Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Easy to Assemble Meals

With school starting and evening activities ramping up, it can be a real challenge to put a decent dinner on the table. No wonder many parents turn to fast foods and junk foods. When time is of the essence, healthy food choices are often tossed out the window in favor of fast foods and junk foods. But with a little creative planning, you can get good food on the table in a flash.

For the convenience of fast food without compromising good nutrition, add naturally prepared foods to your menu plan – foods that you can keep on hand in your pantry or freezer and others that you can pick up from your local Whole Foods Market’s salad bar and prepared foods department. Here are a few things you might want to keep on hand for super-quick suppers:

  • Jarred pasta sauce
  • Boxed natural macaroni and cheese
  • Ready-to-eat pre-baked, marinated tofu
  • Assorted pasta shapes, couscous and quick cooking polenta
  • Organic corn taco shells
  • Precooked frozen rice
  • Frozen fruits
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Canned beans
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Natural cold-cuts
  • Free-range eggs
  • Rotisserie chicken
  • Cooked salmon filet from Prepared Foods
  • Cold grain salads
  • Prepared grilled seasonal veggies
  • Prepared soups such as split pea, chicken noodle and lentil

And here are some ideas for whipping up quick meals:

  • Shop the salad bar for greens, chopped raw veggies, coleslaw and other salad-bar items. Add to easy-to-prepare pantry items like quick-cooking grains (quinoa, basmati rice or couscous), or canned beans.
  • Cook pasta from your pantry. Heat frozen veggies in jarred sauce and top with ready-to-eat tofu or cheese.
  • Make really quick soup with organic vegetable or chicken broth, frozen veggies, canned tomatoes and beans, and a handful of frozen, cooked brown or white rice.
  • Make bean salad with canned beans, cut veggies from the salad bar, and a favorite bottled all-natural salad dressing.
  • Honor the ever-popular sandwich — pile up some good hearty bread with hummus, cheese and natural, nitrate-free cold cuts for a super simple, super good supper. On cold nights, serve with some heated prepared soup.
  • Make quick polenta. Add jarred tomato sauce, tofu or feta cheese and a lovely green salad.
  • Scramble eggs and serve with cooked polenta or couscous. Add frozen veggies or a prepared green salad. Or top cooked eggs with jarred pasta sauce and a sprinkling of cheese.
  • Heat prepared soups and serve with cold grain salads or whole grain rolls and some fresh salad bar veggies.
  • Make rotisserie chicken wraps – try spinach or whole wheat wraps. Add avocado slices and plenty of salad bar veggies.
  • Make tacos stuffed with canned beans, prepared guacamole and salsa.

You can also take a favorite recipe and “tweak” it for ease and convenience. Here’s what I mean:

  • Roasted Salmon and Grapes – chop fennel or onion and toss with olive oil and salt or a favorite salad dressing. Use as a generous topping for pre-cooked salmon.
  • Chicken Piccata – Simply cook the capers with broth, wine and lemon juice as directed. Add pre-cooked chicken breasts, warm and serve.
  • Colorful Grilled Tofu Sandwiches – make the recipe just as described with marinated, baked tofu. Saves time and tastes great!
  • Brown Rice Salad – If you purchase the veggies from the salad bar and grab a bag of cooked brown rice from the freezer, you can put this recipe together in no time flat.
  • Sautéed Shrimp and Couscous Dinner – Purchase cooked shrimp; toss with ready-to-eat salad greens and your favorite vinaigrette. Serve over couscous and garnish with Parmesan cheese.

What are your tricks and favorite ways to get a healthy dinner on the table quickly? We’d love to know.

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Leslie Banks says …

On the weekends when I have more time to cook, I will make a double-batch of meat sauce or taco filling and freeze half of it. When I need dinner in a pinch during the week, knowing that the sauce or filling just needs to be reheated, I can boil pasta or prep the taco fixings (tortillas, grated cheese, peppers, onions, avocado, etc.), cutting the dinner prep time in half.

donna robey says …

are you going to have anymore cooking shows where you show us what you are making then you give us the recipe . ?

bill says …

We purchased bulk dispensed veggie burger mix in the Chicago area last year. We would like to purchase more but can't remember which store was selling the product we purchased. All we had to do was add liquid to the mix and heat the formed patty and it created a great tasting veggie burger. Also, is the mixture available to purchase from the internet?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@BILL - This sound delicious! I would encourage you to reach out to a store in Chicago to find out if they offer this product as our items vary between regions and store locations. They should be able to tell you the vendor at that time and the vendor might offer the product online. We currently do not offer the sale of our products online. I hope this helps!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@DONNA - We have some great videos on our YouTube site of our series The Secret Ingredient! You can find the videos at http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL337C14846E32622B&feature=plcp. Have fun!

Kmel says …

I recently started to create quick meals. I too have been browning a batch of ground turkey and and creating strips of sauté chicken breast to be used for a variety of meals. My family loves quesadillas and chicken skewers.


Can I get the delicious recipe for the split pea with spinach? I love the soup.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@PATRICIA - It sounds like this is an in-house option. If so, check with your local store to see if they have a recipe to share!