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5 fast, family-friendly dinner entrees from your local grocery store


I love to cook, and on some nights I would gladly make onion soup from scratch and bake my own rolls and harvest some hearty winter garden greens. Then there’s the holiday season, when at least three-quarters of my brain and schedule are otherwise occupied. Some days I literally buy time for decorating cookies (or getting everyone out the door to the school holiday concert) by dressing up prepared options from the grocery store. Here are a few of my quick-serve entrees, which (see photo) I am not above pairing with purchased rolls and salad:


All hail Trader Joe’s, where there are entire lists devoted to their best frozen meals. I’m quite partial to that heat-and-serve onion soup, which comes complete with melty-cheese-topping. Before my kids went vegetarian, we often made a meal from their pre-cooked refrigerated sausages and canned baked beans. Their refrigerated tamales may not be Los Hernandez, but they draw no complaints. I’ve also won mom-of-the-week awards by serving my kids the TJ’s freezer-case pastry-wrapped baked Brie rather than saving it for party hors d’ouevres.

Supermarket rotisserie chicken FTW. There are a lot of issues to think about when buying them (See: “How Costco’s $4.99 Rotisserie Chickens Will Transform Agriculture in Nebraska”), but “Do they make an easy dinner?” is not one of the questions.  The carnivores in our family just carve off a serving or slice it over (yet again) salad greens, but here are a few other suggestions. Postscript: In our house, “put it in a quesadilla” is a quick-dinner-option for almost any random ingredient, including that chicken.


A pack of udon noodles from the refrigerator section of Central Market or any local Asian market makes a quick, warming dinner that you can feel even better about when you simmer some added carrots, broccoli, and tofu cubes in the broth. I usually keep a few noodle packages in the freezer; no need to defrost before tossing them in boiling water for a few minutes to cook. If you’ve got a touch more time, here are a bunch of Easy Recipes from the Asian Noodle Aisle. And, while you’re at Uwajimaya or Asian Food Center, stock up on frozen dumplings and buns for another fast meal!


Real men, women, and kids do eat quiche, especially when it’s the 2-pack for around $10 at Costco. (It isn’t quite as good as PCC’s, but it’s less than half the price.) Again, I store it in the freezer for an easy backup meal and bake it directly from there. Leftovers get microwaved for the next day’s breakfast or lunch.


During a medical crisis, a friend once told me “Cheese and crackers can be dinner.” I think about that often, and feel pretty guilt-free about taking advantage of that wisdom. If you want to get fancy, make it into a cheese plate complete with pepper jelly and some nuts, with optional add-ons like canned dolmades, hummus with carrot sticks, and/or a microwaved bowl of edamame sprinkled with salt. Fast, easy, reasonably balanced, done … and, go figure, the kids love it.


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