3 Quick Trader Joe’s Dinners

I want to hand every young adult a manual for how to whip up 3 quick Trader Joe’s dinners within a moment’s notice. Young people on the cusp of first apartments need to know about the art of feeding last-minute company and the secret to stretching your food pantry just a little bit further. I know not everyone is lucky enough to live near a Trader Joe’s, but you can take the same basic concepts I share below and implement them for the stage of life and the region you find yourself in. Here are the 3 quick Trader Joe’s dinners I make again and again in our house. Each one takes less than 30 minutes to prepare with just a few, but flavorful, ingredients.

POST by contributor: Mary Beth Johnson is a writer based in Atlanta, GA. She is currently writing her first book in between school drop off and laundry piles. She can be found every day on Instagram and at the local coffee shop.

Spaghetti With Trader Joe’s Sweet Italian Pork Sausage and Tomato Basil Marinara

I like to keep several packages of spaghetti on hand in my pantry because it keeps well and serves as a great base for building and layering a quick dinner. I have gotten a lot of mileage out of my favorite summer spaghetti recipe HERE, but when I need to make a quick Trader Joe’s dinner I keep it simple and dress the spaghetti up with whatever I have on hand. I typically start with a sauce, then meat or veggies, then cheese and herbs. Trader Joe’s is known for offering really great seasonal items (like this harvest blend for fall) that come and go with the time of year and availability, but their basic tomato basil sauce is my go-to. You’ll see me using it in another recipe down below, so hear me when I say, keep it in your pantry for a lot of mileage! I also like to keep a package of Trader Joe’s sweet Italian pork sausage in the freezer and turn it into small meatballs.


  • 1 Package Spaghetti
  • 1 Jar Trader Joe’s Tomato Basil Marinara
  • 1 lb Sweet Italian Sausage, found in the refrigerated meat section of Trader Joe’s


  • Fresh Basil, chopped
  • Parmesan Cheese, grated


  • Crusty Bread, a favorite is the Trader Joe’s olive baguette
  • Quick Packaged Salad
  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, slice Italian sausage into 2-inch disks.
  3. Cook the sausage in the hot skillet, turning as needed, till the center is no longer pink and the sausage is evenly browned.
  4. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the jar of tomato sauce. Simmer on low for about 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, heat water in a saucepan for the spaghetti and cook according to package directions.
  6. Drain the pasta and top with sauce, chopped basil, and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Serve with a side of crusty bread and a simple salad.

Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free Pancakes With Bacon and Blueberry Sauce

I grew up in a large family where mealtime was kept simple out of necessity. There wasn’t a lot of money for fancy food, so breakfast was often my mom’s “big splurge”. It was very normal for our family to be seen around the dinner table on a weeknight with stacks of pancakes, eggs, and bacon if we were lucky. My siblings and I would all descend on the table and inhale everything we could get our hands-on. I have such fond memories of these dinners and decided to carry on this tradition with my own family. I use breakfastnight about once a week when we’ve used up all the fresh ingredients on hand and the pantry is getting low. This is, by far, my kids’ favorite quick Trader Joe’s dinner of the week.

The Best Gluten-Free Pancakes:

  • Trader Joe’s gluten-free pancake mix
  • Melted butter
  • Milk
  • Eggs

Blueberry Sauce, by Pinch of Yum

  • 3 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot, dissolved into 3 tablespoons water
  • ½ tsp vanilla


  • 1 lb bacon
  • Eggs

For the blueberry sauce:

  1. Place 1 1/2 cups blueberries in a small saucepan. Cover with the water and add sugar and vanilla. Heat over medium-high heat until mixture comes to a low boil and blueberries just start to break apart.
  2. Add dissolved cornstarch/arrowroot to the saucepan and bring mixture to a rolling boil. Turn heat down and simmer on low heat for 2-3 minutes, or until sauce reaches desired consistency.
  3. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, if the sauce gets too thick. Remove from heat. Add remaining blueberries and stir gently. Serve warm or cold.

For the pancakes:

  1. I have tried many GF pancake mixes, but the Trader Joe’s mix is my absolute favorite. So much so, my family prefers it now over the non-gluten-free pancake mixes.
  2. These pancakes are best topped with the fresh berry sauce above, versus super sugary syrup. I always feel a little bit healthier on breakfast nights when I can add a splash of antioxidants.
  3. When your blueberry sauce is ready, make pancakes according to package instructions. If you’re feeling fancy, throw in extra blueberries or chocolate chips to the wet mix before frying the cakes on the griddle.
  4. Top with powdered sugar and the homemade blueberry sauce.

Green & White Pizza with Trader Joe’s Ready To Bake Pizza Dough

I have long tried to master the art of making pizza dough from scratch, and every time it ended in all of us looking at each other, and silently daring the other person to say out loud, “We should have gotten takeout”. It doesn’t seem to matter what type of flour I use or what recipe I try, the pizza dough always ends up done on the outside and doughy on the inside, or rubbery and tasteless. In my quest for upgrading our Friday frozen pizza night, I tried this quick Trader Joe’s dinner using their ready to bake refrigerated pizza dough. No kidding, my husband turned to me and said, “Babe, you did it. This is better than the local Italian place.” The secret is following the directions for preheating the pizza stone for an hour. I know it sounds like a long time to wait, but it seriously makes such a difference. After your stone or pizza pan is good and hot, pull it out of the oven, splash with flour, and arrange your pizza dough on top. The dough will sizzle when it meets the hot pan, which is exactly what you want.

Green & White Pizza from New York Times


  • Ready To Bake Trader Joe’s pizza dough
  • 2 ¾ ounces fresh mozzarella
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ ounce parmesan, finely grated
  • 2 handfuls fresh arugula
  • Half a lemon, juiced
  1. Place a pizza stone or tiles on the middle rack of your oven and turn heat to its highest setting. Let it heat for at least an hour.
  2. Place dough on the preheated pizza stone. Break the mozzarella into small pieces and place them gently on the stretched dough. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and a pinch of salt and scatter the Parmesan over the top.
  3. Using a pizza peel, pick up the pie and slide it onto the heated stone or tiles in the oven. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling, approximately 4 to 8 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, put the arugula in a large bowl and dress it lightly with a splash of the olive oil, the lemon juice and a further pinch of salt, or to taste.
  5. When the pizza is done, put the dressed greens on top of the pie and serve immediately.

If you also have a large family and one pizza won’t cut it, grab two pizza dough packages and make a quick Trader Joe’s dinner using white sauce and red sauce. I used the Trader Joe’s Basil Marinara that I mentioned above and layered with mozzarella, parmesan, and some slow-roasted tomatoes I had in my refrigerator. I then topped it with fresh basil from our garden.

Seriously, this is the best Trader Joe’s hack ever and you will feel like super mom pulling these pizzas out of the oven. Want to take it up another notch? Try this amazing summer pizza recipe with fresh corn and cherry tomatoes.

If I could go back and give the younger version of me, just starting out in marriage and motherhood, any advice, it would be to practice getting really good at making a few quick Trader Joe’s dinners under my belt. I’d also tell the younger me, “It is perfectly okay to have breakfast for dinner.”


August 1, 2019


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