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, February 25, 2011

Trader Joe's Turkey "Meatloaf Muffins"

Let me explain something.

I love meatloaf. I think meatloaf belongs on the pantheon of great meats, joined by bacon, a good medium-rare steak, and buffalo chicken dip. If I go out to dinner at a diner, meatloaf is a given, a nearly sure-bet to satisfy. If the meatloaf there turns out to be bad, I have a hard time trusting any of their other food. I have been known to judge entire establishments based solely on their meatloaf. There's practically nothing more that I love than a homemade meatloaf dinner, and practically no sandwich I love more than a slab of meatloaf and a slice of American cheese on white bread. It's so simple and good. It should be a given that it's good. I would be a happy man if I could eat meatloaf every day for the rest of my life.

All that being said, I have never bought anything at TJ's that I was so apprehensive about purchasing and (even more so) consuming.

There were so many red flags going off in my brain about this. First off, they're called "meatloaf muffins," with the quotation marks clearly on the package. Listen, you can't put quotation marks around the word meatloaf - it's either meatloaf, or it isn't (though it could still be, technically, a loaf of meat). And then they're called muffins as well. The picture on the box led me to interpret that the mashed potatoes served a frosting-esque purpose, which, alliteration be damned, makes them a cupcake. Cupcakes have frosting; muffins are mere naked cupcakes. Look it up. Add to that the fact that the meatloaf is made out of ground turkey. I'm a fan of turkey burgers and all, but for some things, only some beef cuts it. Meatloaf is one of them. End of story.

Anyways, I finally worked up the courage to try these out Thursday night when Sandy was babysitting. She had no desire to even attempt one of these bad boys. I can't blame her, I was so skeptical myself. I told myself I was going to try to like them, that there had to be something good about them. It's Trader Joe's, it's meatloaf, how bad can it be? I wanted to like them, at least a little, so as to not cast a shadow over the Trader Joe name.

Oh man.

First, Trader Joe's takes the whole "muffin" concept a little too far. They come in a plastic muffin tray of sorts, and since they're frozen in, I had to get a knife to cut around the sides to get one of these meat cakes out. Secondly, their "preferred method" of preparation is two minutes on high in the microwave. Under no practically no circumstances should meatloaf be microwaved, let alone as a "preferred method" ... it just does something to it that I can't explain but it makes not nearly as good. I microwave it anyways, because if Trader Joe says this for the best, well, okay. Anyways, the microwave dings, I get my fork (even though muffins are supposed to be a hands-on food), and take a bite.

Again, oh man.

Usually, Trader Joe's does a great job of selecting products, but when they fail, they do so epically. Consider these the Titanic. These are so bland and tasteless. In fact, what I tasted the most was the spinach they squeezed between the meat and mashed potatoes. Of course, the spinach was limp, watery, and kinda gross by itself. The potatoes were definitely of the powdery box variety, kinda grainy, and barely hinted of the Parmesan flavor they were advertised as having. And the meatloaf ... I weep. It was just bad, completely devoid of any semblance of flavor. I tried a little chunk of it by itself, tasted nothing, but when I looked closer, I saw it was still pinkish. It wasn't even fully cooked. I know you can get away with that for steaks and burgers (in fact, it's encouraged) but to my knowledge, meatloaf is not something to be consumed in a semi-raw fashion. Honestly, the "meatloaf" (definitely use the quotation marks for this junk) reminds me of canned cat food, in semblance, presumable taste, and texture. Just awful. Put it all together in a four-bite sized morsel, and it's a dinner-time catastrophe. I'd almost rather have eaten Spam from a can, it's that bad.

I was going to eat another one, just to make sure they were gross (and if so, if hot sauce could salvage them), but my eyes slid over to the Nutrition Facts panel. Over 20% of my fat, cholesterol and sodium intake for my day in just one of these? I'm no prude when it comes to this stuff, but if I'm going to eat something that horrendous for me, it has got to be worth it. I settled for the timeless bachelor option of a bowl of cereal and a beer. Combine that info with their price tag ($6 for a box of four = $1.50 each), and let's just say I'm glad TJ's has a good return policy. I have nothing even slightly redeeming to say about these. At least TJ's has enough other really good stuff so I can't dismiss them completely as a company, but if this were my first ever purchase from them, I'd never go back.

In conclusion, to paraphrase the classic Meatloaf song, I would do anything for 'loaf,' but I won't do these. Ever again.

Bottom line: 0 out of 10 Golden Spoons

36 comments:

  1. OMG-I read this post while on a break from work and I couldn't stop laughing!! They sound so bad, I'm almost tempted to try them. I love meatloaf, any variety, but these sound so nasty! Keep reviewing, if nothing else, for the great commentary!

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  2. Glad you got a good laugh at my expense :). Maybe I can ship you my leftovers - I can't imagine they'd be any worse by the time they got to you!

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  3. I bought these and am eating one of them as I read your post. You are....BEYOND 100% correct. And, sadly, my poor Brooklyn self will consume the rest of them this week, because I can't bring myself to throw them away because they're technically worth some $. Blech.

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  4. Elizabeth - return them! Seriously, TJ's is really cool. I ate one and returned the rest, 100% refund, no questions asked. The cashier gave me a knowing smile.

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  5. I looked at these at my TJ's and said "good idea," but no way am I trying these frozen.

    So I invented my own recipe. It's easy to do, but I eliminated the spinach.

    I was happy with the results of mine. It really is a good comfort food recipe. :)

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  6. Prof - very wise idea. Okay enough of a concept but dang - just awful. I bet yours are amazing - maybe sell the recipe to TJ's? ;)

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  7. I have picked these up to buy them so many times and, for one reason or another, have always put them back before purchasing. I am so happy that I never bought them and so happy I read your review before I was ever again tempted! Meatloaf is one of my favorites...I think I will make my own tonight! Thanks for saving me some dough ;)

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  8. I saw these on a recent TJs shopping trip and thought they looked good by the picture on the front box, but then my husband (who is a big fan of your website) told me about your review and that it got a 0/10. I then put them back and went on with our shopping. Then today I saw your feature on the Yahoo homepage and remembered about them, so I found your review on it. I laughed so much at it, you're hilarious! So glad I didn't get them!

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  9. Call me crazy, but I actually love these things!

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  10. I'm with Shelley! Even my kids will eat these!
    Worst Trader Joe's food ever: Green Curry Tuna. I still have nightmares.

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  11. So glad I didn't buy these, I actually had them in my hand last time I was shopping there, and something made me put them back. I think it may have been the nutrition info, actually; along with the fact that I make a pretty darn good turkey meatloaf that costs much less than them and gives me 6 large servings.

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  12. Yeah, fluffysue, you're not missing a thing. Blecch.

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  13. I love these too! Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but people also have different tastes.
    They are simple to get out of the packaging by pushing it out from the bottom. Less than 2 mins in the microwave is plenty of time.

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  14. OMG I too returned them. Like microwavable barf.

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  15. dang! I bought them and now they are sitting in my freezer and I am afraid to eat them.

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  16. First, ignore the package directions -- especially the part about the microwave. I cooked them in my regular oven according to the package directions. After 20 min. (the stated duration) the potatoes on the top were still stone cold. Removed the foil and back they went for 15 more minutes. Much progress. Finally, I turned the broiler on and put a tiny dab of butter on the top of each one. The potatoes started to get a little brown around the edges and the product actually smelled good. Ate pretty good too. Still surprisingly moist with a slight taste of cumin in the meatloaf. Not sure I'd buy them again, but I was glad I didn't follow their directions.

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  17. Thank you for giving me the best laugh I have had in weeks! This is hilarious. I had a similar experience with some salmon "burgers" from Greenlife (yes, a company that Trader Joe's owns in NC). #1, it said that these objects could be microwaved and #2, I dry-heaved for at least 10 minutes after biting into what tasted like a carcass.

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  18. You know what makes me sad? I remember seeing these on your blog and when I went to Trader Joe's, I somehow managed to switch it around in my mind to say, "Meatloaf Muffins were the most delicious things we've ever tasted!"
    After I made one and thought I was going to die from it, I came back to find your original post. Ohhh...you said 0 out of 10...not 10 out of 10.
    Bummer.

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    1. I hope you don't mind but I got a good laugh out of that. Save the rest and return 'em to TJ's, you'll get your money back. That's exactly what I did and while doing, the cashier totally laughed and said, "Yeah, these suck."

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  19. I generally agree with your reviews, but you're way off on this one. A score of 0 means completely inedible, and that's not the case. The worst you can say about these is that they're a little bland. They can be improved, though. Like I_Eat said, you have to cook them in the regular oven for about twice as long as the directions recommend. Then douse them with your favorite gravy (I use turkey gravy) like you normally would meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

    Bottom line: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons (8 with the added gravy).

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  20. I love them. I am eating one a s a snack while at work.

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  21. I actually love these! They are on my short "always buy" list... I think your reviews are dead on for most of it, but I think these are super yummy and I've even made knock-offs myself...

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  22. Man, I wish I'd known when I bought these last year that you could return them. Truly awful.

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  23. I love these! They are delicious. I could eat the entire package in one sitting if I let myself. My rating: 10 out of 10

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    1. Eh, more for you then. I cannot believe they're still available :)

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    2. This gives me hope. I don't want to throw mine out and waste them. Maybe a little ketchup will help??

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  24. Dip em in ketchup! That's actually how I like all meatloaf. A little bland, but I have had way worse from TJ's.

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  25. How are these still available? I wish I had read your blog before I tried this. I felt deep down when I purchased them that I knew they would be bad... but that small chance they were amazing was a chance worth taking. What a fail! Just awful. I can't stop thinking about how bad they were!

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  26. http://www.themeatloafbakery.com/everyday-favorites/

    This concept actually comes from a real place that I've been to and loved in Chicago. That being said, I'm glad I read your review. I was tempted, but now I think I'll hold off.

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  27. My husband and I love these! Yes, you have to bake them for much longer than the package says, but I find this with a lot of TJ's food. I think we baked them for about twice as long, until the inside of the meatloaf was hot. I didn't add anything else to them though. I guess everyone just has different tastes!

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  28. This frozen entree was the worst tasting entree I ever purchased from TJ's. I am late to this site but I had to read this review, because if you didn't hate them as much as I did, I couldn't rely on this site. You did, and I can.

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  29. Oh no!!!

    I wish I had found this post prior to last Friday. I JUST bought myself a box of these sweet "meatloaf muffins" and was estatic to try them! I am not so excited and now have to replan my dinner tonight. Can I return these to TJ??!

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