Life

New(ish) Grocery Products We Love For Weekend Snacking

You know what they say — so many snacks, so little time. Just us? Okay, then. In truth, there are a lot of snacks out there on your grocery store shelves and even more online. Nobody has the time or money to eat all of them. Plus taking a chance on a new Oreo flavor or an upstart brand of microwave popcorn can often end in you wasting money on something you’ll never eat, when you could’ve just reached for a brand you already know you like.

We don’t want that for you, so we’re going to go ahead and take the grocery store/ online shopping L’s for you. Helping ensure that you only spend your money on winners. To do that, we ate a bunch of snacks (some of which, as you might imagine, were awful) and came up with a tight eight that pass our greatest scrutiny, breaking down what we love about each.

Salt & Straw Cereal Sly Menu (Dane Rivera)

Salt & Straw

Average Price: $65 (For 5 Pints)

Why It’s Good:

Portland-based ice cream brand Salt & Straw has relaunched its Cereal Sly menu for the spring season, bringing five delicious flavors that combine Salt & Straw’s rich ice cream with your favorite breakfast cereals… kind of. Don’t expect ice cream equivalents of your childhood faves. Instead Salt & Straw used the cereal as a jumping-off point for something uniquely its own, and the line of limited-run ice creams is better for it.

The end result is flavors that are reminiscent of your favorite cereals without being one note. Pots of Gold & Rainbows, OffLimits’ Dash Cold Brew Cocoa Crisps, a dairy-free Peanut Butter Captain Munch, Snap ’N Crackle Marshmallow Treats, and Cornflake Cookies with Marionberry Jam are inventive while hitting that nostalgia sweet spot.

I had to choose one, it would definitely be the Pots of Gold & Rainbow, which uses “cereal steeped milk” as its base and mixes in marshmallow rainbows — the best application of marshmallows in an ice cream that we’ve ever tried. The rich coffee-forward Cold Brew Cocoa Crisps and the Cornflake Cookies, which features housemade marionberry jam, are also destined to be legendary.

The Bottom Line:

Salt & Straw is one of the most inventive ice cream brands around. Grab a pint (or five) from Salt & Straw’s Cereal Sly menu ASAP. The flavors are only around until supplies last.

Whozeewhatzit (Dane Rivera)

Amazon

Average Price: $4.50

Why It’s Good:

Every time a candy brand attempts to do something different, it’s met with side-eye from candy-eating skeptics who see it as nothing more than a cash grab. That’s generally fair because most of the time that’s what it is! Easter-shaped Reese’s, different flavored Kit-Kats (besides the Green Tea flavor, which is bomb), tropical Sour Patch — it’s all designed to make you feel like you’re introducing variety to your rampant sugar consumption.

But most new candies somehow lack imagination while sacrificing whatever nostalgia points it had going for it. The Whozeewhatzit (a spin on the Whatchamacallit) is different. Is it as good as the original? Yes. Maybe even better.

Instead of a peanut butter crisp topped with a thin layer of caramel covered in chocolate, the Whozeewhatzit features an all-chocolate crisp with a thin layer of peanut butter creme covered in chocolate. Sure, it’s a little derivative — but it’s still damn good candy.

The Bottom Line:

Certainly worth grabbing at a gas station next time you’re ready to cheat on your spring diet.

KIMNORI Seasoned Seaweed Snack — Korean BBQ (Janice Williams)

KimNori

Average Price: $29.99 (12 Pack)

Why It’s Good:

Seaweed snacks have existed long before I was ever conceived. Yet, somehow, I am only just now getting into them. And let me tell you, since only a few short months ago, I have been eating these crispy little seaweed slices as much as a crab eats kelp.

The seaweed is roasted and seasoned with a blend of spices that gives the snack a flavoring of meat grilled over a stove-top griddle. And yet, that blend of secret spices doesn’t overpower the seaweed’s fresh and natural briny, oceanic taste. Speckles of sea salt embedded in each seaweed square give the snack an addictive boost that makes it impossible to just eat one.

There is a little filmy, oily residue that you’ll notice on your fingers after a bite, but this is why I particularly like the Kim Nori brand. Their seaweed snacks has a very light coating of sunflower, sesame, and canola oil compared to other brands that seem to weigh the seaweed down with heavier oils.

The Bottom Line:

This is a mindless, low-calorie, organic, and gluten-free treat that will satisfy those salty-snack cravings.

Trader Joe’s Crispy Crunchy Champignon Mushroom Snack (Janice Williams)

eBay

Average Price: $4

Why It’s Good:

I absolutely love potato chips, but my expanding waistline is really not a fan. So naturally, I’ve been trying to find healthier alternatives to satisfy my salty, crunchy cravings. Enter Trader Joe’s Crispy Crunchy Champignon Mushroom Snack — the latest snack that I’m totally tripping balls over.

Here we have actual slices of champignon, or rather white mushrooms, that have been vacuum fried with sunflower oil to create a snack that is perfectly crispy, savory, and filling. There is a hint of sea salt but the predominant flavor is the mushroom’s own natural earthiness. After a bit of crunching, the shrooms start to disintegrate into a softness similar to the texture they display when they’re sautéed or roasted, which makes them particularly enjoyable — like a hard crunch that evolves into a soft chew.

I should note that there are about 340 calories and 26 grams of fat in a single serving of this snack. However, the whole bag is considered one serving, and it’s highly unlikely you’ll eat all the shrooms in one sitting as opposed to a handful every here and there. As I said, they’re legit filling.

The Bottom Line:

For comparison, there are about 160 calories and 10 grams of fat in a 2.75-ounce bag of Lays Classics (you know, the $1.89 bag) and about three servings worth of chips, which you’re likely to eat all at once. You do the math.

If you’re looking for a potato chip replacement, this light, salty, and crunchy snack is it.

Cheetos Mac ‘N Cheese (Zach Johnston)

Cheetos

Average Price: 0.96¢

Why It’s Good:

Have you ever thought about pulverizing some Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and dusting something with them? Come on. I know you have. And you know what? It’s not a bad idea. The reason I say this with confidence is thanks to Cheetos Mac ‘N Cheese — which essentially makes the “hot Cheeto dust” concept into a whole dang boxed dinner.

A boxed dinner which is surprisingly good.

The Bottom Line:

Look, this is an unholy and unnatural bright red. It’s spiral mac n’ cheese which isn’t always the best (it’s a little heavy as a noodle choice, in my opinion). But goddamnit, it’s tasty. It’s very creamy, actually cheesy, and the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos feel like a nice seasoning/spicy addition, not an afterthought.

It’s legitimately spicy as well — to the point that I needed to blow my nose by the end and beads of sweat were rolling off my brow. Creamy, cheesy, and spicy pasta with a really nostalgic edge and glowing red hue? Fine stunt/gimmick mac n’ cheese, you win.

Snow Days Pizza Bites (Steve Bramucci)

Snow Days

Average Price: $31.49 (2-Pack)

Why It’s Good:

I’ve gone years now without having any “ready to make” meals in my freezer. I like cooking and was able to get into the kitchen most nights. But during the pandemic, I’ve needed to keep a few super simple meals on hand and this brand new drop has proven itself an immediate champion.

These are pizza bites. Unless you skipped the 90s, 2000s, and 2010s completely, you know pizza bites. But this version is both organic and grain-free. I hate to be the person who only likes healthy food when it tastes like unhealthy food but… well, I’m that guy. Somehow these taste better than typical pizza bites and their ingredient list includes cassava, sweet potato, carrot, and spinach. What strange alchemy is that?

Rather than trying to imitate gluten, the crust is more robust-grainy than a typical pizza bite, which works beautifully. It’s like you’re eating a pizza crust dusted with cornmeal. The centers are deeply savory and feature real cheese, meaning you still get that cheese-pull effect. It’s the perfect update to a snack I loved as a kid.

The Bottom Line:

For my palate, this brand is it — I won’t go back to its overprocessed predecessors. Be sure to follow the directions to make sure they don’t burst in the oven. Use an air fryer for optimal results.

Mr. Lee’s Instant Ramen Noodles(Steve Bramucci)

Amazon

Average Price: $31.99 (Mixed Box of All 4 Flavors)

Why It’s Good:

Have you read about how unhealthy instant ramen typically is? It’s a wild rabbit hole to go down. And if you’ve eaten a ton of Top Ramen and Cup Noodles over the years, as I have, you’re sure to find it troubling.

Knowing this, I’ve often thought to myself, “Why isn’t there a healthy Cup Noodles? Someone could make it and break the game wide open!” Enter Mr. Lee’s, whose business model is literally making a better instant noodle cup.

Guess what? They’re successful at it. These things are really, really good and hit all those old comfort food sweet spots while still tasting like real, not-crazily-processed food. The ingredients are clearly higher quality and, unlike traditional instant ramen, these retain some nutrients.

The Bottom Line:

Switch Cup Noodles with Mr. Lee’s immediately, the new brand is better in every way. But remember: You have to shake the cup. Otherwise, your soup will be bland and you’ll accuse me of lying to you!

Creamalicious Uncle Charles Brown Suga Bourbon Cake Ice Cream (Steve Bramucci)

Creamalicious

Average Price: $7.99

Why It’s Good:

Chef Liz Rogers doesn’t just make ice cream. She makes ice cream with a story. Each flavor of Creamalicious comes with a snippet from the chef’s own Southern culinary heritage — tales of favorite aunts and stylish, bourbon sipping uncles.

But the genius of this brand isn’t just in its commitment to handing down stories. Each flavor starts with a baked good — a cake or pastry or cookie — that’s then mixed into the ice cream base. It’s a combo that’s been proven and works particularly well here. The mix-ins taste freshly made and have a texture that’s authentic to the baked goods themselves, rather than being hard, stale, or too small to notice.

Unlike Salt & Straw, which leaned into the salt and gave birth to millions of savory ice cream imitators, this is truly a sweet treat. But these ice creams aren’t one-note, not by a long shot. The baked mix-ins add texture and surprise to each pint and the flavors are creative and rarely seen.

The Bottom Line:

Start with the Sweet Potato Pie — starring pieces of real pie, using a recipe handed down by Chef Liz’s Grandma Gigi.

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