t get me wrong, I wish I could eat 100% raw organic food from my backyard and have every single herb and berry to make me live forever, but I live in a world where we have to all make choices based on our circumstances. Trader Joes is no worse a choice than whole foods or farmers markets, but really the most important thing is to make voices for yourself. Get out there and do the legwork yourself and find what works. Stop waiting for someone to tell you what is right and what is wrong. And stop trying to elevate yourself above others by putting down others choices. I am glad we have resources in this modern world of ours and can learn from each other I just hope that in this all access environment we don’t lose the ability to think and reason for ourselves.

    Ok sorry for the rant. I shop at lots of different places and get what I need to feel and eat healthy from wherever it is available. I’ve gone high end and low end and just don’t want anyone to limit their resources.

  116. Sandra Patterson says:

    I love Trader Joes! I am enjoying reading all of the feedback. Gives me some ideas what else to try. I agree the produce might not be as fresh sometimes, I rarely buy their bagged lettuces for instance. I only buy certain things there. I usually shop at three stores to get what I need. Here is a list of the things I appreciate there. Goat yogurt, goat herb cheese, organic corn chips, organic olive oil, organic frozen blueberries and raspberries, organic maple syrup, organic pea sprouts, fresh basil, organic chicken, though I am looking for a cheaper source, Ezekiel bread, fair trade coffee which my daughter drinks, organic apples, bananas and pears, though now I have to think about if there is wax on the apples as someone commented about that. I love to buy their organic nut butters and low sugar organic jams. I am feeding a family with a limited budget and not every one here wants to eat only organic veggies and greens, I wish. As far as the produce, I only buy it if it looks fresh. I do go to other stores mostly for produce. When I go to a particular health food store in my area, perhaps looking for Thai coconuts being that it is a ways for me and I may get there sometimes 15 minutes until closing time, the only time I can come. Even thought this store has great interesting items to purchase, I get glares and feel very unwelcome, with a who am I to come in so late attitude. They will help you find things but I usually feel like they would rather I locate everything myself which I wish I could. Compare this to Trader Joes and I come in at the same time , I feel like they roll out the red carpet and never make me feel unwelcome, just the opposite. They are always eager to help and will take anything back no questions asked or open up a product for me to try if I have any questions. When I walk into the store I am greeted by cheery reasonably priced gorgeous flowers and it is one of the few places I can buy kewl cards that are very reasonable. I could go on and on. I do want them to get in more organic products etc but I am really grateful for this store and their reasonable prices. I think that if we to voice our desires for organic and use our dollars to buy organics we could influence them to stock more of the items we like.

  117. Erin says:

    Had my opinion changed about the expense of Whole Foods during my last visit with family in North Carolina. http://www.zenpawn.com/vegblog/2011/04/13/whole-foods-whole-paycheck/ Actually found some really good deals there!

  118. Angela says:

    Did I read somewhere in this post ” Tomatoes from Sweden”….that cracked me up…Really!!

    I believe that we all have to make conscious choices about our food and that our dollar is our vote…nowhere is perfect as others have voiced in this discussion but I also believe that knocking down a company without the correct information as I have also read through the one hundred and some posts here is also unfair.I am a Canadian and we do not have Trader Joes in my City but I work in a Health Food Store and I know that everything that we sell is Not The Best including our produce which we get alot from California, all organic but still not local. We do get some local in Summer. These discussions are very, very, good for all of us and it is important to read a variety of the posts here to get some insight and new views on the Stores we shop and and the food we are all consuming.

    Thanks Again Kevin and Annmarie for a very insightful and Active conversation! And Thanks to all of the people who posted!!!!

    Peace

  119. T Joes is ok for bananas, sprouted bread, and a few other things. 99 cents stores has organic produce from time to time, better looking than T Joes. Sometimes I get the big tub of organinc greens for a dollar, celery organinc, and a few other vegs organic for a dollar.
    I am very fussy. Many times I have been grossed out by Safeway on Solano, produce is sooooooooooo tired looking, they need to just throw it out. I love the Bowl and Monterey Market, I can walk there.
    I am missing the family farm in CT. Such wonderful orgainc corn and fresh picked whatever we are growing.
    Learned how to make Greek style yogurt from the thin organic stuff they sell at TJoes.
    Strain it through a thin linen towel.Takes overnight. Not eating cow milk yogurt lately, switched to coconut based yogurt. Only place that sells it is WFoods.

  120. Sarah says:

    I’m on a tight budget and I mostly like Trader Joe’s and go there for a few staples. But I do have a MAJOR problem with the facts that sooo much of the fresh produce is packaged!!! Usually, in plastic. So I have not been buying produce there unless it is unpackaged and not listed as heavily pesticide sprayed (dirty dozen). I’ve been going to the ONE organic lady at our local farmer’s market (so sad that theres only one organic farmer!!) or yes, the local big box store if need be (thankfully the local organic farmer gives me a much better deal! :)).
    Here are some of the things I buy at Trader Joes regularly because it’s cheaper than WF or small health foods stores (believe me, if I had more money I’d support the small HF stores more often!!):
    tempeh/tofu, almond milk, organic canned beans, tomatoes, organic frozen spinach, asparagus, and sometimes fruit, bananas, dates (best price i’ve found), fair trade chocolate, and other occasional natural treats.

    One thing I really do like about Trader Joes and makes me rather go there than other stores is that the employees are always really friendly, and that they are small. I really like the experience shopping at TJ than any other chain store.
    But yeah, I think its always important for people to read labels and not assume things are healthy because someone else says it is. Haha 🙂

  121. Betsy says:

    I shop and have shopped primarily at TJ’oe’s for years, even for my cafe when I owned it. It’s not perfect, but I can shop for some excellent basic ingredients in 1/3 the time of any other huge supermarket or whole foods.

    When they arenopen in the east, I buy most of my produce from Farmer’s markets or CSA, but in winter the organic carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, salad and spinach and stubble etc are wonderful. There are times when it must be wet in the growing areas or something because everyone’s bagged salads get slimy quickly, but it is rare. Iuss them from TJoe’s often and they hold up great.

    But the things I love best ther are the excellent quality staples…olive oil, white and red balsamic vinegars, organic ketchup and mayo, canned beans and bags of organic rice,cereals for my husband as well as the outstanding frozen berries and mango and chopped spinach and wild fish, and the many goat cheeses and yogurt and cleaning products as well as hand soap and body wash…. Even the toilet paper and paper towels!

    I will work on them on the donating food to charity, but all in all… They are the best around and, just to note, I buy their organic avocados every week, allow them to ripen and they are almost always the best I can find near Philly… Have rarely had an issue, maybe 2 or 3 times per year.. And they will give you your money back if you mention it!

  122. Betsy says:

    Sorry for the typos, I pad and auto correct make some goofy changes I missed… Stubble? No idea what I meant to say there!

  123. Bernard says:

    I heard TJs got in trouble for selling a sub food grade maple syrup, and listing it as top quality. They claimed ignorence, and said it was their supplier. I disagree with that claim. In my opinion, the management of Trader Joes knew or should have known the difference. Since the price was so much lower than market this should have been a red flag, also as a big retailer they have an obligation to ensure truthfulness in labeling of their products. This is no small mom and pop organization, but a huge retailer. They were fraudulently selling a product. I don’t trust them to be at all honest about their products. How do you know their organics are “Organic.” Its a pretty slippery slope and puts them on par with the rest of the corporate stores out there, just trying to make gouge a buck anyway they can.

  124. dennis james says:

    i agree with the bad produce comments. i have just bought blueberries there last night for $6.99 and they are already shriveled up and bad. this never happens with the ones i buy at sams club. they are the same packaging also. non organic and from chile, so you can’t just trash sam’s club and say tjs is healthier. the quality is just not there. you have to be vigilant and look the produce over carefully. i thought i did yesterday, and alas, was still duped! best advice is buy your produce elsewhere. at whole foods, or your local grocery stores. yes they take things back but who wants the hassle?

  125. Malvin says:

    So you feed eggs to your cat? Do you give them raw or boiled? I’ve never even thought about that! My parents have chickens and now also a cat so I’m really interested in that.

    • mary kay says:

      Yes, you should feed raw eggs to your cat, but only the yolks. Raw unrefrigerated eggs from a farmer or your relatives are the best. I raise chickens and feed my cats raw egg yolks all the time.

  126. I agree w/Kevin on the produce – I do not normally buy it there except for maybe the Persian cucumbers. Their dairy (especially the cheeses) are better at other places in the Bay Area (i.e. Cheese Board & Spanish Table). I do purchase their Goat Milk yogurt. Their meats and sausages are good – I specifically buy their ground turkey and chicken (even though Berkeley Bowl has a better butcher). I buy the raw nuts (when I can’t make it to Monterey Market or Berkeley Bowl) even if most have been pasteurized or tampered with. I purchase olive oil there because they have Spanish olive oil which has lighter taste and is harder to find. It is 5 blocks from my house – so when I go – I try to make it on a Tuesday or Saturday when the El Cerrito Farmer’s market is also happening, in which case I can have all bases covered…. Lucky’s is around the corner and I almost never go there…. especially since Trader Joe’s now carries unbleached flour.

  127. mary kay says:

    Okay, so this is hearsay. I have no proof either. Here goes:

    Years ago there was a regular guy who posted on the now defunct RawFoodTalk, who said his best friend was a manager of a Trader Joe’s. He said his friend told him that anything that was shipped from overseas at Trader Joe’s was irradiated. EVERYTHING. Even organic. Someone wrote back to him and said that was against the law, was against ordinance # blah blah blah and so on. And all he could say was his friend was his best friend.

    I tried sprouting some chia seeds from them that were grown in Australia and packed in California and they would not sprout.

    A friend of mine grew garlic and I think potatoes from some they bought at TJ’s….But my argument there is they could have been grown locally, not overseas and therefore not “nuked.”

  128. Donna Gates says:

    Hi Kevin,

    I love that you wrote this article. I totally agree and have for years.
    I just don’t see why so many people raved over TJ’s

    There is one and only one reason why I ever go in there and that is to buy their organic popcorn with OLIVE OIL.
    I keep this around for guests but also it’s great to sneak into the movie theatre.

    They never have decent popcorn at those theaters so I feel perfectly okay doing this. They leave us no option but to sneak food in. You have no idea how many times I’ve spoken to the management to suggest they at least pop the popcorn in coconut oil. But even if they would, of course their popcorn is GMO corn.

    Anyway, I hope someone at TJ’s reads your post. And like you and Annmarie i’ll pay more in a second to get the best vegetables I can find. I usually prefer the farmer’s market as well but the farmer’s here in CA are really concerned about the water shortage and next year the prices will be double. Time for people to learn now to plant family gardens again.
    Anyway, just had to take a moment to say HI and tell you I love the article! Donna Gates

  129. Judy Taylor says:

    We shop at TJ’s but only for bottled water, tuna fish for the cats, organic blueberries in season as well as Driscoll’s organic raspberries (we are in California), some soaps and that’s about it. All our organic produce comes from local farmer’s markets – and we know the farmers. Since we (my husband and I) have older model bodies, we prepare everything from scratch the way our moms did when we were kids – older bodies don’t take well to the modern, nutrient-poor food!

  130. Liam Vogel says:

    Yes, Kevin, I think you hit the nail on the head. I strongly agree with just about everything you said. The only thing I’d like to emphasize is that I feel they are SEVERELY lacking in organic choices. I also have heard on occasion that they can be less than totally transparent in certain cases (sorry, I can’t remember the details on this one).
    Love,
    Liam

  131. I live in Colorado and last year we FINALLY got not one but three TJ’s in the Denver area, and one in Colorado Springs just opened this month. A friend has been touting their stuff and was always asking what I wanted from there (he’s from California). I got to one in Denver a few months ago. Since I had already been grocery shopping (and didn’t know what to expect), I looked at the produce aisle but didn’t buy anything. Frankly, the produce all looked pretty good to me, but I didn’t inspect it closely. They did have a ton of fresh basil plants, probably non-organic, but I didn’t need one and didn’t buy it. I’d heard good things about their Indian frozen dinners, so I bought a couple. They didn’t live up to the Tandoor Chef frozen dinners I usually buy (I love Indian food and want it occasionally without going to a restaurant), so I wouldn’t buy them again. The one thing I did buy was a Basalmic Vinegar Glaze which I like, but I really wasn’t impressed with the store (the people were all very nice and helpful) and I have other food shopping options. Even though the TJ in Colorado Springs is right by the Costco, I have no need to stop in.

  132. lailja says:

    i like TJ’s. i rarely purchase their boxed products…i always read labels. i don’t purchase stuff made with canola oil and regular salt besides the other “usual stuff” i stay away from. i’ve written to them about this. we do appreciate their organic produce. for the most part we have good luck with their apples, oranges, limes, lemons, sometimes sweet potatoes, onions, squash. i love when they offer the brussel sprouts on “the stick”. i agree their greens aren’t always the best, however, i study them hard through the plastic and use them as quickly as possible. again, we stick to organic. i do purchase some of their nuts and seeds. but have to stay away from the enticing “fancy” stuff cuz of the ingredients. lambert loves their coconut water and he’s tasted quite a few. i also like purchasing their low sodium organic veggie broth. we do purchase the sardines in water every so often and smoked oysters. i love the friends i’ve made there. one woman no longer works there and we continue to see each other. farmer’s market? totally agree…much rather that. however, in florida we have times of the year when our farmer’s market doesn’t produce a lot of greens…just to hot. so, i’m exceedingly grateful to TJ’s in those times, ie: arugula, lettuce, fennel bulbs, cauliflower, broccoli, celery…you get the point. anywho…thanks for the listening ear. best to you all.

  133. My experience shopping at Trader Joe’s has been quite different from yours.
    The organic tomatoes, strawberries, and oranges have been fresh and delicious.
    Even their breads have been good. I especially enjoy their Corn Chips (like Fritos),
    except they are Organic. Can’t find them at other healthy food markets.
    We will continue to shop at the Santa Fe, NM store that offers many good choices
    and has a very friendly staff. I also shopped in Asheville where it offered quality
    foods also.

  134. Jettie says:

    I like their fish and salmon and hope the label is true: Wild Caught. And it’s reasonable. The only fish I can find that is wild caught around here

  135. Mike Gosmer says:

    Kevin – boy you have said what I’ve been thinking for years. I agree with all of your content. Is TJs a good place to shop? Well that depends, it depends on what you are looking for. Myself I’m Vegan and only eat a plant-based diet having said that, I only eat from the best sources available. What I can’t grow or don’t grow I buy from local Farmer’s Markets or from local health food stores or my local co-op. However living where I do (Spokane, WA) affords me many options in which to get local organic produce. Is TJs considered “local and organic” well I don’t really know the answer to that, I would think that some of their choices are local and organic but they are also a large corporation. A little bit of doubt about where food is coming from and how it was grown or cared for is enough for me to not consume it. Again I’m a little bit extreme in my food choices and given my location I feel like I should be able to be. Put it this way when it comes to nutrition and healthy choices there is no substitute for the best you can find. There is a TJs in my area, and it does exceptionally well which is primary due to the demographics of the area – I have been in it once and I didn’t really see anything that looked really mouth watering to me, from a veggie and fruit perspective – which are 99% of my staples. And like Kevin pointed out in his blog I can’t speak for anything else like meats, dairy, etc. since I don’t consume them. I did notice a lot of pre-packaged foods, i.e. boxed, canned or otherwise “processed” and I don’t consume anything like that.

    In my mind anything packaged is not “Organic” and not something I would go to a store to buy. I’m only pointing out that people in the “whole foods” culture don’t really view TJs and a good choice to buy their staples, and it’s not a cost issue its a food quality issue.

    Is it good for you? It is what is, if you like it then by all means shop there just be aware they are likely better stores and healthier options for you. I completely agree with the comment “in a bind it can work out very well for anyone” as I could find something there that I could eat if I looked hard enough.

  136. Kathy says:

    I agree about the produce. My husband goes there for the cheaper almond butter. Raw. Wish he would not but he is to cheap to purchase the organic one elsewhere or at Whole Foods.

    Let us know what you think of Whole Foods

  137. caroline jackson says:

    Thanks for your commentary about Trader Joes. I love the store for the aesthetics plus I have my regulars that I purchase for much less than at our local grocery store. I’m with you about the fruit, yet I have found what I buy produce wise, is generally great. Maybe it’s because I use it straight away or perhaps it’s related to my store specifically. Nevertheless, I find most items to be quite nice. I do have a big question though and would absolutely be thrilled if you could get the truth here. TJ’s boasts any and everything that has their label on it, regardless of whether is has an organic or non-gmo label, is NON-GMO. I have read otherwise and have refrained from purchasing anything corn, soy, beet, zucchini from there despite their adamancy that these products are in fact non-gmo.
    Thanks Kevin in advance. I would love to get to the bottom of this!

    Caroline

  138. arnie says:

    Sorry to hear about your poor shopping experience at T J’s but that has not been my experience or anyone that I know in NYC who shop at TJ’s. Just the opposite. The produce has always been good and I have cooked professionally in NYC over the years so I know food. You obviously have a lot more money than the people I know because we shop primarily the loss leaders. We would never buy their packaged, processed products. I have also purchased their grass fed beef, frozen organic berries and a few times their frozen fish. All have been excellent. Even their greeting cards are better than the dedicated stationary stores and they cost $.99. They have a limited organic produce section so we go elsewhere for those items. The staff has always been first rate and I have spoken to them about how it is to work there and their response is consistantly positive. When the Farmer’s Markets are in full swing I also shop there but it is pricey. I think $20 a pound for organic ginger says it all.

  139. betsy says:

    I’m much on the same path as you….there are 2 TJ’s really close to me in the Santa Cruz area, but I rarely shop there. I do by toilet paper there, and when I had cats, the natural cat food (which is highly processed, but one of the better lesser of the evils out there), sometimes TJ’s yogurt and they’ve started carrying Zico coconut water in 32 oz boxes (not from concentrate!). Best deal on tp and the cat food. the rest is convenience, as there are multiple other locally owned “natural food” stores in this area and farmers markets 5 days a week in different locations. I’ve often wondered of the sourcing for their brand name label for many of the items. How do you trace that? I have seen “product of…insert country or origin” on some of the labels, and resist buying out of state, let alone out of country. How did you find out their “raw” products are not really raw? I have bought things like raw organic sunflower seeds or almonds there, but have wondered. I too am conscientious of who I purchase from, where the money goes, and where the products originate from. I know I get “real” food when I shop at the farmers markets and am still label conscious at the locally owned natural food stores. I rarely by packaged or and almost never canned foods. Keeping my money local is important to me and TJ’s is just another big name nation wide. I do appreciate the option it does give to so many people in areas where there is no other option for alternative shopping. Whole foods is another story, I haven’t shopped in either of the 2 that have opened here. I really don’t have a lot of trust for large corporate entities.

  140. Jacek says:

    Kevin, one interesting claim that Trader Joe’s makes is that if a product in their store has the actual “Trader Joe’s” label on it, then supposedly that product is a non-GMO product. Ask any employee of Trader Joe’s – they are pretty much aware of this claim.

    Near me there is a Whole Foods and a Trader Joe’s that are relatively close to each other. When I have the time I make a grocery list and start out at Trader Joe’s buying as much as I can of what is on my list. If it’s produce it’s got to look pretty good other wise, I’ll get it at Whole Foods which usually always has good looking produce – but you pay for it. When I’m finished at Trader Joe’s I head to Whole Foods to pick up the rest. It’s amazing at how often I see people in Whole Foods that I just saw moments ago at Trader Joe’s. I think a lot of people are shopping this way.

  141. Teri says:

    I know that all the products labeled ‘Trader Joe’s’ are complete GMO free (I asked just last week), however, they said those labeled by other companies that they carry, they cannot guarantee that they are GMO free.

    Just FYI

  142. vidaverde says:

    I guess it has a lot to do with the employees… after all old produce can’t remove itself from the shelves. My experience at TJ’s is by far the best quality produce consistently, compared to our local grocery stores. I live in upstate NY so what produce is actually fresh here anyway, except for locally grown for part of the year? And to be fair I have seen bad produce at absolutely every other grocery store I have ever shopped. In fact a pet peeve is stores that will allow rotting avocados to remain on the shelves for sale. I have spoken to many a manager about their rotting produce. But until I witness this at TJ’s I will only commend them for their quality. And the amount of organic foods available at TJs is great! I stopped eating corn until I found their organic frozen sweet corn. Don’t eat much corn anyway, but it HAS to be organic for me. Yet, TJ’s says that all of their private label foods are nonGMO yet they have a strict privacy rule for their vendors, or so I’ve read. Maybe “the Food Babe” (Vani Hari) could look into this for us… but for now I will supplement my shopping at Trader Joe’s.

  143. Their organic Persian cucumbers have been unfailingly crisp and delicious. Excellent “wild organic” arugula, also baby broccoli has never failed to be fresh and tasty. I’ve found organic brussels sprouts in season that were just fine. Excellent organic raspberries and blackberries, usually early in the season, though. For me, avocados have been just fine. Excellent organic chicken. (Our local anti-GMO group claims TJ”s REALLY IS GMO-free on their label, and their organic chicken is NOT fed GMO feed.) Very good wild frozen fish. Sometimes I find organic or raw cheese, but not both at the same time, unfortunately. I’ve had very good romaine from TJ’s. Now that Whole Foods has (sob) taken over our local health food store I am GRATEFUL to have a Trader Joe’s to supplement. Living in high-altitude Arizona we don’t dependably have access to a farmers market.

  144. Jacek says:

    Kevin, you mentioned Farmer’s Markets. I went to a Farmer’s Market in Chicago this summer and was surprised to find that every farmer that I spoke with used a pesticide called Sevin. One farmer actually got upset with me for daring to ask him if he used pesticides. He told me that I should have done my homework before I went shopping. He didn’t realize that he was my homework. Google Sevin and check it out for yourself. I didn’t buy anything from any of those farmers. I’m going with as much organic as I can from here on in.

  145. Angela says:

    Hi Kevin. I am still laughing so hard at your humor (intended or not 🙂 in this article. I love it! The comment about Jonny 5 licking his own butt…negating his preference for Trader Joe’s eggs is hilarious. On a serious note, I do not shop at Trader Joe’s. But, no pun intended, your refreshing honesty is my reminder as to why I subscribe to your newsletter and Annmarie’s. I also purchase your products and trust your opinion and insight regarding the Raw Vegan or High Raw lifestyle. I have wondered from time to time what the big deal is regarding Trader Joe’s popularity. You saved me a trip. I shop at a variety of grocers. Whoever has the freshest “bestest” (John Kohler) is who gets my hard earned dollar. Thanks for the laughs!

  146. Susan says:

    I’m SO glad you opened this debate! A VERY SERIOUS PROBLEM that I’ve found is that a ton of their packaged to go items contain massive and dangerously high amounts of salt and/or sugar. I saw an item the other day which contained 980 mg of salt!!!! People on sodium restriction for heart issues or other ailments may be buying these products and may not even be aware of it, if they’re not reading the lables. It’s shocking. They should put a sign on the front door advertising that Trader Joe’s “promotes serious heart problems and can assist in developing them where they didn’t exist previously”! Even their packaged salads have high sugar content! I’ve called customer service complaining about this issue numerous times and have never received a return phone call. That’s not surprising, is it?!! It’s all about revenue, not about the health.

  147. Ela says:

    I agree with you that TJ’s is overhyped and overrated, especially as a produce source. Avocados, etc., always disappoint.
    However, there are just a few things that are always good:
    (1) Cauliflower $1.79/head — always fresh, extremely good value price wise (per _head_, not per lb). Not organic, but on the clean 15 list.
    (2) Fennel — two big bulbs, best price anywhere; if it’s not good here, it won’t be good anywhere else either. (I adore fennel. This isn’t og and I don’t know the “clean” status)
    (3) Organic celery hearts are almost always good.

    Also, you said the nuts/seeds aren’t raw even if they say they are. But I’ve bought cashews from TJ’s that have sprouted when I soaked them!

    The frozen produce is good value. They have wild boreal blueberries (which undergo freezing as part of their life cycle in the Arctic). They have frozen asparagus, artichokes, leeks. Now they also have frozen veggies with all kinds of crap added, but that seems to be a bit of a theme everywhere.

    So, I agree about 95% with what you say. I don’t think it’s worth going out of your way to, but if there’s one near you there are just a few things that are good value and good quality.

  148. I used to feel pretty cool shopping at Trader Joe’s when I lived in California. I loved the pear gorgonzola pizza, the decadent chocolate bundt cakes, and the calamari. But when I moved away and flew back to California for business, I would buy their ready made salads, and seriously, I got sick every time. Full on diarhhea, vomit sick. I only did that twice before I got the clue. I might shop there again someday, but I would never touch their fresh stuff unless I couldn’t get it anywhere else.

  149. Cara says:

    In the Milwaukee WI area I am not disappointed at the two known locations. I know it is a relative of Aldi, German based. I think TJ is a step up from Aldi. I like going there. I usually shop at our coop for 90% of my groceries but go when I see German or unusual items advertised. I do like TJ and most Aldi. Some of the Aldi stores here are less than satisfactory. Their staff are rude. Two Aldi that I personally know of.

  150. Deborah says:

    I love Trader Joe’s for all the different things you can buy not available anywhere else.

    I tend to make the same boring meals in a hurry and I have no time to make clever variations. Trader Joes offers some different stuff for a quick meal to break the blahs.. I did not have the same bad experience as you with the produce. of course it is not as good as fresh. I would prefer local produce. Not always enough time on weekends to go to the farmers market if house projects are shouting to be done!
    I am wondering why the raw nuts are not raw and how can i check this out there or anywhere.
    Meanwhile, I do not go there often as they have some no-no foods [no-no for my body] I love and simply cannot resist.

    • Jean says:

      I can tell you how to recognize raw almonds. Truly raw almonds have a cherry-like flavor. That explains why almond extract has a cherry flavor. Vitamin B-17 later known as laetrile probably accounts for the cherry flavor. Some companies are allowed to sell almonds that are pasteurized but not roasted as raw but they are not truly raw. Most of those coming from California are pasteurized due to a recent state law. But some from California are raw but special arrangements and perhaps amounts are necessary to get the almonds from California that are really raw.

  151. Like you said, many love TJ’s, and I am one of them. It’s rather like flying SouthWest Airlines,
    the employees and atmosphere is just so laid back, but efficient.
    I’m overwhelmingly blessed to live in Santa Cruz where one can almost go to 7/11 for good wholesome food.
    There are 4 major local health food stores the size of Safeway (3 a fairly local chain, and one store local only) and 2 Whole foods (which I don’t step into) within a 7 mile by 2 area. And I believe Our Costco must be the trial store for all organic products in the Bay Area.
    So my normal routine is to hit Costco and load up on bulk organically, including seasonally fresh fruits and organic frozens.
    Then to Trader Joes 2nd for healthy organic specifics that are cheaper than any of the health stores.
    Their frozen organics and frozen fish and meats are good too. However, I stay away from Trader Joes Vitimins and supplements. I don’t trust the quality. One has to read labels and pick and choose, but the prices and atmosphere I find worth it. When I traveled to East Phoenix/Mesa health choice starved area, and was able to pop into a trader Joes. I felt so home with some healthier food available. I’m not sure how all TJ’s policies work, being such a large company and all, but they seem to still be working it well, with a happy authentic care and smile.
    The last and more frequent on my shopping spree is to the daily farmers markets or local health stores for fresh veggies and other specific organic items. An only one local health store named Staff of Life is the main choice.
    It’s a full health store supermarket, all run local, with the best prices. It’s all green, and some of the supplements are wholesale prices. Usually many products are 30% cheaper than “whole paycheck (Foods)”
    I don’t know how they do it, but that’s my support and plug for local quality business here in the organic bread basket of the state. So my take is-Thanks Tj’s Markus

  152. Erik says:

    Trade Joe’s is a No-Go place for me for the same reasons you stated. Everything is packaged in some type of plastic an/or it is processed. I am a gluten free, dairy free and egg free eater so a lot of TJ’s packaged stuff is off my menu anyway. Where I live in California there is a year round farmer’s market so shopping at TJ doesn’t even make sense. On rare occasions I will pick up some sun flower seeds.

  153. Sandy says:

    TJ’s is for the young on the run and old who are too tired to do too much of anything.
    Yes, there are exceptions! I like my produce farm fresh and not in plastic wrappers
    that need to go to the landfills. Not a processed food buyer and do not shop in their
    dairy section. That said, they are a friendly, neighborhood type store – no smell of off gassing
    from chemically laden products as you would find in the biggies: e.g.Von’s, Ralphs, Albertsons, etc.
    I like my co-op the best!

  154. Ani says:

    Hi,

    I only shopped there once and bought organic raspberry leaf tea and was very pleased with it. By the way, it was the only place at that time that I could find bulk rasp. leaf tea — which has some extraordinary uses. The next year and every year since my raspberry plants are enough in number for me to harvest from my own.

  155. Karin says:

    I have to agree with your comments and conclusions. They’ll do in a pinch, but our local organic chain is my first choice. One thing you did not mention is that TJ’s claims to be gmo-free for anything with their own label. That’s a big deal.

  156. Jules says:

    My husband and I shop primarily organic. We go to the Santa Fe Farmers Market almost every Saturday for the fab fresh organic produce, honey, flowers and friends!
    I do shop at Trader Joe’s. I do buy organic avocados weekly and they always ripen, under the counter and they are dependable. We buy power greens for our green drinks as well as boreal (frozen) blueberries. We also buy
    other veges that are organic. I will say I don’t like the amount of packaging and so we prefer the other health food stores and farmers mkt for this reason!
    We do buy dish soap and kitty litter there. My husband buys “natural” chicken there.
    We never buy packaged foods there….don’t buy much of that anyway except brown rice pasta.
    i do feel that the food is no where near as fresh as the local farmers and so we balance it all!
    xo Jules

  157. I went to Trader Joes about 10 months ago and I was very disappointed and unimpressed with the products they carried. I bought a bag of chips that was made from seaweed or something and they tasted horrible. But not trying to be mean, but seems everything I read labels on was nothing healthy. They had some produce that seemed to be okay, but nothing impressed me and I would never go back.!! I think people just shop aimlessly without caring what ingredients are in the foods they buy. Jill in Michigan

  158. Yakitah says:

    Yes, I occasionally shop at TJ’s and I find them mediocre, and just as you’ve experienced, they do have
    nice packaging and good prices for the most part. However, you again are right, their produce isn’t all that!

    As usual you must read labels of contents and so forth as well, to discover that everything you thought is all
    natural or organic isn’t true. They will pass on several fronts but there are much better results via local
    farmers, which I attend farmer markets quite frequently. TJ’s, maybe once every two months.

    Thanks for your researches and your article on them.

    Ms. Yakitah Jones

  159. Hi Kevin,

    I agree with you completely, regarding TJ’s. I used to love the place, but now, since we’ve moved to Oregon, (from So. CA), joined Weston A. Price Foundation, gotten rid of the “buy boxed items” fever, etc. I think TJ’s is just another market, set apart from others by the “local feel” and the guys in the Hawaiian shirts. Yes, the produce is wilted (since we buy at a grower’s market now, it obvious).

    I think America has to learn that you have to take responsibility for your food choices, medical care and anything else that the government tries to “do for you”. You are doing the community a great service in putting out alternatives. If they don’t respond, it is definitely their problem. Keep up the good work!

  160. Susan T says:

    Overall I like Trader Joe’s . Mostly because their prices are good and there is a different variety of grocery items than your typical grocery store. I don’t buy much produce there but they do have a lot of really good bakery items. I have tried their meat and it has always been good . Their breads and cereals are good and always get my eggs and yogurt there. The frozen fish and frozen items have always been good too. So unless you are looking for raw nuts and the freshest vegetables it’s not a bad place to shop.

  161. J. Bee says:

    I shop at Trader Joe’s for very few things. I LOVE the price of their wild rice. I don’t see that anywhere else. But like you the bulk of my shopping is produce which I buy from a farm most of the time.

  162. B Linger says:

    I hear what you’re saying but I still like Trader Joes. We buy organic frozen corn (best price anywhere) and almond meal (best price anywhere) and some other stuff. For many packaged items, the quality if fine and you can’t beat the price.

  163. Josephine says:

    I’ve gotten some of Trader Joe’s sauces, and they were so salty! I could not use them. To reduce the salt enough, there wasn’t enough sauce left to taste the sauce’s advertised flavor!

  164. Nadia says:

    I shop at Trader Joe’s weekly in addition to the trip to Fresh Market (and farmers market during the summer).
    Greens are not as good at Trader Joe’s, so I prefer them from Fresh Market.

    During the summer I buy some veggies and fruit at farmers market or on sale at Fresh Market. During cold months, most fruit and veggies I buy at Trader Joe’s. I don’t like produce from Farm Fresh or Food Lion. Fresh produce is only better at Fresh Market. But Fresh Market’s prices are way too high. Yes, I know better quality produce is best for the long-term health. However, if I buy better quality produce in a quantity 4 times less than what I buy now, then my family will eat significantly more grains and desserts which I consider worse for the long-term health.

    I know that almonds are pasteurized and therefore not raw. I just was in Germany, and oh my God the almonds there have such a taste! But I had no idea that all other nuts and seeds sold at Trader Joe’s are not raw either. This is said. I thought I was buying raw sunflower and pumpkin seeds and raw walnuts, soaked them and dehydrated, but it turns out they are not raw. What a disappointment 🙁

  165. Jackie says:

    TJ’s: look carefully at country of origin and contents. Lots of stuff from China (watch the movie Samskara if you have any doubts about how China does mass production of food), and everything made from GMO, solvent-extracted canola oil. not something I care to eat!

  166. Dear Kevin, I disagree with your assessment of Trader Joes, although I understand your position given your circumstances. My sister lives in a semi-rural area outside Zurich Switzerland. She shops one farm for apples and pears, another for potatoes and root veggies, one farmer’s market for cheese, a particular bakery for bread. When she in in the States, she would never think of shopping at Trader Joe’s. When she buys groceries, she goes only to Whole Foods (whole wallet to someone in my situation.) But for me, a working stiff who works in Manhattan and commutes home to New Jersey, limited time to shop and limited budget, Trader Joe’s is a lifesaver. Yes, there are produce items I would never buy there: salad greens, asparagus, berries, most other fruits. These I buy at one of the many produce carts on the street (fresher but definitely not organic). But other produce I have never been disappointed by: celery, bok choi, brocolli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, pea sprouts. Never buy avocado in bulk but you can get good individual ones. Good selection of quality apples. Eggs are cage free, no hormone/antibiotic. Majority of meats (which I eat rarely) are no hormone/antibiotic. Good selection cheeses at generally cheaper prices. And their whole milk European style yogurt is the best quality/price deal I have found. Fish is not fresh but flash frozen (which many experts contend is actually fresher than fish which has been shipped raw. Forget their bread, which is not good quality. They offer a lot of pre-packaged/processed food (which one doesn’t have to buy) and when I need to buy pre-packaged, TJs is more economical. Farmer’s markets in and around NYC have food 3 to 4 times the cost at TJ, and sometimes also a bit wilted. So, I give TJ not the overall pan you gave it, but a mixed rating. Still overall, for a person with limited budget and limited time, I find them clearly the best price to quality store I can get to.

  167. Shirley says:

    I always have to go from TJ’s to WFM to Co-op to get everything I need. You just have to read labels on packaged foods to get really delightful treats. I try only to drink organic wine and TJ’s has the lowest priced organic wine. I stock up. There seems to be a link between wine and breast cancer so I am hoping it may be due to the toxic chemicals rather than the wine itself. I could be wrong. Yes, I agree on the produce. The flowers are always a good deal. Good prices on wild salmon.

  168. You’ve missed a very important benefit of shopping at Trader Joe’s: NONE of their privately labelled products (and that’s most of what they sell) contains any GMOs! So you can purchase corn tortillas and cereals, and lots of other items and be assured of NO genetically modified ingredients. That’s monumental in itself! What other store can guarantee you that?

  169. Susan says:

    I used to love shopping at Trader Joe’s. Now I only shop there once in a while and stick mostly with my produce market, Whole Foods and Farmer’s markets. I had two experiences there with their food and don’t trust their products.
    I tend to get on food kicks and for awhile I was on a sweet potato kick. I bought a bag of organic sweet potatoes from Trader Joe’s and ate almost all of them, and then I was off my sweet potato kick. I had one in the cupboard for about 8 months! I pulled it out to throw it away, expecting it to be moldy and gross, but to my surprise it looked like I bought it yesterday!!!
    My next experience was buying in the fresh food section their thin pizza rounds with feta and spinach. I am a flight attendant and I thought this would be great to bring with me on my trips. I unfortunately left my lunch box with the pizza rounds in the hotel when I left. Another flight attendant who was getting on the hotel van that I was getting off and realized I had left it, generously offered to get it for me and drop it off at the Flight Attendant office in Denver. I was so grateful, I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was based in San Francisco. A month later, I passed through Denver and stopped to pick up my lunch box. The person in charge, went to a closet to get my lunch box. I immediately opened it up expecting a disgusting mess of mold in my bag and to my surprise it looked like I had just bought it!!! The package said, natural with no preservatives…
    On another note, I don’t really trust the organic berries from Driscoll Farms. I bought organic raspberries from this company and a week later they still looked good and no mold! Usually raspberries mold in a couple of days! Wonder what they do to their berries to make them last longer???

  170. Trader Joe’s (TJ’s) IS my go-to food store with Whole Foods & Sprout’s as my 2nd choice. I try to get most of my organic produce, salmon & eggs at local farmer’s markets.
    TJ’s has a well rounded stock of organics at great prices. I rarely buy anything there that’s not organic though I am now really checking my labels even on those products, for example; Trader Joe’s brand Fennel toothpaste is delicious and I was so happy to find it, BUT, then I saw they use Carrageenan in it ~ also goes for their tiny organic 6-pak of organic banana & vanilla bean yogurt! This was a BIG disappointment. I’m finding carrageenan stashed in many of their products along with “natural flavorings,” so check their products out carefully (I think this can be said for the other two stores also)
    EGGS! I have my own chickens so I know what a GOOD egg is like. Unfortunately my chickens are now 3 year olds so rarely any eggs now though they still are great for eating bugs in the yard 🙂 I bought TJ’s Organic, Free-Range eggs, paying the higher price for “better, more humanely-raised eggs. They were brown, like most of mine, BUT, the yolk was still the very pale yellow I see coming from the big, inhumane egg raising conglomerates. Next time I bought from the farmer’s market from a local organically certified farmer and those egg yolks were a rich orange color, just like mine were. SO, I highly recommend buying eggs this way AND you’ll save money as they’re usually cheaper than from the markets.
    As far as meats go, I do buy their organic, free-range chicken (the legs are a great price!). Also their sausages, the ones without the nitrates & nitrites. That also goes for their sliced Black Forrest Ham, the BEST!! They also carry some grass-fed ground beef, usually in the freezer. NEVER buy their fish, ALWAYS been too fishy for me telling me it’s just past the time I personally want to eat it. We buy nothing but salmon now from a specific guy at the farmer’s market. He carries the BEST, sushi-quality fish I’ve EVER tasted and it’s even a dollar cheaper than Whole Foods – the only other place I’d buy fish, in a pinch.
    As far a packed or prepared foods, I’d never buy them, ANYWHERE! I do break down occasionally and buy TJ’s premade salads even though none of them are organic (shame on ME!!)
    As far as nuts go I heard that their raw almonds are STEAM pasteurized which is better than the process Planter’s and other nut companies use but I’m not sure about their raw cashews, though I still buy them ~ best nut prices in town. When it comes to seeds I go to Sprouts. Their prices ARE better for chia & flax seeds and I can also get hemp seeds there.
    I also follow Food Babe as she is great in her research of different stores and brands.

    ALOHA!

  171. Jean says:

    Less than half of the produce is organic at our local TJ. Most of the food is highly processed and for sale in boxes, cans, jars. We don’t eat that kind of food. We only (98%) eat whole foods that are organic, cooked or raw. For instance we drive quite a distance to get organic, grass fed, raw, milk from Jersey cows. We eat eggs from chickens that spend most of their time outside eating bugs and grasses and scratching in the dirt and get non-gmo corn to supplement, preferably organic but never soy feed. We eat a lot of vegetables and fruits and some meat, eggs, milk, nuts. No, or very little sugar, never from GMO sugar beets. We prefer minimally processed cane sugar, honey and very little of that. Quite a bit of healthy fats from grass=fed animals or plant sources such as avocado or coconut oil, never corn, soy, canola, vegetable oil.

  172. Linda says:

    I like TJ’s for organic produce. I haven’t had an issue with bad produce. I don’t buy a lot of the boxed and canned stuff – you still have to read labels and it’s not always great. They have great prices on organic frozen berries, organic butter, and Ezekiel bread is cheaper there than anywhere else. They also have a good selection of organic wine for a very reasonable price. You can’t even find organic wine at a regular grocery store. They have grass fed cheese and grass fed beef hot dogs too for when your kids want a treat.

  173. Jean says:

    This is what I buy there which I like and are priced well:
    1. Their sprouted organic breads are better tasting to me than many commercial brands.
    2. They have organic, free range eggs for about $4.49 a dozen.
    3. Butter from Ireland from free range cows, is delicious.
    4. I buy their raw nuts which, yes, I realize are pasturized, but most times the unpasturized nuts are too pricey for me.
    5. They have some organic teas (yes, in teabags, not delicious like loose sourced teas, but very good for bagged tea.)
    6. Organic virgin coconut oil which I use for my body. I buy other brands for eating.
    7. Organic raisins.
    8. Organic Spanish olive oil.
    9. Soap & Shampoos – Tea Tree Tingle shampoo I use on my dogs and it helps with their itching allergies tremendously. They also have the same brand in body wash and hair conditioner.
    10. TJ’s brand toothpaste, fennel is great.

  174. Marshall says:

    Thank you for so much for saying so very well, Kevin, exactly how I feel when I am there! Since I too am a big produce buyer, there is little there that I can buy at Trader Joe’s, except temphe perhaps or in a pinch carrots, if I can find organic. Since friends rave about the place so much, I have to say, you get what you pay for! And I want the freshest, organic kale, collards, green onions, rutabaga, purple turnips, carrots, romaine, bib, daikon, and squash that I can find! And it’s never at TJ’s! I do enjoy buying flowers there though. They have a nice selection and a good price.

  175. Loko says:

    I live in the Midwest. Trader Joe’s organic produce is as good or bad as any of the chain stores including Whole Foods…Much of the organic produce provided to stores comes from Ca or further (except in the summer)…so it tends to be somewhat old and wilted by the time it hits our stores. One just needs to look for the freshest vegetables they can find. Overall, I like Trader Joes.

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