Trader Joes, Tattoos, and Piercings

How many of you have a Trader Joe’s nearby?  I am so fortunate to have one only about 25 minutes away, but how often do I go?  Next to never.  And I really can’t give you a good reason why not.  People are always getting such cool stuff there, and when they tell me about it, I think, I’ve got to get to Trader Joe’s.  But when I’m nearby, there always seems to be a reason why it’s not convenient to go, and it feels a bit too far to make a special trip.  The few times I have stopped in, I’ve found myself wandering the isles aimlessly, unsure of what to get, so I’ve left with just a couple of items. 

Well, last night I wanted a quick dinner, and I was having a hankering for some crab cakes, and Trader Joe’s crab cakes are one of the few things I’ve had from there.  Plus I knew they had a great selection of produce and cheeses and healthy snacks, all of which I needed to purchase.  So I talked Husband into watching D and R, and I took C to spare Husband the 4-year-old Festival of Questions, and we made a special trip to Trader Joe’s.  Once there, I felt like I ought to make the drive worth my while, so I decided just to bite the bullet and get everything that looked remotely worth trying.

Suffice it to say, $147 later, I came out of Trader Joe’s with five tree-hugger-friendly paper bags full of organic goodness.  In a minute, I will ask you to share your favorite Trader Joe finds, but first, I’ll tell you a quick little story about our experience in the checkout line.  I know, who am I fooling?  I don’t ever tell "quick" stories.  Well, grab your coffee and sit for a spell.

As you would expect on a Saturday afternoon at 4pm, the lines were quite lengthy.  I absentmindedly picked the shortest line, and when it was our turn, I noticed that our cashier was quite, um, alternative in her sense of style.  She was very cute and friendly, and although I noticed immediately the funky hair and makeup and an uncomfortable-looking lip ring, I didn’t give it a second thought. 

If I had been a little more tuned in, I would have probably chosen a different line, not that I’m morally opposed to such alternative fashion, but because I should have known that my 4-year-old daughter would find her curious, and as most of us know, 4-year-olds don’t have much of a filter.

Well, C was sitting in the front of the cart, right near where the cashier was removing the items, and I was on the other end, bagging the groceries.  C was very sober and straight-faced as she took in the appearance of the cashier, who was smiling and making small talk with me.  Then when there was a pause in our conversation, I heard C say in a perplexed voice, "What is that in your lip?"

The girl smiled and said easily, "It’s a lip ring."

C looked at it as if to say, "Why on earth would you do that to your lip?" but fortunately she didn’t utter that sentiment.

I looked up, smiled self-consciously at the cashier, and said to C, "It’s like an earring, but it’s in her lip."  Then I started babbling as I often do when I sense the possibility of an uncomfortable silence, "C has been debating about getting her ears pierced.  She keeps changing her mind. She really wants them, but she’s afraid it will hurt.  Blah blah blah…"

Then the cashier girl offered C a balloon, and C took the balloon from her hand, thus drawing her attention away from the lip ring and instead to a very large tattoo covering most of the girl’s forearm.  I saw C looking at it quizzically, and just as I was thinking, "Please, nooooo," C says, looking a bit taken aback, "What is that on your arm?"

The cashier smiled patiently and said, "It’s a tattoo."  C continued to gawk, her amazement quite evident.  By now the cashier girl seemed quite amused, and she turned to C and said, "You should get your ears pierced before you get one of these." 

I looked up and laughed, and then I said to C, "Yeah, you can pay for that."  The girl at the cash register laughed politely, as I prattled on, "I’ll pay to get your ears pierced, but you’ll have to pay for your tattoos.  Hahahaha." 

Fortunately the girl seemed to take all of this in stride, although I’m sure she was wondering what kind of overly sheltered environment I’ve created in which a child has never seen a lip ring or a tattoo.  I guess with my my mommy uniform of T-shirt and capris and Vera Bradley purse, there’s no use pretending that I’m anything other than a conservative suburban housewife who has probably never stepped a foot into a tattoo parlor.  (Are they even called tattoo parlors anymore?)

So I put the last bag in the grocery cart, and we said our good-byes as I practically ran for the door before C could ask the poor girl any more questions.  Once in the car, C said, "Why did that girl have that thing in her lip?" 

"Because she thinks it’s pretty, I guess," I responded, hoping that was the right answer. 

Are lip rings supposed to be pretty?  Or cool?  What is the draw, exactly?  I mean, I’m not totally opposed to unconventional piercings.  I think on a flat, tanned tummy that a tasteful belly button ring is rather attractive.  And on the right person, a very small nose ring can be kind of cute.  But the lip and the eyebrow, to say nothing of places like a n1pple, AAAACK.  Those just don’t do it for me.  Maybe someone can offer some insight on this.

Of course the question to follow was, "Why did that girl have that thing on her arm?"  This one was even harder for me to answer.  Finally I said truthfully, "I don’t know, hon."  Fortunately, that answer satisfied my daughter’s curiosity for the time being, and then I expertly turned the conversation to topics upon which I am more of an authority.  Like ending the war in Iraq and reducing the national deficit.  You know, simple questions like that.

So, back to Trader Joe’s.  If you are fortunate enough to have one, and if you shop there with any regularity, what are your favorite Trader Joe’s treats?  (And kindly, don’t tease me with tales of cheap wine.  Here in PA, only authorized state-run stores can sell alcohol.)   

I am really interested in feeding my family healthier meals and snacks, and I also would like to try some of their prepared foods just for fun.  I don’t tend to buy much prepared stuff at the grocery, because they are full of nasty fillers and such.  Are the ones at Trader Joe’s really any better for you?

So give me your best Trader Joe’s advice.  Here’s mine.  Their frozen crab cakes are reasonably priced and quite tasty.  And those Pound Plus Belgian chocolate bars are TO-DIE-FOR.

**Disclaimer: I am in no way suggesting that "conservative suburban housewives" can’t or shouldn’t have tattoos or multiple piercings.  I know that both are becoming more and more common.  Particularly the tattoo thing.  I just don’t see the appeal, personally.  I mean, if for no other reason than the PAIN, omigosh!  Needles and I are NOT compatible.  I’m just sayin’.

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29 Responses

  1. Ohh, Trader Joes. We go at least once a week. Hmmm. Their frozen chicken quesadillas are yummy, as are the vegetarian noodle bowls. The maple frosted shredded wheat cereal is a staple, as is the yogurt strawberry O’s. The refrigerated guacamole is the best, and you can freeze the second pack. The kids will only eat Trader Joe’s light string cheese. M loves the frozen cookie dough (he has never baked a cookie, just eats the dough). The kids also love their chicken nuggets, much healthier than the grocery store ones. Let’s see, the frozen fish is quite good, just thaw it in milk and it gets rid of the freezer taste.

    I actually get most of my staples there as it is in general cheaper than our local grocery, except for the produce which is outrageously pricey. Enjoy your haul!

  2. I never heard of thawing fish in milk. Interesting! This is GREAT. Keep these ideas coming!

  3. This post made me laugh out loud! How funny of C to notice and comment on the lip ring and tattoos. I don’t live anywhere near a Trader Joe’s, but I’m going to one in two weeks when visiting a friend. My husband was just commenting that he’d had a hankering for crab cakes, so maybe I’ll pick a few up. Thanks for the tip…perfect timing!

  4. Their frozen chicken nuggets for kids are REALLY CHICKEN, real white meat and not deep fried. Great for lunches. The frozen Mandarin Chicken is tops as are the fajitas. The flour tortillas are decadent. We get cereal bars and granola bars and the berry lemonade. Also, the fresh oj is wonderful. Yogurt is great. the only thing I have noticed, is that the produce goes south very quickly!

  5. We have a Trader Joe’s close by… I love it in theory but don’t take advantage of it the way that I’d like to. I like their hummus a lot, and it’s a Bean-approved snack, too. Num. Every time you say, “Festival of Questions,” I chuckle. I can so relate… “Mama, why’s dat man’s unnerpants showing?” or “Mama, why dat man doesn’t has on his shirt?” (New construction in the neighborhood). And she talks LOUDLY, too. Sigh. I don’t get piercings either… the one that freaks me out the very most is the tongue piercing. GLAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGH! How much must THAT have hurt?

  6. There should be training for those tactful, on the spot answers that 4 year olds require. To date Leelee is still too shy to talk to anyone she does not know so I haven’t had to field those sorts of questions in front of anyone. I do happen to have a small tattoo on my lower back and the first time she saw it she was satisfied with my answer “it’s a tattoo”. Real original, I know.

    And just so you know. I’m not a fan of needles either but the place I got my tattoo didn’t really hurt. It just sort of felt uncomfortable. You know, in case you need justification to go out and get one of your own. In a tattoo parlor. 🙂

  7. Oh, and we don’t have a Trader Joes here. We don’t have many of the stores/restaurants here in Canada that you have. But it sounds like an interesting place.

  8. My favorite thing at Trader Joes is the pizza dough! It comes in a blob in the refrigerated section (near the cheese.) Anyway, they have whole wheat, garlic something and plain old enriched white, too. It only takes about 10 minutes to cook. It lasts about 3 months in the freezer. And it’s only about $1!! My fave.

  9. Oh, I went to my first tattoo parlor on my cruise this year. My 2 friends got their nose pierced. OMG. It was horrifying!

    And my dad got his first tattoo this year…at 51 years old!

  10. A good friend of mine always stocks up on TJ salsa. We have it at every party. It is the most requested item when someone makes the drive to the closest one…5 hours away! We buy it by the case. YUM!

  11. I’m so glad that my 4 year old isn’t the only one that asks ENDLESS questions. I took my 2 year old to the grocery store yesterday and she pointed to the cashier (who she doesn’t know) and said “I don’t like her”!!!!!!

    I’m a SAHM with 3 kids and 2 tattoos :). One I now regret (18 year old rebellion) and one I really like.

  12. We like the Trader Joe’s olives – the Greek Kalamata olives, and their sumatra coffee and the marinated fresh mozarella cheese! Yum!
    Our Trader Joe’s cashiers are also, um, colorful.

  13. I heart TJ’s and can shop there for months without visiting other grocery stores. I especially enjoy the frozen cubes of herbs they have in little trays in the freezer section. They have garlic, basil, parsley, and cilantro, and you can just pop out however many cubes your recipe calls for, and the rest don’t go bad. LOVE. No more bunches of cilantro wasting away in the fridge because I needed a tablespoon…

  14. I loved your Trader Joes post, lip piercing,tatoos and all 🙂

    With four kids at home TJ’s is a weekly must. The peanut butter filled pretzels are a favorite snack, the blueberry or current scones a birthday morning requirement (toasted with butter, mmmmm) not to mention the creamy Brie with water crackers they seem to want to live on. I can’t live without the Trader Mings wonton chips…just like the ones in a Chinese restaurant!

    For dinners I like the frozen chicken thighs, cheap and meaty and can be quickly fixed any way you please. The reasonably priced frozen shrimp can jazz up pasta or our personal favorite, quesadillas. The frozen veggies are always perfect. Oh and did I mention the Tofuti Cuties? Not that we are into “health” food or anythng but these little ice cream sandwiches are actually better than the real thing. Cheap too.

    I could go on and on about how great TJs is but don’t want to forget to say how impressed I have always been with their employees. Those guys and gals know every product, are always friendly and will go out of their way to find, order or somehow get you what you need. I consider TJ employees to be on a scale of the Nordstrom employees, that’s how good the customer service is. They are always extra nice to the kids who rarely walk out without some sticker, balloon or other treat.

    I’m glad you had a good trip, sounds like little one enjoyed herself too 🙂 Love the blog btw….my new favorite, thanks!!!!

  15. Funny you should post this today, because we just came from Trader Joe’s. I feel like you do. My friends are always talking about all this great stuff they get there and, for me I just sort of look at stuff until something pops out at me. I think the frozen cookie dough and the big candy bars mentioned above are really good. They have really good ceasar salad dressing in the refrigerated area, and also I like to buy canned artichoke hearts for dip there because they are way cheaper than the reg. grocerie stores. I also buy my mom ( who doesn’t live near a Trder Joe’s ) their white pomegranate tea. She said its the best tea she has ever had. I have run across a few things that were not good at all, but they say if you are not happy you can return them, but I never do. I also like to get eggs there and the tomatoes usually taste way better than the reg. grocery store. ps. I have been reading your blog for a long time, but this is the first I have posted although I almost did many times. I always save it for last because its my favorite. 🙂

  16. I think you handled the check-out girl beautifully! I mean, honestly, one would assume that she wears them both so that they attract some attention, right? 🙂

    And I can’t explain it, but I would love to have a small tattoo on my ankle. Dh vehemently disagrees and I don’t want it enough to fight for it. Hmmm, maybe I saw a cool tattoo girl when I was 4? Ha ha ha.

  17. I’ve never been to a Trader Joe’s, and I don’t know if there’s one where I live. It sounds like their stuff is cheaper than other “healthy” places. Is that the case? If it is, I’m definately going to look into it…

    Also, I must admit that I am one of those who kindamaybesorta want to get my nose pierced with just a little diamond stud. And a tatoo. Of a fairy. That I would draw myself.

    Personally, I think it’s all in the reason a person gets them…we look at the outside, but God’s looking at the heart. So, I really only think it’s “bad” if done out of rebellion…I guess. I just don’t think it’s really a big deal.

  18. Loved the whole 4-year-old-with-the-tatooed- check-out-girl bit. Very Funny! As for Trader Joes…we have one about 25 min from our house as well. But, thankfully it’s on the way to my Mom’s house, so once a month I try to schedule a trip by there on my way home. I always stock up on the Shrimp Fried Rice and the Veggie Fried Rice. They are all natural, low fat and yummy! I usually add some streamed broccoli to both of them and sometimes I add chicken to the veggie dish. I love their low fat vanilla yogurt and pecan granola! The Java Coffee is great! The 5 layers mexican dip and the roasted red pepper hummas are out of this world! TJ’s makes this bacon that is so good and it’s only 60 calories and 3 grams of fat for 2 slices! And they make these lemon cookies that will make you want to jump and slap your Grandma! They might even be key lime cookies, either way they are rich and buttery!!! Those are my favs!

    Georgia Mom

  19. Never been to a Trader joe’s but I’ve had their stuff and it’s all been good. Someday… someday.

    Tattoos and piercings? I don’t get either. OW! that’s reason enough for me. Like someone above said, she has them both for the attention, so an inquisitive 4 year old isn’t anything she should be shocked by.

  20. First let me tell you how incredibly jealous I am of your TRADER JOES! It is my FAVORITE grocery store! My favorite item there is Lemon Curd. It comes in a little jelly jar and you can put it on toast, in yogurt or on ice cream or if you are feeling really rebellious…take a spoonful of it and just lick it like a popsicle! It is so delectible!

    My brother and sister-in-law live in Cinci and I frequently request Trader Joe items be brought down when they come. Trader Joe’s salsa is a must…as well as just about everything else…did I mention I had to pay 50 dollars to have my suitcases put on the airplane when coming home from San Fransisco and I completely and TOTALLY blame Trader Joe’s.

    BTW…my husband has two tattoos (or as my 3 year old says TOOTAT)…I am not a huge fan…but don’t hate them and LOVE when my kids question people…for this reason: if you are going to wear a lip ring and have a gazillion tattoo’s, expect some questions and be kind about the answers…curiosity is something I would have…and would probably have asked myself…I have embarrassed many a friend! 🙂

  21. I have two words for you: LAVA. CAKE.

    It’s in the freezer section. It’s like a Ding Dong for adults. Add icecream and you’ll never need sex again.

  22. K, I am really sad that I do not live near one of these supposedly awesome stores! I guess I need to find the closest one, plan a road trip, and at least get some shelf items.

  23. Hmmm, the Lava Cake sounds… interesting! lol

    I agree with pp, if people are going to have all those (more permanent) accessories, they are obviously doing it to draw attention to themselves! They should definitely expect quizzical looks and questions from kids, who are known for being curious 🙂

    I have a tattoo, myself, between my shoulder blades. I got it for personal reasons, and have not regretted it, but I also knew I did not want questions, so I got it where no one but my family will ever see. When my kids asked me about it, I told them why I got it. They think it is pretty, but I made sure and told them that it was more painful then getting my ears pierced!! haha

  24. First of all, that first paragraph completely sums up how I feel about Trader Joe’s! It sounds like a good theory, but it’s sort of far away (like you, about 25 minutes) and when I DO go there, I always wander around and then walk out with the most random stuff… last time I think it was fish oil capsules and apple cider vinegar. And since my uniform is also capris, a t-shirt and a Vera Bradley bag, I am pretty sure everyone there KNOWS I’m exactly as confused as I am.

    My daughter, who’s three, said to my friend this weekend, “You have a flower on your back!” When my friend’s husband said, “Yes, and she can NEVER get it off,” my daughter suggested she try a wet tissue.

  25. There’s just so much to love at TJs.
    I buy their organic yogurt, handmade tortillas, indian simmer sauces, cereals, reduced-sugar preserves (YUM!), granola bars, nuts, frozen fish, meatballs and veggies, and the coffee, oh the coffee!
    My kids love the mini-bagels, honey-wheat pretzel sticks and the asian rice cracker mix.

    I’ve tried pretty much everything and its all been great. Except I can never get the blob of pizza dough to come out right. It stubbornly remains a big blob, not a nice flat pizza.

  26. The pizza dough is great. My favorite things from them were a weekly event for us: they had some kickin’ lobster bisque. SOOO scrumptious.

    And I remember their “TV Dinner” spicy chicken and cheese enchiladas were a sustaining factor in my first pregnancy! Jealous! They don’t have Trader Joes in my neck of the woods, I mean world.


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