Healthy(ish) cooking on a Budget(ish)

A Week of Trader Joe’s on a Budget

A Week of Trader Joe’s on a Budget

If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know all about my love for Trader Joe’s. And I know I’m not the only one! (I based that mostly on the fact that my Trader Joe’s is always annoyingly packed.)

I like to think of Trader Joe’s as Whole Foods for Poor People People Who Live on a Budget.

While the store is small compared to normal grocery stores, you can normally find everything you need on your grocery list at the same or cheaper price! Trader Joe’s also has an amazing selection of healthy foods and organic produce, which is great for those of us who are trying to live a healthy(ish) lifestyle.

This week I put myself on a challenge to put together a meal plan for two for a week with ingredients from Trader Joe’s (for under $70!). I did this for a few reasons:

  • My Trader Joe’s Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup is a reader favorite on this blog.
  • I wanted to give some fast but healthy options for those of you new to meal prepping or planning. Learn how to start here!
  • I needed a little bit of a challenge, I’ve been stuck in a rut with grocery shopping the last few weeks.

So, for our meals this week I planned:

Breakfast:

  1. Acai Bowls
  2. Breakfast Skillets
  3. Huevos Rancheros

Lunch:

  1. Simple Tacos
  2. Chicken Avocado Salad

Dinner:

  1. Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup
  2. Greek Rice Skillet
  3. Chicken Stir Fry
  4. Veggie Red Coconut Curry
  5. Margherita Pizza

As I share these recipes with you, please remember that not everything at Trader Joe’s is ‘healthy’ nor are all these recipes the healthiest possible version of the dish. Feel free to sub ingredients as you see fit! The recipes are basic, please comment below if you have any questions.

Acai Bowls

A Hawaiian favorite, acai bowls are a great way to jazz up your morning yogurt. Trader Joe’s acai packets are unsweetened, which means all the flavor comes from the natural sweetness of the Acai Berry.

Ingredients:

1 Frozen Acai Berry Packet ($4.99 for a 4 pack)
1 Serving of your favorite yogurt ($1)
Toppings of choice:
Banana (.20)
Kiwi (.70)
Blueberries ($2 for a frozen bag)
ect.

Directions:

  1. In a blender, mix yogurt and frozen acai together.
  2. Top with fresh fruit, coconut, granola, or other favorite options.

Total Cost: approximately $3 a serving.

 

Breakfast Skillet

Breakfast Skillet

Matt loves his eggs and potatoes for breakfast, but most of the time I’m not around for breakfast. I love to make him a dish like this so it’s prepped and ready to go for him!

Ingredients:

Frozen Skillet Potatoes (there are a few varieties, all about $3 a bag)
Egg ($1.50 for a dozen)
Salsa ($3)
Avocado ($1.50)
Cilantro ($1.20 for a bunch)

Directions:

  1. Cook potatoes on a skillet for 10-15 minutes until warm and starting to crisp.
  2. Add egg to the dish or cook separately as desired (Matt loves scrambled, but you can cook it your favorite way).
  3. Top with salsa, avocado, and cilantro.

Total cost: Approximately $3.75 a serving

Tacos

Huevos Rancheros

Another favorite of Matt’s (and mine!) is a super easy recipe that uses the same ingredients as my Simple Tacos (see below) but adds eggs for extra protein:

Ingredients:

2 Corn & Flour Tortillas *seriously the best tortillas ever- ($2 for an 8 pack)
Salsa ($3)
1/2 can of black beans (.80 for a can)
2 eggs ($1.50 for a dozen)
Handful of cheese ($3-$4 a bag)
Cilantro ($1.20 for a bunch)
Avocado ($1.50)

Directions:

  1. Cook eggs as desired, I usually scramble mine.
  2. Heat beans on the stove or in the microwave.
  3. Heat or fry tortillas on a skillet.
  4. Assemble all ingredients on top of the tortilla in your favorite order, I usually do: salsa, eggs, beans, cheese, avocado, cilantro.

*If you prefer to do this in the oven, you can cook eggs then skip straight to the layering step. Stick in the oven for 15-20 minutes!

Total cost: approximately $3.75 per serving (two tortillas full!)

Trader Joe's Tacos

Simple Tacos

Speaking of tacos, my simple bean and salsa tacos were a staple when I first started my healthy(ish) lifestyle. Easy to make, healthy, cheap, and they satisfy all your Mexican food cravings.

Ingredients:

2 Corn & Flour Tortillas *seriously the best tortillas ever- ($2 for an 8 pack)
Salsa ($3)
1/2 can of black beans (.80 for a can)
Handful of cheese ($3-$4 a bag)
Cilantro ($1.20 for a bunch)
Avocado ($1.50)

 Directions:

  1. Heat beans on the stove or in the microwave.
  2. Heat or fry tortillas on a skillet.
  3. Assemble all ingredients on top of the tortilla in your favorite order, I usually do: salsa, beans, cheese, avocado, cilantro.

Total cost: approximately $3.75 per serving (two tacos!)

Chicken Salad Avocado

Chicken Avocado Salad

This is actually my friend Emily’s recipe, you can read the full post here.

Total cost: $2.90 a serving

Tortilla Soup

Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup

My number one most popular blog post and part of the inspiration for this post! Check out the recipe here.

Total Cost for the whole dish (about 4 servings!): $11.60

Greek Rice

Greek Rice Skillet

We have a restaurant in town called Garlic Crush. This place has the best gyro plates ever! This recipe will never be as good, but it’s so easy, filling, and full of flavor that it’s earned a spot in my normal dinner rotation.

Ingredients:

1 pound of ground beef or turkey ($3 for turkey, $4.50-$6 for ground beef)
1 cup of TJ’s Bismati Rice Melody ($2.30 for 16 ounces)
1 cup of Water (free!)
1 cup of beef broth ($1)
Seasonings as desired: garlic, red pepper, parsley, dill, pepper…ect.
1 serving of plain Greek Yogurt ($1)
1/2 cucumber (.80 for a whole one)
Dash of garlic

Directions:

  1. Brown ground beef or turkey on the stove over medium-high heat, keep cooking until some pieces are nice and crisp. Drain excess liquid.
  2. Add water and broth, then stir in rice. Add seasonings as desired! Turn to low heat, cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  3. While rice is cooking, shred ½ a cucumber into the yogurt, then add a dash of garlic and stir. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  4. Once the rice is cooked, you are ready to eat! Serve with a side of the yogurt mixture (a simple Tzatziki sauce) and some garlic naan bread if you are feeling fancy (Naan is $3.50 for a 4 pack)

Total cost per for this whole dish, which is easily 4 servings: $6.70-$9.70 based on meat, plus naan on the side.

Chicken Stir Fry 

Chicken Stir Fry:

The frozen packages of stir fry veggies at Trader Joe’s are nothing like frozen veggies from any other store. They never taste stale or frozen, they are perfect for a quick meal or side!

Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts, cut into small bits ($4)
1 package of frozen stir fry veggies ($3)
1 cup of Soyaki Sauce ($3 for a big bottle)

Directions:

  1. 1-12 hours before cooking, combine the chicken and the soyaki sauce to allow for a marinade.
  2. When ready to cook, cook chicken on the skillet at medium-high heat with a little bit of water. When chicken is done, add a few spoonfuls of Soyaki from the marinade bag and toss around.
  3. Add veggies, ignoring the stir fry sauce that comes in the package.
  4. Cook until veggies are cooked through, about 10 minutes. Serve with egg rolls or rice if you are feeling fancy (Frozen egg rolls are $2 for 5, rice can vary but is never expensive.)

Total Cost for meal (about two servings): $8 plus egg rolls or rice.

Red Curry

Veggie Red Coconut Curry

Curries are insanely easy to make, I’m not sure why I never made them before last year. Just whatever veggies you have on hand, some coconut milk, and some curry sauce!

Ingredients:

1 can of coconut milk ($1.30)
2 tablespoons of Thai Red Curry Sauce ($2.70 for an 11oz bottle)
Dash of roasted red pepper
2 cups of cooked rice ($3 for a 3lb bag! Or you can get a frozen bag with 2lbs for $4)
And whatever veggies you have on hand! I used:
2 cups of kale ($2 for a bag of chopped kale)
1 red bell pepper ($1.20)
1 orange bell pepper ($1.20)
Shredded carrots ($1 for a bag)

*If you want more kick, add in a few spicy peppers!

Directions:

  1. Start by sautéing all your veggies in a large pan or wok over medium-high heat (except for the peppers). Once softened, remove from heat.
  2. In a big sauce pan, saute any spicy peppers you have on medium heat until fragrant.
  3. Add coconut milk and curry sauce, stir thoroughly until the sauce has turned a nice red color.
  4. Add in red pepper (and any other spices you like!). Taste test for flavor.
  5. Mix in with the veggies in the large wok, saute for a few more minutes.
  6. Serve with or over rice!

Total cost for dish (this makes 2 very large servings): approximately $7.90

Pizza

Margherita Pizza

Who doesn’t love pizza? Well this recipe will make you like it even more!

Ingredients:

1 pizza crust, they come in three flavors: plain, whole wheat, or garlic herb. ($1.19)
1 jar of pizza sauce ($2)
1 ‘block’ of mozzarella cheese ($3)
1 small Oregano plant ($2- literally cheaper than buying oregano in the produce section)

 Directions:

  1. Roll out the pizza crust according to the directions on the bag. Technically this crust is supposed to serve 8- but I’d say it serves 2 comfortably, maybe 4 if you have a side salad! (the above picture is of half the dough!)
  2. Spread out the pizza sauce evenly, then top with chunks of cheese and sprinkle fresh oregano on top.
  3. Bake until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly!

Total Cost for 1 Pizza: approximately $6.20

And that’s my meal plan for this week! Super simple, eh? So looking at a total cost:

Breakfast:

  1. Acai Bowls – $3 a serving x 2 = $6
  2. Breakfast Skillets- $3.75 a serving x 2 = $7.50
  3. Huevos Rancheros- $3.75 a serving x 2 = $7.50

Lunch:

  1. Simple Tacos- $3.75 a serving x 2 = $7.50
  2. Chicken Avocado Salad- $2.90 a serving x 2 = $5.80

Dinner:

  1. Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup- $11.60 for 4 servings= $11.60
  2. Greek Rice Skillet- $9.70 for 4 servings= $13.20 (including naan)
  3. Chicken Stir Fry- $10 for 2 servings= $10 (including egg rolls)
  4. Veggie Red Coconut Curry- $7.90 for 2 servings= $7.90
  5. Margarita Pizza- $6.20 for 2 servings= $6.20

Total cost for a week of eating at Trader Joe’s: $83.20

Alright, so I didn’t get it down to $70- but look at all the great things we got this week! If you like to shop at multiple stores, you may be able to find things a little cheaper based on sales (such as chicken or canned goods). You may already have some of this stuff at home. And of course, you don’t have to make all these meals in one week, but as you can see- none of these recipes was individually tough or expensive!

I hope this post helped inspire you to get shopping & cooking!

Do you have a favorite Trader Joe’s recipe? I’d love to hear it!



5 thoughts on “A Week of Trader Joe’s on a Budget”

  • Yum, great and inexpensive option. My bf and I make it a sport to buy as much food as we can for 70 euro’s (85 dollars) per week. Usually, we spend around that, sometimes a little more and sometimes a little less even!

  • mmm this is great! I love trader joe’s and actually don’t really make or buy any of these things! I mean obvi I buy avocados and eggs lol but I don’t make these dishes. I LOVE their cauliflower rice (both regular and stiry fry) and their southwest and sweet chili patties. I mix it all together (reg rice with southwest, and stir fry rice with sweet chili) with some extra veggies for a delicious meal!

  • I LOVE seeing what other people make with their Trader Joe’s hauls – one of my favorite things I love to make from Trader Joes is their fried cauliflower rice with their fried cod. SO good, easy to make, and healthy!

  • I love it! Wish TJ was A LOT closer! Also wish your dad liked spicy and ginger and your brother liked coconut. Abbey and I could easily live off these recipes.

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