Thursday, November 30, 2017

Trader Joe's Super Sweet Fresh Corn

This appears to be a new product at Trader Joe's. I mean, corn on the cob is not exactly a new product, but this particular packaging is.

And I don't get what the point of it is. What's wrong with selling individual ears of corn in nothing but the convenient, natural packages of their husks? It appears that TJ's has either people or machines cut off the ends to a uniform length, partially (but not fully) remove the husks, and wrap them in plastic on a plastic tray. This just seems bizarre, unnecessary, and wasteful.

I might forgive it if the corn inside were special in some way. It's not. It was neither "super sweet" nor especially "fresh." Of course, it was "fresh" if that word is understood merely to mean "not canned or frozen"--but not if it is understood to mean "picked very recently."

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Trader Joe's Fleur De Sel Caramels

The addition of a pinch of salt is the only thing that sets these caramels apart from any others--and it's not enough to make them especially interesting or desirable.

Will I buy it again? 


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Trader Joe's Apple Cider Caramels

Well, these are definitely something different from any candies I've had before. The apple infusion is strong--I actually noticed it before the taste of caramel hit. It's an unusual combination, and I don't think it works particularly well. Not terrible by any means, but The caramel-apple center is also really runny, and you basically can't bite into it without getting it on your hands. I don't like chocolates being messy.

Note, finally, that you get only four to a box, which seems kinda chintzy.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, November 27, 2017

Envy apples

I saw somebody on Twitter excited to find her favorite variety of apple at Trader Joe's. I had never heard of Envy, but I looked it up, and of course the brand's web site makes it sound fabulous. So I grabbed two of them on my last TJ's trip.

I am underwhelmed. They are extremely crispy, I'll give them that. But it's almost to a fault; they're actually physically difficult to bite into because of being so firm.

Other than that, I found no extraordinary qualities. They're not especially sweet or juicy.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I'd pick a honeycrisp over Envy every time.

And, do we really need to be flying apples in from New Zealand, which is about as far from the US as it's possible to get?

Saturday, November 25, 2017


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

5 cheap Trader Joe's snacks any kid will adore

Trader Joe's announces recall of three varieties of fresh salad due to foreign matter

New vegan food at Trader Joe's for the holidays

Every pumpkin-spice item at Trader Joe's ranked

Trader Joe's $3.99 wines ranked

Top 10 Trader Joe's products you need this holiday season

6 easy Trader Joe's dinner ideas

Four-way grocery price comparison

13 new vegan products at Trader Joe's

Best tweets of the week:

And finally, here's this week's cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag with his Trader Joe's scratching pad.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Egg Fettuccine Pasta

Nina took one look at this package and said, "Oh dear." She thought it had no chance of being successful. Was she right?

Well, yes and no. It's not great--but it's OK. And being just acceptable is a significant win for a gluten-free pasta. (Rice flour is its primary ingredient.)

With a bold, spicy sauce (Mario Batali's Arrabbiata) and some fake ground beef sprinkled on top for protein, I really didn't notice anything out of the ordinary about it. I don't think I would have noticed that it was a gluten-free product in this configuration, though perhaps I would have if it were served in a way that required the pasta to stand up for itself more. Nina, though, insisted that she still noticed that it was a little off, even as well-disguised as it was. But she conceded that just being mediocre among the ranks of all pastas, instead of really awful, makes it among the best of the gluten-free pastas we've tried.

Will I buy it again? 

Not for myself. But I'd eagerly recommend it to those who need gluten-free products, and I'd buy it if I were going to have dinner guests who needed gluten-free alternatives.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Trader Joe's Veggies & Greens Salad Kit

I was about to describe this, but you can just read on the front of the package what's in it. It's all chopped, mostly quite finely, so if you like big leaves and hunks of veggies in your salad, you're out of luck. (The leaves pictured on the package are a lie.)

The bag contains three small bags, in addition to the main contents. These contain the dressing, the pistachios, and the "dried pear crumbles."

Put together, it makes for a rather interesting salad. I've never had either dried pears or pistachios on a salad, let alone both at once. But it was too heavy in kale and Brussels sprouts for my taste. Nina, however, liked it a lot--except for the honey-ginger dressing, which, predictably, she found too sweet. I, predictably, thought that was the best part.

Will I buy it again? 

No, but I'm not sorry I tried it. I started this as a side salad for a dinner with Nina, and finished the bag on my own over the next few days. Which means that I didn't dislike it so much that I threw it out, or returned it to the store, or gave it to Nina to finish (all of which are things I routinely do when I hate a TJ's product).

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Trader Joe's Pineapple Rings

I've looked for a product like this several times before and never found it until last week, so I believe that it's new.

It is absolutely not worth buying. This small container cost $3.49. It had only seven thin pineapple rings in it. And they weren't especially good--just mediocre. Ingles, the locally dominant grocery chain, sells a whole pineapple, with the outer hull and core sliced out, for about the same price, but there's at least twice as much in the container. True, you still have to slice it, but that's not much trouble. And they're always excellent--sweet and fresh-tasting.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I have long wanted TJ's to carry a product like this, but now that they do, I'm bitterly disappointed in it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Trader Joe's Hi-Protein Veggie Burger

Trader Joe's has carried some of the Dr. Praeger's line of veggie burgers for a long time. I've never tried them, but I've noticed their packaging, and when I first saw this new TJ's product, I thought that they were not-so-subtly trying to suggest a connection. Compare the photo above to Dr. Praeger's box:

I thought it likely that this new TJ's burger was just a Dr. Praeger's rebranded. But I've looked over the various offerings of the latter company on their web site, and I can't find any that seems even remotely like the ingredients of TJ's. Dr. P's burgers all contain chunks of vegetables, while TJ's are blended smoothly, and none of Dr. P's seems to have pea protein as its first ingredient.

Regardless of the origin, the TJ's product is not a great success. The breaded coating is nice, and they physically hold together well, which isn't always so for veggie burgers. But that's about the best thing I can say in their defense. They're expensive--$3.49 for just two patties. The texture is kind of unpleasantly gritty. And the taste is, well, just kind of nothingness. (Nina said "sawdust," but I think that's being unfairly harsh.)

On a bun with cheese, pickles, and ketchup, they'll do, but more in the sense of "edible," not in the sense of "enjoyable." You're much better off with any of several other choices, including those from MorningStar, Boca, and Gardein.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, November 20, 2017

Trader Joe's Turkey & Giblets Dinner Premium Cat Food--reconsidered

I discussed all three varieties of TJ's canned cat food two years ago, here.

Back then, I settled on Newman's Own brand for my Lucy. I stuck with that for quite a while, but then started doing a lot of experimenting with different brands, trying to find one that was higher in protein and lower in fat. Lucy tended to be OK with some of the products for a while, then sour on them. For about a year now, though, we've both been happy with giving her this stuff from Nutro/Max Cat.

But recently there has been a huge change in the cat scene around here. I got a second cat, Oliver:

Oliver's tastes are quite different from Lucy's. At first he seemed to be an omnivore, willing to gobble down anything I put in front of him. The cat-food field was wide open.

You might think the obvious choice is to give him the same thing I give Lucy. But there are reasons not to. First, it's expensive--especially because I've learned, with weight monitoring, that Oliver's caloric needs are a lot higher than Lucy's. Second, he has no teeth (long story), and Lucy's food comes in big chunks. He really needs a pate style. Third, ideally I'd prefer them each to get a food that the other won't eat, so that I don't have to worry about whether one is stealing the other's food without my knowing about it.

Lisa Pierson is a veterinarian who is passionate about good nutrition for cats. She compiled the 2012 table of commercial cat foods that I relied on previously. Earlier this year she updated it for 2017, here.

I culled that list of hundreds of wet foods down to 40 that met all the parameters most important to me, then narrowed it down to two that I thought best. I bought six cans of each for Oliver, the previous omnivore--and he turned up his nose at both of them! These were genuinely premium products, some of the most expensive available. (We're talking more than $2/can.) But you know what he loves? Trader Joe's Turkey & Giblets--a real steal at just $0.79/can.

Its nutritional parameters haven't changed between Dr. Pierson's 2012 chart and the 2017 chart.

First, you want less than 10% of calories to be from carbohydrates. This has 9%--not quite as low as I'd prefer, but acceptable.

After that, you want the highest possible percentage of calories to be from protein. There are a couple of brands that have real standouts in this category (Tiki Cat and Weruva), but those are all shredded, not pate. I tried a can on Oliver, and he seemed to have difficulty eating it, what with the toothlessness. The best pates go over 35% of calories from protein; the worst are down around 25%. Lucy's food is an outstanding 40%. TJ's is 32%. Not quite as good, but not bad.

Then you want a low phosphorus level, because excessive phosphorus is hard on the kidneys. I'd like under 300; TJ's Turkey & Giblets is better than average, at just 235.

So it's nutritionally acceptable, cheap, and Oliver loves it. I'll keep Lucy on the Nutro (unless she starts rejecting it, as she has other previous favorites before), but it looks like Oliver is going to be a Trader Joe's cat. (I already bought him his own Double Wide Scratcher, and he loves it.) I expect to save over $600/year getting him this instead of either of the two that I had originally planned to feed him.

I concluded two years ago, "among the wet cat foods that are in that price range, you'd have a hard time finding anything of better nutritional quality, and among those in the same general range of quality of ingredients, you'd have a hard time finding anything cheaper."

I stand by that as an accurate assessment--but I think I should have worded it even more strongly: At this price point, I know of no other food that you should be willing to feed your cat, because all the others are crap. And if you look at all the ones that are comparable in nutritional quality, this Trader Joe's product costs in the range of one-half to one-third as much as most of them. It's not the absolute best in quality, and it's not the absolute cheapest in price, but nothing else on the market can touch it in terms of nutritional bang for the buck.

Will I buy it again? 

It looks like I'll be buying a lot of it. It has my recommendation--and Oliver's.

(Note: The above is not true of the other TJ's varieties. They are not as good in their nutrient profile, primarily because of higher carbohydrate content.)

Bonus Lucy picture just because she's so adorable and nobody could possibly ever have seen enough of her: 

ADDENDUM, November 20, 2017

Life comes at you fast.

I wrote the above last week. Since then, Oliver has started to show less enthusiasm for the Trader Joe's Turkey & Giblets than he had originally. He still eats it, but instead of snarfing it all down as fast as he can, he eats a little at first, then returns to graze on it periodically.

So I began looking at specific online prices for some of the others to experiment with. Contrary to my assertion above about Trader Joe's being uniquely cheap, I was surprised to find two others that were much cheaper than the $1.50-$2.00 that is typical for 5.5-ounce cans of cat food of what I consider acceptable nutritional quality. Both come in larger cans, which undoubtedly contributes to keeping the price down:

1. Dave's Naturally Healthy Grain Free, in either chicken or turkey varieties, comes in a case of 12 12.5-ounce cans for $23.88 from (and even less if you subscribe to a regularly scheduled purchase). That's 16 cents/oz, pretty close to the 14 cents/oz for Trader Joe's. At a pet store near my house, it costs $1.99 per 12.5-ounce can, which is identical to the online price.

2. Triumph brand chicken & liver comes in a case of 12 13.2-ounce cans for an astonishing low price of just $15.99, also from Chewy. That works out to just 10 cents/ounce, about 40% less than Trader Joe's, while still meeting all my nutritional parameters. I'm floored by this. The Triumph brand isn't carried by any stores in the Asheville area, so I ordered a case from Chewy. It hasn't arrived yet, so I don't know if Oliver will eat it, but I thought it was such a good potential value that it was worth ordering one case to find out.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


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

Trader Joe's announces recall of yogurt dip and tahini sauce due to Listeria

Favorite Trader Joe's pumpkin-spice products

Suburban New Jersey's obsession with Trader Joe's

How to make a killer Trader Joe's appetizer spread

Comparison test of grocery store cranberry sauce

What to buy--and skip--at Trader Joe's this Thanksgiving

Comparison test of grocery store stuffing mixes

Trader Joe's is selling Thanksgiving in a box

Trader Joe's Thanksgiving for less than $25

6 Trader Joe's products to shortcut Thanksgiving

Comparison test of canned pumpkin for pies

17 easy Thanksgiving recipes with stuff you can get from Trader Joe's

Affordable Thanksgiving menu from Trader Joe's

Comparison test of four brands of turkey gravy

Vegan whipped creams

Best tweets of the week:

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

Friday, November 17, 2017

Trader Joe's Fire Roasted Tomato Cranberry Salsa

Trader Joe's Fire Roasted Tomato Salsa remains my favorite--the one I would pick if I could eat only one commercial salsa for the rest of my life. So when I saw on TJ's web site the announcement of a product that sounds like that with added cranberry, I really wanted to try it. It sounds like it should be, at least, interesting, and possibly great.

It is not.

I scooped some up on a TJ's Organic Corn Chip Dipper and popped it in my mouth. "That's weird," I said to Nina. She tried the same thing, and said, "That's weird."

The terrible mistake they made was overly sweetening it. This results in a completely absence of cranberry tartness--which is what should make this interesting. Worse, it ruins the salsa base. Sweetness should not be the first taste sensation you get from a salsa, but here it's so heavy that that's the result.

TJ's says that this is "like cranberry relish." I suppose that's true, but then why sell it as salsa instead of as cranberry relish?

Will I buy it again? 

Not a chance. I ate five or six chips dipped in it, then couldn't stand the thought of even one more. Nina gave up even faster than that. This is going back to the store for an extremely disappointed refund.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Trader Joe's Les Petites Carrots Of Many Colors

It's weird to mix French and English in the name of a product. But once you get past that, these are just like TJ's Organic Carrots of Many Colors, except smaller. Which means that they're also just like ordinary carrots, except smaller and prettier.

Will I buy it again? 

Not for everyday use. But on occasion, when I want to fancy up a dinner for guests, sure.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Trader Joe's Pain Au Lait

My first impression was that these are pretty ordinary dinner rolls, with only an elongated shape setting them apart. But as I got more bites into it, I started noticing the extra sweetness, and I liked it. In fact, I finished it, and went back to the bag for another. And then another.

I polished off the whole bag by myself--not with dinner, just as snacking--over the course of three days. I never even added butter or jam, nor did I heat them up, though I suppose that such steps would make them even better.

I think I still prefer some of the canned-dough rolls. (TJ's own crescent rolls are a favorite.) But that's largely because of the sensory advantage of the straight-from-the-oven heat. For pre-made rolls in a bag, these are the best I've ever had.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes--even though it seems weird to me to have bread made in France and flown across the ocean.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Trader Joe's Mountain Goblin Semisoft Cheese From Switzerland

I have no idea what "Mountain Goblin" cheese is, and the first couple of pages of a Google search did not enlighten me at all.

This is another occasion where I regret lacking the vocabulary to describe something adequately. It's quite different from any other cheese I have in my memory banks. Sort of nutty, unusually earthy, maybe a little goaty (it might actually be goat cheese, for all I know), with a distant edge of bitterness, which is surprisingly agreeable in this context.

I definitely liked it (ate the whole block in two sittings), but it's so different that I have a hard time placing it on a spectrum of preference compared to other cheeses.

Will I buy it again? 

Well, I suspect that this is one of TJ's many one-time-only specialty cheeses, so I may not have another opportunity. But yes, I would. I don't think it would ever become a staple, but it would be nice for a change from the routine. And it would make a fine addition to a cheese sampler plate, as something that I suspect most people will never have experienced before.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Trader Joe's Bamba Peanut Snacks

Following the #TraderJoes hashtag on Twitter, I learn about a lot of new products before I spy them on the shelves at my local store. But once in a while, a new product really stands out in terms of both the number of people tweeting about it and the level of their enthusiasm. This is the latest such. It seemed obvious that TJ's had a major hit on their hands, even before I had seen a bag with my own eyes.

The hype continued with an unusual number of news/feature stories on a wide variety of web sites, which came to my attention from an ongoing Google News alert service. From these I've learned that:
  • Contrary to its usual practice of secrecy about its suppliers, TJ's allowed the Israeli manufacturer of the original Bamba to announce that, yes, they're the ones making this, and it is the same product in a different bag. I assume that this was because the original is so popular that TJ's wanted to capitalize on its fame, and not have people worry that it was an inferior knockoff. 
  • About 90% of Israelis buy Bamba regularly; it is by far the most popular snack food there. 
  • There is some evidence that the Israeli practice of introducing Bamba to their kids at a very early age contributes to an unusually low prevalence of childhood peanut allergies there. 
The universal description of the product is that it's like cheese puffs (e.g., the baked version of Cheetos), but peanut instead of cheese. That's pretty accurate.

And how are they? They're great--extremely tasty, just the right amount of salt, incredibly munchable, with a lovely, delicate crunch. They're instantly addictive.

Will I buy them again?

Oh, yes. Even after just one bag, I'm confident these are going to be a new staple in my snack cupboard. They're also the newest member of my Top Ten list.

Saturday, November 11, 2017


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

Trader Joe's voted worst parking lot in Sacramento

10 Trader Joe's fitness products one fitness editor can't live without

TJ's new "Bamba" is made by the manufacturer of the original

28 fall finds to pick up from Trader Joe's

Quiz: Which Trader Joe's drink are you?

Trader Joe's vegan Thanksgiving options

Comparison test of 5 grocery store guacamoles

The cost of a Thanksgiving dinner from Trader Joe's

Best tweets of the week:

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

A post shared by AJ Colombo (@ajcolombo606) on

Friday, November 10, 2017

Trader Joe's Chile Spiced Mango

This is a seriously strange product. It's soft, fairly thin-sliced mango coated in what is basically a mixture of paprika, sugar, and powdered chiles.

Judging by reactions I've seen posted on Twitter, a lot of people fall in love with it instantly. That wasn't me. My first impression was that it was too hot, and the flavors didn't blend well. But as I ate more, it definitely grew on me, and by the end of the bag (spread out over five or six sittings), I was really digging it. It's hot enough that I don't want to eat more than about four pieces at a time, but that's plenty for a nice little snack, jam-packed with flavor and interestingness.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. I think this is a winner--strange but good.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Cranberry Spiced Apple Kombucha

The only kombucha I've ever had before this has been a few varieties from a locally made brand called Buchi. I liked them, but I don't think they're particularly representative of the genre. Then again, neither is this new product from Trader Joe's. I'm guessing that it's seasonal but who knows?

It was OK, though--of course--entirely different from the ones I've had before. But frankly, I would have been happier with a cranberry-spiced-apple juice than I was with the same flavors mixed into a kombucha.

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Stock--Vegetable

I'm not sure is this is replacing the product that Trader Joe's has called "Organic Hearty Vegetable Broth," or if they will be sold side by side. Online sources disagree as to whether there's any actual difference between "stock" and "broth" when applied to non-meat-containing soup bases.

I didn't bother tasting this on its own, because who would use it that way? I made a batch of my favorite chili with it, and it was as good as always. So the stuff works.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. I always keep a container of some such product around for when I get the impulse to make that chili, and this is as good as any.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Trader Joe's Vegetable Panang Curry With Jasmine Rice

Everything about this is just OK, with no features that are either outstanding or terrible. Makes for a decent fast meal in a pinch, and you won't hate yourself, but you well might think with every bite, "I wish I had something better." If I went to an Thai restaurant and had this served to me, I wouldn't go back. But for something that you can have from freezer to microwave to plate in less than five minutes, it'll do.

It's a very generous serving for one (the designated amount on the box), but probably would not be enough for a main dish for two.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, November 6, 2017

Trader Joe's Canola Oil Spray

This works as well as Pam--which I've used my entire adult life--and seems to be less messy.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. I'd rather give my money to Trader Joe's than to (insert name of company that makes Pam because I'm too lazy to look it up).

Saturday, November 4, 2017


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

Trader Joe's love of pumpkin products is out of control

Comparison test of chocolate peanut butter cups

The 5 best cheese at Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's healthy shopping guide

3 best maple-flavored items at Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's picks for runners

Trader Joe's issues product alert for possible Listeria in kale/broccoli/chicken salad

How to improve TJ's Four-Cheese Ravioli

16 people share the things they only buy from Trader Joe's

Best tweets of the week:

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

Friday, November 3, 2017

President Madrigal Cheese

I didn't notice until just now that this is not a Trader Joe's branded item. Oh well. I bought it there, so it's fair game.

It is, oddly, a French Swiss cheese, if that makes any sense. It's quite nice--mild but with real flavor, and very firm but not at all crumbly.

Will I buy it again? 

I probably would, were it not for having recently tried and loved this one, which I think I would pick every time over the Madrigal.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Daily Bread With Sprouted Wheat Berries, Sprouted Barley & Sprouted Millet

This new product appeared on the TJ's shelves alongside a similar one that I reviewed recently.

I like this one a lot better. It's flavorful and nicely textured. Slices are what I consider a normal size, which is frequently not the case with TJ's breads. There are no seeds on the crust to make a mess when they fall off.

I deem it to be damn near perfect.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. In fact, I believe this will now be my default choice of TJ's bread. My previous favorite, the oddly named but tasty "Sprouted Flourless Whole Wheat Berry Bread," has fallen in my eyes, because it got reformulated to a significantly smaller size sometime after I first tried it. I know that TJ's breads are made regionally, not nationally, so perhaps it was a change to a different supplier, and maybe it only affects my part of the country. But whatever caused it, it was definitely a change for the worse. (I realize that my personal ideal of the size of a slice of bread is completely arbitrary and that there's nothing universal about it. But it's what I grew up with, and it's so deeply ingrained that any deviation from it forever will seem off to me.)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Pops

I believe that these are as good as hard candy on a stick can get. They're richly flavorful, with the various fruit flavors distinct and readily identifiable. But it's not a form of candy that I'm interested in having on any sort of regular basis.

Will I buy it again? 

Not for myself. But it would make good Halloween giveaway candy!