Young, Broke, and Hungry? Try One of These Quick and Easy Trader Joe’s Recipes

Written By Mica Mackenzie

Photo by Ava Doherty, Graphic by Briggy Jones

Photo by Ava Doherty, Graphic by Briggy Jones

I’m sure many of you busy-bodies are out there struggling just like I do to find the time to cook. It just doesn’t feel like there’s enough time in the day to do it all, including the grocery shopping. Unfortunately, though, while eating out is convenient, it’s not very good for you and it’s even worse for your wallet.

So, after continually ruining my budget for months in a row because of eating out too much, I finally decided something had to change. I started checking out Pinterest and trying to find quick, inexpensive meals to make using Trader Joe’s products (that’s my nearest grocery store) and I found some recipes that are pure gold

Pro-Tip: Trader Joe’s is an amazing grocery store because not only is it really inexpensive, but they have really great pre-made meals if you’re really in a rush! Check and see if there’s one nearby your location. It’s definitely worth checking out!

Photo by Jess Epting

Photo by Jess Epting

Sweet Potato Hash 

Okay, I can’t take full credit for finding this recipe because it’s actually one that my nanny family makes all the time, so you can thank them for this! 

I’ve never actually been a fan of sweet potatoes...until now….in this dish! The bacon is salty and savory so it perfectly balances with the sweetness of the sweet potatoes. 

Pro-tip: I, personally, really like the fried eggs on top as an addition because the running yolk serves kind of as a sauce; however, you can also do scrambled eggs mixed into the hash if you don’t like fried eggs. 


  • 1 or 2 large sweet potatoes (depending on how many people you want to serve)

  • 6 strips of bacon 

  • Eggs 

  • Olive Oil 


  1. Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. 

  2. Peel the sweet potatoes and dice them into small cubes

  3. Add the sweet potatoes to the skillet and let cook until tender. It’s best to cover the skillet with a lid and then come back and stir occasionally until the sweet potatoes are completely cooked. 

  4. Cook the bacon using whichever method (oven, microwave, skillet) that you prefer. 

  5. Dice the bacon into small pieces and add it to the sweet potatoes. Mix until everything is thoroughly combined.  

  6. In yet another skillet, fry two eggs per person. 

  7. Serve with the sweet potato hash on the bottom and the fried eggs on top.

Orange Chicken and Fried Rice

This. is. AMAZING. End of story. Actually, just kidding! I’m going to tell you more. 

I was incredibly surprised at how good this was when I first tried it! It’s not just subpar frozen food, it actually tastes like Chinese takeout. My mouth is watering just thinking about it (cue drooling emoji)!!


  • Trader Joe’s Frozen Vegetable Fried Rice

  • Trader Joe’s Frozen Orange Chicken 

  • Soy sauce (optional)

  • Butter (optional)


  1. Follow the preparation instructions on the packages of fried rice and orange chicken. 

  2. Once the fried rice is fully cooked, I usually like to add butter to make it really delicious and my boyfriend likes to add soy sauce. 

Pesto Penne with Chicken

This is another recipe that just kind of came out of nowhere and surprised the hell out of me! Wow! It’s got a lot of flavor and it only takes about twenty minutes to make the whole thing from start to finish. The addition of the peppers is what makes the dish, in my opinion. I’d definitely recommend you try and make this one! 

Pro-tip: This would make a fantastic meal to serve guests because it makes a large quantity and it looks really pretty with all the colors of the ingredients!  


  • One package of penne pasta 

  • Frozen, pre-cooked, boneless skinless chicken tenders 

  • 1 jar of Trader Joe’s quinoa and pesto 

  • 1 jar roasted red and yellow peppers

  • Grated parmesan cheese (for garnish)

Note: Trader Joe’s has many options as far as pesto is concerned. They have a vegan pesto, regular pesto, and the quinoa and pesto mix that I referenced above. I chose the latter because it still tastes exactly like pesto with all the added good-for-you stuff in the quinoa. 


  1. In a pot of boiling water, cook penne pasta according to the directions on the package.

  2. In a skillet, cook the chicken tenders according to the instructions on the package. 

  3. Drain the pasta and add the full jar of quinoa and pesto, the full jar of roasted peppers, and the chicken. Check the consistency and if the sauce isn’t evenly distributed then I would recommend adding ¼ cup of water to the pot. 

  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with Parmesan cheese. 

Turkey Meatloaf and Peas 

I had never tried the pre-made Trader Joe’s Turkey Meatloaf until I started working for my current nanny family. HOLY COW! It’s seriously some of the best meatloaf I’ve ever had in my entire life, plus it’s made with turkey instead of beef, so it’s not so bad for you!


  • Frozen peas 

  • Trader Joe’s Turkey Meatloaf

  • Olive oil


  1. To warm up the meatloaf, either follow the microwave or oven cooking instructions. 

  2. In a small pan, warm a Tablespoon of olive oil. Once warm, add the frozen peas and allow to cook, covered with a lid, until they are completely warm throughout. 

Lasagna and Steamed Broccoli 

Trader Joe’s has a pretty decent frozen, family-style meat lasagna. I wouldn’t say it’s the best lasagna ever, but for a frozen lasagna, it’s pretty damn good. As for the broccoli, I grew up having steamed broccoli with Italian food, so I guess I’m just sharing that tradition with all of you! 

If you’re not a fan of broccoli (even with lots of butter) you can always exchange it for another vegetable or even a salad as the side dish for your lasagna!


  • Frozen broccoli florets 

  • Butter

  • Trader Joe’s family style meat lasagna


  1. To cook the meatloaf, either follow the microwave or oven cooking instructions. 

  2. Fill a medium-sized saucepan with about two inches of water and then add the broccoli florets to the pan. Cover and steam until the broccoli is tender. 

  3. Once the broccoli is fully cooked, drain off any excess water and add some butter to make it extra delicious! 

If you decide to give these recipes a try, let me know what you think of them in the comments!!



Mica on steps, outside, fisheye lens

mica mackenzie

Mica Mackenzie is the founder and CEO of The Quiet Nonsense, LLC. She currently lives in Dallas with her boyfriend, Hunter, and their goldendoodle puppy, Ted! Her dream is to see the growth and success of her alternative entertainment company, QN. She’s obsessed with all types of things philosophical and scientific and has a huge heart and passion for those struggling with mental illness. Feel free to keep up with her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.