I haven’t had Taco Bell in 46 days.
I know, I know, you’re thinking, “Wow Beth, this is big!” and you’re right. I hate cooking. Absolutely despise it. But I’m also on a ~journey~ of sorts to learn how to cook things that make me feel fabulous (because my rotation of ramen and Taco Tuesday is getting a little stale), so I’ve had to do some digging to find things that were easy to make, didn’t require a million ingredients (read: a bunch of trips to the store during a pandemic), and weren’t filled with excess sodium and sugar.
Like many of us, I turned to Trader Joe’s for my grocery shopping the majority of the pandemic thus far. It’s the safest grocery store in my area (carts are always sanitized, only a select number in the store at a time, etc.), and it feels like a treat and a hint of normalcy to make my weekly trip. Here are a few of the staples that I’ve relied on the last few months of cooking at home:
Pre-Cooked Chicken Breast
I don’t have time to make grilled chicken every week, especially considering it’s one of the two proteins I ever eat (I am super picky, please don’t judge me). At the beginning of quarantine, I would talk myself out of having a salad or wrap for lunch because I didn’t meal prep enough chicken on Sundays. Now, I just buy this and keep it in a storage container for the week to eat from. I also love adding this into stir-frys, pasta dishes, and bowls to make my meals more filling.
These came straight from my freezer because I could not wait to eat them!
Riced Cauliflower Stir-Fry
I used to buy the chicken fried rice stir fry and the frozen cauliflower rice to mix together, and while I still love that, I’ve been purchasing this more often. For one, it takes up way less space in my tiny, tiny freezer, but I also love the flavor and never miss “real” rice. I feel good every time I eat this, and it is beyond easy to make. My current favorite meal is a bowl of this, some chicken breast, and a couple of Chicken Cilantro Mini Wontons!
Chicken Cilantro Mini Wontons
Like I said, these are a go-to for me with the Cauliflower Rice Stir-Fry. I love to dip them in a little bit of TJ’s Coconut Aminos (a good alternative to soy sauce if you’re trying to lower your sodium intake!) as an easy dinner that keeps me full all night.
Banana Trek Mix
If you’re a banana-hater, don’t be scared of these. When I first tried them, I was actually a little bummed because you can’t taste the banana in them at all. They’re seasoned really well and have the perfect crunch. Work-from-home has truly brought out the snacker in me; I feel like I’m hungry all day long, and it’s absolutely because my desk is ever-so-strategically placed right next to my kitchen. I’ve been keeping a bag of this by my desk, and a couple little bites every now and then keeps me from going back and forth to the kitchen all day long.
Sugar Snap Peas
These are one of my favorite snacks of all time. I’m a major chip eater (you’re about to see below), but I know if I keep too many in my apartment, I will eat them all in a mere sitting. I snag these every time I’m at TJ’s because they’re a mindful snack I can eat at my desk and feel good about. The crunch is perfect, and I love pairing them with hummus or my other favorite dip from TJ’s (again, see below).
Spicy Cheese Curls
I would literally die for Flaming Hot Cheetos. I’m not kidding, my body absolutely punishes me every single time I eat them. I was always unsure about grabbing these from TJ’s, but they’re a new staple in my kitchen. They’re baked, not fried, so I can eat a quarter of the bag and feel full and satisfied without feeling gross afterward. Whenever I make sandwiches for lunch, you can bet I add a handful of these to my plate.
Bamba Peanut Snacks
Peanut butter is quite possibly my favorite food on this earth, but it took me a really long time to try these. I. AM. OBSESSED. Did you read that like I am screaming because I am. These are filled with protein, so I actually feel full when I snack on these and rarely have the urge to mindlessly eat the whole bag (note that I said rarely). I have a very minimal sweet tooth, so these suffice as the perfect treat at the end of the day for me.
White Meat Chicken Salad
My dad makes the best chicken salad ever, so while I was at home during the first part of quarantine, I had the luxury of his cooking at my fingertips. Then, I came back to Chicago, remembered how much I hate cooking, and went on a bit of a roll ordering take out, especially when it came to busy days and lunch time. I tried this chicken salad from Trader Joe’s and never looked back! My go-to lunch on a workday is a little bit of this on two slices of bread, a chip variety, and a giant glass of water. Am I a beacon of health or what?
Chili Lime Chicken Burgers
Cooking dinner during quarantine has been a challenge. OMG, I made it through yet another dreary day of doing the exact same thing? I deserve a treat! Keeping weeknights special without going to happy hours and seeing friends has really fallen on ordering Uber Eats or making the same pasta dish every night. I snagged these on a recent trip, and they give me all those feels that I’m eating something exciting and different, but they’re so good. I like to top mine with a little cheese and my favorite spicy ranch, and they’re delicious.
Butternut Squash Spirals
I’m doing just about anything to get some extra veggies in my diet, and this is my new favorite creation. I spread these out on a baking sheet with a little bit of olive oil and season with pepper, garlic powder, and a little crushed red pepper (I like it spicy), and bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, flipping half-way through. They get crispy and taste similar to sweet potato fries! I love pairing these with one of the Chili Lime Burgers or with my other new obsession …
Turkey Corn Dogs
Do I have the palate of a 12 year old? Basically. My brother got my addicted to corn dogs a few months ago, and these are a slightly healthier version. I love these as a lunch or for those nights I just want to watch a nostalgic movie and feel like a kid.
Mini Chicken Tacos
Y’all, I live in the frozen section of Trader Joe’s. Is it the healthiest thing I could eat? No, but it’s a step up from the other things I could make in my arsenal. These are really filling, and the entire package lasts me a few meals. I’ll pair them with some salsa to dip for a casual Taco Tuesday that requires seriously zero effort.
Smoked Turkey Breast
I get all of my lunch meat from Trader Joe’s because it’s delicious, organic, and doesn’t require me to awkwardly speak to the person working the deli because I never know what to ask for. (Once, I asked for 3 lbs of Havarti cheese not realizing that is a giant amount of cheese for just myself because I don’t necessarily remember measurements from math class.) I always either get the Smoked Turkey Breast or the regular Oven Roasted Turkey Breast. Regardless, they’re both delicious and so easy for sandwiches and wraps!
Cauliflower Jalapeno Dip
This is a very new find for me, but I absolutely love it. It’s not super spicy, which is great for those who hate spice and just means I add extra jalapenos because I prefer my mouth to be on fire at all times. This dip is super creamy. I love it with my sugar snap peas or baby carrots, or with pita chips. I also just tried it in a wrap with chicken and veggies, and that was delicious. I will buy this for eternity.