Why you should be shopping at Trader Joe’s

The best value, safety and variety

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Trader Joe's Website

By Alanna Joachim, Collegian Columnist

This fall, the student population of Amherst and the surrounding areas has changed quite a bit. Wherever you are living this semester, I have only one piece of advice (other than to wear a mask): grocery shop at Trader Joe’s. Conveniently located in Hadley, Trader Joe’s is the best option for affordable and high-quality food for students in the area. It also offers a safer and more welcoming atmosphere than any other local grocery store.

While Trader Joe’s is smaller than some other grocery stores, it still provides a phenomenal grocery experience. An easy comparison can be made to Walmart, which is the leader in national grocery sales by a large margin. With only about 400 stores throughout the country to Walmart’s 4,700, Trader Joe’s may not match Walmart in terms of size or proximity to its customers. There are only 20 Trader Joe’s locations in Massachusetts. The Trader Joe’s in Hadley is the only location in western Massachusetts. Even with a smaller store base, Trader Joe’s is still a competitive match for larger chains like Walmart or Whole Foods.

For most college students, price is the biggest factor in their grocery shopping choices. While Trader Joe’s may not be the absolute cheapest grocery store in the local area, it offers the greatest value in terms of the quality of food, as well as selection. Walmart has cheaper prices, but it lacks a healthy variety and wide range of options, such as fresh produce. Its most comparable opponent would most likely be Whole Foods, which features healthy foods similar to Trader Joe’s, but often at a much higher price. Whole Foods offers many in store aspects that Trader Joe’s does not, such as a full deli and fish market, but their prices are on average much higher. In an article by Business Insider, the author found that when purchasing comparable products at the two stores, Whole Foods was about $30 more expensive for one shopping trip. Not every item at Whole Foods will have a cheaper option, but on average Trader Joe’s is on par or less expensive than other grocery options.

Trader Joe’s also offers a unique shopping experience and diverse selection of food that is unmatched by any other grocery store around the University of Massachusetts. Before COVID-19, Trader Joe’s offered free samples of different products throughout the store. They also have much more than just food, offering their own wines and liquors, health and body products and more. Also, they mainly only carry their own original products, rather than generic, often unhealthy, brands. For example, Trader Joe’s has their own version of many well-known brands, like “Joe Joe’s” instead of Oreos. While many stores have their own, often cheaper, brands such as Target’s “Up & Up,” or Walmart’s “Great Value”, most of the Trader Joe’s products are healthy and do not contain artificial colorings or preservatives.

Lastly, during a pandemic, the grocery shopping experience is an important consideration for many. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, going to the grocery store or doing other essential errands were some of the only exposure many people had to others. Here, they faced the greatest risk of exposure. I have always noticed a significant difference in the safety requirements at Trader Joe’s in comparison to other grocery stores. You might drive by Trader Joe’s in Hadley on any given day or time and see a line stretching behind the building because the store is strict in how many people they allow in the store at each time. Other grocery stores, such as Market Basket, Stop & Shop or Target have ceased their limitations on how many customers can be allowed into the store, but Trader Joe’s has maintained these restrictions in order to keep their customers and employees safe. While it might mean longer lines to get in, customers who shop there know they will have a safe environment in the store that is not overcrowded and allows them to be socially distant from others.

Trader Joe’s is easily the best option for grocery shopping when combining the quality, selection and price in the area. With a location just down the street for most UMass students, I encourage everyone to take advantage of all the healthy and unique options the store has to offer.

Alanna Joachim is a Collegian Columnist and can be reached at [email protected]