Trader Joe's Turkey

Trader Joe's Turkey "Meatloaf Muffins"

I Paid: $5.99 for four muffins (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 1 stars

Marketing: 4 stars

Review mass-marketed food for even a short period of time and you learn that you can’t ever judge a frozen meal by its cover—quality of ingredients, balance of seasonings, and performance under heat are all difficult to control, and impossible to quantify in a box-top photograph.

But even by the unpredictable standards of the genre, guessing at the quality of Trader Joe’s food is a game of Russian roulette. Entrées come and go seemingly at random, and good theories sometimes yield poor results.

Case in point: The oddly appealing-looking Turkey “Meatloaf Muffins.” At 220 calories a pop, these big-snack-/small-meal-sized frozen entrées look like a terrific balance of relatively healthy ingredients: a small amount of mashed potatoes plus spinach plus a lean turkey meatloaf, stacked into a muffin shape to be microwaved or oven-baked back to warm, hearty goodness.

No such luck, however. The spinach is everything you remember about not liking spinach as a kid: soggy, metallic, and unpleasant, squished under a mound of slightly gluey and underseasoned potatoes. A real kick of heat or spice or anything (fruit? salt and/or pepper? bacon? kimchi? Doesn’t matter!) would have saved the turkey meatloaf, which was bland and slightly depressing in a hospital-food sort of way.

A for concept, C-minus/D-plus for execution, and another object lesson in the impossibility of predicting what you’ll get at TJ’s.

See more articles