There are time saving tips that can help you in the kitchen and then there are things you can buy at the store that can save you even more time. I will list a caveat though, these food items, which can save you time and most are still healthy, can often cost more. Unfortunately there is a cost for convenience.
Pre Cut Vegetables
One of my favorite things to buy right now is precut jicama. Have you ever tried to cut one of these? They’re a pain and not worth the effort. So, I do spend the extra money to buy a precut jicama – I can eat it raw, add it to salads, throw it on tacos for an extra crunch. But, you can buy precut onions and just about any fruit or vegetable out there.
The biggest downfall to precut produce is that they don’t last as long. You’ll need to use them up, especially fruit.
Grains for the Microwave
Trader Joe’s introduced me to microwavable brown rice, a lifesaver on busy nights. They now have quinoa, white rice, and who knows what else. Most stores now carry a variety of microwavable grains – you can find varieties in the freezer section as well as on the regular store shelves.
Salad mixes have come a LONG way in several years, so much so that Costco has SEVERAL to choose from now! Every grocery store I’ve been to carries at least a few varieties of salad mixes, requiring you to do nothing more than open the bags, pour them into the bowl and mix up the ingredients. Done. If you want to make a full meal from these, just add a cooked protein on top for a healthy one dish meal.
Salad mixes can carry some hefty calories and fat though, often due to the dressings provided. Be careful and read the labels. There’s no reason you have to use the dressing provided though, especially if you have a healthier option available at home already.
Along with salad mixes, there are salad toppings to round out your salad. Super easy and add great flavors.
One of the greatest inventions ever, and another Trader Joe introduction for me. Now, I can find them at every grocery store in town in a plethora of varieties (gluten free, cauliflower, etc) and they’re cheap! Just a couple of dollars and I can take them home, roll them out, and add whatever I want to my own pizza.
Herb and Spice Pastes
These are incredible and I actually find that over time, they save me money, especially in winter months when it is more challenging to find fresh herbs. These pastes can often be found in the produce section, next to the fresh herbs. Here’s the thing, these beauties can last up to three months and can save loads of time in the kitchen! By not having to cut ginger, basil, garlic, cilantro, and more, you can shave a good amount of time prepping by using these premade ingredients.
These work beautifully in smoothies as you don’t need to add ice (ice ends up watering them down anyway) and you don’t have to peel and cut anything.
I have found that I LOVE the prepared Costco pesto. It’s delicious, and all I have to do is open a jar and the price is more than reasonable. There are all kinds of sauces out there, from marinara to alfredo. You can use them as is or doctor them up with other vegetables.
I have discovered these curry bases at Costco too as well as these Tikka Masal sauces at Amazon. What makes these incredible, is that they’re just the base – you can add whatever vegetables and meat you want to alter the taste. I put these over rice for a quick lunch.
These can range from healthy to unhealthy; flavorful to dry and bland. Read labels, check ingredients and then it becomes about trial and error. I have had some GREAT burgers and some awful burgers.
Since I work from home, these are always such a wonderful option and now that I have found one or two that work and are healthy (I always have chipotle black bean burgers and tequila lime chicken burgers on hand), they make lunch options much easier!
How can you beat $6 at Costco for a rotisserie chicken? I love to buy these and can use them as is, turn them into enchilada filling, or make chicken salad, or a chicken soup, or a stew…the options really are endless. One word to note, the salt content in these can be significantly high, so keep that in mind.
Many Healthy Choices
Grocery store pre-made options have evolved dramatically over the years and the options now available are vast. Options will vary by store, but keep your eyes open. These might not be the best on your budget or the best for very clean eating, but if you use them to fill in the holes, it’s possible to maintain a healthy diet using some of these shortcuts.
The biggest advice I can give, is to read labels carefully and determine if they’ll work for you and your family.
Combining some of these convenience foods with regular meal prep can make the entire process pass quickly. If you are interested in meal prep, check out my book, Meal Prep Made Easy. It is not a recipe book, but rather more detailed information about all facets of meal prep, ranging from food safety, time management, batch cooking, and feeding picky eaters just to name a few.