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The Value Guru Rewards the Shortcut Chef

Your "Buy-Some-Make-Some" Ideas Could Make you a Winner RotisserieChicken I truly enjoy cooking and I get a decent meal on the table pretty quickly most nights of the week, but I'm not too proud to take shortcuts when my time is especially valuable. And, while going the buy-some/make-some route usually-not always!-costs a bit more than completely homemade, it is still a money saver compared to dining out. So, there are plenty of times when I pick up a rotisserie chicken or pre-cut veggies from the salad bar to help me save time in the kitchen by omitting a few steps in a recipe. What about you? Tell us your tip for using an item from our Prepared Foods department to cut your cooking time and get a meal on the table PDQ. You might win a $100 Whole Foods Market® gift card just in time to help make your holiday meals a little easier, whether you order a complete prepared feast or buy-some/make-some-perhaps starting with a cooked turkey. We'll draw a winner at random from all the tips we receive by the deadline of November 3rd. Remember, if you haven't already, sign up for The Whole Deal e-newsletter. You'll hear from us a few times each month about in-store specials and money-saving tips…and future contests, too. Hope you enjoyed "value contest month" on our blog during October. Tune in to our Facebook and Twitter feeds for more weekly contests throughout the holidays.

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178 comments

Comments

Ray Bryan says …

I will pick up a whole pie from the pizza counter and then make a nice salad to accompany the pizza.

Heather says …

I plan about four meals for the week in advance and go to Whole Foods to buy all the protein, starch and veggies for these meals. I will bring everything home and clean all the protein and freeze what I won't use the for the first two meals. I then clean all the produce so it is ready to go. I love Whole Food's 365 brand brown rice, Near East Rice Pilaf and the Alexia frozen mashed potatoes for side dishes. With all this stocked up I get to be a little more flexible about what we are going to have and mix and match the proteins, veggies and starches depending on our mood that night! Then night 5 can be what we fondly refer to as "Week In Review" where we bring out the leftovers and have our own potluck dinner!

nick says …

On Sundays I cook up a huge batch of beans. Normally, I make chickpeas, black beans, red beans, and pintos. Then I have them all ready to for the week. YUMMY BEANS!

Carol Graham says …

I love to buy the prepared chicken. So easy to toss with pasta and olive oil and then add some of the roasted veggies. Dinner on the table in about 15 minutes and healthy to boot.

Alisa - One Frugal Foodie says …

The fresh made salsa at my Whole Foods is a saviour. I simply pour a container of it over two large boneless skinless chicken breasts in a glass baking dish, pop it in the oven at 350F, and within 30 to 35 minutes, I have perfectly cooked, tender chicken with salsa sauce to serve over brown rice with a side of steamed veggies (pre-cut broccoli if I am really shortcutting it!). A great meal that is also gluten-free and food allergy-friendly! This can also be made in the crockpot. Top the chicken with the salsa in your slow cooker, and fire on low for several hours.

Claire S says …

Can't believe no one said this yet: when cooking brown rice, make extra and freeze in quart freezer bags. Then when you want a quick meal, micro or steam rice, heat a can of your favorite beans (black, pinto, edamame, or black eyed peas are great). Make a big pile: rice, beans, cheese, garnished with any or all of the following: salsa, cherry toms halved, cilantro, pepitas, sliced olives, hot sauce, avocado.... It's all about good garnishes. All-in-one meal! Also I chop an extra onion or two and store in freezer bags in freezer. Always ready! I can't afford to hit the prepared food section at WF so I plan by making Planned-overs! If you have a plan for the week there's no last minute "we're starving" scramble. And three or four slow cooker meals are great to rotate weekly in fall and winter! In summer, grill it!

Diana Doon says …

Stay organized! Write out a meal plan that itemizes the prep for a big meal to a few days ahead, one day before, 3-1 hours prior, etc, and get as much done ahead of time as possible. If the recipe allows, it also helps to measure your ingredients out ahead of time so that you can add everything all at once.

Lekki says …

I know a filling, nourishing breakfast is ideal, but it is tough to find time. I buy the WF premade salads (shrimp, turkey, salmon & dill etc) and have a pot in the fridge - I chuck it in my omelet every morning, so I get some extra protein and flavour. The variety means I don't get bored, and its breakfast ready in 5 mins for me!

Tiffany says …

I always buy larger packages of meat, and then divide and freeze for quick defrosts during the week, but a great trick that I use for sauces is to make more than I need, then freeze them in ice cube trays, then bag the "sauce blocks". Then I just add as needed to a dish I am making later on, and it still tastes great! Also, the pre cut veggies are a lifesaver on weeknights for a quick stirfry! I have found frozen rice in the freezer section, and that comes out perfect in soups!

Blakely Sullivan says …

I use a pressure cooker whenever possible. It can save tons of times (i.e. Risotto in five minutes)! Also, I tend to use prepackaged sauces (i.e. stirfry sauce) instead of making my own, and will occasionally use canned beans instead of homemade, etc.

Robie says …

One pot cooking. I'm a vegetarian so I take handfuls of different veggies and chop them all up one at a time on the same cutting board. I chop the longer cooking veggies first so I can just add them as I go. Once they're all in and cooking I pop a lid on it and clean up. Seasonings and extras like cheese can be added any time. Same can be done with meat lovers, just use a separate cutting board for the meat (and probably sear the meat in the pan before adding any veggies for contamination purposes)

Morgan says …

Homemade sushi for lunch with anything possible as the filling is time efficient. Making a big batch of sushi rice lasts a whole week and its also healthy and delicious.

Robie says …

Ooops! Just saw the entire blog question! Sorry!

Sydney says …

I use my slow cooker! When I know I have a long day ahead, I'll run by WFM, grabs a raw rotisserie chicken, fresh veggies, and some chicken stock. Put in in the slow cooker, come home from work, and dinner is served!

Stephanie says …

I buy things like sides (rice, veggies) from prepared foods and then put that with an herb rotissery chicken at least once a week for dinner. Always a big hit. I like the rosemary potatoes a lot. When I have guest over I buy the olives, beans, etc from the olive bar and serve those before a meal.

Beth Drake says …

I put little hands to work! My daughter is 4 and really likes to help in the kitchen. I took the time to figure out what she really can do to help. There are lots of things besides chopping that can cut my time in the kitchen in half. One of the things she really likes to do is clean up any messes! What a help when she takes a dish towel to the counter after I mix things up. She is also a pretty good little dish washer!

Jenn says …

my go-to item is canned black beans...i usually rinse them before adding them to a meal and use them often as a great source of protein and fiber. A brilliant multitude of recipes can be created using black beans...and having them "pre-cooked" takes out alot of the rinsing/cooking time!

Kika Davis says …

To help save time, I usually pick up my sides and deserts from the pre-made section. Already made coleslaw, rice, greek salad and steamed veggies cut my process in half! And the little pies/cakes/heaven WF creates are the perfect size for my boyfriend and I to share at the end of a long work day.

Gerry P says …

I had unexpected guests staying with me on a Friday night, we had planned for an easy dinner out, but I thought...What am I going to do for breakfast?! After dinner I stopped in to my local Napa Whole Foods and grabbed some roasted veggies from the prepared food area, scooped up some fresh Parmesan cheese and eggs. Voila! My roasted veggie frittata was born! So easy to make with simple ingredients, healthy and filling. Great way to start the morning in the Napa Valley and we were off to take our guests wine tasting.

Ace says …

I open cans-- (low salt, possibly organic, if my budget allows) -- I throw the contents into a big pot -- I add olive oil garlic, spices, rice and lentils, I put the gas on low, I set the timer -- I get outta the kitchen in record time, and do other stuff (pet the cats, sit on the terrace, get on my puter).. Then...DING!! OK!! Chow time!!! (yum!)

Giselle C says …

For baby food, when making it fresh, if you make a lot and then put the extra in an ice cube try and freeze it. You have perfectly portioned servingsg of fresh, homemade baby food! Easy to pop out and take to go, as it is cold.

Zeyna says …

I make chicken stock (concentrated) and freeze in icecube trays and once they're solid frozen, I transfer them in a tupperware and keep them in the freezer. I use the individual cubes whenever the recipe calls for chicken stock. Especially Asian noodle bowls which I love. I also freeze cut up chicken meat in small portions. This saves time quite a bit.

Melissa says …

I love to pick up a rotisserie chicken and make chicken salad.. saves me time and adds great flavor!

Jennifer Palazzolo says …

I always clean and wash dishes/utensils/pots/pans as I go...I never have a HUGE mess at the end :) I also prepare as much as possible in advance!

says …

Recipes vary based on store, so you'll have to check in w/ yours to see if they'll share! :) http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/all/index.php

Carissa says …

When I have some extra time (which is not too often), I stock up on fruits & veggies that are on sale and then wash and chop them to be frozen for later use, when I'm short on time. Otherwise, I spend a bit more to buy pre-chopped fruits & veggies at Whole Foods. For a long time I refused to spend anything extra for someone else to do the chopping that I was capable of doing, but then I realized that it was worth my sanity! Plus, I don't ever throw out unchopped/unused produce now! For that reason, I think buying the pre-chopped goodies actually saves me money!

Brenda R says …

I love the fresh bread from Whole Foods so I pickup a fresh sourdough roll and gut the inside. I get some fresh spiniach dip and presto - all ready for dip for my guest.

Eleanor says …

I have been known to hit the salad bar to put together a quick yummy salad instead of individually purchasing the vegetables. It saves me the time of washing, cutting and chopping!

Leigh Ann says …

The prepared foods dept can save MAJOR time with hard-to-deal-with veggies like acorn and butternut squash and fruits like pineapple. If you're like me, and are short on time but love the taste, the extra investment is more than worth it.

sara says …

I love to use your prepared foods to augment my meals! I buy a few of your items and then make the rest.

Anne says …

On weekends we pick, blanch then freeze the veggies from our garden and store in meal-sized portions to use for recipes during the week. Also whenever we buy meat at the store, we'll separate into meal-sized portions & freeze, usually after marinating for a bit to save time. Then we just put the meat in the fridge the day before we plan to cook it & it's ready to go!

Carolyn Cummins says …

I don't cook a lot but when I do I organize my meal planning based on what needs to be cooked first, or prepared first. If there are ingredients in two dishes I prepare those at the same time. Also, I make a lot of my own green juice and to save time I precut a lot of the veggies and fruit and store them in plastic containers. That way it is quick and easy to pop them in the blender.

Lisa says …

I love buying your premade soups off of the soup bar and then adding pieces of leftover cooked chicken breast or shrimp to it. It makes the soup a heartier meal and I don't throw out my leftovers. Add a baguette and a little bit of salad greens from the salad bar and we have a wonderful, healthy dinner in no time flat.

Becky says …

Buy chicken breasts in bulk/on sale and cook with just olive oil, salt & pepper. Let them cool, remove from bone. I now have cooked chicken ready for soups, tacos, sandwiches, salads, whatever. Or I just freeze it and use as needed

Kim says …

Rotisserie chicken makes a quick dinner with a salad and steamed broccoli. also leftover chicken is turned into chicken salad or chicken ceasar for lunch the next day. also, LOVE the roasted root veggies or cilantro lime rice for a side with grilled fish

Leandra sanchez says …

My family & I are usually always busy running around from school to work and various places. We never stop. But dinner is a time when we actually get to take a break and sit together for a nice meal. Because my parents are busy, preparing an entirely homemade meal is just not possible if we want to eat by 5:00/6:00. So to help make the meal a little easier, my mom or dad, or whoever is free, will drop by whole foods and pick up something for a main dish. This isn't something we do every night, but it's something we do often. We've had pizza, chicken, lasagna, tamales, sandwiches, burritos, and so many other things. With this, we usually end up getting a side if we don't already have it to prepare at home. Not only is this the perfect way to get a meal prepared in half the time or less, but were all able to spend less time preparing and with one another, to then continue on in our busy lives and have been able to spend valuable time together as well as enjoying our meal.

Shonda says …

I used A LOT of onion and garlic in a week, so I tend to buy quite a few onions at a time and I chop them up and keep in the fridge, sometime pre-measured out in 1 cup and 1/2 cup servings. I have also been known to buy the pre-minced garlic in the glass jars, but I always feel guilty about doing this and, honestly, it just doesn't taste as good as fresh garlic.

Lauren says …

If I have time on a Saturday or Sunday I will meal plan for the week. I may even cook some of my meals to start the week off. I will also chop up ingredients I will need for the week, so when the time comes I have it already prepped and save time the day of. Also, if we are going somewhere and I bring a veggie tray, I usually get all my veggies, already chopped and washed from the salad bar. I can customize my tray and I am good to go. Although it costs a little more to do then making myself, it saves a ton of time, plus it's still less expensive than buying a pre-made veggie tray.

Jess says …

I chop veggies as soon as I come home from the grocery store so they're already prepped and ready to go when I am. Makes it really easy to grab a healthy snack of carrots or broccoli. I know a lot of people dont' have time to do that, but since I know I do, it's something easy I can do to save some money - pre-chopped veggies are expensive! But, I have been known to pick them up when I'm short on time too.

Alicia Pearlman says …

One way that I save time when cooking is by cleaning up as I go.

Kathi says …

I stumbled upon a tip when Hatch peppers were in season to coursley chop them and put them into ice cube trays! Eureka! However, the only trays I could come upon were for water bottles...long thin cubes. THEY ARE PERFECT for freezing stuff because you can break it in half easily! Trader Joes sells little tsp containers of garlic and basil. WOO HOO!! I now either buy garlic in bulk and crush in the food processor then put in my bottle cube trays! WHAT a time saver and my garlic is always 'good'!! I use more too! And THAT'S not a bad thing! : )

Daniel says …

Usually, me and a few friends will go to the prepared section and split up items to buy. Kinda of like a pot luck dinner, without the entire cooking time. It's good for us to make time for the occassional dinner, especially with such hectic schedules.

Jesika says …

I love to make omelets for dinner, and they take about ten minutes to whip up with the help of my trusty food processor. We throw big chunks of cilantro, dill, onion, garlic, and anything else we have laying around (chicken, ham, etc.) into a food processor. The processor quickly turns the big bits into an omelet friendly size, and all I've got to do is whisk while the pan heats up. Toss in a few bits of cheese and we've got ourselves a tasty dinner. The whole foods extra large eggs make excellent omelets, very fluffy and about twice the size of an omelet I'd get from standard white eggs.

Hana Echelson says …

When I'm in a rush, I'll get one of your rotisserie chickens from the Prepared Foods area and shred it when I get home. Tacos, sandwiches and salads for four days! Then I take the leftover bones and make a chicken stock out of it which will last even longer. This cuts hours off my normal chicken routine, and the results are fantastic.

Amanda Mae says …

I like to get some Indian food from the prepared section and take it home and make some rice and naan. But my absolute favorite thing to get is the sushi at wholefoods - almost every time I go I pick up a roll for a snack or quick meal. Love it!

Meredith K says …

Rice goes with lots of great stuff, but unless you have a ricemaker or a whole lot of time and patience- it can get ugly trying to make the stuff. I always stop off @ Whole foods to pick up some rice for my fabulous dinners. It is always better than my make-on-top-of-the-stove-and-burn-on-the-bottom instant rice and people usually think I made it myself with a rice maker (shh!). All of the sudden that curry dish or that stir fry I made is actually good! Plus I just shaved tons of time off of my dinner prep (first you have to get the pot, then the water, then you cook it, then you check to make sure it isn't burning, then you have to clean the crusty pot)and cleanup too. I heart whole foods rice!

Jennifer Hill says …

As soon as I get home from Whole Foods I take all my veggies and other ingredients and get them cleaned sliced,diced and ready to go. It's much faster to do all at once then do every single meal. That way it's super easy to cook dinner or grab a healthy snack. I found this works great,especially with getting the kids involved with making healthier choices and helping with meals. It also makes making dinner less of a drain for me and more time to spend doing things I want to do!

Misty Mathews says …

One of my best ways to save time is pre-prep. This applies to everything from when I bring the groceries home to when I cook my meals. When I come home with my groceries, I find that it saves time in the long-run if I go ahead and prep my fresh fruits and vegetables for however I want to cook or eat them, such as chopping, slicing or peeling. I then place them into tupperware containers so they are easy to access when I need them. When I'm actually cooking, I find that if I do my prep work before I start the physical act of cooking on the stove or in the oven, everything comes together more smoothly.

Kristin Engstrom says …

Planning ahead is the biggest time-saver we've found and it also helps us eat healthy. We plan out meals ahead of time and then go to the store to buy the ingredients. It's nice to not have the dreaded "what's for dinner?" question pop up. You go home, make your meal, and life is good!

Dacia says …

I love the Whole Foods butternut crab bisque. It makes a great dinner, especially in one of the WF sourdough bread bowls. Sometimes I'll make my own salad, or get one of the prepackaged WF ones if I'm feeling super busy.

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