10 Trader Joes Frozen Meals Make Dinner a Breeze
What is all the buzz about Trader Joes dinner meals? If you are like me, you are always asking around for quick and easy dinner ideas.
Sometimes, I just do not feeling like cooking or I am too busy to cook or just tired of my usual meals.
When I need a little help with dinner, one of the best ways for me to get inspiration is to go to the Trader Joe’s (TJ’s) near me.
With a little help from TJ’s, we can get a flavorful and easy recipe together for dinner in minutes..
Trader Joes Dinner Ideas
While Trader Joes may not be the closest grocery store to me, I usually like to make a special trip to either stock up on their awesome frozen meals, or the tasty snacks! This time, I stuck with mostly frozen meals to have stockpiled for a busy day. If the prepared foods section is more your speed, check out the blog on Trader Joe’s Prepared Meals!
What do dietitians like about TJ’s?
- How versatile the frozen food items are and how you can mix and match different frozen meals together.
- A variety of flavors! They have so many great options to rival take out, inspired by foods all over the world.
- Unique options for a decent price
- Trader Joes has a limited number of items so it is not overwhelming like a superstore
Trader Joes Dinner Staples
Trader Joe’s frozen foods are so much cheaper than eating out. Some of these foods will probably end up stocked in your freezer at all times!
I buy several of these frozen foods at a time when I shop at Trader Joe’s so I always have an extra one on hand when needed.
I like to consider most of these options as meal starters. What does that mean? Well these products are great options for variety and flavor, but on their own are usually not full, balanced meals. I may keep other easy options on hand to add to the meals like a variety of frozen vegetables, proteins like burgers/patties, shrimp, and cooked chicken strips, and grains like their rice medley.
When choosing meals, I considered several factors such as sodium and fiber. A note on sodium, while 600 mg may seem like a lot for a food, if we’re aiming for 2000 mg per day, 600 for a meal is actually reasonable!
We received no compensation for this shout out to Trader Joe’s, we are doing it because cooking does not have to be difficult and TJ’s is a great resource.
Before we get started, a note on “servings.” I will talk about servings often for the purposes of the blog (sodium content, fiber content, cost per serving, etc. However, you may eat more or less than the suggested serving, and that is ok! You know your body best and what is needed in that moment.
#1 Trader Joes Mandarin Orange Chicken with Broccoli and Rice Medley
For fans of Asian takeout, this orange chicken does not disappoint.
While the chicken was cooking, I microwaved the broccoli and then the rice blend.
- The chicken gets baked and then the sauce is added, so the chicken pieces get nice and crispy! I’ve had other orange chicken frozen dinners that are all just tossed in a pan and reheated and they are nowhere near as good.
- Feeds a crowd. The bag has about 5 servings and is actually quite low in sugar (6 grams per serving).
- Only 330 mg of sodium per serving, which is very reasonable compared to take out options.
- Cost breakdown: orange chicken $4.99 ($1.00/serving), broccoli $1.69 ($0.34/serving), and rice medley $3.99 ($0.67/serving) = $2.01 per serving for the meal.
In addition to the Orange Chicken, BBQ Chicken Teriyaki and Beef and Broccoli options are also available.
If you would rather cook healthy takeout recipes that are a bit more complicated, take a look at this. 15 Healthy Copycat Recipes that you can make at home.
#2 Spicy Thai Shrimp Fried Rice
Ok, this little bag is full of FLAVOR! I thought it was delicious, with spicy chilis, and lots of herbs. I was impressed.
- The portion of shrimp provided is SMALL. I was surprised that for 3 servings, you get 10 small shrimp. Though I shouldn’t be surprised since the protein listed on the label is only 7 grams per serving.
- I added broccoli and I would have added shrimp if I had it to bulk up the meal to make it filling. You make this by cooking the shrimp first, then add the rice to the pan. You could easily add more shrimp during the first step. Shrimp is a great frozen protein to keep on hand because it thaws so fast!
- For the amount of flavor this offers, I was happy to see it only contained 450 mg of sodium per serving, and bonus was 6 grams of fiber!
- Cost breakdown: shrimp fried rice $5.49 ($1.83/serving), broccoli $1.69 ($0.34/serving) = $2.17 per serving. To add more shrimp, that will likely cost another $2-3 per serving to add 2 oz of shrimp. So we’ll say for a more filling meal, this will cost $4-5 per serving…still not bad!
#3 Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe
When I think frozen dinner, I don’t always think pasta. But TJ’s has some great frozen pasta entrees that are flavorful and fast! I was trying to decide between the spaghetti cacio e pepe or the fettuccine with mushrooms, and ended up going with cacio e pepe because it had more protein and less sodium.
- It’s so easy to make. Just in a pan with a little water, the pasta nests, and the frozen cubes of sauce. I thought the way it was packaged also easily allowed you to make half the bag and save the rest for later.
- Only 260 mg of sodium per serving
- Pair it with a salad and additional protein (if desired) to make a complete meal
- Cost breakdown: pasta $3.99 ($1.33/serving), spinach salad kit from any grocery store ~$3.99 ($2/serving) = $3.33 per serving
#4 Chicken Burrito Bowl
The chicken burrito bowl could easily be a lunch option to take to work, but it also works wonderfully for dinner! Reviews online were comparing it to a Chipotle burrito bowl. I wouldn’t say it’s quite like that, but is filling, cheesy, and flavorful. It reminded me of some of our recipes like One Pot Mexican Quinoa and Fiesta Rice.
- A little higher on the sodium than some of the others with 630 mg per serving
- With 9 grams of filling fiber and 22 grams of protein, I found this to be quite satisfying
- I think this can be great on it’s own, but you could pair it with a southwest style salad kit for more veggies.
- Cost breakdown: $3.49 per serving
#5 Shakshuka Starter
I have made shakshuka before and it is so flavorful and a new and interesting way to enjoy eggs and veggies. Not to mention, perfect with some bread! I had to get the TJ’s shakshuka starter and give it a try, and it’s a winner!
- Just heat the sauce with a little water, then crack two eggs into the sauce and let them cook. Once they’ve reached the doneness you prefer, scoop some of the sauce and an egg into the bowl, and serve with a warm piece of bread.
- The starter only has 340 mg of sodium per serving and is a great way to add veggies to breakfast/brunch.
- Cost breakdown: shakshuka starter $1.99 ($1/serving), eggs $3.49 ($0.29/serving), mini naan $6.29 ($0.52/serving) = $1.81 per serving, what a deal!
#6 Chicken Tikka Masala
When people talk about TJ’s frozen meals, the tikka masala always comes up. I think for good reason, because for a frozen meal, it’s got decent flavor. It is a single serving and comes with rice!
- The amount of chicken in my container was quite small, which I found to be disappointing. For $3.99 for a single serving, I thought it would have come with more. But it does have a decent amount of rice which is good to eat with all the extra sauce!
- The tikka masala has 580 mg of sodium for the container. One of my favorite veggies to add to curries is cauliflower. I steamed some of TJ’s rainbow cauliflower and added it for more fiber and phytonutrients.
- Cost breakdown: tikka masala $3.99/serving, rainbow cauliflower $2.99 ($0.60/serving) = $4.59 per serving
#7 Channa Masala
Channa masala is another great option, and it’s vegetarian! Another tasty sauce with fiber-rich chickpeas for protein.
- Unlike the tikka masala, this is 2 servings and does not come with rice. I paired it with the rice medley and some cauliflower.
- A serving has 570 mg of sodium. It also has 7 grams of fiber!
- Cost breakdwon: channa masala $2.49 ($1.25/serving), rice medley $3.99 ($0.67/serving), and rainbow cauliflower $2.99 ($0.60/serving) = $2.52 per serving
#8 Mushroom and Truffle Flatbread
I couldn’t do a frozen food round up without including a pizza. Pizza is one of my favorite foods! There are a lot of options at Trader Joe’s but I picked this one out because it has great flavor and while yes, is a little higher in sodium than these other options, it’s still reasonable for a pizza.
- A serving is half the flatbread, which I thought was a pretty decent portion. Each serving is 760 mg sodium.
- For more fiber and some veggie, I added a salad.
- Cost breakdown: pizza $4.49 ($2.25/serving), caesar salad kit $4.49 ($1.50/serving) = $3.75/serving
#9 Cuban Style Citrus Bowl
This is similar to the burrito bowl in that it’s a single serving and pretty filling on it’s own. I like that it’s a different flavor profile and was pretty tasty. I wish it had more plantain though! Win some, lose some.
- Reasonable in sodium for a full meal, 540 mg per bowl. Not as much fiber or protein compared to the burrito bowl though.
- Cost breakdown: $3.49/serving
#10 Cauliflower Gnocchi
You knew it was coming…the famous cauliflower gnocchi. Am I touting this because it’s low carb and everything should be replaced with cauliflower? No. I don’t push low carb diets and not everything needs to be cauliflower. However, I just like this product. I like to keep a bag in the freezer and it makes a tasty base for a meal. This isn’t a frozen food, but I like to grab a package of chicken sausage from the meat section at TJ’s and throw that in the freezer for whenever I need a quick meal. Chicken sausage + cauliflower gnocchi + a few handfuls of spinach and you’ve got an easy meal.
- Do yourself a favor and throw out the instructions for cooking. It’s so much better pan fried or thrown in the air fryer.
- It does have a bit of sodium in it with 460 mg per serving. It’s a great source of fiber with 6 grams per serving.
- Cost breakdown: gnocchi $2.79 ($1.12/serving), chicken sausage $3.99 ($0.80/serving), baby spinach $1.69 ($0.85/serving) = $2.72/serving
More meal ideas if you don’t feel like cooking:
If you’re not in the mood for a Trader Joes dinner, and don’t feel like cooking, we have a blog for you. Take a look at this popular blog including the Lentil Salad inspired by the famous one minute Trader Joe’s lentil salad recipe.
9 Ideas when you don’t feel like cooking
For more information on technique cooking:
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In our book, we focus on technique cooking which basically means thinking about cooking in terms of the method used for instance: baking, boiling, frying, etc. On our website, in our recipe database, we focus on these cooking methods:
- Air Fryer
- One Dish Meals
- Pressure Cooker
- Sheet Pan Meals
- Slow Cooker Meals
Using this way of thinking, it makes it much easier to mix and match ingredients to increase the variety in your foods without having to make tons of different recipes.
Here is an example of sheet pan cooking with foods cut up and ready to cook in the oven. You could substitute any kind of meat or vegetables on the pan, bake it food and then enjoy dinner!
This not a sponsored ad. We simply love Trader Joe’s and hope this blog series inspires you to give some of these frozen foods a try.
Blog reviewed and updated February 2023
An award winning recipe developer, Dietitian Kaitlin’s mission is to empower others to reach their health goals by encouraging them to get back into the kitchen. Co-author of Nourished: 10 Ingredients to Happy, Healthy Eating and Cooking with Diabetes.