My Trader Joe's Staples + 5 Quick & Easy Meal Ideas

trader joe's easy meal idea meal plan

       Today's post is all about Trader Joe's! I am surprised by how much I've grown to love Trader Joe's - I think the first time I ever went into one, I didn't really understand the concept or why everyone was wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Clearly I missed the point, haha. When we moved into our house in January of last year, we moved closer to Trader Joe's and my curiosity was peaked again. Long story short, Trader Joe's has become one of my most favorite places to buy groceries; the prices are reasonable, they have lots of fresh produce and meats as well as a huge selection of pre-packaged foods, dry goods, and even household products. Today I wanted to share some of my staples with you - things I always keep on hand - as well as a few meal ideas! If you don't have a Trader Joe's near you, all of these meals can be made with ingredients from other grocery stores, but these are some of my favorites to throw together from Trader Joe's that are simple and quick.

trader joe's meal plan meal ideas groceries budget


    To be honest, if I tried to list every single one of my favorites, this post would be entirely too long. Maybe I can do a future post featuring more of my faves? But for now, I tried to narrow it down to a few things that I seem to buy almost every time I'm at the store. Some of these are for Jack and I, and a few of them are things I like to buy for Ezra. Trader Joe's has a lot of specialty and seasonal items, as far as I know, all of the below items are available year-round.

Pesto Sauce
This is one of my favorite things to have on hand - so easy to use for a quick pasta dish, and I've even added it to mac & cheese!

Frozen Green Beans
These are great to have on hand for a quick veggie side dish, I love to sauté them with butter, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Tri-Color Quinoa
Ezra and I love this quinoa! It's a great side to any meal.

Unsweetened Apple Sauce
Ezra loves this applesauce as part of his meals, and it's also perfect to use for baking substitutions since he's allergic to eggs!

applesauce organic trader joe's baby food baby led weaningquinoa healthy trader joe's

Jasmine Rice
We eat a lot of rice, so I always have some of this in the kitchen.

Sun Dried Tomato Sausage (Or Sweet/Spicy Italian!)
I love all three of these sausage flavors and have enjoyed them all with pasta, or with oven roasted vegetables and rice pilaf. YUM.

Southwestern Chopped Salad
I think I could eat this salad every day. One bag is filling enough for one person, or pair with tacos, add meat, quinoa or avocado for a hearty side dish.

Coconut Oil
To be honest, I don't use much coconut oil so I don't buy this very often, but when I run out I always repurchase from TJ's! I like making Ezra's pancakes with this!

organic coconut oilsalad bag easy healthy quick meal

Pita Crackers
So much better than regular crackers for some reason, haha.

Thai Green Curry Simmer Sauce
This makes for a delicious, quick dinner - I love serving it over chicken, bell peppers and jasmine rice. (The red curry is good too - see the recipe below!)


   As I was typing this post I realize that there are a lot of things I've bought only one or two times that are worth mentioning and recommending to people who want some tips on what to pick up at TJ's.

Ready-To-Eat Lentils
I didn't used to be a big lentil person, but I bought these for Ezra one week and tried some for myself - they are delicious and make for a filling lunch side!

Soyaki Sauce
I use this when I make stir fry! It's not too salty, yet really flavorful.

Frozen Grilled Asparagus
For some reason I don't buy too many frozen veggies, but these frozen asparagus spears are so good and easy to prepare.

Simply Nutty Bars
These are delicious, chewy and chocolatey, probably not the most healthy granola bar option, but I like putting these in the diaper bag or in my purse to eat after work.

granola bar chocolate fig walnut healthygrilled asparagus healthy vegetable vegetarian

Cilantro Salad Dressing
The southwestern salad dressing you've probably always been searching for (I know I was!)

Mandarin Orange Chicken
Ask any TJ's shopper and they'll tell you this stuff is like holy grail status, so I'm including it here! It's good, but the last few times I've tried to prepare it, I couldn't get good sauce coverage. I haven't bought it in a while but it deserved an honorable mention.

Everything But The Bagel Seasoning
Another holy grail item, a lot of people like this on avocado toast. It's a pretty versatile seasoning!

Organic Shells & White Cheddar
The last few times I've bought this, I've intended to give it to Ezra, but I ended up eating it...

organic shells and cheddar mac and cheese trader joe'smandarin orange chicken meal easy frozen


Easy Italian Wedding Soup//
1/2 pkg. Frozen Spinach
8 cups Organic Free Range Chicken Broth
1 pkg. Italian Style Meatballs
8oz. Israeli Cous Cous
1/2 Medium Yellow Onion, diced
2 Carrots, diced
2 tbsp Olive Oil

1. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat.
2. Dice onion and carrots and add to the pot, cook until softened and onions are translucent, stirring frequently.
3. Add chicken broth and meatballs to the pot, cover and bring to a rolling boil.
4. Add frozen spinach and reduce heat to simmer. Stir to combine & add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Meanwhile, cook Israeli couscous in a separate saucepan according to package instructions.
6. OPTIONAL: Break meatballs into fourths with a slotted spoon or spatula.
7. Drain couscous and add to soup OR spoon desired amount of couscous into a bowl and ladle soup over the top. Serve and enjoy!

couscous easy healthy soup mealfrozen chopped spinach trader joe's healthy soupchicken broth soup healthyitalian meatballs meal soup trader joe's

Pesto Ravioli w/ Sausage, Asparagus & Roasted Red Peppers//
1 pkg arugula & parmigiano reggiano ravioli (or 12oz pasta of choice)
1 jar basil pesto
(OR 12oz pasta of choice)
1 pkg. sun dried tomato sausage
1 pkg. frozen grilled asparagus
1 jar roasted red peppers
2tbsp olive oil

1. Heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.
2. Add frozen asparagus and cover, tossing occasionally to heat evenly.
3. Meanwhile, cook ravioli according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
4. Slice the sausages into 1/4 inch-thick coins and add to the skillet. Uncover and cook, tossing occasionally.
5. Drain the roasted red peppers and cut into strips or dice. Combine with the asparagus and sausage & continue to cook until heated through.
6. Remove pan from heat, combine the ravioli with the sauteéd veggies and sausage, and stir in the pesto. I usually use a whole jar but you can add as little or as much as you need.

arugula ravioli pesto vegetable sausage

Carne Asada Tacos w/ Corn & Quinoa Salad *Instant Pot Recipe*//
1 pkg. carne asada
6-8 whole wheat tortillas
1 pkg. corn & quinoa Salad
corn & chile salsa (optional)
avocado (optional)

1. Put carne asada into the Instant Pot with 1 cup of water. Select "manual" and cook for 30 minutes.
2. Once cooked, quick-release pressure and shred the beef with two forks.
3. Empty the contents of the corn & quinoa salad into a separate bowl and mix.
4. Load tortillas with beef and corn & quinoa salad as desired.
5. Add Trader Joe's Corn & Chile salsa and/or avocado for extra flavor!
1. Cook carne asada on the grill, grill pan or skillet according to package instructions.
2. Serve on tortillas with your favorite toppings, and have corn & quinoa salad on the side.

recipe carne asada instant pot trader joe's mexican

Easy Chili // *Vegan/Vegetarian Option*
1lb ground beef or turkey (omit if making vegetarian/vegan)
6 cups organic beef broth (substitute vegetable broth for vegetarian/vegan)
2 medium carrots, diced
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 can organic northern white beans
1 can organic kidney beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can corn
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp (more or less) chili powder
2 tbsp olive oil

1. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat.
2. Dice onion and carrots and add to the pot, cook until softened and onions are translucent, stirring frequently.
3. Add ground meat (if adding) and break apart with a wooden spoon or spatula, cook until browned (make sure not to increase the heat, as not to brown the veggies)
4. Once meat is browned, add white beans, kidney beans, corn and diced tomatoes. *DO NOT drain the beans or corn - the liquid adds flavor and thickens the soup. If you do wish to rinse and drain, add 8 cups of broth instead of 6.
5. Cover and bring to a boil.
6. Once boiling, add tomato paste and chili powder, stir to combine. Continue to simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes.
7. Serve alone or with cornbread and enjoy.
*Optional: serve over brown rice or quinoa!

easy chili corn bean carrots vegetarian vegan

Red Curry & Rice w/ Chicken, Grilled Cauliflower & Peas//
2 chicken breasts
1 pkg. frozen grilled cauliflower
1 cup frozen peas
1 bottle red curry sauce
1 cup jasmine rice
2 tbsp olive oil

1. Heat olive oil in skillet on medium heat.
2. Rinse and drain jasmine rice and cook according to package instructions.
3. Cut chicken breasts into strips or small cubes.
4. Add to the skillet and cook until there is no pink visible. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
5. Add cauliflower and peas to the skillet and cover, stirring occasionally. You can also break up the cauliflower once it's thawed a bit.
6. Add the chicken back to the pan, also add the bottle of curry sauce and lower heat to a simmer.
7. Simmer everything together for an additional 10 minutes or so on medium-low heat.
8. Serve over jasmine rice & enjoy.

red curry chicken cauliflower peas healthy jasmine ricered curry chicken recipe

Do you want to see more Trader Joe's meal ideas? Comment below!

  1. I love Trader Joe's as well. Going in the store gives me some kind of natural high! Where have they been all my life? In the city!!!

    1. I feel the same way! I don't know what I ever did without it!

  2. Trader Joe's is pretty amazing! I love seeing all the items that I can't get in my neighborhood store.

    1. Yes me too! The specialty items are my kryptonite haha

  3. I don't have a Trader Joe's anywhere near my home and I miss it so much. I used to live down the street from one and would go all the time. They have some of the best products.

  4. Okay, I just got the southwest salad mix for the first time this weekend and it is AMAZING! They were sampling it with tortilla chips to be like a dip and I thought that was SUCH a fun way to serve it!

    1. YES, I love when they sample something I buy regularly, because it gives me different ideas on how to eat it hahaha

  5. love me some trader joes!! I love the corn chili you pictured and had no idea about the ready to eat lentils!! I need to pick those up!

    1. They are so good and only seasoned with salt so you can really add them to anything!

  6. I neeed to try their ravioli! It looks heavenly!!

  7. I LOVE me some TJ's, and I think what i really love about it is that i'm constantly finding new things. So the grilled asparagus is good? I always see it, but taking it from a frozen state to on my plate always freaks me out with veggies. We're obsessed with the Soyaki Sauce over here, and I really need to try their pesto. Thanks for adding a few new things to my next TJ's run :)

    1. Of course, I'm glad you got some new ideas! I don't usually gravitate toward frozen veggies either, but yes the asparagus was really good. It's a good option too if I'm short on time or need a veggie side and don't have any fresh produce.

  8. Trader Joe's is great! I also love the pita crackers that they have there, they are addicting!

    1. I totally agree! I seriously could eat the whole box in one sitting haha


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