Saturday, November 13, 2010

Having My Trader Joe's Moment

Some spoils from a hunting/gathering expedition to Trader Joe's
We have recently acquired a Trader Joe's in our Upper West Side neighborhood, and it still the object of much amusement and wonder to me and my Mom friends.  It's located closer to my kid's school than to my home, so while I talk about it a fair amount, I only actually show up to shop there sporadically.

Yesterday morning I was having coffee after drop-off at Ethan's school with a bunch of mom friends. We've all been rather busy, so it's been awhile since we've gotten a good coffee-klatch going.  There was the usual hysteria.  In the midst of a conversation one mom said, "they should call him Ari" to which another mom at the far end of the table, mishearing, piped up, "What about calamari?"  This caused the first mom to turn bright red as she made the heroic decision to nearly die choking rather than spray coffee all over the mom sitting across from her, aborting her spit-take moment.

With our kids in third grade, most of us have been hanging out together for four years now, and I have to say I have the best collection of friends I have ever had in my life, hands down.  I knew having kids was going to turn my life around in so many ways, but I had no idea it would bring me this incredible circle of women friends. I am wondrously grateful for them, constantly.

This morning after our allotted hour of caffeination and mirth, as we were preparing to scatter to our various errands and jobs, one mom made the announcement that she was off to Trader Joe's for some food shopping, and did anyone want to come along?

I had 10,000 things on my plate, but hadn't been to see Joe in a while, so I thought "What the hell?" and joined in.  Also?  It seemed a very virtuous way to avoid all my necessary "to do" items that needed to be done. "Can't you see I'm shopping for my family, not just procrastinating & hanging out with my friends, prolonging the fun before knuckling down to being a responsible adult.  How DARE you suggest otherwise?"

But of course that was exactly what I was doing.  Sure we needed food in the house, but I wasn't planning on shopping this morning yet, hadn't taken inventory of the cupboard, hadn't surveyed the fridge, and menu planning?  Please.  No such beast in our house right now.   So really, I had no list and no clear idea of what was needed at home food-wise.

Might I mention?  Not the wisest of plans.  It was however, boatloads of fun.  There were four of us altogether who set off on the expedition to feed our families, and a merry band we were.  Maybe we shouldn't have had the free coffee samples at Trader Joe's as we were already caffeinated to the hilt.  In any event, when you're at a store called "Trader Joe's" and the staff all wear Hawaiian shirts and have leis around their necks, shouldn't it be an adventure?

Well, I learned something new. With no plan and no shopping list, food not really on my mind, but WITH a bunch of fun giggly good friends in good spirits?  Was way too much like being in college and going food shopping with housemates, thoroughly stoned.  As I distantly recall (it's probably been 30 years).  (Yes, I'm that old, and yes it's been that long since I've done THAT, if you must know.)

So I'm being all: Oh, over there, that looks yummy... into the cart the chazzerai goes.  Also?  I was highly suggestible: whatever my friends bought that looked good, I bought, too.  Whether I or my family members will actually eat those items?  Remains to be seen.  All in the spirit of "let's try new things."

We were giddy.  We were having fun food shopping.  Awesomeness abounded.

Now, the Trader Joe's on the UWS is a strange subterranean sort, real estate in NYC being at a premium and all, existing on two below-ground levels.  So there are these strange cart & people dual escalator things (I'm sure you've seen them) to travel between the levels.  Fun!

We had just finished shopping the upper level and descended to the bottom when a friend lost her cart.  She had put it on the conveyor, but when she arrived at the bottom?  Not to be seen.  It just... disappeared.  There was a cart, but it was not hers; was someone else pushing her cart?  Quel mystery...

While scratching our heads, I noticed another woman walking by with an employee in tow, looking for her missing cart.  On a hunch I pointed to the one that had come down the escalator just after my friend.  Yes, that was it!  But, she did not, reciprocally, have my friend's cart.  Stolen?  Unthinkable. After much searching, it was finally located -- still upstairs.

As best we figured it out: distracted by the levity and conversation, my friend had grabbed the wrong cart (this other woman's) and sent that down the cart escalator, leaving hers waiting forlorn, abandoned at the top.  Mystery solved, cart firmly in hand, onward we rolled.

We had each been to Trader Joe's numerous times but never together, so the advice was free flowing, always useful, often entertaining.  A big improvement over asking opinions and advice from strangers or employees.  Who knows what they eat?

"Ever tried their  hummus?"
"Yes, delicious!"
Into the cart it goes.

The cinnamon almonds?
"Do NOT buy, more addictive than crack!"
"irresistible snack" indeed
Should have listened, polished off the bag in under 24 hours.  (I was considering suing them but it has that warning right there on the bag, damn, guess there's no one to blame for my gluttony but myself.)

And no, it wasn't all useless junk in my cart, look at the picture up top, there's fruits & veggies: strawberries, heirloom tomatoes, oranges... oh, wait, those are chocolate oranges, my bad.

Also?  Trader Joe's is all with the program of having a lot of well labeled gluten-free, dairy-free items which I am always on the lookout for.   My son Jacob is on the GF/CF diet for autism, and has been for 5 years.  New yummy stuff is important to keep him from getting bored, keep expanding his food options.  Scored a lot of that stuff, too (mommy non-fail).

Eventually our carts filled and we had to hurry home to keep the frozen stuff frozen, so we finally settled into the checkout lines.  While there, we, of course, fell prey to the shiny objects lined up alongside the line, designed to catch our eyes and leap into our carts (hence the chocolate oranges).

The lines moved fast and the conversation was still sparking, and the mom next to the chocolate oranges was kept busy tossing them to the rest of us, so in no time we were all checking out.

Once again, I remembered why I love coming there, as I had an awesome cashier who was upbeat and chatty without being annoying and over the top.  Her lovely British accent may have been a part of the magic, that and the fact that she actually packed my groceries with a system and managed to put the heavy crushy things on the bottom the delicate ones on top and all my freezer foods in one bag together - genius!

Thank you, Lola, you are the best checkout-person ever.

The guy running the elevator looked at the four of us in terror as we piled in with our carts for the ride back up to the surface, but we all fit, and were comparing this experience with the evil elevator of the other, competing neighborhood market, Fairway.

"I have a friend who says she has to have a Xanax before she walks into Fairway."

"Everyone needs Xanax to survive Fairway"

"Hey, that's a great idea, they should have a free Xanax station at the door there, alongside the shopping carts."

We all decided Trader Joe's was infinitely more fun.

And when I got home? A million things to snack on, but nothing really to make for dinner.  Oh, well.  The local pizza place is on speed dial for a reason, folks.

P.S. You know?  Trader Joe's must have major blogging mojo going on, because Kris just wrote a hysterical post on her blog Pretty All True about shopping there with her family recently: Hence the sarcasm.  Go, read, laugh.


  1. I love a great check-out person!! They are so far and few between.

  2. That post actually made me want to go grocery shopping.

  3. Great story!! A TJs just opened up a block and a half from my house. A BLOCK AND A HALF. The only problem is having to carry home heavy bags while walking, so I remedy that by going every day :)

  4. I also went to TJs the other day and didn't come home with anything for dinner. Where is it on the UWS?

    And we all know Fairway is LIKE NO OTHER!

  5. I'm a TJ junkie. I have one that's really close AND it's right in between my house and my daughter's school. Could it BE any more convenient?

    I go there 2-3 times a week. The employees are the nicest that you'll ever see. They even do school field trips there!

    And yes, the staff knows me and I know them! They're awesome!

  6. EPIC WIN FOR MOM! (yes, I had to shout it!)
    I don't have a TJ near here, but a While Foods, and I frequently come home without anything for dinner but a lot of great snacks for me.
    Great story - you should send it to the PR people at TJ's!!

  7. That sounds like so much fun. it's prob just as well they don't have them in Ireland or I'd live in it XXX

  8. So much fun!

    I miss my mom friends. Sigh. Hanging out and being silly. Miss that. Since the move, my girls are much more independent . . . I have been surprised to discover the extent to which I am accustomed to relying on them to provide me with mom-type friends.


    OK, and now I am lonely.

    But this post? With its giggling and its camaraderie and its joy? Its silliness?

    This post has made me smile as well.

    And I get linked and credited?

    How cool is that, babe?

    Thank you.

    I love you funny.


I am so sorry to have to turn word verification back on, but the spam-bots have found me - yikes!