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, April 3, 2012

Trader Joe's Macaroni and Cheese

Based on either past employment or college eating habits, there's still a lot of foods I'm loathe to have again. For instance, I have nothing against either Papa John's or Domino's Pizza, but as I worked for both (and ate way too much of their respective pies), I'm not going to be ordering from them any time soon. Neither will I stop by a Boston Market...I worked for one in high school, and I've seen how things are made, and smelled how nasty the chicken skewer-soaking vat o' acid is..no thanks. In December, it will be nine years since I graduated from Penn State, and I think since then I've had about ten packs of Ramen noodles, which is about what I consumed every three days in Happy Valley.

For a long time, mac and cheese was in the same boat. I'm not talking about the homemade stuff, of course. That's nearly always delicious, especially when made by my sister-in-law Megan, and occasionally by my mom when she isn't trying to sneak canned tuna into it (I HATE tuna - blahhh). I'm talking the from-a-box, ten-minutes-on-a-stovetop-type stuff. I could never bring myself to go the Easy Mac route. But yeah, when it wasn't pizza or Ramen in college, it was a box of Kraft. Occasionally I got fancy and got the shells and cheese version, but that got old, too.

Anyways, we're here to talk about Trader Joe's Macaroni and Cheese, with (allegedly) Wisconsin cheddar. For whatever reason, probably partially because we've been crazily busy, Sandy and I have gone on a kick with it. At first, yeah, I wasn't so excited about it, but I'll admit, it's growing on me. It's the typical elbow macaroni in a box with some cheesy powder to mix in with some milk and butter, of which I usually put in just a little extra to make the sauce a little creamier. The macaroni is just about right (which, let's be honest, would be hard to screw up) while the cheese, well...it's been so long since I've had the famous blue box brand that I don't recall exactly how that tastes to make a direct comparison, but the TJ's strikes me as being just better. I doubt that the cheese flavor is so authentically Wisconsinite that it matches perfectly with a Spotted Cow, but hey, it is kinda cheddary and tasty enough on its own. It's even better with some hot sauce mixed in (haven't tried the TJ's yet, but just finally kicked a gallon jug of Red Devil, so I will soon!) to make what I, for whatever reason, call "schmac 'n cheese." Hmm, that sounds even dumber when I type it...anyways....

For a buck a box, the mac 'n cheese does its job. It's not the best mac 'n cheese product that TJ's offers (there's a competitor or two), but for a quick, reliable, chewing-optional bite, I think it's good. No, it won't beat out your Aunt Millie's, but nothing from a box ever will. As the one who initially semi-twisted my arm into buying it, Sandy is definitely a fan. "Much better than Kraft, and so good with hot sauce," she said before slapping a four on it. Me? It's helping restore my faith in a boxed convenience American classic. That's worth at least something like a four as well.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Macaroni and Cheese: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

6 comments:

  1. I'll have to give this a try, we break down at least once a month and do our simple dinner of mac & cheese and baked beans.

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  2. I love trader joes mac n cheese. Or maybe its just that I love all mac and cheese? Yummmy.

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  3. Their frozen mac and cheese is the bomb. If you haven't tried it yet you need to!

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    1. Agreed. The Joe's Diner and even the Reduced Guilt are both fairly tasty!

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  4. As a college student, I definitely love that this is one of the more affordable box mac and cheese! It's definitely better than just a generic or store brand, but I did just find some Kraft mac and cheese on sale. But seriously, if you're on a budget and can't pay for the Kraft version, I would say that the TJs version is the next best thing. :)

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  5. My all time boxed fave: Kraft 3 Cheese with the shell noodles. $%&*! I just ate a huge-ass dinner a few hours ago but just thinking about eating it, is making my mouth water. I wish my metabolism was like that of a 17 year old boy. Unnnnff seriously.

    I need to try this version though. It sounds good. I also enjoy the Target brand (Archer Farms) sports shapes mac n cheese. I always prefer shaped noodles for some reason. The fun kiddie factor + texture, haha. What can I say, I guess I am a kid at heart?!

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