Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lucky Supersoft Fortifying Shampoo (Dollar Tree)

Not bad for $1, though the competition is rather crowded in that price range at Dollar Tree.

In my previous review, I tackled Silkience Moisturizing Shampoo, which is available from Dollar Tree.  However, I did not like the texture, or its inability to lather in one’s hand.  I was not the only member of my family to find it less-than-desirable…my wife refused to even touch it.  So on an ensuing trip to Dollar Tree, she looked for an equally-cheap alternative.

Lucky SuperSoft Fortifying Shampoo was the end result.  It comes in a clear, plastic bottle, while the liquid itself is blue.  Like everything from Dollar Tree stores, it is also priced at a dollar, putting it in line with such shampoos as Suave and White Rain.  But whereas you get up to 18 oz. for a buck with the latter, and 15 oz. for a dollar with the former, Lucky Supersoft only provides you with 12 oz.  So why not get the national brand if you’re going to be paying the same amount for less?

Scent-wise, Lucky has a sort of strong ocean-y smell.  It’s good, and once again doesn’t have the fake smell that permeates a lot of cheap health and beauty items.  Unlike Silkience, it also pours smoothly into your hands, the way shampoo should, and also lathers up properly.  It also does what shampoo should--I noticed no change in my hair with Lucky…it certainly didn’t make it “super soft”, but it also didn’t dry it out any.

The main drawback here is the quantity for the price; other than that, shampoo is shampoo to me.  Why pay $1 for 12 oz. when you can get Suave or White Rain for equal price, yet greater quantity?  Plus, Suave comes in a variety of delicious smells, whereas Dollar Tree only seems to carry one or two varieties of Lucky.  (It is also rather curious to note that this shampoo is not available on Dollar Tree’s website, either).

I like this stuff, certainly better than Silkience, but it’s still a far cry from a “deal.”  Of course, many girls are picky about their shampoos, and won’t be caught dead spending anything less than $10 for a “salon quality” product.  I don’t think Lucky is going to change that outlook any.  But if you happen to need shampoo, and happen to be in a Dollar Tree store, and the White Rain happens to be sold out (which, ironically, was the case on my most recent trip), then you can certainly do a whole lot worse.

NOTE: Lucky also makes a “matching” conditioner that is also available for a dollar.  I do not use conditioner, so I did not test it, but being able to get a shampoo AND conditioner for $2 might make it a better deal if you are into that sort of thing.

Overall: 6.5/10.  Has the right consistency, feels good in the hair, and it works.  But is $1 for a 12 oz. bottle really a deal, when some competitors (Suave and White Rain, specifically) are selling larger bottles for the same price?  Again, my outlook is that shampoo is shampoo--I really have no specific hair needs.  So maybe if you need a “fortifying” shampoo, then Lucky will fit the bill for you.  For me, it’s just too little product for the price.

Silkience Moisturizing Shampoo (Dollar Tree)

It seems to clean hair, but the thin texture and lack of lather are off-putting.
Yes, the name of this blog is Budget Food Review.  And yes, I understand shampoo is not meant to be eaten.  But I also understand that places like Aldi and Dollar Tree sell so much more than just edible products.  So while the main focus of this blog will remain food-related items, I don’t see a problem with including some non-food related things from time-to-time.  First on that train of thought is Silkience Moisturizing Shampoo, which is available at Dollar Tree stores nationwide.

The greatest thing about this shampoo is its price:  True to Dollar Tree form, one single, solitary buck will be enough to get you 20 oz. of “Salon Formula” shampoo, as the front of the product boasts.  That’s five ounces more than similar-priced offerings from Suave; two ounces more than White Rain.  But how does it stack up to these two more well-known brands of hair cleaner?

Let’s get started with the basics:  The smell is surprisingly good, though not very strong.  I can best describe it as almost a citrus scent with maybe a little hint of bubble gum.  Looking at that last statement, maybe I shouldn’t have described it at all, but needless to say, it’s rather pleasing on the nostrils, without the generally artificial smells of most dollar store beauty products.

The lid, which is plastic, and is supposed to be able to snap shut after each use, is junk--after about two uses, it stayed open and wouldn’t shut.  This probably wouldn’t be a problem in a normal household, but my wife and I are clumsy, so a couple times I found it laying in the shower after having been knocked over, with a good bit of shampoo slowly oozing out.  But hey, it’s a dollar, so you really can’t expect too much.

The main setback of Silkience is its rather off-putting appearance.  I have discovered (I wasn’t born until the mid-’80s) that this stuff was apparently introduced by Gillette in 1979...it wouldn’t surprise me if they used the same formula from back then.  The consistency is not smooth and creamy like most shampoos; Silkience comes out just like hair gel.  Rather than puddling into the hand when squeezed out, it gathers and stays where it’s squirted.  I’ve never encountered another shampoo like it…even the cheapest ones I’ve used have all had similar consistencies to the national brands.

The next step gets even worse:  It doesn’t lather very well in the hands.  At all.  No matter how much product you try it with.  From a dollop, to a large squirt, it just doesn’t foam up, instead just kind of laying on your palms.  Applying shampoo has never been fun, but Silkience almost makes the prep-work frustrating.  Maybe I’m just not open-minded enough to accept a shampoo that looks and lathers very similarly to hair gel, but it’s rather annoying.

I will say that actually rubbing it into your hair seems fine.  Again, it won’t lather up the way most shampoos do, but you can still feel it penetrate to your scalp and coat your hair.  The end results also seem the same:  Since using a full bottle, my hair seems exactly the same as it’s always been.  It doesn’t seem like it’s more moisturized (as the name dictates), but it also didn’t dry it out any.  So I have to give it that it more or less does its job.  At least, once you get it in your hair.

Overall: 5.5/10.  It’s a shampoo, and it does what shampoos are supposed to do…clean hair.  However, its texture and appearance are very off-putting, and those expecting a nice, refreshing lather are in for a surprise as it is impossible to get this stuff to foam up.  I’m giving it a rating slightly above-average simply for what you get for the price--a bottle of this stuff lasted me quite a while when I had longer hair, and for the fact that it works.  For roughly the same price, you can get a more “normal” shampoo that doesn’t feel like you’re cleaning your hair with snot.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Millville's Honey Crunch 'N Oats Cereal (Aldi)

UPDATE (03/2021): While this cereal is fantastic, and still one I buy quite often, it is by no means worthy of a perfect score, something that has been updated down below. 
An empty, battered box of Millville's Honey Crunch 'N Oats cereal.

I am a big fan of cereal.  I’m one of those people that not only enjoy eating it for breakfast, but also find it to be a perfect snack at any point of the day.  The problem is, boxes of cereal are often way in excess of $3.  And like many other things, despite what the serving suggestions lead you to believe, there’s no way I’m getting nine or so servings out of a box.  I’m a man.  I need a BOWL, not a cup, so I get about four servings out of a box.  And to pay $3+ for THAT, is just simply not enticing.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had Post’s Honey Bunches of Oats cereal, and thanks to Aldi’s version, known as Honey Crunch 'n Oats (which is, like all of their cereals, released under the Millville brand name) it’s going to be a whole lot longer.  This is cereal nirvana; a solid mix of good taste, with the added benefit of being pretty good for you.  And with the added, added benefit of being only $1.79 for a 14.5 oz. box.

As you probably know, the cereal is made up of three key components:  They are the crispy corn flakes, the crunchy oat clusters, and the touch of honey that is evident throughout.  All three of these work together like a charm:  The corn flakes are slightly sweet, but aren’t nearly overpowering; the oat clusters have a delicious honey taste that dances on the taste buds, and the honey is plainly there, but never to the point that it becomes sickening.  It really is a perfect balance, a balance that Millville hits right on the nose. 

My only complaint is that the corn flakes get soggy real quick, but that’s just the nature of corn flakes, so I really can’t hold it against the cereal too much.  The counter to that is that the oat clusters stay crunchy the entire time, so I guess it balances out.  And the flavor more than makes up for any complaints about appearance or texture.

Overall: 8/10. Aldi’s cereal is hit or miss (though I will say with more hits than misses), but this one is right on the spot.  While the corn flakes get soggy rather quickly, the oat clusters, which are frequent throughout, give the cereal a nice bit of crunch, and a subdued explosion of honey taste, while the corn flakes themselves are slightly sweetened  And at only $1.79 for a 14.5 oz. box, the price tag helps make this an absolutely delicious deal.  Absolutely recommended.

NOTE: This cereal was originally given a 10 (perfect score). The cereal is fantastic, and still one I buy ten years later, but is by no means deserving of its original tally; thus, it has been lowered. It's nothing personal, nor does it insinuate a drop in the cereal's quality (which actually has stayed pretty consistent over the years); it's simply a correction to an overexaggerated score.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Circle A Ranch Frozen Homestyle Meatballs (Dollar Tree)

Didn't realize this product didn't have an image...and I was just at Dollar Tree this morning! Please accept this placeholder image for the foreseeable future, as I will probably forget all about it again for the next 8 years. It's been 11 and they don't carry these anymore.
I was at a Dollar Tree the other day, when I happened to spot a pack of meatballs in the freezer section.  Upon mentioning this out loud to my wife, she reminded me that we needed some for spaghetti that night.  Lazy, and not wanting to stop at any one of the dozens of places I passed on my way home to get a more “well known” brand of meatball, I decided to “splurge”.  After all, what else did I have to lose besides a buck?

First of all, they should be called “meat shapes”, because very few are really in ball form.  Instead, they’re just little lumps of what appears to be meat (me being the idiot that I am, didn’t even think of looking at the ingredients to verify there was actually meat in them).  They also don’t look very healthy:  Whereas most meatballs I’ve had in my day have a dark brown color, these, even when cooked, came out gray.

Flavor-wise, they are exactly what you would expect from dollar store meatballs.  I’m not one of those people to turn a cheek at dollar store products, but even I was a little skeptical buying what was supposedly an actual meat product.  These have about the same taste as water…only it’s a little more disturbing because you actually have to chew it.  Seriously, there’s nothing there.  I guess this CAN work into its favor, because it takes the flavor of whatever it’s covered in--so theoretically, you can dump it in your favorite barbecue sauce, and it will taste just like your favorite barbecue sauce.  So if you’re looking for an excuse to down tablespoons of your favorite sauce for no reason, then pick up a bag.

But if you’re looking to actually spruce up your favorite pasta with these things, or make a tasty appetizer for your latest party, then I must recommend that you go somewhere else.  And you can thank me later.

Overall: 2.5/10.  I guess no taste is better than a pungent one.  That being said, however, I didn’t pay a dollar just to chew on something…I expect there to at least be a little something there in the way of taste.  I guess sometimes you really do get what you pay for…and nothing else.

Pepsi vs. Summit GT Cola (Aldi): A Random Apples to Oranges Comparison of Two Very Different Sodas

Apparently they've dropped the "GT" from the name, making this look much more generic.
I’ve long felt that Aldi’s GT Cola is one of the best Pepsi knockoffs that I’ve ever tried.  It has a good cola flavor that blows most store/budget brands out of the water, and is incredibly affordable at an unbelievable 59 cents for a two-liter.  But how exactly does the taste stack up to one of the kings of cola? 

Going into the test, it’s only common sense that Pepsi itself will out-Pepsi any competition.  So this is not necessarily a test to see which is “better”, per se, but rather to see if GT Cola really is as close as I thought it was throughout all these years.

I should note this test was pulled off using a freshly opened two-liter of Pepsi, and a two-liter of GT Cola that had been in the fridge for about four days.  Not that I think it causes too much of a difference to the overall test--the GT isn’t flat, and tastes exactly like I remember it tasting four days ago when I opened it--it’s just one of those minor things that should be noted in tests like this.

I’m no name brand connoisseur, so I do not have a preference one way or another in the neverending Pepsi vs. Coke war.  I like both, and drink both, depending on what’s readily available and/or what mood I happen to be in at the moment.  This is also one of those things that should be noted, because some people will either drink one or the other.  So, the Pepsi drinkers among you may not be as easy to satisfy as I am when it comes to a store brand attempting to rip off your beloved drink.

Now, on to the test.  The Pepsi has a very strong bite that I guess I’ve just never paid too much attention to.  It’s got a very vivid cola flavor, and also has a lot more fizz than I remember (I have always thought of Coke, and their products, to be the kings of carbonation).  By comparison, the GT Cola plays out like an ever-so-slightly watered down version of the soda giant:  The main foundation of the flavor is there, and when it first hits the tongue it feels like it’s going to achieve the same flavors, but it just falls a little bit short.  Now, the flavors aren’t so muted that it feels like a diet version of Pepsi--it’s very drinkable--but it just doesn’t hit quite as hard.

Overall, though, it’s hard to argue with a soda that tastes relatively close to the national brand, but can be had for a ridiculous 59 cents.  My only complaint:  GT Cola is not available in a 12-pack, as most of Aldi's sodas are.  Instead, they also sell 24 packs of the stuff for about $4.75, which isn’t a bad deal, but is sometimes more than I want to pay for something that I shouldn’t drink so much of to begin with.

Overall: 8/10 for GT.  It has a very good cola flavor, but doesn’t quite hit the taste buds as hard as Pepsi.  But for 59 cents, what it lacks in taste, it certainly helps to make up for in price. 

UPDATE: I just noticed that, at the time this review was posted, GT Cola was only available in 24-packs, as well as 2-liters.  Since then, they've gotten rid of the 24-packs, and replaced those with the 12-packs I was hoping for, which currently (as of 6/1/2016) retail for $2.25, surprisingly cheaper than the 24-packs from five years ago.  The 2-liters remain an option, but have since gone up in price, to $.79, still making them an excellent deal.  Please, take all pricing with a grain of salt (it can differ from region to region, and fluctuate at any time) as I don't have time to denote every change, but thought it was worth it to mention that 12-packs are now available.

UPDATE #2 (6/9/2019): In retrospect, this is really not an even comparison, as GT Cola has a flavor profile more akin to RC Cola than Pepsi.