Holiday Meal Shortcuts: Which Ones Work and Which Ones Don’t?

Holiday Meal Shortcuts: Which Ones Work and Which Ones Don’t?

Some meal shortcuts are total fails, but some are delicious lifesavers. Which is which?

By: Lorraine Allen

The holidays are almost here! Hooray! Personally, I really do think it’s the most wonderful time of year. Whether you agree or not, odds are you’ll find yourself preparing a whole bunch of festive meals in a hurry in the upcoming weeks. So what can help you stay sane and have more fun with your family during this time – a go-to list of great meal shortcuts that work, as well as some that don’t. So here it is -- enjoy your holidays this year:

Holiday meal shortcuts that save you time and are delicious:

1. Ready-made frozen piecrusts, pastry dough, and par-baked “fresh” breads, which also come gluten-free to accommodate all your guests!

2. Stocks for gravy, soups, stews, and basting -- a lifesaver any day of the year!

3. Canned or frozen corn for soufflés, breads, salads, or sides -- because fresh corn is not so fresh once the weather gets cold.

4. Pre-washed salads and other leafy greens -- love!

5. Canned pumpkin -- perfect for pies, breads, muffins, raviolis, soups, and sides.

6. Pre-cooked beets -- delicious as salads or as a fast, festive, sweet side dish anytime.

7. Canned legumes like lentils, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, or black beans, which will save you hours of cooking with the exact same result. Just drain and rinse off the extra salty liquid they come in.

8. Boxed dry cake or cookie mixes -- having these in your pantry allows you to whip up amazing “homemade” goodies in a rush for any holiday, and they come gluten and allergy-friendly now too, so everyone has something extra yummy to celebrate this year.

9. Peeled canned tomatoes for pasta sauces, soups, or stews -- a super-star pantry item all year long.

10. Fresh herb variety packs and bags of soup greens -- so you don't spend a lot on a bunch of each when you only need a bit to add lots of flavor to all your dishes.

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Holiday meal shortcuts to avoid and why:


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1. Canned mushrooms, which are always rubbery and flavorless.

2. Store-bought corn bread, which dries out fast and is so easy to make from a box or from scratch.

3. Canned gravy, which is loaded with sodium, because you can make your own in minutes.

4. Pre-brined or store-marinated meats -- you never know how long it's been sitting in there and it's usually loaded with salt.

5. Pre-sliced fruit and veggie platters -- they lose all freshness, juices, and crunch so fast, so it’s a waste.

6. Peeled and chopped garlic -- it releases most of its flavor right after it's cut up!

7. Canned whipped cream -- it’s loaded with sugar and additives no one needs, and it only takes minutes to make your own for way less money with way more flavor.

8. Pre-shredded cheeses in packages -- a huge mistake! They cost so much more and they include a long list of preservatives no one should eat or pay for.

Which holiday meal shortcuts do you love, and which do you avoid spending money on?

Lorraine Allen is a writer, and mom and personal chef to one spunky 6-year-old girl with severe food allergies. You can enjoy their delicious recipes and follow their amusing family cooking adventures at Feeding Lina.

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