10 Grocery Store Buys That Will Help You Meal Prep in an Hour

updated May 29, 2019
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A weekend meal prep session is all about making life easier during the busy work week, but that doesn’t mean the actual prep session needs to be a long, arduous affair. I lean on grocery store picks to give myself a head start and help power me through the prep session with ease.

When there’s an hour on the clock for my meal prep session, my secret for making as many meals as possible is starting with some of these smart buys.

1. Pre-Shredded Slaw

Unlike delicate lettuce-based salads, sturdy slaws can last for days in the fridge. And these days you’ve got a whole lot more to choose from than a bag of classic coleslaw made with green cabbage and carrots. Toss the slaw with your favorite dressing for a make-ahead lunch, or use it as the base for tacos.

Recipes to Put It to Work

2. Salad Dressings and Sauces

During meal prep I typically love making my owns dressings and sauces (pesto and peanut sauce are two favorites). But when push comes to shove and time is limited, I opt for a bottle of the store-bought stuff.

3. Cauliflower Rice

I can’t tell you the last time I riced a head of cauliflower. Buying a bag of the fresh or frozen stuff shaves time off both prep and cleanup. Turn it into a quick restaurant-style side, or use it as the base for burrito bowls or a veggie-heavy stir-fry.

Recipes to Put It to Work

4. Stir-Fry Kits

When it comes to stir-fries, it’s the prep — the slicing, dicing, and chopping — that takes the most time. To speed up the process, start with a stir-fry kit from the produce section or the freezer aisle.

Recipes to Put It to Work

5. Boxed Broth

In my opinion, it’s rarely worth it to make your own broth or stock. More often than not you will find me picking up a box or two of broth each week. If you use it as often as I do, convenience wins out.

6. Rotisserie Chicken

Roasting a chicken doesn’t take a lot of work or time, but when your goal is meal prepping in a hurry, it’s worth it to spring for a rotisserie bird.

Recipes to Put It to Work

7. Ranch Dip Packets

Associate Food Editor Meghan turned me on to this time-saver. She says, “I buy things like the Hidden Valley ranch packets to make a yogurt ranch dip for my kids — I know I can totally make my own ranch dip (we even have a DIY on the site), but the ease of opening that packet into a container of yogurt and knowing how many more vegetables my kids will eat because of it takes away any guilt.”

8. Canned Chickpeas and Beans

I have long opted for canned over dried beans because of the huge convenience factor. Open, drain, rinse, and you’re ready to go! There’s a time and place for dried beans, but they’re not ideal when your goal is a quick meal prep session.

Recipes to Put Them to Work

9. Sliced Mushrooms

I count this as a double win. Not only can you leave your knife where it is, but sliced mushrooms are also already cleaned. You might pay a tiny bit more, but it’s a trade-off I think is wholly worthwhile. And so does Culture Editor, Ariel: “Pre-sliced mushrooms cut down on so much time.”

Recipes to Put Them to Work

10. Frozen Broccoli

It’s no secret we’re a fan of frozen veggies. And when it comes to minimizing meal prep time, frozen broccoli is one item we’re definitely reaching for. In case you didn’t already know, broccoli can be roasted straight from the freezer (in a few minutes less than fresh). But best of all it means we can skip cutting up the head into florets. Use it in grain bowls, salads, and soups.

Recipes to Put It to Work

Your turn! What are your favorite grocery store buys that help you save time on meal prep?