Let's have some real talk for a sec... meal planning isn't exactly "fun". There I said it! (FUN is going to Target and buying things that you didn't even know you needed, right?!) But meal planning is without a doubt a solid strategy to streamline the food decisions in your life, giving you more time and energy to do the things you actually want to do. (Ahem, go to Target.)
Here at The Meal Planning Method, we're always trying to find ways to skim a few minutes here and there, because it really can add up during your week! This week, we're highlighting convenience foods that are not only easy to prepare, but can save you precious moments. Check 'em out!
(1) OVEN-READY LASAGNA NOODLES (aka no-boil noodles)
After I tried oven-ready lasagna noodles, I knew right then and there I would never buy regular lasagna noodles again! How many minutes will you save? 8 minutes! (That's enough time to make a to-do list.)
(2) QUICK COOK OATS
Did you know that ALL oats (quick, old-fashioned, and steel cut) are healthy choices? Quick cook oats are great though when you need whole grains fast. How many minutes will you save? If you're comparing quick cook oats to steel cut oats, you're saving 29 minutes! (That's one episode of your favorite sitcom.)
(3) 10-MINUTE RICE
We always stock rice in the pantry, but ain' no body got time to boil brown rice for 45 minutes! Instant rices are parboiled - meaning they have been partially boiled already (the most tedious part). We've used 10-minute rices in burrito bowls, sushi bowls, fried rice, you name it and enjoy the end product and the time savings.
(4) FROZEN PEPPERS & ONIONS
Bell peppers and onions are two of the most versatile veggies you can incorporate into meals no matter the cuisine you're cooking - Asian, Mexican, Mediterranean, Indian - they're great! I find that bell peppers tend to go bad quick and sometimes I use up all of my fresh onion with none left. The remedy? A frozen pepper & onion mix that's always available! We've seen these for as little as $0.99 (for 12oz) at our local grocery stores.
(5) READY-TO-EAT SALADS (including salad kits)
You're likely already enjoying pre-washed and chopped salads so don't stop now! We personally try to stick with blends and varieties that go well with multiple things -- such as baby spinach for fresh salads and also smoothies. And one quick pro tip: store your greens with a paper towel to soak up the excess moisture and keep them lasting fresh for longer.
(6) LOW- SODIUM CANNED BEANS
Dry beans can take nearly an entire day depending on how you prepare them -- 4-12 hours soaking and then an additional 1-3 hours to cook on the stove top. It's very clear that canned beans save you a lot of time come mealtime. (Pst! If you can't find a lower sodium variety of canned beans at your grocery store, simply drain and rinse them to reduce the sodium content.)
OTHER CONVENIENT FOODS
(7) SPICE MIXES
OK, OK, this one may be a teenie bit of a stretch, but we LOVE how pre-made spice blends and mixes make our lives easier! (I mean, just imagine measuring each and every spice ingredient that goes into an Everything But the Bagel seasoning, for example.) We're huge fans of the Mrs. DASH line of spice blends as their are salt-free and totally tasty.
(8) PRE-MADE SAUCES
We're pretty convinced that sauces and are the thing that elevates a food from bland to BAM! Find low-sodium and low-sugar sauces to make cooking quicker, yet just as flavorful.
What other convenience foods do you swear by that help you save time in the kitchen? Share with us in the comments below!