We love a good shortcut, especially in the kitchen. Nothing beats Instant Pot cooking, sheet pan recipes and the entire bottled sauce section at Trader Joe’s is filled with time-saving magic. But some kitchen shortcuts actually make life harder, food less delicious and can be unnecessarily expensive.
Real Simple went to work to make a list… and these are a few pre-made “shortcut” foods that you shouldn’t waste your time or money on, unless you’re into being disappointed.
● Bottled lemon or lime juice – Steer clear of the lemon and lime juice that comes out of the fruit-shaped squeeze bottles because it’s nothing like the fresh-squeezed stuff. Pre-squeezed juice doesn’t age well, so they load those with lots of preservatives and sulfites.
● Pre-minced garlic – This stuff also isn’t nearly as good as the little cloves we love to eat, but hate to chop. Jarred garlic tends to be more potent and has a “bitter kick” to it, so avoid it and use a garlic press if you’re not a fan of mincing fresh garlic by hand.
● Oatmeal packets – Instant oatmeal packets are pricey and loaded with sugar. Plus, cooking up a bowl of oats is easy and you can add anything you want to it without eating half your sugar for the day.
● Guacamole – The store-bought stuff just isn’t nearly as tasty as the real thing. But in a pinch, like when all the avocados at the grocery store are as hard as rocks, we’ll give you a pass on buying a tub from the deli counter.
● Dried herbs – Fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro and basil help upgrade the flavor of a dish, but their dried counterparts? Not so much.
● Bottled salad dressing – There are lots of good ones that aren’t filled with chemicals, but they may be loaded with added sugar and preservatives or be expensive. Whipping up a dressing from scratch is quick and easy and almost always healthier.