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How to Make a Week's Worth of Meals for Under $50 at Trader Joe's

Spoiler alert: you can even afford a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck
Trader Joe's Budget Meal Plan and Grocery List
Photo: Delia Mooney/Tasting Table

If you ask an avid TJ's (ahem, Trader Joe's) shopper why they love the cult grocery chain so much, price will likely be close to the top of the list. With rents rising and expensive cell phone bills to pay, it's nice to load up your grocery cart with 19-cent bananas.

 

Vive #traderjoes !

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Despite location, Trader Joe's is routinely one of the most reasonably priced supermarkets in the game, while still managing to offer a variety of quality products. It has all the offerings you'd find at any other grocery store—fresh produce, dairy and eggs, bread and baked goods, meat and seafood, frozen items and pantry staples—but at a price that might help offset that check you painfully fork over to your landlord every month. The chain also caters to many dietary needs like vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free and kosher, and has a section for reasonably priced cleaning, health and beauty products, so you can still do you without shelling out at pricier organic venues.

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To prove this magical place can save you some serious dough during your weekly shopping trip, we gave ourselves a $50 budget for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the whole week. Check out our shopping list, meal ideas, tips and takeaways below to see just how easy it was to make a week's worth of meals on a budget. (Note: This list was created assuming you already have pantry essentials, such as salt, pepper and olive oil, at home.)

Trader Joe's Shopping Tips

① Plan out your meals ahead of time.

Before you even step foot inside the store, it's helpful to have an idea of what you want to make for each day of the week. This helps you buy only the ingredients you know you need for those dishes (two-bite brownies are a meal, right?). 

② Meal prepping is your friend.

Preparing your meals in advance not only helps you save time and money but can help you waste less food if you utilize ingredients in multiple ways. Keep in mind that food prepping doesn't mean you have to cook the whole dish ahead of time; even a few simple steps like roasting vegetables or making a pot of rice at the beginning of the week allows you to get ahead. 

③ Customize your list.

Our list can easily be personalized based on what you like to eat, seasonality and dietary restrictions. The trick is to stick to what you need instead of getting distracted by tempting add-ons like frozen churro bites.

Shopping List

1 dozen eggs ($0.99)

2 packages of chicken tenders ($5.33 + $4.94)

3 extra-large red bell peppers ($2.97)

1 package of basmati white rice ($2.99)

1 package of Brussels sprouts ($2.49)

1 can of garbanzo beans ($0.79)

1 can of black beans ($0.79)

One 6-ounce bag of baby spinach ($1.99)

1 bag of wild arugula ($1.99)

One 2-pound bag of sweet potatoes ($1.69)

4 bananas ($0.76)

1 package of sliced white mushrooms ($1.99)

1 package of Trader Joe's corn tortillas ($1.49)

2 Fuji apples ($1.38)

1 cucumber ($1.69)

1 package of ground turkey ($3.99)

1 jar of mixed nut butter ($5.99)

1 package of brown rice cakes ($2.99)

Total $47.24

Meals

Monday

Breakfast: Spinach and red pepper egg cups

Lunch: Roast chicken with sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts

Dinner: Stuffed red peppers

Snack: Roast chickpeas

Tuesday

Breakfast: Rice cakes with mixed nut butter and banana

Lunch: Mixed garden salad with chicken, roast chickpeas and cucumber

Dinner: Ground turkey and black bean tacos

Snack: Sliced apple with mixed nut butter

Wednesday

Breakfast: Spinach and mushroom egg cups

Lunch: Roast chicken with sweet potatoes

Dinner: Stuffed red peppers

Snack: Roast chickpeas

Thursday

Breakfast: Rice cakes with mixed nut butter and banana

Lunch: Mushroom and spinach fried rice

Dinner: Ground turkey and black bean tacos

Snack: Sliced apple with mixed nut butter

Friday

Breakfast: Breakfast tacos

Lunch: Mixed garden salad with chicken, roast chickpeas and cucumber

Dinner: Mushroom and spinach fried rice

Snack: Rice cakes with mixed nut butter and banana

Conclusions

To stay within budget, there wasn't much room for luxury items like guacamole or sour cream for the tacos, or shrimp for the fried rice. However, you could sacrifice mixed nut butter, which is pricey, for a less expensive spread like peanut butter to free up extra dollars if you're missing out. If you're a frugal shopper or meal planner, it won't be hard to keep the total under $50 and have plenty of food for the week (and even enough cash left over for a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck).

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