Saturday, June 29, 2019


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

Trader Joe's has a weird and wonderful YouTube channel

Healthy shopping list for Trader Joe's

Top 10 gluten-free products at Trader Joe's

Taste test of 6 brands of non-dairy vanilla ice cream

Healthier chips from Trader Joe's

10 of the best dairy-free foods at Trader Joe's

These Trader Joe's products make summer cooking easier

Judge dismisses lawsuit claiming fraud in Trader Joe's manuka honey

Best tweets of the week:

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

Friday, June 28, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Carrots Of Many Colors--Cut & Peeled

Trader Joe's has a long-standing practice: they audition a product under the supplier's own brand name, then, if it sells well, it disappears briefly, then gets replaced with the same thing under TJ's own name. I strongly suspect that this item is the latest manifestation of that practice, having debuted under the "Cal-Organic Farms" label last year. See my review here. (For another example of this two-step, see here and here.)

These taste just fine, but they have the same problem as before: They're too skinny. Most of them are like the ones you can see in the lower left corner, with relatively few fat ones like in the upper corners. I like my baby carrots fat, for the sensory pleasure of biting into them.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I'll stick with the plain orange Organic Cut And Peeled.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Salty Squares

With this new release, Trader Joe's plugs a big hole in its cracker lineup: a classic saltine. But there are problems.

Let's start with the name. Salty SQUARES? Look at the photo below: Nabisco Premium saltine on the left, TJ's on the right. Do those look square to you?

They are not. They are distinctly rectangular. 45 x 38 mm, to be exact. And, as you can see, they're much smaller than the big national brands (Nabisco and Keebler Zesta). One of my favorite uses of saltines since I was a kid is folding a Kraft cheese single slice into quarters, and putting each quarter on top of a cracker; they fit perfectly. Not so much with the Trader Joe's.

The packaging is also an issue. They don't come stacked in sleeves as you would expect, based on how other saltines are sold. Inside the box is a plastic bag, loosely filled with the crackers. So, first, you get a lot fewer than you might guess from the volume of the box because they're a lot of wasted space in there. And, second, you get a lot of sad, broken ones because of jostling around against each other during transit.

On the plus side, they're salted just right for my taste and are nicely uniform in both saltiness and doneness--no abnormally dark or undercooked samples. The flavor is noticeably different from the name brands in a way that's hard to put into words, but readily apparent in a side-by-side comparison. I didn't like it any less, but it doesn't quite nail the expectation built up by a lifetime of eating the competitors.

I've gone through half a box, topping them with peanut butter and with different cheeses, and they work fine for both.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I don't like the smaller size, and the packaging means you get a lot fewer crackers for your money.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Trader Joe's Soft Baked Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Admittedly, these never had much of a chance of going on my favored list, because I have yet to encounter any product that successfully marries chocolate and peanut butter. If you ask me, these are two flavors that just don't quite work together, much as food manufacturers try to make them. (I do realize that mine is a minority position on this point.)

But I discovered that my lack of enthusiasm for these new cookies wasn't just me when Nina took a bite of one, scrunched up her face, and said, "Oh, those are not good."

It's not just that chocolate and peanut butter together are bad. It's that these cookies use bad chocolate and bad peanut butter.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I powered my way through two cookies, hoping against hope that they would somehow grow on me. Didn't happen. Nina ate half of one before giving up. The remainder went back to the store for a refund.

Saturday, June 22, 2019


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

15 Trader Joe's products to make a low-carb diet easier

Best beauty buys at Trader Joe's

Products to buy and avoid at Trader Joe's

65 new products Trader Joe's launched in 2019

25 discontinued Trader Joe's items that should come back

Trader Joe's new June 2019 products

Unpopular opinion: I don't like Trader Joe's

Best tweets of the week:

And finally, here's this week's cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag (though you have to look closely):

Friday, June 21, 2019

Trader Joe's Taco Shells, Taco Seasoning Mix, and Fire Roasted Diced Green Chiles

I've noticed the taco shells and seasoning dozens of times during Trader Joe's runs, but always passed them by, with the thought, "Some other time, not today." Then this week I developed an odd hankering for tacos, and knew that it was time. While at the store finally purchasing the ingredients, I also noticed the tiny can of green chiles next to the taco fixings, and on a whim tossed it in my basket.

I arbitrarily chose Gardein's fake ground beef, out of many similar products, as the substrate, and it worked perfectly.

I used just half of the seasoning mix, as the directions recommend. It says you can use the whole package if you want your tacos "really spicy." With the recommended half-package, both Nina and I thought the result was a little on the bland side, so next time I probably will go for the whole thing. I added a can of tomato sauce, one of the options the manufacturer suggests.

I warmed up the shells in my toaster oven for 5 minutes at 350 degrees. It was too much. One of them was browned almost to the point of being burned, and all of them ended up too brittle. I'll dial that back to 2-3 minutes next time.

At the table, I had three toppings: Fresh Express Green Leaf Shreds (much better than standard shredded iceberg lettuce), TJ's Organic Shredded 3 Cheese Blend, and the chiles.

Despite the niggling problems mentioned above, I loved the result. I had planned to eat just two, but ended up going back to make a third, then a fourth. The last one I tried without adding the chiles, to see if they were really contributing anything. They definitely were, though I suspect with the doubled seasoning mix they would fade away, as they are very mild. With the last two, I didn't bother heating up the shells, and while that meant that the tacos weren't as piping hot, they were also much easier to fill and eat without breaking apart.

Will I buy it again? 

Definitely, and enthusiastically, on the shells and mix; no on the chiles (because I think they'll be pointless when using more than half a packet of the mix).

I used to make tacos pretty regularly when I was married, then I stopped after my divorce. It wasn't really a conscious decision; it just always felt like more trouble than they were worth when cooking for one. I'm not sure that the TJ's shells and mix are any better than competing products from other companies, but they're at least as good, and inexpensive. They also allow you to avoid the decision fatigue of selecting between numerous similar products at a standard supermarket. I'm sure that much of the joy I felt last night was not from the components being the absolute finest, but simply from being reminded of how much I used to like this simple food. Nevertheless, between the mix, the choice of adding tomato sauce, and the nice texture of the Gardein ground-beef substitute, I stumbled into what I think is an excellent combination, which I plan to stick with.

I have to add that Nina was less enthusiastic about the results: mix too bland, shells too thin. So this is a new favorite that I'll probably mostly keep to myself.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Trader Joe's Spicy Salmon Gyoza

Perhaps the best consequence of writing this blog is that I buy and try something that I never would otherwise, just because I've decided to sample everything TJ's puts out that isn't in my "automatically will hate" category--and every once in a while I'm hit with the happy surprise of liking something unexpectedly. This is one of those occasions.

I don't mind salmon, but it's rarely what I'll choose from a restaurant menu, and never what I'll choose to make for myself. So I felt about 95% confident that my reaction to spicy salmon gyoza would be somewhere between "meh" and "ick." But no! I liked them--a lot.

Now, perversely, this may be because the addition of a vegetable mash and a lot of spices makes the salmon less distinctively salmon. That was basically why Nina's reaction to these was much less favorable than mine; she felt that salmon is delicate, and can't stand up to a lot of tampering. (She also voiced a suspicion that they use low-quality salmon here, because who would take good salmon and make it so that it's hard to taste?) But for me, that's a feature, not a bug. I think they've nailed a nice blend that causes the salmon to shine like the soloist in a concerto, supported by an orchestra, rather than standing on the stage alone.

The first time I made these, I used the microwave method, even though I suspected that it was suboptimal. It was fast and easy, but the pastry pouches were kinda mushy. When I prepared the last third or so of the bag for myself for a lunch the next day, I used the pan-fry instructions. This involved more time and work, but the texture ended up much nicer.

Will I buy it again? 

Definitely. It's a surprise new favorite.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Trader Joe's Creamy Pink Primavera Pasta Sauce

The pinkish hue of this sauce comes from the prominent beet purΓ©e. It was prominent in flavor, too--excessively so, I thought. 

Nina disagreed. She thought the lemon was bordering on being too prominent, whereas I barely noticed it for all the beet. 

For different reasons, then, this was not a winner in either book. 

Will I buy it again? 


Saturday, June 15, 2019


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

What to buy at Trader Joe's

The 12 best keto snacks at Trader Joe's

14 things we love from Trader Joe's (that you can't eat)

17 anti-inflammatory foods at Trader Joe's

9 cult-favorite foods you can find only at Trader Joe's

Best new products at Trader Joe's this summer

Lovely Facebook story of kindness at Trader Joe's

How to make $4 Trader Joe's flowers look like they cost $40

13 healthy smoothie ingredients from Trader Joe's

7 mini desserts from Trader Joe's

19 Trader Joe's products that will keep you on budget

Best tweets of the week:

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

Friday, June 14, 2019

Trader Joe's Vanilla Flavored Baton Wafer Cookies

It's a stretch to call these "cookies," if you ask me. Which they didn't.

But a cookie by any other name would taste as sweet. The outside is like a waffle cone rolled up tight. The inside is a vanilla cream. It's a nice combination--delicate but crunchy, not overpoweringly sugary.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I enjoyed them, but not enough to choose them over my favorites.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Trader Joe's Ghost Chile BBQ Sauce

This is way too hot for me. Unlike some people, apparently, I don't like the sensation of third-degree burns in my mouth and esophagus.

I was serving it side-by-side with TJ's Kansas City Style sauce, on some fake pulled pork over rice. (As one does.) They are very similar in basic flavor profile, except for the new one's added fire. Nina tried mixing them together, and liked the resulting combination for its blend of sweetness, smokiness, tanginess, and heat. I've tried it at 1:1 and about 1.5:1 (Kansas:Ghost), and it's still unpleasantly burny for me.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, June 10, 2019

Trader Joe's Peanut Butter Blondies

Frozen treats, with no baking or other heating needed--just thaw either at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

I'm not a fan. The peanut butter to strawberry ratio is much too high. They need at least double the strawberry filling to set this right.

Nina liked them a lot: the variety of textures in every bite, the mix of salt and sweet (but not too sweet). But she agreed that they'd be better with more strawberry.

Will I buy it again? 


Saturday, June 8, 2019


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

Top 5 Trader Joe's snack bars

9 new things to try at Trader Joe's in June

Trader Joe's meals that take under 10 minutes to prepare

14 of the best seasonal items at Trader Joe's this summer

The 11 best non-food items at Trader Joe's

These 6 Trader Joe's items will save you money

Best tweets of the week:

And finally, here's this week's cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag squirrel with a Trader Joe's cracker.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Trader Joe's Raspberry Oat Square

For a product the name of which starts with "raspberry," this thing is unbelievably stingy on the raspberry. It's a very thin layer. The effect is like eating baked oats, with an occasional hint of raspberry buried somewhere deep within. Pathetic.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, June 3, 2019

Trader Joe's Chewy Marshmallow Bar

Rice Krispie treats are wondrous things. But store-bought versions are always a big disappointment--dry and lifeless. Trader Joe's own version (which I think is no longer available, but I haven't checked in a long time) was appallingly, inedibly awful.

Trader Joe's has redeemed itself now. Their new version is without a doubt the best store-bought Rice Krispie treat I've ever had. (Don't @ me with quibbles about the name. I don't care if they don't use actual Kellogg's Rice Krispies, nor what name is on the package. They're Rice Krispie treats, period.) It's soft and chewy and sweet, with big islands of marshmallow generously scattered throughout.

The only problem I encountered was that eating one this good made me want more--but I had purchased just one.

Interestingly, TJ's appears to have used vegan marshmallows in making this; they have tapioca starch and carrageenan instead of animal-derived gelatin. But then they made it non-vegan by including butter. This seems like a peculiar choice. They're excluding a growing segment of potential customers by not making the relatively simple substitution of some form of margarine, after having made the seemingly more difficult replacement of the traditional gelatin. Why?

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. And next time, Ima try giving it a little microwave zap first, and see how close that comes to replicating the fresh-from-the-pan homemade kind.