Almost Homemade - and Other Dinner Shortcuts

When you want to cook something that tastes and feels homemade, without everything that goes into it, don’t hesitate to turn to pre-made or pre-prepped ingredients. Making dinner at home doesn’t have to mean a from-scratch meal. Leaning on shortcuts on a busy weeknight can take you two-thirds of the way to dinner with little effort. 

Beyond the holy rotisserie chicken, stock up on salad bar veggies, packaged slaw, canned salmon, polenta tubes, frozen potstickers, jarred sauces, and those lonely freezer leftovers you may have forgotten about. These are the solutions to real fast food. 

Plan for the unplanned. Choose meals or recipes that can be easily modified and assembled. Not only will this flexibility allow for quick last-minute dinner improv, but also room for new, tasty and interesting dishes. 

Helpful Items to keep stocked

Be prepared and you will always be moments away from dinnertime.

  • Fresh: salad greens or cabbage, cheese, eggs, milk
  • Frozen: shrimp, dumplings, vegetables, meatballs, stuffed pasta, pie and pizza crust
  • Canned: beans, broth, tomato sauce, salsa, enchilada sauce, tuna
  • Dry: cooked rice packets, gnocchi, polenta tubes, pasta 
  • Pre-made: rotisserie chicken, cooked grains, salad bar veggies, sauces, marinated meat

Choose your own shortcuts

The following recipes consist of multiple components that can each be made from scratch, or be assembled with purchased ingredients. Whether you choose 75% homemade, or 0%, in the end you’ll still have put together a home-prepared meal of which to feel good about.


  • Jarred pizza sauce 
  • Pre-made pizza dough (fresh or frozen)
  • Basil Pesto (fresh or frozen)
  • Veggie toppings from salad bar
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese

Spaghetti & Meatballs

  • Dried or fresh pasta
  • Your favorite jarred tomato sauce
  • Pre-made meatballs (fresh or frozen)
  • Grated parmesan cheese

Chicken Soup

  • Packaged chicken broth or bouillon 
  • Rotisserie chicken 
  • Frozen vegetable blend
  • Any short pasta or rice in the cupboard


  • Your favorite jarred tomato sauce
  • Jarred Alfredo sauce
  • No-boil dried pasta sheets, fresh pasta, or cheese ravioli
  • Frozen, chopped spinach
  • Basil Pesto (fresh or frozen)
  • Shredded/grated cheese

Chicken Pot Pie

  • Rotisserie chicken 
  • Frozen vegetable blend
  • Cream of chicken and mushroom soups
  • Frozen pie crust, puff pastry, or biscuit dough

Chicken Parm

  • Frozen breaded chicken cutlets
  • Your favorite jarred tomato sauce
  • Shredded/grated cheese

Shepherd’s Pie

  • Seasoned burger meat or meatballs
  • Packaged beef broth or bouillon 
  • Frozen vegetable blend
  • Instant or pre-made mashed potatoes

Shrimp Curry

  • Frozen shrimp
  • Jarred curry simmer sauce
  • Canned beans
  • Salad bar or frozen veggies
  • Microwavable rice

What cooking shortcuts do you swear by? Do you batch cook and stock your freezer for later, or do you depend on helpful store-bought products to whip up quick dinners? Tell us and we’ll be sure to mention you. As always, if you have any questions, email us at

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