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A Week's Worth Of 3-Ingredient Trader Joe's Lunches You Can Make On A Budget

Save the effort and the extra dollars but still eat well.

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Trader Joe's is a paradise for affordable and creative ingredients for delicious meals. You may have seen my post on easy three-ingredient dinners (and if you didn't, go look!), but now I wanted to share some three-ingredient TJ's lunches for busy people.

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Not only are these recipes as easy as one, two, three (literally), but they are also budget-friendly. Each serving costs less than $5.

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Before you check out the meals, here are a few things to keep in mind:

-The following seven recipes are just some ideas to get you started. Think of it as meal inspiration. You can swap any ingredients you'd like, for example, if you prefer pork or shrimp over chicken, brown rice over cauliflower rice, etc...

-Almost all of these recipes are great for meal-prepping. Rather than make all seven of these meals in a single week, pick one, two, or even three and make enough to last you the week. That way you can save money and time.

-All of these meals make enough for three generous servings, unless otherwise specified.

-Every single one of these meals calls for just three ingredients, but I also use three very common pantry staples: Olive oil, salt, and pepper.

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1. Naan Flatbread With Tzatziki and Gyro

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What you'll need:

1. Gyro slices: $3.99

2. Garlic naan (frozen): $1.99

3. Tzatziki: $3.49

Price per serving: $3.15

PREPARATION:

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Heat up the gyro sliced according to package directions. Flip the gyro slices so both sides are nicely browned and heated through.

Preheat the oven to 400°F, as per package instructions, and defrost the naan. The naan only needs about a minute in the heated oven to defrost completely.

Top the naan with cucumber tzatziki and gyro slices. Serve.

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Trader Joe's sells both fresh and frozen naan. I chose to go with the frozen version because a) it's cheaper and b) because I can keep the leftover bread in the freezer with a much better shelf life to use down the line. If you're not a fan of gyro, there are so many ways that you can jazz-up a piece of naan into a creative flatbread. You could use prosciutto and arugula, tomato and burrata, or ricotta and zucchini, for starters.

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2. Turkey Bolognese and Marinated Vegetable Rice Bowl

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What you'll need:

1. Frozen rice: $3.49

2. "Just sauce" turkey Bolognese: $3.29

3. Misto alla griglia marinated vegetables: $3.99

Price per serving: $3.59

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PREPARATION:

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Defrost the frozen rice and the turkey Bolognese sauce according to package directions, either on the stove or in the microwave.

Meanwhile, defrost the marinated vegetables according to package directions.

Spoon the Bolognese over the rice and add veggies.

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You can make this meal with any grain or noodles you like best, whether it's spaghetti, quinoa, or spiralized zucchini. You can always substitute the marinated eggplant, pepper, and zucchini with whatever vegetables you like best. This happens to be an excellent make-ahead meal so you can make a big batch on Sunday and eat it throughout the week.

3. Cauliflower Tempura Stir Fry

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You'll need:

1. Kung Pao tempura battered cauliflower: $5.49

2. Riced cauliflower: $1.99

3. Stir-fry vegetables: $2.99

Price per serving: $3.49

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PREPARATION:

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Heat the cauliflower rice and frozen stir fry vegetables in a skillet with olive oil. Continue sautéing until defrosted. Add tempura sauce (from the bag of cauliflower tempura) and toss until warm . Plate and set aside.

On a lined baking sheet, cook the cauliflower tempura according to package directions. After about 12 minutes in the oven, the tempura should be golden brown. Toss the cauliflower in more of the tempura sauce and add to the stir-fry.

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This recipe requires the most preparation of any, but it really only takes about 20 minutes total, and you can make it in the morning and then re-heat it when you're ready for lunch. I used cauliflower tempura because it sounded delicious and also because I like having a meatless meal or two in my lunch rotation, but you could use any kind of frozen protein, whether it's orange chicken, shrimp gyoza, or spicy beef and broccoli.

4. Tortellini Pasta Salad With Prosciutto and Brussels Sprouts

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What you'll need:

1. Seasoned Brussels sprouts: $3.49

2. Sliced prosciutto: $3.99

3. Cheese or spinach tortellini: $2.29

Price per serving: $3.25

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PREPARATION:

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Boil water and cook the tortellini. Meanwhile, sauté the Brussels sprouts in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Combine the cooked pasta with the sautéd Brussels sprouts and add torn prosciutto. Drizzle with olive oil and salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste.

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Trader Joe's has a handful of pre-seasoned veggies (both fresh and frozen), which come in handy when you're trying to save money on groceries because they already come tossed in garlic, spices, or sauces. You could really go with whatever veggies or protein you like best here. I always find that pasta salad doesn't need a ton of ingredients to taste great. Just a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper goes a long way.

5. Chicken Caesar Wrap

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What you'll need:

1. Handmade flour tortillas: $2.99

2. Complete Caesar salad kit: $3.99

3. Grilled chicken strips: $5.45

Price per serving: $4.14

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PREPARATION:

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Mix contents of the Caesar salad package, add grilled chicken, and toss with the caesar dressing (included).

Place the chicken Caesar salad in the center of a tortilla and wrap it up. Slice down the middle or enjoy whole.

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This classic lunch recipe never gets old. If you aren't a big chicken fan, swap it for another protein like shrimp or avocado. This lunch is so easy to make: If you work in an office you can bring the ingredients to work and assemble it there in five minutes.

6. Avocado Toast With Smoked Salmon

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What you'll need:

1. 1 avocado: $1.19

2. Fiber multigrain bread (or your bread of choice): $4.49

3. Pacific supreme smoked salmon: $2.99

Price per serving: $4.33*

*These ingredients make enough for two servings, with leftover bread

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PREPARATION:

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Toast a slice of bread. Meanwhile, mash together one half an avocado in a small bowl. If you have it in your pantry, add olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

Top the bread with the mashed avocado in one even layer. Then add smoked salmon.

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Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

Avocado toast really is an ideal lunch: It's satisfying but it doesn't catapult you into that post-lunch coma and it really keeps me full all afternoon. I always like adding a little something extra to my avo toast to make it more interesting. At home, I often add a fried or poached egg, but that doesn't travel well, so I tried smoked salmon on this portable lunch version and it's delicious. You could also try topping yours with tomato, feta, or a sliced hard boiled egg.

7. Butternut Squash Soup With Apple Sausage

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What you'll need:

Butternut squash soup: $2.99

Goat cheese: $2.99

Smoked apple Chardonnay chicken sausage: $3.99

Price per serving: $3.32

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PREPARATION

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In a sauce pan, heat up the butternut squash soup until it is just simmering. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, slice the chicken sausage and sauté it in oil. Add the sausage to the soup and transfer to a bowl.

Add a spoonful of goat cheese and stir to combine.

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Trader Joe's pre-made soups are without a doubt my greatest lazy mealtime hack. The butternut squash soup especially is so creamy and flavorful, it really tastes homemade. I always add a few extra ingredients to the soups — for example, cauliflower gnocchi, white beans, kale, or sausage — for a more substantial meal. Whipping this up takes almost no time, and you can even make a few servings at the beginning of the week to last you days.

Need easy dinner ideas?

These meals will make your weeknights way simpler. (And tastier!)

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Need easy dinner ideas?

These meals will make your weeknights way simpler. (And tastier!)

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