Ah, the holiday craziness is upon us: Searching for the right gift, hosting family and friends (SO. MANY. MEALS.) and balancing the school concerts, parties, events and more. Believe me, I love it, but by the end of a school or workday, the last thing many of us want to do is cook.

But alas, the kids and I still need to eat. And all the gift-giving is maxing out budgets. So instead of reaching for the takeout menu, opt for these two easy Trader Joe’s dinners that I make on repeat during the holiday season.

They’re both minimal prep, take advantage of store-bought shortcuts, and best of all, my family and I actually look forward to eating them every week!

Related: 10 terrific money-saving tips for hosting a wonderful holiday dinner on a budget

Two easy Trader Joe’s dinners that get me through the holidays

Easy Trader Joe's dinners that help me survive the holidays: Vegetable Fried Rice two ways | © Jane Sweeney Cool Mom Eats

Easy Fried Rice – chicken or vegetarian

Trader Joe’s has a great vegetable fried rice option right in the freezer section. It’s packed with veggies and literally cooks in minutes. It’s also a great base for any type of protein – cooked chicken, tofu, shrimp or what I often do – two beaten eggs tossed in.

Personally, I make a quick sauce which I’ve included below. But I also love TJ’s bottled Soyaki Sauce if you’re really needing the shortcut.

To make:

  1. Cook two bags of frozen Trader Joe’s Vegetable Fried Rice according to package instructions – which is about 5 minutes of cooking time. I do this in two pans so I can easily stir all the rice and mix-ins (or you could use a really large wok). I think this also prevents the rice from becoming too soft.
  2. Once rice is warmed through, lower heat and add chopped, cooked chicken (or beaten egg) to each. Divide the dressing between each pan and gently combine until everything is warmed/cooked through.
  3. Garnish with cilantro and scallions if desired.

Tip: Leftovers make a great cold lunch the next day!


2 tbsp soy sauce⁣
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar⁣
1 tbsp fish sauce⁣
1-2 teaspoons grated ginger. I’ve used ground ginger in a pinch although fresh really is better.⁣
About 2 tbsp toasted sesame seed oil⁣
Juice of 1 lime
Sriracha, for the grown-ups, if desired.

*Or shortcut sauce: Trader Joe’s Soyaki Sauce, found in the bottled sauce aisle.

Related: 5 of our favorite Thanksgiving must-have items at Trader Joe’s that you need to grab now


Shortcut tortellini is one of my favorite, easy Trader Joe's dinners to make for busy weeks © Jane Sweeney Cool Mom Eats

Spinach Tortellini with Arugula and Toasted Walnuts
Start with Trader Joe’s fresh spinach tortellini – found in the refrigerator section, not the dried stuff. For the greens, I usually toss in a handful of arugula or spinach. But if you’re kids won’t go for that, there is spinach inside the tortellini so rest assured your veggie is covered.

The toasted walnuts and shaved parmesan are musts for me, but again, you could garnish the nuts on whoever likes them or change up the type.

To make:

  1. Cook 1 – 2 bags Trader Joe’s fresh Spinach Tortellini according to package instructions. (I find that 1 package only feeds myself and two children.) While pasta is cooking, toast ½ cup or more walnuts. Chop slightly once cooled.
  2. Before draining, reserve 1 mugful of the pasta cooking water.
  3. Place drained pasta back into the pot; add two tablespoons butter and/or olive oil, salt, pepper and a little bit of the pasta water, until it looks like a thin sauce. Olive oil and salt are to taste.
  4. Toss in a big handful of arugula and the toasted, chopped walnuts. Serve in bowls and garnish with shavings of parmesan cheese.


These easy Trader Joe’s dinners are clearly adaptable. Both are wonderful canvases for whatever your family enjoys most. Especially when Thanksgiving is over and there is no way you can have another bite of turkey.