Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Go-To Cooking Shortcuts

I LOVE saving money on my groceries and those coupons are the only reason I subscribe to the Sunday paper. That being said, I also work fulltime but still wanna make a home-cooked meal almost every night. That's when I gladly accept any help I can get from the grocery store, even though I know they cost a bit more. Here are my favorite go-to cooking shortcuts that might save you some time in the kitchen as well!

1. Pre-chopped onions - I usually get the baggies from Trader Joe's but pretty much ever grocery store carries these in the produce section. They take the time (and tears!) out of chopping onions, which I use in almost every recipe. In a pinch, dried onion flakes also work but they're nothing like the fresh stuff!

2. Pre-minced garlic - same idea as the onions. I get mine in a big jar from Costco cuz I put them in everything but they also come in smaller jars. Just like the onions, garlic powder works too but the fresh adds so much more punch!

3. Sliced and cleaned mushrooms - sure they don't make me cry like the onions and garlic but the time I save by not having to wipe each of them clean is totally worth it! Plus they make great dippers when you want a good-for-you snack!

4. Rice, pasta and couscous mixes - they're quick-cooking and take the decision out of what spices to add. I always keep at least a few on hand to go with whatever main dish I'm preparing. My favorites are Knorr (especially the Fiesta Sides!), Neareast (the Pearl Couscous is amazing!) and Rice-A-Roni (don't judge!).

5. Canned tomatoes - they last forever, unlike the fresh ones, so I can always have some on hand. I like to use fire-roasted or garlic and oinon ones to add more flavors to my dishes. Did I mention that tomatoes are also REALLY good for you thanks to the lycopene they contain?

6. Rotisserie Chicken - I buy mine from Costco and they don't get any cheaper than $5 each. I shred up the meat as soon as I get home, use half and freeze half for another day. The possibilities are endless when it comes to cooked chicken. I use them in Enchiladas, stuffed pasta shells, stir-fries, pizzas...you name it!

7. Pasta Sauces - yes making them from scratch is great but on a weeknight, they're life savers! Just boil some pasta, add some meat, stir in some sauce and dinner is on the table in no time! My favorites are Classico (Four Cheese Alfredo anyone?), Prego (no meat needed when you use the meat-flavored!) and good old Bertolli (LOVE the Vodka sauce!).

8. Shredded and Sliced Cheese - last but definitely not least! They save me SO much time especially since we like cheese in everything! From pizzas to lasagnas to panini, cheese is just a part of us! All that shredding and slicing can take up a HUGE chunk of time and these days you can find most varieties already done for you. Sure, sometimes I find the need to buy a chunk of gourmet cheese the grate myself but most nights, it all about Kraft!

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