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The Supermarkets Are No Longer "Super" For Me

Having provided my local supermarket with hundreds of dollars a month for years, I no longer shop there. Other chains have filled the fridge for my family, how about yours?

In 2011, my local supermarket closed its in-store bank. At first, I didn’t expect this closure to affect me too much, but since it happened I have not been back to shop there. I realized this week that the only reason I shopped at that store was to take care of banking errands. One stop, two errands done. I don’t go out of my way to go to that supermarket anymore.

Ralph’s on Diamond Bar and Grand closed this year too, and being close to another bank branch, I would stop in if I remembered I needed some things for the fridge. I still bank there, but I don’t take the giant leap across the street to Albertson’s. I’d rather drive all the way to Chino. And so, I have learned to do without the ubiquitous American Supermarket.

I first realized I didn’t need the big supermarket when the big labor strike happened years ago. Remember the picket signs and angry grocery clerks? I stayed away. Costco and Trader Joe have got my business, and I don’t think I’m the only one.

Trader Joe’s in particular does an excellent job of keeping up with fashionable food trends. The addition of brown rice pasta and tortillas was a great move. The latest installments have made Trader Joe’s even more of a staple store for me. Great European chocolate, raw nuts, organic, free range chicken and eggs, and let’s admit it, tasty treats that can’t be beat.

I appreciate Trader Joe’s efforts at helping Americans eat more healthfully. While not all the aisles are filled with low-calorie fare, a good deal has a healthy spin. The ready-made salads complete with dressing and fork is a good choice. I also love the Middle East Feast, I hope my Lebanese friends forgive me; I know it’s not THAT authentic, but it hits the spot.

I’m very proud of TJ’s for carrying organic potatoes recently. Potatoes have been hard hit by the healthy eating circles for being heavy on pesticides. Trader Joe’s responded quickly, giving us Russet and red varieties in an organic option. Diamond Bar resident Vicki Todd says, “To me, the organic potatoes have so much flavor. I think they are very worth the trip to buy them. The Farmer’s Market runs out.” And Mrs. Todd ought to know her potatoes; her father in law is a farmer.

Hala Murad of Diamond Bar had this to say about Trader Joe’s: “Absolutely one of my favorite stores. I shop there all the time. I wish they would carry more fresh fish, and organic breads, though.”

That comment left me wondering, Does TJ’s fulfill all my shopping needs? I must say, for the most part, yes. They would be the only store I would go to if they carried bulk items like toilet paper, paper towels, and cleaning products. Louise Petry agrees. “ Of all the things I am forced to go to another store for, it's cleaning products and paper goods," she said. "I’ve tried some of Trader Joe’s detergents, but I prefer other brands. I also love saltines. I know it might sound silly, but Trader Joe’s doesn’t carry traditional saltine crackers for my soup. Otherwise, I just love that store.”

I’m sure the fine folks at Trader Joe’s headquarters don’t need any help from Diamond Bar residents as to what to stock their shelves with. They do a pretty good job all by themselves. This week I noticed organic coconut oil on the shelf; coconut water was there first in the drink aisle. Both of these products are very good for you, the benefits of which you can read up on in an article I wrote this summer, “.” I used to have to go to Henry’s to buy coconut oil. Thanks TJ’s!

TJ’s also stocks rice pasta, which is healthier than the standard wheat variety. They actually sell a brown rice penne, higher in fiber with no added egg concentrates. As much as I like this product, it gets boring sometimes. TJ’s read my mind again. The latest in the pasta section this week is “High Fiber Pasta.” What’s the fiber? Oat bran! And yes, it tastes great; you can’t tell the difference. You can choose between spaghetti and penne, and while it’s still a high carbohydrate, at least the fiber content is triple of regular pasta.

I’m a big fan of brown rice bread and Ezekiel bread, and their low ingredient corn tortillas. Have you ever read the ingredients list on big name brand corn tortillas in the supermarket? Well, it’s much more than corn, salt, and lime. Preservatives do not belong in tortillas for my family. I stopped buying the ones at the supermarket long ago. The brown rice varieties are also good; have you tried them? They aren’t very stretchy, so they don’t have the same softness you get at your favorite burrito place, but again, healthy choices make for healthy people.

Of all the effort Trader Joe’s puts forth to give us healthy alternatives to some of our favorite foods, JoJo’s cookies have to be one of the best ones. Oreos were made with real sugar when I was growing up. The new fructose corn syrups and fake ingredients do not appeal to me, so I haven’t had an Oreo since. JoJo’s however, are a decadent treat for my whole family. If I don’t bake from scratch my homemade chocolate chip cookies, JoJo’s get no complaints. Again, great job, Trader Joes!

I must admit, I have a “Wish List” for the product development folks at corporate:

The baking aisle is missing one thing: oat flour. I use oat flour instead of wheat for almost everything. High fiber, no wheat gluten, and very tasty, I wish they carried it. I go to Henry’s for it.

A really good imported, or not, spaghetti sauce. Why imported? Claro’s carries an unbelievable sauce in a glass jar from Italy that really delivers: six ingredients, and a real, fresh taste. Yes, I make my own, but I have late nights, busy weekends, and a quick spaghetti dinner comes in handy. Sorry TJ’s, but all of your sauces contain sugar, or corn syrup, or canola oil. Taste is everything, and olive oil, tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper, and garlic is all that is needed for a delicious marinara from a jar.

Jam and preserves should be real sugar; no corn syrup, please. The sugar content should be low, so the first ingredient listed should be the fruit. Please refer to my article, “” about the great jams from Mountain Fruit Company. Lower glycemic index means diabetics can eat them, and fruit is their first ingredient. Again, another store to visit, but a trip to T.J. Maxx means I miss the mall altogether!

Last but not least, I wish Trader Joe’s would carry boxed tomatoes. Canned tomatoes are unhealthy according to many food health advocacy groups. The metal taste is one reason, but the lining of the cans interact with the acidic tomatoes, and the product is to be avoided. Claro’s Market carries chopped or pureed tomatoes in paper cartons. They taste great, and are healthy too.

Fred Romero November 21, 2011 at 05:08 PM
Similar thoughts here too. its Costco, TJ, and Sprouts for our family.
Julia Nelson November 21, 2011 at 08:16 PM
I pretty much shop only at Winco, TJ's, or Walmart. I was forced by circumstances to shop at Albertsons the other day and I probably spent $5 more for my 5 items than I would have at my regular stores.
Gabriela Klein November 21, 2011 at 10:39 PM
Do you think price is the only issue? I know I pay a premium for some things at Trader Joe's, but I negate healthy choices over cost. Yes, I do pay extra for organic, and free range. No problem! I prefer the style, ambience, and customer service of Trader Joe's to our outdated, smelly supermarkets. I zip around the store faster, I don't have to compare prices, do math equations in my head of oz per $, I just grab and go. Love that! How about you? What really ended the supermarket for you? I also love the prime beef and great boneless lamb at Costco. Not that we eat that everyday, but the supermarket meat lost me a long time ago.
Fred Romero November 21, 2011 at 10:54 PM
as far as cost goes, either you pay a little more now and get something thats better for you health wise, or you pay later is what the lower quality of the fruit, meat, etc from a supermarket does to your health. and yes, the atmosphere of a Trader Joes and Sprouts makes going enjoyable.
Gabriela Klein November 21, 2011 at 11:18 PM
Thanks so much for your comments, Fred and Julia! I hope you try some of my favorites!
Julia Nelson November 21, 2011 at 11:32 PM
I feel like I'm getting a great price at Trader Joe's. A lot of the packages cost less, but are smaller, so they work well for my small household. I don't care so much whether something's organic or free range. I've never tasted a difference. The only thing supermarkets seem to offer is a larger variety of flavors within a product line. Not something I want to pay for in the long run. I'm going to try Claro's. I'd never heard of it, but that sounds like somewhere I'd like.
Trisha Bowler November 22, 2011 at 04:32 PM
For me it's distance that matters. I live in the south end of DB and when I need to go to TJ's it's the one on Imperial in Brea. I don't go often. I have always believed in supporting and shopping our city of DB. So I was a Ralph's and Albertson's shopper. Now just Albertson's. At times when the traffic is heavy on the blvd. I run over the hill to Staters in Rowland. For meats, all this year I routinely order meats from Omaha Steaks. It's fabulous! The quality is perfect and the portion size is exactly right for my husband and me. It would be expensive if you were cooking for an entire family but for two, it couldn't be better. They have wonderful sales and free shipping much of the time. I get the ads online and thru the mail. For some reason the mail ads seem to be better deals. My husband does shop at Sprouts for various items but for the most part we shop Diamond Bar.
Greg Horton November 22, 2011 at 06:19 PM
Sorry you don't like Albertsons. I find Jeff and his staff to be very helpful and my wife and I especially like the butchers and the great service they provide. I personally don't mind paying a little extra to patronize one of my community merchants. I would definitely spend 5 bucks extra at Albertsons than give 4 bucks to Shell or Arco to drive to a different city to do my business. Just a matter of different priorities I guess.
Gabriela Klein November 22, 2011 at 10:39 PM
Hi Julia! I hope you do try Claro's Market. I live in South DB area, so La Habra Claro's is closest for me, on Whittier Blvd. It's an "Old World Italian Delicatessen and Market" filled with all sorts of delicious things. their fresh, homemade lasagna is in the freezer section in individual and family sizes, along with their ravioli and tortellini. They also make their own homemade sauces. please let me know how you liked it, and oh, don't forget their fresh made sausage, it freezes great! Buono Appetito!
Gabriela Klein November 22, 2011 at 10:42 PM
Hi Trisha! have you had a chance to try the butcher next door to Mother's in Brea? They carry grass fed, Colorado beef, and its fresh. I haven't gone yet, I plan to though. Thank you for commenting!
Gabriela Klein November 22, 2011 at 10:48 PM
Hi Greg! I agree with your logic about paying for gas. While that is true, I don't feel guilty about not supporting a "local business" like Albertsons or any other chain. I can't say I NEVER go there anymore, it's just not my staple store like it used to be. Remember the days when you waited in line at checkout during Thanksgiving week, with lines running down the aisles? I do. I don't ever see that anymore. I must not be the only one who stopped shopping at the supermarket. You do make a point about relationships too, it definitely makes a difference when someone in a store recognizes you and gives you the extra attention and help, like it was in the old days. Thank you for your comment!
m coogan November 23, 2011 at 04:30 AM
I too am a Diamond Bar resident who regularly shops at Trader Joe's (Chino Hills, Brea and San Dimas). This article brings back memories that TJ's could have built a store in Diamond Bar, but they did not. Does anyone know why Diamond Bar got rejected?
Gabriela Klein November 23, 2011 at 03:57 PM
The best answer came from Carol Herrera, in the article "First Acapulco's Who's Next?" It is a complicated issue, but from all of the comments so far, the most fair answer is that Diamond Bar was just not planned out well for large shopping plazas that would bring the volume of shoppers that upscale markets require. Our population is small, surrounding cities do not come into our borders to shop, and we have gotten used to shopping elsewhere. If you look at the kind of shopping centers TJs chooses, we don't have one of those. West Covina TJoe's closing also shows the opinion TJs seems to have of our part of San Gabriel Valley. Sad, I know. Thanks for commenting!
Fred Romero November 23, 2011 at 04:38 PM
To me, its one of the main reasons I enjoy living in DB. While at times I wish we didn't have to go elsewhere to shop, dine, or play, i like that it keeps DB more of a residential community than a business community. that would bring much more traffic and "other" things we might not find so desirable. just my opinion. enjoying everyones comments and participation.
Julia Nelson November 23, 2011 at 07:18 PM
I work in Redlands, and it's often easier to do shopping there before I head home. I did the same thing when I worked in Santa Ana. I'll bet a lot of Diamond Bar residents are in similar situations. I'm glad we have our Target. I probably shop at that one more than others. In fact, we were able to do all our grocery shopping there one week. Stayed local!
JOHN FORBING November 26, 2011 at 03:05 PM
Shopping out of town is why we don't have stores in town. If we move the golf course and put in a Paseo like Pasadena and a youth sports complex we would have a downtown and more local shopping options and more income to the City budget to take care of maintaining the high standards we moved here for. Freeway access is what businesses like TJ's want.
Lydia Plunk November 30, 2011 at 02:29 AM
There isn't anything I want to buy that would be worth loosing the golf course. If another generation feels differently- that is their decision. PS- The pizza crust at Claro's is fabulous on the barbecue.
Julia Nelson November 30, 2011 at 07:13 PM
I 100% agree with you, Lydia. I used drive along the freeway in the '70s on the way home from college and always thought Diamond Bar was a classy place. Right now it's a great barrier between the residents and the freeway. Even if we destroyed the golf course to build commercial businesses, who would locate there? All the business are already in Walnut or Chino.
Lydia Plunk November 30, 2011 at 08:29 PM
Hi, Julia. Redlands is lovely, too. What a great combination of cities to deal with daily! To clarify: Our personal income demographics, freeway frontage and acerage are an opportunity that plenty of businesses that would line up to fill a development on the Diamond Bar Golf Course that do not see adequate value in investing in Diamond Bar's current locations. This does not trump my belief that for Diamond Bar, the golf course is of cultural significance and visual resource central to our history. As such, it deserves to be cared for on a level unlikely to be achieved by commercial/retail entities. The impact of intensification of development to the surrounding neighborhoods simply should not be mitigated away. To keep the golf course- residents should spend money on the course, the gift shop and the restaurant/ catering facilities so the owners stay interested in maintaining its current use.
JOHN FORBING December 01, 2011 at 12:27 AM
When Grand over crossing is redone it will take 20 acres of the golf course. Would it not be better to move the golf course to a quieter location ( which the golfers would appreciate) and triple the youth sports area for the youth of DB as wellas increasing our sales tax and property tax base.
Gabriela Klein December 02, 2011 at 12:28 AM
That just makes too much sense, John. And when things make too much sense, they seem to never get done.

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