Saturday, April 29, 2017


This is my weekly compilation of news and other links about Trader Joe's.

10 of the tastiest healthy snacks from Trader Joe's

The best chocolate products at Trader Joe's

6 Trader Joe's wines under $8

A week's worth of vegan dinners from Trader Joe's

April Trader Joe's favorites

Trader Joe's new products for April

15 Trader Joe's foods for your clean-eating grocery list

23 cheap and healthy lunches from Trader Joe's

The 11 best health packaged snacks at Trader Joe's

Best tweets of the week:

And finally, after a sad absence, we have the return of my favorite feature, cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag:

Friday, April 28, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Beet Strawberry Juice

This is some weird-ass juice.

My history with Trader Joe's beet juice is not good. See here and here. I thought that the addition of strawberry might make this one better.

Nope. The flavors just don't blend well. They clash, competing for attention. When drinking it, I'm constantly aware that there's the strawberry part (good) and the beet part (bad).

The "hint of lemon juice" promised is nowhere to be found. Maybe they added it in with an eyedropper.

Some juice blends I feel uncertain about with the first swallow, but warm up to as I get used to them. This one had the opposite effect. My uncertainty turned more and more to active dislike with each ounce that passed my lips. It felt like a chore to finish the glass, after which I wanted no more of it, ever.

Will I buy it again? 


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Trader Joe's Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I have never been keen on putting chocolate chips in peanut butter cookies--or in anything else with peanuts or peanut butter, for that matter. In the 1970s Reese's TV ads--"You got chocolate in my peanut butter!" "You got peanut butter on my chocolate!"--I always thought both complainants had a valid gripe, and they should not make up in the end. I realize that I'm in a minority here, but peanut butter and chocolate do not make a good match. On this point I will not yield.

But I decided to give these cookies a try anyway. They are surprisingly good peanut butter cookies--by far the thickest I've ever seen. I prefer peanut butter cookies to be made with creamy peanut butter rather than chunky, but I can overlook this flaw.

If you are a weirdo who actually likes peanut butter and chocolate together, well, these should suit you well. For me, I enjoy the cookies right up until a chunk of chocolate gets into a bite. Then it's like hearing a wrong note in a nice Mozart sonata.

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Trader Joe's White Cheddar Popcorn

I have liked--even loved--cheesy popcorn, especially fresh-popped from a popcorn or candy store. But Trader Joe's version doesn't measure up, primarily because it's not cheesy enough. It's more like "hint of cheese" than "cheese." When the underlying popcorn is nothing special, just run-of-the-mill bagged stuff, as it is here, that leaves me with little reason to choose this.

Will I buy it again? 


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Trader Joe's Sriracha Flavored Baked Tofu

This is the first time in my life that I have purchased tofu. I've eaten tofu a couple of times, but didn't like it. I never bothered picking up any of the TJ's varieties before, because it's pointless to review something I know I'll hate. But this one, marinated in sriracha sauce, seemed like it had at least a fighting chance of being something that would pleasantly surprise me.

Nope. I managed to eat the portion that I served myself. It was less awful than other tofu I've had, and I didn't die, but I didn't enjoy it much. Granted, I know zilch about properly preparing the stuff, so I just took for granted that since it was "baked," it didn't need anything other than microwaving to heat. That may have been a mistake, and perhaps in more skilled hands, and with a more creative presentation than I gave it, it would come out better.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, April 24, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Frosted Toaster Pastries--Brown Sugar & Cinnamon

I had high hopes for this, given the Top Ten status of the cherry-pomegranate version. But these are actually the least successful of the five in this line (the others being strawberry and pumpkin). Too much brown sugar, not enough cinnamon--and, as a result, just too sugary.

Will I buy it again? 


Saturday, April 22, 2017


This is my weekly compilation of news and other links about Trader Joe's.

Trader Joe's favorites

Whole Foods versus Trader Joe's

Ten-minute dinners from Trader Joe's

20 healthy products from Trader Joe's

5 top Trader Joe's items under $5

A week of meals for $50 from Trader Joe's

8 Trader Joe's secrets, from a manager

Best tweets of the week:

Friday, April 21, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic 100% Prune Juice

Please review what I wrote here not long ago, about the two general categories of TJ's juices. This continues the trend discussed there. Smaller glass jar with a single-ingredient 100% fruit juice? Prediction is that it will be superb--and the prediction is correct.

It's thick, sort of like apricot nectar--full of bits of fruit solids, not filtered to clarity. This is perhaps the main quality that makes it so good, with a rich, complex set of flavors. Nina said, "I could drink this every day for the rest of my life." I'd join her.

I have a quibble with the name. If "prune" is understood as a dried plum, then the name makes no sense. It would be like calling grape juice "raisin juice." Nobody would dry a fruit, then try to squeeze juice from it. Poking around online, I see that sometimes "prune" is used to describe a fresh plum variety that is intended for drying into prunes. I suppose that might be how the word is being used here, but I still don't like it. Call the stuff "plum juice," for heaven's sake. But by any other name, it would taste as sweet.

Will I buy it again? 

Definitely. It's a new favorite, one of the best juices you can buy anywhere.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Trader Joe's Romaine Salad

For the first time ever, my Trader Joe's was out of both versions of the butter lettuce I routinely buy as half of a salad mix. (The other half is the Lemony Greens Blend, Spicy Spinach Blend, Power to the Greens, or Herb Salad Mix.) So I picked this instead.

I've never liked Romaine lettuce as much as butter lettuce. If I'm going to have it, I'd rather it be part of a blend, as in the Baby Lettuce Mix. It's primarily that thick stalk running down the middle of each leaf that I dislike. And this bag was no different. It will do in a pinch, as in this week's big salad bowl, but it will never be my first choice.

Will I buy it again? 

Only if like circumstances repeat themselves.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Trader Joe's Mac & Cheese Bites

I know that these are very popular, and adored by a lot of Trader Joe's shoppers. I will not be joining their ranks. They seem like pretty ordinary mac & cheese, with a little breading on the outside to hold them together.

I don't get the need for this form factor. Is there something oppressive about having to dip a fork into unballed/unbreaded mac and cheese? There's nothing terrible here--it's perfectly serviceable. But there are so many better choices available that I can't see why people fall in love with this one.

Will I buy it again? 


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Trader Joe's Wild Boreal Blueberries

I don't think I've ever purchased frozen blueberries before. I like blueberries just fine, but mostly in a berry mix, not by themselves.

These are surprisingly small--one might even say tiny. But they're very flavorful and sweet, with essentially no tartness.

What I liked least was the large amount of ice they're packed with, which makes for a watery bowl of berries when thawed. This is unlike any other TJ's frozen fruit I've had before.

See Trader Joe's own description of this product here. See how it did in a comparison taste test with other brands of frozen blueberries here.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably not. It's back to berry medleys instead.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Trader Joe's California Slab Apricots Blenheim Variety

I believe this is a new product for Trader Joe's, though I didn't find it on the new-products shelf. I think I would have noticed it before now if it had been around for long.

It took me a while to convince myself that this actually is a different product from an extremely similar one that I buy regularly--one of my Top Ten items--Blenheim Variety Extra Choice/Choice Apricots. Both packages are dried apricots, same weight, same variety, same price, both grown in California. They look alike.

I had never heard of "slab apricots," but later found this explanation: "All the old-timers know that slabs are the extra-ripe, fullest-of-sweetness kind of dried apricot. Usually hand-cut and when placed on a tray to dry, they lose their shape and "slab" out on the tray. Often compared to fruit leather, slabs are the sweetest, most intense flavor of our dried Blenheim apricot."

So, are these indeed the sweetest dried apricots, with the most intense flavor? No--at least not more than the others. I bought a bag of each, opened both, and alternated samples from the two bags. I could not tell any difference in size, shape, color, texture, flavor, or sweetness, even after repeating the experiment for five nights in a row. If you put a gun to my head and forced me to choose which bag carried which label, I'd still be reduced to a pure 50/50 guess.

Will I buy it again? 

Sure. The other kind is one of the rare TJ's items that is both a Top Ten and a staple in my kitchen. Since these are functionally identical, they merit the same status. I'll choose randomly between them for future purchases.

Bonus personal story

In 2014, I was one of six members of my family to go on a two-week guided tour of the British Isles. I brought along a bunch of snacks to eat on the motor coach between stops, including some of TJ's Blenheim variety dried apricots.

Shortly after we left Oxford, heading for Stratford Upon Avon, I started seeing signs for "Blenheim Palace" ahead. I recognized the name because I had wondered what "Blenheim" on the apricot package referred to, but had never bothered to look it up. Well, it turns out that Blenheim Palace is where Winston Churchill was born and raised, and this variety of apricot is named for that palace because they thrived on the grounds there.

So I had accidentally taken some Blenheim apricots back to the very place for which they were named!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Trader Joe's Breaded Mozzarella Cheese Sticks

These are exactly what you'd expect from the photo on the front: Mozzarella cheese with a little batter coating to hold them together and provide a little spice and contrasting texture. They're very much like ones I've had in restaurants.

By themselves they're a little bland. But a dip in some marinara sauce brings them to life nicely.

Will I buy it again? 

Nice late-night snack, but for the calorie and fat load, I would usually enjoy other cheeses more. Still, I think an occasional indulgence will be in my future.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Trader Joe's Matcha White Chocolate Bar

If I've ever had green tea, I don't remember it. I don't remember even hearing of "matcha" green tea. So I had little idea what I was getting here, but decided to give it a try.

As with several of TJ's "filled" chocolate bars I've had before, the segments don't break cleanly, so you instantly end up with a mess, as the viscous, sticky, green liquid spills out.

It's weird that the "white" chocolate is actually green. I didn't take pictures of the bar itself, but you can see another reviewer's photos here.

Nina tells me that the flavor of the filling is authentically that of matcha green tea. OK, I'll believe that--but I don't much care for it. The chocolate itself feels and tastes cheap and waxy.

Will I buy it again? 

No. Nina and I together ate less than half of this bar, at which point neither of us wanted more, and the rest was thrown away.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Trader Joe's Citrus & Sandalwood Scent Laundry Detergent Packs

I've never bought laundry detergent packs before. But when I spotted this new item at Trader Joe's, I decided to give it a try.

(Full confession: It was sitting next to the dishwasher detergent packets, and I thought it was a new version of them. Neither the name of the product--prominently featuring the word LAUNDRY--nor the package design--prominently featuring items of clothing--registered with me. I actually used these packets in my dishwasher about five times before I noticed that I was doing it wrong. Don't judge me. It's hard being senile.)

I generally don't want scents in my cleaning products, but what there is here is exceedingly mild and pleasant. I have to stick my nose right down in the bag to even notice anything, and there is no trace of it left on my clothes, as far as I can detect.

The clothes end up clean. Handling the packs is far more convenient than measuring out liquid detergent, dealing with drips, and so on. I can see why packs are rapidly gaining market share on liquids. I've previously avoided them because they're quite expensive compared to liquids, but these from TJ's are pretty cheap.

Will I buy it again? 

To my surprise, I think it's going to be a yes. I'm digging the ease of tossing one in the washer tub.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Red Wine & Olive Oil Vinaigrette

If you like pouring olive oil on your salad, then you'll like this dressing. But you could just continue putting the straight olive oil on it, and get basically the same effect. I can see and smell the red wine in the bottle, but once the combination gets on a salad, it's like that half of the formula disappears. I can taste a little bit of it if I'm concentrating, but that's about it. Otherwise, all you have is the taste and texture of olive oil.

Do not like.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I powered through half of the bottle, hoping that I might warm up to it (hey, it's happened before!), but no.

Saturday, April 8, 2017


This is my weekly compilation of news and other links related to Trader Joe's.

List of all the new coffee-flavored products at Trader Joe's

28 prices compared at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods

Trader Joe's snacks that go well with NyQuil

The healthiest snacks you can buy at Trader Joe's

Best Trader Joe's products for vegans on a budget

Favorite Trader Joe's vegan products

10 Trader Joe's meal hacks

Best tweets of the week:

And finally, this week's cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag comes in a video via Twitter:

Friday, April 7, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic 100% Pomegranate Juice Not From Concentrate

I know I've made this point before, but for newer readers, it bears repeating: When Trader Joe's sells a "juice" blend in a big plastic jug, with a long list of ingredients on the back, it's usually pretty bad. But when TJ's sells a single-ingredient 100% juice, most often (though not always) in a smaller glass bottle, it's usually superb. As examples of the latter, consider TJ's melon juice, cranberry juice, Concord grape juice, apple ciderblueberry juice, tangerine juice, pineapple juice, two different grapefruit juices, cherry juice, and their previous pomegranate juice (non-organic, from concentrate).

This continues the tradition. It's excellent. It's better than what I can remember of the older TJ's pomegranate juice, though I'd have to try them side by side to be sure of that.

Will I buy it again? 

Absolutely. It's a new favorite.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Trader Joe's Meyer Lemon Cake Mix With Lemon Icing

I spotted this in the Trader Joe's baking-supplies section while looking for something else. It's possible it's been around for a while, but I think it's new--even though it was never on the "new products" shelf in my local store--because I don't find any online references to it prior to February. I've purchased similar mixes before (see here and here), and I certainly would have noticed this one if it had been sitting next to those.

The directions call for a 4" x 8" loaf pan, which I did not have. So I made it in an 8" x 8" cake pan, and reduced the baking time by about 10 minutes. It turned out just right.

The mix required a whole lot of stirring. You're supposed to keep mixing, by hand, until the batter is smooth. This takes forever. It greatly exceeded my attention span, and made me question how badly I wanted to eat lemon cake.

I liked the result, but I wasn't in love with it. It definitely is lemony, but I couldn't detect anything that was specifically Meyer lemony. Nice texture. I finished the whole thing in a few days, but never felt craving for it.

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Trader Joe's Supersweet Dried Carabao Mango

I'll make this simple: This is the best way to eat mangoes ever devised by mankind.

First, there's no fuss with cutting them.

Second, these really are sweeter than regular mangoes and have virtually none of that slightly bitter mango off-taste. And no, they have not been artificially sweetened. In fact, the ingredients list on the back is maybe the shortest I've ever seen: "Mangoes."

Third, they're sliced very thin, so you can eat a lot--or at least have the illusion of eating a lot--without a big calorie load.

Fourth, they're more "dried" than dried; that is, they're sort of partially dried. More like prunes than dried apricots.

I like these a lot--far more than I like eating fresh mangoes. It's one of Trader Joe's very best dried-fruit products--and I've had a lot of them.

Will I buy it again? 

I already have, and will again. I don't think they're quite Top Ten material, but the fact that I had to stop to consider conferring that status suggests that they're pretty damn good.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Trader Joe's Ditalini Pasta + Cheddar Cheese + Cauliflower + Kale (= Best Mac And Cheese, Ever)

I don't know if this is the longest Trader Joe's product name ever, but it sure must be in the running. Ridiculous.

The name is also an untruth. This is not the "best mac and cheese, ever." It's not even the best mac and cheese Trader Joe's sells. I'd much rather have the Hatch Chile Mac & Cheese, the frozen "Joe's Diner" version, or the Organic Shells and White Cheddar boxed kind. Heck, I'd ever rather have more of the Kraft-like Wisconsin Cheddar one.

Specific critiques:

1. It's soupy. That's the wrong texture for mac and cheese.

2. It's not cheesy enough.

3. Mac and cheese is not helped by the addition of cauliflower and kale. I get plenty of cauliflower and kale on my own, without needing them stuffed into my mac and cheese.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, April 3, 2017

Trader Joe's The Dark Chocolate Lover's Chocolate Bar

This chocolate bar is pretty exotic. I've never had one with this high a cacao percentage. Do they even come any higher than 85%? It's the dark-chocolatiest dark chocolate I've ever eaten. Yet, strangely, it's not as harsh as I thought it might be. The label is not lying to call it "smooth & fruity." But even more prominent is how floral it is. After chocolate, the flavor that I found most prominent is a sense of eating flowers--which I've never experienced in chocolate before. I have no idea what is doing that. Is it the varietal of the cacao bean? Whatever it is, it's an experience worth trying, for the novelty of it.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I'm glad I tried it, because it's well outside the range of chocolates I've had before, and it expanded my understanding of what dark chocolate can be. But I didn't love it enough to return to it. It would make a fine gift for a chocolate-loving friend, though.

Saturday, April 1, 2017


This is my weekly compilation of news and other links about Trader Joe's.

Uses for Trader Joe's new Coffee Flour

Trader Joe's is totally overrated

Trader Joe's picks and how to use them

The history of "Two Buck Chuck" wine

Trader Joe's--the best company I ever worked for

Best tweets of the week:

And finally, here's this week's cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag: