5 Meals Made Easy with Grocery Shortcuts

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

After years of meal planning for my family, I’ve finally realized what makes the plan work each and every week: embracing the grocery store dinner. See, for a long time I didn’t include this as part of my meal planning strategy, and time after time weekday life thwarted my best-laid plans. A meal I thought would be good for leftovers would get devoured in one sitting or a late workday would derail the meal schedule and I was left without a backup plan.

Now I have a solid list of recipes that combine the convenience of prepared food with a few homemade touches. They are all meals I can quickly execute using ingredients from the grocery store closest to my home and are so delicious we’re never disappointed about having to resort to plan B.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Add Some Insurance to Your Meal Plan

We do our weekend grocery shopping at a culinary goldmine of a food co-op. It boasts aisles loaded with the freshest local produce, a glorious bulk section with every grain under the sun, and an impressive cheese department. My neighborhood grocery store, on the other hand, is not nearly so vast, but still has plenty to offer.

These five recipes lean heavily on some of my favorite prepared items from the closest store to my home to get a freshly made meal on the table when our dinner timeline is extra tight.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Homemade + One Prepared Item = Fast Dinner

The key to each of these is to combine the convenience of prepared grocery store items with at least one homemade component to keep things tasting vibrant. This also lets us customize our grocery store finds to suit my family’s tastes.

  • Naanwiches: Turn purchased naan into sandwiches filled with sautéed ground meat and a super-speedy homemade raita.
  • BBQ Meatball Sub: For this dinner, frozen meatballs are heated in BBQ sauce and paired with vinegary greens to cut through the richness.
  • Roasted Veggie Hummus Bowl: Prepared hummus is dished up with spiced, roasted vegetables and fresh parsley. You can eat this one hot or cold.
  • Honey Mustard Chicken Salad: This chicken tender salad is generously coated in a killer homemade honey mustard dressing. Use your favorite frozen chicken tenders or pick up takeout chicken tenders on the way home.
  • French Bread Pizza: Turn that last-minute purchase of French bread into super-fast pizza night with purchased pesto, juicy tomatoes, and a quick sauté of chicken.

Inspired by the idea they could fill in as needed, these recipes are so enjoyed by my family they now sometimes make it to the weekend meal plan list!

What backup meals do you make using a few store-bought ingredients?