My Trader Joe’s Routine

By Sam Spero and Patrick Goodney

grocery cart with item
Photo by Oleg Magni on
  • Spot a fantastic deal for pineapple spears on my Fearless Flyer mailer just as I’m about to reflexively recycle it.     
  • Convince myself that walking six extra blocks from the fruit stand on my corner is worth being sure my groceries are clean.
  • Look for cart-sanitizing wipes after realizing I haven’t washed my hands in two days, and Lord only knows what other people have done.
  • Head straight to the samples, baby. 
  • Tell myself I’m too busy again this week to learn how to make bibimbap and settle for buying three premade frozen bowls of it instead.
  • Sheepishly apologize after accidentally brushing hands with a stranger who reached for the same bag of mixed greens, before making eye contact and immediately feeling an electric connection. As I start envisioning everything I think she could be, I see a rugged man walking to her cart with cookie butter. Maybe in another life, I think.
  • Buy two bags of baby carrots, even though I’ve only finished half a bag every week for the past three years. 
  • Hiss at anyone I see holding a Whole Foods bag. 
  • Fantasize about being one of those people who grazes on food as they shop.
  • Spot the black licorice Grandpa always had out before we put him in a home and tell myself I’ll call him tomorrow. 
  • Save 30 cents by getting the non-organic brown rice and try not to think about the pesticides destroying my immune system. 
  • Pause by the vegetables to debate whether I should go out tonight or stay in again and have fun with a zucchini.
  • Before sighing at the employee blocking the bread aisle as she stocks the shelves, remind myself this is likely her second job. She’s probably a teacher who needs to put in hours at her local Trader Joe’s so she can afford to buy her students supplies. We need to pay teachers more in this country.
  • Ask an employee if they’re only pretending to be happy because Trader Joe’s corporate is holding their family hostage at an undisclosed location, forcing them to smile or else they’ll start cutting off fingers.
  • Regret not making a move because she might have actually been the one, and the guy she was with could’ve just been her cousin or something. I imagine how our meet-cute could have gone viral, complete with an appearance on Live with Kelly and Ryan, where they surprise us with news that Trader Joe’s will pay for our honeymoon—or, at the very least, cater the wedding.
  • Get a second gallon of milk with no regard for having to lug it home.
  • Get some Thai Lime and Chili Cashews, even though they got nothing on those Romanian lime and chili cashews I had in Eastern Europe—those were fantastic lime and chili cashews. 
  • Start making a mental list of everything I’ll need to pick up at Big Dave’s Adult Novelties Warehouse because Trader Joe’s doesn’t sell them.
  • Wonder if I’ll ever have a friendship as fulfilling as the two employees goofing around by the yogurts.
  • Make sure the person wearing the Hawaiian shirt is an employee before baring my soul about how hard it is to find a good avocado.
  • Look at the “Grab & Go” section and think to myself, if only life were that easy.
  • Head back to the sample counter. Round two, baby.
  • Limit the spread of my germs by touching no more than a dozen apples before picking the right one.
  • Longingly gaze at the dark chocolate peanut butter cups one last time before getting in the checkout line.
  • Hope my cashier will only have to ring two bells, maximum. I don’t want to cause a scene. 
  • Quip to the person behind me that the employee managing the checkout lines is doing such a good job, maybe she should be president.
  • Wonder whether it would even be a good idea to have Trader Joe’s cater our wedding. It might be okay, but we’d still be more comfortable going with a company better known for event planning—especially since her dad is paying for it.
  • Watch in awe as the cashier rearranges the bananas and bread in my bags with the grace and dexterity of a master conductor.
  • Take a really, really long time to get my credit card out so I don’t have to continue making small talk at checkout.
  • Ask for paper instead of plastic so I don’t contribute to the trash island in the middle of the Pacific and just cut the rainforest down instead.
  • Calmly nod to the security guard to prove I’m not stealing anything, but with enough confidence to show I could if I wanted to. 
  • Realize I forgot the pineapple spears that originally inspired the trip and conclude I never would have been good enough for her anyway.

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