As a college student, I often find myself not having enough time to make food. Whether it’s short breaks in between classes or rushing from one activity to the next, I have learned the secret to not starving on campus: Trader Joe’s premade and refrigerated meal section. As an avid TJ’s shopper, I have to say, the fresh premade foods are underrated. Each one I’ve tried has exceeded my expectations.
Even in the summer when school’s out, I rely on their vast selection for quick, tasty, and mobile fuel. When I’m out and about, days spent at the beach, picnicking at the park, or hiking local trails, I’ve been picking up my favorite premade meals. I rather spend time enjoying the weather instead of being stuck in my kitchen cooking.
Here are the eight best prepared refrigerated foods from Trader Joe’s that you need to try this summer—my favorites plus some recommended by my TJ’s-loving friends.
1. Lemon Chicken & Arugula Salad
If I could be granted one wish, I would have an unlimited supply of TJ’s Lemon Chicken & Arugula Salad. It’s one of the best salads I have ever tasted.
The arugula, lemon chicken, Moroccan-inspired couscous, and red quinoa are a five-star combination, and the hints of mint and parsley add a delightful freshness to every forkful. The spicy red pepper dressing is spicy, sweet, and so delicious. I’d buy it if it were sold separately. Trader Joe’s, I beg of you, please bottle the dressing!
I have taken this beloved salad on the go for every occasion, but my number one is BYOD (bring your own dinner) get-togethers with friends. It never gets old.
2. Creamy Hummus & Vegetable Wrap
My roommates are also avid Trader Joe’s shoppers, so we constantly inspect each other’s grocery hauls. “What’s that? Is it good?” That is how I came to discover one of my favorite wraps: Creamy Hummus & Vegetable Wrap. (Thank you, roomie!)
From the flavor of the hummus to the crisp carrots and cucumbers—it’s flawless. It’s simple, but delicious and so easy to pack for a picnic lunch or a poolside snack.
3. Rainbow Wrap
Truthfully, I was never a fan of wraps before Trader Joe’s. They’ve managed to change this for me and also set a high bar. TJ’s Rainbow Wrap was also a friend’s recommendation. It’s aesthetically pleasing (the pink!) and it includes some of my all-time favorite ingredients: sweet potatoes, kale, and beets. Though this grouping may scream fall, the chilled wrap, chickpeas, and hummus make it an essential summer staple.
I’ve purchased these wraps for eating on the beach, for a quick lunch when I don’t feel like cooking, and countless times as a treat for my friends.
4. Chicken Sausage Breakfast Burrito
I can never say no to a breakfast burrito. TJ’s Chicken Sausage Breakfast Burrito is one of my go-to’s.
In college, it was my walk-and-eat meal on my way to a coffee shop to do school work—coffee is expensive enough as is!—and in the summer, I love it as a convenient road trip breakfast, fueling me up for a long drive.
The eggs, hash browns, and cheese are a classic combo that can’t go wrong. I would recommend microwaving it for one minute, checking to see if it’s thoroughly heated, then doing intervals of 15 to 30 seconds as needed.
5. Pollo Asado Burrito
TJ’s nailed this iconic chicken burrito! The Pollo Asado Burrito is filled with chicken, black beans, rice, corn and chili salsa, and pepperjack cheese. If you like beans and spice, this is for you.
It’s convenient to have several in the fridge, waiting to be eaten up at a moment’s notice. If I’m bringing this to a picnic or to class, I’ll throw it in the microwave, and wrap it up with foil to keep it warm until I’m ready to sit and chow down.
6. Mediterranean Style Orzo Pasta Salad
Contrary to what you’d think, TJ’s Mediterranean Style Orzo Salad isn’t inspired by the Mediterranean. It comes from Carmen, a Trader Joe’s employee. Previously called Carmen’s Famous Orzo Salad, the recipe was so spectacular that the TJ’s tasting panel couldn’t resist adopting it. The salad has orzo, red onions, feta cheese, kalamata olives, and sun-dried tomatoes. Then it’s topped with pesto, golden balsamic dressing, and shredded spinach.
After one bite, I do feel like I’m sitting by the sea, overlooking the dazzling turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Thanks, Carmen!
7. Peanut Udon Noodle Salad
I’m always craving Thai flavors and luckily TJ’s has my back with their Peanut Udon Noodle Salad. Unlike many udon dishes, this one isn’t served in soup. Instead, the chilled noodles are tossed in a Thai-inspired dressing with peanuts, cabbage, and bell peppers, making it perfect for on-the-go eating (No spills!).
Next time you want fast, affordable, and restaurant-quality noodles, know TJ’s has the best takeout in town!
8. Vegan Poke
As a poke lover, I am happy to announce this vegan poke (No fish in sight.) is just as satisfying. The “poke” is roasted beets that look and feel like raw tuna—how creative! They are marinated in soy sauce and sesame oil and packed in a round plastic container like hummus. It’s so delicious, that all poke restaurants should make it an option for vegans.
Since this may not fill you up by itself, perhaps grab the Peanut Udon Noodle Salad too.
Thanks for making our lives easier and tastier Trader Joe’s!