18 Time-Saving Cooking Tips

Get in and out of the kitchen fast with store-bought convenience foods. Learn when you can use certain products and why.
18 Time Saving Cooking Tips

Short on time? Try these kitchen shortcuts.

A colleague of mine doesn't understand why anyone would buy bottled, minced garlic when it takes less than 30 seconds to peel and mince a fresh clove. But she gets home from work by 4 p.m. and has no children. I walk in the door around 7:15 p.m., and I've got kids—three of them all under the age of six. And every second counts.

So I love time-saving foods like frozen chopped onions, sliced pepper strips and already peeled and cubed butternut squash. They're like having my own personal sous chef at my beck and call.

Getting Food on the Table Fast
There are so many great ways to save cooking time without compromising flavor and texture. Bev Bennett, author of 30 Minute Meals for Dummies, gives this advice:

Soups and Stews
  • "Think about the flavor profile of the recipe," Bennett says. Canned tomatoes come in so many flavors—Italian, Mexican, southwestern—which cuts back on your need to add lots of seasonings.
  • Frozen vegetable mixes often come with seasoning packets like Japanese or Chinese, among others.
  • If you do use frozen veggies in a soup or stew, consider cutting back on the recipe's liquid just a little bit since the vegetables thaw and add some extra water. Or just increase your seasonings a touch.
  • Buy frozen chopped vegetables if you plan on pureeing the soup since it won't matter if your broccoli was a big mush in the first place.
  • And definitely use frozen veggies in slow cooker recipes since you're expecting your ingredients to be nice and tender. Plus, you'll save time since your food cooks without you even having to be home.
  • Look for pourable broth in cartons. There's no need for a can-opener, and you'll always have some handy in the fridge.

Baked Meals (Lasagna, Frittatas, Casseroles)

  • Use uncooked regular noodles in lasagna; just make sure they are completely covered by sauce when baking; there's no need to boil them first.
  • You're expecting vegetables to be soft in these kinds of recipes so buying already diced or chopped frozen vegetables makes a lot of sense. Frozen chopped onions and peppers are two of Bennett's favorites.
  • Consider low-fat chicken sausages. They're typically precooked so you just need to slice and toss them in for instant flavor. If you're using vegetables that take a long time to cook or require a lot of prep work, such as diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, water-packed roasted peppers and corn kernels, buy them bottled or canned.


  • Rely on low-fat bottled sauces and dried rubs to flavor meat and vegetables in seconds.
  • Skip frozen vegetables, which tend to go mushy. Instead, purchase precut vegetables found in the produce section of your supermarket; fresh stir-fry kits are popping up all over the place, too.>
  • Save time with already-peeled shrimp (skip frozen, which tend to be watery) and chicken breast slices that are already pounded nice and thin for quick cooking.
  • Serve with quick-cooking or instant rice.

Baking Mixes

  • They're almost foolproof these days and are amazing time-savers. Use baking mixes as is or add a "homemade twist" by adding a fresh ingredient such as chopped walnuts or dried cranberries.
  • You can also do a complete flavor makeover with just one ingredient: Try adding some fresh orange or lemon zest, or a dash of almond or vanilla extract.
  • Forget separating eggs. When a recipe calls for just whites, buy some pourable liquid egg whites instead.


  • Use frozen fruit instead of fresh: There's minimal prep work, less cleanup and no need for ice. Plus, frozen fruit is often more nutritious than fresh fruit since nutrients are locked in soon after picking when the fruit's frozen. "You'll have the equivalent of a very healthy fruit soft-serve," Bennett says.
Free Newsletter Get it now