Wednesday, July 24

9 Things Trader Joe’s Employees Would NEVER Buy There

Trader Joe’s is known for its inventive grocery items, array of easy-to-make frozen dishes, and reasonable prices, but as with everything in this world, it has its weaknesses. While we’re big fans of the versatile Everything But the Bagel Seasoning, Truffle Marcona Almonds, and Mandarin Orange Chicken, it’s no secret that not every Trader Joe’s product has the potential to achieve superstar status.

In fact, we’ve talked to a few TJ’s employees, and they shared with us the store’s staples that aren’t worthy of your hard-earned money. Whether it’s a questionable ingredient, a scary nutrition label, premature spoilage, the taste, or an unreasonable price tag, here are the Trader Joe’s items you are better off without.

trader joe's
Photo by Nicole Glass Photography from Shutterstock

1. Wraps and Sandwiches

The Trader Joe’s sandwich section is a no-go. Not because of the taste, but because you’re probably thinking that their wraps and sandwiches are a healthy-ish option. Unfortunately, these are anything but.

The Italian Styles, Tarragon Chicken Salad, and Turkey Club wraps all have about 700 calories and are full of cold cuts and sodium. The same thing applies to the sandwich section too. According to a report from CBS News, a TJ’s turkey pesto sandwich has almost as many calories as a Big Mac’s, plus 1,900 milligrams of salt.

This nearly exceeds the USDA’s recommended daily sodium intake limit, so it’s a lot of salt for just one meal. The conclusion: ditch the Trader Joe’s wrap or sandwich and choose a healthier option like the Super Burrito.

2. Instant Cold Brew Coffee

If you love coffee, you probably enjoy drinking a cold brew from time to time. However, Trader Joe’s Instant Cold Brew Coffee isn’t the best option. Its product is a fine, dark powder made of wild Arabica coffee beans. However, no matter how much powder you use, once you take a sip, you realize the drink tastes rather watered down.

Instead, Trader Joe’s employees recommend Organic Cold Brew Coffee, which is slow-steeped for 20 hours, mixed with espresso, and completed with a nitrogen fusion. It’s a bit more expensive, but it’s ready to drink and has that taste you find at a coffee shop.

3. Queso Cheese Dip

If you’re a queso lover, what you’ll be reading next may come as a surprise to you. According to Trade Joe’s employees, the vegan queso you can find at the store is far superior to the one that has real cheese in it. Now that’s a plot twist!

Apparently, one of the ingredients used for making the classic Queso Cheese Dip is apple cider vinegar. You may wonder why this may be a bad thing. Well, the ingredient adds an unwanted sourness and acidity to the condiment. Therefore, it’s better if you go for the dairy-free version or make your own at home.

chicken strips
Photo by Dani Vincek from Shutterstock

4. Pre-Cooked Chicken Strips

Let’s be honest—is pre-cooked chicken ever that good? We don’t think so. Of course, for convenience purposes, these chicken strips are pretty easy to incorporate into a sandwich or salad, but they are admittedly lacking in flavor—not to mention dry.

The Trade Joe’s pre-cooked chicken strips may seem like a good idea when you’re in a rush or don’t feel like cooking, but you’re definitely sacrificing the taste. If you’re looking for a quick and healthy way to add protein to your meal, try the pre-marinated chicken. You can find it in the meat section, and while you’ll have to cook it, it comes already seasoned, which is a plus.

5. Pesto alla Genovese

Pesto is a great ingredient. You just add a few teaspoons of pesto to your cooked pasta, and that’s it; you have a delicious meal. You can even add it to sandwiches along with other ingredients like tuna, cheese, and olives.

However, the Pesto alla Genovese from Trader Joe’s isn’t exactly the best-jarred variety of pesto. It’s salty, oily, and has a weak basil flavor. According to chefs, the best store-bought pesto should have a bright green color, contain little oil, and look emulsified and not broken.

So, if you’re looking for a delicious go-to pesto sauce, you should try the Vegan Kale, Cashew & Basil Pesto sauce, which is a customer favorite. It has more of a nutty taste, and because it’s thicker, you can easily use it as a sandwich spread.

6. Southwest Salad

Salads are definitely a healthy option. However, some people find that they require a solid amount of effort. Wash each vegetable and leaf, chop each ingredient, make the dressing—all of these steps may seem like too much for just a salad. Basically, that’s one of the reasons why ready-to-eat salads are so popular.

Whatever mix you choose, you just have to toss it into a bowl (we’d recommend rinsing it even if the package says “thoroughly washed”) and add your favorite vegetables.

Most of Trader Joe’s customers choose the ready-to-eat Southwest Salad, which comes in a plastic container. It has all the ingredients in there, and while it may be the best option for those in a hurry, the taste isn’t always the best. Not to mention that it comes with too little Cotija cheese.

If you want to make a salad that’s much more to your liking, go for the bagged version instead. It has an overall fresher flavor and a bigger portion size. By the way, if you love salads and want to try different recipes, here’s a cooking book that may inspire you!

7. Cauliflower Pizza Crust

The cauliflower trend is here to stay, and it seems like many people already love incorporating more cauliflower into their meals. However, Trader Joe’s cauliflower pizza crust has many flaws. According to the cooking instructions, you need to place it directly on an oven rack. Been there, done that!

Unfortunately, the crust breaks and crumbles as it’s too thin to support any toppings you choose to add. The result? A difficult mess to clean up. Some shoppers also complained that the middle tends to remain a little soggy.

You could try baking it on a baking sheet, but you won’t enjoy the same crisp factor. Anyway, if you’re looking for another cauliflower pizza option, Trader Joe’s also sells a pepperoni-topped version that’s pretty delicious and easy to make!

trader joe's
Photo by Colleen Michaels from Shutterstock

8. Milk

Sorry, Trader Joe’s fans, but we’ve heard many shoppers complain about the milk section. In fact, even the chain’s employees seem to agree with that. Shoppers often report that they have problems with milk that spoils too soon.

It’s pretty frustrating to make a recipe that calls for milk or to want to have oatmeal with milk in the morning only to remove the lid of the packaging and sense a funny smell coming from inside. Not to mention that’s a waste of money.

Price-wise, when it comes to lactose-free or organic milk at Trader Joe’s, it’s not uncommon to find more affordable versions at other grocery stores. However, let’s not forget that TJ’s is known for having some of the most affordable Greek yogurts out there, so make sure you pick some up next time you do grocery shopping here.

9. Ranch Dressing

Since we’re being candid, most condiments you find at Trader Joe’s aren’t worth your money. Maybe it’s because there are lots of classic condiment brands that we’ve grown to love.

Basically, the main idea here is that people who love ranch are very particular, not only with the taste but also the consistency of their go-to dressing. And they obviously come to the conclusion that the Trader Joe’s ranch doesn’t seem to stick to the original recipe.

More specifically, many customers believe that the flavor is excessively sweet and differs pretty much from the standard creamy, herby dip.

You may also want to read 14 Dollar Store Finds That Aren’t Worth a Cent.

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