The Best Food and Drink We Taste Tested This Year

Chocolate Chip Cookies


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Chocolate Chip Cookies

Choosy Chews

Every so often, we at Cheapism like to take a break from our regular editorial duties and sink our teeth into a taste test. During the past 12 months, we’ve sampled everything from instant coffee to fast-food cheeseburgers to pasta sauce — some good, some bad, and some downright awful. Here’s a look back at our favorites of 2020. And we’ve gathered all of our taste tests for shoppers and diners with even more appetites to satisfy.

Related: We Tried Flaviar's Spirits Subscription — Here's How It Went

Wendy's Biscuit
Yon C./Yelp

Wendy’s Breakfast Sandwiches

Because we enjoy a challenge, we sent our fast-food expert over to Wendy’s to sample not one, not five, but all nine of the chain’s breakfast sandwich options. This gut-buster of an assignment was a challenge, but our writer relished every moment. In general, Wendy’s biscuits outshone their croissants and sandwich buns.

Winner: Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit

Related: The Best Fast Food Deals to Grab in December

Market Pantry Tomato, Basil, and Garlic Pasta Sauce (Target)

Jarred Pasta Sauce

Nothing makes for an easy weeknight meal like a jar of sauce with a favorite pasta. It’s quick, cheap, and filling. Also, there are a bazillion options at the store. To find the best cheap pasta sauce, we tasted store-brand marinaras from Aldi, Target, and Walmart. To make it even more challenging, we compared them with top-rated Rao’s, a pasta sauce that costs four times as much.

Winner: Market Pantry Tomato, Basil, and Garlic

Related: 15 Foods That are Always Better as Leftovers

Blue Bunny Simply Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches

Ice Cream Sandwiches

In July, we sought refuge from the summer heat by taste-testing vanilla ice cream sandwiches from Klondike and Blue Bunny and comparing them with cheaper store brands from Walmart, Target, and Aldi. Of the 16 ice cream sammies we sampled, two were top-notch, one was very good … and one was just yucky.

Winner (tie): Blue Bunny Simply Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches, Klondike Sandwiches Classic Vanilla

Related: Relive Your Childhood By Making These 13 Classic Ice Cream Truck Treats

Joe To Go Pinot Gris
Seattle's Best Coffee House Blend Medium Roast

Cheap Coffee

If you’re like most Americans, you’ve been drinking more coffee at home in 2020. But that increased consumption can take a bite out of a wallet if you’re not careful. We turned to our resident coffee snob loose to suss out the best ground coffee under $5 that wasn’t Folgers or Maxwell House. The verdict? Some of it was pretty darn good, especially the brand owned by Starbucks.

Winner: Seattle's Best Coffee House Blend Medium Roast

Related: Perk 'Em Up with These Great Gifts for Coffee Lovers

Waka Colombian Medium Roast Instant Coffee

Instant Coffee

Of course, not every coffee drinker goes for the “fancy” ground stuff. Some prefer instant coffee, which is even cheaper. Our coffee expert rounded up 13 kinds of instant coffee from top-selling brands such as Folger’s, Maxwell House, Cafe Bustelo, and Starbucks in a quest to find one that tasted like freshly brewed. Truth be told, no instant coffee can match the complexities that just-ground beans or even pre-ground coffee can. But one came close.

Winner: Waka Colombian Medium Roast Instant Coffee

Related: A Surprising Ingredient Makes These Desserts Irresistible

The Way the Cookie Crumbles

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Know what tastes good with a cup of coffee (or a glass of milk, if coffee isn't your thing)? A couple of chocolate chip cookies. For this taste test, we bought 16 bags of chocolate chip cookies from well-known brands such as Keebler, Pepperidge Farm, and Nabisco, as well as house brands from stores including Walmart, Aldi, and Trader Joe's. We weren’t too surprised by the winners — Tate’s and Pepperidge Farm are regular taste-test winners — but the runner-up from Walmart sure did.

Winner (tie): Tate's Bake Shop Chocolate Chip Cookies, Pepperidge Farm Double Chocolate Nantucket

Related: The 20 Best Classic Cookie Recipes

Best Burger Veggies
Art C./Yelp
Jack in the Box Fries
Ronald C./Yelp

French Fries

How else would you accompany your fast-food burger than with a big basket of fast-food fries? For the longest time, consensus was that McDonald’s french fries were the best. Could Jack in the Box, Carl's Jr., Wendy's, Sonic Drive-In, or Burger King unseat Mickey D’s? Yes!

Winner: Jack in the Box Curly Fries

Related: Why McDonald's Fries Used to Taste Better

Teton Waters Ranch 100% Grass-Fed Beef Hot Dogs
Beyond Meat Plant-Based Burger Patties

Meatless Burgers

The market for plant-based meat substitutes is booming, with more and more products competing for floor space at grocery stores. We sampled Beyond Beef Plant-Based Ground Beef, Lightlife Plant-Based Ground, and Pure Farmland Plant-Based Simply Seasoned Protein Starters, then compared these meat-free foods with ground beef. Much to our surprise, one sample nearly fooled us into thinking it was the real thing.

Winner: Beyond Meat Plant-Based Ground Beef

Related: 30 Celebrity Chefs' Favorite Burger Recipes

Run Wild Non-Alcoholic IPA

Nonalcoholic Beer

Whether you’re planning to observe Dry January after a month (or more) of holiday indulging or just prefer to keep your drinks booze-free, nonalcoholic beer is a great beverage option, and there are more choices than ever. Cheapism rounded up a sampling of 15 non-alcoholic beers and tasted them to see how they compare with a bottle of Budweiser. We were disappointed in some of the brews, but one was a true standout that even die-hard beer drinkers would probably enjoy.

Winner: Athletic Brewing’s Run Wild IPA

Related: I Gave Up Alcohol for a Month and Here's What Happened

Best Overall Water Flavoring

Water Flavorings

Staying hydrated is easy, but drinking all that water sure gets boring. In a quest to keep our taste buds happy, we sampled packets of powder, squeezable bottles of liquid, and dissolvable tablets from brands including Crystal Light, Gatorade, and Propel. Some of our samples were practically undrinkable, overwhelming assaults of artificial flavor. But one water flavoring rose to the top.

Winner: Gatorade Thirst Quenching Powder

Related: 20 Cheap Ways to Jazz Up Plain Water and Stay Hydrated