Kitchen Convenience: 5 Prepared Foods That Are (Almost) As Good As Homemade

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I pride myself on making things from scratch, but with three children to feed, not to mention a decent sized crew of regular dinner guests, I don’t always live up to my own expectations. Like most of you, I’m a label reader, sometimes pleasantly surprised to find a pancake mix that saves me the trouble of mixing ingredients or a jar of marinara sauce that needs little more than a sprinkle of this or that to mimic the one I would create. Here are five prepared foods that I especially like and that have helped me get a homemade dinner on the table. Would love to hear your picks too! 

A meal like Campfire Stew -- vegetable soup mixed with browned ground beef or turkey, and poured over whole wheat toast -- is a lot easier when the soup comes from a can. How much easier? The meal can be prepared in 10 minutes. 

On a recent Friday night, the kids wanted fondue, which seemed like a great plan. Fondue is an easy, social meal and a lot of fun. I had the ingredients for a cheddar beer version, but two cheeses are better than one. Emmi Fondue from Switzerland, straight from the box, was an easy pick. The ingredients are simple and traditional. Besides, I was fresh out of kirschwasser, so it saved me a trip to the liquor store.

Here are a few more of my favorites:
Do you ever use pre-mixed ingredients? What are your favorites? 

(Image: Anne Postic)