Sunday, November 8, 2015

Fresh Finds Premium Shells and Cheese (Big Lots)

Not bad, but not the best deal around.
I loved the name brand shells and cheese dinner when I was a kid, but mainly because it was a treat.  My mom was a single mother and didn’t have much money at all, so usually she would buy the cheap elbow macaroni and cheese stuff.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked that too, but the shells were always so much creamier, cheesier, and delicious.

Well I was in a pinch one night, with no car (it was in the shop) and nothing to eat for dinner, when my wife took me to Big Lots to get a couple of things.  I opted to look for dinner there, too, which is no small feat; aside from fifty different types of noodles, and another fifty different types of pasta sauces, BL doesn’t offer much in the way of comprehensive dinners.  Still, fast food didn’t sound good, and going to the supermarket is one of my least favorite things to do in the world, so I figured I could suck it up and make do for one night.

After looking at the unappetizing all-in-one meals they offered, which were weird combinations of meats and noodles prepackaged in plastic microwavable bowls, I decided to take a look at their macaroni and cheese varieties.  Even though their inventory rotates fairly consistently, they always have a few basic styles of macaroni and cheese on hand, so I knew I could at least buy the name brand in a blue box, if I had to.  That’s when I saw Fresh Finds Shells and Cheese, obviously a knockoff of the more well-known national brand shells.  I had seen that they offered this before, but was kind of turned off by the $1.70 price tag (which is only about $.50 cheaper than the national brand price at most places).  Not seeing anything else even approaching edible, I decided now would be a good time to give it a shot.

Aside from Aldi‘s version, the only other knockoff shells and cheese dinner that I‘ve had (and forgot to review) was from Dollar Tree.  All I can say is, don’t ever buy that; the cheese was so orange it was almost cartoonish, giving off a disgusting orange glow.  Beyond that, it just tasted like salt, with maybe a little bit of cheddar powder thrown in to give the illusion that they were trying.  Still, those thoughts ran through my head as I prepared Fresh Finds’ version.  Would it at least taste similar to the national brand?  Or would it have more in common with the dollar store crap I suffered through?

Thankfully, it’s an almost spot-on recreation of the national brand, from the appearance (size of noodles are very similar, if not exact, as is the consistency and color of the cheese sauce), all the way down to taste.  I did feel like there was a little tang missing in the finish, when compared to the national brand, but the initial taste is virtually exact, and the difference is so slight so as to be rather nit-picky.

So while I did find it to be a good (and slightly less expensive) alternative to the national brand, it still doesn’t hold a candle up to Aldi’s version, which tastes very similar, and is still $.51 cheaper than even Big Lots (making it about a dollar cheaper than the national brand).  For these reasons, Aldi’s Cheese Club brand will be my number one, but if you don’t have an Aldi near you, or if I ever found myself in a similar situation, I’d at least feel confident knowing I have a solid backup.

Overall: 7/10.  Taste and appearance is pretty spot-on to the national brand, and you’ll save a couple of quarters going with Big Lots’ house version; however, Aldi offers a similar product for a couple quarters less than even Fresh Finds (making it about a dollar cheaper than the national brand).  For this reason, I tend to go with Aldi’s knockoff.  But if you don’t have an Aldi store near you, or happen to be in a Big Lots with a craving for mac and cheese, this will suit you just fine. 

2 comments:

  1. I've had the Caribbean jerk Mac & cheese in the cupboard for a long time now, I was iffy on trying it...so thank you so much for saving me the effort of making it!

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    1. Hey, you're welcome...glad I could help! Of course, tastes are subjective, so you may end up liking it, but even at $.59, I'd never get it again.

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