July 2, 2009

For the Love of Trader Joe's

This is my favorite week of the month. And not because of birthdays or holidays or even the fact that next week we will get to close on the new house. No, the reason I love this week is because it's the week after our (roughly) monthly trip to Trader Joe's. I didn't realize how much I loved this store until we moved to a city that had none.

Grocery stores in general have been a problem since we moved to Charlottesville. The problem being that I don't like any of them. We were spoiled for grocery stores in Portland you see. Within walking distance from our house there were two, excellent local stores. One that was kind of a regional version of a super target and one that was a fabulous small Portland chain called New Seasons that carried local produce, organic fare as well as the normal stuff that my husband can't live with out (like Coke and Shredded Wheat). Within an easy five minute drive there were about ten other grocery stores, including a couple that would deliver. We went to Trader Joe's when we needed to, stocked up on wine and fun foods, but most of the stuff that Trader Joe's is known for could also be found at New Seasons or Natures or Freddys and so on.

Before Portland we lived in Ireland where, on top of two good sized walkable grocery stores and a good dozen butchers, delis, greengrocers etc, we could hop on a train and three stops in either direction be at a Marks and Spencer which is, well, the best store ever. I could never cook from scratch again quite happily if I could shop only at Marks and Sparks.

But I'm getting away from myself. The point is, there's nothing like that here. The only recognizable grocery chains here are Kroger (always dingy, yuck) and Whole Foods (I wont even go into why, but I really dislike Whole Foods). Everything else is just, blah. The meat is ok, the vegetables are ok, the selection is decent. I can survive. They have my coffee and my tea, both of which are pertinent to my survival. Everything else, well, like I said, I can survive. We do shop at this funky little local grocery store that has good meat (not organic or necessarily local, but fresh. Fresh as in, they are usually busy cutting it up while you are picking it out) But overall the grocery scene isn't my fav.

When they opened a Trader Joe's in Richmond this spring I was thrilled. Both because now I could go stock up on some of my old favorites and because there was a hint, a mere whisper that if there was a TJ's in Richmond, and on the close side of Richmond, surely one in Charlottesville isn't far behind. And sure enough, a few weeks ago they were approved for a liquor license for Charlotttesville. Yeah!!!! And then, Wahhhh! Because they aren't supposed to open until 2011! To long. I NEED some ready to cook Orange Chicken in my freezer NOW! I can't stand paying more than three bucks for wine! Then there is the salsa (Oh! I forgot to buy salsa this trip! Damn damn damn!) and the pasta sauce and the curry and the dried fruit and...see what I mean. So much to love.

So for now I will make an excuse at least once a month to make the trek to Short Pump (what a name, I mean really? Short Pump?) to haul home three or four bags full of jars and bags and boxes. And for a good week my pantry will look like a Trader Joe's stockroom. And cooking dinner will be easier. Because while I like to cook, in fact, I'm starting to love cooking more and more, there are always days where I just don't want to. And to be able to pull out a jar of Korma Simmer Sauce and flip on the rice cooker and be done with it, well, that's worth the drive.

What kind of dork am I, eh?