Okay, now while I lived in California for 7 years, you cannot help but jump on the Trader’s Joe’s bandwagon. I ALWAYS went there for wine, cheese and fresh flowers. Back in my single days, the wine aspect was especially important. Oh, and that little marketing scheme they had going on with Two Buck Chuck, had us scurrying for cases, and I mean CASES of wine! For those of you who don’t know, Two Buck Chuck is the Charles Shaw wine priced at $1.99 a bottle. They said that some poor ‘ole man who owned some winery had just divorced his wife and he was trying to sell off the wine as cheaply as possible so she wouldn’t get diddly in their divorce settlement. Well, when you are living in Cali in your early twenties this is quite a deal not to pass up. As you can see, they pulled one over on us, since there is STILL plenty of Charles Shaw to be consumed by the whole country. Not bad though for a two dollar bottle of wine…… Anyways, I do really love Trader Joe’s. I shop there for a good majority of items but there are certain things I can’t get at Trader Joes, so I go to Earth Fare, Home Economist or Talley’s. For this Smarty exercise, we’ll just compare Trader Joe’s and Earth Fare. Now remember both stores carry a lot of organic foods but there is still a good amount of conventional products so you have to read all labels.
Trader Joe’s is great for flowers, breads, pasta, pasta sauce, cheeses, butter, milk, cereal and healthy snacks. If you look at the labels, you will recognize the ingredients listed. I find MSG in a ton of foods nowadays – again, read the labels on everything. Drives me nuts! They have great dried fruits and nuts as well. The meats are good. If you all have never tried “tri tip” you should give it a shot. It is sort of like a small roast and is VERY popular in California and great when marinated. (Often comes marinated from Trader Joe’s). I was in Harris Teeter (yes, I do shop at Harris Teeter occasionally!) one day and a couple was asking the butcher for tri tip. I couldn’t help but ask if they were from California and sure enough, they had just moved from California two months earlier. Unfortunately, the butcher did not have tri tip but I am sure they survived. I think you can find great produce at great prices as well. You just have to carefully inspect before you buy. I have had some instances where something spoiled quickly but they return items with NO problems You can return even if you don’t like it. Doesn’t matter if it’s spoiled or not. My favorite thing about Trader Joe’s is the FROZEN FOOD section. They have so many easy, easy meals to buy that are so inexpensive. I have rarely had anything I haven’t enjoyed. You really have to check this out. Anything from appetizers to pasta meals to seafood, etc. Oh and awesome desserts! I also love that if you bring your own bags they put your name in for a $25 drawing. I have yet to win but I love this idea. They have balloons for the kiddos as well! The staff is so energetic and friendly you can’t help but be in a good mood when you’re shopping there. I have also heard that they carry some good options for kids with food allergies. Last but not least, I save soooooooooo much money by going here! At least half of what my Harris Teeter grocery bills would be. I could go on forever about Trader Joe’s but I will stop here.
Earth Fare is a gem as well. As you can imagine, I danced a jig when Earth Fare came to Southpark! I love that they really encourage local farming and produce. I find that they have great quality and it’s always a wonderful shopping experience. The staff is friendly as well and really knowledgeable. They have a meat counter/butcher area which Trader Joe’s does not. They just have more volume and a variety of products that you may not find at TJ’s. For instance, I was looking for organic powdered sugar for my boys’ birthday cake and couldn’t find it at Trader Joe’s , but they had it at Earth Fare. They have diapers, cosmetics and many more toiletries than you would find at TJ’s. They just started carrying Little Twig, one of my favorite organic bath products for children. They also have the ready-made food counter, a great bakery (iced sugar cookies are too good!), the café, salad bar and yummy smoothies! My kids love this juice I get there called VRUIT. It’s a mixture of veggie and fruit juice. They carry all kinds of organic baby lotions and bath products as well as some clothing. They have 7th Generation diapers although they are sold out sometimes. It’s really a great store as well! I just end up spending way too much money when I go there. It’s almost as if they have too many fun foods and products and they are all too hard to pass up. I also enjoy browsing through the gift/candle and book area. You might even find yourself there on a day when they are giving massages. I have not been able to partake in this as of yet, but not for lack of wanting. I usually have my twins with me so I don’t have the luxury of asking them to “just hang on a sec” while mommy gets a neck rub. Oh, one VERY important point is that Earth Fare DOES have the carts for two kids! They only have two (this is at the Southpark location- not sure about the Ballantyne one) carts though. Unfortunately, TJ’s doesn’t have these carts yet. Anyways, both stores are my favorites here in Charlotte.
I’ll be interested to see what happens if Whole Foods makes it here to Charlotte. I hear this is in the works. I had the pleasure of living in Austin, TX when Whole Foods opened up their Flagship store there. Austin is where Whole Foods originated. It was really like a culinary museum. So much fun!
Thanks, Dana! I learn so much when I read your posts. Can’t wait to try VRUIT – brilliant concept! We’ll look for more from Dana on Talley’s (you gotta root for the home team!) as well as the Home Economist. Stay green!