Thursday, April 7, 2011

What isn't on your Trader Joe's list?

Yes, there are plenty of things at Trader Joe's that I love. The kalamata olive oil, Mandarin Orange Chicken and frozen jasmine rice all have regular spots in my kitchen. I still mourn the departure of the mojito simmer sauce.

But with so many unusual and quirky products, you're going to hit a wrong one occasionally. In a blind tasting of chicken broths in 2008, the one that was dead-last for me was Joe's. It had such a fake taste, I described it as tasting like rubber chicken.

So before I ask for a list of the things you always get at Trader Joe's, I wanted to start with the opposite: What didn't work for you? Looking around online, there are poor reviews for chicken lasagne, lobster ravioli and chocolate-covered edamame. I confess their Dijon mustard doesn't have the zing of Grey Poupon, and the cilantro dressing didn't fly for me.

Are there Trader Joe's products that you tried once and didn't add to your favorites list?

52 comments:

Anonymous said...

Their bran cereal has a weird aftertaste and most of their frozen pizzas aren't tasty at all. Even after you snazz 'em up with extra cheese or toppings, they're still kinda gross.

Rod said...

Sour cream chicken enchiladas (frozen): sour cream had a weird taste, and when heated per instructions, the product was mushy.

Anonymous said...

I went to Trader Joe's to see what the hype was about. I still don't understand it. People were grabbing things off the shelves as if the items were free and they only had 30 seconds to grab as much as they can. I stood and watched the insanity for a moment, then looked around to see what priceless items were on the shelves. No store brands, just organic foodstuff. I finally found some $3 wine that had a terrible sulfuric aftertaste. I'm not brainwashed by the Trader Joe's mystique and like my regular grocery store just fine.

Anonymous said...

If you read ingredient labels, you will notice the main difference between Trader Joe's and other "regular" grocery stores. TJ items generally do not include hydrogenated corn syrup and all that other crud that the national "brand name" companies use. I like the fact that most of the things you can buy at Trader's are natural & organic without the expense of other health food stores like Whole Foods or Earthfare. I really like most things I've gotten at TJ's, but I am not a fan of the infamous "two buck chuck" - they have much better offerings on their shelves for about the same price - you just have to experiment to find one you like.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, A-10:27am.
I've heard so much about Trader Joe's and as of yet no one has said anything save, Oh, you gotta' go! Why?
You answered my question.

Anonymous said...

Their basmati rice is soapy tasting and their frozen pastas are gummy when heated up.

Anonymous said...

Trader Joe's is a cult. You're either in or out!

Anonymous said...

Their gyoza Chinese dumplings with pork are very yummy. Their natural sodas are great. You can't beat their prices on spices. And their fresh hot salsa is low sodium and really snappy. Also, try the salmon mousse. Finally, their produce gets great turnover and is very fresh. I've never gotten a bad avocado there.

Bob said...

Out, thank you.

Anonymous said...

I like most of their sliced loaf breads.

Their deli offerings are good, if pricey. They used to have a turkey meatloaf in California that was very good but they don't carry it here.

I also like their dijon mustard and it's way cheaper than Grey Poupon.

The one thing I don't touch is their frozen food, except for the frozen fruits which are good.

Anonymous said...

Oh, their mayonnaise sucks.

Anonymous said...

A lot of their ultra-processed foods (frozen pizza, frozen meals, etc) have that typical, strange processed food taste. I stick to more real foods there and it's great. They have awesome prices on nuts, seasonal produce, cheese (I'm a huge Tillamook fan and you can't find it for less than $5 anywhere else!), frozen fruits and veg, rice and beans. Their handmade flour tortillas are awesome and have the chewy bite and very light flavor of a fresh handmade tortilla. I actually like their chicken broth, but I buy the organic low-sodium version. ~Steelecreekgirl

Anonymous said...

Trader Joe's "Triple Ginger Cookies"- YUM!

Kathleen Purvis said...

Hey, folks. Thanks for all the helpful information. Remember that this time, we're looking for products you don't like (and the reason, if you recall it). We'll do another blog entry tomorrow for the products you do like.

Anonymous said...

Their low fat mac and cheese is terrible. It's not the lack of cheese or cream that does it, it's the tiny macaroni they use and how it comes out all rubbery compared to the regular stuff.

Also, I've found the vegetarian burritos to be pretty skunky.

Jules said...

Their quick 1-min microwave Brown Rice is a total disaster. Also I have complaints that their produce doesn't stay fresh long. I also am NOT a fan of their lobster ravioli, but what do you expect for the price?

Anonymous said...

I get certain things there for both price and quality: cauliflower, red peppers, great candied pecans, raw almonds, cereal, spelt bread. Their tomato roasted red pepper soup is quite good, too.

Anonymous said...

Their organic brown sugar has a weird taste! That's the only thing I've tried that I didn't like.

Anonymous said...

@Kathleen Purvis, That's rude. You should be happy that people are commenting on your blog, whether they are saying things you want or not. It's a conversation, not a school exam.

Kathleen Purvis said...

I'm sorry, Anonymous 11:53. I didn't intend to be rude. But it is helpful for readers to keep things on topic. It's confusing for some people if the blog appears to cover one subject but veers onto another. As I noted, we'll tackle the products you love in another blog post.

Anonymous said...

For a while I really love their prepared lamb ribs, but had 2 bad experiences where the meat was really tough. It is rather expensive, so I don't buy it anymore.

Anonymous said...

I love all the eternal cynics that "just don't understand the hype." We all know the type, the too cool for school not impressed by anything and wants you to know it so you can be impressed by how unimpressed they are, person. I don't think Trader Joe's is the be all end all either but it does have quite a few cool items at decent prices. Love the cheese selection their in particular. You'll find the same cheeses you'll find at a high end grocery store only cheaper.

Anonymous said...

I usually avoid things that have gotten bad reviews by taking a quick look at the "Trader Joes Fan" website (it's different than the TJ's real website). They have reviews, recipes, etc. A minute there has saved me from buying some things that got bad reviews that I normally would have tried.

Amy said...

I've been pleased with most things I've tried, but found their coffee creamer to be very thin and bland. Looking forward to the "favorites" post!

Anonymous said...

I didn't care for their 2 buck chuck, their dish soap, their mayonnaise or their bread. Sometimes their fish has a fishy taste as well.

Thanks for the warnings on the other products mentioned!

Anonymous said...

I don't care for any of their salsas.

Anonymous said...

i dont care for their paper boxed soups...butternut squash and creamy tomato....yuck

Anonymous said...

Frozen salmon, prepackaged produce and bread with the expiration date of tomorrow (no matter what day you go), the preground coffee is ick as is the brand of stevia they carry. The low fat frozen entrees are really awful. And I do not understand the hype about the mandarin orange chicken, I found it really low quality and fatty.

Anonymous said...

The Midtown location has chronic problems with out-of-date/close-dated perishables, including most produce, refrigerated processed food, dairy, etc. I don't care for any of their bread, whether it's sliced or baguettes.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't get TJ's Red Wine Vinegar and Olive Oil salad dressing again. When it was refrigerated after opening, the olive oil solidified, and I had to put it out on the counter to "thaw" before I could use it again.

Cait said...

I love their turkey flamed broiled meatballs. They are to die for

robw222 said...

Don't care for many of their packaged fresh meals (wraps, salads, etc) ... the flavors seem off somehow, and was really disappointed in their dark chocolate bars. Their ground coffee is horrendous.

Anonymous said...

I did not like their frozen garlic bread at all. When heated per the instructions, it was a mushy mess. The good thing about TJ's is if you don't like something, you can bring it back for a full refund. In fact, they want you to do this so that they know what people like and don't like!

Anonymous said...

I'm generally a big fan of Trader Joes, but most of their wine is terrible and their bread goes stale as you walk out the store.

Anonymous said...

Just say no to their mayo and ketchup. I make a special trip for Dukes and Heinz. The produce can be hit or miss- sometimes not super fresh, but you can look and see it is close to date. The bread is not so hot either.

Anonymous said...

I love a lot of things at TJ's but I've never liked their sushi...the rice is too thick and too gummy...

Anonymous said...

Sweet potatoe gnocci (frozen version) was a mushy tasteless disaster.

Anonymous said...

It's not rude for Kathleen Purvis to try to coax the commenters back on the right track. It's rude to tell someone they're rude -- especially when they weren't.

Anonymous said...

Their corn bread mix is way too sweet. I have been looking for a good pre-packaged mix, but this wasn't it.

Anonymous said...

Aldi and Trader Joes are the same company:

http://consumerist.com/2011/03/aldi-is-trader-joes-for-the-rest-of-us.html

I find it so funny how the snubs will not step into an Aldi, but will flock to Trader Joes.

Go to Aldi and you will see the exact same brands you have been purchasing at Trader Joes.

Anonymous said...

Actually you don't see the same things at Trader Joe's that you do at Aldi. There are no healthy, organic products at Aldi. BTW, they are not the same company. They are owned by two different brothers who are estranged.

Anonymous said...

Someone mentioned frozen gnocchi -- the gnocchi over in the dried pasta section is also nasty. And the pesto isn't very good, either.

Anonymous said...

I tried Trader Joe's just once and like on of your other readers said, I didn't get it either. Can't remember what I bought now but I wasn't impressed. Back to the Farmer's markets and Home Economist (can't remember its new name on S. Blvd).

betty said...

I like several of their breads, but I stopped buying the whole wheat Tuscan Pane because it tastes SO salty. Probably the white Tuscan Pane is better, but I try to do whole grain when I can.

Their rectangular frozen flatbread isn't worth it, either. I forget what it is called. We tried it because we love that mushroom and Gruyere thing they do.

Some of their salads are watery and/or tired. Hubby is enchanted with most of them...ugh. There is a false perception that TJ food is somehow healthier. NOT. Well, not necessarily.

Alice said...

I'll second a previous commenter and say that I've yet to find a fresh salsa at TJ's that tastes good.

Anonymous said...

Their produce and dairy goes bad quickly. Sometimes it's even moldy on the shelves. Yuck! I didn't like the garlic fries either.

Anonymous said...

One minute brown rice - yuck. Had a nasty flavor - had to throw it out. The frozen version is much better. Frozen vegetable pizza - didn't like the texture or flavor. Jarred marinara sauce - off flavor. Vegetable shu mai - very mushy.

Anonymous said...

I do not think their laundry detergent cleans well, and I agree with a previous post about not liking the dish detergent. I used to shop Trader Joe's in CA yrs ago as my regular grocery store when we lived there,and even now when we go back for a visit, their stores are superior to the uptown Charlotte Nc store I visit (larger stores, more selection etc).

Anonymous said...

The sliced white bread is so bitter and salty- especially the crust. I just bought it once to see if it was any good, and I know I regret buying it.
The (refrigerated) juice selection really lacks.
Some of the frozen pizzas are bad (some are good though); the one I remember hating was some mini mediterranean pizza with olives :(

T. Wimpee said...

Salmon jerky was a bad pick for me. Jerky so tough my teeth hurt for a week.

Anonymous said...

Where do I begin???? As a teenager my mother shopped there often. I am now much older and as of the past year noticed changes in they way food tastes. Products I have purchased over and over again now taste discusting. At first I thought it was me but as of last week my friend and I had an addiction to their power Berries. After the last package we had, that tasted like dirt, we are now cured of our cravings.
So here is my list of the things that were nasty. Loved their sour cream and spinach dip but last time I bought it tasted like rancid veggies with a grainy texture to it. Their smoked salmon tasted like they let the fish go bad first then decided to smoke it. Any ground meat I have gotten has had bone in it and I almost have chipped my teeth at least five times and the meat has no taste to it at all. Mushroom risotto had the consistency of oat meal and had the overwhelming tast of nutmeg and cinnamon. I can't remember the crackers I had but they were made of rice but tasted like rancid rice. Pizza taste like freezer burned cardboard. Chocolate raspberry sticks that I have gotten since I was a teenager now tast like dirt and canola oil.
I also noticed a brand of their shampoo has parabins in it. I find it weird that with all recent beauty products going to paraben free trader joes would sell this.
I use to love shopping there and thought there food was delicious. After so many recent disappointments I am tired of wasting my money and time dealing with nasty food. So I am done shopping there.

Natasha Hubbard said...

I agree with whoever said their Red Wine Vinaigrette. Aside from horrible separation issues, the taste is pretty awful. I had to doctor it up just to make it tolerable and it's still not all that great.