Published on July 12, 2019

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Photography by Aaron Bengochea

It’s 8 p.m. You’ve made your way home after a long day of work, braving sweltering temperatures and packed subway cars in pursuit of air conditioning…only to realize that you have an hour of cooking in front of you. Rather than add to your woes by turning on the stove, why not let yourself phone it in for one night? Trader Joe’s is here to help on those hot, hangry evenings when you just want something quick—and you don’t want to slave over a steaming pot to get it. 

From easy-to-prep appetizers to heartier dishes that will keep you full all evening, here are the best low-maintenance meals—they’re all either no-heat or microwavable—to buy at Trader Joe’s. And keep them on hand for emergencies always.

For when you’re only slightly peckish…

Norwegian Seeds & Grains Crispbread Crackers, $2.99

Full of protein and fiber, these crispbreads (essentially one large cracker) are a more nutrient-packed alternative to bread, making the perfect base for a number of “toasts.” Put some sliced avocado on top with a dash of Everything But the Bagel Seasoning, or simply add cherry tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic for a light summer dinner. 

Chicken Cilantro Wontons, $2.99

Simply place a wet towel on these and pop them in the microwave for easy steaming. If you’re looking for an accompanying sauce, go for TJ’s Soyaki. Just be warned: These little dumplings are totally addicting. Don’t blame us if you end up eating the whole bag. 

A fully-fledged cheese board, prices vary

If you’re feeling a low-key dinner à la française, go for a cheese board and a glass (or three) of your favorite rosé. We recommend the Manchego Anejo, the Chèvre with Honey, and the Jarlsberg cheeses for some variety. Toss the Chianti Red Wine Artisan Salami ($4.99) and the dried apricots ($8.99) in your cart, as well, and scoop everything up with either a loaf of ciabatta from the bakery section ($2.79) or a box of the Fig & Olive Crisps ($3.99). 

For when you need a real meal, stat… 

Vegetable Fried Rice, $2.49

Packed with veggies, this fried rice medley is more filling than you’d think. To really save time, make the whole bag at once—pour it into a large bowl, cover, and microwave—then bring the leftovers to work the next day. If nothing else, it will elevate your sad desk salad big time.

Falafel Wrap, prices vary

For this dish, you only need four things: Fully Cooked Falafel ($3.99), Baby Wild Arugula ($2.49), Roasted Garlic Hummus ($1.99), and Whole Wheat Tortillas ($2.49). Steam the falafel in the microwave—and the tortillas, if you want them warm—then make yourself a quick wrap with a swipe of  hummus and a handful of greens. You probably have most of these ingredients already, so you’ll get tons of mileage out of them past this one meal. 

Lentil Salad, prices vary

Chef Amanda Frederickson’s go-to for busy weeknights involves a packet of TJ’s Steamed & Fully-Cooked Lentils. She adds them to a grain bowl, but if you really want to stay no-heat, make them into a salad. Alexandra Cooks has a great recipe involving only crumbled feta and bruschetta topping. 

See more easy weeknight dinner ideas:
12 Unexpected Ways to Experiment With Mushrooms
Big-Batch Dinner Ideas That Double as Meal Prep for the Week
What Chefs Make When All They Have Is a Box of Pasta

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