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Best Frozen Meals at Trader Joe’s

A lot of us live very busy lives, and when things get crazy sometimes convenience foods really save the day. I just crawled out of the miserable cave known as the bar exam (it’s over now! I wouldn’t recommend trying it for fun), and during my last couple weeks of studying I could not find the time to meal plan and cook from scratch. We decided ahead of time that we would be stocking up on frozen food at Trader Joe’s to help us survive through those weeks. You regular readers out there know that I am a HUGE fan of Trader Joe’s, and have been since I was a wee child living in California where the goods of the Trader flow like honey. I even worked there as a crew member during law school! So as you can imagine, I’ve tried the vast majority of their products. I’m a particularly huge fan of their frozen entrées because 1)they are crazy cheap 2)they taste just as good (and sometimes better!) than homemade food 3)less sodium and cleaner ingredients than frozen meals from conventional grocery stores 4)there’s lots of variety and meatless options.

These are my top five frozen entrées (all meatless), in order of supreme tastiness!

#1- Fusilli with Vegetables & Basil Pesto

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This was my go-to for my lunch break when I worked at TJ’s. This is just an incredibly well balanced and delicious entrée. The pasta comes out perfectly cooked when you microwave this, and there’s just enough pesto sauce to coat the pasta and the vegetables. Somehow it just tastes so FRESH and you really don’t feel like you’re eating a frozen food.

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#2- Japanese Style Fried Rice  

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I CANNOT get enough of this one! It’s my favorite frozen rice in the store, and that’s mostly because it has such an awesome and unique Asian flavor. I don’t know if it’s the seaweed or  some other seasoning or what, but the flavor is ON POINT. The rice has edamame, tofu, carrots, and seaweed in it which give really nice texture to the rice. There’s very little tofu in it (I think this rice is meant to be a side dish), so to make a meal out of this I marinate some firm tofu in Soyaki sauce (also from TJ’s) and brown it to have alongside the rice.

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This is pretty much a staple for me and I am always amazed/almost confused at how perfectly the rice cooks in the microwave. Also, it’s vegan!

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#3-Mac ‘n Cheese

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My guilty pleasure. This is a very popular item so many of you probably know about it already. This mac and cheese will send you to a heavenly place that you will not want to snap out of. It’s SO rich, creamy, and full of a flavorful mix of cheeses. And to be perfectly honest, it’s better than my homemade mac and cheese. Yes, I am admitting that. In the taste department this beats out almost every other mac and cheese I’ve had in my life. It’s certainly not the healthiest choice, but there is also a ‘reduced guilt’ version that has less calories and fat and is also really good. But sometimes you just gotta do as the kids say and treat yo’ self.

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#4- Paneer Tikka Masala with Spinach Basmati Rice

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This is one of the first frozen foods I remember buying at TJ’s. You really can’t go wrong with this one, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find a person who doesn’t like it. The spinach rice is the perfect base for the soft cubes of paneer that are swimming in a delightful savory indian sauce. Bear in mind though that the portion size is pretty small, more of a lunch size than a dinner one. Sometimes I go the extra mile and buy some of their frozen naan to go alongside this.

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#5- Mushroom Ravioli with Mushroom Truffle Sauce

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This is one that I didn’t try up until recently, but I’m so glad that I did. If you blindfolded someone and gave them a bowl of this, they would believe that it was a restaurant dish. Such great flavor! I’m tempted to serve it to company. I love the chunks of mushroom, and there’s just enough truffle oil in the sauce to enhance the flavor but not overpower you. It tastes classy. And I like that. Would be a perfect dinner with a nice green salad on the side and a glass of wine.

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And that’s all folks! Would you like to see more of these posts? Like maybe best frozen vegan meals? Gluten-free? Meat meals? Or maybe even my list of their best desserts or best wines? Best deals in the store? The selection at TJ’s is huge and I know sometimes hearing reviews of products can be helpful in deciding what to buy. Let me know in the comments below, I’m happy to oblige!

-Lauren

P.S.- I’m just a regular Trader Joe’s fan like all of you! While I am a former employee, I am not affiliated with the company in any way nor do they have any idea who I am or that I’m writing this. I do not represent them in any way, but I DO represent my taste buds. K thanks. The lawyer in me had to include this. :)  

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{ 13 comments… add one }

  • Shannon February 27, 2014, 3:51 pm

    We just got our first Trader Joe’s about 30 minutes from us, and I would LOVE to know about your favorite vegan frozen foods there! Or vegan anything at TJ’s!

    • Lauren @ Dash of Soul February 27, 2014, 7:12 pm

      Wohoo for your new TJ’s!!! So exciting! I will definitely do more posts on this, thanks so much for commenting! :D

  • Lee February 27, 2014, 4:33 pm

    I like that ravioli too. There is some sort of mushroom fettucini that is similar in taste that we buy a lot.
    Lee recently posted…All of My TimeMy Profile

    • Lauren @ Dash of Soul February 27, 2014, 7:13 pm

      Yeah I think I know the one you’re talking about! Love the frozen pasta.

  • Lauren February 28, 2014, 10:43 am

    Colorado just got its first (and second and third) Trader Joe’s stores and I feel like I’m the only one who’s not excited. Does that make me crazy? I’ve only been to one tiny one in California a few years ago and didn’t find it all that great. It sounds good if you need to buy packaged food and feel good about it, but I feel like I could do that at the regular grocery store if I tried hard enough. What am I missing?!

    • Lauren @ Dash of Soul February 28, 2014, 1:52 pm

      LAUREN, you are missing EVERYTHING, DUH! No really, I think if you gave it a chance and think of it as a specialty foods store (which is what it is, not a health food store) there’s no way you wouldn’t like it. They really do have a LOT of products that you can’t find anywhere else, or if you can (at someplace like Whole Foods) you will be charged a lot more for it elsewhere. A lot of their stuff really cannot be matched in price and quality! Let me know if you give it another try, I’m pretty sure I could suggest some products to convert you. ;)

    • Susan April 30, 2014, 8:54 pm

      Lauren, Trader Joe’s changed over the years. When I was in one years go in Massachusetts, it was not really a grocery store, but like a food section from a CostPlus Market – lots of wine and gourmet and foreign foods. I never understood what the big deal was until I went into one a few years ago and saw that it was now a grocery chain.

      I have shopped in the Boulder one a few times, and what I have tried so far is yummy and less expensive than Whole Foods (which isn’t hard to do) for the same quality and even other grocery stores for certain things. I have tried a few frozen meals and fresh/dairy so far. My family LOVES the dark chocolate bars which are a really good deal for good tasting chocolate. They don’t have everything, but do well for what they do have. It is worth giving it a look, probably on a Wednesday or Thursday when they are not as busy and stocked before the weekend.

  • Rebekah | The Kitchen Gidget March 3, 2014, 9:40 pm

    Thanks for sharing, I love “real life” product reviews. I’m going to have to try the Tikka Masala and Ravioli :-)
    Rebekah | The Kitchen Gidget recently posted…Vanilla Bean MadeleinesMy Profile

  • Neha March 4, 2014, 11:10 pm

    Yes!! Please please do more such TJ’s posts!!

  • tracy August 8, 2014, 12:23 pm

    they all sound great! A TJ finally opened near our cottage so I can stock up. Was wondering if you can list the best gluten free prepared or frozen dishes from TJ’s? thank you

    • Lauren @ Dash of Soul August 8, 2014, 1:55 pm

      Absolutely, that’s a great idea for a post!

  • KJ September 2, 2014, 10:12 pm

    I just discovered Trade Joe’s (only Ben twice) and have been trying out the frozen foods for nights when we don’t have much time due to kid activities and sports. My kids (one picky one not picky) love the gyozhu (sp?) potstickers, the chicken fried rice, orange chicken, family style lasagna and BBQ teriyaki chicken. W’ll have to try some of these too.

  • kelli September 8, 2014, 6:00 pm

    Love this! Trying the mushroom ravioli tonight! The “guiltless” mac and cheese is allllmostt as good as the red box one! xo

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