Listen, I love my Capsule Kitchen. It’s a smart and easy way to get good food on the table, meal after meal. But there are times we get home late, haven’t made a plan, and need to make dinner starting from zero.
These are the nights I’m tempted by Seamless and GrubHub’s siren call. Instead, I’ve developed my own eat-in plan, so that take-out remains a treat, not the easy fallback when the going gets tough.
So that I’m never completely at a loss, here are some of the packaged foods I keep on hand.
1) Asha Noodles: We almost always reach for a packet of Asha noodles when we come back from vacation or a long weekend away, and there’s little in the fridge. I just throw in some frozen veggies, add flavorful toppings, and call it a day.
We love this brand because the ingredient list is so short—just five ingredients for the noodles and sauce: wheat flour, salt, soy sauce, sesame paste and sesame oil. We use these noodles to make our Quick Ramen Salad, but sometimes I make it even easier. It’s warm, soul-satisfying food in minutes.
2) Vegetable Dumplings: My kids loves them, and since I nearly always have cooked rice in the fridge, I serve them up with steamed rice, and green peas. My husband and I enjoy them too, when we serve them with extra toppings like chili crisp, chopped cilantro, thin-sliced scallions, and a drizzle of sesame oil.
3) Burgers: Veggie, Bean, or Impossible: On Planetarian Life, we have a great bean burger recipe that our whole family loves. I usually keep a stash in the freezer, but I’ve always got a back-up Impossible burgers or veggie burgers. I know plant-based meats aren’t for everyone, and there are some great veggie burgers I love— Actual Veggies, for one—that can quickly transform a salad into a main course.
4) Basil Pesto: We’re obsessed with pesto, a big Essential in the Capsule Kitchen. We offer four variations on the site. It’s rare I don’t have at least a jar of one of them in the fridge, but I am never without store-bought pesto in reserve. If you’ve got pesto, Vegetable Pasta Pesto is as simple as boiling pasta and prepping a vegetable. Our whole family loves it.
5) Naan Breads: We always keep naan breads in the freezer to bulk out meals and serve alongside curries, but they make a great canvas for a quick, weeknight pizzas too!
6) Pizza Crusts: Since we’re rarely without Simple Tomato Sauce, cheese—plant-based and dairy—and easy toppings (frozen spinach and roasted red peppers, for example) a frozen pizza crust makes a quick “spread and top” dinner all of us enjoy.
7) Morning Star Sausages: When I don’t know what’s for breakfast, I fire up a skillet and toss in a few patties or links. With toast and fruit, we’re covered. We love the Morning Star brand, but there are many others out there. Check out what your local grocery store carries.
8) Pre-Seasoned Baked Tofu: They come in flavors ranging from sriracha to teriyaki, and I often buy a package for tossing into salads, stir-fries, and simple rice dishes. Planetarian Life tofu is easy, but when you need it immediately, seasoned tofu is nice to have on-hand. Heat it through or even enjoy it cold.
9) Thai Curry Paste: Not knowing what to cook for dinner the other night, I found a jar or Thai curry paste, which I added a pot, along with a can of coconut milk and a carton of vegetable stock. I brought it to a simmer, added soy sauce and what vegetables I had on hand as well as some cubed tofu, and served it over rice. My husband declared it the best meal he’d had in a long time. Fast doesn’t always mean sacrificing quality or flavor.
10) Packaged Dal: It’s easy enough to make, but when noon rolls around and you’re wondering what’s for lunch, a package of dal can be just the ticket. Top with some cilantro, serve with a piece of the aforementioned naan, and you’ve got a nourishing plant-based lunch.