Among the shelves stocked with quirky snacks, irresistible cheeses, and swoon-worthy desserts are the best gems of all at Trader Joe's. I'm talking about the shortcut heroes that help me get dinner on the table even faster. This list features my favorite go-to items. Maybe you'll discover something new to help make your time in the kitchen a little bit easier.
1. Riced Cauliflower, $2.50 for 16 ounces
Found in the produce section, this riced cauliflower wins us over with convenience. When it's a race against the clock to get dinner on the table, this bag is way faster than blitzing a head of cauliflower in the food processor or shredding it on a box grater. It's also a win for the uniform-sized "grains" that keep their shape without getting too soggy or watery during cooking.
Recipes to Make with Riced Cauliflower
2. Low-Sodium Chicken Broth, $2 for 32 ounces
We'd love to rely on homemade chicken stock all the time, but when it comes down to actually making that happen, it's just not in the cards. Instead we keep the pantry stocked with this boxed staple for everything from quick weeknight soups and risotto, to braises and skillet dinners. There are a lot of options out there, but this one ranked as a favorite in our taste test for its clean chicken flavor.
See how it compares: We Tried 5 Brands of Chicken Broth, and Here Is the Winner
3. Ginger Paste, $2 for 2.8 ounces
Love the pungent bite of fresh ginger, but kind of dread peeling and grating it? You'll want to toss a tube of ginger paste in your cart the next time you're at the store. Substituted one for one, it delivers the spicy punch you want from fresh ginger without the legwork. It'll keep in the fridge for about a month, but you can also freeze it just like fresh ginger.
Use Ginger Paste in These Recipes
4. Bagged Kale, from $2 for 10 ounces
When kale salad or quick-braised greens are on the menu, but you're totally not in the mood to tackle those bunches, consider this your time-saving solution. Trader Joe's is one of the few places to get bags of the Tuscan variety.
Recipes to Make with Cut Kale
5. Broccoli and Kale Slaw, from $2.50 for 10 ounces
Another kale shortcut, this slaw also includes broccoli. The kit comes with dried cherries, dried blueberries, roasted sunflower seeds, and slivered almonds. Without the kit, this would be a time-consuming salad to make on your own. It's reliably fresh and, as to be expected with most Trader Joe's products, it's a great value.
6. Steamed Lentils, $3 for 17.6 ounces
Found in the produce section, these pre-cooked, steamed lentils are big time-savers. Turn these toothsome pulses into cold salads, hearty vegetarian wraps, and bulked-up soups. These French lentils are cooked with a touch of seasoning, leaving them with a really nice flavor that doesn't fall flat. While you're there, grab some steamed beets for a quick salad.
Recipes to Make with Steamed Lentils
7. Frozen Turkey Meatballs, $4 for 16 ounces
Bring home a bag of frozen turkey meatballs and you've got a world of quick dinner possibilities at your fingertips. From classic spaghetti and meatballs, to subs slathered with BBQ sauce, these frozen meatballs come with a flame-broiled flavor that has us sold.
Recipes to Make with Frozen Meatballs
8. Jarred Marinara Sauce, $2.50 for 25 ounces
Some nights call for the quick convenience of jarred marinara, and that is totally okay. While there are quite a few winning options, my favorite is the Organic Tomato Basil Marinara. It's priced well, contains no added sugar, and is a close second to homemade.
Recipes with Marinara Sauce
9. Buttermilk Biscuits, $3 for tube of eight
Homemade biscuits are a real treat, but for busy weeknights a tube of flaky buttermilk biscuits hits the spot. It's the comforting side that rounds out a hearty dinner salad or bowl of soup and even tops off a casserole. Unlike some of the other choices out there, I feel better about reaching for these biscuits because they skip the hydrogenated oils and artificial flavors and preservatives.
Serve Buttermilk Biscuits with These Recipes
10. Frozen Roasted Potatoes with Pepper and Onions, $3 for 24 ounces
Skip the peeling, chopping, and dicing. This bag of potatoes is a favorite for convenience and versatility, but also for the added peppers and onions that bring a huge kick of flavor. It's a quick and easy way to answer the call for breakfast potatoes, and topped with a couple fried eggs it's one of the most satisfying ways to make breakfast for dinner.
Get inspired: 5 Ways to Cook with Frozen Potatoes