Shortcut Ingredients

We’re all about the made-from-scratch around here, but also understand that sometimes it’s a Tuesday, you just got home from work, and dinner needed to be on the table 5 minutes ago. For that situation (which comes up a lot more than any of us would like to admit), we’ve got a trusty stable of go-to shortcuts that cut prep time and make life easier.

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Pie Crust and Puff Pastry

Great for desserts and quick snacks for company, but also fantastic for savory pies, hand pies, pot pie crusts, and more. Homemade pie crust almost always edges out store-bought from a flavor perspective, but it’s hard to question the convenience of store-bought. Homemade puff pastry is amazing, but also time-consuming and demanding. An all-butter store-bought kind can be a real lifesaver.


Beyond using it on sandwiches, turn mayonnaise into a creamy base for quick dipping sauces (add garlic, or smoked paprika, or lemon zest, or your favorite spice blend). Use it as a topping for broiled fish, or spread on the outside of grilled cheese sandwiches before grilling (instead of waiting for butter to soften).

Spice Blends

These are an ideal shortcut for two reasons: a couple well-chosen blends, lets you get away with buying fewer spices; and they’re an easy way to add complexity to marinades, spice rubs, and sauces. Get a good chili powder, a good seafood seasoning, and one more wildcard: creole seasoning, garam masala, or berbere, depending on your favorite cuisine, and make it a staple.

Canned Beans

While there are times (like homemade hummus) that dried beans really make the dish, for the most part, canned beans’ convenience and speed wins the day.

Boxed Stock

Homemade stock really wins this one on the flavor front – especially with beef and vegetable stock. Chicken stock can go either way – box stock is handy; homemade is delicious.

Rotisserie Chicken

Sure, this is an obvious one. Obvious for a reason. It’s a comforting, crowd-pleasing, time-saving, and not-too-expensive solution to many a time crunch.

Curry Pastes

Just add meat, veggies, and stock, broth, coconut milk or even water, and you’ve got a homemade curry in minutes. Our favorite pastes are Thai, but check Asian grocery stores for other options.

Frozen Vegetables

They’re always-handy, already-prepped vegetables you can toss a handful of into soups, stews, and pastas. Peas, lima beans, and artichoke hearts are especially handy, as they remove all the cumbersome prep.

Salad Bar Ingredients

Swing by the salad bar and pick up pre-sliced mushrooms, rings of onion, peppers, shelled edamame, olives or already-shredded cheese. Use them to customize a frozen pizza, sautee them and toss with cooked pasta and oil, or use them to set up a burger or taco bar on the fly.

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