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5 Trader Joe’s Recipes That Look Fancy… but Cost Less Than $5/Serving

I hadn’t even heard of Trader Joe’s until a little over two years ago. A construction site went up along one of the busiest, most accessible streets in my city of St. Petersburg, Florida, bringing the promise of a new and affordable grocery store.

I always bought groceries at Publix or Winn-Dixie, depending on what was on sale. Once this mysterious Trader Joe’s store opened up, I decided to check it out.

And I never turned back.
I now purchase about 85% of my groceries from Trader Joe’s. I wish it could be 100%, but it doesn’t have certain necessities like garbage bags, zip-close bags or litter my cats will actually use.

But I’ve heard a lot of complaints from people who say they can’t make meals from the items sold there or that it’s impossible to feed more than one or two people with those portions.

I get that argument… if you’re only buying frozen premade meals, which, to be fair, Trader Joe’s does stock a ton of.

But as a loyal Trader Joe’s shopper, I make tons of recipes from TJ’s products. Plus I’m feeding four people, including myself, with the groceries I buy and still have leftovers.

5 Trader Joe’s Recipes That Are So Easy to Make

As a huge T Joe’s advocate, I’m here to tell you about delicious and affordable recipes you can make using Trader Joe’s groceries. Here are five easy Trader Joe’s recipes to try.

Note: All prices are from Trader Joe’s in St. Petersburg, Florida, in November 2017.

1. Asian-Style Pork Meatballs

This asian style pork meatballs is a quick and delicious recipe to try out, and all of the ingredients were bought at Trader Joe's in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
  • 1 pound ground pork: $4.99
  • 1 tablespoon chopped green onion: 40 cents ($1.29 per 6-ounce bunch)
  • 1 tablespoon crushed fresh garlic: 22 cents ($1.29 per 3-ounce bunch)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger: 17 cents ($1.39 per 4 ounces)
  • 1 cup white rice: 76 cents ($2.99 per 2-pound bag)
  • 16-ounce bag frozen stir-fry veggies: $2.69
  • ½ cup Soyaki: $1.20 ($2.99 per 21-ounce bottle)
  • 1 egg: 13 cents ($1.59 per dozen)

Total ingredient investment: $19.22

Total price for recipe: $10.56

Servings: 4

Price per serving: $2.64

This recipe is similar to this one from Budget Byte. Instead of making my own teriyaki sauce, I use Trader Joe’s Soyaki, which is delicious and only $2.99 per bottle.

First, preheat the oven to 400 F. The recipe is pretty simple. Just mix the first four ingredients together in a bowl, and roll them into small, tablespoon-size balls. Cover a baking sheet with foil, and spray it with nonstick spray. (Trader Joe’s sells this if you need some.) Bake the meatballs for about 30 minutes, depending on how crispy you like them.

Once they’re done, toss them in Soyaki and serve over rice and veggies.

2. Tilapia, Green Beans and Rice

This tilapia, green beans and rice dish is a quick and delicious recipe to try out, and all of the ingredients were bought at Trader Joe's in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
  • 2 packages frozen tilapia: $8 ($4 per package)
  • 6 tablespoons Soyaki: 56 cents ($2.99 per 21-ounce bottle)
  • 1 cup white rice: 76 cents ($2.99 per 2-pound bag)
  • 24-ounce bag frozen French green beans: $1.99
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic: 22 cents ($1.29 per 3-ounce bunch)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil: 47 cents ($3.99 per 17-ounce bottle)

Total ingredient investment: $21.25

Total price for recipe: $12

Servings: 4

Price per serving: $3

Trader Joe’s frozen tilapia might be $5.99 per pound, but the packages include two filets for around $4. Defrost the fish — I prefer to place them in a bowl of cold water for about 30 minutes to do this — then season them with salt and pepper. Then, place them into a baking dish coated with a little Soyaki sauce. Now, coat the fish with a generous amount of Soyaki. Bake according to the instructions on the tilapia package.

As a side, I like to make rice and Trader Joe’s frozen green beans. I run the green beans under hot water for a few minutes to melt some of the ice, then I toss them into a pan with some garlic and olive oil, and cook them at a touch below medium heat. While the green beans cook, I season them with salt and pepper.

I also like to make rice to go with the fish and veggies.  

3. Garlic Naan Pizza

trader joe's, cheap food, recipes, food This garlic naan pizza is a quick and delicious recipe to try out, and all of the ingredients were bought at Trader Joe's in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
  • 1 package garlic naan: $2.99
  • 12-ounce jar roasted eggplant spread: $2.49
  • 6 ounces shredded fresh mozzarella cheese: $2.24 ($2.99 per 8-ounce bag)
  • 3 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved: 50 cents ($2.69 per 16-ounce package)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil: $1.07 ($2.69 per 2.5-ounce package)

Total ingredient investment: $13.85

Total price for recipe: $9.29

Servings: 4

Price per serving: $2.32

This recipe is loosely adapted from a similar one on the Trader Joe’s website, but I like this one better than what’s on TJ’s site. First, preheat the oven to 350 F. Put the naan on a baking sheet, and cover the naan with the eggplant spread. Top with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese bubbles up and turns slightly brown.  

4. Chicken Pesto Bake

This chicken pesto bake dish is a quick and delicious recipe to try out, and all of the ingredients were bought at Trader Joe's in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
  • 1 pound chicken tenders: $4.99
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced: $1.58
  • 7-ounce tub Trader Joe’s Genova pesto: $2.99
  • 12-ounce fresh mozzarella log, sliced: $4.99
  • 2 packages, 8 ounces each, of Trader Joe’s spinach linguine: $4.58

Total ingredient investment: $19.13

Total price for recipe: $19.13

Servings: 4

Price per serving: $4.78

Legitimately one of my favorite recipes, this chicken pesto bake takes little effort and tastes incredible. Preheat your oven to 400 F. Lightly coat a baking dish with spray oil or olive oil — whichever you have on hand.

Place the chicken tenders into the dish, and spread the pesto evenly on top of each tender. Put the tomato slices on top of the chicken and pesto, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Next, put the fresh mozzarella slices on top of the tomatoes, and sprinkle with Italian seasoning. How much mozzarella you add is up to you, but I cover each piece of chicken generously.

Bake for 40 minutes. While the chicken is in the oven, cook the spinach linguine and toss it in olive oil or any leftover pesto you might have. Serve the chicken over the linguine.

5. Arugula and Kale Salad

This arugula and kale salad only cost .79 to make, and all of the ingredients were bought at Trader Joe's in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil: 47 cents ($3.99 per 17-ounce bottle)
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar: 22 cents ($3.49 for 33-ounce bottle)
  • 10-ounce bag organic Tuscan kale: $2.79
  • 6 ounces shredded cheddar cheese: $1.75 ($3.49 per 12-ounce package)
  • ½ cup salted sunflower seeds: 28 cents ($1.99 for 1-pound package)
  • 5-ounce bag arugula lettuce mix: $1.99

Total ingredient investment: $17.74

Total price for recipe: $7.50  

Servings: 4

Price per serving: $1.88

Sometimes, I just don’t feel like cooking but still want to eat something healthy. That’s when I make this salad. It’s sort of a random assortment of Trader Joe’s ingredients, so feel free to customize it however you’d like.

I start with the arugula lettuce mix and organic kale, which is only $2.79. Kale, especially organic, often runs at least double that price for the same amount at other local grocery stores.

Instead of using premade salad dressing, I toss everything in some olive oil and vinegar. It tastes delicious and doesn’t have the added sugar.

If you want a little extra protein, cook some chicken tenders, chop ‘em up and mix them into the salad. I didn’t do that for this version of the recipe, but it would only add $5 to the total price.

If you want a little extra crunch, toss some kale with olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake it on 350 F for around 10 minutes for homemade kale chips. You won’t regret it, I promise.

Jacquelyn Pica is a junior writer and SEO specialist at The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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5 Trader Joe’s Recipes That Look Fancy… but Cost Less Than $5/Serving

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