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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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Trader Joe's Vanilla Almond Spiced Chai

I've reviewed a lot of chai products these past few years. Chai herechai therechaichai everywhere. Before her untimely departure from this earth last year, my mother even jumped on board the chai bandwagon. Like a good Oprah-ite, she dutifully sought out Ms. Winfrey's offering at the local Starbucks and proudly declared herself a fan of chai tea and chai lattes. My wife claims the Oprah Chai isn't even that good. I'll take her word for it.

Of all the chai selections I've tried, only one has ever fallen drastically short of my expectations. As far as I can tell, it's pretty hard to screw up chai. Although...um...one good way to do that might be to try to turn it into a protein shake.

Granted, I don't really drink protein beverages, so I'm not sure if they all tend to have that nasty, powdery, chalky essence about them. But for me, having that bizarre taste and thick texture present in what I was hoping would be a smooth, sweet, spicy chai beverage was quite an unpleasant surprise. 

Sonia, who's far more of a chai aficionado than I am, genuinely liked this drink. She liked that it "wasn't too sweet" and really enjoyed the flavor, although her one complaint would be that it "lacked a bit of kick" in the spice department. 

I know black tea in general has a decent amount of caffeine, so this beverage packs a significant punch in that way. I had already had my daily dose of caffeine when I tried this, so it made me a tad jittery. I think the label-putter-onner guy was drinking some too, because as you can see in the pic, the sticker on the bottle is slightly crooked.

This is one Sonia and I will agree to disagree on. I found it mostly unpleasant and would file this under "not so great." Sonia would lean more toward "really darn good." So we'll meet somewhere in the middle and say it's "not bad."

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Nosh Show: Best Trader Joe’s Snacks That Come in Plastic Tubs




Hosted by Marvo from The Impulsive Buy, we made our debut as guests on The Nosh Show sharing our favorite Trader Joe's snacks that come in plastic tubs. Thanks to all the readers and listeners that also shared their favorites on our social media.

Check out the show notes.

Subscribe to The Nosh Show on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcherTuneIn or via RSS.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Trader Joe's Candy Coated Chocolate Drops

"Meh, these taste like Smarties" Sandy said after crunching through her first mouthful.

Wait...what?

Smarties?

Those cellophane-wrapped chalky straps of crunchified sugar, that parade candy classic, that stuffer of all things pinata, that cheap neighbor Halloween pass out? Those Smarties? How in the world do Trader Joe's Candy Coated Chocolate Drops taste like that? You crazy?

"No...the other Smarties...you know...the European ones...c'mon now...seriously? Never heard of them? What kind of food blogger are you anyways?" she stated with that slightly smug worldly glance that reflected very nicely off my blank stare.

I am a very 'murican amateur hack foodie, never been shy about it either.

So the natural thing would be to compare these TJ candies to the ubiquitous melt-in-your-mouth-not-in-your-hand empire out there, which I for one have not only heard of but also have sampled of multiple times. To be honest, the first go-around I had with these choco-drops kinda tasted more or less like those to me, close enough for government work. But I have a tendency to inhale and not really taste chocolate, so on a second pickup (courtesy of a coworker who didn't like them), I decided to actually slow down and try to taste.

Aha. There are a few small differences. The chocolate here seems slightly sugarier and as a result a little less "intense" (such a relative term for milk chocolate) than the nationally known. It also seems maybe a tad bit creamier too. And the candy shells - I swear, they seem not exactly tougher but perhaps crispier, so a slight different mouthfeel to them.

Obviously there are also the different colors too - the somewhat muted purple and green and yellow and orange and whatnot. No Red 40 or Blue 82 or whatever here, folks. Naturally colored! With things like spuirilina (which is a health superfood in some circles) and beets and whatnot - hey, does that make this a chocolate salad? Kind of? No? Well, I'll settle for the no artificial colors - can't hurt, might help.

These choc drops are good, not great, but worth a pick up here or there if having a easily transportable choco supply on hand is an attractive idea to you. Certainly is to me. The half pound sack cost only about $3 if I recall right, so not a bad price. Sandy was happy enough with them, and she says they taste like those fancy Euro imports, than so be it. Although she said she likes the most famous brand more...USA! USA! USA! Sorry, Olympics over, still decompressing. Matching 3.5s.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Candy Coated Chocolate Drops: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons