Are These Dinner Shortcuts as Good as the Real Thing?

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lasagna noodlesYou've probably noticed -- there are literally thousands of cooking "shortcuts" living on those grocery store shelves. Everything from salad dressing to to stir-fry mixes are waiting to help you whip up dinner in a jiffy. But are they all worth it?

The May issue of Everyday Food has a list of time-savers that they think are -- or aren't -- worth it. They say skip the bottled lemon juice, pre-peeled garlic cloves, and shrink-wrapped stir-fry mixes. They're too expensive and lack flavor and freshness. But dried breadcrumb and chicken broth get the thumbs up. That got us thinking -- what other cooking shortcuts are worth it?

Worth it:

Pizza dough. Pizza dough is the perfect compromise between scary frozen pizza (or delivery) and the real thing. We buy it all the time. Just roll out, pre-bake a little, then add sauce and toppings. Yes, I also buy pizza sauce even though it's a snap to make.

Rotisserie chicken. I prefer roast my own, but in a pinch I'll sometimes buy one of these babies. Depending on where you buy them they taste amazing and you can stretch them for a couple of meals. I think it's almost always more economical to buy a whole chicken than parts.

Not Worth It:

Frozen pre-cooked rice. I'm kind of on the fence on this one actually. I get that it's nice to zap some rice in the microwave for a super-quick meal. But it's rice -- it's really easy to make. It does take 20 minutes (at least) to cook, but you could be chopping veggies in the meantime.

Shredded cheese. I've never understood the need for this product. They charge you extra for a bag half-full of air! Why? Grating cheese takes seconds -- especially if you use a food processor, but I usually just use a box grater. In fact, half the time I make my kid do the grating for me. Now there's a time saver: Child labor.

No-boil lasagna noodles. Silliest product ever! You don't have to boil lasagna noodles anyway as long as you bake yours with a sauce.

What are your favorite time-saving foods?


Image via NathanF/Flickr

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MsRkg MsRkg

I really don't use any. Between two extremely picky eaters (hubby and son) and my general frustration with most of the crap put into foods these days, I make everything from scratch  (pasta, sauces, bread, cakes, broths, creams, spreads, ice cream, etc) and use all organic as much I can. Is this time consuming? Absolutely, especially when I make something that doesn't appeal to my son at the moment and I need to make something else spur at the moment for him, but to me it's so much better and healthier than eating all of those pre-processed and frozen foods.

mamivon2 mamivon2

spagetti.. fries, I actually like to cook

Chari... Charizma77

I buy shredded cheese a lot.

luvsc... luvschocolate

I buy no boil noodles all the time. The regular ones stay hard even with sauce, and frozen rice. it can take up to 50 minutes for brown rice to cook and it still seems hard.

Bonnie Bruns Williams

I stopped buying shredded cheese when I read that cellulose powder is added to keep the cheese from clumping.  I just want cheese, not glorified wood shavings!

Krist... KristinRox

I love rotisserie chicken.. its yummy. I also buy salads in a kit so that I can just throw it together quickly.

Mandago Mandago

I love no-boil lasagna noodles. They're much thinner and more delicate.

Disney17 Disney17

Spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, frozen cooked chicken breasts, tortilla chips, and a few other things.

Kmakk... Kmakksmom

I get already cut up veggies. 

Mrscj... Mrscjones

I buy shredded cheese when needed. I don't use shredded cheese that much do buying multiple blocks cost more.

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