My husband and I drove 30 minutes north to the closest Trader Joe's location this afternoon. Trader Joe's is a chain of small grocery stores that sells a combination of brand name and private label products including baked goods, produce, dairy, meat/seafood, canned goods, dry items (pasta, rice, coffee), pet food, vitamins/supplements, and personal care items. It is a national chain and the company is opening new locations literally every month. There are 4 stores in New Jersey. Two of them sell wine/beer and two do not. We usually go to the ones that sell wine because Trader Joe's sells their own label wine for $3 per bottle: "Three Buck Chuck". My mother bought us a case of wine (6 red and 6 white) last month so we are still well-stocked with wine so we went to the Shrewsbury, NJ location which is the closest one to our house at just half an hour away.

We arrived at 1pm on a Saturday afternoon so I expected the store to be jam-packed because every Trader Joe's location I've ever visited has always been jam-packed no matter what time we get there. I was shocked to see that it was busy, of course, but that there was plenty of room to maneuver around and I could spend as much time as I wanted examining various products without feeling like I was holding everyone up. I grabbed my usual staples (olive oil, canned cat food, fresh ravioli and tortellini, vitamins, biscotti, pita chips, hash browns, frozen basil cubes, etc.) but I also added many new private label items to try like frozen roasted corn, frozen beer-battered halibut, cilantro and jalapeno hummus, unripened brie, frozen vegetable melange, refrigerated canned cinnamon rolls, and artisan everything bagels.

We usually try to hit up Trader Joe's every 2 to 3 months which allows me to stay stocked up on my must-have products but sometimes we don't get there for months or more and we depend on family members who visit the store in the meantime to buy olive oil, canned cat food, and wine which are our 3 absolute must-haves. The prices on both the name brand and private label products are cheaper than what you'd find in "regular" grocery stores but because we are always stocking up we rarely get out of the store for less than $200 per trip. Today was $252 so it replaced my weekly trip to ShopRite. Trader Joe's doesn't stock nearly the number and variety of products that major national stores do so it is more of a supplement to big grocery stores rather than a replacement for them.

Trader Joe's has a very generous return policy that allows you to return anything you purchased that you didn't like for a full refund. I live too far away to be bothered with driving an hour round-trip to return something that cost me like $5, but it is certainly something that is useful for those who have a store in their local area. I've heard people say that they've returned items without a receipt and sometimes even without the actual product if they had a picture of it... or just a verbal description of what they didn't like about it. That is excellent customer service.

We love Trader Joe's stores and absolutely plan to continue shopping at them. We've found so many really wonderful products from basics (olive oil) to prepared foods (fresh bolognese ravioli) to the wine. It really is a great place.

+Trader-Joes +Traderjoes +Three-Buck-Chuck +Grocery-store +Grocery-shopping +Home-cooking

I took the above picture of the Trader Joe's logo on one of their brown paper bags.