Gluten Schmuten: Trader Joe’s

GLUTENSCHUMUTENGluten-free foods are expensive and their flavor profile, in many cases, is suspect. The Al Dente blog is going to work through the good and the bad from the perspective of a toddler who known for her picky eating and her parents. We’ll collect these, as well as the rest of our journey with The Kid’s Celiac disease diagnosis, under the Gluten Schmuten category tag.

If Wegmans is my everyday normal, Trader Joe’s is my vacation. Up until last fall, the nearest store was four hours away outside of Philadelphia. My friends Phil and Julie, who live in the Lehigh Valley, would look at me in disappointed horror as I would run through the store like a child at Toys R Us during our excursions to Philadelphia. My sister would curse at me after sending her milelong shopping lists with the threat of “No Groceries, No Admission” before her holiday drives home from Long Island.

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Trader Joe’s opened its first Upstate New York store in suburban Rochester in October 2012. The Wife made our second-ever stop at this location after our trip to Flour City Pasta but before heading to F. Oliver’s and Open Face. The stores, which comes in at about 14,000 sq. ft., is about a tenth of the size as the Wegmans that sits adjacent.

You could probably do your regular grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s, but it would be at a sacrifice of variety and selection of produce, meat and fish. I’m pretty sure that the produce section at the average Wegmans is larger than this Trader Joe’s.

What you can do is find a wider variety of gourmet, exotic and/or high quality ingredients at prices that are less than name brand. I offer high praise to Trader Joe’s extra virgin olive oil, which comes it at $4.99 for a 33.8 oz. bottle. Wegmans’ version is $6.99; California Olive Ranch brand is $9.99 for 25.4 oz.; Colavita’s 34 oz. size is priced at $15.99 (all prices at Syracuse-area Wegmans stores).

IMG_2614They also take pride in their gluten-free offerings. Carrying the G graphic to the right, Trader Joe’s gluten-free range spans seven pages of a downloadable PDF and totals more than 500 products. There is a healthy mix of private label and name brand, such as Nature’s Path and Barbara’s.

Two items that stood out for The Wife and I shared the same basic theme of baking

Trader Joe’s markets its own gluten free flour blend. It lacks the all-powerful xanthan gum, but at $3.99 per pound, it’s not a bad deal.

IMG_2612There were also the selection of baked goods. Cupcakes, cookies, and cakes covered half of a square shelving unit neat the bread. $3.99 for four mini-cupcakes is about $2-3 better than we can do at local bakeries or grocers.

While it’s not your everyday grocery, what Trader Joe’s offers is part gourmet flirtation for and part stock up opportunity on food for The Kid at prices that feel affordable.

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