Quick, Easy, and Affordable Trader Joe’s Dinners
Three simple, versatile dinner options to whip up after class.
By Elizabeth Czajkowski | Columnist
If you joined me last week, you learned some quick and simple Trader Joe’s breakfast recipes to help kick-start your mornings. Yet a good start is nothing without a strong finish. That’s why, this week, I’m bringing you the best of TJ’s dinners to help you finish off your day just as well as you started it! These three, easy meals from Trader Joe’s are quick, easy, and affordable. Better yet, TJ’s offers a great variety of cuisines to choose from. Whether you are in the mood for some Asian, Italian or Mexican food—Trader Joe’s has you covered.
First up is some delicious Asian cuisine. TJ’s Mandarin Orange Chicken, found in the freezer aisle, is one of Trader’s Joe’s most popular items—and one of my personal favorites. The tender, crispy chicken, coated with its trademark sweet and tangy sauce is the ideal comforting dinner to whip up after a full day of classes.
Plus, you can purchase this meal for only $4.99, prepare it in under 25 minutes and have an abundance of leftovers for the week. I like to pair this chicken with some frozen veggies or TJ’s Organic Jasmine Rice which is $3.79. The rice comes with three separate bags that you can easily pop in the microwave. If you decide to make yourself a taco dinner later in the week, the remaining rice packets work great as a side dish.
To make TJ’s Orange Chicken, simply line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, spread the chicken over the pan, and cook at 400 ˚F for 20 minutes. Just a minute before the chicken is ready, add the defrosted sweet and sour sauce into a hot frying pan. Heat the sauce until it is slightly bubbling and stir in the cooked chicken until it’s completely coated. Serve and enjoy!
Italian Pasta, Salad, and Bread
If you’re more in the mood for some yummy carbs, cheeses and garlic-y spices, this next Italian TJ’s dinner option offers you some great pasta-bilities. Two of my absolute favorite Trader Joe’s frozen Italian pastas are TJ’s Fettuccine Alfredo and TJ’s Ricotta & Spinach filled Ravioli with tomato basil sauce, each for $3.99. Both are imported from Italy, and both have received the official stamp of approval from the Italians in my family—so you can rest assured these are quality meals. The fettuccine and ravioli pastas each take about seven minutes to warm up on the stove top. Just add a little water and/or olive oil per package instructions and—Mangia!
Looking for a good side to pair with your Italian pasta dinner? I recommend TJ’s Organic Caesar Salad Kit for $4.49 and TJ’s Focaccia Bread with Roasted Tomato and Parmesan for $3.99. For the focaccia bread, I recommend warming it in the oven at 400˚F for about 12 minutes and serving with olive oil. This warm, doughy bread dusted with flavorful spices and grated parmesan will make you believe you are dining at a fancy Italian restaurant.
Tacos, Three Ways
Finally, if taco-night is more your style, TJ’s offers some great options for Mexican cuisine. Here are my three favorite TJ-inspired taco dinner ideas.
The first option is Classic Beef Tacos made with TJ’s Organic Ground Beef which is $6.99 (or less for non-organic beef), TJ’s Flour or Corn Tortillas for $2.29 or $1.49, TJ’s Traditional Style Fat Free Refried Beans for $0.99, TJ’s Fancy Shredded Mexican Style Cheese Blend for $3.69 and some salsa and sour cream to top it off.
To make these tacos, simply brown your beef in a skillet with a taco seasoning packet. You can also make your own taco seasoning with garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, dried oregano, paprika, ground cumin, salt and black pepper. Warm up the refried beans in a small saucepan. Sprinkle some shredded cheese on your taco shell and warm in the microwave. Add your beef, beans and desired taco toppings. Serve and enjoy!
Next up is Butternut Squash Tacos—perfect for you vegetarians out there. This simple, healthy, satisfying dish requires only a few ingredients: Two packages of TJ’s Cut Butternut Squash each for $2.49, one yellow onion, TJ’s Organic Black Beans, TJ’s Flour or Corn Tortillas and some avocado to top it off.
To make these tacos, preheat the oven to 400˚F and line a 13×9-rimmed baking sheet with foil. Cut half of a yellow onion into chunks and spread onion pieces and the two bags of squash evenly over the pan. Drizzle with olive oil and generously sprinkle with your favorite spices (I use TJ’s Chile Lime Seasoning, garlic powder, salt, oregano and black pepper.) Mix by hand to evenly coat the squash and onions. Cook for approximately 25 minutes or until squash is tender and lightly browned. Set aside. Drain black beans and heat on the stove. Warm the taco shell in the microwave and add squash, onions, beans and desired toppings. Serve and enjoy!
Last but not least are fish tacos made with TJ’s Battered Fish Nuggets, found in the freezer aisle, for $4.49, TJ’s Organic Shredded Green and Red Cabbage with Orange Carrots for $2.29 and some avocado and sour cream to top it off. I’m a big fan of TJ’s Fish Nuggets. They are made with classic Alaskan pollock and are crispy, flaky and tender—a wonderful addition to your taco night.
Here is your two-step prep: Cook the fish in the oven at 400˚F for about 15 minutes, per package instructions. Serve up the nuggets in a warm taco shell. Top with crunchy slaw, avocado and sour cream.
Some other great additions to your taco night include TJ’s Southwestern Chopped Salad for $3.49 and TJ’s Handcrafted Beef Tamales, wrapped in corn husks, for $2.99.
I hope these quick, easy and affordable TJ dinner ideas add a little comfort and joy to your school nights this week!