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What's NOT GOOD at Trader Joe's??? [OLD]

  • b

That question may seem like a joke -- so much is good -- but as a once-a-week TJ's shopper, I enjoy reading the threads about what other people LIKE at TJ's. But that question is so common, I thought I'd go the other way. What have you all bought/tried from Trader Joe's that wasn't worth buying again?

My contribution is the new cheddar (read "orange") version of their boxed Mac-n-cheese -- totally flavorless, tastes just like pasta with milk and butter on it. Boo!

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  1. Unbelievable as it may seem, there has been one thing I had from TJ's that I did not like. (and we shop there alot!). It was the frozen Shepard's Pie. It was just awful.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Barbara

      I also did not care for the Shepherd's Pie.

      1. re: Barbara

        I realize this is a stale thread, but for those of use who live in the past...

        I've purchased 5 boxes of frozen breaded eggplant over the past few months. 3 times out of 5 the bag inside the carton has been pierced, split, or improperly sealed - the last bag was totally unsealed! Poor materials, poor labor, and non-existant quality control. The product is fine when properly sealed, otherwise the delectable little disks of eggplant suffer freezer burn and dessication.

        1. re: JB

          Did you take it back? They have an excellent return policy (once they even refunded me for some spoiled cottage cheese that I hadn't brought back and didn't have a receipt for -- I had just remarked to the checker that the previous carton I'd purchased had been bad and she didn't charge me for the new one), and I'm sure they'd want to know you're dissatisfied with one of their products.

        2. re: Barbara

          My husband HATED the shepherd pie and refused to eat. I thought it tasted very "beefy" and not in a good way.

          1. re: Barbara

            Hmm my friend always picks up a couple of Shepard's pies when he and I go to TJs. He loves them and they are gf. What he hated so much that he took back was the Green Plant juice. He said it tasted like vomit.

          2. Frozen green thai curry (comes in a box similar to the frozen chicken tikka masala, which I like) -- gross, gross, gross. I also didn't care for the frozen dim sum selection. Oh, and the "sushi" is pretty awful, too.

              1. re: brian h

                You must be referring to the lot at the Montecito center in San Rafael.

                1. re: Sharuf

                  Actually, I am referring to the lot on Burbank in Encino. And the lot on Hazeltine in Sherman Oaks as well (the spaces marked "compact" work only if your car has been through a compactor beforehand).

                  1. re: brian h

                    I think they must have designed those lots after studying the one at the Montecito Shopping Center. ;)

                    1. re: Sharuf

                      They probably learned it at college, from the student parking lots.

                2. re: brian h

                  Hey, y'all come on up to lovely Burien, Washington! The Trader Joes is located in a strip mall with the requisite acres of parking making for very convenient parking in an inconvenient (to me living 60 miles away in Olympia) location.

                  1. re: brian h

                    Try the parking lot at the TJ's in Brookline, MA. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Jeepers.

                    1. re: raj1

                      arlington, ma ain't no day at the beach, either.

                      1. re: lynn

                        How about Westport? A physical fight broke out between two customers. Needless to say, it made the newspapers.

                  2. TJ's used to carry this cheese that came in long strands. It tasted like soap. I think other people agreed because they stopped carrying it.

                    They still carry another product by the same company.

                    1. what a good idea.

                      i don't like the powdered instant chai in tubs. it comes in two flavors. too, too sweet and not delicious.
                      i'm sure there's more, just can't think of it now.

                      1. -the rice wine vinegar... totally sweet and syrupy tasting - avoid at all costs!

                        -the frozen nasi goreng...the flavors don't mesh at all

                        that's really all I can think of that's totally gross...

                        1. Their sushi - the fillings taste OK but the rice is slimy (ugh!).
                          Pad Thai (single serving) from the freezer case - mushy noodles.
                          Chai eggnog/any chai drink.
                          Shrimp shumai (the pork ones taste OK)

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: ju

                            Ugh, the sushi is revolting, and I am a TJ's groupie! The rice is tasteless, and all the fillings are mixed with mayo, either veggie, or crab with a "K". dated several days in advance..

                            I also think their greens are good for an emergency, but a calculated risk...Hmm, will they smell off when I open them? I've found the "sell by" dates on produce and fish extremely optimistic...

                            And the frozen Pad Thai bowls are pretty gloppy..Yeah, I ate it, but once was enough...

                            But I really like the Shrimp Shumai.

                            1. re: ju

                              No offense, but what do you expect when you buy frozen pad thai???

                            2. The frozen buffalo burgers (ground buffalo) and some of the cookies, especially those rolled ones that resemble
                              what Pepperidge Farm calls Pirouettes...but most of the stuff is really good.

                              1. Their lemons always rot too quickly.

                                Dry pasta - seems flavorless to me.

                                Tortilla chips - again, no flavor.

                                Salad in a bag.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: chip chip

                                  The lemons do rot quickly and are very expensive. However, if you get them early they are the most tasty lemons ever. Like being in Almafi Coast.

                                2. Steer clear of the biryani in the freezer case. Ick.
                                  The cheeses can be dodgy -- must eat the day of purchase or it's just bad. However, if you hit it right, it's good value for money... you just never know.
                                  I must agree on the sushi. Bleh. Bleh.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: yumyum

                                    Curious what part of the country you're in- I haven't noticed any specific cheese problem in LA. I wonder if it's an east coast issue?

                                    1. re: Dylan

                                      I'm in the greater LA area and concur on the cheese. Last night opened a new package purchased a few days ago - it was already growing white and green mold, and wasn't anywhere near the expiration date on the pacakge. Not a first time occurrence, either.

                                      1. re: LBQT

                                        I'm in L.A. and used to have problems with TJ cheeses too. Now that I take them out of the plastic right away and keep them wrapped in parchment or wax paper in the low humidity part of the fridge, they're fine. If the cheese seems kind of wet on the outside when you take it out of the plastic, you can dry it off well with a tea towel before you wrap it.

                                        1. re: Jessica E.

                                          Same deal with cheeses in greater Boston stores. Grainy Neufchatel (which I'm pretty sure means it was frozen at some point), soon-moldy Monterey Jack, refrigerator-tasting cheddar. True, you could baby the stuff, as above, but why not just buy fresh, well taken-care-of cheese? Plenty else to get me there every week, anyhow!

                                  2. frozen salmon patties

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: kc girl

                                      the pad thai in the box. it's by some brand, but the name escapes me. absolutely no flavor.

                                    2. The Gazpacho - it is just their regular (not great) salsa, relabled. The produce is always terrible also.

                                      1. Non-fat (or low-fat, I forget) garlic mayonnaise. Truly awful. And I second the vote for produce. Avoid.

                                        But my TJ dislikes are few and far between.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Scooter Pie

                                          I find, in general, that any sauce or dressing featuring garlic is not going to be good. Garlic doesn't seem to take to processing and preserving.

                                          It's so easy to just add your own fresh garlic to whatever.

                                        2. I bought some carrot juice there about a year ago, and it tasted strongly of that nasty carrot skin flavor. I had to throw it out.

                                          1. The "white" clam sauce sold canned in the section with the tomato pasta sauces. It was a horrible, greenish runny glop of stuff. The one bad thing I have ever had from Trader Joe's, and it was a real loser.

                                            1. The canned onion soup, the one in the squat, bulbous-shaped can. Loaded up with some kind of sweetner, fructose I think--for what? Blah. Also in the soup were tiny, marinated cocktail onions--TOO strange, and not worth wasting my croutons and cheeses.

                                              1. thanks for asking, the first TJ in chicago just opened. i went the first day, and people were practically hysterical with joy. i dont get it, and judging from the responses you've gotten, which i havent have time to read, others have some dislikes. here are mine, TJ brand decaf. earl grey- tasteless. the green tea mochi( tasteless green tea ice cream in little balls of
                                                soggy, pasty dough). i hated it so much, i complained, and was told they cant keep it in stock, it's so popular.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: joan

                                                  Don't get me wrong -- I LOOOOVE Trader Joe's. Count me with the hysterical for joy group. I used to drive 50 miles for TJ's stuff. That said, I haven't tried everything in the store -- and they are constantly coming up with new stuff -- I just thought that with all the people on this board who shop at TJ's, I'd get a heads up on some of the not-so-great stuff. I highly recommend a return visit to your local store to try some of the stuff out -- even if it's just for inexpensive milk and cheeses (not that I'm espousing any sort of dairy product over-consumption....)

                                                2. Gave their Burgundy Sauce with Porcini Mushrooms a try and found it over-sweetened and was less than impressed with the sauce it generated after deglazing a steak-frying pan with it. I notice that they generally go a little heavy on the sugar in lots of stuff... but can generally tell by looking at the ingredients and avoid the ones that have sugar or syrups high in the order.

                                                  1. Their "chickenesque taquitos" (vegetarian) were super-extra greasy. Tasted OK though.

                                                    1. Actually, I picked up a can of the crab bisque and did not like it at all! This is a first!!! I have to read through all the other responses to see what else to watch out for.

                                                      Good question!

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: DeeS.

                                                        I just had the clam chowder (I think it was clam?) in the light blue can, and I threw half of it out after dousing the first half with hot sauce in an attempt to add flavor.

                                                      2. I'm new to TJ's (they just opened one in chicago) and I found the frozen turkey meatballs to be not-so-great (we did finish the bag, but I will never buy them again). Poor texture - leathery on the outside, mealy/sawdust-like on the inside. They definitely had that dry, slightly metallic "boy, you can really tell this is turkey and not some tastier, fattier meat" flavor. They were improved by simmering in a good, flavorful tomato sauce.
                                                        OTOH, we enjoyed the pork potstickers and frozen bowtie "pasta medley".

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: SC

                                                          Did you really expect turkey meatballs to taste like anything other than sawdust??

                                                          1. re: Jim H.

                                                            I just made that same comment below and scrolled up and saw yours. BJ's carries a very decent line af meatballs that includes pretty good turkey ones.

                                                        2. Like many others, I adore TJ's for various and sundry things. But many is the time I've been thoroughly frustrated by their decision to discontinue an item that had become a staple of mine. Today's examples: those terrific peanut-ginger chew candies and Tom's strawberry toothpaste (my daughter's favorite). As for the ginger chews -- one of the best darn snacks in the world: The manager of the Bethesda store told me that, although the DC-area stores could sell (and have sold) them by the bushel, they were not popular enough nationwide to justify the (very modest) shelfspace that they had occupied. Sigh. (Anyone know where else they can be found?) The toothpaste, OTOH, is easily obtainable elsewhere, although at higher prices.

                                                          For what it's worth, TJ's *was* eager to continue stocking Ginger Altoids, but they've been discontinued by the manufacturer. So horde those Altoids if you've got 'em!

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Marty L.

                                                            One of their best things a few years ago was a whole wheat biscuit mix. 1-1/2 cups of that, 1-1/2 cups of buttermilk, and an egg and you had marvelous pancakes. So they dropped it, of course. I've never seen that product, or an equivalent, anywhere else.

                                                            All too often, baking mixes contain buttermilk powder, which ruins things for those of us who like to use the real thing.

                                                          2. Heavenly Bistro LowFat Grilled Vegetable Pizza....

                                                            Now, mind you, I usually get the TJ's 97% Fat Free Vegetable Pizza, which is okay for frozen, and low-fat, but I figured I'd spring another buck and try this...Wrong!

                                                            Imagine an inch-thick crust, with the consistency; cardboard, that only a fat-free biscuit batter could create....Top with STRAIGHT TOMATO paste, a glob of peppers, and such bad low-fat cheese that it didn't brown...Pizza is such an important food group to me, yet there are very few I can't eat...This reached that rarified group....Save yourselves; I ate it, so that you may avoid it!

                                                            1. The frozen, breaded fried eggplant slices. I tried them once to make eggplant parmagiana. Very, very oily.

                                                              1. The fresh fruit: poor quality, high price, available only in sets of four.

                                                                1. Not the olive oil its cheap.

                                                                  1. Juices are often fair, sometimes poor. Rarely excellent.

                                                                    1. I was shocked to loathe the red penang tuna after reading tons of raves on blogs and forums. Ick-o. I apparently do not like gray fully-cooked-through-tuna in a sickly sweet sauce.

                                                                      1. the bottled blueberry juice (can't recall if it was 100% blueberry or the blend) it was AWFUL...two glasses tried, the rest became drain cleaner.

                                                                        1. The meat prices are not good.Can go out to eat cheaper then just buying the meat there.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: billjriv

                                                                            Their prices for ground beef are pretty good, and the shaved steak isn't too expensive, and that's something I've never seen at any other store.

                                                                            I also like their prices on smoked salmon, and no-nitrates bacon.

                                                                          2. Containers of Chai are HORRIBLE. I had to stop drinking chai for a while because I kept remembering the taste....ICK

                                                                            1. Their mayo that is non-fat, healthy and vegan (i think). I can force down anything if it is healthy because I'm TRYING! This mayo took up space in my frig while I tried to force myself to use. I finally faced reality and tossed it. Not everything healthy should be eaten!

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: lynmar15

                                                                                I agree!! I love ALL Mayo and miracle-whip type things and this stuff totally sucks. I can't even eat it...can't put my finger on why it's so gross but something about it is just really disgusting

                                                                                1. re: CarmenR

                                                                                  Mayo is essentially eggs and oil. Non-fat mayo has neither of these 2 key ingredients, so no wonder it's gross.

                                                                                2. re: lynmar15

                                                                                  Non-fat and vegan does not equal healthy. Or, as you discovered here, good.

                                                                                3. Taco seasoning packet. Way too much salt, black pepper and a bit of seasoning.

                                                                                  Turkey meatballs. Taste like sawdust. I much prefer the ones at BJ's, better and less expensive.

                                                                                  1. The sushi is terrible - worse than the average grocery store sushi, if you can believe that.

                                                                                    1. This thread deserves a bump. Had a bad experience with chicken wings. I know, frozen wings ain't gonna be great, but we were looking for something easy because we've moved away from our go-to wing place. We tried them and they were just awful. The wings were way too fatty and just tasted old. On the plus side, they were pretty meaty. They couldn't have been more gracious though when I called to ask about their return policy, so kudos to them.

                                                                                      I love their brioche buns, but don't love how they are 400 calories apiece.

                                                                                      1. I find their shu mai to be bloody awful. I tried them back in 2008, so they may be better now.

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Transplanted Texan

                                                                                          They were demo'ing the shiu mai at my TJ's this week - still bloody awful.

                                                                                          1. re: artemis

                                                                                            Glad to know someone else shares my opinion! ;-)

                                                                                        2. Been shopping TJs a lot lately. Main dislikes are the eastern noodle dishes in the "Chinese Take-out" boxes. (Vacuum-packed noodles and foil sauce pouch.) Tried the pad that and the peanut satay noodles. Texture was off, as was the taste. Smallish serving with a lot of calories. Definitely needed meat or veggies added. Give these a pass.

                                                                                          1. The sushi totally sucks. Trader Joes makes the worst supermarket sushi I've ever had.

                                                                                            1. The sushi is vile - also completely awful are the Indian meals in foil packets (which are in boxes) on the grocery shelf. The chick peas and the lentils are marginally OK, but the others I've tried are horrible. I also heartily disliked the "simmer sauces" I've tried, especially the Cuban one.

                                                                                              1. Red Oval Beer. Even at $2.99 a six pack, it tastes worse than Miller High Life. Suitable only for diluting with lemonade to make a shandy or V8 and lots of lime for a chelada.

                                                                                                1. The TJ's brand cheese enchiladas and the chicken and cheese enchiladas (in the blue and green packaging) are just piles of mush. I've even cooked them in a conventional oven and still the same results. I hear the other enchiladas around the $3 or $4 price points are better.

                                                                                                  Oh, and yeah, the sushi is absolutely gross! Trader Joe's just needs to give that product up...now! :)

                                                                                                  1. Am I the only one who thinks their almonds are hard as a rock? Not the Marconas, those are delish, the other regular Almonds. I also didn't like the curry chicken from the refrigerated section, just tasted strange. Not much from them I don't like, but every once in a great while I get something I don't like.