When I moved to Boston for graduate school several years ago, my first apartment was inside a rundown 150-year-old mansion. The plumbing was shoddy, the bathroom reeked of mildew and the furnace liked to quit during snowstorms, but there was one incredible perk: A Trader Joe’s was only two blocks away. The ease of stopping to pick up a bag of yogurt pretzels and a $4 bottle of Chardonnay on my way home from class almost made the leaky roof worth it. In fact, living nearby a Trader Joe’s gave my quality of life such a boost that I factored my proximity to the grocery store chain into my future housing searches. I was hooked, particularly on their chocolate-covered espresso beans.
Being within close driving or walking distance to a grocery store is frequently high on people’s house-hunting checklists. Yet, living near a Trader Joe’s store in particular provides more than access to affordable and healthy food. If I had owned that decrepit mansion instead of renting a room in it, I could have reaped the benefits of a nationwide real estate trend. According to a 2016 analysis by Zillow, living within a mile of the grocery chain can drive up the value of your property. Furthermore, researchers found that houses only one block away were worth more than double of the country’s median home. Just as I suspected, Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken might be popular enough to positively affect the economy.
While I was in no financial position to be looking at houses during graduate school, I still saved money by living near the store. It may seem dangerous for your finances (and your waistline) to be in such close proximity to a place hawking Almond Kringle and White Cheddar Corn Puffs, but Trader Joe’s budget-friendly prices helped lower my monthly expenditures. Unfortunately, I still had to drive to farmers’ markets or other grocery stores for fresh produce—I found the fruits and veggies at Trader Joe’s to be subpar in quality. But, mostly, I could just buy what I needed for a few days at a time, thus lowering food waste.
Other conveniences added up. The bus I rode home from downtown had a stop across the street from the store. Thus, even if I was craving greasy takeout, I’d instead purchase a microwavable serving of Saag Paneer or a pre-made salad. Those choices were not only much cheaper, but far healthier. And on really stressful days, knowing that I could also grab a container of Cookie Butter made the prospect of having to face another night of subpar heat a little better.
After my apartment’s lease ended, I didn’t pine for the peeling wallpaper, but I was bummed over losing my location two blocks from my favorite place to purchase wine. I’d taken for granted how easy it was to grab a cup of coffee or make a last minute stop for a block of fancy cheese on my way to a dinner party. Yet, from my new apartment several miles away, I pre-planned meals and made lists in order to keep up with the former ease and affordability of grocery shopping. I even started to buy in bulk to compensate for the lack of proximity to Trader Joe’s. My new roommates commented on how they’d never seen so many bags of pita chips or containers of hummus. It was slightly absurd, yes, but totally worth the opportunity to finally take a hot, mildew-free shower.