We’re switching things up this month but don’t worry—I’ll fly in on my cinnamon broom with a full pumpkin-spiced rundown next time. After shopping at Trader Joe’s for the past 18 years (!), I have a useless photographic memory of the store’s entire inventory, and I rely on it often to throw together easy dinners when I don’t have the mental or temporal resources to cook.
“Trader Joe’s easy meals” is a genre on TikTok too, where you can find tons of inspiration like the birria tacos here. However! I have some rules for what makes them “easy meals.” An easy meal doesn’t involve cutting things. Once you’re chopping, time starts to add up. And remember, you don’t have time—that’s why you need emergency meals thanks to your overly friendly favorite grocery store. The only other rule is that a meal has to have vegetables, but sometimes I break that one and I’m still kickin’, so. Make room in your fridge, we’ve got to stock up.
Raw Argentinian Red Shrimp + Tikka Masala Curry Sauce + flatbread + greens
I stand upon a mountain of frozen shrimp. When you need easy dinner protein, it’s the fastest to defrost and get going. This red Argentinian shrimp has a sweet succulence that some (my cousin Annmarie) compare to lobster, which might be a stretch, Annmarie. After a 20-minute soak in a sealed bag in room temp water to defrost, I toss it in a pan with Tikka Masala Curry Sauce (Trader Joe’s best shelf-stable sauce IMO), add spinach or whatever greens are wilting in the fridge, and heat up a naan or paratha in another pan.
Swaps for the shrimp: chickpeas, defrosted cod, jackfruit, etc.
Turkey Corn Dogs + any bagged salad
This is a meal I get from Trader Joe’s when I’m in need of a carnival-worthy mood lift. It’s nostalgic for me, because it reminds me of when I was in high school and my mom vowed to never cook again and stocked our freezer with corn dogs, coconut shrimp, and pizzas. (If you’re wondering how I ended up writing for Bon Appétit, so am I.) The cornbread coating gets nice and crisp in the air fryer, while the rubbery hot dog inside is…juicy. It’s everything it needs to be—it’s a corn dog. The salad is an adult choice, because I need to be able to poop tomorrow. I’m sorry, but that’s why it’s there. Air fry or bake the corn dogs for 7 minutes at 400°, toss the salad, call it a good night.
Swaps for the corn dog: Trader Joe’s Roasted Garlic & Pesto Pizza with Deep Fried Crust, Mac and Cheese Bites, Mushroom and Black Truffle Flatbread.