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?"

Search This Blog

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Trader Joe's Natural Turkey Jerky and Trader Joe's Sugar Snap Peas

You know what kills me every time I try to do any sort of diet or focus or weight loss? Idle snacking, especially at my job. If I don't snack at all, there'll be too much of a rumbly in my tumbly at the end of the day where I'll just eat whatever all night long, especially after the wife goes to bed. If I need to snack but neglect to bring one, that's when the vending machine gets hit up, or even worse, I'll get something from the work cafe. Actual menu item there (and keep in mind I work for a company that makes cardiac defibrillators): fries with chili, sour cream and cheese. Fortunately I haven't gone that far, but other stuff there isn't much better.

So, I need some healthy snacks, and to be honest, for some of them, they need to be the type I can eat however much of and not feel guilty about. The appetite is a monster that needs some slow taming. Pretzels would be okay, but eat too much of them (like I easily can) and the calories wrack up. Eat too little (or what most people would call a "serving") and I'm still hungry. I've tried baby carrots, and they work great, except after eating a couple bags over the course of nearly a week, I discovered I must have hit some critical mass milestone, and my mouth began itching all crazy, and there were what I'll call "other effects" which weren't terribly pleasant, either. Apparently that's a common thing. So, off I went to TJ's one day before work to try and figure out another snack option or two.

First up: Trader Joe's Natural Turkey Jerky. Jerky's been recommended to me by a coworker or two as it's fairly lean and low in calories, and I've mooched off them for a couple bites here and there, especially when someone brought in some venison jerky last week. That was awesome, awesome stuff. Overall, I like jerky okay, but wasn't completely sold just due to the skyhigh sodium intake. The TJ's brand may be changing my mind. There's multiple varieties - turkey, beef, even salmon for one day when I'm brave enough - with some different flavorings, but for whatever reason I chose the base turkey model.

The bag cost $5.49, which is low-to mid-price range for a four ounce bag. It's actually pretty decent - the chunk sizes are pretty manageable, and while tough and chewy like a good jerky should be, it's not all stringy either. My teeth are grateful for that fact. For flavor, it's pretty subdued - mostly meaty with a slight sweet tang, and definitely not all salty. In fact, look at the nutritionals and compare them to, say, Target Market Pantry brand that's a staple in my office, and there's half the sodium. While that's still a lot, it's still a big difference for the better. It's a good bite to add some protein to help tide you over, and the flavor, while good, isn't something tempting enough to make me want to devour the bag. My coworker Melanie (AKA the jerky enabler) agrees after she snatched some bites away, giving it "about a four." Sounds right to me.


And while I'd love to have it otherwise, man cannot live on jerky alone. So a good raw veggie that would stay okay, munch and crunch, and not make my teeth seethe seemed like a good thing. So, I got a bag of Trader Joe's Sugar Snap Peas. How the heck can someone review a particularly branded bag of sugar snap peas, you may think. Well, easy. Look at the picture of the two sugar snap peas on a Post-It. The bigger one, in the middle, is from my Trader Joe's bag. It cost $2.99 for the 12 ounces, so that's equivalent to $4 a pound. That short, shrively guy closer to the top left corner? That's from the local grocery store that touts themselves as having the best produce, where I bought a small handful the night before for a whopping $7 ($7!!!) a pound.

Now, I've had my share of issues with TJ's produce, but in every regard, TJ's won this battle of competing snow peas. I showed Melanie, and she at least feigned surprise. The TJs peas were firmer, fresher, crisper, and bigger than any of the sad, little pathetic guys I wasted my money on from the other store. I also noticed there the very fresh, tasty looking two-pack of celery hearts ($2.79 there vs. $4 elsewhere) and from buying enough baby carrot bags, I know that TJ's is a good value and, at the very least, comparable quality. So, TJ's may have won back some of my produce buying business, at least until it's time for farmer's markets and home veggie gardens once more. C'mon, spring.

Little changes add up a lot. With a few small changes like munching on healthier work snacks, drinking more water, watching serving sizes, and opting for a bowl of cereal over the drive-thru for a snacking vice, I've lost a few pounds already this year. And yes, I know, exercise, which is why I'm kicking myself back into shape doing c25k.* But enough about me. What's your favorite healthy stuff at TJ's? I'm all ears, or rather eyes, so leave a comment below!

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Natural Turkey Jerky: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons  
Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sugar Snap Peas: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons 
----------------------------------------------------------------------
* Believe me, if you want a good exercise program to get yourself into shape, do c25k. I've done it already, a few years back, and am redoing it mostly to try and gain some speed while getting back into respectable 5k shape. If a fat, slow, flatfooted guy like me can run a 5k, so can you....and I once ran a 10k. Plenty of apps out there to help you out.

3 comments:

  1. Maybe I should try the Trader Joe's snap peas again. I LOVE sugar snap peas, but when I tried Trader Joe's a few years ago, they were too mature when they were picked, so the pods were stringy and the peas inside were almost pasty. Plus they tasted like bleach. I know it's common to treat some veggies (like baby carrots) with chlorine to discourage microbial growth, and I am not really concerned about the safety of that, but I do not want to be able to taste the treatment.

    Maybe Trader Joe's has cleared up those issues. You have me ready to give their snap peas a second chance.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I like their Inner Peas as a snack. However, they are very good, so I strongly advise taking a serving and putting it in a bowl and putting the bag away. :-) Their fruit strips are nice to have on hand too, and are just 50 calories each.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I swear by the fact that the Mini Brie Bites are instrumental in keeping me on my healthy eating plan. They are only 70 calories each (1 Weight Watcher Points+) and I eat them with 4 saltine crackers, which is the perfect ratio of cream to crunch. I would also recommend kumquats and pomegranate arils in the produce section, along with the Reduced Guilt Spinach & Kale Dip as a veggie dipper and the Reduced Guilt Guac with the Reduced Guilt Tortilla Chips. I have tried other baked tortilla chips, but these are by far my favorite. The Egg White Salad is fantastic, and even a whole tub of the stuff is only 3 Weight Watchers Points+. I also like the Crunchy Black & White Rice Rolls and the Crispy Juju Mandarin Orange Slices.

    ReplyDelete