4 Prepared Grocery Store Buys That Will Make Dinner a Breeze
Even if you like to cook "from-scratch," there's no shame in tapping a smart supermarket shortcut here and there.
I love cooking. A lot. I even love endless big project cooking. I love making everything from scratch. And yes, I love bragging that I love making everything from scratch!
I even make my own butter.
But...I’m not a fool. There are things that I am willing to admit I buy. I buy them for many reasons. Some grocery store products I buy because, though I’ve tried, I can’t really make them any better myself. Some, I buy because I want to make a certain dish last-minute, and I simply haven’t the time to make all of the components. And sometimes, yes, I realize that making a specific thing would require the purchase of thousands of ingredients instead of simply buying one jar of the prepared stuff.
And even as a proud “from-scratch” kind of cook, I think it’s important to acknowledge that there’s absolutely no shame in making savvy, time- and labor-saving purchases. Here are four go-to supermarket shortcuts that I use regularly in my own kitchen.
Thai Curry Paste
I never need to order Thai Green Curry Chicken. All I need is a few tablespoons of my favorite Thai green curry paste, some coconut milk, and a boneless chicken breast or two. I will admit that I have made curry paste from scratch. And I will still do it on those occasions when I have a bunch of cilantro stems and roots. But, even for me, it’s quite the process. And once you’ve tried a few brands and settled on your favorite, curry paste will become something you’ll always have in your pantry. Allow me to suggest that you find an Asian grocery store, and buy a few jars ( I recommend buying ones from Thailand...surprise surprise). You’ll have fun trying them and you’ll discover your own favorite in no time. You can also find Thai curry pastes at your standard supermarket from popular brands such as Thai Kitchen.
This one may be pretty obvious, but the rotisserie chicken remains a life-saving standby. Virtually every grocery store sells them. So, again, I would suggest trying chickens from a few of the stores you shop at, and deciding on your favorite. (You can also check out our editors’ favorite rotisserie chicken here.) Now I realize roasting a chicken is not hard. But, if you want to make something that requires a cooked (and usually cooled) chicken, you may not want to add the extra hour or two that roasting a bird at home will require. Chicken salad. Chicken pot pie. Tacos. A chicken pizza. Chicken soup. These are just a few of the dishes made in moments if you have the chicken “already done.”
Frozen Puff Pastry
I’ve discussed the merits of frozen puff pastry before and it remains one of my all-time favorite prepared ingredients. The possibilities are truly endless with this time-saving, freezer aisle miracle. And because this article covers my passion for the product in great detail, all I’ll say here is “instant cocktail party!”
I know, I know. It’s a wild indulgence. But sometimes, the idea of lobster is just too appealing to pass up. And, if you intend to use it as an ingredient, having your fishmonger cook it will save you lots of time, lots of mess, and allow you to concentrate on the things you’ll do with it. Lobster… rolls, salads, mac and cheese, cocktails (the kind with sauce, not the kind you drink!). This is just the beginning!
These are just a few ideas for using prepared ingredients. I know you can think of a million more. Just remember, even though one of the “ingredients” came prepared, the resulting dish is all yours, one that you can proudly and truthfully claim you made from-scratch.