10 Store-Bought Cooking Shortcuts and Labor Day Recipes #SundaySupper

10 Store-Bought Cooking Shortcuts and Labor Day Recipes #SundaySupper

No Labor Recipes #SundaySupper

Here at Sunday Supper, we are fans of store-bought cooking shortcuts. The grocery store is full of such convenience products and we embrace them as the help we need to get dinner on the table quickly. We would rather spend our time on dishes where scratch-cooking really shines.

We also like convenience products on holidays like Labor Day, when we want time to spend with family and friends, rather than over a hot stove. The Sunday Supper tastemakers did their work in advance to come up with a enticing menu of no-work holiday recipes for today. They want to kick back today.

Convenience products often get a bad rap as being unhealthy. Read labels. There are low-fat and low-sodium versions of many products. Almost everything on the market has an organic or natural version. Be a diligent shopper to get what you want.

Here is a list of 10 store-bought shortcuts that are worthy time-savers.

Canned tomates. Of course canned tomatoes aren’t appropriate for salads or sandwiches, but they are plenty flavorful for soups and stews, pasta sauces and casseroles. Tomatoes are usually canned at the peak of flavor.

Stock/broth.  Chicken, beef, vegetables and even seafood stocks and broth stand in well for homemade. There is a slight different between the two. Both are made by leaching flavor from bones, meat, herbs and vegetables in simmering water. The mixture is strained and the solids discarded, leaving a flavored liquid. Here’s the difference between the two: Stock is unseasoned and bland on its own. Broth is seasoned and can be sipped by itself. That’s about it.

Pie crusts. For the pie crust challenged or people in a hurry, frozen or refrigerated crusts are a welcomed helping hand. You can buy crusts already formed for pies or quiches, or purchase dough sheets that can be used for smaller jobs (individual pot pies, hand pies, etc.) or to line your own pie plates (when you don’t want the aluminum). Time-savers, for sure.

Pumpkin puree. People who make pumpkin puree from scratch are often disappointed. There is a lot of work to prepare the pumpkin and if you don’t have the right kind of pumpkin (small over large carving pumpkins), you might end up with a watery mess. Canned puree is consistent. Read the label carefully. It should say “pure pumpkin” not “pumpkin pie filling.” It’s easy to mistake one for the other.

Mashed potatoes. This might seem culinary blasphemy for those who are known for their creamy mashed potatoes. But not all of us are. Check the labels on refrigerated mashed potatoes. Look for ones that say potatoes, cream, butter, salt, and that’s about it. That’s what’s in homemade mashed potatoes. Doctor them how you want, but give them a try. Especially in a pinch.

Barbecue sauce. There are dozens of BBQ sauce on the market to fit all tastes. Making one from scratch is time consuming and expensive, especially when the recipe calls for 5 pounds tomatoes. Unless you are growing them or the bounty is plentiful, that’s a costly ingredient. The time-money factor plus all the choices, make store-bought worth it.

Pasta Sauce. Pasta sauces can be doctored to your tastes. (I often add some red wine.) There are so many choices that you should be able to find one to fit your needs. Jarred sauces are a tasty and economical alternative to scratch … unless you live with Mama Leone.

Rotisserie chicken. Roasting a chicken is a skill every cook should master. But the rotisserie bird is a handy base for salads, soups, quesadillas, burritos, and any number of other dishes. An average-size chicken will yield about 3 1/2 cups of white and dark meat.

Canned beans. If you have a pantry loaded with canned beans you’ve got a lot of versatility. Add them to soups and salads for fiber and flavor. They can be pureed for dips. Even pasta and baked casseroles benefit from legumes. Rinse and drain them before using and you will alleviate some sodium.

Cake mixes. Ditto brownie mixes. The mixes are good to have if you need to make a quick treat to bring to the office or a school function. But the beauty of them is that they can serve as the basis for other types of cakes.

Need more ideas on how to save time in the kitchen? Join the Sunday Supper crew at 7 p.m. ET tonight when we dish on no-work entertaining. Here are this week’s recipes guaranteed to save you time but win you lots of compliments.

Savory Snacks and Sides:

Labor Free Main Dishes:

Sweet Treats and Drinks:

Labor Free Labor Day:


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Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

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Janet K. Keeler

Award-winning journalist Janet K. Keeler was the longtime food and travel editor of the Tampa Bay Times in St. Petersburg, Fl. She is now an assistant professor of journalism and food writing at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Janet retired from daily newspaper journalism in April 2015, ending a 35-year career. She has been a news reporter, copy desk chief, and features editor. She is also the author of “Cookielicious: 150 Fabulous Recipes to Bake & Share,” which was published in 2010 by Seaside Publishing.


  1. Great list of store-bought shortcuts and fabulous lineup of “no labor” recipes.

  2. LOVE all these recipes! And such terrific shortcuts, too. I use them all except the pie crust 🙂

  3. Refrigerated mashed potatoes are lower glycemic so actually very healthy! And canned tomatoes are always a life saver in winter. Makes good salsa too!

  4. I keep most of these handy, already. Great list!

  5. Great list here. All (but one) of which I have definitely used either on a regular basis or in a pinch.


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