Now I realize that I’m hardly the first person to profess my love for Trader Joe’s.

Truth be told, my friends have told me about the cheap wine and tasty vittles for a while now. But for whatever reason, I thought it was simply Whole Foods’ trendier cousin. A cool place to buy all things organic, and before you know it, you’ve spent $300.00 at the grocery store.

Um, no thank you.

But when the hubby and I were in Maple Grove on Saturday, a Trader Joe’s was in walking distance, so I thought I’d finally discover what all the hub bub was about.

Ok, now I get it, I promise. The reason that everyone was patiently standing in line (especially in the wine section) is because everything truly was inexpensive—and decidedly gourmet at the same time. In fact, I picked up a huge bottle of marsala for a mere $5.50 (a bottle not even half that size sets you back $3.50 at Target), and I already love the stuff. And I’m guessing I won’t even have to buy more for a while.

Turns out the wine cellar was the equivalent of a delicious appetizer, by the way. Not only does Trader Joe’s have gorgeous organic produce for what I’d probably pay for a lettuce leaf at Whole Foods, but all the other food is just as reasonable—and diverse. Since it’s been so darn cold here lately, I picked up a couple of boxes of soup—Latin black bean and butternut squash—and both were delicious. And trust me, the same goes for their frozen sweet potatoes fries. Just bake, sprinkle with a little sea salt, and you have the perfect guilt-free complement to your ordinary sandwich.

If the whole Trader Joe’s shopping experience wasn’t already fun enough, the cute tote I got for future visits sealed the deal. Never again will I have to answer “paper or plastic” with a sack this adorable…suffice it to say, I’ll be back.