First, a friendly warning: I am not affiliated with Trader Joe's in any fashion. Do not act as if I am a Trader Joe's representative. This warning will not stop AOL/Hotmail users, but I try. NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE IGNORED THIS DISCLAIMER AT THEIR PERIL: 13. WILL YOU BE NEXT?
What qualifies me to write this document, you may ask. I will tell you. I have been purchasing goods at Trader Joe's for eight years. I have frequented Trader Joe's in Michigan, Arizona, and California. I have been to the Trader Joe's in Monrovia, California, the "home base" city of Trader Joe's. I have filled out Trader Joe's request cards. I have eaten cheesecake served to me by a Trader Joe's employee wheeling a cart around to the people in line. I have accurately predicted the length of future employment of a Trader Joe's employee wearing skimpy hot pants and a Christian Cross necklace (short as her short shorts). In short, the question you should be asking me is "What doesn't qualify you to not write this document?" The answer to that is not nothing, my friend. Not nothing.
Trader Joe's has a in-store periodical called The Fearless Flyer which primarily lists new products, devoting one or two paragraphs to each new item. For some reason the occasional release of TFF is hyped like it's some life-changing event. No one is fooled. Here's a completely superfluous excerpt from the Fearless Flyer indicating how to prepare Trader Joe's Ricotta Stuffed Chicken with Marinara:
"Just remove the stuffed chicken breasts from the plastic tray and place in an oven proof baking dish. Pour the included marinara over the chicken and bake for 45-60 minutes. (Instructions are on the package, too.)"It's just a lot of stuff like that.
They also have a "store demonstration area" where there will sometimes be someone serving up free food. When this is happening there is sometimes an overweight man with a ponytail talking up a blue streak with the demonstrator and hammering on whatever free food and/or drink product is featured that day, and I think the two are related, somehow. Those are the times when I avoid the store demonstration area.
Their website is still stuck in 1927, and I'm not talking about just the copyright-free clip art. If you want to drop them a note, you can go to their website and get the address of the East coast or West coast address to send a letter to. That's right, Trader Joe's has a website but doesn't have any facility for processing incoming email. You cannot send them email. They are this huge multi-state grocery store thing. But you cannot. 2012: At some point they joined the 20th century online and now you can contact them. It's the SPACE FLOATY FUTURE TIMES
If you end up falling in love (as advertisers like to pretend) with a product, you should hoard it. I mean, buy as much as you can. Because sometimes products disappear for months, sometimes forever. Trust me. Hoard. Buy n duplicates, use one, and keep up your regular shopping, rotating through like a queue where everyone is the same. It's like having a mini Trader Joe's backup store in your cupboard. Remember when you played shopping as a little kid with empty cereal boxes? Same thing. But realer. FOR KEEPS.
See also these excerpts from the book Trader Joe's Adventure.
Let's look at the products now. First up are Trader Joe's in-house products, then third-party products.
Trader Joe's toothpaste.
This is the latest TJ's product to "Joeify" a regular brand. TJ's likes to sell you products, but what they like to do even more is sell you their products. To this end, they will sell you Product X, but they will study it for awhile while wearing lab coats and serious awkward black-framed eyeglasses, making low thinking tones like "hmmmm" and "mmmmm." You, meanwhile, get used to buying Product X: you reach up on the shelf half-consciously, grab Product X, and throw it in your basket. Then one night, while everyone's asleep, HOO CHA! The Trader Joe Hawaiian-Be-Shirted Gremlins move in with their sophisticated personnel carriers and switch out Product X for Trader Joe's Copycat Version Of Product X Right Down To The Package Design. The next time you show up, you do the zombie thing just like the previous 37 times ... then, that night, you're trying to put the toothpaste on your brush and it's not coming out all smooth like Tom's of Maine, but chunky-style and it doesn't stick to the brush and 25% of the time you end up with a pea-sized bit of Trader Joe's of Borg Toothpaste on your shirt or in the sink. It's not your toothpaste at all. Your beloved toothpaste has been JOEIFIED. You have been warned, New York City. Update: mysteriously the mix is about 90% Tom's and 10% Trader Joe's right now. I don't know if Tom's is being assimilated or TJ's is backing down.
The other phenomenon which I learned about through other Trader Joe's-related websites is camoflaging. This is when a product manufacturer strikes a deal with Trader Joe's to sell their product in TJ's, but with a TJ's package. The product costs much less at TJ's, but the manufacturer sells a lot more, so everyone is happy except for people who are always unhappy. I call them "pessimists." It's hard to tell what's been Joeified and what's been camoflaged -- I thought perhaps if TJ's essentially duplicated the package design it would mean camoflauge, because you don't want to encourage a look-n-feel trademark lawsuit ... but the TJ's toothpaste box is a dead ringer for the Tom's toothpaste box, and that's clearly a Joeification. I do not know.
Trader Jacques Savon de France Ginger Almond Oatmeal Exfoliant.
This is a hefty bar of soap that smells good and is nice and your friend. I don't know what it is with the Dr. Bronner bar that usually sits next to it, I love their stuff but the Bronner bar smells like insecticide. Or it makes me smell like insecticide. Your smell may vary.
Trader Joe's Laundry Detergent.
Out of 29 laundry detergents rated by Consumer Reports in the November 2005 issue, Trader Joe's brand came in dead last. "With Trader Joe's, stains remained." It is also one of the few detergents which do not have "enzymes," which is according to Consumer Reports a "feature" and not a "HAZMAT situation."
Trader Joe's Organic whole-wheat spaghetti.
In that same issue of Consumer Reports, this spaghetti is rated a "Consumer Reports Best Buy" and is said to have a "sweet, nutty grain flavor; good texture." It's also mysteriously one cent higher (per each 2 oz.) than the comparable Whole Foods Market brand, which is completely opposite of what you'd think would be the case. I can't even shop at Whole Foods anymore, it's so expensive. Except for spaghetti, I guess.
Trader Joe's Vanilla Soy Protein ($9.99).
There is a problem with measuring the correct "serving size." The package container indicates that a serving size is two scoops "(32g)." The scoop itself is "43 cc." At some point in the past, the scoop included with the soy protein was enlarged, so I was no longer sure that two scoops was going to get me 32 grams, not that it's ever going to get you the same weight each time. I need to get a gram-sensitive scale.
Trader Joe's Banana Waffles.
Probably the best breakfast product in the whole store. Other than chocolate.
Tetra Pak™ Trader Joe's Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Soup ($2.49).
A grand boxed soup. Take the time to notice that they have trouble keeping it in stock, but not the other two varieties.
Tetra Pak™ Trader Joe's Corn Blah Blah Soup ($2.49).
Here's one of the ones that's always in stock. It's watery and pea soup green, unlike the carton which indicates a pleasant sunflower shade awaits inside. It's okay. Not good enough to buy again, though.
Trader Joe's Shrimp & Vegetable Frozen Gyoza ($3.99).
This stuff has to be about 20% of my body weight by now. It is constructed in Thailand. It's like your food has been to more places than you have. Get a passport, slacker.
Trader Joe's Dolmas Stuffed Grape Leaves.
I haven't had these for awhile. Back in the day, I would use my secret Non-Dessicated Grape Leaves trick -- picking the package up, tilting it, and seeing if there's any liquid at the bottom -- to get a good one (you want there to be liquid at the bottom, otherwise it's way too dry). But it was getting harder and harder to find one that had the liquid. So I quit. Yesterday I found one with liquid, so I gave it a shot ... and it was way way too salty. I don't know why. I do know I can't buy these for awhile again.
Trader Joe's Dried Fruit Apricots.
Someone told me eating one dried apricot was exactly like eating a whole apricot, so if you ate five little dried apricot pieces it was like eating five apricots. And I'm all like, well, then, what's orange juice like? They're all mixed together, so ... is it like drinking twenty million oranges? This product has sulfites. Sulfites force you at knifepoint to make bad odors. Now you know about ... (claps hands) sulfites!
Trader Joe's fruit (various).
Are Valencia oranges supposed to taste incredibly bitter? Then one of them turned to green dust within a week. Really, green dust. Not kidding here. This is what happens in nature, as well. I don't buy fruit here. But I don't buy fruit at the big national supermarket either. Most of this fruit is pumped-up tasteless trash, all so it can be shipped out-of-season around the world. This is another awesome side effect of our ever-shrinking world. Try a farmer's market (coincidentally there's one in the local TJ's parking lot twice a week), buying local, growing your own, or fashioning your favorite fruits out of craft paper and those color markers that also smell like fruits. Add big smiley faces. Fruit should be happy. 2006 November: On the other hand, they are now offering fruit in single servings without that stupid plastic box. I bought a few Fuji apples, and one of them was the best apple I have ever tasted. I think it was some kind of fluke, it was like this bizarre awesome melody of flavors I've never tasted from a Fuji and I wasn't on drugs. That week. Seriously, it was like someone ripped a blindfold off my eyes after a lifetime of stumbling around blind, is what the taste was like. I would have married that Fuji apple taste if it was legal. I AM NOT KIDDING. It is like the time I was at Burning Man and I had some chocolate cake (again, not while on drugs; I only take recreational drugs while piloting recreational vehicles, like boats or ORVs) and it was amazing. Just insanely good. So I asked a friend to figure out who made it (because I was busy eating, duh) and it turned out it was some guy named "Safeway." That there's a true story.
Trader Joe's Fruit Leather (various; $0.25/ea).
These are good little snacks. Just a quarter. The apple tastes the best, no grit like some of the others. There is also non-Trader Joe's fruit leather available, possibly a joeification that went horribly awry. They cost more (organic) for less. Haven't tried 'em. Someone told me they prefer the "remnant bag" of TJ fruit leather, and I'm all "I've never seen anything like that" and they're like "uh huh" and I'm like "nuh uh" and that's when the switchblades come out, the horn section starts wailing and there's orchestral stabbing and stabbing stabbing.
Trader Joe's Tapioca Pudding Dessert ($1.99).
I read somewhere that tapioca prevents/inhibits/etc cancer. Seriously, something like that. Good enough for me. I hadn't had tapioca since I was three small children, so I jumped up, grabbed a container and cached it under the rolling bread bin. No one will find my secreted Trader Joe's Tapioca Pudding Dessert. I probably shouldn't buy this as much as I do.
Trader Joe's Celery & Peanut Butter Snack Pack ($1.89).
Oh come on.
Trader Joe's Cuban Style Black Beans.
This stuff is good straight out of the can, lightly strained and warmed up.
Trader Joe's Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce ($1.49).
Most of the cheap TJ non-cheese pasta sauces taste like ass, but somehow I've been able to coax a little life out of this one, but it's probably more likely that I'm just doing more of the right sauce-preparation things now and less of the wrong ones. That is to say, you can't just dump this stuff out of the jar and hope for a miracle. You want that, move toward the pastas with cheese in them. Cheeses mask imperfections.
Trader Joe's Turkey Stromboli.
It's just a tad too heavy. Even after cutting it in half. Be lighter, stromboli.
Trader Joe's Middle East Feast.
Is this still offered? The Nutrition Facts label has a lot of high double-digit numbers. 63% sodium, for example. Take a look, good for some laughs.
Trader Joe's Vegetable Samosas.
Just a tad too oily. Perhaps you could bake them, instead of microwaving them as I have in the past, and they would be perfect. Lemme know how that goes. Update: I tried putting them in a toaster oven. Still too oily. Pass.
Trader Joe's Hawaiian Style Salt & Vinegar Potato Chips.
These gave me a stomachache about three hours later, and this is an uncommon thing. It may just be that I can't handle this type of chip anymore.
Trader Joe's Baked Blue Corn Chips Salted ($1.69).
Just a tad too much salt. You will buy this and eat them all then think to yourself "wow, I can't buy those again, because ... too much salt." They're also very thin, not good for dipping into mildly viscous sauces.
Trader Jose's Unsalted Tortilla Chips ($1.59).
These come in a red bag and are marked "made from stone ground yellow corn." They are sturdy and relatively tasteless. But it's all about the scooping and the dipping.
Trader Joe's Unsalted Blue Corn Tortilla Chips ($1.49).
These are the chips you want.
Trader Joe's Chili & Lime White Corn Tortilla Chips.
Good lord what happened. At one time, years ago, you could get a wonderful limekick, you could taste the mild chili, you could even taste the sour cream that they add. Now, you can't taste any of it, but you're paying for it ... how annoying. Avoid.
Trader Joe's Classic Original Water Crackers ($1.19).
A hors d'oeuvres topping delivery system. With a slice of mozzarella on top, it works. My memory is dim, but I'm pretty sure Trader Joe's at one time stocked Carr's® Classic Table Water® Crackers (the Carr's product page is woefully inadequate but "did you know that Carr's® Crackers come in a variety of savoury flavors?") and the package design of the TJ's crackers indicates the remnants of clear joeification or camoflaging. The last ingredient listed: sugar. In the Nutrition Facts box, "sugars" is listed as "0g." An intriguing paradox.
Trader Joe's Spicy Black Bean Chips.
This is a dippable chip made out of black beans. It is essential. Top shelf. I don't know about the regular black bean chips.
Trader Joe's Fat Free Smoky Black Bean Dip ($1.49).
This is an excellent dip. Combine this with Trader Joe's Spicy Black Bean Chips, and you're royalty. Chip royalty.
Trader Joe's Salad Dressing.
This is apparently camoflaging. Read this to discover more products that are repackaged and sold for less at TJ's.
Trader Joe's Turkey Sandwich Thing.
This was $3.39, now it's $4.19 and smaller. What?
Trader Joe's Breaded Chickenless Nuggets.
Doesn't really have that chickeny taste, but even real chicken doesn't anymore thanks to factory farming. It tastes okay. No saturated fat. The package has "MADE WITH SOY - MEATLESS" stamped all over it, and in one place you can only see part of the text: "MEATLES" ... Meatles. Blar.
Trader Joe's Salmon Sushi.
Ingredients have been slowly disappearing from this product. Now it's just the rice, the seaweed, and the salmon. I'm suggesting you pass on all of the sushi.
Nature's Path Toaster Pastries.
The apple flavor is damn good, but I think they discontinued it. The strawberry flavor is also damn good. I avoid most strawberry things because of those stupid little pips, but they are not in evidence here. The list of ingredients isn't a novel like Pop-Tarts.
Nature's Path Hemp Organic Cereal ($2.29).
This price has held steady for an estimated twenty-seven years. It has some of your Omega Man requirements or something, I forget. I'm not into "granola" and all that crap, but this cereal has the right chew profile and doesn't have any tie-dyed anything on the package. Also, if you get bored with eating it, you can always roll it up and smoke it.1
Barbara's Bite Size Oat Shredded Cereal ($3.29).
This is the blandest goddamn cereal you can find in your grocer's freezer today. But the chew profile is exquisite - they puffed the sides out so it's like a little oat ball, almost. You'll think to yourself late at night, "I could really go for some of that cardboard crap cereal." It's also a tad more nutritious than Barbara's Multigrain Shredded Spoonfuls. 20% fiber.
Barbara's Puffins® Cinnamon 100% Natural Crunchy Corn High Fiber Low Fat Wheat Free Cereal.
This cereal is stale right out of a new bag. Every time. I don't know why I forget, but every four years or so I see that bright, cheery little puffin on the box and I think "oh, I simply MUST try this completely-new-to-me cereal!" And then I chomp down on that first spoonful and my eyes roll up into my head and I think "oh yeah. This shit. Again." At least it's got cinnamon in it, which is good for your heart. Let's check back in 2010.
Barbara's Multigrain Shredded Spoonfuls.
This also has a great chew profile, though it's completely different from the previous entry's. Tastes good, doesn't seem to get boring after eating it most every morning for six months.
Trader Joe's Soy Milk.
I tried this in 1999. I remember thinking "well, this won't be around much longer." It's still around. Either they've improved the formula, or they're subsidizing it. The strawberry version features insects.
Tofurky Sausages Italian ($2.99).
These are nothing like Italian sausages, but they're not disagreeable. Better cut up and put into a sandwich. Greasy, also has saturated fats -- two pluses.
Yves Vegetarian Bologna Deli Slices ($1.99).
The slices all stick together and won't separate properly so really what you have is Yves Vegetarian Nearly Useless Bologna Deli Chunk. I don't think they have much of a taste, you'd be better off slicing some Tofurky length-wise. Or go with one of their other offerings, like The Good Ground Round. That was tasty.
Turtle Mountain Soy Delicious fake ice cream products.
I really don't get what's happened with Turtle Mountain at Trader Joe's. It's an awesome product, but take a look -- Turtle Mountain products always seem to have layers of ice on them. And they've trimmed down the product line somewhat, there's a whole world of Turtle Mountain out there but you'll only see the most generic flavors at TJ's. I've been disappointed too much by freezer burn in the past, and now I treat that section with disdain. Ben & Jerry's doesn't seem to have the same problem ... perhaps Turtle Mountain just isn't moving, and what I'm seeing is some sort of foolish, economically suicidal devotion to a product that should be flying off the shelves but is not. Update: I think it's the soy that's causing the freezer burn. Other places have the same problem.
Altoids Original Celebrated Curiously Strong Peppermints.
The tablet form of this product contains gelatin. I'm just saying. Vegetarians like to know these things. I'm a semi-vegetarian. But it's for health reasons. I don't care what you do. You can bite a cow in front of me. I'll hold your hand while you bite a cow. Happy? Hey, your skin is really soft. Do you moisturize? Uh-huh ... yeah ... I don't know, seven or eight, I guess ... [SFX: chomping noises in background]
Ritter Sport Milk Chocolate with Butter Biscuit ($1.49).
Chocolate and biscuits together is always delightful. I know some people prefer dark chocolate. I know this. This product is for the milk chocolate baby group, of which I am a member. The chocolate has a bad habit of separating from the biscuit and getting lost in the "crook" (groin) of your jeans.
Villars Swiss Milk Chocolate Bar ($1.69).
Great package design. Great milk chocolate. Again, if you are looking for a dark chocolate experience, perhaps they will have Scharffen Berger bars in NYC. I am sure you will find enough in the way of dark chocolate at Trader Joe's. Do not cry.
Trader Joe's Dried Fruit Chile Spiced Mango ($1.99).
This is your maximum dried fruit return on investment, and it doesn't have sulfites. After you eat half the bag, make sure you seal the bag up tight because the mangoes will dry up even further and at this point chewing makes it seem like you're on ESPN2. For chewing. Like a radical extreme chewing competition. Starring you. Don't mix these up with the other type of dried mango which has sulfites (memory jab: bad odors) and saturated fat. Killed 'round June of 2006. Resurrected September 2006. Certain products must go on long vacations, I think.
Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate Bar.
There is also a dark chocolate bar, but the strange thing is that the milk chocolate bar (a three-pack for around $1.59) was around for two months then disappeared. Notice how close this entry is next to the "discontinued" section. Just getting ready. 2006 October: And now suddenly the three-pack bar is back. We are all just lab rats in the freakish dynamic ever-changing product maze called Trader Joe's.
2006 December: This is the first time I've noticed that the bars are actually stamped "Callebaut." Did they forget to plane off the original logo for a batch? Or have I been unusually non-detective like? The answer is in your head. Bernard Callebaut says "some of my chocolates require up to nine separate manipulations, each by hand," if you follow me here.
Trader Joe's Pear & Gorgonzola Pizza. DISCONTINUED.
Something like that. It was swell, then they fiddled with the ingredients, and then it was not so swell. Then it disappeared. I am advising you to avoid all the pizzas. Sushi and pizza: my preferred diet, but not from TJs. SUSHI PIZZA!!!!!!!!1111!!1 OH MY GOD IT'S MY SEVENTY-FIRST MILLION-DOLLAR IDEER ... PIZZA SUSHI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11 72nd!!!! Sushi pizza car horns? Pizza sushi sex robots? I am exploring the ancillary product spectrum "out loud."
Pineapple Coconut Juice. DISCONTINUED.
It was essential. But then juices are not good for you, being delivery systems for fructose. As has been expressed on other web sites, there's nothing "natural" about taking a piece of fruit, extracting the juice, and discarding the fiber. But everyone likes a little juice now and then. God, if you ate only things that were good for you, you'd live to be 150 years old and who wants to be a leathery oldie oldster for half your life? Not me, pops. Not me. Pass the juice. Occasionally.
Black Rabbit Licorice. DISCONTINUED.
This stuff came in a oddly-chintzy paper bag, thick ropes of amazing black licorice from Australia. They discontinued it about four years ago. You missed out big time, Manhattan. Big time. Yep, the world doesn't revolve around you or your fair city, BOO-YAA! Ha ha, I gave New York City some "attitude." You can still get it in Australia. The licorice.
Vegetarian Ragu Sauce. DISCONTINUED.
This was the only low-priced sauce, I felt, that really wanted to work with me. And now it's gone.
Trader Joe's Oat Bran Flakes Cereal. DISCONTINUED.
They really had something, there. Not the one with raisins, the plain one. I don't know what happened. They should have little placards that explain why products are killed.
Those little cookies shaped like "S"s that were half-covered with choklit. DISCONTINUED.
They will always have a few interesting foreign products. Then they will disappear. Don't get too choked up over it.
Mccann's Instant Irish Oatmeal (Maple & Brown Sugar).
This stuff disappears for weeks, it's my #1 hoarding item. It's 20% better than the Apple & Cinnamon flavor. CONTRAINDICATION: Rice Dream Soy Milk.
Mccann's Instant Irish Oatmeal (Apples & Cinnamon).
I was all over this and then I discovered the Maple & Brown Sugar variant tasted a lot better even though the sugar content didn't go up much higher.
Trader Joe's Romaine Lettuce.
Holy hell, these have been in the refrigerator for two weeks and since day one it's smelled like someone just poured a gallon of pesticides in the bag and added one romaine leaf. It's horrid, you can smell it every time you (I) open the refrigerator. Oh man, I just went and opened it again. Ugh. I hate wasting food but it's gotta go.
Trader Joe's Frozen Shrimp Fried Rice.
I had to use the microwave because I ran out of oil. The bag reads "1-2 minutes" but it's more like three and a half minutes. It's frozen. Anyway, don't buy this stuff, go to a Chinese restaurant and order out. This stuff is just a pale approximation of shrimp fried rice. I used to order it regularly from several different restaurants, so don't get in my face about my shrimp fried rice qualifications. I'm qual, man. In general restaurant food will taste better than something frozen in a bag, but the difference here is profound. Haunting, some would say. And I don't think putting it over a burner is going to tighten up that chasm of taste much. Update: I put the remaining half over a burner with olive oil. It does get pretty close, actually. Lesson learned again: never microwave anything.
Trader Joe's Cheddar and Garlic Sourdough Bread.
More like Trader Joe's Non-Cheddar Non-Garlic Sourdough Bread! HA! HA! But seriously folks, what happened? This is a lot like the Chili & Lime White Corn Tortilla Chips, they used to be miracle chips and now they are not.
Laird & Company Villa Massa® Limoncello.
I am not a drinker. So take this with a spoonful of caution. Limoncello kicks major ass. It's the drink for people who like candy but barely enjoy alcohol. You can make limoncello with lemon rinds and vodka, but you have to wait it out for forty-six days or something and who's got time for that? If I was ten years younger, it could have turned me into an alcoholic. You are too late, Limoncello. I hear you whispering on lonely nights but I am not swayed by your siren song. Maybe one sip. Just one. 2011: Too sweet for me. I'm "developing" my palate.
Tastes great the first three seconds, then there's this unbelievably harsh note. It's mysterious. I'm a big fan of licorice, this is very disconcerting. The licorice is represented only by "natural flavor" and of course there's another appearance by our ubiquitous friend, the horse/cow hoof. Wave! Wave to the ... oh, sorry.
Trader Joe's Spicy/Smoky Black Bean Dip Theoretical Controversy.
Okay, what's the deal here? There's Fat Free Smoky Black Bean Dip with the white label, and Fat Free Spicy Black Bean Dip with the tan label. The ingredient list is ridiculously close, and I can't taste a difference -- though I haven't tried them side-by-side. I only purchased the Spicy Black Bean Dip recently because my old standby, Smoky Black Bean Dip, was missing.
Trader Joe's Fat Free Spicy Black Bean Dip.
Black beans, water, tomato paste, onions, distilled vinegar (from corn), honey, salt, jalapenos, spices, garlic.
Trader Joe's Fat Free Smoky Black Bean Dip.To make things even more confusing, there used to be a pinto bean dip that had a label very similar to the spicy black bean dip. I think all three products have been rolled into the spicy black bean dip label experience. But if smoky ever shows up again, We're gonna have a TASTE-OFF! Yeeeeeehawwwwwww!!!! [shoots gun in air, dances wildly, doesn't invest prudently]
Black beans, water, tomato paste, onions, distilled (corn) vinegar, honey, salt, chilies (peppers), garlic, spices.
Rice Dream Soy Milk.
I rarely get this but I've included it here to note a CONTRAINDICATION.
CONTRAINDICATION: Mccann's Instant Irish Oatmeal (Maple & Brown Sugar). Separate, these foodstuffs are food-like. Together ... you don't want them together.
Trader Joe's Aioli Garlic Mustard Sauce.
It's a good mustard. Mustard is hard to fuck up.
Trader Joe's Honey Graham Squares.
I'm not sure I get this. There's this unbelievable amount of dietary fiber in this stuff -- 31%. And it ROCKS. No saturated fat, no trans fat. Is this going to be like Pirate's Booty where the amount of fat was underreported? Please don't tell me.
Trader Joe's Goddess Dressing.
This is probably Annie's Goddess Dressing in camo. It's awesome. 6% saturated fat, though. Look away! LOOK AWAY! If it is Annie's, I don't understand why (A) they have actual Annie's pasta but not the dressing (well, not Annie's labelled dressing) (B) they don't have Annie's Mild Mexican pasta. That's more like an item on my Trader Joe's wishlist, actually.
Trader Joe's Organic Tomato Basil Marinara.
This is the standard marinara sauce I use when entertaining guests or foreign dignitaries. "One of the people in this room ... is a murderer." Then I turn off the lights. A shot rings out! The lights are quickly turned back on by my manservant, if you follow me here ... a body lies on the floor. Well, at least his last meal was a tasty one, eh, Joey? [FX: KICKS Joey] Hahahaha! [fin]
Trader Jose's Spiced Tortilla Chips.
"Made from stone ground yellow corn." Jose has reformulated his entire chip aisle in the last year or so. I used to know everything about every brand, now I go and I'm like "whur? Whah?" This chip is a good chip, just for snacking naked. I mean, a chip that doesn't have anything on it, and/or you're naked. 7% saturated fat makes this chip a winner. It also has a "trace of lime" but it must be the same lime as in the Chili & Non-existent Lime White Corn Tortilla Chips ... oh, snap! I re-indicated that the lime-based chip product is sub-par through a comical aside.
Trader Jose's Coffeehaus Mocha European Style Lowfat Yoghurt ($.99).
I'm really not your go-to guy for yoghurt. I haven't had yoghurt in many years, and even then it was completely sporadic. Does a mocha yoghurt even make any freaking sense? What will they put in yoghurt next, small mp3 players? You open up the container and stir it -- the results looks exactly like chocolate pudding, and that's what you're thinking but you get a mouthful of mochayoghurt. Tell me that's not painful on some level of perception. YOU CAN'T MASK THAT GREAT CURDLED MILK GRIMACE-CAUSING YOGHURT TASTE WITH FRUIT NOR COFFEE NOR ANYTHING. I read somewhere that all of this froo-froo fancy fruited and quite possibly mochaed-up yoghurt was reducing the amount of LIVE CULTURES that make it to whatever stop they need to get off at inside your body. Then there's a sentence after that that explains I have no idea if that information is of any assistance to you. 8% saturated fat.
Trader Jose's French Village Apricot & Mango Nonfat Yoghurt ($.59).
Trader Joe's has several lines of yoghurt, and then several flavors in each line. It's a great time to be alive, if you need over 30 varieties of Trader Joe's yoghurt to start your dreary office-based day. I got this variety from the Village Frencher. It's got little chunks of mango and apricot inside, though who can tell 'em apart when they're soaked in all of that yoghurt. I like this variety a lot more than the mocha -- it did not visually lie to me and say it was pudding, and it seemed more mellow. Less sour. I think people need the fruit inside to help them get through the hard times of actually eating yoghurt, knowing they're consuming actual living things that will probably have a better time floating around inside their gut than they're having back outside their own selves and in their own minds, filled with ennui and saturated fats. Maybe they should go to Europe, yeah? Kickstart the pleasure centers of their brain more than once every five months? Sell the car, seal the kids behind a wall? No saturated fat, sorry. 2007jun01: I had this again and all I could think about was the Lemon Pre-Stirred variety. It's good but you know, the lemon triumphs.
North Beach Mozzarella Cascade Dairy Products Hayward CA ($3.49).
This is probably not available in New York City, but I know all about your near-liquid fresh mozzarella obsessions over there. So you've probably got your moz all cornered elsewhere, some bodega selling illegal mozzarella on the side. You like that, that little rush of skirting the law ... it's just a cheese, get ahold of yourself. Anyway, Trader Joe's started stocking other TJ-branded cheese a few months ago, the type that hangs on hooks. I couldn't find the North Beach stuff and I was wailing through my veil for days on end -- then I noticed they moved it ten feet down the line. "Oh. Nevermind ... about the wailing." I saved the name of the manufacturer in case it really actually disappears (it is above). Because that's how it goes at Trader Joe's. You have to be pre-emptive about these sorts of non-Trader Joe's product things.
Trader Joe's keeps pissing me off. They're discontinuing my fav-rit products like they're going out of style. Bean chips, oatmeal, other chips. Gone.
Trader Jose's French Village Vanilla Nonfat Yoghurt ($.59).
I took me another trip to the French Village and all the Frenchies were yelling at me because I didn't have the correct change but the yoghurt I got was pretty good. That sort of frightens me, things that taste good typically aren't good for me, like cookies and drugs. But this cup o' yoghurt has the phrase "GRADE A - FRUIT ON THE BOTTOM" printed on it, and this puzzles me. I didn't find this fabled benthosfruit though I did stir it up rather mightily because some dogs were nearby and I was in sort of a dog-based revery and/or trance -- I was using all of my brainpower to concentrate on making sure no dog part came within two feet of my open food container. There is "pectin" in the ingredient list. Is that a fruit? I thought that was a fruit ingredient.
Trader Jose's Pre-Stirred Lemon Nonfat Yoghurt ($.59).
Here's another line, the "pre-stirred" line for those of you so on the go you just have to guzzle it straight from the cup sans spoon. The lemon flavor is crazygood, I like it even more than the ice cream-like black cherry yoghurt from the French Village line. Am I just getting used to the yoghurt taste, or is this actually like ten times better than that mocha-flavored yoghurt from way back when? Why does it taste so good? Saturated fat: 8%. Ah-HA! Also this is the first time I've noticed the little logo on each cup that reads: "MILK from cows not treated with rBST" and then in a circle around the phrase: "OUR COWS JUST SAY NOOOO" like they're about to be hit in the head with a flail. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO But I don't eat it that much anymore because of all the sugar.
Trader Jose's Coffeehaus Matcha Green Tea Lowfat Yoghurt ($.99).
It's the healthy health goodness of GREEN TEA and YOGHURT combined! IT CAN'T F[L]AIL! [pause] What is this stuff? I don't know what it tastes like, and maybe that's because I don't know what it's supposed to taste like. Five percent satfat.
Trader Joe's Low Fat Low Sodium Whole Grain Heart Healthy Organic Cinnamon Spice Instant Oatmeal.
This is not as good as Mccann's Instant Irish Oatmeal (Maple & Brown Sugar) or even Mccann's Instant Irish Oatmeal (Apples & Cinnamon). I ran out of my back stock of the former, so I had to resort to Joe's attempt to fill McCann's shoes. I won't be buying it again. Perhaps I'm ticked off at another good product disappearing and maybe the Trader Joe's version isn't as bad as I think it is. Tough knots. Months later, Mccann's vastly-superior version remains missing. And you got rid of those goddamned bean chips that I coveted for almost a decade now. I HATE you, Trader Joe. Now we're like people who run into each other occasionally and put on the forced smiles and the "you should call me" but we both know we're lying.
Trader Joe's Vegetable Masala BURGER with AUTHENTIC INDIAN SPICES
These are really good in a sammich. So good. I still hate you, Trader Joe's. 5% sat fat.
Trader Joe's Previously Frozen Salmon Burgers Made From Wild Alaskan Salmon
These are also very tasty in a sammich, or just wrapped in a tortilla with some spicy mustard, like a reverse ice cream bar.
Trader Joe's All Fruit Bars Handmade 100% Dried Fruit Bars Ends & Pieces of Assorted Flavors
My out-of-state friend told me about these and I told him that he was crazy because I'd been up and down my Trader Joe's and had never seen this product, let alone a sign for the product as all products have an associated sign. Finally I asked someone at the store and they had no idea what I was talking about even though "this Trader Joe's is the 5th busiest store" but he bubbled it up to management and LO AND BEHOLD they showed up within a week, with their own little sign. This. Item. Is. Awesome. It's the same thing as the fruit strips but like a calvalcade of them. Like your own little fruit parade. I don't know why they call them "bars" when they're actually "strips." Don't buy these for me, I'm like Cookie Monster with 'em. Except for the strawberry ones, with their goddamned pips. I endure. 2015: Here's what happens with products like this. They are never at your local Trader Joe's, so you ask a worker bee about them. Then they put a checkmark next to the product. A week later, a half-pallet of it shows up. Then it is purchased and gone again forever. At least, that's the way the fruit bars have played out. Sure, maybe I've seen them once or twice since I asked about them. But I bet those were other people also asking. I'm going to start a few rounds of experimentation along these lines.
Trader Joe's Avocado's Number Guacamole (DISCONTINUED)
I don't know what it is with TJ's and puns. This one is really reaching for it: "We could think of no better name for our new guacamole than 'Avocado's Number.' The number of premium Haas avocados mixed into this guacamole boggles the mind, not unlike Avogadro's number, the brainchild of mathematical physics professor Lorenzo Avogadro." etc. They neglect to mention that Avogadro's number is used a unit of measurement called a mole, and here we are with Guacamole. It's a double pun! Ha! Ha! This stuff is awesome, though I wish the container would seal back up. There are two containers in each package, so at least you can leave one sit for awhile and stay that pretty green color. It's deep, like your eyes, and tasty, also like your eyes. There's a sufficient kick lended by the "Granulated Garlic" and "Jalapeno Puree." I also like the unambiguous expiration date: "use or freeze by ..." Too many products have non-specific expiration dates or none at all. Like Sriracha, does that shit live forever? I don't know. This double-packaging guacamole system is much easier on the pocketbook than purchasing their four-pack of avocados and throwing out the one or two you didn't devour in time. I did the math, but now I forget. That's my particular style of post-Gonzo journalism, more revelatory than a permanently reality-shifting pharmacological hallucinogenic "trip," man. Get off my back, square! We're taking this train express all the way to I Can't Remember Town and Poor Note-Taking Land!
These look like traditional whoopie pies but maybe there's a reason they use the term "whoopee." Way too heavy, probably the least amount of enjoyment I've ever had eating any sort of cake product. I mean, it's not BAD, it's just not GOOD. It's as if someone made a whoopie pie after only hearing what it tastes like. "What, a cream filling? Yeah, I can fake that." Seriously, if you're looking for a traditional whoopie pie you should not be swayed by this pretend product.
Milk Chocolate S'mashing S'mores
Yet another chocolate product based on a tried-and-true tradition again falling short. "For a traditional s'more treat, place s'mores in the microwave for 4 to 6 seconds." [FX: places] Still ugh. I purchased these along with the Whoopee Pies, weeoooo you should have heard me ranting that day. Gosh.
Trader Joe's Three Layer Hummus: Traditional, Cilantro Jalapeno & Spicy
This used to be a good thing. But the "traditional" portion of this item, just like the "traditional" tub, has lost some ingredient, something that at one time made it creamy. An oil? I don't know. All I know is that it's not the same, most of the time. Some times you get lucky and the creaminess is back from vacation.
Trader Joe's Bistro Biscuits (DISCONTINUED)
Another loss leader product. 99c, and cancelled. These were great for walkabouts and the like. Now there is a different, similar product with an awful name like "Speculumms" and it costs twice as much.
Trader Joe's Patisserie de Chocolat dark chocolate cake
This is an amazing little cake, it seems to be well-balanced and the chocolate is high quality, to the point where I'm guessing that it is one of their chocolate "loss leader" products that will eventually disappear. I don't know, maybe I am talking out of my buttocks. Anyway, it's a nice little cake to bring to your bridge club or whatever. Note: I have done just such a thing twice now, and the second time, everyone got a slice, then I took it home and had the last slice for breakfast. Last bite of the last slice -- giant nut. Oh hello you. Probably a completely rare occurrence of rarity.
Trader Jose's Chicken Enchiladas
Let's put it this way. I took some of that Hayward mozzarella and sliced it onto some flour tortillas. Threw that into the microwave oven, and it tasted 10x better than this. Was there chicken in there? Must have missed it.
Trader Joe's Cubano Seasoned Wrap. [2013jan]
That was a disappointing wrap. I tend to stay away from the sandwiches. Also, it has the patented NothingHider™ technology going for it wherein you see a whole sandwich that is tucked under a label in the middle, but actually, under that label is the "cuban inspired mustard dressing" cup and your imaginary single long sandwich is, in Reality World, two much smaller sandwiches. It is an illusion meant to deceive. Usually you see this with cakes at Safeway wherein the top of the plastic casing has a sticker on it and you think there's a whole cake below that but it's a giant gaping NothingHider™ hole.
Trader Joe's Aloo Chaat Kati Pouches. [2013feb]
I guess it's okay, it just seems rather dry and bland, given the enticing "tamarind chutney" ... I think of a chutney as being more chutneyey than this was. [SFX: various noises of deflation for seventeen minutes]
Trader Joe's Deep Dish Pepperoni Pizza. [2013feb]
Okay, this actually approximates the taste of a deep-dish pizza. So maybe I will buy this once every six months, say, instead of an actual real pizza.
Trader Joe's Kona Coffee Creamy Half-Dipped Shortbread Cookies. [2013feb]
Weeeeoooot, doesn't this sound dreamy? How can you go wrong with shortbread "rich, buttery cookies blended with Kona coffeee" and a "sweet, creamy icing, also studded with ground Kona coffee." Oooh I know I know! You in the back. Okay, first, what you would do is make a terrible shortbread cookie, right? Then you would pour on some gunky icing with coffee bits in it. The whole thing, yeah? The whole thing would have barely any flavor. How would you do that? Why would you? It is a puzzle that you can solve on your own time. Disclaimer: I am not a coffee fan. I am a Coffee Sidekick fan -- all of the ancillary products like iced coffee, coffee ice cream, etc. Look, if you want me to like coffee, don't send me a random co-worker breathing horrid coffee breath on me while simultaneously complaining about/shirking work every damn day in a mind-numbing drone while I'm just a tiny growing sapling emerging from college with bright/shiny/wide/stupid wet eyes. That was your worst ambassador, coffee. I have coffee PTSD and I wasn't even in the shit.
Trader Joe's Fair Trade Organic Belgian Milk Chocolate Bar [2013feb]
It is a milk chocolate bar. These bars will always be better than office chocolate (Hershey's etc) because no PGPR.
Rice Dream Vanilla 1/2 Gallon  ($2.49).
This is good for cereal. I used to use soy milk, but too much soy and it's bad odor time again. But soy milk is a lot better for banana smoothies. If you want to make a smoothie, use the Costco soy milk, the off-branded Silk stuff. Rice milk just doesn't work that well in a smoothie. But kiss it goodbye, because here comes ...
Trader Joe's Rice Drink [2013mar] ($2.99)
I stopped buying rice milk I mean rice drink a long time ago, when they started watering it do-LIBEL! I mean, when I noticed that half of the time the carton that I purchased was augmented with water. When you pour rice milkdrink out after a vigorous shaking, it should be white, not this leaning-toward-clear drab shade bullshittery. I shouldn't have to mount it in a paintshaker to get that milky white color. I mean drinky white.
Trader Joe's Flowered Carrots Soup In A Metal Can Forgot The Name Plastic Lid [2013; DISCONTINUED]
This was an abomination. So much work put into the package design and the tin and then you get this threadbare SERIOUSLY NOTHING soup. Maybe there's a section of new products that they roll out full well knowing people are only going to buy them once. And then it quickly disappeared because: suck. Horse poop.
Trader Joe's Shrimp & Surimi Sushi Rice Bowl 
This thing has 73% of your RDA of salt, I think. 1760mg. My notes are poor on this. But it's 73% of something bad so that's a funny.
Trader Joe's Smoked Salmon Dip [2015jul]
Funny story. I don't spend a lot of time preparing food. That is one reason I shop at Trader Joe's. One of my endlessly-customizable "meals" is slathering some sort of viscous semi-pureed substance onto ripped up bits of tortillas. I am a master chef, I can do this in my sleep. I started buying the Smoked Salmon Dip once every other month or so ... then I read the ingredients. Salmon is the second ingredient. Can you guess the first? No you are wrong, it is cream cheese. There is nothing else on the label that indicates this. It's "Smoked Salmon Dip With Capers." So, a slight correction: this product's actual name is "Trader Joe's Cream Cheese Dip With Smoked Salmon Featuring Capers, Sure." Annnnd I buy it much less now, because I'm trying to watch my sexual figurine.
Trader Joe's Chunky Artichoke & Jalapeno Dip [2015sep]
Okay, here is the same thing again. Cream cheese & monterey jack cheese lead the charge, artichokes show up third. And the thing is, the dip doesn't really taste like anything. What should it taste like? It has a slight kick, the artichoke chunks are chunky but you can't hear the reedy artichoke notes when the cheese twins are screaming at you "CHECK OUT THIS PHATT, DAWG!!!!1!!1" It's funny, the chunklets ... along with cream cheese ... it got me thinking about a favorite bread slather from my ill-advised youth, Kraft Pineapple Spread. Similar both in nomenclature (it is listed at least one popular online purveyor as "Kraft Cheese Spread, Pineapple") and mouthfeel. So not only could I not really taste any sort of flavor originally ... when I made that connection, I started getting false pineapple spread sense memories (I have False Pineapple Spread Sense's first seven-inch ... it was a split with Coffee's Worst Ambassador).
Trader Joe's Coco-nuts [2015sep]
Look, I have had a lot of coco-nuts. My doctor told me I should "lay off the coco-nuts, or else you're gunning for an advanced blowout case of coco-nutitis" but I think he's just being fictional. The last Trader Joe's coco-nut I had was easily in the top three of coco-nuts ever. It wasn't one of those things where there were extenuating circumstances wherein I had a hard day or it was extremely hot or I was feeling intensely tropical ... I wasn't expecting anything special and was overwhelmed with surprise. They also don't know how to price the things -- every time I get one they knock a dollar off of it and I have to go through the whole "no, I want to stay here another three minutes while you fix that" routine. I spoke with a Trader Joe's representative and he said coco-nuts were an "opportunity buy ... basically the warehouse holds onto them." Sounds like the problem with All Fruit Bars Handmade 100% Dried Fruit Bars Ends & Pieces of Assorted Flavors as well.
Trader Joe's Caprese Sandwich $3.49 [2015sep]
This is a sandwich. It has a big thick hunk of mozzarella in it, tomatoes, basil, and that might be it. I get it occsasionally when I want to eat immediately because I have other errands to run or such. I like it. The bread is chewy. Cheese is cheese. While researching the infamous Country Italian salad (see below), I ran into a reference to a "Caprese Salad" which is actually tomatoes with cheese and basil on top. Literally three ingredients. It is not a salad. Do not be fooled. It is also supposed to call to mind the Italian flag. We do this in the US as well but it requires a lot of sugar and food coloring.
Trader Joe's Country Italian Salad with Parmesan Garlic Vinaigrette $3.49 [2015sep]
Trader Joe's has a lot of single-serving salads but most of them have chicken in them. It's not that I don't eat chicken, it's that I don't need chicken in my salad. That's what [FX: camera pans over to large meat section of plate] this chicken is for. I josh, the salads are 100% of my lunch two or three days a week. I have been around the salad block. I don't know what exactly makes this salad specifically "Country Italian," it seems more "Rando Ingredient." I started to do research but I'm here in US of Americas, cannot read Italian and put ZERO trust in anyone who says in English that this or that salad is "authentic Italian" given that the CEO of Olive Garden isn't in jail right now. So. It's a good generic/Country Italian salad. Good balance of greens and the jazzy stuff like cheese, which as I may explain down the road a bit is a minor problem with Trader Joe's. #2 on my salad list. Additionally, all of the pre-packaged salad packages seal rather well, so after you finish grazing you can load it up with other dead garbage and run your own li'l mold culture terrarium.
Trader Joe's Classic Greek Salad Feta Cheese, Cucumber, Kalamata Olives and Greek Dressing
This is my #1 pre-saladed salad these days. The only complaint I have is that occasionally the cucumbers are wilty. It is probably a good indicator if you've got a freshie on your hands or an older, more mature salad.
Trader Joe's Southwest Salad with Black Beans, Corn, Cotija Cheese and a Tangy Ranch Dressing
This is my #3, but sometimes I have to lay off because of the tangy. Sometimes it's just too much tangy to think of. Tangy.
1 There is no THC in the cereal. They used to have big signs on either side of the display notifying you of this, back when there was an ill-conceived FDA-crackdown on foodstuffs with THC in 'em. The U.S. government has decided that a plant is illegal, that's it worth killing people over. It's a divine comedy that keeps the prison-military-industrial complex fat and happy.