I finally tried to do some “real food” budget shopping at Trader Joe’s. I was unfortunately short on time, but once I started shopping I realized it didn’t matter because it is one SMALL store. There is a practically a whole aisle dedicated to wine (which, don’t get me wrong, I love) and another aisle mostly dedicated to frozen pre-made food (which I basically skipped). So that left me with 2 aisles and the produce section. My immediate thought was that they could not possibly sell all the things on my list with so few products. So should we start with what I did spend $58.73 on…or with all the things on my list that I was unable to buy? Well, I know how much people seem to like this store so I will be nice…here is what I got (which was mostly organic):
- Bananas $1.16
- Green grapes $2.99
- Whole raw cashews $5.49
- Raisins $2.69
- Mushrooms $1.99
- Two pears $1.38
- Coffee beans $6.49
- Pumpkin seeds $5.49
- Monterey Jack cheese $3.59
- Cheddar cheese $2.27
- Marinara sauce $2.29
- Honey $2.79
- (Non- GMO) Canola oil $3.49 …and by the way I returned the comment provoking “GMO Canola Oil” to Wal-Mart today!
- Oats X 2 $2.29 each
- Lara bar $1.29
- Parmigiano Reggiano $4.62
- Sliced Almonds X 2 $2.49 each
Okay, so I will start with the positives. The almonds, cashews, and cheese were definitely cheaper than other stores…and we certainly go through our fair share of those items. In some instances I sort of liked how they didn’t have a lot of choices. I think it can make shopping easier and faster. If there is only one organic whole coffee bean choice or only one organic rolled oat choice then that is what you get. No decisions necessary. Lastly, I was told that none of their products are made from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) which is helpful because then it is can easily be avoided even if you can’t/don’t buy organic.
Here are the things I did not like about Trader Joe’s. First, let’s start with some of the things on my list that were not available for purchase…
- Dried chickpeas
- Shredded coconut (of any kind…not even sweetened)
- A single organic onion
- Organic cream
- Single organic potatoes
- A single head of organic garlic
And in the spice section I couldn’t help but notice that they didn’t appear to sell ground ginger. I didn’t need to buy it…I was just looking. So this brings me to the biggest reason I am not a huge Trader Joe’s fan. This store could never be my one-stop-shop. And who says I can’t have real food, cheap, AND convenience all at the same time? :) The point is if I decide to shop there I will always have to go to yet another store to get everything on my list. And I also do not think their produce is that great. Aside from the fact that I have to buy most organic produce items in bulk (which doesn’t work on my tightwad budget), I don’t think it looks like the freshest stuff around either. The grapes, which I bought, were really dirty (it’s not like they’re grown in the ground like a carrot!) and quite a few of them had mold at the base. With that being said, I do think the nuts and cheese at Trader Joe’s were cheap enough for me to make a special trip there. And the store is right next to Great Harvest where I go every other week to buy our sandwich bread anyway. So, on those weeks I will have to try to stock up on nuts and cheese since it would obviously be worth it. I am glad to have yet another new store checked off my list of places to try because when it comes to chores I like routine, and I cannot wait to define my new shopping routine on this budget!
Oh, and before I forget…here is our dinner plan for the week!
Monday: We had leftover Matzo ball soup (have I mentioned how much I love leftovers?)
Tuesday: Shrimp and sausage jambalaya
Wednesday: Gnocchi with a mushroom/sausage red sauce and broccoli
Thursday: Some kind of chestnut dish, maybe some pasta, and green beans
Friday: Leftovers (hopefully)
Saturday: We are having a big Halloween Party where I am serving a “real food” dinner from a separate entertaining budget…more on that later!