Trader Joe’s recently opened two Denver locations as well as a store in Boulder, Colorado. The buzz was great and pandemonium ensued. As a native of Colorado, I had only heard tales of healthier food at a lower price and was intrigued. However, I am not one for huge crowds similar to Black Friday. I prefer not to endure parking lot accidents or fighting over the last frozen pizza. I waited about six weeks after opening day to visit the Colorado Blvd. location. After 4 laps around the block looking for a parking spot, and almost giving up on our excursion, we were granted entrance to the small and crowded parking lot. It took almost ten minutes to park in a spot as we watched people argue and honk at one another. The store itself was busy, but not claustrophobic.
Pre-Prepped Fruits and Veggies
We wheeled our cart into the produce section and were surprised to find such a large selection of pre-made salads, pre-cut mango slices, and veggie trays. For some reason, in my house pre-cut produce tends to have a higher rate of being eaten and not tossed out when it starts to go bad. This was huge for us. I usually refuse to buy pre-prepped fruits and veggies as the cost is so much higher than purchasing the item and cutting it up myself. We enjoyed a salad and a vegetable with every meal with a few kinds of fruit on the side and all I had to do was open the box.
In the past, I have generally steered far away from frozen meals. The dyes, preservatives, and sodium levels alone were scary (not to mention the chemicals and fake sugars.) I was very wary as my daughter and boyfriend began shouting at me across the aisle “check out these pizzas!” and “Look! Tiki Masala!” Most of the boxes were clearly labeled with “No Preservatives” and “All Natural” and even the boxes that were not had a decent list of ingredients. I decided that with the low prices and non-scary ingredients and this pregnancy making me lazy in the kitchen (and eating out far too often) I would try these frozen meals. We chose a lasagna, waffles, a few Indian style dinners, and taquitos. I felt good serving my children a fresh salad, carrots, mango slices, and delicious lasagna without red dye caked into the sauce. We all enjoyed the meals together as a family and all I had to do was open boxes and take the lasagna out of the oven.
Packaged food tends to be riddled with preservatives, dyes, and unnatural flavors, which is why I don’t buy them. As we pushed the half-filled cart down the pasta aisle, my boyfriend pointed out a trio of Thailand inspired noodle boxes. In the past I equated this type of meal to a package of Ramen noodles, but decided to turn the box over and read the ingredients. Once again, I found a short list of ingredients that didn’t include the gross stuff I don’t like serving to my family. In the cart they went. There was a taste testing area featuring cereal bars. My son loves cereal bars but I only buy the non-high fructose corn syrup variety when they are on sale. I tuned over the box was pleasantly surprised. I could buy (guilt-free) my son two boxes and not break the bank.
With a loaded cart we approached the check out where a friendly man chatted with us as he rang up our groceries. I waited for the little with baited breath. It was just under what we normally spend at the store for groceries for the week. I was ecstatic! I had not emptied my wallet, my family had lots of delicious food, and I wouldn’t have to slave over a hot stove to provide three square meals and a few snacks a day. Trader Joe’s may be making me lazy, but my kids are still eating food that is not horrible for them and I am not spending outside of our food budget. And have you tried the cookie butter? You will make room in your budget for that goodness.