With the shorter days and cooler temperatures afforded by the slow-but-inevitable onset of Autumn (my favorite season), I tend to find myself outside quite often. Though we’re only a third of the way through September, I’m on pace to walk 90 miles this month, much of it around Portland’s Back Cove Trail (which I make an effort to walk at high tide each day). Its at this time of year that I tend to be a little more health-focused, favoring light meals and healthy, portable snacks to pizza delivery and heavy winter stews.
One of the healthy’ish snacks I enjoy most is trail mix, the combination of nuts, seeds, dried fruit and sometimes candy. Once regarded as the type of food eaten only by hippies and hikers (remember gorp?), trail mix is just about everywhere these days, a reality attributed to both our constant need for “on the go” food and a global marketplace where flavors once deemed “exotic”—wasabi peas, for example—can now be found even in America’s smallest towns and villages. Trail mix—in some form—is offered at just about every grocery store, convenience store, gas station corner market and pharmacy in the country.
Of course, that’s not to say that good trail mix is easy to find. For me, buying the prepackaged stuff tends to be a mixed bag (pun intended), mostly because there are so many x-factors involved. For instance, I have a hard time spending money on a product that contains one or more ingredients that I dislike (banana chips… ugh). And having now spent a few years working in the healthcare industry—not to mention the fact that I’m on the wrong side of 40—I’m a little more aware of the levels of sugar and sodium that I’m putting into my body, which often means dumping out the pretzels, M&M’s or chocolate chips that come in those pre-packaged mixes. Plus, don’t you hate it when you buy a bag of trail mix only to get it home and find that 99% of the bag is composed of the cheapest ingredients possible (e.g. the stuff nobody wants)?
I’ve experimented with the bulk foods aisle, but can’t really say that it is much better. While it affords you a little more control over what you’re purchasing, the buying experience feels like something invented by the Marquis de Sade. Don’t believe me? Just head on over to your local grocery store and try scooping walnuts or cashews into those flimsy plastic bags using the impossibly small plastic scoops they give you without spilling two-thirds of it onto the floor. Oh, and don’t forget the 20 minutes you’ll spend searching for a pen—which are always in short supply—so that you can write down the PLU#, lest you risk facing the annoyance of the teenager working the checkout lane (who will most likely charge you whatever they want in retaliation for your carelessness). And let’s face it… the variety at most grocery stores tends to not be so great.
But in the last year or so, I became aware of a new way of obtaining trail mix that has changed—for the better—the way I buy the stuff: an online outlet called TrailMyx.com.
(In the interest of transparency, I should mention that the owners of TrailMyx—a genuinely sweet married couple who I’ll refer to here as C&B—are friends of mine. That said, they didn’t ask me to write about their company, nor were they aware of my intentions to write about their business when I placed my most recent order with them. Nor is this one of those dreaded “sponsored” reviews where I’m required to awkwardly repeat some Corporate Entity’s product mantra—”Laughing Cow Cheese really is as creamy as they say!”—a certain number of times. I’m writing about TrailMyx because I think its a genuinely neat concept that would be fun to write about, and which deserves some attention.)
At the time of this writing, TrailMyx.com offers 72 different individual flavors—everything from whole almonds and wasabi peas to M&M’s and goji berries—by way of five product categories: dried fruit, nuts, sweets, seeds and crunchy items. New items are being added all the time. (The most recent addition—cinnamon roasted almonds—will definitely be a part of my next order.)
Trailmyx does offer some pre-configured combinations, but the real fun is in using the Custom Mix Builder, which allows you to build your blend exactly the way you want it.
The Custom Mix Builder is also great in that it adds a welcomed sense of transparency to the ordering process. The builder tells you right off the bat what you can expect to pay per ounce of each ingredient. As you add and remove items to your mix, a window in the middle of your screen offers a neat little facsimile of your order (an especially cool feature if you’re thinking about creating a color-themed mix for a school or company event). Small buttons below that window give you the ability to add “More” or “Less” of each ingredient, which is a lifesaver when you’re game for trying a new flavor or ingredient, but don’t necessarily want it to play a big role in your mix.
On the right side of the display, there’s the ability to choose different order sizes and containers, as well as a display showing the overall cost of your order. Your cost changes dynamically as you refine the ingredients and quantities. Since shipping is free, there are no surprises as to what you’ll be paying once you hit the “add to cart” button.
For my most recent order, I decided to try a few traditional items—pistachios, sunflowers seeds and my all-time favorite, cashews—along with some ingredients that I am less familiar with: dried strawberries and goji berries. Using the Mix Builder, I added each item to my order. There’s technically no limit on how many unique items you can add to an order, but I’ve found 4-5 to be ideal.
Since I was less sure whether or not I would like the dried strawberries and goji berries, I used the “More” and “Less “buttons to modify the quantities of each. My consumption of trail mix typically comes a handful at a time—usually on my way out the door for a walk—so I ordered the 1 lb. bag, knowing that it would keep me going for awhile. My total was $18.07, which includes free shipping.
The Machiavellian D-Bag in me kind of wanted to see if I could catch C&B off their game, so I placed my order after 10pm on a Monday night, thinking that it would be at least 10 hours before I’d get some kind of order confirmation. (After all, this isn’t Amazon-sized operation we’re talking about.) To my surprise, my order confirmation arrived just after midnight. I received a separate shipping confirmation—complete with tracking number—about a day later. On Thursday of that week (just over 60 hours after I placed the order) I came home from a walk to find that my TrailMyx.com blend had been delivered by priority mail.
I tore into my mix pretty quickly and found that the proportions of each ingredient were exactly as I had ordered. And while it turned out that I enjoyed both the dried strawberries—a new favorite of mine—and goji berries tremendously, I was glad to have been able to scale back the quantity of each, since I like my trail mix more crunchy than chewy. Everything arrived nice and fresh, and the resealable tabs on the brown paper TrailMyx bag helped ensure that my blend stayed that way.
Since I created an account on TrailMyx.com (something I definitely recommend you do, should you order from them), I was able to save my mix to the site, allowing me to order it again—with or without modifications—at a future date, something which I’ll do again very soon.
As with any product in the healthy foods arena, consumers owe it to themselves to make smart, informed choices about what they are putting into their bodies. (If you fill your mix with nothing but M&M’s and chocolate chips, it probably won’t be the world’s healthiest concoction. Ditto for the sodium-heavy stuff.) But that’s the great thing about Trailmyx.com… you get to decide what’s in your mix, no one else.
Anyway, if you couldn’t tell at this point, I’m a fan of Trailmyx.com. I’ve been thrilled with the quality of the product, as well as the service involved in getting it to my door. I love it when smaller companies—owned by genuinely nice people and using a blend of creativity, technology and innovation—find ways to use the Internet to reclaim a little bit of the marketplace from the corporate mega chains and big box stores which dominate our economy. I hope that you’ll give it a try.