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9 Most Useful Ingredients You’re Skipping at the Grocery Store

Think outside the box with these common grocery store ingredients. They'll help you shortcut your way into a quick and easy weeknight dinner.

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Abstract blur supermarket in shopping mall and store interior for backgroundShutterstock / Stockforlife

We all have those busy days where it seems impossible to put a home-cooked meal on the table. (Not every day can be pot roast day!) Instead of opting for take-out, look to these pantry staples instead. They’re easy to keep on-hand, and they make perfect starters for last-minute meals.

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Homemade tart pie preparationShutterstock / GreenArt

Refrigerated Pie Crust

Obviously, this one is great for last-minute pies and desserts, but there’s a whole world of savory dishes you can make with refrigerated pie crust. Whip up a quiche for brunch in no time, or make mini chicken empanadas for an after school snack. The sky’s the limit!

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chutney sauce made from red plum and apples.Shutterstock / Lyudmila Mikhailovskaya

Jarred Chutney

You probably have a few jars of marinara sauce on hand, but you might be overlooking jarred chutney. It’s an incredibly versatile ingredient used for everything from glazing meats to adding depth to roasted vegetables. You can also give it a try as a quick-and-easy appetizer spread.

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Japanese ramen noodle with chicken, shiitake mushroms and egg in black bowlShutterstock / Anna Shepulova

Ramen Noodles

Everyone knows that dried pasta is the quickest shortcut to make a savory Italian dinner, but did you know you can use ramen noodles for more than just soup? I always keep a packet on hand for one of these ramen recipes that go above and beyond.

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Chicken nuggets and sauce on a wooden backgroundTimolina/Shutterstock

Frozen Chicken Nuggets

That box of chicken nuggets can be so much more than an after school snack for the kids. Substitute frozen chicken nuggets for any recipe that calls for breaded chicken, like this chicken nugget casserole that tastes just like Chicken Parmesan. You can also make some pretty tasty sliders with those nuggets!

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Traditional Latin American mexican salsa  saucenadianb/Shutterstock


Almost any recipe that calls for canned tomatoes will turn out more flavorful if you use salsa instead! It’s also a great shortcut to have on hand for making Mexican Chicken Soup, and it’s a great way jazz up the rice for your Taco Tuesday dinner.

(There’s more you can do with a jar of salsa.)

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Various types of canned beans in black bowl on wooden tablebigacis/Shutterstock

Canned Beans

Dried beans are great when you remember to soak them, but somehow I never do. So, I always keep a few jars of black beans, cannellini beans and kidney beans in the pantry. We love cooking with canned beans so much, we came up with 100 great ways to use them.

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Tortellini Italians seen closely.Shutterstock / Ivano de Santis

Premade Tortellini or Ravioli

Premade tortellini or ravioli are perfect for those nights when you’re craving savory lasagna or cheesy pasta but don’t have the time to pull it together. Toss them with some sausage and your favorite jarred tomato sauce, Alfredo sauce or pesto to make an easy comforting meal.

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Pizza dough with ingredients and tomato sauce served on rustic wooden table.Shutterstock / Jag_cz

Frozen Pizza Dough

Pizza is not only easy to make at home, but it’s fun for the whole family! This is my go-to last minute meal because I always have some kind of tomato sauce, cheese and toppings on hand. You can also use grocery store pizza dough to make Stromboli or calzones.

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Grilled chickens on a spitShutterstock / Anton Watman

Rotisserie Chicken

Even if you already have dinner plans, pick up a rotisserie chicken from the deli. You can shred the leftover meat to make any number of weeknight dinners, like rice bowls, tacos, pizza toppings or casseroles. And, you can use those bones to make homemade chicken stock, too!

Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.
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