Meal Planning with Trader Joe’s

We first met post-college, Trader Joe’s. I had never heard of you before, but all of my Midwest friends raved about you, singing your praises. When I first moved to Chicago, we connected immediately.  Not a week went by without me seeing you. I would spend hours with you each time. Each week, around every corner there was always a new surprise. When I made my move back to Houston I was initially devasted to be losing you. My fears did not last long because shortly after I moved you came along too. Like reconnecting with a long-lost lover, we fell right back into step. And I’ve never looked back.

A Foodie Who Hates to Cook

I love to eat and like to describe myself as a foodie. But I’ll be honest. I hate cooking. It’s not something I have ever enjoyed. Seriously, I hate every aspect of it from the planning to the cleaning. It’s not something I have ever enjoyed and adding two kids and a picky husband into the mix doesn’t help.

Enter Trader Joe’s. When I was a single, newly college graduate living on my own, Trader Joe’s was the ideal grocery store. Tons of premade single and serve items at extremely reasonable prices. Now, as a married mother of two, Trader Joe’s is still pulling through for me. Simply put, it makes my life easier for planning breakfast, lunch, dinner and all the snacks in between.


Trader Joe's breakfastWhile it may be the “most important meal of the day”, it is also the most chaotic. Trying to get everyone fed, dressed, and out the door is no easy task. Quick and easy breakfast hacks are a must! I’m big on amping up the protein at breakfast time. Trader Joe’s frozen steel cut oatmeal and premade hard-boiled eggs make breakfast prep quick and easy. I love adding peanut butter and jelly to the oatmeal for me, and extra brown sugar and raisins for the kids. Also, a house favorite is the microwave protein cup muffin (the chocolate flavor certainly doesn’t hurt its popularity).

For a special weekend breakfast treat, the chocolate babka is a must! While it should really be described as cake, my parents always taught me that babka is a breakfast food. Even my New Yorker husband rates the Trader Joe’s babka as one of the best.


Trader Joe's lunchThe dreaded school lunches. I’m definitely not the mom who cuts my kids’ sandwiches into fun shapes and makes silly faces out of their fruit. Quick, easy, and fully eaten is my goal. Trader Joe’s has a lot of fun options for when you get tired of making a turkey sandwich (because let’s be real, how many days in a row would you want to eat a turkey sandwich). My kids love the frozen mini tacos and spring rolls. These options are kid-friendly but also unique enough for your kid to not get bored of the same thing every day.

And let’s also not forget about my lunch! As a mom, my lunch is usually pushed to the side and forgotten about. Delicious and healthy prepared salads, pre-made noodles bowls, and frozen meals make lunchtime simple. Added precooked proteins like chicken breasts and meatballs (both frozen and not) make amping up the protein super easy. Like I said, the less thought put into the meal prep the better! One of my favorite combos is the Miso Crunch salad mix (dressing included) and premade chicken breast.


Trader Joe's dinnerBy the end of the day, the last thing I want to be doing is being stuck in the kitchen. Trader Joe’s makes it easy to combine a few ingredients to make a full dinner everyone (even children and husbands who can be picky like mine) will love.

The first combo is for Mediterranean night. Having pre-marinated shwarma chicken thighs means all I have to do is throw them into the oven (easy enough). I combine them with the frozen rice medley and some humus to make it a complete meal.

Next up is Italian night. While I’m a huge fan of the Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi but the others in my house are not as big of fans. So I made the frozen cauliflower gnocchi for me and the spinach tortellini for them mixed up with pasta sauce and sweet Italian chicken sausage. What I love about Trader Joe’s chicken sausage is that they have both pork and non-pork casing options.


Trader Joe's snacksAnd the most coveted “meal” of the day – snack time. I swear my kids and I live off of snacks and Trader Joe’s does not disappoint in this arena. Some of our house favorites are the PB&J bars and freeze-dried fruit. The frozen chicken potstickers are another easy to make house favorite.

When it comes to treats, Trader Joe’s is on its game. My personal favorites are the dark chocolate covered honey grahams and the mini peanut butter cups. My kids love the alphabet cookies, especially when I spell out words for them to eat (the longer the word the better).

What are some of your Trader Joe’s favorites?


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Elyssa Gottheim
Elyssa was born and raised in Houston. Deciding to try out life in the cold weather, Elyssa attended University of Michigan for undergrad and University of Chicago for grad school. After obtaining her LCSW {licensed clinical social worker}, Elyssa decided that she was not cut out for the cold and moved back to Houston in 2012. Shortly after her move, Elyssa met her husband, Paul. Elyssa and Paul have been married for 6 years and have two children – Henry {October 2018} and Josephine {March 2021}. After working in schools, hospitals, and community clinics, Elyssa currently has a private practice where she specializes in working with children, adolescents, young adults, and parents. When she isn’t working or chasing after her kids, Elyssa’s favorite activities can be described as the ultimate mom cliché – baking, working out, and napping. Elyssa is a huge fan of trying new restaurants and dining spots especially if it involves any form of dessert!


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