April 6, 2008

Trader Joe’s vs. Earth Fare

By Green Mama, Dana D.

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!

12 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    I am a huge Trader Joe’s fan too. I make my own baby food so I buy a lot of the veggies/fruit from there. They have organic squash and sweet potatoes already cut which makes pureeing a lot easier.Just a side note…two buck chuck is actually $2.99. Still an awsome deal and very tasty!

  2. Dana says:

    Thanks for the correction! It was $1.99 in California and now remember it’s $2.99 here. Great ideas with pureeing the baby food. The butternut squash is great and alot easier than having to peel it yourself.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Are the organic things at TJ from the US though? I had a can of beans (organic) in my hands the other day and just happened to look at the bottom and saw “from China” on it…wondering…

  4. Dana says:

    I don’t think the organic products at Trader Joe’s or Earth Fare are only from the US. I just looked at a can of beans from TJ’s that says from Turkey. I have also bought organic products (especially fruits and veggies) from Chile, etc. from Earth Fare. We should make sure that the organic products you purchase are certified organic. Here is a blurp from the USDA:”The National Organic Program (NOP) develops, implements, and administers national production, handling, and labeling standards for organic agricultural products. The NOP also accredits the certifying agents (foreign and domestic) who inspect organic production and handling operations to certify that they meet USDA standards.” So it says foreign and domestic. Here is the link. http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/!ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?navid=ORGANIC_CERTIFICATIO&navtype=RT&parentnav=AGRICULTUREHope that helps!

  5. Anonymous says:

    I would have to select Earthfare for quality brands over Trader Joes. They have a lot of organic brands that have been around for years and that are proven to be high quality. Earthfare carries more US certified organic brands than Trader Joes and most of their produce is from local organic farmers. Alot of Trader Joe products are certified organic through an international organic certification which means the ingredients are 75% organic versus a US or California standard which are certified 90% organic.

  6. Michelle says:

    I went to check out TJ today since it was compared to Earth Fare and I have to say I was disappointed. Maybe better prices, but when you add gas mileage to going to other stores it will equal out. Has anyone checked out Blooms yet?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Blooms is an upscale Food Lion. Much more costly compared to Food Lion but same owner. I do like that you can print out your own stickers and weigh your produce in the produce section, that way you don’t have to wait for the cashier to look up all the codes and you know what you are spending too.

  8. Courtney L says:

    I too love both Trade Joe’s & Earth Fare! They both are such a great addition to the CLT grocery scene. My newest fave at Earth Fare is the Crispy Green freeze dried fruit- they are made from only real fruit, no additives & so have very few calories & a ton of taste. Crispy & not overly-sweet like dried fruit. They are expensive, but you will be addicted. I don’t mind, though, it doesn’t go bad like half the fresh fruit I buy, it’s easy to take on the go & my 14 mos. son LOVES it! Oh- I don’t work there or anything like that, I just think other mom’s like to hear about healthy, convenient food!

  9. Anonymous says:

    I am trying to read up on organic foods and products in hopes of using all organic products and foods.I don’t have children yet, but I do have a husband. And I am a little overwhelmed with where to start. Reading this has helped with where to go, but does anyone have suggestions on where I should begin? Also, what about restaurants?

  10. Dana says:

    I would start going organic with your meats, milk, vegetables and fruits. Then start taking a look at your personal care items. Use up what you have and then buy paraben free lotions, etc. Then start with your house. Limit plastic, use no VOC products(ex. paint,sealers,etc), natural cleaning supplies(or homemade-actually VERY easy), and just practice the three R’s. Reduce, reuse and recycle. I think you will find that it is alot easier than you would think. Keep checking out our website for new ideas and then check out some of the websites I have listed in the past for products. For example, Organic Grace (www.organicgrace.com) has a wealth of information on their site and newsletter. Please let us know if we can be of further help in your quest to go Green!!

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