Time-Saving Foods to Keep in Your Kitchen

Real Simple picked 37 of the best-tasting grocery store items that can be prepared in a flash.

Photo by Anna Williams

For the Refrigerator or Freezer

  • Pillsbury refrigerated prepared piecrusts: You'll find them packaged two to a box in your supermarket's dairy case, not pressed into an aluminum-foil pie plate. Each piecrust is perfectly rolled and folded so you can shape it or drape it into your favorite dish.
  • Cooked chicken wings: Here's the single-serving equivalent of a whole roast chicken. Great in recipes or for teenage parties and little-kid lunches.
  • Shady Brook Farms Turkey Meatballs: Beefless, with a fresh (not powdered) garlic flavor.
  • Shredded Jack cheese: The convenience of grated hard cheeses (like Parmesan) isn't worth the compromise in flavor, but buying preshredded semi-soft cheeses makes sense.
  • Packaged washed baby spinach: So it costs a lot more than the kind you trim and wash yourself. You'll also eat more of it this way.
  • Prepped vegetables: Now that producers are bagging shredded carrots, broccoli florets, and pre-washed lettuces, salads take no time (so no excuses).
  • Frozen cooked shrimp: Having cooked, peeled shrimp in the freezer is as handy as having a can of tuna in the pantry.
  • Fillo Factory Spanakopita (a.k.a. spinach-and-cheese appetizers): These flaky pastry pillows are perfect for party starters or as part of a light lunch or brunch; fillofactory.com for stores.
  • Nancy's Petite Quiche: You should keep these amazingly flaky, professional-quality mini pastries in your freezer; many caterers do. Available at Costco warehouse store; nancys.com for stores.
  • Minh Egg Rolls: Add some chicken wings, dumplings, and meatballs and you've got an instant pupu platter. Available at Sam's Club.
  • Boston Market Frozen Cinnamon Apples: These ultraconvenient apples make a great (if sweet) pie filling. Available at supermarkets.
  • Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry: Fold it, and pat it, and mark it with an E for easy.
  • Belgium Chef Waffles: Put away the waffle iron and stay in bed a little longer on Sunday morning. The kids can pop these better-than-frozen-tasting frozen waffles in the toaster. They make an excellent base for a last-minute ice cream sundae, too. Call 800-350-5016 for store locations.