Kitchn Love Letters

The $4 Trader Joe’s Grocery I Eat for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner (in the Same Day)

published Feb 22, 2024
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angled shot of an assortment of trader joe's groceries in a khaki and blue trader joe's tote bag - and some of the groceries are scattered around the bag on the counter.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Stylist: Tom Hoerup

I have food goals! I want to master meal prepping. But let me tell you — it’s been a journey. In 2020, when the world basically shut down, my life slowed down enough for me to focus on cooking more of my meals, and my budget as well as my body appreciated the effort. Then the world opened up again and I got right back to being busy, so my reliance on food delivery apps pretty much picked up right where I left it pre-quarantine.

The good news is, my move from Westchester, New York, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, last year provided a new lease on life and another opportunity to lean into meal prepping. I’ll admit some days are better than others, but I’ve figured out two steps that position me closer to success.

  1. I take a few moments right before I go to sleep to think about what I actually want to prepare the next day. Once I have my meals figured out, I don’t waste time on any of that the next day; I just make moves and my meals with focus and a greater sense of clarity and, thus, ease. 
  2. Another daily meal prep hack that has helped me is using a single food item as the base for a day’s worth of meals. One particular item that’s become a fast favorite for me is Trader Joe’s chicken meatballs
Credit: Samantha Hunter

What’s So Great About Trader Joe’s Chicken Meatballs?

Trader Joe’s always has these chicken meatballs in stock, and when I do my weekly grocery shopping it’s one of the very first items I add to my cart. Sixteen meatballs for $3.99 is very budget-friendly, if you ask me, and that’s just one reason why I’m madly in love with these meatballs. 

Credit: Samantha Hunter

Seasoned with sea salt, oregano, basil, onion and garlic powder, rosemary, parsley, and black pepper, these meatballs make my taste buds happy with minimal effort. They are pre-cooked, so all I have to do is pop these babies into a warm pan with some olive oil and roll them around until they are nicely browned. Unlike some other brands, TJ’s chicken meatballs are gluten-free, hormone-free, and antibiotic-free. 

Not only is the quality pretty great, but the quantity is also impressive as well. At 16 meatballs per pack, I’ve got all the protein I need to prepare a day’s worth of satisfying meals. 

Credit: Samantha Hunter

What’s the Best Way to Make Trader Joe’s Chicken Meatballs?

I prep an entire packet of meatballs in the morning, before I start work. I drizzle the meatballs with a bit of honey while they are warming in my saucepan, to add a little bit of sweetness to these savory bites and give them a nice glazed finish. Thankfully, warming these meatballs doesn’t make them tough or dry out.

Credit: Samantha Hunter

Sixteen golden and glazed meatballs = three satisfying meals for me in a snap. For starters, a few cut-up meatballs go side-by-side with my breakfast egg-white scramble and avocado salad. Come lunch, I pop a few more meatballs into a halved and scooped-out zucchini, which I top with marinara sauce and vegan mozzarella cheese before baking for 15 to 20 minutes in my oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Credit: Samantha Hunter

I like to eat a little lighter for dinner, so I’ll make a nice meatball salad. I toss whatever greens and veggies (and even leftover protein) I have in my refrigerator into the mix to keep things creative — whatever the salad ingredients, though, my tried-and-true chicken meatballs make the meal a satisfying one.

Find it in stores: Trader Joe’s Chicken Meatballs, $3.99 for 12 ounces

What’s the first item you add to your Trader Joe’s cart? Tell us in the comments.