My Complicated Relationship with Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s is my favorite grocery store. As a teenager, I’d drive with my parents 40 miles away to visit a store. I could bike to the store near my undergraduate campus in ten minutes, and Davis opened one a couple of months after I moved there last year. I smiled when I discovered that Olympia also had a store that I could frequent this year. I love their look, even though I know they aren’t the most eco-friendly and if I were a true environmentalist, I would complain about a lot of their food practices. However, even knowing that their business practices aren’t very sustainable, I shop there. The ingredients for tonight’s dinner were all purchased at Trader Joe’s, and the result was pretty delicious.

I cooked some of TJ’s “Wild Rice Medley”, added some thawed broccoli, and cut up a red bell pepper to go with it. I don’t think the photo does it justice, but I’m pretty proud of this little meal. I’m thankful that Trader Joe’s has all of this stuff that I can toss together, but I’ve found myself thinking twice about shopping there recently. I already admitted that I probably care less than I should about their environmental practices.

Whats my beef with Trader Joe’s? Well, simply that is seems as if they are not very generous. I’ve written previously about the generous donations our food ban gets from local grocery stores, Panera, and from Costco. Trader Joe’s only sends bread products, and that is even a rarity. They are known on our AmeriCorps team as a business that does not like giving donations to events or organizations, and according to our food bank coordinator, there is a documentary that she watched recently that reveals how much of Trader Joe’s food gets thrown into dumpsters even days before it reaches its expiration date. I guess that’s good news for dumpster divers and freegans, but for established agencies that distribute food to low-income families, it’s not so exciting.We could use that food, as could other food banks all across the country.

In all honesty I will probably continue shopping there. The people are friendly, I like the products, and I have a lot of positive associations with the store. I am a little sad, though, knowing that I cannot think of them as a perfect grocery store as I did even a couple of years ago. I hope they’ll have a change of heart and feel like giving a little more. It would be awesome to be able to give our families some of their awesome food. Then, I’d brag about them to anyone and everyone I meet.