I’m a Food Writer and These 7 Trader Joe’s Meals Are Always Stocked in My Freezer
I’ve been working as a food writer for quite a few years now, and it’s a job that I cherish on many levels. This career has taught me so much, having led to me eating some incredible meals at amazing restaurants, traveling to far-flung destinations, and learning a great deal about ingredients and recipe development while shopping my own pantry and cooking in my own kitchen.
That said, I’m very busy. I am constantly juggling deadlines and events, and it’s all too often that I come home late at night after a hectic evening and don’t have the wherewithal to start cooking. Rather than blow my (to be honest, rather meager) budget on takeout, those are the nights I’ll turn to my stockpile of freezer meals. This will include foods I’ve previously cooked and frozen, of course (I am a food writer, after all!), but there’s also a few Trader Joe’s freezer meals I always have on hand – and you should too!
1. Palak Paneer
This delicious savory and spicy curry of spinach and paneer cubes is one of my absolute favorite frozen meals. I often pair it with some of Trader Joe’s frozen garlic naan (another freezer staple that is so versatile) and a side of basmati rice. The spinach in this meal, reminiscent of saag paneer (my Indian takeout go-to), is tender and creamy, making a lovely sauce that the cheese cubes are nestled in. This isn’t as spicy as I tend to go for, so I always add a bit of cayenne after heating it up!
2. Stacked Eggplant Parmesan
Frozen eggplant parms are usually pretty unimpressive, but this one comes stacked, so it’s a great way to feed one or two people without that whole time-consuming layering the pan technique (which leads to way too much leftovers anyway). Made with eggplant, fire-roasted tomatoes, pesto, and lots of cheese, this will be ready in minutes and is super hearty – even if you don’t make a portion of pasta to go along with it.
3. Mushroom and Black Truffle Flatbread
I’ve had one of these in my freezer at all times for around a decade now. It’s perfect for when a friend texts they are in the area and want to drop by – a quick and delish snack to entertain them paired with a glass of wine. But it’s also a great weeknight dinner for me, paired with a simple green salad. If you love mushrooms, cheese, and truffles (and honestly, who in my sphere doesn’t?) This is a winner.
4. Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells
This is another one that falls under the category of – a lot easier (and faster) then making it myself, but it’s also very cheesy and tasty! The tomato sauce is savory, there’s lots of cheese, the shells are a great texture (not easy with a frozen meal, as we all know) and all that spinach lets you feel like maybe you are doing a good thing for your health, too. Sneaking extra greens into your meal doesn’t only make you feel better about your nutrition choices, but it somehow also makes the dish get a more sophisticated feel. As a food writer, I’m all over that!
5. Thai Vegetable Gyozas
These dumplings packed with white cabbage, carrot, chive, white radish, onion, ginger, garlic and soy sauce, are great to have on hand, and really hit the spot – especially when paired with a chili crunch dipping sauce. (Trader Joe’s sells one, but it’s also easy to make yourself and keep in a mason jar in the fridge!). They are easy to make and ready to snack on with guests (but would make a glorious meal in its own right). Whether you steam them, pan fry them, or toss in the microwave, this will be a hit. It’s also fun to use in place of wontons in a soup!
6. Cauliflower Gnocchi
This is a Trader Joe’s classic for good reason, and there’s so many ways to make it. I like to pan sear it with some garlic, olive oil, basil, and chili flakes, and serve with freshly grated Parmesan – but it’s also delish air-fried with a side of spicy marinara dipping sauce! The key to this one is texture, texture, texture. Keep it firm and don’t let it get soggy (I’d not recommend boiling it pasta style for that reason). It’s also great with some pesto, but have fun – there’s tons of ways to enjoy this gnocchi.
7. Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe
This is often my go-to dish when at a local pasta spot with friends, so it’s not surprising it’s also in my freezer! This comes with frozen nests of pasta and the sauce is mixed in in the pan. Add some freshly ground pepper and it tastes legit homemade – I like to mix in some frozen broccoli too to bulk it up a bit.
Good food brings people together. So do good emails.