We know the drill: You get home from work, you’re tired, and you reach for the take-out menu. Instead of ordering something you might regret, turn to everyone’s favorite grocery store, Trader Joe’s. It has plenty of prepped items that will make your next few meals a breeze to throw together, not to mention a freezer section full of pot stickers, pizzas, and mac ‘n’ cheese. But for when you still want to do a little bit of cooking without a lot of effort, these favorites will save you a ton of time during meal prep.
1. Trader Joe’s Healthy 8 Chopped Veggie Mix
One of the biggest cooking time sucks is chopping, no matter how good your knife skills. This precut blend of carrots, broccoli, jicama, bell peppers, radishes, celery, and red and green cabbages can be used in soups, transformed into a flavorful stir-fry, or dressed as a slaw for whatever protein you’re serving.
2. Organic Riced Cauliflower
Who has the energy to put a whole head of cauliflower into the food processor—and clean up all the crumbs afterward? Not you. Think of this as your all-purpose base (and, bonus, it’s gluten-free). Sauté it in olive oil or butter and serve it with meat or vegetables. Or use it as a stand-in for rice in paella or arroz con frijoles.
3. Cilantro & Chive Greek Yogurt Dip
Obviously this pairs well with raw vegetables, if you’re in a snacking-for-dinner kind of mood. But you can also thin out this super-flavorful dip with lemon juice or olive oil and use it as a marinade for baked chicken, a sauce for vegetables, or even a creamy salad dressing.
4. Cut Butternut Squash or Sweet Potatoes
Take a step or two out of prep work and turn these sweet starches into a meal by roasting them and topping with cheese, beans, salsa, and all your favorite fixings for a less-guilty take on nachos.
5. Spatchcocked Lemon Rosemary Chicken
No, spatchcocked is not a dirty word. It simply means to remove the backbone of a bird so you can lay it flat while cooking (a la butterflying, if you’re familiar with that term). Not only does TJ’s offer a whole spatchcock chicken, taking the knife work out of the equation, but it’s also marinated in lemon and rosemary, so it’s ready to put right on the grill. Throw a few veggies on the grates, and dinner for the week is done.
6. Grilled Asparagus Spears
One of the joys of summer cooking is grilling, but, oh wait, you live in an apartment or don’t own one. Avoid fire hazards and feeling bad for your grill-less self; you can still get the grilled flavor without the effort. These cooked and flash-frozen asparagus spears can be tossed into salads or eaten as a healthy side.