I needed to get some groceries, so I went to Trader Joe’s and decided to make a haul out of it.  Now, it’s important to note that TJ’s is not your typical supermarket or grocery store, especially the one by Union Square that always has a line to the door.  That being said, let me share a bit about my experience before I head into the goods.

As soon as I walked in, I saw the person holding the “Grand Finale” sign that marks that end of the check out. I found this interesting because it’s as if they’re marketing themselves as a show or performance; I liked that. It didn’t happen this visit, but a couple of other times I’ve come in before, the person at the end of the check-out line who notifies you which register to go to tends to make a jingle and rhyme for your register number which adds to the whole performance feel.  Another thing I noticed was that it was super crowded, which is good for business I guess but I wasn’t too fond of that (it puts pressure on me when I’m looking for something in the aisles). However, I think the main thing that stuck out as I was going through the store was pumpkin everything. They are most definitely taking this season seriously.

This is just a sample:

I like to go to Trader Joe’s because they tend to have things that you wouldn’t normally see somewhere else and a great example of that would be the Cookie & Cocoa Swirl Speculoos.

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For those of you who haven’t tried speculoos, it’s like a cookie peanut butter. I first had it at a Wafels & Dinges truck, but if you’re craving it in the middle of the night, this is a great alternative to have in your home. Put it on waffles, cookies, toast…pretty much anything. Eating it straight from the jar works, too. Anyway, this mix of speculoos and chocolate was listed as one of its new products; I like speculoos and I like chocolate, so why not?  See, this right here shows some of my high cultural capital because I was able to look at it, judge its value to me based on the fact that I like both flavors separately so I would probably like them together, and also the fact that I thought about it in terms of what I can do with it to enhance other foods rather than just consume it by itself.

Another purchase I made that exemplifies my cultural capital is the Romaine Salad.

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I bought some Lean Cuisine Salad Additions the other day, but haven’t had any actual lettuce to add to it. This will obviously work. But I also like the fact that it’s chopped and “Ready to use” as advertised on the bag. All I really have to do it just add it, no chopping or washing, or extra work involved. I think everyone can value this product for its convenience (Another point for cultural capital, yay!)

In addition to the salad, I also got Roasted Garlic & Herb Butter.

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So I picked this up mainly because it intrigued me due to the fact that it already had garlic and herbs mixed in (again, convenience). After I picked it up, I realized I could just boil some pasta and add this to make a simple meal (and that’s exactly what I did). As I’m writing this up, I also realized I could spread it on bread and put it in the oven to make some garlic bread, too. However, unlike the Speculoos, this isn’t something I would eat on its own.

This is another treasure from Trader Joe’s I found and I’m in love with: the Cinnamon Sugar Grinder.

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For anyone who loves cinnamon and sugar as much as I do, this is a must-have and it was only $1.99! I’m pretty sure cinnamon alone elsewhere is like $5 minimum and it’ll probably be one of those tiny one ounce containers. Here is something more than triple the size, with sugar, and the added bonus of a grinder (which I personally find fun to use). TJ’s recommends it on toast; I personally like to put it in my oatmeal.  Here you got a bit of my taste, I tend to lean towards sweet and am a big fan of cinnamon; but you also saw how I was able to make value judgments between price and content as well as taste. I not only value this product because it appeals to my taste, but also because it appeals to my wallet as opposed to a pricey one ounce container of McCormick’s cinnamon that might appeal to my taste, but not so much to my wallet (You should get this by now: cultural capital!).

I also got a pound of 80/20 Ground Beef.

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I love this stuff, so clearly I don’t live a vegetarian lifestyle. Make burgers, meatballs, just cook it up and add it to some pasta, nachos, or tacos, depending on what kind of food mood you’re in. American, Italian, Mexican? Take your pick. Also, $2.69 for a pound for 80/20 which is pretty good, I find to be pretty reasonable especially in the city. I mean, other places might have it for cheaper, but it probably looks ten times more gross than it should, and I can barely handle staring at this one. So here’s something you learned about my lifestyle based on the choices I made regarding this product: I’m not a vegetarian, you may classify me as a foodie, and I’m a price-conscious shopper.

We now get to the actual food part. Say hello to Blueberry Waffles!

Photo Oct 08, 4 36 34 PMLove blueberries and love waffles, so blueberry waffles are an extreme yes for me. AND I GOT THE LAST BOX. SUCCESS. Seems like I’m not the only one who has a sore spot for the waffles with the blueberries. So this is different from the other purchases so far because the others serve mainly as additions to meals or snacks. You don’t add a waffle to speculoos, you had speculoos to the waffle.  Also, because of that, some of the other things require me to actually go through the process of making something and cooking. I could have gotten waffle/pancake mix and go through the process of actually mixing and cooking for this every time, but instead I chose the easy way and decided to just get frozen waffles that you just pop in the toaster. Less time-consuming.

And of course, you can’t have waffles (or pancakes for that matter) without Syrup:

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Let me admit something. This is the first time I bought a syrup that was not Aunt Jemima and I was very hesitant to do so because my experience with other syrups has been less than satisfying, actually downright horrifying. But I figured I would try it out for $1.99, and so far everything else “Trader Joe’s” brand seems to be great, people are buying it, so it can’t be too bad. Here, you see I was willing to substitute a brand syrup I’ve grown comfortable with for one I’m unfamiliar with not only because of price but because the brand also seems to be of quality.  This is branding at work.

Okay, so I felt guilty not getting anything of the pumpkin kind because there was just so much all over: Pumpkin bars, Pumpkin waffle/pancake mix, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread mix, pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin pop tarts, just pumpkin everything. I, however, am not a big fan of pumpkin, although I do love pumpkin pie, so when I saw this I had to get it:

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They’re so cute! And I love the alliteration: “Petite Pumpkin Pies, Perfectly Produced” It’s fun and cute, which is perfect because the little pies seem fun and cute. A+ for TJ’s marketing. I would say this goes along with their branding because they’re appealing to people’s fun and like for cute, I mean that’s the main reason I got these. Aside from the fact that I just felt like if I didn’t leave out of there with something pumpkin, I would have probably made them feel like failures with as much pumpkin things they had advertised throughout the store. Branding is about generating meaning, and this box specifically associates itself with fun, cute, and the fall season because everybody knows pumpkin seems to be the flavor of the season (Pumpkin Spice Lattes, anyone?). It’s almost as if you’re joining or participating in a community celebrating the season if you get something pumpkin-flavored.

And finally, I got a frozen bag of Ricotta & Spinach-Filled Ravioli for the days I’m too lazy to cook.

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Doesn’t that look delicious? Also, it was $3.99 and I figure it’s probably cheaper to buy a frozen bag than to get all the ingredients. But then again, buying the ingredients might make more so maybe it comes out even. Either way, I think the fact that I spoke about buying ingredients to make a meal earlier and then get a frozen, already-made meal, can be used to show omnivorousness. In the traditional sense, omnivores are those who take part in both sides of the consumption spectrum. You know, you have highbrow: going to the opera; and you have low-brow: going to the movies. Omnivores may go to the opera one week, and go to the movies the next; or better yet: watch an opera at the movies. Here you have me, who won’t mind working on a gourmet meal in the kitchen or eating out at a five-star restaurant, but also won’t mind just getting a frozen entree and heating it up.

So that’s my Trader Joe’s Food Haul and all for less than $25. Pretty decent.

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I want to elaborate a bit more on their branding and their brand community. As can be seen by the previous picture, they’re big on recycling. They even have a raffle for those who reuse their bags. So this not only encourages recycling, but appeals to those big on helping the environment. It also helps them because when people reuse their bags, they use less of their resources. It’s win for everyone pretty much.  Also, if you noticed, everything I purchased was Trader Joe’s brand, which is not usually the case when you shop at a normal supermarket.  When you go to a normal supermarket, you may be inclined to get their brand products because it’s cheaper, but you tend to stay loyal to the name brands you know because of quality. Trader Joe’s kind of eliminates that completely by not offering name brand products. In fact, the only brands I recognized were a few beer boxes and the Ricola cough drops. While some would find this a bit disconcerting, as I did the first time I entered TJ’s, once people see how crowded the lines are and the fact that people are actually shopping there settles nerves. Also, the employees are extremely helpful and fun, and customer service is key to good branding I think.  Obviously, the prices are a big thing as well, especially in the city where everything tends to be over-priced.  I like Trader Joe’s because it’s not just cheap, but cheap and great quality and I’m pretty sure that appeals to most who shop there.  Also, something else I found interesting was that some items they only sell organic. For example, the canned pumpkin. They only had Organic Canned Pumpkin (apparently “Dogs love it, too!”) so that appeals to people who are health conscious and tend to buy only organic products because they’re able to get organic groceries for a reasonable price.  Overall, I see Trader Joe’s as a melting pot of a bunch of different grocery-shopper consumers. You have appeal for the price-conscious consumer, appeal for the health-conscious consumer, appeal for the environment-conscious consumer, pet-loving consumer; it pretty much appeals to the masses as well as niche groups, so kudos to Trader Joe’s for their branding efforts.