Sunday, July 17, 2011

The All-Important Trader Joe's Kansas City Entry

So, unless you have been living under a rock, an actual rock, you are well aware that Trader Joe's finally opened, after breathless anticipation from much of the metro, in both Leawood at 119 and in Ward Parkway.  This was a momentous occasion, marked by dozens of news updates, blog entries, articles, facebook posts, and god knows what else.  Now I will admit I was one of the nerds that long ago, like in 2005 or something, was an early joiner of the Bring TJ's to Kansas City Group! on FB.  I know, big nerd.  But having had it in Chicago for so long and relying on my regular visits home in college to restock, I was really missing it by the time I graduated and was stuck in KC, no longer making monthly trips home on mom&dad's dime.  So for the last six years I've waited patiently, stuffing whatever I could manage into my car/luggage on trips home, to AZ, CA, Omaha, wherever they had one. 

Of course, I am elated that they have finally opened not one but two locations!  After reading Joyce Smith's column religiously with bated breath for updates, we've got our TJ's!  But, being a bit of a dolt I guess, I did not expect the absolutely berserk reaction the impending GO elicited from hordes of apparent Trader Joe's pycho-fanatics!  Um, these people are insane.  Totally nutcases.  People waited in line for hours before the 8am opening on Friday.  They painted their cars and celebrated getting a front-row parking spot.  Really?
So you can buy those stupid mini reeses cups?  Blech.

Anyways- it's open, and quite honestly I hope people shut the fuck up about TJ's now.  Jesus, I really don't even want to know what it must have been like when Whole Foods came to town, the apocalypse?  The second coming of Christ? 

Couple observations from my Saturday visit.  Ok- first- you do not need to go there to "look."  It's not a zoo people, it's a grocery store.  They aren't selling diamond-covered unicorns and there are no midgets or mermaids on display.  Nothing to look at, for real.  I can't tell you how many people I overheard saying they were there to "look."  On a day where there were several hundred more people crammed into the store than there probably ever will be again, you do not need to "look" and fill the aisles with a thousand more ambling, slow-moving, TJ's amateurs!  AH!  So annoying!  Do you really need to "look" at the freezer cases with their kale and organic frozen fruit?  Second observation- although the store is really a nice big size, there is quite a large wine section, which probably takes up a good 20% of the store.  I think that's great and you can bet I'll be buying most of my wine there from now on and I am so glad MO got a store so we aren't just stuck with dry Leawood, but that does leave conspicuously less space for many other staples, of which in my opinion they were sorely lacking.  For instance, pretty much no spices at all, not as much cereal as other stores, not that Grain-Free Groupie cares, and a very small granola/granola bar section.  Again, not that GFG cares, but I do buy those things for the fam.  And the baking aisle really could not even be considered a baking aisle, they really had practically nothing. WF has a much better selection.  The layout was great though and they did have a good selection of coffee, tea, protein powders, and protein bars.  Produce was eh, which is not uncommon, but mostly organic, so you can't complain.  Which honestly, I don't mean to do.  I am thrilled beyond words its finally open.  I was just a bit irritated at having to get in line all the way at the back of the store and then wait 40 minutes to get to the checkout lane!  But no one put a gun to my head and told me to go on Saturday afternoon either. 

As a semi-experienced TJ's shopper in other metros, below are my personal reco's for your next TJ's trip.

Trader Joe's Kansas City Shopping List:
-As I said, produce is not great, but what they do have is organic mostly, and the same price as unorganic stuff you'll find at the regular stores.  So get your bananas, oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, and pineapple at TJ's.
-Wine- get your wine at TJ's.  Good selection, great price.
-Smoked salmon/lox- which you really cannot find many places that isn't total price gauging
-Snacks- crackers, mixes, wasabi peas, soynuts, etc.  Great selection, can't be beat
-Gingersnaps.  These things will blow your mind, they are incomparable.  GFG can't eat them, but you probably can!  There is of course tons of other junk.  Do yourself a favor and DON'T get the god damn baby reeses cups.  Because seriously, is it really that big of a deal?
-Nuts/seeds.  I comparison shop, a lot.  Nuts and seeds are a great deal at TJ's.  Plus- they have what no one else does- unsalted versions.  I got a huge bag of unsalted sunflower seeds for cheaper than anywhere else, and the unsalted pepitas were not bad either.  I also found UNSWEETENED cherries, which hands down you just won't find anywhere else.  They have a great assortment of other dried, and dehydrated fruits too.  Alas, no unsweetened cranberries apparently exist anywhere in this entire city. 
-Frozen Fish.  I know we all want to buy our fish "fresh."  But really, odds are even if it's "fresh" it is because it's "fresh" out of the freezer, in some way shape or form.  So get your fish here, they have tilapia, ruffy, cod, tuna, salmon, swordfish (too much mercury!) and a bunch of other stuff.  Plus the salmon burgers are nice to have on hand. 
-Frozen veg.  I get sick of the same old same old- cauliflower, broccoli, spinach- and they had neat stuff.  Kale, bell peppers, beautiful french haricots verts, and fun looking mixed medlies with different spices and sauces if you're into that sort of thing.  Very very affordably priced.
-If you like the frozen meal type thing- you're in luck- TJ's is mecca for that stuff- potstickers, rice bowls, noodle this noodle that.  Burritos, meatballs- whatever.  I tend to shy away from that kind of thing, but they've got it all. 
-Organic plain whole milk yogurt, additive and hormone free.  Cheaper than anywhere else.  It's the house brand.  Individual yogurts were no cheaper than anywhere else and they did not have a good selection.  Or cottage cheese- they only 4% and in tiny containers. 
-Almond/soy/rice milk.  Good selection, and cheap.  They also have quite a bit of goats milk products which is refreshing to see. 
-Meat.  The meat is probably healthier and more likely to be grass-fed/pasture-raised, although I need to go back and examine the products more when I have a bit more time.  The organic chicken was comparable in price to WF.  Beef products are probably a tad bit cheaper than WF as well. 
-TJ's brand 72% dark chocolate.  So cheap.  Like, I don't know how they do it cheap. 
-And finally, the number one reason I absolutely could not have waited another day to go to TJ's, the coffee.  I buy the huge canister of Bay Blend and it is amazing.  So dark and bold.  It is great great great coffee.  I look forward to it everyday.  It is fabulous.  And I ran out from my Omaha trip. 

In the near future I will do a new GFG approved shopping list.  This one was more for the newbies.  But seriously, I am so glad they're open, I have so many more options now!  The frozen fish and coffee alone would make me happy in itself.  Thanks TJ's!!!  I truly am grateful! 

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