My actual boyfriend, Mark, and I went to Trader Joe’s after a coworker of mine suggested I try out their frozen lunch section. I had been telling her that I’d like to stop spending $6+ a day on lunch, without actually having to stop eating. She was heating up a Trader Joe’s pad thai lunch at the moment, and shared her enlightened ways with me as the smell of her delicious noodles wafted their way into my nostrils.
Needless to say, my copycat butt was in Trader Joe’s the very next weekend. With Mark watching in astonishment – which is kind of nuts, considering he knows how fat I am by now – I bought eleven, yes eleven, frozen lunches, bringing the total to an astonishing $2.50 for each item (which is basically the equivalent of me robbing Trader Joe’s compared to what I usually spend).
I was too impatient to wait for the workweek to begin, so I cracked open one of the frozen goodies – the Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Dip - and shockingly enough shared it with Mark. All I can say is: Holy Mary Mother of Jesus was it delicious. It tasted like we had ordered it from a restaurant (with a price difference of about $7 that is).
For the next two weeks, I diligently heated up a frozen lunch each day around 1PM. (The first being Vegetable Pad Thai because of my aforementioned copycat-ness.) I was delighted to find that it was delicious. Like the spin dip, it tasted very restaurant-esque. Same goes for the Vegetable Bird’s Nests (which tasted like fried zucchini sticks with a tempura breading — hello). I also had some luck with the Pork Shu Mai (although it was a little too much for one sitting, so I had to spread out these cute little dumplings over two days). The wonton soup, however, ended my streak. It just came across as soup that really, really wanted to be wonton, but just wasn’t. E for Effort Trader Joe’s. E for Effort.
The pastas seem to be very hit-or-miss. The first – Fusilli with Vegetables and Basil Pesto - was a total let down. It was totally bland. Trader Giotto’s very loosely used the term “Basil Pesto,” as there was a dollop of it at best. I was basically eating hot, wet, sauceless pasta with tasteless tiny pieces of zucchini. Womp womp. The second, which by comparison alone had a good chance of winning my favor, was very good. It was a shell pasta with brie cheese melted all over it (which to me tasted exactly like Alfredo sauce) and little pieces of asparagus. A cheesy, asparagussy little meal? Yes, please. The third, Tortellini with Red Pesto, Ricotta & Spinach, blew the first two out of the water. It had sauce comin’ out the ears, and was totally delish. 5 stars for that one Chef-Boy-R-Joe’s.
All in all, I am pretty satisfied with the selection I purchased. They were different enough that I didn’t get bored, just the right size to make me full but not sick, and good enough to not taste like they had been frozen mere minutes before. The only problem (oh, you thought I was going to finish this without complaining, did you?) was that they were frozen mere minutes before, and if you’re anything like me, that little tidbit of knowledge will eventually get to you.
By the end of my experiment I began thinking, “Which one should I eat today? Egh, not that one. Egh, I don’t really want that one. Etc.” I’d also see my coworkers ordering in steaming hot delicious food from neighboring restaurants and would literally want to cry out in jealousy. This posed a problem because lunch is one of my favorite parts of the day, and I’d hate for my frugality to take that away from me.
So me, myself & I came to a compromise: I’m going to do 2 frozen Trader Joe’s meals a week (after all, many of them are really tasty and dirt cheap), 2 take-out lunches a week (to satisfy my inner glutinous, consumer self), and 1 tupperware full of good ol’ leftovers from Mom. Bam.