Best/Worst products - Fresh & Easy
- yamalam Sep 22, 2008 04:17 PM
While there are a million posts about Trader Joe's best products the F&E posts are pretty scattered, so I'm hereby starting a Fresh & Easy "hot and not" topic. I'm including items mentioned in a couple previous threads as well. I have a whole book of $5 coupons to burn through, so please share what you like, and what you wish you'd never tried!
Roasted Banana Gelato
F&E brand greek yogurt
British brand bacon
F&E brand organic coffee
mango sweet chili dressing
jamon de serrano
Good life wheat pitas
butternut squash soup
prepared Ham & Cheese and Roast beef sandwiches
prepared Chicken marsala
F&E brand salsa
I love their gourmet mac and cheese (freezer section)
The frozen Indian entrees
onion barjhi (fresh) dipped in the plain greek yougurt
Lemon Cilantro Hummus
Organic Decaf coffee
Fresh Pizza Dough
price on humboldt fog cheese
Roti '"bread" wraps
mango chili dressing
blue cheese dressing
meyer lemon cake mix
My first encounters with their prepared salsas were horrifying -- I thought, it's a Brit company, so maybe that's why it' so *wrong* despite being distributed from El Segundo. I mean, it was full of bell peppers. But they have started carrying more varieties, and these seem to be much better. Their salsa authentica is more of a restaurant-style, thin for chips. They also do a fire-roasted which is more like a salsa molcajete, and a salsa verde with tomatillos now.
Most of their cookies are fab. Pecan shortbreads, yum.
So many that I love have already been mentioned but I'll add:
brownie mix that has the chunks of chocolate in it
the racks of lamb are excellent - especially when they have the half price sticker!
Voskos yogurts. I could live off of this
The basic extra virgin olive oil has become my staple cooking oil(replacing TJ's)
Their version of the fig newton(the peach ones were too sweet for me)
blue corn tortilla chips(avoid the lime ones though!)
I'm happy with all the fresh basics: produce, dairy cheese selection, and the meats
I like the Fresh and Easy Primativo wine and keep a few bottles of that around as a "house wine"
the albacore tuna
their version of a tater tot - bought them on impulse since we were making sloppy joes. Terrible! Salty!
Mild Italian Sausage - no flavor whatsoever. Even half price it wasn't worth the $$
all prepared foods
lime and chile tortilla chips (on the positive side so strong in flavor you can only eat a few at a time thus preventing salty snack overdose)
Couscous - prefer whole wheat and wish they would add it
Interestingly, I was just reading an article for a class I'm taking and it mentioned that F&E expects to expand their private label offerings by 200+ products in the coming months. Seems they are finding their customers have a good response to their private label and that's what is drawing people in, not their competitiveness on national brands. I can only speak for myself, but have found this has been the case in our household. Overall I've been really happy with the quality if their private label offerings(but please please don't take away the Voskos yogurt unless you plan to have them mfg your private label for you! I'm seriously addicted!)
The fresh large scallops...never frozen and superb!
The fresh meat section in general
The little smoked trout fillets (when they've got a red sticker)
Most of the juices that they've sampled are good, less sickly sweet than most
Dark Belgian chocolate (similar in quality to the TJ's branded)
Refrigerated salad dressings
Pears and apples
All of the humus flavors except roasted garlic
I like the salty flavored tortilla chips for exactly the reason that I only need to eat a few!
Some of the prepared salads are okay (the beet one)
Premade dinners (the frozen ones seem better)
I agree about the regular salsa, but the mango one is good.
The pre-cut stirfry vegs always seem to be on the verge of going off
Oh yes, the dark chocolate. The baking bar is quite good and stamped "Callebaut." A couple weeks ago they had the dark candy bars on sell for $.49 each(belgian also but no stamp). These are really good too...I stocked up on them and have used a couple to make cookies with good success.
I've also been pleased with the quality of the nuts. And like the small packages so they don't go rancid before I get through them all. (With a 2 person household I"m actuallygenerally just a fan of the smaller packages throughout the store)
The wasabi almonds are good! And there's quite a bit of extra wasabi powder left for sprinkling on popcorn.
I noticed the cornflakes on sale this week, which I liked the last time.
Also sad to see that the whole wheat pizza dough blob was gone. Maybe permanently?
They keep moving the half-off stuff all over the store. Today I noticed they're stacking some of it almost ontop of the registers. The milk chocolate almond clusters or cashews were there. Very good. All natural ingredients.
-Fresh meat (huge selection, good prices)
-Pre-made meatball sub (though I heated it in the oven instead of microwave like they suggested)
-Those $5 coupons they're constantly giving out
-Pre-made mac n cheese (chalky and bland)
-F&E fat-free greek yogurt (chalky)
-Baguette (dry and chewy)
Their white cheddar "Pirate's Treasure" is even better than I remember the original Pirate's Booty being, and it's much better than TJ's knock-off.
I love the coupons, and I tend to plan 2-3 worth of cooking by what produce is on clearance.
Two new favorites
Carrot Ginger Soup (veggie base but it has a touch of cream in it)
Blackberry Rum Sorbet..new flavor!
I agree with the Primativo wine & also the Oggio red- both really good quality for under $5.99! Also if you buy 6 bottles of any wine you'll get a 10% discount.
The gourmet mac & cheese in the frozen section is really good- we doctor it with a couple dices slices of proscuitto-
There was a lemon saffron cous cous that I adored but i think it was a casualty of the recent store product changes :(
An odd one I like is the coconut flavored drinking water- I use it when I make rice & it gives it a wonderful hint of flavor.
Their 50% whole wheat/50% semolina spagetti is one of the best I've had- all the nutrition and none of the guminess.
I like their "gel" and pudding cups. The milk chocolate pudding is sinful. My husband goes nuts over the Vanilla Flan cups. The sushi rolls are ok in a pinch. Sometimes I get one for lunch. Their Ice tea/lemonade in the refrigerator section is decent. I love the Balsamic vinaigrette dressing that comes with their field greens salad. Haven't tried any of the prepared foods as they just look unappetizing to me. I'm not much for prepared meals. A coworker seems to like a few of the frozen meals. The rice & adzuki bean chips are great, when they have them. Their teas are pretty good...I think we recently tried Peach/ginger tea or something like that. For $1.99, it's quite tasty.
Individual(2.5 & 2.75 oz0 packages of Tropical & Mountain Trail Mix
Fresh grapes from USA
House brand Greek Yougurt
Buddy Dog Biscuits- Molasses Flavor
Italian Mezzaluna Pasta with Basil Pesto filling ($4. cheaper than Albertsons!)
I've been going to the new store in the Richmond district of San Francisco.
- Dark chocolate orange-flavored cookies are delicious, though 12/box is slightly pathetic if you're an inhaler like me.
- Nut cluster baggies are a good deal, especially when they mark them down to $1 a week
before they are set to expire (whatever).
- Roasted banana gelato is great.
As a rule, the prepared foods look substantially better than they are, even at half-off. Lean Cuisine quality.
re: free sample addict aka Tracy L
I like many of their pasta sauces (I've tried the tomato basil, vodka, and a few other varieties). Made with only olive oil and not soybean oil like many of the Trader Joes varieties.
Chicken sausage varieties, both uncooked and pre-cooked, have been well-received in our household.
Their sliced cheeses are well-priced...I've tried their light Jarlsberg and mozzarella.
They recently re-organized our store to highlight cuisines of different regions. They carry many British products (Branston pickle, digestive biscuits, etc), Indian, Asian, Mexican (good price on Juanita's green chicken posole...a staple in our pantry), and Cajun (great price on Cafe du Monde coffee with chicory).
They also started carrying a large variety of Bob's Red Mill products at great prices. Just picked up spelt and buckwheat flour yesterday. They carry Bob's muesli for around $3.50...cheaper than anywhere else I've seen it.
Ours also opened an in-store bakery. Like the fresh Harvest Loaf. Many of the Il Fornaio breads are nice. They carry the Il Fornaio frozen rolls for about $2, also much cheaper than I've seen elsewhere.
Strawberry lemonade. The heroin of juices (totally addictive)
Non-pasteurized orange juice. F&E is the only place that carries it
Chocolate & strawberry ice creams
Il Fornaio breads
Double chocolate cupcakes (these are decadent and delicious) they come in a two pack in the store I go to.
F&E coffee ice cream (eaten with the cupcakes!)
F&E greek yogurt
F&E salted pistachios (very fresh and yummily toasted)
F&E brand belgium chocolate bars, especially the milk chocolate with almonds. (they are the size of a license plate for $3.99)
Lemon Cilantro Hummus
dried beans, rice and lentils (very fresh and reasonably priced, great variety)
F&E coconut milk (in the dairy case)
re: coney with everything
Gee golly gosh, what a surprise. A disappointment, too, that (in my perception, at least) they tried to improve their profitability by jacking up the prices on what was bringing me into their stores - wines, mostly, but also meats and cheeses. I was buying a case of wine every week or so for a while, that Spanish red whose name I've now forgotten (because it disappeared), the Oggi Primitivo often mentioned above, and even the Two-Buck-Chuck-combatting Big Kahuna red and white. The latter is still there, or was last time I looked, but that's not enough by itself to pull me in.
What did I like most? First, the fact that, very much unlike my mostly-beloved Trader Joe's, every F&E had exactly the same store layout, unless the existing space wouldn't allow it. Sorry, I do not want to have to learn a whole new layout every time I visit a new TJ's, but I'm stuck with it. Second, I got used to self-checkout over twenty years ago in Nashville, and was puzzled by the resistance to it in supposedly forward-thinking California, so F&E scored with me on that. I like most of the breads I've bought there - the baguettes I've not tried, but the ciabatta variations have all been quite good. And however tempting the prepared dishes look, I've never quite been won over enough to try any, except when offered a sample.
re: Will Owen
The biggest price increase I saw was dropping the "buy 2" deals they had on everything. Now that's only on a few things, like milk. The base price didn't go up much if at all.
The prepared dishes aren't bad, but they are very bland, almost as if they had brits rather than americans doing the taste testing. The same goes for the frozen entrees I've tried. The only problem, I guess, is that while Brits apparently love prepared dishes of this type Americans don't, and that was a big part of their business model. I think the prices for the prepared dishes are getting too high as well.
As I've said, I think their Il Fornaio breads are a success, they have great juices, I like some of their house-brand snacks like the peanut butter cups and the cashews, they have good cheeses.
Thier brand of pre made guacamole is as good as any homemade I have ever had. It is chunky and flavorful. I go thru a tub a week in my house.
The link that coney provided in the post above, indicated that they have had offers to buy them out. so, it may be that the chain will get new ownership, rather than shut down entirely. That will probably also change the merchandising strategy also.
F&E is not my favorite market, but there is one that is close to me and I usually shop there about once a week. It is very convenient when you just need to pick up a few items but I certainly couldn't do all of my shopping there.
F/E's imminent demise was the recent topic of Airtalk on KPCC, which got me thinking it's time to eulogize this place, but after reading this, I'm amazed by how much love there is for it. I'm also thinking there might be major store-to-store variation, or, more likely, what was available in 2008/9 might not be there now (good cheese selection??).
There's one very close to my house and I'd like them to stay open, but I can't say I go there for anything I wouldn't be able to get at 7-11 except maybe whole bean coffee and Il Fornaio pastries.
I probably had the single worst prepared food item of my life the other day - heat-and-serve chicken enchiladas. Truly astounding. I challenge this company to show that any chicken was used in the production of this item.
Interestingly, a 99-cent store opened up a bit farther away this year, and darn it if they aren't carrying everything F/E has, and yes, at a much lower price. Picked up two fresh, sweet grapefruit there for $.99, same for a bag of crunchy cucumbers, also found organic milk, cans of soup for the kids, etc.
I have no dog in this fight - it's just not gonna be pretty for F/E, I predict.
Oh yeah - Will, as for self-checkout, I love it too, just not when it 'breaks down' and can't read a bar code, which is (no exaggeration) every single time I shop there with more than around 10 items.
I bought a package of frozen beef in a chile colorado, in a bag and pre-cooked sous vide. It was sometime back, so I remember only that it was not expensive; it's made by a Monrovia company, Burnett & Sons Meats. It was absolutely the best beef of that kind I've ever had. I did not vent the bag and nuke it as the package directed, but heated it covered in a 350º oven for 15 minutes and then topped it with some cheese-laced polenta I'd made and finished it uncovered for another 25 minutes. The beef was rich, beefy and totally tender, and the sauce was very good. I've got to get some more of those.
I used to shop there a lot until Mrs. O went veggie; I find the veg-friendly offerings there much less good than can be gotten elsewhere, and they've dropped those blue-corn chile/lime crackers she was so nuts about, too. I used to get the giant packs of eight chicken thighs, and season and grill them all at once in a split grilling basket for munching all week, but that's a bit much for just me.
I love their 100% whole wheat bread - it's the only ww bread I've found that I genuinely enjoy instead of just tolerate. The organic version seems to have disappeared, but the regular one is almost as good.
I find their fruit to be better than average. The Ambrosia apples I love so much have up and disappeared, however. Navel oranges have been very good; grapefruits pretty good too. Last summer the pre-cut watermelon was consistently good, and so were the blueberries and cherries (though not as good as the ones from the organic grocery near me in San Francisco)
I like their selection of nuts, except the F&E I go to in San Jose, CA never has plain, raw pecans, just candied pecans.
I discovered today that their canned tuna is pretty darned good. The regular albacore in oil has a good texture but is way salty. I mixed it with a can of the very low sodium tuna (for plain tuna salad) and it was still salty, so next time I will try one reg + two low sodium.
The meat selection is pretty good. I just wish it didn't involve so much plastic. I like the lower-sodium honey ham.
Good crackers! The ones in the blue and white vertical box. Flaky, savory, really delicious.
Also good: vanilla flan. Rice pudding not bad either. Bf loves the dark chocolate pudding.
Deli turkey: horrible.
The greens (bagged salad and such) at this particular store always seem kind of wet and wilty.
I have made F&E a weekly stop (it's right near by bf's place) mostly for ww bread and fruit. But it's not unusual for me to stock up on a few other things if I think I can save myself a trip to another store.
At first I hated the self check-out, but now that I've got the hang of it I don't mind it. Also, the staff in this location have been unfailingly friendly and helpful, so that's a plus as well.