These will help you say goodbye to sad desk lunches for good.

By Laura Fisher
August 13, 2020

At the beginning of quarantine, I was excited at the prospect of having time to cook myself a real lunch every day. In my head, working from home looked like a calm 9-to-5 at my impeccable desk, broken up by Instagrammable meals and afternoon yoga sessions.

The reality? I’m lucky if I can get in a few spoonfuls of peanut butter in between endless Zoom meetings and a dining room table that has turned into a combination of home office, arts and crafts station, and pantry overflow

So, as it turns out, having easy, healthy, and quick lunches on hand is as important as ever. We’re all about meal-prepping, but sometimes you just need a grab-and-go option to get you through a workday, to pack for an impromptu picnic, or to throw in the cooler for a road trip vacation. Per usual, Trader Joe’s has you covered with a huge selection of premade salads and salad kits, all for under $5. 

To save you from salad buyer's remorse, we tried and tested the salad selections from everyone’s favorite affordable, unique grocer and came up with a definitive ranking of the best six options on the shelves. You can find the salad kits in the produce section alongside the bagged lettuces, and the boxed salads are over with the rest of the prepared foods. 

There are some other salads that are sold at TJ’s that are fine, but just didn’t make the cut for our favorites. The Greek, for example, was edible but lacked substance and could be easily thrown together at home for a more satisfying version. With the Caesar, you are better off just buying some romaine, croutons, parm, and a high quality Caesar dressing—the one in the salad kit tasted a bit mayonnaise-y to us.

Read on for the cream of the crop, and use that newfound free time to research a road trip, plan an at-home date night, or even clear off that dining room table. 

Salad lovers across the internet agree that this is one of the best salad kits they’ve ever had, hands down. What makes it so special? The shredded broccoli, radicchio, and kale go way beyond your standard romaine, and are robust enough to be eaten for leftovers even when dressed with the creamy dressing. Sunflower seeds and dried blueberries are perfect sweet and salty mix-ins. 

Edamame beans add the perfect dose of plant-based protein in this uber-healthy and hearty salad. While raw kale can sometimes be a chore to chew through, it’s cut small enough to be manageable, and the lemon herb dressing provides the perfect tangy complement to the sweet cranberries.

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This thai-inspired salad kit will win over even non-salad lovers with its peanut-lime dressing, crispy rice noodles, and chopped peanuts. My only complaint? I wish I had twice as much dressing (it's that good!), especially because it pairs so perfectly with the baked tempeh I added.

I’m a sucker for anything remotely resembling chicken wings, so this salad with blue cheese crumbles, buffalo ranch dressing, and slivers of celery and carrot really hit the spot. It’s definitely on the heavier side for a salad, but still has plenty of crunchy greenery. Next time I would mix in a little grilled chicken to balance out all the flavor and make it a full meal. 

Putting grains in a salad is the secret to ultimate texture and satisfaction, and wheatberry has an especially pleasing bite to it. Quinoa adds a protein bunch and butternut squash, cranberries, and goat cheese round out this salad to make it a full meal. If you love sweet salad dressing, this one's for you.

Okay, bear with us—we know that this seems like something you could totally make at home. The pre-made salad contains greens, grape tomatoes, chunks of mozz, and olives, plus a sprinkle of pine nuts for a little crunch. But the dressing is what takes this from basic house salad to a must-have lunch staple. The balsamic vinaigrette tasted like my Italian babysitter’s homemade elixir that she used to bribe us to eat vegetables. With a hint of dijon and just the right amount of tang, this dressing will keep you coming back to this salad time and time again.