The Best and Worst Products at Trader Joe's Volume 4

If you love Trader Joe's — the colorful shirts, the name tags, the friendly atmosphere, all its quirky products — then you've probably done product recon on What's Good at Trader Joe's?, the four-member team review site that has been rating the store's best and worst products since August of 2010. Nathan Rodgers, his wife Sonia, and their friend Russ Shelly and his wife Sandy set out almost two years ago to review the cult grocer's some 4,500 products. They've been going at a pretty good clip, and with this installment of The Best and Worst Products at Trader Joe's are narrowing in on having reviewed 10 percent of its products (more than 275 reviews covering about 325 products). That's no joke.

The Best and Worst Products at Trader Joe's? Volume 4 Slideshow

While the reviewers are fans of Trader Joe's, they take reviewing seriously — their first review was even negative. Here's their process:

• They rate products on a scale of one to 10, 10 being the best.

• For any post, two people rate the product.

• Reviewers give their overall impression and up to five points each.

In previous installments on The Daily Meal, the good folks at What's Good at Trader Joe's reviewed at least four or five products in each category. Best breakfast, best appetizers, best vegetarian, best frozen treats — there's as wide a range of categories as you'd expect. But Nathan, Sonia, Russ, and Sandy have had some fun with the categories, too, including things like "Spousal Discrepancy," "Biggest Winner Versus Expectation," and "Worst. Stuff. Ever."

Consider the best of the best in the 15 categories as they've ranked them so far for The Daily Meal:

• Vegetarian: Veggie Sausage Patties (9/10)

• Breakfast: Organic Mango Passion Granola (10/10)

• Appetizers: Heat & Eat Falafel: (9.5/10)

Biggest Winner Versus Expectation: Baker Josef’s Chocolate Cake and Frosting Mixes (10/10)

• Worst Stuff Ever: Turkey "Meatloaf Muffins" (0/10)

• Frozen Treats: Lemon and Triple Ginger Snap Ice Cream (10/10)

• Gluten-Free: Gluten & Dairy Free Homestyle Pancakes (8/10)

Seafood: Oven-Ready Breaded Cod Fillets (8.5/10)

• Fruit Snacks: Pear Sauce (8.5/10)

• Spousal Discrepancy: Non-Fat Plain Frozen Yogurt (6.5/10)

• Healthy Beverages: Organic Low-Fat Probiotic Smoothies (8.5/10)

• Tasty Juice Blends: Strawberry Kiwi Juice (10/10)

• Coffees and Teas: Spicy Chai Latte (8.5/10)

• Miscellaneous Drinks: Vintage Root Beer (9/10)

Beverages to Avoid: Spiced Cranberry Cider (3/10)

Of course, there's love and hate for Trader Joe's, and readers have also weighed in. For more about the products above and past reviews by Russ, Sandy, Nathan, and Sonia, visit their great site, read the full stories, or check out the new page dedicated to their progress:

The Best and Worst Products at Trader Joe's

New products reviewed in this go-round by the team fall into five categories: Unusual Good Finds, Best of the Rest, Easy Dinners, Sugary Impulse Buys, and Biggest Disappointments. Without further delay, new reviews from Russ Shelly and company from What's Good at Trader Joe's?:

Unusual Good Finds

There’s a lot you’ll see at Trader Joe’s that you just won’t readily see somewhere else. Needless to say, there are more homeruns than strikeouts, so we’re always on the lookout.

1. Trader Joe’s Edamame Hummus (8.5 points)

A unique take on the classic formula, the edamame hummus certainly tastes the part while retaining a smooth, creamy texture. It’s even better when matched with the TJ Quinoa and Black Bean Infused Tortilla Chips, or perhaps our next entry.

2. Trader Joe’s Falafel Chips (8.5 points)

Things we knew could make good chips: potatoes, corn, rice, beans, heck, even kale... but falafels? Oh yeah. This could be the start of the revolution right here. They’re even better with some spicy hummus or guacamole.

3. Trader Joe’s Shrimp Corn Dogs (8 points)

I can hear the cynics from here: "Yeah, batter up anything and deep-fry it on a stick, people will eat it." Yeah, well, read the product again, slowly: Shrimp. Corn. Dogs. That is not a misprint.

4. Trader Joe’s Edamame Tofu Nuggets (8 points)

Finally, a vegetarian nugget option that, instead of trying to emulate meat, is its own, unique product. Although Asian-inspired, these paired well with any sauce we dunked them in. Fantastic.

5. Trader Joe’s Lamb Vindaloo (7.5 points)

Right, lamb and vindaloo aren’t all that unusual for those familiar with Indian cuisine... but to have a frozen entrée of it that’s absolutely delicious, straight out of a microwave, of all things? I mean, it’s microwavable lamb. Now that’s unusual, and that’s before what your coworkers will think of your lunch. Amazing, but it needs more lamby bits.

The official Trader Joe’s frozen food power rankings

2020, if you haven’t noticed, isn’t going particularly well. Social distancing and self-quarantining are two gerunds we’ve all become very familiar with over the last weeks, and as far as food goes, it means one thing: You’re eating at home more. Whether you’re getting takeout from your favorite restaurants or scouring the CVS shelves for beans and hand sanitizer, we’re all eating more meals on the couch.

Which brings us to Trader Joe’s, the place for millennials who don’t like to cook but do like to drink. Joe Coulombe, who died last month at 89, ingeniously created a chain where each branch somehow seems as friendly as a small-town grocery store. Hand-written signs, the signature Aloha-shirt uniform, the fact that employees are actually, you know, reasonably helpful and friendly. Their little Fearless Flyer newsletter, looking cribbed straight from the Farmers’ Almanac, as old-timey as a shop that spells the word “shoppe,” might distract you from the fact that the chain was sold in 1979 to the Albrecht family, founders of the multibillion-dollar German behemoth Aldi.

I have a Martin Luther-esque list of grievances about the store: Why is it Trader Joe’s-branded everything? Do you expect me to believe that yogurt and those peanut butter pretzels and that fried rice all came out of one magical factory in Monrovia? Why can’t you buy, like, normal grocery store things like aluminum foil? But those are for another time. People are stressed out, and people gotta eat.

Here are the scientifically proven and totally correct Trader Joe’s Frozen Food Power Rankings, freshly wiped down this morning with the last can of Clorox wipes on earth. I have tried no fewer than 37 different Trader Joe’s frozen food products (Did I omit your favorite? I’m sure I did!), which I have ranked based on two metrics: 1) Taste and 2) Laziness Factor — how easy was the prep and cleanup? (Factors in oven time if that’s recommended. A higher ranking means it’s easier.) As Trader Ming would say, 慢慢吃!

If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to ice cream, this is a good option. Personally, I think it’s a little lacking in the flavor department. If you like the tang of Greek yogurt, you’ll like this one because it shines through the light vanilla flavor.

Another healthier version of traditional vanilla ice cream, this one doesn’t have that weird tartness from the Greek yogurt. It does, however, have a slightly icy texture due to the low fat content that I think takes away from the flavor.

"Oh, holy crap. I bought them the other day and ended up eating the last one that was supposed to be for my boyfriend. Made a special trip Friday evening to buy more. I had to have him hide the last one so I wouldn't eat it again. They're incredible."

"Honestly these are some of the best cupcakes I've ever had (including homemade, Magnolia, and Georgetown.)"

The Secrets Behind Trader Joe's Low, Low Prices

Ever wondered how Trader Joe's is able to push high-quality products at downright cheap prices? We did a bit of digging to get the secrets behind their bargains.

Photo: Melissa Rewick/Getty Images

It&aposs no secret we&aposre obsessed with Trader Joe&aposs. From the fragrant flowers that greet you at the door to the displays of seasonal snacks, a trip to this California-based grocery chain feels like a treat, rather than a chore.

We know we&aposre not alone. Step into a store on any weeknight after work, and the aisles are packed. Indeed, Trader Joe&aposs has created a true fan base for its quality products, which are sold at incredibly low prices.

How exactly is Trader Joe&aposs so cheap? The chain is notoriously tight-lipped on the specifics of its cost-saving practices, so we did a bit of digging and came up with four key ways Trader Joe&aposs keeps its prices so low while keeping such loyal customers.

1. Brand-Name Products at Private-Label Prices

Nearly all of the products in Trader Joe&aposs stores are wrapped with in-house branding, complete with unique names and custom art. Instead of Oreos, you&aposll dunk Joe-Joe&aposs in milk. Instead of Swedish Fish, you&aposll nosh on Scandinavian Swimmers. Cheddar Goldfish fans should look for Cheddar Rockets.

Here&aposs why that matters to the prices you pay: Trader Joe&aposs buys its products directly from suppliers, cutting out the middlemen and associated costs.

Second, about 90 percent of products in stores are private-label, compared to just 16 percent across the supermarket industry. This all but eliminates competition, which can hike up costs for manufacturers and prices for consumers.

Lastly, the company avoids paying slotting fees, a surcharge grocery stores can bill manufacturers for prime placement on supermarket shelves. Slotting fees drive up the cost for the manufacturer, which in turn drives up the end price for the consumer.

It&aposs no secret that Trader Joe&aposs products are purchased directly from brand-name suppliers. What is a secret, however, is which suppliers they keep in their lineup. The store&aposs been notoriously mum on the subject, though that hasn&apost stopped some internet sleuths from finding some seemingly spot-on matches. (Google "Trader Joe&aposs brand names" if you&aposre curious.)

By eliminating brand competition from its stores, Trader Joe&aposs skips the pricing games and fills the shelves with high-quality products at a significantly lower cost. What&aposs not to love?

Shea Butter & Coconut Oil Hair Mask

You might not have the time for a professional hair masque, but you’ll make space in your schedule when you see the price of Trader Joe’s Shea Butter & Coconut Oil Hair Mask ($3.99). Frizzy, fried hair gets a drink of rich, nourishing hydration with botanical-infused ingredients like coconut oil, shea oil, and argan oil. Floral extracts like blackberry and a๺i make it enjoyable for your nose, too. It’s safe to use once a week, so maybe buy an extra bottle while you’re there.

Favorite Vegan/Vegetarian Item: Cauliflower Gnocchi

Courtesy of Trader Joe's

Is it any surprise that Trader Joe's cauliflower gnocchi is the fan-favorite pick for the best vegan and vegetarian item? Not only are these bites free of meat and dairy, but they're also free of gluten. A non-restrictive frozen food indeed, and a tasty one too.

Nutrition per 3/4 cup
Calories: 120
Total Fat: 2.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 5 g
Sugars: 17 g
Protein: 4 g

When buying cereals, it is important to pay attention to nutrition information and not just promises made on the product packaging. Trader Joe's Lowfat Granola Cereal may contain less fat than regular granola, but if you're looking to reduce fat and sugar intake, Raisin Bran is a much better option. It contains less sugar and half the fat than the Lowfat Granola. I heard it on the grape vine that Raisin Bran also has more fiber, which can help you feel fuller faster.

Here Are the Most-Loved Trader Joe’s Products of the Year, According to Customers

The 12th Annual Customer Choice Awards spotlights the best Trader Joe’s products right now. Did your favorites make the cut?

Each year, fan-favorite grocery store Trader Joe&aposs invites its legions of customers to vote for the best products of the previous year, and the winners for 2020 (collected in early 2021) are in. Some might argue that everything at Trader Joe&aposs is worth buying, but regulars certainly have their favorites𠅊nd their votes don&apost lie.

Many winners of the 12th Annual Customer Choice Awards are tried-and-true classics, but some are trendier, newer options, or even some products that aren&apost necessarily offered at all stores.

In the announcement of the winners, the grocery store chain does note that availability of all items is not guaranteed, especially when it comes to seasonal favorites, so don&apost be surprised if you have to wait until the next holiday to get your hands on certain items. As any savvy TJ&aposs customer knows, the chain doesn&apost stock the same items (particularly niche or seasonal items) at every single store if you see an item on the list of the best products at Trader Joe&aposs that you haven&apost seen in your store, it likely just hasn&apost arrived yet, or is a more niche item.

In the past, the awards were split into 16 categories, with one winner and four runners-up for each, for a total of 80 top-ranked Trader Joe&aposs items. This year, the Awards were simplified a little bit, with just nine categories, though long-time fans of the grocery chain will still see some familiar products, plus a few shake-ups. (Spoiler alert: Everything But the Bagel Seasoning Blend has been dethroned in one major category.)

Get your grocery list ready and scroll on for the 2020 winners—these top items may give your next TJ&aposs run a new purpose.

The Worst Things You Can Do At Trader Joe's

For as smiley-faced as Trader Joe's cashiers are, the store's fans can be tough. If you so much as get in line incorrectly, you'll face their wrath. The rules of shopping at TJ's are generally straightforward, but if you've forgotten how to pick up groceries with manners, here's a refresher.

Don't bring your personal life into the aisles.

You know a good place to catch up with a friend? The park. Your house. A bar. Anywhere but a grocery store. When you stop to talk to, hug, or makeout with someone (all true things we've witnessed) in Trader Joe's small aisles, you cause a bottleneck of shoppers who just want to grab their damn frozen teriyaki chicken and leave.

Don't take all of the samples.

The people who love Trader Joe's samples are far less vocal than Costco's fans, but they're just as loyal. The thing is, TJ's only has one free food station instead of a dozen dotting the store. It's just a matter of math: If you take all of the grub there, there won't be any left for the rest of us. And that's just rude.

Don't make the cashiers shop for you.

Something crazy happens when you make a grocery list: You don't forget anything! There's nothing worse than getting to the front of a long Trader Joe's line, only to find yourself waiting for an open register. The culprits are the people who casually request someone go find them the five things they missed.

Don't pop in and out of line.

We get it: Lines are long and you want to kill two birds with one stone &mdash AKA mark your place in line with your cart while running through the store to shop. Your fellow shoppers may let this slide one &mdash even two &mdash times, but any more is just pushing your luck. Be aware of how long you're gone for, too. No one wants to push your cart down the line for you.

Don't hoard the popular products.

Yes, cauliflower rice has literally changed your life, and there's really nothing better than cookie butter, but that doesn't give you permission to buy out the store's entire stock. The rest of the world wants to share in your joy. Please let them.


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Watch the video: Why Trader Joes is So Ridiculously Cheap (January 2022).