We all know that Trader Joe's has an ever-evolving roster of fun and quirky snacks and a cheese case that's a force to be reckoned with, but there's another section that's even better yet: the freezer aisle. And the cheap frozen fruits and veggies are just the beginning of what makes it so great. Stock up on a few frozen items, and getting dinner on the table will be as chill as possible (and totally doable — even when you don't feel like cooking).
Here are 10 of my favorite frozen food staples that help me get a handle on weeknight dinners.
- Carrot Spirals, $3 for 12 ounces: No spiralizer? No problem! These ultra-convenient carrot noodles can go straight from the freezer to the stovetop for a quick dinner. Use them the same way you'd use zucchini noodles or pasta, stir them into a soup, or pack them into a grain bowl.
- Pork Gyoza Potstickers, $3.50 for 16 ounces: It's easy to take frozen potstickers from appetizer to dinner by steaming some right in a pot of soup or tossing them into a stir-fry. The dough is just the right thickness, and the meat is well-seasoned and mixed with cabbage, scallions, and a hint of soy sauce and ginger.
- Frozen Roasted Potatoes with Peppers and Onions, $3 for 24 ounces: Cook these flavor-packed potatoes up in a skillet and top with a couple fried eggs, and this breakfast favorite becomes an easy weeknight dinner.
- Frozen Turkey Meatballs, $4 for 16 ounces: Of all the items stocked in Trader Joe's freezer section, these meatballs are one of my favorite regular buys; they have a flame-broiled flavor that doesn't fall flat. Serving the meatballs with spaghetti is always a favorite, but adding a few to a grain bowl, sandwich, or salad is also a good idea.
- Frozen Cooked Shrimp, $8 for 16 ounces: These guys are peeled, cleaned, cooked, and individually frozen, so all that's left to do is thaw them before adding them to your salad or grain bowl, tossing them with pasta, or stuffing them into tacos. They taste fresh and tender with a totally unbeatable price.
- Frozen Falafel, $4 for 12: Because making from-scratch falafel on a weeknight is often a stretch, this ready-made frozen option will satisfy your craving. Stuff them in a pita with hummus and veggies or use them to bulk up a salad or grain bowl.
- Vegetable Masala Burgers, $2.50 for four: As far as store-bought veggie burgers go, these flavor-packed patties are my number-one pick. They're packed with chunks of veggies, like potatoes, carrots, peas, corn, and pepper, and have just the right blend of warm, fragrant spices.
- Superfood Pilaf, $4 for 16 ounces: This wholesome pilaf, mixed with quinoa, kale, sweet potatoes, and carrots, wins huge points in the convenience category. A bag of this stuff becomes dinner fast when you top it with an egg, stuff it inside a baked potato, mix it with shredded chicken, or wrap it up burrito-style.
- Simply Seasoned Tuna Burgers, $7 for four: I threw these burgers into my cart on a whim a few months ago, and I'm so glad I did. The patties cook up quickly into a lean, juicy burger that's a nice change from turkey burgers or veggie burgers.
- Mandarin Orange Chicken, $5 for 22 ounces: Keep a bag (or two!) of this sticky, orange-flavored chicken in the freezer and you can skip that so-so takeout joint down the street. Pair the chicken with rice and frozen veggies, give taco night a twist, or make them the star of your grain bowl.
What are your go-to freezer-section picks for dinner?