Trader Joe’s Grocery Store | 17 West Rand Road (Between Arlington Heights Rd, on Rte. 12)
Arlington Heights, IL, 60004 | (847) 506-0752 | Open 9am to 9pm daily
When it comes to groceries, some frugal-folk play the coupon game, stockpiling on all the name brands at super-discounts. Others are content to buy everything from ALDI or the affordable indie grocer. But what does a frugal shopper who wants to eat natural, organic or gluten-free do? Wait for sales? Go to Whole Foods? At their regular prices? ‘Yikes!’ goes the wallet.
Here is where specialty grocer Trader Joe’s steps in. This is a place “where you can still get great food that’s good for you without spending your whole paycheck,” to quote a sign at the Arlington Heights store. The prices are often less than regular prices at Jewel’s or Dominick’s and it has a store has a neighborly feel, thanks to its Hawaii theme and art and signs by the in-house artist.
Founded in California by a real Joe in 1958, Trader Joe’s marks out its success by sourcing the best suppliers for its house lines and passing it on to you for competitive prices. Many of these “good buys” are singled out for shoppers in its quirky sales circular, the “Fearless Flyer”, sprinkled goofy old-fashioned clip-art and descriptions sprinkled with Trader Joe’s signature humor.
- Great selection of organic and natural food at good prices ($1.99 for organic ketchup) lacking things like extra salt, artifical colors, flavors, and preservatives, gentically modified ingredients and MSG. Handy in-store product lists help shoppers to find food that’s gluten-free, vegetarian, or kosher.
- Check out this list of favorite 2010 products. Topping the list? Frozen Mandarin Orange Chicken.
- Huge selection gourmet and regular grocery staples including snacks, ethnic foods, baked goods, cheese, unique frozen foods and staples like meat, dairy, produce and regular groceries, a small floral department, plus fair-trade coffees, teas, and chocolate.
- Interesting variety of dried fruits and nuts from the commonplace (raw almonds for $4.49) to the unusual (freeze-dried dragonfruit) and trail mixes ($3-$6), with prices competitve to Valli’s or Caputo.
- Trader Joe’s obsession with snacks dipped in chocolate, from mini peanut butter cups to pomegranate seeds.
- Curious to try something before buying? Ask one of the friendly, upbeat employees to open it and offer you a free sample.
- Don’t like something? No problem. Return it for a full refund or replacement, free of charge.
- Don’t miss the coffee ($4.99-$7.99) or the beer/wine department stocked with resonably priced domestic and international wines and microbrews
- The infamous “Two-Buck-Chuck” Charles Shaw wines…which are really $3 and quite tasty according to the vinophiles that cart cases of it home.
- Free samples! Nibble on the sample of the day or sip some coffee or juice. Weekends have wine-tastings.
- Earnings tickets for the Trader Joe’s giftcard raffle when you use reusable bags.
- Produce quality is good, but selection is small and pricey. For example, $3.99 for a mixture of diced carrots, celery and onions packaged as “Mirepoix”? Save the $4 and chop your own. Try the nearby Jewel, Harvest Fresh or Garden Fresh for less pricey produce.
- No traditional deli, but the deli case does offer a good variety of natural/free-range sausages and deli meats.
- Weekends and evenings get crammed as does the parking lot.
While Trader Joe’s gets mobbed on weekends and the produce prices leave something to be desired, these are quibbles compared to what it offers to the frugal shopper:
- Reasonable, great prices on organic, natural and gluten-free foods to rival Whole Foods or Jewel
- Great selection and pricing on specialty foods and regular groceries— did I mention the “Two-Buck Chuck?”
- Friendly, upbeat service
So sip some coffee, grab a sample bite, and discover this as you shop Trader Joe’s: That good-for-you food can have great that won’t swallow your purse. Yummy.