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The Secret to My Serotonin Boosts: A Trader Joe’s Love Story

There are certain things about myself that I can’t explain; why I scroll through TikTok for hours on end, have an unhealthy obsession with reality television, and why I don’t feel my week is complete without a trip to Trader Joe’s. My love for this store started in freshman year when I was walking around campus for the first time with my father. Given that my dining pass only allowed me to eat in the dining halls over the week, I was left to fend for myself over the weekend and come up with other alternatives. Being the caring and slightly concerned-about-my-eating-habits father, my dad wanted to walk around the store with me to help me get the lay of the land and thus began my Trader Joe’s love affair. Mind you, this is something I chose for myself. I thought it would be fun to try out new places in Davis over the weekend instead of limiting myself to the dining hall, although that got old very quickly. Instead, I would go to Trader Joe’s each Friday and pick up a couple of essentials for myself, perusing through the aisles, fascinated by all that the store had to offer. It’s amazing the number of different types of cheeses one store can have, and even crazier the amount of ridiculous-sounding snack combinations they come up with. 

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The time I spent at Trader Joe’s only increased when I moved into my own apartment and had to do larger weekly grocery trips. What started off as a necessary part of my weekly routine, slowly turned into much more. I don’t know how it happened or when, but I have come to genuinely look forward to shopping at Trader Joe’s, and it’s a feeling I can’t really explain. I’ll usually walk in with a grocery list of 5-6 items at the very most, and almost always end up leaving with 10 more items than I initially needed. It’s like my brain stops working when I walk in and I can only think in terms of Trader Joe’s products. The store has some sort of magical ability to make me overestimate the amount of food I can eat in a week while simultaneously making me one of the most adventurous eaters out there. It is my favorite distraction when I’m having a rough day or just need to feel hopeful and look forward to something again. As soon as the red sliding doors open, all my worries float away, and I’m immersed in a whole new world; one where the only questions I ask myself are how many different kinds of pasta sauces I can buy in one trip. The best part is how inexpensive yet luxurious it all feels. Being a college student balancing classes, work and my own personal finances is a slow and deadly burn, but shopping for the dips and frozen items in the freezer section make me feel bougie like nobody’s business. From their seasonal items to some of their classics, they have their own unique touch and spin on daily foods which always leave me awestruck. 

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I feel genuinely excited each time I step into one of these stores and always leave in a significantly better mood. Given quarantine and social distancing, my social life can be fully defined by the conversations I have with Trader Joe’s cashiers. Unfortunately, I’ve recently discovered that these cashiers have “converse with customers about food items” in their job description and are actually required to make small talk; they aren’t genuinely interested in my kale gnocchi and pesto combination, but that’s beside the point. The comfort that the Hawaiian print and groovy Trader Joe’s font gives me can’t be described, and I’d even go so far as to say it might be the only thing keeping me sane during these strange and isolating times. Every time I leave the store, arms filled with grocery bags, I leave with fewer worries and a surge of serotonin in my system (I’d get a medical test to prove this, that’s how sure I am), ready to tackle whatever the next week of college has to offer – that is, at least as long as my groceries last. 

Natasha is a fourth-year student at the University of California, Davis double majoring in Psychology and Communications with a minor in Economics. She has a variety of interests ranging from marketing and media to human rights and policy and continues to seek opportunities to explore them. Being an international student she brings with her a unique perspective which she hopes to share through her writing.
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