Trader Joe's meta-discussion

Exactly. So I’m forced to basically ignore the idea of staying home, which is not good. (In my case, not having a car is actually not by choice, meaning I can’t afford a grocery delivery service.)

Some stores in my area of NJ have one way aisles, some don’t. I am able to get through the store much quicker in stores with two-way aisles. Invariably, the item I need is in the middle of the aisle going in the same direction as the one in, I’m forcing me to go down the other-way aisle even though I don’t want or have to.

I think controlling how many people are allowed in at a time is way more important than one way aisles. Many stores did that for a while but have discontinued the practice. Fortunately the stores have longer hours now so shoppers can be more spread out during the day and since I am not currently working I have the luxury of being able to shop at less popular times of the day.

To get us back on track - I find Trader Joe’s does an excellent job of limiting shoppers. I don’t go often but there are a few things they carry that I really like. I went not that long ago and didn’t want/need a cart but had to take one. That’s how they keep count of how many people are in the store.

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I’ve followed this thread sporadically since inception. The posts seem to focus on one product or another without addressing the underlying question of whether to go into Trader Joes at all.

Well, yeah. That is, in fact, the entire purpose of this thread. I get that the thread title is ambiguous in that respect (and in a previous thread we did have another troll crapping on Trader Joe’s, based on the same misunderstanding), but since you have, in fact, read enough to understand what the thread is really about there’s no excuse for you derailing the discussion like this.

Especially since by your own admission, you’ve only been to TJ’s twice–which is to say, you have no idea what you’re talking about.

At the risk of being bull-headed I think people should learn to cook. sigh

And I think we should have a 20-hour work week. But we don’t, so a lot of people don’t have a hell of a lot of time in their day for cooking. Which sucks, because it means we can’t all be as smugly superior as you are.


What gives you the impression that no one who shops at TJs can cook?
And the Summer of Love spawned the whole natural/healthy food industry.


Those folks, just a little older them me, decided that Home Ec was discriminatory because almost only girls took it (I did too, because that was where the girls were). They also said shop was discriminatory because only boys took it. Rather than getting girls into shop and boys into Home Ec they fell out of curricula across the country. That is why I blame the summer of love for the decline of cooking ability in the United States.

My opinion has nothing to do with a business model but rather my opinion on a public health policy in the time of a pandemic and what makes me more comfortable.

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It’s possible, though I’d tend to put much greater emphasis on a different and slower shift:

1800: “If someone in this house doesn’t learn to cook, we’ll all starve”. Literal truth without exaggeration.

2000: “We can always get something somewhere”.


There are plenty of other threads about the TJ’S shopping experience. This post belongs there, not in a thread about particular new products.


I think the whole idea that people don’t know how to do things because school didn’t cater to them is bogus. That’s what parents are for.
And grandparents, for that matter.


I take your point. There has been a major failure in society. Too many people can’t cook and too many people can’t hang curtain rods.

I think there is a correlation with schools dropping home ec and shop. Correlation doesn’t mean causation. I could blame Trader Joe’s on the summer of love, conceivably. grin

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You keep saying there’s a failure in society because people can’t cook and make boot scrapers. I don’t see it.
My kids were too busy taking classes that would enhance their ability to get a scholarship.
And it worked. Both learned how to cook too. I didn’t worry about the boot scrapers because they favor tennis shoes.
I searched for data to support your belief but that is sketchy.
I think it is an urban, or more accurately, a suburban myth.


I don’t believe I mentioned boot scrapers. When discussing this topic I usually refer to hanging curtain rods. Were boot scrapers a shop project for you?

I maintain that life skills are a reasonable element of primary and secondary education. It is my observation that many such skills have fallen from favor to make room for topics like “gender studies.”

To quote Robert Heinlein:

Mr. Heinlein is clearly better spoken than I. Cooking and fixing things are fundamental skills that are no longer valued by public schools outside of trade tracks and two generations after the summer of love parents don’t seem to have the ability or interest to teach their children.

This is only relevant based on the observation of someone in the original TJ’s thread that the appeal of TJ’s is the abundance of prepared and semi-prepared foods they carry. That could certainly explain why their limited selection did not push any buttons for me when I visited them - if I want macaroni salad I’ll make macaroni salad.

I spent some time reading the Wikipedia article about TJ’s. I’m not the only one to lump them in with companies like 7-11 as a convenience store - they have and do themselves. Their limited inventory (about 4,000 vice a supermarket with about 50,000) is consistent with that categorization also.

A Google search for “can Americans cook” was illuminating. Most disturbing to me was the consistent assumption that a Blue Apron box or even a Kraft macaroni and cheese box count as “cooking.” This observation does support the reasons for TJ’s financial success, it’s popularity among many, and why I find that popularity bewildering.

Accordingly it would appear that TJ’s is a representation of Americans who don’t want to or can’t cook. I do call that a failure in society. That makes TJ’s success a symptom.

I would like to hear about your boot scraper experience.

What is your theory on the young minds who didn’t have homec or wood shop in school but went on to become professional chefs or builders? What about adults who grew up cooking but never learned in school? The summer of love gen had working parents. '70’s latchkey started…and so did my learning some basics at home. Skipping through the many other details along the way…

I had all the public school electives a suburban upbringing offered and I still didn’t elevate those skills until decades later…well after public school ended.

Not only do I wonder when you came to believe this is where the gap lies but why you say it with such matter of fact repeat.

Education of any kind has never been 1 size fits all.


With regards to the “Summer of Love” being the beginning of the end of people learning how to cook, things were trending in that direction, decades before. Due in large part to improved efficiencies and automation on the farms, resulting in greater crop yields, thus more food, there became a need to preserve this food on large commercial scales. Enter the food companies, the factories, and great progress was being made! And the railroads were already in place. People went without food in the Great Depression, and there was rationing during the war. Folks were anxious for food security, and the government didn’t want the excess food to go to waste either. The two world wars undoubtedly delayed this progression, due to the obvious need to utilize both factories and food for the war effort. Once the war ended, it was game on. Families, and women, in particular were targeted on many levels to use the new convenience products, thus liberating themselves from kitchen and garden drudgery. Many people from my mother’s era (1930’s) saw how hard their respective parents worked just providing food and bare basics for their family; they left the farms, along with more traditional cooking styles, and decided not to grow the big, labor intensive gardens, with the resulting need to can, pickle or preserve all the crops. It was the “modern” way! At this time too, breastfeeding fell out of favor, with new mothers encouraged to use formula.

The rapid societal changes, IMO, caused a backlash. The flower children wanted to get back to basics, grow their own food, and heal themselves with natural remedies. The ethos there was for more self sufficiency.

Other people, who may have grown up with adequate, but not great food, rebelled a bit, and learned to cook delicious food from scratch.

Personally, I’ve always thought everyone should know how to feed themselves, manage their own finances, and know how to clean up after themselves. Whether they choose to do so is up to them. As far as I know, HomeEc and Shop are still electives, and not restricted by gender. Thankfully! In a perfect world, there should be a mandatory life skills class to graduate. To be fair, however the schools can’t do everything.

We’re all different in our needs, and the way we allocate our time. Not for me to judge people who don’t cook.

I’m sure @Harters, has an interesting perspective on this. @Harters??


ETA: to above post, to keep OT; while not a one stop shop for all groceries, I think TJ’s appeals to both cooks and eaters. It’s handy while traveling for small provisions, snacks or meals, too.

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I grew up during the 70s and 80s. I went to a private high school that offered neither shop nor home ec, as one was being trained to be a professional and certainly not a homemaker or tradesman. :roll_eyes: My mother alternated between being a stay-at-home mom and a high school teacher and was proud that she was always able to get dinner on the table during the week, even when my father had to rush between his day job and twice-a-week evening job. I first learned to bake from Mom (cookies) and then Dad (cakes), and Mom had me start helping her with dinner when I was a teenager.

By the time I was in 12th grade and Mom was taking a continuing ed class, I had to cook dinner once a week, and fast so that Dad could eat before the evening job. So it was a bit of trial by fire, and I was a bit slipshod initially. But, I was then able to cook when I lived off-campus in college and then those first few post-college years on my own when I was getting paid bupkis.


That is exactly my history with TJ’s too, though I’m still not a fan of WF.

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It’s so interesting to read your posts because we are so politically different (in terms of our analysis and assessment of the issues) but have some points of alignment in conclusion.

Trying to be brief:

  1. Home Ec/Domestic Science (oikonomikos maybe?) should be taught. It would be a fantastic thing to have all students learn not just how to make meals, but to think about budgeting, planning, etc. And if they were given challenges according to class (especially learning what limits, say, the working poor or the homeless are up against) there could be a civics and empathy lesson.

This notion that it was undone to make way for gender studies is a bit off. There was a problem with how the classes had been organised, especially the pressures of young women to take these (you speak of your taking the class, but I imagine that there would be limits to going in the other direction, as story after story indicates— women are dissuaded from moving outside their socially advised lanes). But it was also funding and changing education systems that valued producing vocational skills or feed into uni— why were so testing based now and why arts, languages, etc are also being cut out of curricula (and certainly not to make way for ‘gender studies’ although if so, yay— that comes out of critical theory and understanding how mean and value are made and mobilised— a broadly excellent skillset).

  1. Ready meals and half prepared foods are a symptom of things that may or may not be wrong. That is, the rise of this comes not because people can’t cook or won’t cook, but because working hours, and the nature of navigating life’s demands, especially when children are in the mix, have limited the time people have to make meals from scratch (I won’t even go into sourcing and storing the provisions/ingredients). In effect, the demands of capitalism and the rise of a working poor lead to a lot of these cheaper, prepared goods. Although of course, there’s also the liberation for some from having to do something they don’t like or are too tired for. And there is no shame in that. I’m more concerned about food deserts and poverty which I see as significant factors in how people cook and eat.

In effect, a well-designed home ec class that is inclusive and realistic could teach not only household and life management, but lessons in civics that could make people more thoughtful citizens and neighbours.

As for TJs: None where I am. When I did live in NYC, I liked having access to inexpensive frozen fish and some other foods (also low price).


I think I’ve been to TJ’s once since the pandemic. (And once just before everything shut down, just by coincidence, and if I’d realized I should have stocked up more on the TJ’s stuff I like.)
But if we set the clock back to 2019, or forward to 2021 assuming we’re all vaccinated by then, I go there for dairy, eggs, bread, chips, flowers, lettuce, olive oil, a few specialties, cheap wine, and impulse purchases. It’s usually good enough, and a lot quicker than going to a more complete market that’s twice as big, and a lot more complete than going to a smaller market (except for the ethnic markets, which are a different game entirely.)


Admittedly correlation does not mean causation. I do well remember discussion in the late 70s that home ec and shop were gender biased and that such things should not be supported by public schools. Gender studies and other PC material did follow on the heels of home ec and shop dropping out of the curriculum but it is probably unfair of me to say they were replacements.

At least in the school system where I grew up home ec morphed into culinary science and shop into a number of trade prep classes, all in a program very specifically aimed at kids who were not going to go to college.

What I maintain, reflecting back on the quote from Robert Heinlein I posted earlier, is that it is reasonable to build life skills into public education. People should know how to cook, plan, budget, and carry out simple home maintenance tasks before advancing to adulthood. Going to college is not an excuse for not knowing how to cook or change a tire.

Incidentally typing moved to tech track about the same time as home ec and shop but in some places has moved back into mainstream curriculum.

I’m definitely a fundamentals guy. I maintain that life skills belongs in mainstream, required curricula just as do reading, writing, and arithmetic.

I don’t agree with your argument that life’s demands are significantly different than some decades ago. I certainly perceive that there is more whining about how hard life is. sigh In point of fact many aspects of life are easier, even a lot easier than in the 60s and 70s.

I raised the point of food deserts earlier. We have “transitional neighborhoods” near downtown Annapolis where the only choice for food within walking distance is a Rite Aid pharmacy. Interestingly, that Rite Aid store carries a lot of staples including flour and yeast, corn meal, and other basics. The small strip mall Rite Aid is in, about a ten minute walk from subsidized housing, also houses the barber I use, a very good liquor store, and the UPS shipper I use. Accordingly I’m there several times a week (mostly for shipping) and see people grocery shopping at Rite Aid. The bus to a large grocery, in addition to expense, adds nearly two hours to a shopping expedition.

We do have a Royal Farms near the Rite Aid (more of a 7-11 convenience store). Disadvantaged people tend to shop at Rite Aid.

[quote=“Hunterwali, post:38, topic:23644”]In effect, a well-designed home ec class that is inclusive and realistic could teach not only household and life management, but lessons in civics that could make people more thoughtful citizens and neighbours.

We definitely agree there. I would strongly advocate basic mechanical and electrical skills.

People should be able to make scrambled eggs and cook spaghetti. Make a stew (long slow simmer of inexpensive cuts of meat). Dice an onion without injuring themselves. Make tuna noodle casserole. Bake a potato.

Similarly, people should be able to change a tire, repair a lamp, hang a curtain rod, caulk a window, and fix a door knob.

With respect to applied civics, before COVID I would sometimes give a ride to people walking home from Rite Aid. Today I stopped to help someone broken down on the side of the road.

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