An Ode to Trader Joe’s

Monday Musings from Melinda by Melinda M.

Remember how I said last week that “in Hilo [folks] always appreciate something from Trader Joe’s.”? Well that got me thinking…I know this is not the first ode to Trader Joe’s – the grocery store where “great food + great prices = Value.” There are some entertaining “odes” to Trader Joe’s on YouTube. But this ode is different because it comes from a place where THERE IS NO TRADER JOE’S!! Gasp! It’s true. Despite their Hawaiian theme, TJ’s does not have a store in the entire state and people here LOVE their product.

Try look – at any farmer’s market or grocery store, it seems like every other shopper is toting a reusable Trader Joe’s shopping bag. My sister, on coming to visit us from California, had to repack her bag at the ticket counter when it tipped the scale; when she did, the Hawaiian Airlines agent just had to laugh: yet another traveler bringing back an aisle’s worth of Trader Joe’s goodies!

Part of the appeal of this grocery store that’s so much more, is its quality to price point ratio. And they just can’t maintain that in Hawaii, given the cost of shipping and their distribution model.

A few years ago, I was traveling in San Diego with a Hilo friend and took her on her first trip to Trader Joe’s. It was hilarious. Her mouth dropped at the low prices, she yelled out the price she normally pays for a particular milk in Hilo, she filled her cart to the brim and acted like a winning game show contestant when the cashier gave her the total. We are just so accustomed to the high cost of living here that it is always a bit of a thrill when you get a cart full of goodies without wiping out your wallet.img_4754The challenge of being a Hawaii shopper in this mainland store is finding the goodies you can bring back. The diary aisle? No can. The prepared meals? No can. The organic produce? Definitely no. can. What we can bring back are the yummy dry goods – the trail mixes, dried fruits, cookies, crackers – yes, even their crackers are delicious and worth the schlep.My friends always give me new ideas when they bring back Trader Joe’s treats – tapenade, pancake mixes, packaged olives. Yum! The challenge is trying to remember what it was they brought or even finding it the next time I get to a Trader Joe’s. The last time I went to California?

Typical Hilo luggage stuffed with TJ omiyage.

I actually packed an entire empty carry on to bring home what are essentially groceries. I’m addicted. So when you’re coming to Hilo, remember that any goodie (i.e., omiyage!) from Trader Joe’s will bring a lot of aloha.


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