Weekday meals can be the best and the worst of times. From crock pot creations to leftovers to happy accidents, cooking during the week can be interesting for all! By 5pm I am usually running on fumes and ready to plop down on the couch and watch Netflix. Luckily, I try to put something healthful and delicious together before I do so. My family applauds.
In order to achieve this momentous evening goal, I need some products on hand to make the cooking process a little easier. I like to call these "meal helpers." A meal helper is any food product that is already mostly prepared or has been prepped for you. I'm not talking about Hamburger Helper here people! Most of my weekday meals consist of one meal helper, the remainder of the meal is freshly made or prepped by me. Meal helpers can be a slightly more expensive option at the store, but you are buying for convenience. How much is your time worth?? Thirty minutes to chop up brussel sprouts or $4?? You have to decide what is worth the price for your budget and time.
I have a few guidelines I like to follow when choosing these items in the store...
+No added ingredients: plain is best, you add the flavor when you cook
For example- packaged rice does not need added salt, spices, or oil. You never know the actual amount they have added and it takes away your control over the nutritional value and flavor.
+Some things are not meant to be bought prepared ahead of time: i.e. hard boiled eggs.....yuck don't do it
+Just because it says it can be microwaved in the package you WILL NOT do it! Don't get me started on the horrors of melted plastic. It takes five more minutes to warm something up in a pan or simply place it in a glass container in the microwave.
Here are some of my favorite meal helpers I always have on hand...I have included some pictures below of meals that I have made with these ingredients to help you realize their potential!
Red sauce/Pasta Sauce
Colavita: best sauce out there no need to look
Seeds of Change: Seven Whole Grains
Tasty Bite: Basmati or Jasmine
Amy's Organic Refried Black Beans
Field Day Organic or Eden: black beans, garbanzo beans
The Grove Salsa (Local Brand): verde or mild
Xochitl ("so-cheel")- Asada verde or chipotle
Pancake/Waffle Mix (Yes for dinner!)
Bob’s Red Mill Organic
Shredded or chopped vegetables from the grocery store salad section, can be more expensive so I limit these to one to two per shopping trip. I like to buy riced cauliflower, cubed butternut squash, shredded brussel sprouts, spiralized zucchini...
Chopped salad kits
Ready Pac Foods
Delallo Simply Pesto
Mezzetta Basil Pesto
SAMs Club brand (fully cooked chicken breasts)
Smart Chicken brand
Alexia Sweet potato fries or potatoes
Vicolo Corn Meal Pizza Crusts (frozen)
Grain Trust Organic
Trader Joe's Brown Rice
Bird's Eye Steamfresh
Simply Balanced (Target)
Cascadian Farm Organic
I always have corn, peas, edamame, frozen spinach, green beans, and whatever else goes on sale in my freezer.
If you can keep your kitchen stocked with some of these items, you can make weeknight meals so much more enjoyable to create. These meal helpers slash the time it takes to make a delicious and healthy meal for your family! These are just some of the products that I have routinely bought for years, I trust their ingredients and use them on a weekly basis. I hope this post encourages you to take back weeknight cooking and try something new!!
Pictures from top left:
Stuffed peppers with frozen brown rice and canned black beans mixed with fresh veggies, Roasted butternut squash (bought already cubed) salad, Red pepper and spinach pizza made with jarred pesto and pre-made crust, Bowtie pasta with jarred red sauce, and Bob's Red Mill pancakes with almond butter and blueberries, Rotisserie chicken salad with avocado and lemon juice.
Hi I'm Kelsey.
I help busy women embrace cooking at home with my fuss-free family recipes!