Thursday, March 31, 2011

PurAqua N2 Lemon Lime Flavored Low-Calorie Sports Drink (Aldi)

An empty bottle of N2 Lemon Lime.
Here we have Puraqua's N2 Lemon Lime sports drink.  The "N" in this case stands for "infuse", which is the name of Aldi's sports drink line.  The "N2" is obviously a nod/rip-off of Gatorade's G2 products, which aim to capture all the flavor of regular Gatorade with far fewer calories.  But how does N2 stack up against its national brand namesake?

I do a lot of shopping at Aldi, but there are certain things I will buy at other stores if I happen to be in there, and see them on sale.  Soda is one of them, as Aldi's Summit soda line is rather lacking in certain areas (namely their Sprite and Mountain Dew knockoffs, which don't taste anything like either, and don't even taste good on their own terms).  However, sports drinks are one thing that I refuse to buy anywhere else.  Actually, I just lied, because I do enjoy the rare taste of an All Sport every now and again when I stumble across them (although those aren't even as good ever since they dropped the slight carbonation they used to have several years ago).  But as far as Gatorade or Powerade is concerned, Infuse takes the cake.

First off, is its price:  69 cents.  For the 32 oz. size.  That's a lot of energy to be had for well under a dollar.  Of course, all the savings in the world cannot make up for a horrible taste...but on the contrary, N2's Lemon Lime has a very strong lemon lime flavor that really does wake up the senses, all with fewer calories  I cannot compare it flat-out to Gatorade's simply because it has been so long since I've had it, but I can guarantee there's no way theirs can be that much better, especially when they're charging at least 30% more for theirs (and that's generally on sale).

A quick comparison between labels reveals that G2 has fewer calories per 8 oz. serving (20, compared to N2's 25), less sugar (5g, compared to 7), and less carbohydrates (5g compared to 8).  They are equal in potassium (30 mg) and sodium (110 mg).  Yet Infuse takes it one step farther by including some nutrients that not even Gatorade has, like 10% of Vitamins C and E, 25% Pantothenic Acid, 25% Niacin, and 25% Vitamin B6.  And keep in mind there are four servings per 32 oz. bottle, so guzzle the whole thing, and while you may end up with quite a bit of sodium (440 mg), you also will end up with 100% of your recommended daily intake of three different vitamins.  I'm not going to pretend like I know how this rehydrates my body after a particularly grueling hockey game, but it just sounds good.  And it tastes good.  And did I mention it's 69 cents?

Overall: 10/10.  Beats Gatorade at its own game by boasting incredible flavor with a ridiculously affordable price.  Also gets extra points for not offering an off-brand of Gatorade's ridiculous "G Series".  Do you really need Gatorade before, during, AND after your sporting event?  What the hell ever happened to water?  Are people really buying into this ridiculous marketing ploy?

Sorry for the digression.  Infuse is the best sports drink money can buy.  So buy it.

Friendly Farms Ranch Dip (Aldi)

We'll get it all started off with a review of ranch dip.

Friendly Farms Ranch Dip, $1.09 for 16 oz. at Aldi
Here we have Friendly Farms Ranch Dip.  Like most chip/veggie dips, it is packaged in a 16 oz. plastic container.  When opening it for the first time, it has a rather unpleasant appearance...almost like there's a small sheet of film on top of the dip, or that it is severely dried out...however, this goes away (unlike the Kroger brand ranch dip, which looked dehydrated every time I opened it, and didn't taste very ranch-y to begin with).  Future openings will instead reward you with a small puddle of liquid sloshing about, which is typical of dairy products in general. All it takes is a chip or carrot, and a few seconds worth of stirring, and it goes back to looking delicious.

Opening qualms aside, this is some solid ranch dip, made even moreso by its $1.09 price tag.  It has a delicious ranch smell that is just like the taste:  strong, but not overpowering.  The flavor does remind me of dip made out of those dip mix packets, but maybe that's just me.  And I happen to love dip mixes, anyway.  It goes equally great with chips or veggies.  Hell, it goes great with cheese-garlic croutons and garlic focaccia sticks and pizza crusts--in other words, I'll dip just about anything in this stuff.

Note that, in true Aldi fashion, the flavor has changed within the last few months, so if you haven't tried it in a while, it will more than likely have a different taste.  Despite being fairly knowledgeable on the grocery chain, I'm not exactly sure of its inner workings.  More specifically, their use of private labels can be semi-confusing:  Just when you get used to a certain product "line", they will do one of three things:  Change the company name, change the ingredients (and thus, the flavor), or both.  Sometimes, this can work to their favor, as a few of their products could use a little tweaking.

Other times, the effects are little more than baffling:  Such is the case with their ranch dip, which used to have a stronger (albeit different) ranch flavor, and a much more appetizing appearance, consisting of red and green specks that I will just assume were bits of vegetables.  Whatever they were, it just looked delicious--now, it's nothing but a white plane of sour cream base with smaller, less frequent green flecks.  While the "new" dip is very good (with a much different ranch flavor than before), I don't see why they needed to change the product in the first place, especially so radically.  This isn't just a "tweaking" of their original formula...it's an entirely different dip.

Overall: 8/10.  A very good dip with a strong ranch smell, and an equally appetizing flavor that goes good with just about anything.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Welcome to Budget Food Review!

Hi ya'all!  I'm Aaron Tom, and I'll be your guide through the wonderful world of budget foods!  So what exactly is this blog, you ask?  Well, I'll be reviewing foods purchased from places like Dollar Tree and Aldi...places that largely go ignored by mainstream society while the supermarkets thrive.  Why?  Well, ever since I've been on my own (and was able to set aside the preconceived notions about the food quality in these places), I've learned that you can get foods that are just as good, if not better, than the national brands that are a fraction of the price.  In fact (at least, in the case of Aldi), a vast majority of the products are excellent, despite not having a nationally-recognized brand name on the package.

On the flip side, there are some products that you would probably do best to avoid.

So if you're one of the many that are afraid to set food in an Aldi, or won't dare purchase a food item from Dollar Tree, then you are in the right place.  The reviews will rate each product on a scale from 1-10, 1 obviously being atrocious, while 10 is virtually perfect.  They will compare each product to the national brand (where applicable), but will also be weighted according to price (thus, if an off-brand product tastes close to the national brand, yet is significantly cheaper, then it will get a high score; likewise, if a product tastes like crap, regardless of price, it will receive a low rating).

Since I do a vast majority of my shopping at Aldi, the opportunities for reviews will be almost endless.  However, since I have a full-time job, a wife, and hobbies outside of this (including playing hockey three nights a week), that doesn't leave a whole lot of time for me to write.  Thus, don't expect more than a few posts per month.  However, I do hope to open your eyes to the world of budget foods.  Just because it's cheap, doesn't mean it's bad.  Though, in some cases, it is.

Oh, and I also have ZERO experience with blogs. So it will be very possible that the look and feel of this thing constantly changes, especially over the first couple months, as I learn to grasp what everything does, and what works best for me.  I apologize in advance for any inconvenience this may cause.  Thanks for stopping by!