Wednesday, June 12, 2013

American Breakfast's Fruiti Rings Cereal (Dollar Tree)

Want something with better flavor? Throw some sand in a bowl and mix it with milk.
I am not a picky eater, but I am pretty picky about my cereals, and the brands at Dollar Tree have never really piqued my interest.  Most of the boxes just look rather simple and depressing, following the typical color schemes present in the national brands, but not having enough money to really dress it up any further than that.  But I really wanted to give Dollar Tree’s own cereal brands a fair shake; who knows, maybe it would turn out to be a diamond in the rough.  So even though there were plenty of small bags of Malt-O-Meal for sale (which just may be the best cereal company out there), I decided to go for a box of American Breakfast’s Fruiti Rings cereal.

Based on looks, American Breakfast really has this thing down.  The rings are full of color, and just like the national brand, vary slightly in size.  Surprisingly, it’s a very welcome sight.  Even the colors pop like they should, making it look very delicious.  Now, they maybe don’t look as well-sugared as most brands, but hey, I’m willing to forgive them a little bit at this point.  After a pretty solid first impression, I have to give them some pretty solid marks for appearance.

Now on to the smell:  Nothing but cardboard.  Can’t really even smell the cereal as it’s sitting in the box, which is a little depressing, as I was hoping at least the gentle scent of incredibly artificial fruit.  I poured the cereal into the bowl, took another whiff…and again, not much.  Granted, my sense of smell is not very good, but I had to virtually put my nose into the bowl just to get any kind of smell, and even then it was weak, and nowhere near inviting.

After dousing it in lots of milk, I took a bite…and discovered that it pretty much lives up to the smell.  There’s an ever so faint taste of sweetness somewhere in there, but for the most part it tastes like they either forgot to add sugar, or ran out of it the day they made this box.  I don’t know if I would go so far as to say the taste is “offensive”, as I did finish the bowl with very little problems (though it wasn‘t enjoyable), but no kid would possibly ever confuse this for a box of the “real” stuff, nor would I ever get it again.  It’s just way too bland, especially for a cereal that’s supposed to be very sweet, and you‘ll find yourself crunching on tasteless corn chunks for most of your eating time. 

Unfortunately, even for those on a budget, I cannot recommend American Breakfast’s Fruiti Rings.  If you really do need to pinch every single penny, I would suggest picking up a box (or bag) of Malt-O-Meal cereals, which are frequently available at Dollar Tree stores.  Even though the box may be a bit smaller, Malt-O-Meal does provide a good ratio of flavor to value that is very tough to beat.  Aldi also carries some very good cereal options (including a much better knockoff of this cereal), though it will cost you about three extra quarters.  Do yourself a favor and stay away from this one.

Overall: 3/10.  Though it gets high marks for appearance, American Breakfast’s Fruiti Rings cereal fails where it counts most:  taste.  Barely sweet, it will not be confused by anyone for even being a solid knockoff of the national brand, and it also leaves a rather gross aftertaste in the mouth long after its been eaten.  I did finish a bowl with relative ease (at least this cereal is simply bland, rather than flat-out bitter or disgusting), but I seriously question as to why I’d even want to finish the rest of the box.  Even within the walls of a Dollar Tree, there are much better cereals out there (see: Malt-O-Meal).  Or for a little less than a dollar more, you can end up with a decent store or private label brand elsewhere (like Aldi).

Breckenridge Farms' Scrambled Eggs, Hash Browns, and Sausage Frozen Breakfast Platter (Dollar Tree)

Available in Dollar Tree freezers everywhere.
Seeing as how I have to be at work at 6 in the morning, and never get up in enough time to actually pack my lunch, anything I bring has to be made quick, as we only have twenty minutes to eat during our break time (the hour long lunch is reserved for a nap).  So while I generally just bring a whole loaf of bread to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the fly, sometimes I get sick of the same ol’ same ol’ and want to mix things up a bit.

Which is why, sadly, I’m almost a connoisseur of frozen breakfasts.  But one place that I haven’t really delved into was Dollar Tree, which offer a couple varieties of typical American breakfasts, including French toast, pancakes, and this one, all in frozen single-serve portions (assuming your local Tree has a cooler section, that is).  The reason I opted for the scrambled eggs, and not either of the other two is pretty simple:  You can’t even get this one at Aldi for a buck, making this a very budget-friendly choice.  Well, assuming it tastes good.

For those unfamiliar, the setup of Breckenridge Farms’ Scrambled Egg breakfast is simple, and exactly the same as other brands:  You get two small sausage links, a decent sized hash brown patty, and some scrambled eggs, all tossed into the same carton and unseparated from one another.  To prepare it, you simply toss it in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, let it cool off, and you’ve got an instant breakfast.  Preparation wise, it’s simple enough.

The eggs, which are the overwhelming scent, smell like real eggs, which can be a huge accomplishment in a dollar-store breakfast, and make the platter seem rather inviting.  The hash browns just lay there, soggy, as the microwave never allows them to crisp up, which is kind of a bummer, but this is the same across all brands.  The smell of the hash brown seems to be slightly off from what you would expect, but it’s not repulsive.  The sausage links looks and smells just like a typical link that you would get anywhere.  Now for the tastes.

The eggs taste just like eggs, and as can probably be assumed, are rather greasy.  In fact, everything in the container is rather greasy, which accounts for its whopping 126% daily cholesterol content.  I think something so ridiculously unhealthy should be outlawed, but I guess in moderation it can be okay, and it obviously hasn’t stopped me from eating them several times (though only occasionally) over the course of the last few years.  The main drawback is the hash brown…just as its appearance is almost sickly, its pretty dry and doesn’t taste as good as I was expecting, but it’s more than edible, and works pretty well if you mix it with the other flavors.  The sausage, which is actually the weakest “link” (horrible pun sadly intended) in the national brand, with a terrible off-putting flavor that doesn’t even come anywhere close to actual sausage, is rather spot-on right here.

Though I’m hesitant to try most of Dollar Tree’s other food items, thanks to their terribly disgusting packaging, I must say that Breckenridge Farm’s Scrambled Egg breakfast provides good taste with some rather solid value.  Not even at Aldi can you get this variety of breakfast for a dollar, making this the cheapest option.  Just beware the excessive cholesterol content.

Overall: 7/10.  There’s nothing gourmet about it, but Breckenridge Farm’s Scrambled Egg breakfast not only holds its own against the national brand, but surpasses it, thanks to sausage links that actually taste like sausage.  Though the hash brown patty doesn’t taste great on its own, and could benefit greatly from being crispy, instead of the lifeless sickly-looking thing it ends up in the microwave, it’s fine if you mix it with bites of the other flavors.  The scrambled eggs are pretty thick, and delicious.  Its main drawback is the excessive grease and cholesterol content…one package takes up 126% of your daily recommended cholesterol intake, so proceed with caution.  But there’s no denying its value, as a package of a similar product at Aldi (which tastes almost exactly the same), is twenty cents more expensive, and the national brand is pushing $1.50.  Definitely recommended if you’re into this sort of thing.