BuzzFeed Trader Joe's Challenge: Are you looking for an affordable and delicious way to create dinners for the week for only $20? Shop once for a few ingredients and try this easy vegan meal plan!
BuzzFeed posted an article on February 1, 2016 showing how affordable and easy it is to prepare a week's worth of dinners for two by spending approximately $20 at Trader Joe's. You may have seen 1 Trip To Trader Joe’s + $20 = 5 Easy Vegan Dinners shared on Facebook and other social media sites. The original article from Spoon University, Make a Week’s Worth of Vegan Dinners for Two for Only $20 at Trader Joe’s, went viral and is still going strong. And now I'm sharing this BuzzFeed Trader Joe's Challenge with you!
Some of my friends from the Power to the Veg! Facebook group decided to try this BuzzFeed Trader Joe's Challenge, and I thought it would be fun to document my results.
Each meal makes two servings for dinner. Alternately you could double each recipe to serve four, or if you are cooking for yourself, you'll have lunch for the next day to take to work or school.
Your homework before you start cooking is to go shopping at Trader Joe's (or another grocery store). You will also need to set aside about an hour to do a little prepping and roasting. I made the recipes gluten-free, but still using ingredients from Trader Joe's. The alternate ingredients I used are listed in parenthesis next to the original ingredients. I also decided to purchase organic ingredients whenever available, so I spent a little more than $20. The choice is yours.
Even if you don't have a Trader Joe's in your area, you can still find these basics where ever you shop at reasonable prices.
BuzzFeed Trader Joe's Challenge Grocery List:
- 1-16 ounce package angel hair pasta (or gluten-free pasta such as Trader Joe's brown rice and quinoa spaghetti)
- 1 carton vegetable broth
- 2 cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
- 1 large yellow onion
- 1 large red onion
- 1 red bell pepper
- 7 Roma tomatoes (or tomatoes on-the-vine)
- 1 lemon
- 1-10 oz. bag kale
- 1-16 oz. bag carrots
- 2 heads garlic
- 2 large sweet potatoes
- 1-16 oz. bag frozen Brussels sprouts
- 1-16 oz. bag frozen broccoli
- 1 package pizza dough (I used corn tortillas, but another alternative is frozen gluten-free pizza crust, if you are willing to spend a little more money.)
- 1 roll Ciabatta (or Food For Life Brown Rice bread (Trader Joe's gluten-free bread is NOT vegan.))
- Sunflower seeds
In the BuzzFeed Trader Joe's Challenge, each recipe will take less than 20 minutes to prepare if you roast the vegetables ahead of time. So spending less than an hour on a Sunday evening will be worth it.
Check out these instructions for roasting the vegetables for the week ahead. While the photos in the post look like the vegetables are seasoned, there was nothing in the instructions about this, so I roasted my vegetables without any oil or seasoning. Note that the sweet potatoes will only be partially cooked during this step.
Monday BuzzFeed Trader Joe's Challenge: Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Pasta
Monday night always feels like a good night for pasta. It's comforting and takes very little time to prepare. If you feel the same way, we're both in luck since the first night of the 1 Trip To Trader Joe’s + $20 = 5 Easy Vegan Dinners menu calls for making Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Pasta.
If you roast the tomatoes, red pepper, red onion, and garlic ahead of time, this meal will come together in the time it takes to boil a pot of water and cook half a package of pasta, which is perfect for a Monday night. As noted, I made all the recipes in this challenge gluten-free, so I bought Trader Joe's Organic Brown Rice & Quinoa Spaghetti.
One thing I don't like about this recipe is that it calls for adding salt and olive oil to the pasta water. I don't feel this is necessary. As I mentioned earlier, I roasted the vegetables in the oven without any seasoning or oil. So what I did with this recipe is use the oil for sauteing the chopped roasted tomatoes, red bell pepper, onion, and garlic, rather than adding it to the pasta water. By the way, is it just me who thinks it's strange that the photo shows the cook cutting the roasted vegetables on a plate with a fork and knife instead of using a cutting board and chef's knife?
Anyhow, the sauce is absolutely delicious! Roasting the vegetables really brings out their flavors. On the other hand, I didn't love the brown rice and quinoa pasta. It was a little chewy for my liking, and I probably won't buy it again if other pasta is available.
If you enjoy this pasta sauce and have a little extra money in your budget, you could try adding some other ingredients such as sliced black olives or fresh basil leaves. Or you could make it heartier by adding some garbanzo beans and using a different shape pasta such as penne.
Either way, I declare this Monday recipe a winner!
Tuesday BuzzFeed Trader Joe's Challenge: Loaded Veggie Pesto Pizza
Tuesday is my favorite night to eat tacos. Well, pretty much any night is the perfect night to eat tacos, in my opinion. But the 1 Trip To Trader Joe’s + $20 = 5 Easy Vegan Dinners menu calls for Loaded Veggie Pesto Pizza, so pizza it is.
I guess I don't need to eat tacos every Tuesday, but as I mentioned previously, I tried these pizzas with tortillas instead of pizza dough to make them gluten-free, so maybe my dinner was a sort of combination of tacos and pizza. Normally I would make pizza with gluten-free crust, but since I was trying to stay close to the $20 budget, I chose tortillas. I used their Handmade Corn Tortillas, which I highly recommend buying the next time you want tacos.
The Loaded Veggie Pesto Pizza recipe is easy to follow, and I didn't find any errors, unlike in some of the other recipes from Spoon University. However, even imagining the recipe with pizza dough instead of tortillas, the toppings just didn't scream "pizza" to me.
In theory I like the components of this Tuesday dinner, but I would rather have pizza with tomato sauce or basil pesto, mushrooms, olives, and other vegetables, and vegan cheese, such as Daiya or Follow Your Heart, or even the vegan cheese sold at Trader Joe's.
Maybe this pesto made with broccoli and kale would be tasty on pasta, but I didn't care for it as a pizza sauce. I also love tomatoes and Brussels sprouts, but not in this recipe.
In case you were wondering, I did fold these pizzas over and ate them taco-style. Wouldn't you? I have made pizzas using corn tortillas, tomato sauce, vegan cheese, and vegetables, and I really enjoyed them, so sometimes corn tortillas are a good substitute. If you want to try it, this recipe looks really delicious.
Wednesday BuzzFeed Trader Joe's Challenge: Protein-Packed Vegan Sweet Potato, Kale, and Chickpea Bowl
Wednesday nights I often can't decide what to make for dinner after having pasta on Monday and tacos on Tuesday. However, the Protein-Packed Vegan Sweet Potato, Kale, and Chickpea Bowl from the 1 Trip To Trader Joe’s + $20 = 5 Easy Vegan Dinners may become part of my weekly rotation. It's delicious and satisfying, and I've already thought of several ways to make variations on this simple idea. Wednesday nights have gotten exciting!
You've probably noticed that some of the recipes in the BuzzFeed article are a little confusing or have errors. In the Protein-Packed Vegan Sweet Potato, Kale, and Chickpea Bowl recipe, the first thing I found was that it doesn't indicate the oven temperature. I believe it should be 400° F, the same temperature used to roast the vegetables over the weekend.
If you roasted your vegetables according to the directions without any seasoning, I recommend adding a little salt and pepper to the vegetables before putting them in the oven.
Also, you may wonder what to do with the minced clove of garlic. I added it to the bowl of chickpeas before cooking them on the stove.
I decided to slice the sweet potato right before serving to make it easier to eat. And you can remove the skins if you prefer.
This Wednesday night recipe can be made with a myriad of different ingredients and flavors.
To change things up, you could use half a sweet potato for each bowl and add a cooked grain, such as brown rice or quinoa. If you don't want broccoli, try substituting cauliflower or baby bok choy. I think this bowl would be amazing with a sauce like tahini mixed with lemon juice, Sriracha, or spicy peanut butter.
You could also change the seasoning on the garbanzo beans and try different flavors such as curry powder or Chinese five spice. And the chickpeas can be roasted on a second parchment-paper-lined baking sheet at the same time the broccoli is added to the oven.
In addition, you could use make Buffalo Chickpeas and add Ranch dressing!
Thursday BuzzFeed Trader Joe's Challenge: Roasted Carrot Soup with Caramelized Onion & Hummus Sandwich
Thursday the 1 Trip To Trader Joe’s + $20 = 5 Easy Vegan Dinners menu calls for making Roasted Carrot Soup with Caramelized Onion & Hummus Sandwich. It may sound like this is more work since we're making both a soup and a sandwich with homemade hummus, but they are both quick and easy to make. If you roasted your carrots and garlic over the weekend, the you're ready to go.
The soup recipe calls for "cumin roasted carrots", but the roasting directions didn't mention anything about seasoning the carrots with cumin. Fear not, the soup will come out perfectly if you add ¼ teaspoon ground cumin to the pot when you add the carrots. And it's not necessary to saute the onion and garlic in a separate pan. Save yourself another dirty pan to wash and saute them in the pot you are using to cook the soup.
Instead of a loaf of ciabatta, I made the sandwiches with toasted Food For Life gluten-free brown rice bread which is sold at Trader Joe's. Be aware that the Trader Joe's brand gluten-free bread is not vegan.
This is a great sandwich, perfect for a simple meal on a Thursday.
I really like how easy it is to make this hummus, and it's nice that you don't need any tahini since not everyone keeps that in their refrigerator. I think the sunflower seeds are a good substitution.
I might add some other ingredients to this sandwich, such as spinach or lettuce, tomatoes, roasted red pepper, cucumber, or even olives. Or you could make it a hummus salad bowl.
The carrot soup is nice and smooth (I used an immersion blender) and goes well with the sandwich.
Friday BuzzFeed Trader Joe's Challenge: Vegetarian Noodle Stir-Fry
I think Stir-FRidaY is going to be a new thing in my house. I was happy to see that the 1 Trip To Trader Joe’s + $20 = 5 Easy Vegan Dinners menu for Friday calls for making Vegetarian Noodle Stir-Fry because I love stir-fry. A lot. It's the perfect meal for the end of the week because you can throw whatever vegetables you have left in your refrigerator in your wok, and you'll get a delicious meal every time. (You don't actually need a wok. A large saute pan will work just fine.)
Remember in Monday's recipe I said I didn't care for Trader Joe's Organic Brown Rice and Quinoa Spaghetti? Well, it's actually really good in this stir-fry! It reminds me of lo mein noodles.
When I got out the ingredients to make this recipe, I was happy to see I did have the three carrots and ⅓ red onion left over from previous recipes from this week. It's nice to be able to use up most of the groceries I purchased for this challenge.
I think there may be an error in this Friday recipe in regards to the vegetable broth.
We used 2 ½ cups of broth for the soup on Thursday, meaning that we have 1 ½ cups left. But even though the stir-fry recipe calls for 2 cups, I don't think that much is necessary. I didn't measure the broth. I simply poured enough in the pan to cook the vegetables and have a little sauce. I ended up with leftover broth in the carton I didn't need.
I enjoyed this final recipe of the 1 Trip To Trader Joe’s + $20 = 5 Easy Vegan Dinners menu. I will try adding other favorite ingredients the next time I make it, such as mushrooms and snow peas.
What do you think of the BuzzFeed Trader Joe's Challenge?
If you are interested in seeing more meal plans, please let me know in the comments!