Food

A Slamdunk Trader Joe’s Dinner

Trader Joe's Dinner Hack

Our month of Trader Joe’s hacks continues today with a TJ’s delicacy: sweet potato gnocchi with butter and sage. A while back, a reader named Maddie shared how she turns the frozen package into a delicious family dinner. Here’s the 15-minute “recipe”…

Trader Joe's Dinner Hack

Recipe: Sweet Potato Gnocchi With Spicy Chicken Sausage and Mushrooms

You’ll need:

Mushrooms
TJ Spicy Italian Chicken Sausage (optional, just leave out if you’d prefer!)
Olive oil
TJ Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Grape tomatoes
Arugula
TJ Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Black pepper

Slice mushrooms and sausage, arranging pieces on a skillet in a single, even layer. Add a glug of olive oil and brown everything over medium heat, turning occasionally. Remove from pan.

Make gnocchi in the empty skillet, according to package directions, adding 1 extra tablespoon water to make it saucier (3 tablespoons, total). Add mushrooms, sausage and halved tomatoes to the pan, heating everything through.

Just before serving, toss in a big handful of arugula. Top with Parmesan and black pepper.

Trader Joe's Dinner Hack

Weeknight dinner, solved. Thanks for the idea, Maddie!

What Trader Joe’s hacks do you have?

P.S. A Trader Joe’s breakfast hack, and more Trader Joe’s meals.
P.P.S. These aren’t sponsored, we just really love TJ’s!

(Photos by Yossy Arefi for Cup of Jo. This series is edited by Stella Blackmon. )

  1. Claire says...

    My boyfriend has requested that we have this meal 3 times since I made it just a week and a half ago. I’m a vegetarian, so we used veggie sausage instead. He’s obsessed. It’s so good & so easy.

  2. Factory girl says...

    For a different spin on this, buy the gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce and add the TJs cubed ham, or prosciutto and their frozen peas. Delicious meal in 10 minutes!

  3. Megan says...

    I just made this dinner and it’s so good! Love Trader Joe’s.

  4. Alyssa says...

    Made this last night, and it was delicious! Super quick and very filling. Thanks for the great un-recipe!

  5. Sarah says...

    Made this for dinner last night–snagged the last bag of sweet potato gnocchi at the store! So delicious! It makes two servings. Next time I would double it–make 2 bags of gnocchi and 4 sausages instead of two for some more leftovers! :) thanks stella and COJ team!

  6. This sounds delicious! I only wish the lines for Trader Joe’s NYC locations weren’t always so long (or that they signed on for Instacart).

  7. We made this and it was delicious (except we live in England so we kinda have to improvise on some ingredients). This will be a staple in our household!

  8. M says...

    Just made this for dinner, but with kielbasa instead of Italian sausage. So good! Thanks!

  9. Tami says...

    I like to make Vegetarian Lentil Shepherd’s Pie, made easy with TJ’s steamed lentils and frozen mashed potatoes.

    On the stovetop, saute diced onion, carrot, and garlic. Add broth, steamed lentils, tomato paste, dried rosemary and thyme, salt and pepper, and cook until the mixture thickens up. Stir in frozen peas at the end. Transfer mixture to baking pan and cover with heated frozen mashed potatoes, then broil in the oven a few minutes until the top is lightly golden. The precooked lentils and potatoes really cut down on the cooking time.

    My kids also like this easy, veggie packed meal: Spinach & cheese tortellini cooked with brocolli florets and tossed with pesto. A quick one pot meal that’s good for busy weeknights.

  10. Such a great recipe and I all ready have everything in my fridge. Dinner will be easy tonight!

  11. Kat says...

    My fave TJs “hack” meals:
    – Roast up two big sheet pans of veggies (pre-cut sweet potato, bagged brocc, sliced mushrooms, thick-sliced onion) on top of spinach – makes a ton of leftovers for the whole week.
    – “Pizza-dillas” which are just tortillas (I love TJ’s half wheat-half corn) with melted cheese (TJs quattro formagi), garlic salt and crushed red pepper, microwaved for 45 seconds. Dip the slices into pasta sauce and BOOM – dinner in 90 seconds. Not healthy but SO GOOD.
    – Spinach, shelled edamame, steamed bagged brocc, green onion, cooked brown rice (love TJs quick cook brown Basmati) with some lemon juice and a splash of Soyaki for dressing – AMAZING.

  12. Eleanor says...

    I’m pregnant and live in East Africa at the moment (not a TJ’s in site…) and for some reason this pregnancy I am craving an ENTIRE Trader Joe’s store. I dream about going grocery shopping, spend a ridiculous amount of time googling things you can make with Trader Joe’s ingredients, reading the Fearless Flyer online. It’s pathetic. Thanks for enabling me!

  13. Johanna says...

    We made this tonight. I big hit!

  14. I grill slices of their polenta and melt the little mozzarella balls with sun dried tomatoes. A delightful appetite.

  15. Colleen says...

    I made this recently for lunch for my husband and I (all ingredients were from Trader Joe’s).
    1 bag of frozen cauliflower fried rice
    1 bag of frozen veggie fried rice
    Mix together with scramble eggs and some left over chicken and have a nice lunch in 15 mins, plus leftovers for tomorrow.

  16. Ruth says...

    Looks delicious and so easy! Just added all these items to my grocery list for the week. We love having a Trader Joe’s in our smallish city and typically spend 50-100 dollars less when we shop there than at other stores. Makes a huge difference for our family food budget!

  17. kat says...

    I had to stop shopping at Trader’s Joes. I have celiac disease and the ingredient carageenan makes me as sick as gluten and it is most of their products.

  18. Sheila says...

    I have a TJs recipe!!!! Take the bruschetta (the plastic container with the very basic design), mix with the cooked lentils (found in the refrigerated section)— slice up a baguette and BAM! Easiet app ever. (And crowd favorite)

    But wait! It can also be lunch! Take the lentil bruschetta mix, throw some on top of rocket salad (arugula), but a little bit of pesto as a dressing (it doesn’t take much) and… amazing salad.

    • I do this but add feta. Soooo good!

  19. Katy S. says...

    Made this last night for friends after a long day at a conference — quick and satisfying! Thanks for the recipe!

  20. AK says...

    I love reading the comments for useful ideas to answer the “what do we feed the kids” question ‘round here.

    I would like to gently remind people who like to “ugh, Trader Joe’s” and “so much plastic” comments to please consider how privileged you sound. I am definitely for minimizing waste and trying to be responsible but please consider your tone and words. I do my best to teach my kids to be grateful that we can so easily find/purchase food and that just having fully stocked grocery stores is such a convenience and luxury. Most people are doing their best with the options they have available to them and feed themselves and their family on a reasonable budget.

    • c says...

      i’m in massive student loan debt and live on very little and still choose to pay more and forgoe places like trader joes that produce so much waste because i want to do what i can to leave the planet somewhat inhabitable for future generations. the earth gives us so much and it’s our job to help take care of it. it isn’t about privilege.

    • shanze says...

      sometimes the privileged commodity you have is time. Sure, I order my groceries and get the csa box but when we get home at 5:30 and my girls need to be in bed by 7 b/c we are out of the door at 8 am- i need pre-prepped ingredients. I have plenty of money and resources but I can’t afford a housekeeper or plated/galley everyday. Also my kids want food that their mother has prepared, because that is special and having mirepoix already to go is the difference between home made food and take out. Some of us support the next generation, elderly parents, older people in our community, and stay active in our faith based communities, school communities , thus contributing in a different way than others.

    • Catie says...

      This! It’s also a major challenge to make every single consumption-related choice the ‘best’ one–there are so many ways in which the current state of things is not ideal, and it’s hard to combat it all at once. For some people, doing that takes precedence above all else–and that’s okay!–but for others it’s not possible. All anyone can do is prioritize what’s important to *them*, and make choices within their means (whether that’s money, time, etc.). When people cross the line into moralizing others’ choices, it’s not particularly helpful anymore, and this is content (skillfully and thoughtfully!) created for a VERY broad audience.

      Thanks, CoJ Team, for all the excellent work you do!

    • Ms C…believe it or not, even having a student loan is a privilege. Please keep the judgements and self righteous talk to yourself. My guess is that most people who read this blog are aware and we all make choices. Please get over yourself.

    • Kate says...

      I’m sorry if my original comment (“Ugh, Trader Joes”) came across as insensitive and was upsetting to anyone. That wasn’t my intention and I feel sad that it seemed to have caused some hurt feelings. I apologize for that.

      At the same time, I am struggling a bit on having my opinion called out as “railing against” or called privileged. It’s okay for me to have a different opinion/priorities and share that. I wasn’t judging or shaming, just sharing some thoughts and an article that I personally find important.

      Again, I’m sorry for my comment upsetting some folks.

    • Amanda says...

      I thought the “ugh, Trader Joe’s” comment was great, and so is this one (actually, they are super great!). There are a million factors that go into my purchasing/consumption decisions . . . environment, should I support this company, etc. with my purchases, class issues, parenting (e.g., teaching children to be grateful), my personal finances, etc. So, I enjoy the discussion of how people weigh the different factors for themselves.

  21. Kelly says...

    WHAT! I had no idea you were doing Trader Joes hacks — this is incredible. Please, please, please —more of this!

  22. J mcmill says...

    Hi CoJ readers and Joanna!

    My friend started an incredible company called Counter Top Foods. I think you will all really love her seasonings, honeys and “Golden” butter. Anti-inflammatory and digestive-aiding, these products have wonderful recipes to go along with them- as a first time new mom they have helped me ease back in to cooking (my favorite hobby) and I am officially HOOKED. Wanted to share here because I think you will be too.
    Countertopfoods.com
    Love,

    Julianna

  23. AndreeaCal says...

    Just made this today, taste and fast. Adding to the rotation. Thanks!

  24. LP says...

    We have a few that we really love, including shrimp, broccoli and gyoza stir fry and salmon burgers with no-guilt guacamole on sourdough.

  25. Jean kelly says...

    Love. Love love Trader Joe’s we need another store in Elwood shopping center where Kmart was bigger store more parking please ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  26. Alexis says...

    I love TJs, so many delicious items. I think they are particularly great for pantry items and the organic milk is a great price. While I agree the packaging can be excessive and the lack of transparency is concerning, it is such an affordable option that I continue to shop there weekly. At TJs I can get a weeks worth of groceries for about 150 dollars for my family of four where the same haul would be 200+ at Whole Foods. We augment in the spring/summer fall with a CSA which helps. Thanks for the great recipe hacks!

  27. Holly says...

    I love this series. It’s the only reason I stopped eating takeout every night when my daughter was several months old and it seemed impossible to cook. So that saved a lot of packaging!

  28. Marya Rajagopal says...

    Love Trader Joe’s, love the gnocchi. This recipe is going to be a hit!

  29. Nicole says...

    Thank you so much for all these Trader Joe’s ideas!!! I am coming back from maternity leave after having my second baby and Trader Joe’s meals are saving my life right now! While I love to invision a time in my life where I am able to make homemade gnocchi and shop at farmers markets weekly it is SO not now. So thank you! Thank you!

    • Karen says...

      I hear you on the time involved to make home-cooked weeknight dinners, it starts with planning, then a grocery store run, then execution. I have definitely learned some tricks over the years to streamline the process (my girls are now 5 and 6):
      1.) Monday: casserole night. I make it Sunday (double it, one goes in the freezer), so Monday night involves just throwing it in the oven
      2.) Slow-cooker night: once/week
      3.) Double-up and Freeze: as noted above, when I’m making something that’s freezer-friendly, I double it up (casseroles, meatballs). I even started saving leftovers and freezing them, last night we had chili from a too-big batch two weeks ago that I saved. It was great, all I had to do the night of was whip up the homemade biscuits.
      4.) Simplicity: when I make tacos, I used to make Mexican rice (pan-friend uncooked rice, chicken stock, frozen veggies, tomato paste, you get the pic). Now I simplify: plain brown rice in the rice cooker, DONE.
      5.) And Simple Recipes: some of our fave recipes are simply weekend meals, like our Japanese curry with panko-crusted chicken (sooo good, but it’s a two-person job so it’s saved for Sunday nights). I keep weeknight meals pared down. I also have a shared Google Doc meal list with my sister, we’re both updating it and I refer to it each week for my meal planning.

      It’s a good amount of work to make home-made meals for my family, but it’s something I’ve decided is really important to me (along with a glass of milk for the kids and no TV during dinner!).

    • laura-london says...

      Karen can you please share your Google doc for meal planning?!

  30. Becky says...

    Try with a shredded rotisserie chicken instead of the sausage! So delish!

    • susan thomason says...

      Yum, I’m going to do this!

  31. This looks so good and it looks very easy to make.

  32. These recipes looks so good, and it always looks easy to make.

  33. c says...

    seems like there is growing interest in healthy/sustainable food systems in the comments of this blog. would be great to see more recipes as well as writing on the subject. farmers market hacks is more where it’s at for me :)

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Such great ideas, C! Thank you!

  34. SW says...

    I also love mixing this gnocchi with some sauteed kale and either chicken or shrimp! One of my go-tos!

  35. Ramona says...

    I guess I know what I’m making for dinner tomorrow!

    On a somewhat related note, if TJ’s lovers haven’t tried their spatchcocked chicken yet you definitely should. It’s basically a whole chicken that has been cut open so you can cook it flat, and it’s in a delicious lemon/herb marinade. It comes out super moist with crispy skin. We eat the legs/wings with veggies the first night and then I’ll rip up the breast meat to use for soup or salad on day 2.

    • Sharon says...

      I am going to find this! I love TJ’s and swear I have tried everything, but never even noticed this chicken. Thank you!! Love Cup of Jo comments…

  36. Maria says...

    love, love, love trader joes – so please always keep featuring them!

  37. Kate says...

    For all my home-ladies out there raising concerns about TJ’s supply chain and packaging, I think you could also replicate this recipe with your favorite local sausage, homemade frozen gnocchi if you want to really go for it, or your favorite cooked beans/grains/pasta, and some seasonal veggies. I do love a non-recipe-recipe.

  38. Claire says...

    There is a Trader Joe’s in my town, but I have to confess I’ve only somewhat understood the appeal. But regardless, I LOVE these recipe features mostly for the comments, as I get great meal ideas from reading what others are making for dinner.

  39. Jenna says...

    I LOVE these TJ posts, and read all the comments for more ideas. Thank you all! I agree that it would be great to see TJs reduce their packaging waste. I don’t buy certain products there because of the extra plastic – produce especially. I do really enjoy some of their products. A favorite is their green curry sauce (in a jar) with pea pods, edamame, broccoli, cauliflower and rice. Their curry sauces make a masterpiece out of whatever odds and ends you find in the fridge.

  40. Lorena says...

    Your Trader Joe’s posts give me Trader Joe’s envy. The chain is not in Canada, and it sounds like the best grocery store ever!
    Is it sad that I am trying to make Trader Joe’s a must-stop destination on my next trip to Maine, so I can try some of these hacks?

    • Ro says...

      Go to Trader Joe’s! If you haven’t been to one before, you’ll love it. And it’s not sad at all. I love going to new grocery stories when I travel and seeing the different setups and different foods available. That and it makes me feel like a true local, which is a vibe I try to achieve when I travel. :)

    • Roxanne Leclerc says...

      I was thinking exactly the same! Come to Quebec please Trader Joes!

    • Adriana Solomann says...

      Why not just order it threw Amazon ? http://amzn.to/2FYEF7m Something wrong with that…? I would just do it if I wanted to buy something basic and that I know well…Good luck.

  41. Kimberly G says...

    I like easy meal ideas and hacks, but I hate TJ’s super plastic-y packaged items that on the whole-are not healthy ingredients.

  42. Jessica says...

    My current hack is a package of the southwest salad plus a can of chickpeas, a diced avocado and I mix the dressing up with a couple of spoonfuls of sour cream and ton of lime juice. Topped with a grilled chicken breast or some grilled skirt steak it’s a great quick dinner.

    • Amy K P says...

      I love the Southwest Chopped Salad! I’ve been making the pulled chicken recipe that was in the CoJ article about crock-pots and putting it on top of the salad, mixed with some baby spinach. Yum!

  43. I’m obsessed with this sweet potato gnocchi! Will definitely try this recipe to fancy it up, although lazy pregnant me also loves to just throw in a bag of spinach to wilt while it cooks to make it slightly healthier

  44. cgw says...

    I love TJs for this reason!! My TJs hack is cut up skinless, boneless thighs, brown. Dump a half a bag (or whole) of baby carrots. Add half a bag (or whole, depending on how many people you’re serving) haricort verts (fancy thin green beans), garlic and chopped onion (optional), and thrown in a whole jar of Thai curry sauce (yellow is mild, red is medium). If you want to add a bit of coconut milk, go for it, but not necessary. Cook until chicken and carrots are cooked through. Serve over rice, cauliflower rice, or noodles.

    In a real pinch for time? Sub precooked chicken (can be found by the cheeses and premade salads) instead of raw chicken. Family favorite all around!

    • Sharon says...

      This sounds delicious! Thank you for sharing! I’ve always been interested in their curry sauce and love the idea of making some of my Thai favorites.

  45. Laura says...

    While I want to support the brands that support CoJ, enough please with TJ! Beyond tired of seeing them on the blog.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Thanks so much for your feedback, Laura! Really appreciate it. This actually isn’t sponsored, but it’s a part of our food series for this month. Only two more “recipes” left :)

    • Kimberly G says...

      Agreed!

    • Marney says...

      I do love food posts! But, I have to imagine a large portion of your readers don’t have access to Trader Joe’s. It can’t just be me!!!!!

    • Disagree! Please keep ’em coming, CoJ team! :)

    • Lisa says...

      I disagree! I’m loving the TJ’s posts!

    • Jenny says...

      I’m in the disagree camp- TJ is good, affordable stuff. These “recipes” and the comments are awesome, even the discussions and comments about packaging.

    • Bec says...

      Agreed! Not all your readers are in the US or able to drive across a border to get to TJs :(

    • Hilary says...

      Disagree as well! I’m lucky to have TJ’s nearby but you could still recreate this meal with ingredients from your local story. Any easy dinner ideas are always a win in my book!

    • Carol says...

      As an international reader, I definitely don’t have a Trader Joe’s, which the internet would have me believe is a huge tragedy! ;)
      But the ingredients in this recipe are pretty universal (I’ve never seen sweet potato gnocchi, but I reckon some roasted sweet potato would be a fine substitute). Occasionally, as an international reader I feel like I can’t connect as much when the posts are very New York or United States centred, but I know that that’s the context in which the CoJ team are operating, and sometimes a post just isn’t going to resonate quite as much with every single reader.

  46. Current fave Trader joe’s meal hack: pasta + boursin + capers + their hot smoked salmon, which is DELICIOUS and flakes really easily. You just cook the pasta, then toss everything together. Also baller as leftovers next day. Freakin love TJS!

    • C says...

      Sounds SO GOOD!

    • Jenny says...

      Trying this tomorrow!

    • Oliviamk says...

      Here’s my TJ gnocchi hack: package of Gorgonzola gnocchi (better than any I’ve ever had, even at a restaurant), add a handful of fresh or frozen spinach, capers, chili flakes, and flaked smoked salmon, or sausage.

    • Alicia M says...

      Joy and Olivia – you guys are geniuses! For sure giving both ideas a try.

  47. Kayla says...

    Alright, I just have to say I am so excited about this series. My boyfriend and I just tried TJ’s sweet potato gnocchi for the first time last week and it was so good even by itself! I was pretty impressed with the limited ingredients too. This looks like a great way to spruce it up even more and make it a well-rounded meal. Can’t wait to try!

  48. Amanda says...

    I believe I found this hack on this site. It’s worth sharing again, I love the combo of the garlic naan and falafel with either hummus or raita. Can’t get enough of this!

    I also love roasting the pre-cut butternut squash, adding the tomatillo sauce, sliced avocado and spinach on top of a tortilla shell for a chulupa.

    Totally agree re plastic comment. As you can see I’m guilty of the waste too, and it’s something that I struggle with.

  49. Kaitlin says...

    This looks lovely, but again I find myself wanting for the amounts of each ingredient! I recognize that the hacks benefit from scale-ability, but honestly, it’s just lazy to exclude them.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh, we can add them for sure! this is a “non-recipe recipe,” where you really don’t need to use specific amounts of things, and you can make it your own, but we’re happy to add measurements if that’s important to people, absolutely. xo

    • Kelly R says...

      Kaitlin,
      Really no need to call someone lazy; that’s just rude. Joanna and her team are not food bloggers. It’s an idea, more than a recipe. Why comment with mean-spiritedness?

    • C says...

      I agree, I would hardly call the CoJ team lazy. Their output of quality content is staggering, as is their engagement in the comments section. And that’s only what I can see from the surface – behind the scenes work must count for a lot too.

    • L says...

      I prefer these “non-recipes.” I get plenty of “real” recipes from my grandma, food blogs, cookbooks, etc. and I love to make them when I have the time but half of my meals are something like this recipe that I make after a long day, or often make after I’ve eaten dinner, to bring to work the next day for lunch. For this recipe, I honestly don’t see how adding amounts would be a benefit other than telling you the author’s personal preference for extra cheese (or whatever, but extra cheese is a safe bet ;) ). This isn’t something that’s mixed all together before it’s cooked so you can’t tell how altering the amount of one ingredient will change the result. For this, it’s easy to tell how it will turn out with more mushrooms or more arugula or any other “change” you would make.

    • J says...

      Joanna, you are so gracious with your responses to people.

    • I think it’s just really easy to forget you’re talking to a real person sometimes, when commenting on the internet.

    • Ann-Marie says...

      First, the CoJ team is absolutely not lazy. Second, as someone who rarely cooks with measurements unless I’m baking, it’s odd to me to need amounts for a recipe idea like this. Use their ingredient suggestions to taste — omit and add whatever you want! It’s not going to go wrong.

    • Claire says...

      This recipe works great for me without the measurements included. I don’t need them at all.
      (Lazy? yikes…)

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hi Kaitlin,

      Here are a few more notes below, but it’s totally your preference! I personally would add extra sausage and zero tomatoes :)

      1 package of mushrooms
      2 TJ Spicy Italian Chicken Sausage links
      2 tbsp olive oil
      1 TJ Sweet Potato Gnocchi package
      1 cup grape tomatoes
      1 1/2 cups arugula
      2 tbsp TJ Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
      1/4 tsp black pepper

    • Em says...

      The CoJ team is so gracious in their comments, that when I’ve found myself getting frustrated and wanting to lash out at someone I have literally thought..what would jo say? They are all pure grace.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, hilary, that makes me tear up! thank you xo

  50. This looks awesome! Trader Joe’s meals are my go-to on crazy weeknights when I’m attempting to save money, eat something healthy, and not spend my entire night cooking (a girl can have it all, right?). My personal favorite is the herbed chickpea dish from Bon Appetit (https://www.bonappetit.com/story/date-night-rent-week). I buy all the ingredients at Trader Joe’s and can make the recipe in under 20 minutes. It’s an easy recipe to memorize and keep up your sleeve!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      This looks so delicious, Hilary! Love their Rent Week recipes!!!

  51. Sarah says...

    My husband and I do gnocchi with Trader Joe’s balsamic butter veggies and goat cheese probably once a week. I like to add extra frozen peas, pearl onions, grape tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar – all from TJs! It’s super quick and delicious. Lately we’ve started to feel like maybe we could be eating healthier and I bought some Banza chickpea pasta to replace the gnocchi in the dish. I wish TJs carried their own chickpea pasta! It’s got way more protein and fiber than regular pasta.

    I also love using their frozen mexican street corn with cotija cheese or the fire-roasted corn they have in a salad I make with tomato, black beans, avocado, red onion, red bell pepper, cilantro, and a lime-mayo-chili powder dressing. So good that I recently made it for my lunches two weeks in a row!

    • Julie says...

      I don’t know if they have chickpea pasta but their quinoa brown rice pasta is so tasty!! (doesn’t do great leftover though, FYI)

    • Rachel says...

      My TJs sells lentil pasta! I know it’s not quite the same, but worth checking out for the protein/fiber combo!

    • Julia says...

      TJs has black bean and lentil pastas! They are easy to overcook, but, if you pay attention, they are great alternatives to wheat pasta. They are both gluten free and cheaper than Banza pasta too. I also love the balsamic butter veggies.

  52. Carly says...

    Kate–Yes!! Thank you for this comment. Personally, I understand the appeal of TJs (and have shopped there in the past myself) but as consumers it’s important to remember that when something seems to be of really good value (like much of the packaged food at TJs) it can mean that environmental, human or other factors were not accounted for, and that cheap food is paid for in other ways. Ask yourself, how was this food grown? Who grew it? How far has it traveled?

    • Kate says...

      Yep! And what is the producing company doing to support farmers and the environment? TJs secrecy makes me so uncomfortable.

    • Rebecca says...

      Yes, and the PACKAGING. It’s hard to find food at TJ that isn’t wrapped in something landfill-bound.

    • Agree, and I always wonder about this. Same with Aldi, which I believe is the parent company.

    • Allison says...

      @Rebecca in replies – my local TJs now has compostable bags instead of plastic for produce. Doesn’t address prepackaged goods, but a positive step I haven’t seen at any other stores (although sure, folks could also bring their own produce bags)

    • So… basically you mean TJ’s is like every other grocery store. Plastic, paper, glass, metal, or no packaging. It’s just a store, guys.

      It’s important to remember that TJ’s isn’t advertised as, nor does it pretend to be, a “health food” grocer or “green” store. It’s just a regular grocery store with very defined (and might I add successful) brand marketing.

      TJ’s is special to so many people because it has prepackaged, delicious food (particularly PANTRY and FREEZER items) that is ready to just open and/or heat and serve. Mix a few things together, and you’ve got something new and different without *having* to toil away in the kitchen making everything from scratch. For busy parents or students or single people, TJ’s meals can be a simple and easy option that isn’t also boring.

  53. Sara G says...

    My new favorite TJ’s hack is Naan pizza! I love pizza and usually always have the ingredients on hand. All you need is naan bread (I use the plain kind from the bakery and keep it in my freezer), sauce, leftover meat and veggies and cheese. I’ve made several variations, last night’s included TJ’s chicken sausage & zucchini. In deperate times I’ve even been known to cut up a cheese stick if I’ve run out of cheese! All you need to do is put the pizza together and throw it in the oven for 15 minutes. This always satisfies my pizza cravings without going overboard.

    • Faith says...

      We love making garlic naan pizzas, too! We top ours with pesto (if we have it), fresh mozzarella and tomato slices. It always hits the spot!

    • Laura says...

      Literally made this on Friday night (but with the frozen garlic naan)! So easy and so, so good.

    • Hilary says...

      I made one last night because I tried a new dinner recipe and it was a failure! Pulled naan from the freezer, used jarred marinara sauce, and some mozzarella and ta da! dinner in 10 minutes. Such a lifesaver.

  54. Anna says...

    This is the best series. Thank you so much for this!

  55. I am loving all these TJ’s hacks!!

    One of my go-to weekday lunches as of late has been two types of roasted veggies (today was potatoes + broccoli), with either one Scallion Pancakes (in the frozen section, SO good) or veggie burger (had the quinoa one today!) crumbled on top, all topped with the Thai Sweet Chili sauce. So easy and you can make it ahead of time, just add the sauce the morning-of so it doesn’t get soggy :)

    • Faith says...

      YES, the scallion pancakes are fantastic!

  56. Lindsay says...

    Love this recipe!! My go to meal is combining the SP gnocchi, roasted brussel sprouts, and TJ’s turkey meatballs. It’s the perfect comfort food meal!

  57. Katie says...

    Ever since Maddie commented on that post a while back, I’ve been making this meal at least once a week!! It’s so damn delicious!! (And I can put literally no effort or thought into it. Much needed after rough days at work.)

  58. Megan says...

    This looks great. I’m always looking for weeknight dinner inspiration. I like to cook and love the idea of not using packaged things as instead making things from scratch *in theory*, but the reality is wen you walk in the door at 6pm with a hangry 3 year old in tow you gotta do what you gotta do. This series is giving me great ideas.

  59. Kate says...

    Ugh, Trader Joes. I have a huge issue with the secrecy surrounding their third party suppliers. I can’t bring myself to shop at TJs because of this. I work in supply chain sustainability, and it is important to me to support companies that are making strides in sustainability. Not knowing for sure who is making the TJs bottled smoothies (rumored to be PepsiCo) or pasta sauces (rumored to be ConAgra) bugs me. Transparency in food production is so important and so, so much more than just an ingredient list.

    Eater did a good article on this last year if anyone is interested: https://www.eater.com/2017/8/9/16099028/trader-joes-products

    • Ann-Marie says...

      Thank you for sharing. I hesitate to shop at TJ’s due to the over-packaging and had not considered this aspect. Transparency and sustainability is so important! We can’t just keep pretending that these are issues we can ignore as we go through our convenient, consumerist lives.

    • Hi Kate,

      I’m with you. I actually work in food (mostly for small and mission-focused startups), but I spent years working for the big guys and can confirm that the majority of their private label products are, in fact, the same products that end up on shelves as brands we know by their name.

      On the other hand of these comments, though, I spend a lot of time thinking about food waste. Because, sure, the packaging is excessive. But is it worse or better than buying more than you need for a 1-2 person household and the food itself ending up in the garbage? The industry has been so focused on the “mom with two kids” for so long that they’ve completely missed out on the fact that 1 in 4 Americans lives alone! What are we supposed to do with all the extra food we have to buy in these packages?

      Anywho, sounds like you’d be a fun person to talk shop with… :)

    • Only shopping at stores that are entirely transparent and offer sustainable goods/services is an incredible luxury, and unfortunately only a minority of people can truly afford this.

      I’m with you on the importance and I would certainly not oppose more transparency from TJ’s, but for many people — if they even have a TJ’s nearby — the only other option is likely a Vons or Albertson’s or other major chain store. It’s great if you can afford to shop exclusively at Whole Foods or a local health food grocer, but perhaps let’s not rail against people who aren’t so privileged.

    • Brooke says...

      Thank you for sharing. I don’t shop at TJs for these reasons exactly.

  60. Did not realize they have sweet potato gnocchi. Tehe looks like I have some weeknight plans tonight! Side note: consider adding the prices of the items to these TJ hack recipes, or at least approximate cost at the end. Part of the reason I shop at TJ’s or Aldi is to save money, and it’s nice to know that a recipe will cost around $12 to make and will provide four servings or whatever it is.

    • L says...

      That’s a great idea! I remember when they had a one-off post about a $1 lunch from Trader Joe’s and I loved it! I know it can be hard to do cost estimates when they have readers in a ton of locations with a ton of different food costs, but I always love “recipes” that are like “Here’s a list of things that will cost about $15 and combines into a yummy meal.”

  61. Emily says...

    Oh my goodness. This reminds me of a gnocchi salad I used to get at a very beloved restaurant that has now closed down. How come I never thought of this? Happy dance over here!

  62. Kali says...

    Here is an easy pizza……
    Trader Giotto’s Brand Pizza Crust (bread section)
    Garlic Spread (refrigerated section)
    Quattro Formaggio
    Pre-cut Brussels Sprout

    Spread garlic spread evenly over both crusts. Top each with half of cheese and brussels sprout. Cook as directed on crust package. Easy and delicious!

    • Emily says...

      That’s what I’m talking about…..sounds amazing!

  63. Grain bowl hack: organic tahini + everything bagel seasonings on a fried runny egg over grains/cauliflower rice. Sprinkle some greens if you are feeling it.
    I have gone through two jars of tahini with this hack. It still hits the spot every. single. time!

    • Faith says...

      One of my favorite TJ’s hacks is lentil bruschetta dip with naan. (I may have found the recipe on Cup of Jo, but I can’t remember!) Simply mix TJ’s pre-cooked lentils (found in the refrigerated section near the salads) with TJ’s bruschetta sauce (it comes either fresh or in a glass jar). Top with a generous amount of crumbled feta, microwave until warm, and serve with toasted naan (found in the freezer section). It is so filling and delicious!

  64. lydia says...

    i’ve been loving tjs thai green curry simmer sauce! i add sliced carrots and the frozen green beans to shrimp and then put the summer sauce over it all in a pan let it boil and serve it over their frozen (thawed) rice and top with cilantro and avocado!! oh my goodness it’s amazing and tastes just like my favorite thai restaurant! now i’m hungry!!

    • lydia says...

      and by summer i mean simmer haha

    • t says...

      We wanted to love the green curry simmer sauce but it was inedible to my family (bland and funky at the same time). Glad you like it though! I figured someone had to.

  65. Kayla says...

    All these TJ hacks sound great but they sure involve a lot of plastic :( Would like to see more quick meals that are also environmentally-friendly – using in-season ingredients and that make an effort to avoid unnecessary plastic. We purport to value the environment yet that so quickly goes out the window in the name of “convenience.”

    • JLBB says...

      Yes to this!

    • Ann-Marie says...

      Agree! 100x.

    • sonja says...

      yes! :) would love to see more easy ideas without needing so many one use plastics. maybe like 3-5 ingredient ideas, that still may need a tiny bit of washing/chopping/etc? :) thanks!

    • Kate says...

      Yes! Their packaging is so wasteful.

    • Rae says...

      Me too. Simple, weeknight dinners that use fresh foods. The stove top mac & cheese recipe from Smitten Kitchen (featured in Four Great Things) fits the bill with a big bunch of kale added to the pasta water…

    • Capa says...

      Yes! Yes! Yes!

    • Esvee says...

      Completely agree. This is why I avoid them for the most part, and have not tried meal services like Blue Apron. Who am I to say that my needs for easy or quick food trump this planet and the other people living on it with me?

      Also, Kate’s comment above about TJ’s supply chain hits the nail on the head. So many ways they can up their game.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      great idea, thank you so much for this feedback xo

    • I’ve been seeing a ton of comments about Trader Joe’s plastic usage, and as someone who has shopped in many different supermarkets (currently rotate between stop and shop, trader Joe’s and local markets and farmers markets), I have to say I don’t see them using much more plastic, if any, than any other supermarket. I’ve ever shopped at. Maybe there’s just something im missing.

    • @Katie — completely agree with you. So many people going off on Trader Joe’s and their plastic packaging and all I can think is “Wow, where do you shop?” Because every major grocery store that isn’t a Whole Foods has far more packaged options on the shelves *and* backstock than TJ’s does.

      Is everyone upset because they think TJ’s is somehow masquerading as a health food store, or “green” grocer? Because it definitely doesn’t and never has.

      Let’s not hold TJ’s to a higher standard than we would any other major chain store just because your friend or cousin or mother can’t stop waxing poetic about the amazing “healthy” food they have.

    • Ann-Marie says...

      @Stacy – TJ’s applies packaging to produce and meats that don’t need it (mushrooms? bell peppers? limes? on and on). Other stores do have fresh meat counters where they wrap meats in paper without plastic or styrofoam, bulk bins, and loose produce (which is also better because you can choose how much you want!).

      Perhaps this is not a cry against TJs specifically as much as a gentle reminder to try to shop mindfully wherever you are. I like the idea of TJs too, but really, them cutting down on their packaging would be beneficial to everyone. Lowering our standards about wasteful packaging does not help fix the colossal plastic problem we’re facing, and CoJ suggesting specific ingredients each wrapped in plastic in some form or another to hundreds of thousands of readers doesn’t help, either.

    • @Stacy: Thanks, I feel a little less crazy! lol

      @Ann-Marie: Now I’m wondering if it’s different at TJs across the country! Agreed on account of no meat counter, but bell peppers at TJ here aren’t in plastic! I’m not sure about mushrooms but I’m pretty sure lemons and limes are also packing-material free….the only produce I WOULD buy there but don’t because of plastic is vine tomatoes. I specifically buy produce at different supermarkets depending on where I can get things without packaging, when possible. Totally agree that it’s a problem across the board we need to work on fixing!

  66. Liz says...

    I make a weekly dinner for around 10-14 people for a community group with my church, and while I sometimes have the time to cook something the night before, other times I’m rushing home from work with only time to chop a few things and “assemble” dinner. My two go-to TJs assembly meals:

    – Steak Salad with creamy horseradish dressing (TJs pre-cooked steak – so good! – arugula/spinach, quick pickled onions, crumbled blue cheese & horseradish/sour cream dressing that takes 2 seconds to throw together)
    – Mediterranean Make Your Own (frozen falafels and/or Lemon Pepper Grilled chicken, a selection of awesome hummus, cucumber/tomato salad, and garlic rice if you have time, toasted pitas if you don’t. heat everything that needs heated and let guests assemble it however they want!)

    • Jenny says...

      Holy crap- both of those sound SOOOO good!

  67. Such a great dinner idea! I buy that gnocchi all the time but never would have thought to make this meal!

  68. Lauren says...

    Please keep this series up! Love the simple hacks.

  69. Maria says...

    Loveee this section! Keep doing it!

  70. Allie says...

    so obsessed with TJs. i have thought about buying a car solely so that i can get to TJs more efficiently (city living, ugh).

    another favorite TJs recipe i’ve perfected over the years:
    1 pack of sweet italian chicken sausage, sliced
    3 tbs of olive oil
    1 tsp of minced garlic
    1/2 yellow onion
    3 bell peppers – any colors you want
    1.5 cups of diced asparagus
    1 bag of whole wheat fusili (or any shaped pasta you like, bowties work great, too!)
    1 cup of shredded mozzerella
    1/2 cup of grated parm

    heat garlic, olive oil & onion in large skillet. add sliced chicken sausage and begin to brown. after a few minutes, add bell peppers & asparagus – stir occasionally.
    meanwhile, boil pasta 8-10 minutes. reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.
    add cooked pasta & pasta water to skillet with sausages & veggies. remove from heat and add cheeses – stirring to melt the cheeses in the mixture.

    serve with large glass of wine :) enjoy!

    • Becca says...

      Allie – I had to come back to this post to tell you that I made your recipe for dinner last night and it was absolutely delicious! Thanks for sharing!! :)

  71. Carolyn says...

    Love these so much. The new, easiest thing (not a recipe) I’ve been obsessed with lately: TJ’s everything bagel seasoning sprinkled liberally on half an avocado. That’s it! Even my 2-year-old is into it.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      YUM!!!!

    • Ruth says...

      We take this one step further and mash an avocado (and sometimes add a hardboiled egg or ricotta cheese) on toast, and then the seasoning, for breakfast.

    • Sarah says...

      This is a staple at our house, too! Sometimes on toast, if I’m feeling ambitious.

    • Sarah says...

      I once caught my boyfriend eating the TJ’s everything seasoning straight out of the container haha It’s that good.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hahahahaha

  72. Laura says...

    I love this series! Not so much a hack but we live off of TJ’s veggie fried rice- along side any of their frozen Asian-inspired entrees, or with our own protein and sauce tossed in.

  73. Sasha says...

    I am sad that the town I am now living in lacks a TJ! This series is just rubbing salt in the wounds ;)

    • Laura C. says...

      The COUNTRY I am living in lacks a TJ. I just can read these posts and comments and feel jealous/envious/whatever you call it. But, hey, some of good ideas and inspirations for our dinners come out from here.

  74. K says...

    We used to make a version of this all the time! We would add chicken, which is also delicious.

    Question for readers. Per my doctor, I’m on a new diet with no alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, citrus, garlic, mint, onion, soda, tomato, or vinegar – basically all the things that make life worth living. Not to mention, no fried or spicy food. :( – Any tips for overcoming the challenge of not being able to eat all your favorite things? I’m finding it very hard. Luckily my diet will be come a bit less restrictive in a few months, I still have cheese, and my wonderful husband has committed to this awful diet in solidarity (I married a good one)!

    • Jhd says...

      A while back I need sage advice on dietary needs. The people at TJ’s were so helpful. They gave me a printout of all the foods that would fit my needs. Ask at your local TJ.

    • K says...

      That’s great to know, JHD. Thank you!

    • Becca Lynn says...

      Glad to hear cheese is still on your new eating plan! A couple of my favs seem to be approved on your diet: Big pans of roasted veggies (w/lots of salt and some olive oil) are easy and delicious; pasta w/cheese & veggies, Trader Joe’s refried beans heated up (w/extra salt and cheese added) w/chips and guac, toast varieties (peanut butter, almond butter, avocado, fried eggs, etc), and “fancy” oatmeal (w/cut up apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins, etc).
      If I were you, I would have to buy a lot of yummy speciality herbal teas to drink at night to get over not having wine!

    • Madie says...

      I see what’s happening w/ your diet… Hang in there! There is so much left to eat, I promise! I see Spaghetti Carbonara in your future! Fry bacon, pour off all but a couple TBS of the fat, al dente spaghetti into the still-warm pan, pour over eggs w/ liberal parmesan (reggiano-parmigiano if you have it), salt and freshly cracked black pepper… we throw frozen peas into the cooking water a minute before the pasta is done and then drain it all together. Crumble the bacon back over the pasta and you’re in heaven.

  75. liz says...

    Trader Joe’s needs a special section called the “A cup of Jo TJ hacks”! I was there the other day and couldn’t remember what hack I wanted to make!!! In fact, they should do a launch in store with you guys!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      YEAH!!!!!!!

    • I second this, with an amendment: instead of a section on TJ’s site, maybe there could be one on CoJ? (A simple, discreet one, of course!)

    • *clarification*

      I mean specifically a section of CoJ which compiles tested “non-recipe recipe” suggestions from READERS that are pulled from the comments sections. I’ve scoured all the TJ’s posts and have found dozens of recipe ideas thanks to your amazing readers! :)

  76. Aileen says...

    Obsessed with this series! I hope everyone else loves it as much as I do and it becomes a weekly TJ Hack! Literally going to TJs on the way home to buy these ingredients.

  77. Jill C. says...

    These TJ hacks are so damn helpful….I honestly can’t thank you enough for this one and that egg scramble hash!

  78. Carrie says...

    This is so great! Can’t wait to try. I LOVE TJ’S.

  79. Britta says...

    Thank you so much for these. I truly am so thankful for the Trader Joes “hacks” and ideas. My husband and I both work long hours and by the time we get home the last thing we want to do is figure out dinner and slave over a stove, but these recipes you’ve provided have been incredible. We don’t think about them, the ingredients are convenient for us, they’ve all been delicious, and now we have a little more time at night to do things and relax! Very thankful!

    • Rebecca says...

      And so nice that you can scale the recipes up or down depending on the number of servings you need! No waste is my #1 recipe criteria <3