70 Trader Joe’s Frozen Foods Ranked by a Seasonally Depressed Person

70. Broccoli & Kale Pizza Crust
It isn’t even a pizza. You have to put this thing that is at BEST a performance art gesture toward the concept of pizza crust in the oven, and then also put other food on top of it? No.

69. Reduced-Guilt Mac and Cheese
This is a conceptual psychological assault before you even get to the mushy, bland mac and cheese. You’re already eating it alone with the lights off, illuminated only by the glow of rewatching Killing Eve Season 1, and they’re telling you they’ll only reduce the guilt? That’s the best they can do? No, fuck this, absolutely.

68. Three Cheese Pizza
Frozen food when you’re depressed walks a thin line between nourishing you with low effort and making you feel even worse because of how depressing the food itself is. This pizza does not provide more than it takes from you, in that sense.

67. Shells with Brie and Asparagus
Mushy! Brie is not for pasta.

66. Cauliflower Butternut Squash Risotto
From Bon Appetit: “Looks like fresh human vomit. Barely seasoned. Hard, toothsome texture. Inedible.”

65. Vegan Tikka Masala
For people who like the texture of weirdly chewy vegan meat, great news. Everyone else, no.

64. Reduced-Guilt Baked Ziti
See above, but at least this has some tomato sauce.

63. Roasted Vegetable Multi-Grain Lasagna
This seems like it would be good, but is not. I’m so sorry.

62. Riced Cauliflower Bowl
This will be controversial but I feel strongly that you should allow yourself to eat rice OR cauliflower, or even both together (see biryani, below), and that you deserve better than riced cauliflower. We all do.

61. Jackfruit Cakes
Hm. No thank you

60. Shakshuka Starter
This is just a “starter,” which means you are still meant to add other things into it, and while in a brief burst of optimism amid the long slog of seasonal depression this may seem like the perfect level of activity, the truth is that this won’t taste that great and also isn’t that much easier than just making real shakshuka with canned crushed tomatoes and maybe like, frozen garlic. Here’s a good place to start, it has variations and all.

59. Southwest Chicken Quesadillas
Again, not very good and not actually that much easier than just making a quesadilla. You can make a quesadilla! I’ve done it and I believe you can too.

58. Outside-In Stuffed Gnocchi
Just be honest with yourself and get some Totino’s.

57. Steak and Stout Pies
Hm. Maybe this would be good for British people? Can the Bakeoff contingent weigh in here.

56. Four Cheese Pizza
Better than the three cheese pizza; still not as good as ordering pizza. Or those bougie local frozen pizzas from the regular grocery store; you know the ones I mean.

55. Farfalle With Cheese and Spinach
Eh.

54. Chicken Chow Mein
This will be like 65% as good as delivery. Think through what your heart wants.

53. Chicken Pot Pie
Sure! Fine. It’s fine.

52. Korma Fish Curry
Hm!

51. Seafood Paella
An acceptable entrant into the Rice with Stuff category, as articulated later in this list, but also microwaving seafood always a bit of a roll of the dice.

50. Butter Chicken
Yes! Good for days when there’s no need to push the envelope too far in terms of having texture in your food.

49. Riced Cauliflower Stir Fry
Better than un-stirfried riced cauliflower, but.

48. Sriracha Shrimp Bowl
Why not!

47. Crispy Rice Salmon Bites
Again from Bon Appetit: “If you like to order salmon well-done, or enjoy the worst food in the world—salmon burgers—you’ll love these dry, flavor-devoid salmon bites with spicy mayo sauce. I do appreciate the crispy crunchy coating like when you get spicy sushi rolls “with crunch.” That coating is going places.”

46. Lamb Vindaloo
This will be fine but also will be a pale ghost of a memory of the actually very good restaurant meal you wanted when you microwaved it, so sort of playing with fire as far as whether it will make you feel better or worse.

45. Saucy Scallops With Mushrooms
This is for those times you feel like living dangerously, when you say to yourself out loud “maybe something a little different today” while opening your freezer door.

44. Chicken Fried Rice
You will be more full and happy after you eat this than before, probably!

43. Beef and Broccoli
You will find this totally acceptable, most likely!

42. Spicy Thai Shrimp Fried Rice
Why not!

41. Pepperoni Pizza Mac and Cheese Bowl
Odds seem roughly even on whether you will be glad you ate this or not!

40. Family Style Meat Lasagna
This will be kind of disappointing but not as disappointing as the deeply regrettable multigrain lasagna, above.

39. Channa Masala
Not the most flavorful item, but comfortingly inoffensive.

38. BBQ Chicken Teriyaki
Delish describes this as having “weird, chewy texture” but good sauce. It’s your call!

37. Chicken and Mushroom Pelmeni
Virtually every culture has a Savory Food Wrapped in Dough option, and for good reason; they are deeply nourishing and comforting. Are these a transcendent triumph of the form? No, but do they need to be?

36. Gnocchi al Gorgonzola
This is fine.

35. Gnocchi alla Forrentina
This is slightly better than fine. For a real treat, you can combine with 36.

34. Stacked Eggplant Parmesan
This is small enough that somehow it seems not worth the effort of microwaving it? But does not taste bad.

33. Shrimp Stir-Fry
Reliable.

32. Fettuccine with Mushrooms
Frozen pasta is always sort of a gamble but this is consistently fine, and contains a vegetable.

31. Ricotta and Spinach Filled Ravioli
Ravioli AND there’s technically a vegetable involved? Wow, sign me up.

30. Beef Steak Burritos
Sometimes you need some honest to god pre-hibernation food, and that’s real and fair!

29. Shiitake Mushroom Chicken
Is chicken and mushroom together the most healing and nourishing winter combination? Discuss.

28. Yellow Jackfruit Curry with Jasmine Rice
This will depend largely on how you feel about jackfruit, but maybe taking a chance on a new shredded vegetarian meat substitute is what you need to shake up your routine and return to the land of the living!

27. Ricotta and Spinach Tortelloni
Tortelloni are perhaps the pasta that stand up best to being reheated; give yourself the gift of them today, maybe with real parmesan grated on top, even.

26. Paneer Tikka Masala
So pureed! So soothing!

25. Pizza Margherita
A supremely acceptable frozen pizza.

24. Honey Walnut Shrimp
A depressed person can have a little super sweet deep fried shrimp, as a treat.

23. Vegetable Burritos
You will forget about these as soon as you’re done with the last bite but also you won’t be hungry anymore, which is kind of the best way to describe this genre of food.

22. Chicken Chilaquiles Rojo
From Bon Appetit: “…a saucy, chippy mess that I ate until the last crumb. The chicken is sparse, the sauce is mild, and sure, you could make a sheet tray of nachos for dinner instead, but the heart wants what it wants.” Honestly this describes exactly what I want out of depression food?

21. Vegetable Panang Curry
Really better than it has a right to be.

20. Cuban Style Citrus Garlic Bowl
Look how many exciting modifiers this has! You deserve it.

19. Spinach and Ricotta Pizza
Less depressing than other frozen pizza options because of the advanced toppings — ricotta is a cheese of mentally balanced people who receive adequate amounts of sunlight.

18. Vegetable Biryani
A powerful genre of depression food in general is Rice with Stuff, or Rice+, of which biryani is a very strong contender. This would taste better if you ordered delivery and you’d probably get like 3 servings out of it, but this is also solid.

17. Hatch Chile Mac and Cheese
Intriguing! Flavorful! Transports you to sunny New Mexico!

16. Mushroom and Black Truffle Flatbread
One bite of this and you’re basically inside of a gastropub. Is it even possible to have seasonal depression in one of those places, you know where the lighting is like steampunk somehow? Probably not.

15. Chicken Enchiladas
Filling; delicious; almost too salty and dehydrating but then not.

14. Spelt Risotto
All the comfort of risotto, with more fiber and less mushiness. A slam dunk.

13. Chicken and Vegetable Wonton Soup
A brothy, soothing delight. No notes.

12. Vegetable Pad Thai
Honestly kind of almost as good as delivery!

11. Kung Pao Chicken
A winner.

10. Four Cheese Mac ‘n Cheese
Four is the correct number of cheeses. Five would be chaotic; three is unambitious. Four is perfect.

9. Chicken Tikka Masala
Universally beloved. Golden child. Can do no wrong.

8. Cauliflower Tot Casserole
Bon Appetit says “Everything was gooey and cheesy and slightly breaded,” which is absolutely what I look for in a depression comfort food.

7. Mandarin Orange Chicken
The orange means you probably won’t get scurvy!

6. Pork Gyoza
It has pork right in it! Multiple textures and food groups! Untouchable.

5. Vegetable Gyoza
It has vegetables right in it! Multiple textures and food groups! Untouchable.

4. Chicken Burrito Bowl
Is there a more comforting and nutritionally balanced meal? That doesn’t require you leaving the house to go to Chipotle? No.

3. Burrata, Prosciutto, and Arugula Flatbread
Almost universally agreed upon to be the best TJs pizza. There’s arugula right on it! Could a depressed person do this? [Cut to me eating arugula]

2. Mac and Cheese Bites
An arguably perfect food. A triumph of the frozen format. Creamy and golden on the inside, crispy on the outside; a little Trojan horse of endorphins.

1. Creamy Polenta with Spinach and Carrots
I realize this may be a controversial choice; this is a mere hop, skip and a jump away from being a nutritional paste. But that’s its appeal, I think! Warm and filling with SEVERAL vegetables involved, and easily upgradeable with some cheese stirred in or a protein on top? For me, when I’m truly in the throes of it what I want more than anything is the Soylent experience of getting fed with extremely minimal effort, and with this you barely even have to chew. A dream come true!

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

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32 Comments

    • Even better are the ones that don’t require heating at all. Give me a bag of the pecan granola and the large container of honey yogurt, and I’m ready to binge-watch some British crime drama that about six episodes in I realize I’ve already seen.

  1. Canada is sadly devoid of Trader Joe’s, but I can chime in that one of my standby meals for when I have the winter nopes is vegetable gyoza dropped into instant ramen. Sometimes I also plop an egg in there and/or some frozen peas for good measure.

  2. Jackfruit isn’t new as it is new at all as it is the national fruit of Bangladesh & common in that part of Asia as non-seafood meat is consumed less(partially cost-related). I like the jackfruit cake & in fact, use to get it from a local Mexican supermarket in my area at .60¢ per lbs, oddly enough the Bangladeshi market in Little Bangladesh on my drive home does not carry it. The place would cut it for as the fruit into smaller 5lbs sizes as a small is like 35lbs. Had to switch canned variant from Trader Joes as the seeds are a hassle to deal with.

    That textured meat stuff in the vegan tikka marsala is tofu if I remember correctly, but I stopped eating them as they are a bit high in salt & calories for one meal. Otherwise, I like it as a quick & easy meal.

    • I did not know it was a national fruit! It’s one of those things that took off in the UK vegan world about 2 years ago and most of us had never heard of it. We certainly don’t get them fresh ( and there’s a LOT of ”world food” shops near me

      • It became a thing here(California among non-central Asians), like a decade ago from what I am told, but it really caught on 5 years ago in restaurants scene. The ones in the can are fresh enough, but not as fresh as getting the fruit itself. But, again it is way more work to get the good part of the fruit as the seeds are a sticky mess.

  3. I am DEEPLY DISTURBED* that the Pastry Bites with Feta Cheese & Caramelized Onions did not make this list. They’re my #1 but should really be in anyone’s top 10.

    *okay, not really, just enjoying some hyperbole

  4. This is the content I truly seek. I will add: the mango sticky rice spring rolls (admittedly, you can’t microwave it, has to go on the stove or in the oven) is shockingly good. I also hate cauliflower substitutes *however,* the cauliflower gnocchi is harmless and extremely easy.

  5. #1 is my personal favorite depression food too! Chewing is overrated! I also enjoy the Kung Pao Tempura Cauliflower which only mildly requires chewing but is fried and sauced which is a plus and it is nominally a vegetable.

  6. I get the seafood paella when I can find it. It’s kind of a stretch depression food. Like, you’re not ready to be showered or breathe oxygen on the other side of your front door but some of your organs have been whispering that they need some protein and “wouldn’t it be nice if it was at least faux fancy” and you decide to abide. Microwaved seafood should not really be possible. This is best on the stove but it also requires minimal stove effort. Put pan on flame. Open bag. Dump contents into pan. Cover pan. Wait. Stir once if you’re up to it. Wait. Done. Put in bowl.Take back to bed/couch/hovel/cave. Feel an iota of accomplishment for having cooked in the loosest sense of the word.

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