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, February 11, 2014

Trader Joe's Non-Dairy Almond Beverage

I love my wife, and I know better than to question her judgement (after all, I'm one of them)...but sometimes she gets some nutty ideas in her head. Take for instance me and cereal. Now, I've rekindled my love affair with the generic honey nut Cheerios - you know the type, comes in a bag that's too big to fit in the pantry* - as a "replacement vice" for the former semi-torrid (and all horrid) relationship I had with fast food. Sandy, generally speaking, approves of this, except when I pour what she deems as too many O's into my bowl. "That's more than one serving!" she decries in a tone that sounds like one she'd use if I told her I spent a whole paycheck on lottery scratch off tickets. She's never, ever plays "serving police" on anything else on a consistent basis EXCEPT cereal. It doesn't matter that, for a vice, it's a decently healthy one, or that I've lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-12 pounds this year, or that she saves things like three slices of pizza for me for dinner, I just eat too much dang cereal in her book.


Another idea sprung forth from her brilliant (albeit quixotic) mind a couple weeks ago, when she randomly declared how curious and "unnatural" it was for humans to drink milk from other animals, since we're just about the only animal who does that. I kinda let that go in one ear, bounce off something hard, and go back out until she brought home a carton of almond milk a day or two later. Good call, as we both don't care for soy milk, detest rice milk, and are ambivalent about coconut milk (except the canned kinda stuff) at best. Also, as I was happy to find out, it was cheaper than the organic milk we routinely bought, and in all, tasted just fine.

Trader Joe's Non-Dairy Almond Beverage, though not the first brand I've tried, is also pretty tasty. I kinda wish they called it "almond milk" and not "almond beverage" because that makes it sound like some sort of weird soda or juice to me. There's not a lot to dislike. It's subtly nutty, like other almond milks I've had, and has an acceptable consistency and smoothness, although a little chalkiness if you inspect too close. I wouldn't drink a glassful of it straight, but then again, I've rarely done that with regular milk either. I think the TJ's version tastes a little closer to actual milk, too, since it's unsweetened, unlike other brands I've had. And believe me, it pairs well with your early morning/late night bowl of cereal, or a couple Oreos, and could reliably be depended upon to be regular milk's stunt double. I like it quite a bit.

As an added bonus, I really like the packaging for it, mostly because it's bright and pink and kinda idiot proof. What do I mean? Well, the store brand we've brought previously came in a light tan carton with red lettering that looked exactly like the organic whole milk we buy for our sweet little toddler, who may or may not be slightly allergic to nuts. And I hate whole milk, so the once or twice that we've mixed them up in a pre-caffeinated daze were not good experiences - watching/charting/discussing possible hives or ruining an otherwise great bowl of cereal  are not fun ways to spend a morning.

In all, yeah, it's almond milk and that's pretty much all there is to it. Not a bad deal at all for $2.99. I'm thinking that it'll continue to be on our shopping list on a weekly basis. It's another dairy-alternative win for TJ's. Good stuff.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Non-Dairy Almond Beverage: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons
* Couldn't find the link, and it makes me mad, but the brilliant comedian Jim Gaffigan has a great bit about bagged cereal, calling it "homeless" because at least other cereals had a box to live in.  So, as an added bonus, here's a brilliant bit about parenting or his great cameo in one of the best worst movies ever.


  1. "regular milk's stunt double" well played! :)

  2. I like the vanilla one, although it does taste kind of funny if you're making some TJ's boxed mac and cheese.

  3. I think that they are not allowed to call anything milk unless it's truley milk... which is why this is called almond beverage. I think the dairy counsel got angry about that

    1. they did indeed glad TJs actually cares about the milk police i mean council

  4. I'm not sure if the argument that "we're just about the only animals who do it," argument is valid. After all, other animals will do it if need be. Also, we're just about the only animals who engage in sexual intercourse when the female of the species is not "in heat." And nobody's going around talking about how we should stop THAT because other animals don't do it. Beyond that, we're the only animals that wear clothes, etc., etc., etc. So, yeah, not the most valid argument as far as I'm concerned.

    That being said, I've wanted to try almond milk (or a milk substitute) for awhile-- or almond beverage, whatever you want to call it. But I was a little put off my the sodium & caloric content, as they're both higher than dairy milk (at least that of the 2% variety). Soy's out due to the whole breast cancer thing.

    Is there any evidence that almond milk is healthier than regular milk?

    Finally, I'm with you on the cereal. It really IS amazing how small one serving size is, though.

  5. Adult humans do not need cow's milk any more than they need goat's milk, wolf's milk, camel's milk, giraffe's milk. Unweaned infants do remarkably better on their own mother's breast milk which is what our species was intended to consume. There's absolutely nothing beneficial to the human diet in cow's milk that can't be gotten through plant based sources.

    Female cows are forcibly artificially inseminated to become pregnant and continue lactating. After 9 months, the dairy industry steals these baby calves shortly after they are born. The "worthless" males who can't make milk are either killed immediately or kept in isolation for a few months to become veal. The unfortunate females calves follow their mother's sad lot all the way to the last moments on the kill floor when they are no longer "productive".

    Thankfully there's abundant plant based alternatives that are just as nutritional, just as satisfying and just as versatile in cooking. Some even have twice the amount of calcium and vitamin D as cow's milk does.

    Dairy is also destructive to the environment and a tragic waste of resources. Perhaps it is time for "unweaned" adults to look beyond what deceptiveness and hype the dairy industry is pitching at you in order to keep their profits and their cruel practices in check.

    1. As a follow-up tidbit, adults who are "lactose intolerant" are normal. People who can drink/consume dairy products (myself included) are actually mutations. From an evolutionary perspective, humans are SUPPOSED to be lactose-intolerant once we are past infanthood. This natural "weaning" process arises from a decrease in production of lactase, an enzyme that digests dairy. The metabolism of most mammals follows this path, which is why other animals DON'T drink milk as adults. However, most humans are now "lactase persistent" and we can continue to digest dairy products as adults. But it's not supposed to be that way, biologically. Just a fun fact to ponder!

    2. Perhaps it is time for the "weaned" adult to cite her sources-- particularly for the first and third paragraphs.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. I didn't object to, and found some logic to Bea's comment, but she lost me when she insulted us.

      In our law practice, we've used this saying many times: The first person to raise his voice has lost the argument.

      Similarly, I don't understand why people like Bea Elliott feel the need to be rude and use insults and snarky little remarks, such as referring to you as "unweaned" (how absurd).

      Consuming cow's milk because you like it doesn't mean you are not weaned and to refer to you, and me, in that manner is offensive and not unlike raising your voice during an argument. It's a crutch word.

      If Bea wants to put for an argument as to why you shouldn't, or don't need, to consume cow's milk, do so like an attorney. Present the question, the findings, and then back that up with your resources, statutes, and precedents, which doesn't include a link to a YouTube video so you do the research on her behalf.

      And leave the insults out of it. Drinking cow's milk by choice doesn't make me unweaned anymore than not drinking cow's milk makes you an adult.

  6. It used to be called Almond Milk. I noticed the change one week when I went in to get my normal supply.

  7. Same amount of sodium as in a slice of TJ's Turkey Bacon. Know of no other milk-type beverages that high.

  8. My father once remarked that he didn't understand why humans drink cow's milk. You don't see full grown cows out in the pasture still sucking from the teat, and, we don't nurse after we are no longer infants, he remarked. So why are we drinking milk? I don't know, but all I can tell you is, I wish I didn't love my iced coffee and milk so darn much. I don't *drink* milk other than for Coffee Lattes and I don't consume it other than for cereal or as a cooking ingredient. In other words, I don't drink a glass of milk by itself. I'd like to give almond milk a try but I've always been afraid it would have to much "personality." I'll have to give it a go.