Trader Joe’s is my favorite grocery store of all time. Between the friendly staff, the sample station in the back with its teensy cups of coffee and the fabulous deals on everything from olive oil to vitamins, it’s my happy place. I cannot leave without spending at least $60 on random salsas, an armful of frozen pizzas and a ginormous bag of trail mix.
But man, they have some legit losers. I’ve spit out everything from seafood dumplings to unpalatable canned goods. It’s a mystery how these items make it onto the shelves in the first place. Do the Trader Joe’s higher-ups think we TJ fans won’t notice? I can’t understand why they’re still for sale.
Here, the ten most regrettable things I’ve consumed at Trader Joe’s. Don’t make the same mistakes I did.
1. Frozen Shrimp Tacos
Soggy shrimp in a rubbery tortilla? NO THANKS. Not only is this the saddest food product ever produced — eating tacos by yourself is a little sad, no? — but microwaving a taco goes against my entire belief system and my belief system isn’t that strong to begin with! (For the record, I believe in playing Candy Crush Soda Saga while I pee and keeping my CD binders from college even though I don’t even own a CD player.)
2. Trader Joe’s sushi
This is embarrassing to admit, but I’ve been swindled by Trader Joe’s sushi a few times. It’s always the same: I roll in around noon, notice the sushi display and think, “What the hell? I deserve a yummy lunch, right?” As soon as I take the first bite, I remember how disgusting TJ sushi is. It tastes like how running into your ex feels.
As if the imitation crab meat wasn’t offensive enough, the rolls always feature some gnarly mayo-heavy preparation and a ton of rice. There’s nothing fresh-tasting about it. It’s almost like it was made in a lab by people who have never tasted sushi but have seen pictures of it in magazines. Every time I go, I want to stand in front of the sushi shelf and yell, “I was rooting for you! We were all rooting for you! How dare you?”
3. Chicken-and-Vegetable Wonton Soup
Trader Ming is on drugs if he thinks this frozen soup is anything people would want in their mouths. The thin broth tastes soapy and the limp wontons resemble wet, balled-up used tissue. The veggies are so lackluster it is like they’re actors hired to imitate actual vegetables.
4. Sriracha Shrimp-and-Crab Dumplings
If you’re interested in cat food tucked inside a gross wrapper, this is the meal for you. Everything about this package looks fancy: the styled photo on the box, the fancy font, the trendy ingredients. But it’s a ruse! Everything about these dumplings is bullshit. I don’t know who is clamoring for a sour, unpleasant Sriracha seafood dumpling, but that person is a Grade-A ding-dong.
5. Blueberry Breakfast Biscuits
Minuscule dried blueberry shards and a cheerful purple box can’t change the fact these biscuits taste like a fairy waved her magic wand and turned a heap of sand into a cookie. These make my mouth so dry, my tongue gets dandruff.
6. Whole Grain Crispbread
This brittle, tasteless seed cracker is not only a mess to eat, but it also doesn’t play well with anything I pair it with. It cracks under a square of Pepper jack cheese and overpowers a spoonful of apple butter. Congratulations, Whole Grain Crispbread. I’m completely flummoxed about what to do with you! This compressed sheet of bird seed is the NordicTrack treadmill of crackers: something you buy to be healthy but ultimately ends up collecting dust somewhere in your house.
7. Thai Sweet Chili Burger
One of my favorite condiments blended with one of my favorite meatless patties! What can go wrong? Answer: literally everything. It turns out the world does not need a sweet-tasting veggie burger.
8. Chili in a can
This is the most depressing chili of all time. Nothing can improve the taste. Not a few aggressive shakes of hot sauce, not handfuls of sharp cheddar cheese, not a few salty, stiff tortilla chips — nothing masks the aggressive blandness of this canned chili. Nothing. It’s the Adam Sandler straight-to-Netflix movie of canned goods. (Did I mention a few bites of this slimy bean parade makes you toot non-stop for a fortnight? Because it definitely does.)
9. PB&J Bar
When I saw this on the shelf last the summer, I figured it’d be a fun addition to my snack routine. But this tiny, dense bar is mealy and overly sweet. Next time I have the craving, I’ll just make a PB&J sandwich like a normal person, no need for a fussy bar substitute.
10. Herb Dijon Salmon
I’ve been consistently let down by Trader Joe’s fish department. Their meager offerings never taste fresh, which is pretty much the only requirement for fish. If it doesn’t taste fresh, it’s failed. You’d be better off taking your money, slathering it in mustard and herbs and tossing it in the dirt.
All that said, I’m off to TJs for lunch! What’s your least favorite Trader Joe’s product? Tell us in the comments!
Anna Goldfarb is the author of the humor memoir, Clearly, I Didn’t Think This Through. She lives in Philadelphia with her three-legged cat, Eleanor. Follow her on Twitter @AnnaGoldfarb.
Illustrations by Maria Jia Ling Pitt.