The 9 Best Dinner Shortcuts We Bought in 2022

published Dec 18, 2022
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Credit: Kelli Foster

If you’ve been feeling stumped for dinner inspo, you’re not alone. Coming up with fast and fresh dinner ideas every night can be a challenge — especially over the past few years, when we’ve been making more meals at home. And lately, finding a weeknight to slow-cook a sauce, shred a bunch of potatoes, or roll out a pot pie crust feels like a luxury. 

In search of some savvy solutions to our dinner dilemma, we sampled a smattering of tasty products to make assembling a meal a little easier. (Like Ina Garten wisely says, “Storebought is fine!”) As this whirlwind year winds down, we’re taking a look back at the delicious dinner shortcuts that made our lives easier, left us feeling super-satisfied, and freed up our nights to catch up on The White Lotus.

Credit: Katie Leaird

1. Perché Ci Credo No. 3 Chili Pepper Homemade Tomato Sauce 

A great tomato sauce can inspire plenty of dinner possibilities, and this Perché Ci Credo is pure creativity in a jar. Its deep flavor rivals the passata di pomodoro crafted with tradition and care in Southern Italy at the height of summertime. And we marveled at the simplicity of its in-season ingredients. Toss with your choice of pasta, use as a base for a speedier Sunday sauce, or layer it in eggplant Parm.

Buy: Perché Ci Credo No. 3 Chili Pepper Homemade Tomato Sauce, $9 for 11.6 ounces at Zia Pia 

Credit: Alice Knisley-Matthias

2. Melissa’s Organic Peeled & Steamed Red Beets 

Although we love our peas and carrots, it’s also exciting to vary our veggies. And what more delightful way than to toss some vibrant organic beets into a salad or onto a sandwich? These pre-cooked and peeled gems come from Melissa’s; founded in 1984 in Southern California, the company has blossomed into the largest distributor of specialty produce in the country. For a quick side dish, try crisping some of the ruby or golden beets in the air fryer.

Buy: Melissa’s Organic Peeled & Steamed Red Beets, $5.19 for 8 ounces at Instacart

Credit: Kelli Foster

3. Kevin’s Natural Foods Chicken Entrees 

Costco, the land of ready-made meals (and delicious samples), carries Kevin Natural Foods’ heat-and-eat poultry entrées in generous two-pound packages. Simply warm the oh-so-tender sous-vide chicken in a skillet with its packet of flavorful sauce, for a near-instant dinner — ready in just five minutes! Varieties like chicken tikka masala, cilantro lime, and roasted garlic provide a protein-packed answer to the after-work hangries. (Beef entrées are also available.)

Find in stores: Kevin’s Natural Foods Chicken Tikka Masala, $14.79 for 32 ounces at Costco

Credit: Lauren Manaker

4. Wild Planet Organic Roasted Chicken Breast 

Chicken makes another appearance on our list of top dinner shortcuts — this time, surprisingly, in a can! Wild Planet Organic Roasted Chicken Breast comes as a fillet, lightly seasoned with salt and ready to shred or dice into your next chicken salad or casserole. This dietician-recommended chicken is a speedy, protein-rich addition to salads, soups, and sandwiches, with no added fillers, stabilizers, liquid, or flavorings.

Buy: Wild Planet Organic Roasted Chicken Breast, $4.79 for 5 ounces at Amazon

Credit: Jessica Prudenti-Montalvo

5. Ore-Ida Shredded Hash Brown Potatoes 

The mighty potato is staple for many reasons: It’s inexpensive, nutrient-rich, and so versatile it can inspire any meal of the day. These Ore-Ida pre-shredded spuds cut down on prep time, so you’ll be glad to have a bag in the freezer at all times. Infinitely riffable, you can add a handful of leftover veggies and a sprinkle of cheese, and top with an egg for an egg-cellent breakfast-for-dinner option. Try layering the potatoes into a casserole, or using them as a crispy topper for a scrumptious take on simple shepherd’s pie.

Buy: Ore-Ida Shredded Hash Brown Potatoes, $4.99 for 30 ounces at Amazon

Credit: Taylor Kocher

6. Gilbert’s Bourbon Apple Chicken Sausage 

Gilbert’s smoky and sweet Bourbon Apple Chicken Sausages epitomize the 30-minute meal. Sauté these tender sous-vide sausages with whatever vegetables are in the fridge, add your favorite sauce, and serve over rice or pasta. Use them as a base for a delectable sheet pan dinner, or simply heat the individually wrapped links and serve on a bun. Antibiotic-free and all-natural, you can stash them in the freezer for those nights when you’re not quite sure what to make. 

Buy: Gilbert’s Bourbon Apple Chicken Sausage, $4.49 for 10 ounces at Target

Credit: Jessica Harlan

7. Crab Classic Imitation Crab, Flake Style 

Crab Classic Flake-Style Imitation Crab is known as surimi, minced Alaskan pollock that’s been seasoned with sugar, rice wine, and other flavorings (including crab and crab extract) to mimic the delicately sweet flavor of king crab or snow crab legs. While certainly different from the real thing, this imitation crab shines delightfully in California rolls, wraps, dips, and more — at a fraction of the cost. It’s also great mixed into scrambled eggs, added to ramen noodles for extra flavor and protein, and swapped for the real deal in crab cakes. 

Buy: Crab Classic Imitation Crab, Flake Style, $3.29 for 8 ounces at Instacart 

Credit: Irene Yoo

8. Jinga Beef Bone Flavored Soup 

H-Mart offers an abundance of exciting meal-starters, heat-and-serve options, and enticing instant noodles. One of our go-tos, this Jinga Beef Bone Flavored Soup is a deceptively simple-looking soup with a delicate, but prominent, beef flavor. It’s great heated on its own (particularly when sipped in front of a fire) and the ideal vehicle for udon noodle soup, a quick pho, or the base of a slow cooker beef stew (which will be ready for dinner when you are!).

Find in stores: Jinga Beef Bone Flavored Soup, $10.99 for 6 (16.9-fluid ounce packs at H-Mart

Credit: Stephanie Ganz

9. Kiwi Kuisine Curry Chicken Pie 

Available at Whole Foods and founded by New Zealander and former pro rugby player Bert “Ram” Todd, Virginia-based Kiwi Kuisine bakes an array of sumptuous and filling meat pies. The chicken curry flavor offers a spicy, warming twist on the traditional chicken pot pie, in an updated flaky flax and whole-wheat crust. Pop one in the oven and in just 20 minutes you can curl up with a cozy meal, reminiscent of your favorite home-cooked classic.

Find in stores: Kiwi Kuisine Curry Chicken Pie, $6.99 for 8.1 ounces at Whole Foods

What dinner shortcuts did you pick up at the grocery store in 2022? Tell us in the comments.