Mr. N and I decided to finally check out the new local Trader Joe's here in Corvallis. I was looking for good quality and low prices and, after dealing with First Alternative Co-Op and their poor quality checkout service (in reference to bagging your groceries), I wanted someone to bag our groceries without having to ask or without attitude. Overall, I was pleased. Here's a brief rundown of our experience:
1) Bananas were very cheap at .19 cents a pound. That blows away Winco's prices. Since bananas are grown with very little pesticide usage, it isn't necessary to buy such items organically. And yet, at .39 cents a pound for organic at TJ's (or was it .29???), this price blows away the price of organic bananas at the Co-Op. Plus, the appearance was far superior.
2) Their meat selection was pretty decent. You can buy grass-fed/anti-biotic and hormone-free lean beef (90% fat-free) for a dollar less per pound than you can at the Co-Op. We also picked up some free-range/hormone and antibiotic-free chicken breasts and thighs for a good price.
3) Their cheese selection was just ok. Pretty pricey given their limited selection, although there were some very yummy-looking cheese that were hard to pass up. The Co-Op blows TJ's out of the water in this department, in my opinion, in both prices and options.
4) If you're looking for fresh greens, forget it. TJ's offers only the bag variety, which I don't like.
5) As far as dry goods (cereals, crackers, etc.) you cannot beat TJ's prices or quality. That's where the bulk of our shopping dollars went. And I found a new favorite: TJ's Ginger Snaps. They contain an abundance of real ginger, which you immediately taste upon eating these tasty little treats. They're also made with gluten-free flours and molasses. As far as artificial preservatives and other nasties you cannot pronounce, forget about it. TJ's stays away from such things.
6) Their juice selection was a bit spendy, but cheaper than the Co-Op. We bought a large carton of OJ from the refrigerated section for $1.99. It is yummy!
7) The ambience is what was really nice. It's a fairly small store, which I appreciate. It was crowded when we went, but it didn't "feel" crowded. The aisles, unlike the co-op, are nice and wide (which pregnant women like myself TRULY appreciate). We also had a couple of conversations with complete strangers - something I have yet to find at the co-op, which seems to be more like a club for the elite - a club I apparently have yet to know the secret code in order to enter. Probably a money or a Prius/Subaru thing...
8) For the beer and wine connoisseurs, TJ's has a huge selection of the two. In fact, I would estimate that approximately 15% of the store was contained in just the beer and wine section.
9) And last but not least, the checkout. It was speedy and efficient. The staff was friendly and unless you wish to do so yourself, your groceries are bagged. Mr. N stepped in to do this task himself as he wanted to get out of the store quickly (the clerk was already starting the bagging process but then we had issues with the credit card machine, which warranted a call to the manager.)
10) I am quite picky when it comes to the soaps, lotions, shampoos and make-up I put on my skin. I've been buying this tea-tree bar at the co-op for a couple of years now. At $3.29 per BAR, it gets to be an expensive purchase. However, at TJ's, they have a 2-pack of tea-tree soap (with even fewer ingredients) for just $1.69. At virtually the same size, I snagged 3 packages.
Now all that being said, upon looking around the store, there was not one staff member who was over 30 that we could see on that particular day. I say that given earlier this year, thousands stood in line at their chance of getting on with TJ's, many of these folks in their 40's and 50's and beyond. It's unfortunate TJ's opted out of giving these folks a chance and instead, following the more "age-discriminatory" practice so often seen in the service industry of hiring the youngest worker. What are these companies so fearful of? God forbid someone with some gray hair or facial lines display themselves for the public? Are they afraid older workers will "steal the show" given their stealth of experience and their (typically) stronger work ethic? At least the Co-Op has several "older" workers. Perhaps it's simply a matter of economics. Older workers are more expensive to insure.
Whatever the reason, we figure we'll go there once a month to stock up on meats and dried goods. And my bar soap!