Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Trader Joe's Fruit Bar with Flax & Chia Seeds

After clobbering you with gelatochocolatecookie butter productssriracha-fied goodies, and incredibly fattening broccoli this month, it's time to look at something not so indulgent (i.e., boring.) And to that end, these fruit bars are perfect. If you've ever dreamed of stacking like 4 or 5 normal fruit leather bars on top of one another and then using that stack to scrape the mucilaginous seed coating off your Chia Pet, then this product's for you.

They're filling, fruity, and sweet, but they're pretty heavy on the chia seeds, which makes them moderately gritty. It also makes them hearty. This little bar is more effective at curbing temporary hunger than it might look. For under a buck, it's a decent mid-day snack, and it's probably a healthier choice than, say, a Snickers bar.

The overall flavor is kinda strawberry-ish, though you can see there on the list that we've got multiple fruit ingredients going on including apple, pear, elderberry, and even lemon juice. It's slightly tart, as well as naturally-sugary—fructosey, if you will...

If you're a fruit bar enthusiast, definitely check these out. Though, an even less-indulgent choice with impressive flavor might be the Fruit + Fruit Bars we looked at a while back. For me, if I'm craving a fruit leather-ish snack, I'd probably reach for the smaller, cheaper (though, admittedly, less-filling) "fruit wraps."

Another 3.5 from me, 4 from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups

By now, some of you have figured out that Russ and I are indeed trying to make you fat. It's time to come clean. 

We've actually been hired by the Illuminati to help make America more obese, and therefore more docile and more easily controlled, for when they roll out the New World Order. They're targeting an audience interested in a grocery store that's known for being kinda sorta healthy, and hoping we'll steer the clientele towards the more decadent desserts instead of fruits and stuff. You know something's fishy when the guy who's on a paleo diet starts handing out cookie butter sandwich cookies to the populace at large.

However, rebellious young lad that I am, I must risk life and limb to defy the orders of my scheming handlers this time and tell you all that this is not a "must-buy" item in our humble opinions, and to save your precious calories for some other cookie butter product or even, heaven forbid, something kinda sorta healthy. So why review it at all, you ask?

Easy. The phrase "COOKIE. BUTTER." is clickbait. You guys click it every time. Thank you for that, by the way. Next time, I'm going to put up a Facebook post with something like "COOKIE. BUTTER. WIENERSCHNITZEL." and see how that goes. Cookie butter wienerschnitzel is not a real product, by the way, at least as far as I know.

But what IS a real product is this cookie butter candy bar that we looked at before. And it's almost exactly the same as these cookie butter cups. Neither product is bad. If either were my first cookie butter experience, I would probably be swooning. We just feel like the dark chocolate overshadows the cookie butter flavor in both cases—perhaps even more so in the case of the cups. I think the dark chocolate to cookie butter ratio might be even higher here. Both Sonia and I feel this way, and I must note that Sonia is a much bigger fan of dark chocolate than I am. I'd still love to try something with cookie butter and white chocolate—which yes, I know, is bad for you—but then again, I am supposed to be making you all fat.

Both Sonia and I were surprised at the firmness of the outer chocolate shell, a fact which Margaret over at the Impulsive Buy noted, too—in fact, it's significantly firmer than your standard Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. I'd say that's another weakness of the product, but if you like firm, dark chocolate, this just might be your thing.

In the end, it's a set of 3.5's from the lovely Sonia and I.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Trader Joe's Cookie Butter Sandwich Cookies

The United States Government defines Schedule I narcotic substances as those with high abuse or addiction potential, with no medical use and severe safety concerns. You know which ones those are. I think it's time we propose a new entry to the list: Cookie butter. If it's as addicting as crack, maybe it's time we start treating it like that.

Yeah, I said it. Listen: You know what it tastes like. You know it's addicting. There's no question about it. You know what you did that one night with that jarful and a spoon - have no shame, we've all been there. I know I have. And I know what it's done to me - listen, as tasty as it is, it sure as heck ain't spinach you're ingesting there. Scroll down and look at the picture of the nutritional information if you dare. Too much cookie butter, with all its palm-oily ways, will kill you. Just how bad is palm oil? It can even make broccoli unhealthy. That's crazy. Aside from the momentary seconds that speculoos graces your taste buds and tickles them in the gingery-cinnamony way that only it can, there's absolutely nothing beneficial about cookie butter, yet it seems as a human race we can't get enough of it. Just search the terms "cookie butter" on this blog and you'll see all of its incarnations - this stuff is super popular.

So, naturally, we now have Trader Joe's Cookie Butter Sandwich Cookies. Let's see...make cookies, grind them into butter, make filling for another cookie. Another stroke of genius, and another move towards total world domination by those speciously speculoosy Belgians. Of course Trader Joe's would bring these aboard - I fully expect Cookie Butter Two Buck Chuck by this time next week.

Not gonna lie: these are darn good cookies. Those buttery shortbread cookie twins are light and crispy and simply melt in your mouth. My goodness. I thought those Danish cookies a few weeks back were pretty good for a commercial cookie - oh, they were, but these are a whole 'nother level. These just crumble with perfection from start to finish.

How good are those actual wafers? As good as cookie butter is (and I know I am veering towards heresy here), the cookies themselves are by far the star of the show here. It's not even close.

Maybe I'm just used to the whole "cookie butter" thing and have grown jaded by its inherent awesomeness, I don't know. I mean, the speculoos certainly blends in for a smooth bite and full, rich flavor experience which is really satisfying, and I don't have any real complaints about the cookies. Maybe my body is trying to convince my brain it's not that good, so I don't need to go eat four more right this moment, so as to not further derail my diet.

Anyways, I bought two boxes of these, one for home for me and the wife, and the other for my neighbors at my cubicle farm - $3.99 for some collegial happiness on a crap-hit-the-fan week is a small price to pay. The votes amongst my coworkers were nearly unanimously for perfection, with comments ranging from "better than anything from a bakery" to "best thing I've had since the last time you bought me cookie butter" to a mysterious "mama's baby loves shortening" - maybe I'm a dealer who just gave them all their first hit for free. As for me and the wife, while we both like them, we're not as overly glowing, for reasons we just can't put our thumbs on. I figure the coworkers say a 4.5 overall (one said she flat-out didn't like them at all, though could not elaborate*) and Sandy and I average out to a 4, so that's what we're going with here. Score too low? Send us some love in the comments below!

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cookie Butter Sandwich Cookies: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons       
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* This is the same woman who thinks bacon should be relegated to "breakfast only" status, so take her opinion accordingly. :)