It’s time to go back to school! As parents across the Pacific Northwest exhale a long-awaited breath, and finally have a few minutes to clean the house and maybe eat that hidden chocolate bar at the back of the cupboard – our next task is figuring out dinner.
While school may offer breaks in some ways, for many it also marks hectic afternoons and evenings as we scramble between work, activities, PTA and getting everyone fed. Not to fear, as always, Trader Joe's dinner ideas offer affordable and easy meals to get you through the school and work week, one day at a time.
Monday: Mini Cheeseburger and Fries
A fun new item at Trader Joe’s is the frozen mini cheeseburgers. Available in a pack of three, these tiny burgers come mostly plain and let you add the toppings. Precooked, these are beef patties with cheddar on a Hawaiian roll (think sliders). Choose from your favorite toppings and combine with a choice of fries – or in our house fries and tots, both from the freezer aisle.
A favorite addition in our family with this Trader Joe's dinner idea is a side of TJ's kosher bread and butter spicy pickles, which are delicious but not all that spicy.
Tuesday: Birria Tacos
Birria has been taking over food trucks from Portland to Seattle. Lucky for us, this tasty taco meat has made its way to Trader Joe’s as well. Birria is a slow-cooked beef immersed in a broth of tomatoes, chilis and savory spices. The TJ’s brand saves you hours of slow simmering as the package comes precooked and heats in minutes. Grab it from the deli section and pair it with your favorite tiny tortillas and taco toppings for a leveled-up Taco Tuesday.
Wednesday: Brinner (Breakfast-for-Dinner)
Gone are the lazy breakfasts of summer, and now it’s time to stop and smell the pancakes. The Maple Poffertjes, which are essentially a pancake puff in theme with Netherlands winter festival foods, is always a hit with kids. Traditionally, you can serve them with butter and powdered sugar, but we like to add fresh berries or homemade berry syrup. Pair with your choice of eggs and plant or meat-based sausage for a complete, but quick, meal.
The charcuterie craze may be taking adults by storm, but there’s no reason your kids can’t participate too. Save this one for one of the last hot days (hopefully) of early fall when you want to skip cooking. It's one of the many things we love about this Trader Joe's dinner idea. TJ's has some of the most affordable charcuterie meats around, plus some great lunchmeats, like our favorite rosemary ham. Layer a selection of meats next to some quick caprese using the Fresh Mozzarella Cheese Snackers, plus some sliced tomatoes and basil leaves. Drop on some grapes, bananas, strawberries and crackers, and enjoy!
Friday: With a Chance of Meatballs
Meatballs are probably one of the most versatile freezer options at Trader Joe’s when a quick and simple dinner is what's on the menu. Vegan or meat, regular or mini — these tasty treats can be combined with so many different foods. Ditch the traditional spaghetti and try combining them with the new Organic Pasta Quintet to enjoy some fun-shaped noodles featuring five shapes in one bag. Themed after one of my favorite childhood stories, make a “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” dinner by combining meatballs and a mashed potato cloud. Let it rain Haricot Verts or play with size by adding some baby corn.
Add these extras to your next Trader Joe's dinner:
If you’d like to add some variation, or simply try something new, check out the rest of the great finds we spotted in store this month.
Sri Lankan Organic Mango Chutney – Add to charcuterie, spice up a sauce or slather on pork chops. Think mango and cardamom.
Tiny Fruity Cuties Cereal – For families who love the taste of those brightly colored mainstream cereals, but not the ingredients. Corn and oat-based, the colors come from natural fruits and vegetables.
Beehive Cheese Pickle Curds – This limited-time snack packs a powerful tastiness in a tiny package and has drawn quite a lot of buzz online. If you like pickles, cheese and finger foods, you’ll probably need more than one bag.
Pretzel Breadsticks – Like a giant pretzel spear, ready to stab your dinner, these pretzels make a fun snack or side.
Baby Cauliflower – Move over broccolini, cauliflower’s younger cousin has come to add healthy options to your dinner. Plus, this veggie is attractive on any plate and extra tender.
Mini (Almost) Everything Bagel Sandwich Crackers – It might seem like almost everything is “eveything flavored” lately. A top trend in 2023, these tiny cream cheese-filled snackers are both popular and portable.