Shop Small 2013

A 365 day challenge

Archive for the tag “market”

Day 30: I Swear I Do More Than Eat!

Honestly. Before this challenge I grocery shopped maybe once every 10 days.

Maybe shopping small is giving me a glipse of living in Europe where people actually shop for fresh food every few days!

Good for us, though, because it’s leading us to some cool spots. Then again, my family recalls past vacations based on where we ate; and plans other vacations based on restaurants we want to try.

I loved today’s spot. And, since my son’s indoor baseball practice isn’t too far from there, I’ll be in the area a few more times.

I bring you…
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Granted it feels a little “hipster,” but it gave this suburban mom a few minutes of imagining to be trendy, living in the cool condos above Lemon Tree Grocer.

While they pretty much carry everything you would need for day-to-day groceries, the focus is their deli, artisanal cheeses, and butcher. I was incredibly impressed with their prices for Boars Head deli meats and responsibly raised (no growth hormones, grass-fed, you know the drill) chicken and beef.

Don’t feel like cooking? They have a nice selection of prepared meals with FRESH and REAL ingredients.

Need to pick up dessert? Though I didn’t get any today, they looked delicious. Gluten-free or vegan? They have amazing options for you too.
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Kids with the sitter? Pick up a bottle of wine (or beer if you’re hanging out with me) and some cheese.

Need a gift basket? You could go to town here with any theme.

The staff is extremely friendly and helpful- they’ll even walk you to the product which you know I love so much.

Lemon Tree Grocer also has a cafe, Zest Cafe. Don’t worry, the cafe is set off to the side so it doesn’t have the creepy feel of people shopping next to your table. The menu lunch/dinner specials change daily, and it was still fairly packed when I was there after lunchtime. There’s a Saturday/Sunday brunch with a Bloody Mary bar & champagne cocktails, anyone game?!

Day 23: I caved…

After my visit to Zeppe’s Italian Market and Fruitful Yield, I still had staples on my list.

It’s one thing to pay $1-2 more on an item if it prevents me from having to run across town to multiple stores. I’d pay triple that in gas.

But, my cereal was $2 more (and I needed 3 boxes), flour was also $2 more (needed 3 bags), and I didn’t want a $15 ginormous bag of raw sugar. So, really I was going to save over $20 at my other store.

Truth be told, I was really missing it. I was craving its friendly atmosphere, its neat-organized rows, I missed my $2.99 organic cereal…

My name is Stefanie and I am a Trader Joe’s addict.

I know. I know.

Geographically, Trader Joe’s has come along way since 1967; the store itself has pretty much remained the same (I’ve actually read the book about its creation!).

I love that they only carry a specific number of products at a time, although that also means some of my favorites aren’t there year round.

Trader Joe’s isn’t in every state, so that still makes them sort of small, right?

Here’s the deal- I’ve known plenty of people who’ve gone there & hated it- moreso- they’ve said they just don’t get it.

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If you are brand loyal, it’s probably not for you. If you get an absurd thrill coming across items like Double Creme Brie, Sundried Tomato & Pesto torta, Pear Cinnamon Cider, Corn & Chili Tomato-less salsa- then Trader Joe’s is for you. If not, Casey’s Market is right next door (in Naperville, anyway).

I tried Casey’s Foods, I really did. It’s one of the last family owned grocery stores around. It’s been here since 1991 and has a very loyal following. Maybe it was just the night I visited (freezing-ass cold), but I thought it was dirty and the employees were not helpful. I had never been there and asked where to find the flour- I basically received an “over there” with a head nod. Ask a Trader Joe’s employee, and they’ll walk you to the item.

As far as Casey’s goes, it seems like just a mini-grocery store. It’s your same aisles of Kellogg’s, Heinz, and big-name products. I don’t want Oreos, I want Peppermint Jo-Jo’s with their crushed candy-cane filling. Why buy Rice Krispies, when I can get TJ Rice Cereal that’s essentially the same thing, minus high fructose corn syrup and it’s only $1.99.

Maybe that’s why I love Trader Joe’s- and my lure toward small businesses in general- I like seeing different products, I’m not particularly brand-loyal, and I’d really love to work there in one of their Hawaiian shirts!

Trader Joe’s just feels like a neighborhood grocer should. It’s not pretentious like Whole Paycheck, but you can still get most items organic and/or without high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated garbage, or artificial colors.

That said, this year is about shopping small- so I truly only bought a few staples: cereal, flour, sugar- I begrudgingly walked past the Mini ice cream cones and blueberry chèvre. Produce, dairy, deli, meats & seafood will be found elsewhere.

I think the bottom line is, small or not, if I don’t feel good about shopping there and the items I purchase, I don’t want to spend our hard-earned money with that business.
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So, come on, there has to be other Trader Joe’s junkies. What are some of your “must-haves?” Who’s heading out for their virgin TJ experience? We’ll help with product suggestions!

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