Late this afternoon I ran to Trader Joe's to pick up a few things. I usually love shopping for food, but I find going to the grocery store on a Monday afternoon to be mind-crushing. It's an absolute freaking nightmare. It's a blood sport just to park and then you're lucky if you can find one morsel of remotely fresh produce. Most of it has long since been picked over. While Trader Joe's is incredibly convenient to get to from my home, and the cost of groceries is a lot less than Whole Foods, I'm just not a TJ super fan.
Today I had exactly 30 minutes to get my groceries before scrambling home to relieve my babysitter. I made pretty good time filling my grocery cart. I suffer from an acute case of Trader Joe's angst, which I'll get to later, so I usually stick to the perimeter of the store. Since I went to the store right around 4:30pm, I expected the lines. All registers were filled with carts three deep behind them. No worries for me. I was done shopping in 12 minutes, and had 18 minutes to pay and get home.
Standing immediately in front of me was a lovely woman pushing a double jogging stroller piled high with groceries nestled into the canopy. I'm as familiar as any urban mom who uses the stroller as a grocery cart while balancing the needs of little ones in tow. Standing immediately in front of her was her toddler son...pushing his own miniature shopping cart. On a slow Tuesday morning around 10:00am, those shopping carts are cute. My youngest daughter loves them. But on a busy Monday afternoon, they're a fast trip to hell.
Looking at my watch, a couple minutes were gobbled up by a man getting groceries. Nothing unusual there. He even bagged his own food! Good man. Why don't more people do that anyway? After he paid and left, it was time for the little mister to check out. He couldn't have been more than three. His mom encouraged him to carefully unload his groceries next to the register because it was "his turn." All the while, she never nudged her jogging stroller forward, creating the illusion that the line wasn't moving at all. That's as frustrating as sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic while the car in front of you just sits there when things do finally get moving allowing another car (or two) to slide in. I really wasn't worried about another cart sliding in front of Big Mama, but it crossed my mind.
The kid was really cute as he unloaded his groceries painfully slow. I'm not sure if the cashier noticed there were at least three people standing with their carts behind me at this point, but she took the time to count the number of bananas with the boy. "What comes after seven?" she asked. "Eight." Eight. He had eight bananas. It took about 30 seconds for her to ring those up, not including the other items in his cart. Thanks.
After his shopping cart was (finally) empty, he did a few mindless things that my kids often do, like play with the candy, before moving out of the way for his mom to unload the groceries from on top of her stroller. But that wasn't part of the plan. First, she wanted the little man to actually pay for his groceries. From her wallet she grabbed a $20 and gave it to the boy, who then gave it to the cashier, who then had to break a roll of pennies, who then gave the money back to the boy, who finally gave the money back to mom. Not cute anymore, lady. Why did you do that? Have you NO situational awareness?
As she pushed the stroller through to the register, the employee at the cashier said with a little surprise in her voice, "Oh, you have more?" Mom unloaded all the groceries, waited for the employee to bag all the groceries, then slowly moved out of the way for me.
I'm all for patient parenting and giving my kids additional responsibilities, but that little exercise took the better part of 10 minutes. I always pick the wrong line!
Trader Joe's Angst
Trader Joe's has a lot of really appealing packaged foods. I've learned to breeze by them, whether they're chocolate-dipped potato chips (disgusting) or mini ice cream drumsticks (genius). My anxiety with Trader Joe's started a couple years ago after I bought a frozen bag of broccoli, or maybe it was a broccoli/cauliflower combo? Regardless, it was organic. It was frozen. I felt pretty good about it. I got home and read the fine print on the bag. Imported from China. What? China? Nothing against China, but how hard can it be to find a domestic producer of broccoli? China? What?
This made me wonder where Trader Joe's gets the rest of its food. I talked with one of the founders of a local hummus company here in Chicago. According to this company, Trader Joe's is pretty sticky to do business with because a majority of their brands are proprietary. Rarely do I come home from Trader Joe's that doesn't have the Trader Joe's label on it. So Trader Joe's brands the food, but doesn't actually make it. Who does? I can see where the distributor is, but I can't see who makes the food. I don't like that. And I really don't like that my broccoli was flown 6000 miles just to make it to my kitchen table.
The only other reason I don't like Trader Joe's is because of the stupid treasure box they have toward the front of the store. If you're an adult without children, or have never been in Trader Joe's, the treasure box is simply a box full of sugary sh*t that is a beacon for my kids, regardless of the time of day we shop. Even when I tell them that the piece of candy they pull from the box will be the only morsel of sugar they will have for the rest of the day, they're drawn to it like a magnet because it's called (and looks like) treasure box. Yet another reason why I prefer to leave my kids behind when I go to Trader Joe's. The only thing worse than the candy are the stickers that are given to my kids. I know they're given with good intention, and at first my kids loved them. But my kids momentarily collect them...then forget about them. The stickers either a) accidentally fall on the ground on the way to the car, or b) get stuck to the floor, window or door of my car. They never actually make their way into our house, or a sticker book, or any other place that would serve a kid-like function.
Traci is a nationally recognized health and fitness expert who has been featured on The TODAY Show, Dr. Oz, Oprah.com and SHAPE magazine. Traci is available for corporate speaking events and wellness coaching, as well as private training. Contact Traci here.