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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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Trader Joe's Frosted Maple & Brown Sugar Shredded Bite Size Wheats

There's certain things parents always say to kids when growing up. Eat your vegetables. Do your homework. Stop hitting your sister. My parents weren't an exception. There was a common mantra growing up that either my mom or dad said every morning and every night right before bed; "Brush your teeth, wash your face, comb your hair." Good advice for the morning, for sure. But at night? I'm definitely an advocate of brushing twice a day and I'd tack on the addendum to see the dentist twice a year ... in not following the second part of the rule for, oh, seven years or so I currently have three root canals going on. Blah. And washing your face twice a day, well, I guess look good all day and don't dirty your pillow at night, so that's sound enough advice. But combing your hair ... right before bed? Isn't that pointless? I mean, your hair gets messed up all night usually, and even if it somehow remains perfunctory til the rooster crows, you'd have it comb it all over again in the morning before going off to school or wherever. I can only guess that my folks' rationale was if the Bogeyman was going to get you, you might as well look good.

One sensible thing my parental units succeeded in instilling in me was the importance of a good breakfast, y'know, the "most important meal of the day." In an ideal world, I'd have eggs and bacon and pancakes and hashbrowns and coffee and orange juice every morning. As amazing that'd be, Sandy's not waking up at 6 a.m. every day to make that for me, and I'm not either. During the week, that's leaves me vacuuming down a bowl of cereal as quickly as possible before luring the dog into a crate with a cookie, grabbing lunch, manbag, and keys and speeding off to my cubicle.

That leaves me with the idea that whatever cereal I'm going to shove down my throat, I need to like it and it's got to keep me going until lunch. If it's healthy, well, all the better.

Enter Trader Joe's Frosted Maple & Brown Sugar Shredded Bite Size Wheats. Dang, that is one long name. But as a counter-acting dang, this stuff is pretty dang decent. The name pretty well sums them up. The biscuits themselves are good, bite-sized chunks of shredded wheat that are crispy from first bite to last. I especially like the last few in the milk puddle - soggy on the outside, crunchy in the middle. And they're definitely wholesome in the wheatiest of ways. And the frosting is pretty jim-dandy too. Taking a glimpse at it, it's definitely light brown with a couple different shades for the maple and brown sugar, like a mini work of art. The maple is the prevailing taste, but the brown sugar makes a great undertone taste, which is how come it tastes so good. I personally love the taste of this stuff as it indulges my kidlike sugar jonesing and my adult sensibilities.

But how full does it keep me? I'm going to employ what I call the "10 a.m. test" in gauging this; namely, how hungry am I at 10 a.m. after chowing down a bowlful at landspeed record time at 7 a.m.? Most cereals fail this test miserably, and in fact seem to make me hungrier than I would be skipping breakfast altogether. As for this, well ... it does better than most. I was able to fend off a coworker's very aggressive offering of a doughnut this morning because I wasn't hungry enough for it. Other days (I'd say about half the time), I get some moderate pangs, but haven't felt an out-and-out rumbly in the tumbly, which is commonplace with other bowled breakfast bounty. I'd say it passes well because I'm deciding to grade on a curve.

According to Sandy, I like this too much. Out of the latest box, she's gotten only a handful or two, mostly because she prefers other breakfast cereal to pack along (that and she's lucky enough to have a breakfast option provided for her at work ... ah, the perks of being a topnotch early childhood educator. Don't you dare call it daycare). Sandy's had some opportunity to fully enjoy the mini-wheats, and she has here and there, but said she didn't feel like she could give it an informed grade other than to say "it's maple-y." Something about me hogging it too much or something. Probably at least partially true. Anyways, I'll pull out the old trick of doubling my grade sans the wifey score ... I feel a little extra insecure when doing this, the weight of responsibility and all .... eh, screw it, eight and a half, which I think is about as high I can rank any cereal. This has been and will be a regular in the pantry rotation.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


  1. I am a fan of Trader Joe's and have enjoyed looking at your blog.I agree about most cereals not keeping you full. I have compiled a short list of my have to have on hand things from Trader Joes...just thought I'd share....
    Have to have:
    white balsamic vinegar
    trader joes organic corn frozen
    foursome mixed veggies frozen
    frozen mango
    frozen pineapple
    Nutty bits
    Taco shells
    Chocolatey coated chocolate chip dunkers
    granola bars
    pizza sauce

    Consistently good with good prices:
    Natural unsalted chunky peanut butter
    8 oz smoked salmon pieces
    baby spinach
    romaine lettuce
    frozen shrimp
    olive oil

  2. That's quite the list! Lots of good stuff on there for sure, but hope you find some new favorites too. Thanks for giving us a read!

  3. One bowl and I was hooked. Especially with TJ's organic 2% milk. My husband doesn't like the (what he considers "fake") maple flavor, so I picked up some of the plain frosted shredded wheats and found those to be very good as well - much better than the big name brand.

  4. our favorite item in TJ is.. Chocolately Coated Chocolate Chip Dunkers.. you should give it a try... :)

  5. And even better, the TJ's version is about a buck cheaper then the Frosted Mini Wheats Maple and Brown Sugar at the grocery store: $2.99 vs. $3.99.

  6. TJ's Maple Mini Wheats ARE scrumpdillyicious. Unfortunately, the healthiness of their whole wheat is solidly counterbalanced by their pancreas pounding sugar content.