Every influencer can show you their Trader Joe’s haul, but it is easy to leave Trader Joe’s with fun things that don’t really get you closer to a complete meal. I don’t pretend anyone can/should do all their grocery shopping there, but Trader Joe’s is suchhh a lifesavor at this stage of my life for meal starters or a hands-off main dish! These shortcuts to getting varied dinners on the table is a huge asset to me. If I’m not strategic shopping at Trader Joe’s, then I do leave with fun things that have me scratching my head of how we’ll eat them or did I just spend $50 on things that don’t go together and I’m still not ready for dinner?
Here are a few of my favs, and what I do with them:
Orange Chicken + Edamame in the shells + brown rice:
I usually make the rice that morning, or the night before, to speed us up. The package comes with 2 packets of sauce so making half is an easy option. The breaded chicken is baked then gets tossed into a sticky sweet sauce. This is a true fav of ours so we make the whole thing for 2 adults, 1 preschooler who eats like a teenager, and a leftover serving for lunch. He looooves popping edamame out of the pods too so it is fun to eat a veggie in a different way.
Cauliflower Gnocchi + Pesto:
TJ pesto is the best out there- of any brand. It freezes well too if you don’t want it too often when opened. The frozen cauliflower gnocchi is such a hit for TJ fans. It does taste like cauliflower but the true trick is that it shouldn’t be prepared according to the package! Saute in a pan with just a tiny bit of water. Get it some toasted/golden sides and toss in pesto for big enough flavor to lean towards gnocchi instead of cauliflower. Make 2 packages if serving more than 2 people. For 2 adults and a little kid, 2 bags are really necessary. This is a 10 minute dinner in 1 pan. Done.
Eggplant Cutlets + pasta + sauce:
I love plain kitchen ready tomatoes instead of regular sauce but Trader Joe’s has some good sauces too! Their pasta there is always super cheap but I had some on hand. More importantly, the eggplant. It is the best, and one of the only places to find it! I love it to be eggplant parm, eggplant parm subs, on pizza, in calzones, in grilled cheese even, and it is great as a stack with cheese, sauce, and the above pesto! Because it is frozen it is easy to pop a few into the oven or toaster oven!
Veggie Fried Rice + Dumplings + other mix & match Asian-inspired goodies
The veggie fried rice only takes a few minutes to cook in a pan and while we love it, I think it needs a little drizzle of soy sauce or teriyaki sauce. The pork potstickers are great and easy to make just a few. There are always other fun Asian inspired frozen foods to mix & match like bao buns, spring rolls, etc. I also like to cook a few pot stickers alongside sesame noodles. These freezer goodies really make dinners feel different. Roasting some broccoli then topping with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds is a simple side. I’ve also tossed cucumber in sesame oil & rice vinegar for a 2 second side!
Roasted Corn + Chicken & Cheese Tamales:
The roasted corn is so fun and a great side to tacos or inside burritos. We probably have something Mexican once a week so I like having this around. It is great in Mexican Street Corn. Tacos + roasted corn + a few chips makes for a fun dinner. I love the tamales and Mr. J and I liked mini chicken tacos but the little one wasn’t as into those. I should try again though. This corn is often a side and I open up some black beans to go into the tacos or on the side too.
Sauces & Pantry items:
These can be a bit seasonal – I was shocked to find Marsala sauce a second time, but the Trader Joe’s bottled items are really fantastic and great time savors. When I had just a little leftover marsala sauce, I added some veggie broth, mushrooms, and marsala wine to stretch the leftover sauce a bit. I was inspired by a balsamic & fig dressing and can definitely put this Island Soyaki to work. I grabbed Chili Lime seasoning and the umami seasoning to try them out. I make my own Everything But the Bagel but that is a fantastic one too! Having a sauce on hand can really make basic dinner items come together quickly. Adding any of these sauces to some turkey meatballs over rice or egg noodles would make for efficient meal with salad or veggie of your choice. Or using a sauce with chicken to become a sandwich or panini would be delicious.
Their bakery items are also great- the focaccini rolls are super soft and a fun way to elevate a sandwich or the pretzel buns with sausage & peppers is so good. I always grab some snacks. The sesame sticks are a constant and I like their trail mix variations into portioned packs. I can’t ever get over how economical their cheeses are! I sometimes grab frozen fish and the refrigerated pastas are helpful to be quick dinners too!
Happy shopping! What am I missing? Any favorites of yours?