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Showing posts from 2017

Gourmet Select Party Mix (Big Lots)

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Ladies and gentlemen, how not to design your packaging: Exhibit A. Ladies and gentleman, I present to you how not to design your packaging, and exhibit A is the set-up for Gourmet Select's Party Mix, which just looks so cheap and uninviting that my first instinct was to run far away from it. The only thing that calmed me down and assured me things might be okay was the price tag ($1 for a 6 oz. bag, which isn't bad at all), and the knowledge that I'd tried a couple Gourmet Select products in the past, and they were actually pretty good. Besides, how can you really screw up a party mix? This proves that you really can't, although it tries its damndest: there is just WAY too much salt. Like, an ungodly amount. I understand that a lot of party mixes are loaded with sodium, but when it becomes the only thing you can taste, then there's a big problem. This is a big shame, because all of the individual pieces themselves, from the corn and wheat cereal bits, to the rye ch

Nature's Nectar Calcium & Vitamin D No Pulp 100% Pure Squeezed Orange Juice (Aldi)

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Tastes a little weak to me, but pretty darn good for the price. Orange juice is tasty and healthy, so I like having it on hand more often than not. I used to get the kind in the cheap plastic carton, which I believe was “from concentrate” (meaning water is added to it), because it was quite a bit cheaper. Well now the prices have gotten so close that it seems pointless to pay for what amounts to “diluted” orange juice—now I just buy the OJ in the carafes. It’s “never from concentrate”, meaning that it is just straight up orange juice, with zero added ingredients; I’m not so health-conscience that I’m above “from concentrate” juices, but if the uncut stuff is just ten cents more, it seems like a no-brainer to me. As you can infer just from reading the label, this does have the added ingredients of tricalcium phosphate, calcium lactate, and Vitamin D3. I’m not sure what any of them do specifically (besides add Vitamin D and Calcium, of course), but more vitamins seem like a go

Nature's Nectar 100% Juice Fruit Punch (Aldi)

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Tastes very similar to the national brand, but won't break the bank. I have one question to ask that's been on my mind for a while. The answer is probably pretty obvious, and it's to no one in particular, but I think about it every time I pick up a product that claims it is “100% juice”: How can it be 100% juice when there are other ingredients added? I understand cases where the juice is the only ingredient listed, but this, for example, has four juices from concentrate, plus natural flavors, plus citric acid and vitamin C. Is there so little of the other stuff that it adds up to less than 1%? While you're contemplating the answer to that question, I've already Googled it, and as everything else in the U.S., it's an answer that's more complicated than it should be. If I understand correctly, the FDA has a method for calculating juice percentages for juices from concentrate. In the concentration process, water is removed from the fruit, usually via hea

Fit & Active Vitality Cereal with "Red Berries" (Strawberries) (Aldi)

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Um...why are the strawberries referred to as "red berries" on the packaging? One thing you should probably know about me by now: I love cereal. All kinds of them. Whether they're mainly marketed toward children, adults, or even women, I couldn't care less: I will give them a try. In fact, I'd tried the name brand version of this already, and really liked the combination of sweet flakes and strawberries, so when I saw that Aldi carried a knockoff, I was excited to give it a shot. My interest was piqued when my wife, who is not at all a cereal lover, tried and it shot instantly up her list of favorite cereals. I had to have a bowl after that, and was impressed with what I tasted, even though trying the name brand beforehand pretty much prepared me directly for the experience, which is as follows: The flakes are what I would consider “lightly sweetened” and are nice and crunchy right out of the box. There's kind of an odd taste to them—it's real

Malt o' Meal Originals Blueberry Muffin Tops Cereal (Various)

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A hugely underrated cereal that admittedly requires one to have a pretty high tolerance for cloying sweetness. Earlier I reviewed Millville’s Blueberry Crunch Squares, a cereal that is available occasionally as a special buy through Aldi stores. I mentioned in that review that there doesn’t seem to be a “national brand”, making it one of the few cereals that seem to have been created by private labels. Well now, I will be reviewing the same offering through another popular private label, Malt o’ Meal, which was one of the first companies (if not THEE first), to put cereal inside large bags, thus omitting the box altogether. I don’t think I’ve hidden the fact that, as good as Aldi’s Millville cereal line is, I prefer Malt o’ Meal overall, as they seem to get even closer to national brand taste, while being just as inexpensive, or in some cases, even cheaper than, Millville cereals. In fact, I think Malt o’ Meal is the best private label cereal brand, period, so I always get excite

Elevation by Millville Chocolate Mint High Protein Bars (Aldi)

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Wow...these are some of the best chocolate-mint anythings I've ever had. You have thirty seconds to name for me a better combination than mint and chocolate. Exactly, you couldn’t do it, because it can’t be done. Chocolate and peanut butter probably comes the closest, but for my money, I love the delicious taste of chocolate blended with the cooling flavor (and the matching sensation) of a light mint. And that is how Elevation by Millville’s Chocolate Mint Protein Bar captured my attention: I have no urgent need for higher protein, but if I can get a few vitamins and minerals with some mint and chocolate, why not go for it? It’s almost a win-win! As I was expecting—or rather, hoping—this bar is phenomenal. A lot of “energy bars” or whatever these things tend to be called, are either bland, or have an off-putting grainy texture that I don’t like. This does have a slight graininess to it, but since it’s more or less a granola bar (at least in the bottom half), that’s comp

Elevation by Millville White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Energy Bars (Aldi)

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Both the flavor and value are "pretty good" on this one. For some reason, Clif bars are all the rage where I work. I find them to be pretty expensive, but then again, I'm probably one of the poorer associates at my job; if you have the money, why not spend it on energy bars? (And, for the record, they are one of the few large “free-standing” companies left—they have turned down multi-million dollar buyouts from bigger corporations, and take incredibly-good care of their associates; they even give workers stock options in the company, thus making them “part owners” of their own business.) Still, I'm on a budget, which is pretty obvious from the name of this thing, and so I can't be spending $1 or more on such small bars, no matter how healthy or tasty they may be.  And, as usual, that's where Aldi has stepped in, via their “Elevation by Millville” line, which offer more upscale bars that all seem to be a takeoff on the same offerings made by Clif. Now, it&

Chef's Cupboard Chunky Chicken Broccoli Cheese and Potato Soup (Aldi)

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For people who ever thought "The only way to improve upon the simple perfection of cheddar-broccoli soup would be to add another vegetable, and some meat." So in other words, no one. Cheddar broccoli soup is hands-down my favorite kind of soup in existence. Period. It always has been ever since I was a little kid who would get it from the old chain G.D. Ritzy’s every time I went…it was cheesy, it was creamy, and it was ridiculously good. Even the canned stuff is delicious, and it’s generally my go-to soup when I am sick, because, well, let’s be honest here: chicken-noodle is pretty gross. But now Chef’s Cupboard dares to ask, “What would happen if we took the delicious base of broccoli-cheddar soup, and then added some extra shit that’s not even remotely necessary?” Well then, the end result would be this here soup, which adds not just potato, but potato AND chicken into the mix. Unsurprisingly, it pretty much fails miserably. For starters, the broccoli and ch

Chef's Cupboard Chunky Grilled Chicken and Sausage Gumbo Canned Soup (Aldi)

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As far as canned soups go, this one is actually pretty good. Well, we all saw how disappointed I was with the terrible cheddar-broccoli-potato-chicken soup that I reviewed earlier, so now it’s time to be disappointed by the Grilled Chicken & Sausage Gumbo, a soup I used to infrequently get for something different when I was single. Things got off to an appropriately shitty start right from the outset--pouring this into a bowl sounds, and even looks, like a bad case of diarrhea. So much so that even my wife, who was in the living room when I poured it, commented on how disgusting it sounded, without me even mentioning anything. That’s usually not a good sign when your food takes on any singular characteristic of poop. However, I must say that the remainder of my experience went uphill from there, to the extent that I was greatly impressed with this stuff. Well, “greatly” when put in direct comparison to the other disappointing Chef’s Cupboard soups that I've had. While th

Baker's Treat Chocolate Cup Cakes with Creamy Filling (Aldi)

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"Good", but small and still overpriced. I’m going to start this off with an uncomfortably personal anecdote: One of the few memories I have of my father back from when I was a child, was walking to the gas station down the street, a Clark store if I remember correctly, and getting the national brand cupcakes for the walk home. I don't know how that image stayed in my head after all these years, but I remember it pretty clearly (we haven't talked in about fourteen years for reasons that I will obviously not get into on this blog.) Ever since those days, I've pretty much avoided those cupcakes—not at all because of the memories, but because now that I'm paying for things myself, I'm not going to pay the inflated prices they want for cheap cupcakes. That's money that can be better spent on other things. Yet on a recent trip to Aldi, I noticed that they carried their own version of those classic cupcakes. Have they had them all this time, and I just

Baker's Treat Cinnamon Streusel Snack Cakes (Aldi)

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Technically "good", but very small and still overpriced. I like those cheap factory-made bakery desserts (think Hostess), but I don’t buy them very often for two reasons: 1.) they are terrible for you, and 2.) they are overpriced to all hell. I mean, upwards of $4 for a package that amounts to nothing more than sugar and fat? No thank you. But that doesn't mean that I can't indulge every so often, and on my last shopping trip, I noticed these. Has Aldi always carried streusel cakes? It's possible that I've just trained myself to skim passed them, but I don't recall ever seeing them there before. First of all, I have to admit that the packaging on Baker’s Corner treats is very spiffy. I don’t comment on the appearance of many Aldi products, but the new template has a clean, inviting design that really appealed to me. That’s what initially caught my eye. Then my eyes wandered to the word “streusel”, and that was it: it was in my cart. It had been a

Savoritz Reduced Fat Cheese Baked Snack Crackers (Aldi)

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Almost just as good as the "real" thing, and with 40% less fat.  Savoritz's regular version of the popular cheese cracker is one of my favorite buys at Aldi: it's a spot-on replica of the national brand, and one of those things that are too affordable, making it way tougher than it should be to walk by them without buying them. I kept seeing the “reduced fat” version they always carry and was interested to try it, but for whatever reason I just didn't. Then that great wife of mine reminded me about their existence by pointing them out during a shopping trip, and urged me to get them. Since my motto is “there's no time like the present”, I decided to stop putting it off, and picked up a box. Honestly, I think part of it is just a mental block, because I don't quite feel like these are as addicting as the regular kind, despite tasting almost exactly the same. I haven't analyzed the boxes or nutrition labels to tell what's different betwee

Savoritz White Cheddar Cheese Baked Snack Crackers (Aldi)

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Fantastic. I’m usually pretty privy to the items that Aldi carries on a weekly basis. I always read the weekly ad (the only company I do that for), and I generally take time to peruse the lists of what’s new in their stores, and once in a while, their new low prices. So it’s not often that I’m caught off guard by a particular offering. But I’ll be damned if I wasn’t completely blindsided by Savoritz White Cheddar Cheese Crackers. I’ve championed the regular cheddar ones in a previous review, which they have carried for years, but have never seen the white cheddar kind being offered at any of their stores. Since it’s my wife’s favorite kind of the national brand, and one I haven’t tried for years, we picked up a box to see what it was all about. My last memory of eating the name brand white cheddar cheese crackers was about twenty-years ago. I was a fourth grader (if memory serves me correctly), and I was trying out for a pee-wee football team. I hated every minute of it--t

Specially Selected Spinach Ricotta Bistro Style Frozen Flatbread (Aldi)

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Not very good. Here we have another Specially Selected flatbread, which is available as an occasional Special Buy from Aldi stores across the States. Pulling this out of the box, it looked pretty much like any other number of similar offerings that Aldi has had over the years…there’s lots of green, lots of cheese, and some mushrooms for good measure. So pardon us that my wife and I weren’t all that excited to give it a shot once we opened it up. But then I re-read the box, and remembered that this doesn’t feature a pizza sauce, or a pesto, or any other sauce “typically” found in supermarket pizzas…it features a “sweet onion” sauce. That was actually enough to perk me up, because I’ve never heard of such a sauce on a pizza before. Also illuminating: there are bits of ricotta cheese randomly placed throughout. It now had my attention. Well let me just say that the sauce puts the “sweet” in sweet onion, and then some…to my astonishment, it went completely overboard. In fact, i

Specially Selected Bistro Style Bruschetta Frozen Flatbread (Aldi)

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Why I hate taking pictures. Well another week, and another pizza! This time, we have the Bistro Style Bruschetta Flatbread, released under the Specially Selected label at Aldi stores. We got this one because it’s a pizza fit for vegetarians, so it was one I could enjoy with my wife--although at a quick glance it looks like there’s chicken on the pizza, it’s simply made up of tomatoes, onions, and cheese, with a crème fraiche sauce, and some garlic in there somewhere. Admittedly, we were a little pressed for time when preparing this--my wife had to be at work in under an hour--so our attempts to shave off some cooking time backfired a little bit; the edges were nice and crispy, but the center was still soft. It was cooked enough, but easily could have, and should have, served some more time in the oven. So the texture was a little off, but that was completely our fault. Still, the flavors remained largely unchanged, so while the onions were a little flimsier than they probabl

Nature's Nectar Wild Cherry Flavored Juice Pouches (Aldi)

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Even as an adult, I suck at getting the straw through the little circle...and the taste isn't worth the effort. Aaaah, the juice pouch. While other kids' drinks were in boxes, one company had to come along and put it in a pouch instead. One of my favorite childhood memories involves trying to poke that sharp straw through the small hole at just the right angle that it would puncture it and go into the drink, instead of impaling the pouch all the way through, forcing me to basically shotgun it so that all the juice didn't leak out. To be a kid again.  I'm actually finding I still have the same struggles...I managed to poke the hole open without getting the straw in, and when my wife went to show me how to do it (she's a pro), she got juice all over the place, thanks to my error. Oops. (At least I can say from my failures that the drink is clear, so chances are good there aren't any artificial colors inside). Thanks to the extra hole she pre-scored right under

Nature's Nectar Iced Tea and Lemonade Beverage (Aldi)

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It tastes good, but it's not always all about the taste, as you will see in my investigative report below... My wife and I were on the hunt for something that never showed up to our usual Aldi location, so we ended up going to a different one to look for it. While there, I saw this plain-looking container of the combination frequently referred to as an “Arnold Palmer”: sweet tea and lemonade. My wife almost immediately mentioned she thought it would taste like the tea company named after a state (hint: Phoenix is in it), but I quickly dismissed that notion, because Aldi actually carries that name brand (the theory is that Aldi only carries name brands when they cannot find a supplier than can accurately mimic it; once they do, they get rid of the main brand and replace it with their own knockoff). Besides, this bottle didn't resemble that brand's aesthetic at all: it was shaped differently, the colors and fonts were completely different...usually something is there to

UPDATE: Summit Red Thunder Extra Strength Grape Flavor Energy Shot (Aldi)

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UPDATE (Nov. 2020): The price of these continues to go up, rising to $.79 in 2019, then to $.99 a little while after that; as of now, it's up to $1.09. The rating has been adjusted accordingly, and updated notes are in italics. One of the very best A pretty good deal in energy. It had been a while since I set foot in an Aldi store prior to my visit last month, and as I was getting ready to check out, my gaze naturally wandered to the “impulse buys” section. It had the usual suspects: gum, “travel” packs of peanuts, batteries, etc., as well as their standard energy shots, which they've had for years, and which I have reviewed in the past. But among the familiar shots were a new kind with darker packaging that I had not noticed before. Not only was it grape, a new flavor that I hadn't tried, but it was also an “extra strength” variety, for the same paltry 69 cent price tag of the regular. “Alright, Aldi, you win,” I sighed to myself as I put it with my other products on

UPDATE: Summit Red Thunder Extra Strength Berry Flavor Energy Shot

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UPDATE (Nov. 2020): After rising from $.69 to $.79, then from $.79 to $.99 within the span of a few months, these have now gone up to $1.09. The score has been adjusted accordingly, with updated notes in italics. One of the very best  A pretty good deal in energy. Well what is there to say about Red Thunder’s Extra Strength Berry Energy Shot that I haven’t already said in my previous review of their regular (as in, not extra strength) berry-flavored energy shot? I gave that one perfect marks, and so it stands to reason that I must give this one perfect marks, too. Why? Because it’s pretty much the exact same thing as the regular version, only with extra caffeine. 230 mg, to be exact, making this a huge kick in the pants if you need a quick boost. In fact, having had the national brand recently (after stealing one from a co-worker…shhhhhhh), I can honestly say that I much prefer Red Thunder’s version. The NB (as it will be referred to from now on) has, in my opinion, a much m

Little Journey Organics Apple Carrot Baby Food Puree (Aldi)

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Apple and carrot, and it's GOOD? Who knew? We've taken a look at quite a few offerings from Little Journey Organics, the Aldi baby product line if you are just joining us, and we've seen what is mostly an excellent set of products, with a couple of curious failures so bad, they have to be intentional. Now we're going to be looking at a combination that, although very uncommon, actually sounds kind of palatable: Apple Carrot. Whoa! The first thing I noticed has nothing to do with the flavor, but the packaging, which assures us it “Contains Vitamins A & C.” Now all of the ones we've taken a gander at thus far have had solid vitamin C content, ranging from 35% all the way up to close to 170%. Since there was no specific number mentioned, I expected it to be a small number, and in the case of vitamin C, it is: a mere 8%. But what I wasn't expecting was the vitamin A content, which comes in at a whopping 440%! Pretty astonishing number, and one that many

Little Journey Organics Prune Apple Butternut Squash with Quinoa Baby Food Puree (Aldi)

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In non-shocking news, the combination of prune and butternut squash shares the same flavor profile as vomit. Just when I was starting to get comfortable with the Little Journey Organics baby food line, that's when I seemed to come across all the weird flavors. In this case, we have prune, apple, and butternut squash all being forced together, a combination that features two things I don't even like. Still, I'm of the mindset that anything is worth a sampling at least once. Sometimes, there are surprises, such as my choosing the Apple Sweet Potato variety as one of my favorite flavors, despite hating the taste of sweet potatoes. Other times, I get exactly what I'm expecting: Exhibit A, ladies and gentlemen, is this pouch. Of course, with prune and butternut squash being the main ingredients, it's not going to be sweet, I think that much you can expect right out of the gate. But I didn't expect it to taste as bad as it does—it literally seems like those cr