Credit: JiaYing Grygiel
My family would starve if it weren’t for Trader Joe’s, the grocery store where everything is delicious and none of it expensive. There are no coupons here, no sales, just really good food at good prices every day and a pseudo-Hawaiian aesthetic. Stickers and lollipops for the kids at checkout are the cherry on top.
March is National Frozen Food Month — you knew that, right? — and in honor of the occasion, we’ve rounded up 10 off-the-charts hits from the frozen aisle at Trader Joe’s. The best part: All of these items cost less than $6 each.
Organic 3-cheese pizza, $4.99
I’m an instant hero when I suggest a pizza night. My kids know the “recipe” by heart: Set the oven to 425 degrees, and the timer to 8 minutes. The box comes with microwave instructions too, but the oven gets you a nice and crispy crust.
Salted edamame in pod, $2.29
The one green thing my kids can’t get enough of is edamame. We go through a bag of these a day, no joke. Three minutes in the microwave and you’ve got an instant, healthy snack.
Trader Joe’s also carries a shelled version, but it’s been harder to find ever since the pandemic. Last time I saw shelled edamame in stock, I wheeled an entire cartful to the cash register. The cashier raised an eyebrow, “I take it you like these?” Dude, you have no idea.
Joe’s Diner Mac ‘n Cheese, $2.99
Warm, cheesy carbs. Comfort food at its best.
Pork gyoza, $3.99
My ancestors would roll over in their graves if they knew I was buying precooked frozen gyoza from Trader Joe’s. Well, Trader Joe’s frozen gyoza get a stamp of approval from this Chinese mom who can’t remember the last time she made homemade dumplings from scratch because … kids. These really hit the spot when you need a hot tasty meal fast. Note: It’s worth taking an extra minute to warm them up over boiling water instead of in the microwave.
I would be remiss not to mention the Mandarin orange chicken, Trader Joe’s best seller in the frozen aisle. The employee stocking the freezer case told me the store sells three cases of these guys a day! I tried it, it’s not for me (the sauce is cloying), but three cases a day’s worth of customers — and legions of kids — disagree.
Party size mini meatballs, $5.99
This is an easy source of protein, and we love that party meatballs are smaller than the regular meatballs. We throw them in with hot pasta just after draining it, which defrosts the meatballs quickly and helps them stay plump and juicy.
Bonus: They’re fully cooked, so I don’t have to worry about accidentally poisoning someone with undercooked meat.
Battered fish nuggets, $5.99
Flaky, moist fish sticks, just 15 minutes in the oven. Try them once and you’ll be hooked (haha).
Sublime ice cream sandwiches, $4.99
We’ve sampled a lot of the frozen desserts at Trader Joe’s, and these take the cake. It doesn’t get any better than vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies and rolled in chocolate chips. They are to die for. We’ve even stuck a candle on top and used one as a mini birthday cake in a pinch.
A close runner-up are the mini Hold the Cone ice cream cones, which are just the right size for kids.
Blueberry waffles, $2.79
Most mornings are a panic of cereal and milk, but when I’m feeling fancy, I bust out the toaster and pop in these frozen waffles. Tada, hot breakfast! We like the slight sweetness of the blueberry waffles. Pro tip: Trader Joe’s goes pumpkin-crazy every fall, and you’ll want to grab a box or three of pumpkin waffles for the freezer when you can.
Petite peas, $1.59
We try to not eat too many heavily processed meals, and we try to eat our veggies. Petite peas make it easy. I love the frozen option because I hate watching veggies go bad in the fridge.
Petite peas are tender and sweet. (Skip the organic version; they’re too big and chewy.) Throw them in just-cooked pasta, couscous, rice, quinoa, whatever grain you’re eating, then cover. The heat from the grain is all you need; you don’t want to overcook them. The peas are ready when they turn bright green.
Mini vegetable samosas, $3.79
Technically, this counts as getting your veggies, and the veggies are unbelievably delicious when they’re wrapped in pastry dough.