10 Ways Trader Joe’s Has Changed Our Lives for the Better
So many reasons to be grateful to Joe Coulombe, the man who brought us good cheese for cheap.
Until last week, you may never have heard of Joe Coulombe, the retail visionary who founded Trader Joe’s in 1967, looking to bring affordable, top-quality foods to a populace that was increasingly more educated, if not better paid, and developing more curious palates for the finer things in life, if not the means to procure them. But Coulombe, who passed away last Friday at age 89 and whose grocery empire expanded to include more than 500 stores across 40 states, changed the way many of us shop and eat.
Without him and his vision of great foods at bargain prices, many of us would open our pantries and refrigerators and see a whole different (arguably less exciting) landscape today. Without his vision of upbeat customer service and treating employees well, our weekly routine wouldn’t include unpacking charmingly retro brown paper bags filled with relatively inexpensive weekly staples… packed by cheerful, chatty Hawaiian-shirt-clad workers. Without him, well, a lot of things would be different.
Here are 10 ways Joe Coulombe’s cult-favorite grocery-store chain, which he sold in 1979 and left his position as CEO in 1988, has improved our lives:
All that Great Inexpensive Cheese
From Brie to burrata, cheddar to feta, Trader Joe’s cheese cooler is a destination for fromage fans on a budget. So many good affordable options; they almost couldn’t be any Gouda! (Sorry.)
A Wide Selection of Frozen Foods
Trader Joe’s selection of frozen prepared foods has saved me countless times on nights too busy for elaborate (or, um, any) dinner prep. Current personal fave? Cauliflower gnocchi. There’s a good reason this low-carb, gluten-free alterna-gnocchi has been a hit since it was introduced in the spring of 2018. If you prepare it according to this hack, it’s truly amazing.
Pretty, Pretty Produce
Trader Joe’s colorful array of fruits and vegetables often inspire me to experiment in the kitchen. (Thanks for cubing my squash and spiralizing my zucchini, TJ workers.) And then there is the bagged salad that is my favorite of all bagged salads: Sorrento Blend. With your perfect mix of baby arugula, spinach and other lettuces, I love you so.
Unexpected Finds Turned Favorites
One of the best parts of shopping at Trader Joe’s is the rotation of new products and free samples (yum!) that turn you on to things you haven’t before tried but immediately toss into your cart. I have packages of Trader Ming’s Kung Pao Tempura Cauliflower and Trader Joe’s Chicken Tikka Masala in my freezer to prove it.
Trader Joe’s makes the best hot fudge and Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce that is as great in crepes as it is on ice cream. On the savory side of the spectrum, I always keep a jar of TJ’s Red Pepper Spread with Eggplant and Garlic on hand – to spread on a quick lunch or to put out with crackers for guests. And then there are the bottled sauces that make a tasty dinner way less stressful.
Sparkling Waters in Rainbow Colors
When we have parties or get-togethers of any size, we stock our bar cart with Trader Joe’s flavored seltzers in fetching colors and an equally attractive mix of sodas. People love to experiment – and it makes us look like fab hosts with a keen eye for aesthetics.
Snacks and Cookies for Days
The sheer breadth of Trader Joe’s selection of snacks and cookies is awe-inspiring. Whether you’re looking for a tub of adorable mini chocolate chip cookies, an iconic box of Joe-Joe’s Sandwich Cookies or weird stuff like dehydrated beet chips, Trader Joe’s probably has something you won’t be able to resist tossing into your shopping cart.
You know you can find basics on a budget at Trader Joe’s. But you can also boost your basics game to the next level by, say, replacing your usual almond milk with a more daring alternative like Almond, Cashew & Macadamia Nut Beverage, or stocking your spice cabinet with Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend (another fan fave).
Plants and Flowers on a Budget
Potted daffodils for $2.49. My bi-weekly flower bouquet for $3.99. Orchids, fiddle-leaf figs and other gorgeous flora for a song. (Once, when I asked my TJ’s-loving sister-in-law how she kept her plants in such good shape, she responded, “I buy new ones.”) Trader Joe’s botanical offerings are maybe the best way to beautify your home on a budget.
Two-Buck Chuck and More
Everyone knows about Two-Buck Chuck – the Charles Shaw wine that Trader Joe’s sells for about $1.99, depending on where you live – and how it’s allowed us all to fancify Friday nights without breaking the bank. But it also offers a multitude of other wine and liquor choices at various price points, mostly lower than you would find them elsewhere. And their beer selection is fabulous, too.
So let’s pour one out for Joe Coulombe, a man who helped change the way we eat on a day-to-day basis… very much for the better.