easy back-to-school dinners from trader joe’s

I wish I was one of those people I see on Instagram who cooks up a week’s worth of healthy meals and portions them out on their table every Sunday afternoon.  Maybe someday I will be.  But right now we don’t even have a kitchen table in our tiny little love nest, so I have to stick with things that don’t take a lot of prep space.

Enter Trader Joe’s.  I’ve loved Trader Joe’s for years, but recently I have discovered a few new items that I know will make those first few nights of the school year a little easier to bear.  School starts in less than two weeks, so I am stocking my freezer and fridge now.  Here is what I am loving:


japanese style fried rice ($3)

Oh my goodness, this stuff is delicious!  I keep a couple of bags in the freezer and if we are craving take-out, I can just throw this in a pan and it’s literally done in five minutes.  The flavor is great without adding any soy sauce or seasoning, but sometimes I will drop a fried egg on top of mine.  My husband loves this stuff, and I’m pretty sure he thinks there’s a lot more to it than heating it up in a pan.  I’ll just let him keep thinking that.

Fooducate rating: B-

Calories per serving: 250

Real-life serving size: My husband and I split the bag as a meal.

(Fooducate is a free nutrition app that I use while I’m shopping to gauge how healthful a food item is before I buy it.  You simply scan the bar code and Fooducate gives the food a “grade.”  I try to stay above a C-average.  For more detailed information about these products, download Fooducate and search the name).


melodious blend ($3)

This takes slightly longer to prepare (about 10 minutes), but your nutritional bang for your buck is great.  I imagine it would be really yummy as a side dish with some grilled chicken, but I have just been eating it as a meal.  I didn’t even know that green garbanzo beans existed, but they’re really good!  It’s like a much fancier and healthier version of the frozen peas and carrots that I used to eat as a kid.  The texture of the lentils is great, and this stuff is chock full of fiber.  I’m imagining myself coming home at 10:00pm from a full day of teaching followed by a full night of grad school classes and reaching for this instead of Ben n Jerry’s.  My visions of my future self are always very optimistic.

Fooducate rating: A

Calories per serving: 200

Real-life serving size: I’m not gonna lie, I ate the whole bag in one sitting.

food5     food1

asparagus saute  & brown rice ($4 each)

This is one of our weeknight staples.  I put a little olive oil in a pan a saute the asparagus, onions and mushrooms for a few minutes, and then I cover the pan.  The frozen brown rice takes about 3 minutes in the microwave while I am waiting for the vegetables to finish cooking.  And done.  We just make a little stir fry out of it, add some soy sauce, and enjoy an episode of Dexter on the couch.  The vegetables are so flavorful, and this is my favorite way to do brown rice.  I can never get brown rice quite right, even with a rice cooker, and it always takes forever.  So this is the perfect way to go for me.  Quick, easy, healthy and yummy!

Asparagus Saute

Fooducate rating: A

Calories per serving: 25

Real-life serving size: I split this with my husband

Brown Rice

Fooducate rating: A-

Calories per serving: 230

Real-life serving size: I split this with my husband


mango flavored green tea ($3)

And to wash it all down?  I love this mango green tea.  It’s not super sweet or overpowering, but it’s really refreshing.  Obviously brewing your own unsweetened tea is going to be a more healthful option, but we are talking about EASY things to have for dinner.  Be happy that it’s better than Kool-Aide.

Fooducate rating: C+

Calories per serving: 60

Real-life serving size:  A tall glass will do ya


fresh linen scent antibacterial soap ($4)

Bonus item.  I think this is my favorite hand soap of all time.  It smells absolutely amazing and it’s antibacterial.  Usually my yummy-smelling soaps are not antibacterial.  Anything with rosemary extract usually gets me, too.  It’s pretty to put by the bathroom or kitchen sink, and it makes me want to wash my hands every time I see it.  I kind of want to use it right now.

Those should get me through the first few days or so.  On Fridays I will obviously go out to dinner at like, El Pollo Loco, and then come home fully intending to watch a few more episodes of Dexter, but fall asleep on the couch with an earring stud stabbing me in the neck.  That’s just how it goes.  Enjoy the last few days of summer vacation!

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