On this Valentine's Day, I want to take a minute to send a love letter to my favorite grocery store, Trader Joe’s.

I'm one of those lucky people who lives in close proximity to three Trader Joe's stores (in Westchester County), and I'm such a huge fan, my friends and coworkers are sick of hearing me talk about it. I'll soon be near a fourth location, since this specialty chain from California recently announced it is opening in Manhattan (where I work) this spring.

For those of you who haven't had the TJ experience, the typical store is probably one-tenth the size of your basic Stop & Shop or Safeway, with an eclectic selection of items from every major food group. Yet it seems to have just about everything I need--and the prices are great.

For parents interested in convenience and food that's not loaded with fat, sugar, and artificial crap, you can't beat it. Here are a few reasons I love it:

* Its all-natural Wisconsin cheddar macaroni & cheese gets its orange color from annatto and beta carotene, not the Yellow 6 and Yellow 7 found in the most popular mass-market brand. It has 2 grams of sugar per serving, not 7.
* It charges $2 less for a gallon of organic milk than the supermarket does.
* My kids gobble up its fresh-frozen broccoli florets. (It carries the fresh stuff as well.)
* It sells an excellent no-salt-added, low-fat organic marinara sauce.
* I'm always finding interesting new things to try. My find of the week: A bitter dark chocolate bar made of criollo cocoa from Venezuela for $1.99.("TASTING NOTE: A mild aroma with tones of exotic wood, dried fruit and spicy notes.")

I could go on and on, but then you'll get as sick of hearing about it as my friends do. Happy Valentine's Day, Trader Joe.

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