You can give yourself half a pat on the back for at least attempting to put a wholesome meal on the table tonight without resorting to takeout or fast food.
Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

It’s the tail end of the longest week of your life – whether you’re fresh off a business trip, grueling work hours, family holiday celebrations, or just desperate for a vacation from the vacation you just took.

We’ve all been there, and unfortunately, we all know too well the shortcuts we inevitably take when it comes down to our comfort and the exhaustion of whipping up a gourmet meal.

But before you go all gung-ho on ordering massive amounts of takeout or finding yourself in a drive-thru at the latest hours of the night, we have a solution. What if you were able to “sorta” make a wholesome, nutritious meal?

Meaning that there are some amazing recipes that call for ingredients you can simply pick up at your local market, pre-made. And the finer details and other small prep can be done in a flash, and suddenly you don’t feel bad at all for devouring a meal after the longest day of your life.

Don’t pack on the guilt after the stress of whatever it is you find yourself reeling from – simply doctor up the supermarket’s pre-made or prepared offerings to your advantage while you pick up a few fresh staples as well. You’ll find yourself unwinding with a delicious (mostly home-assembled) meal that won’t wreck your day any further.

Follow along as we offer you the best ways to combine store-bought ready ingredients and fresh staples for your next faux home cooked meal:

1) Chicken and Couscous Salad

A few fresh vegetables can transform rotisserie chicken and boxed couscous into a wonderfully fresh and light meal that is made in minutes.

2) Chicken and Butternut Gnocchi 

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

Prepared boxed gnocchi is a fast cook’s dream and will mix very well with bottled pesto that you can find at your local market. If you're lucky, you might even find pre-peeled and cubed butternut squash to save even more time on this hearty dish. 

3) Romaine Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

The classic crunch of romaine lettuce is the jumping off point of the fastest yet tastiest meal you can pick up in a flash. Customize this basic salad by using other prepared foods, like fruit, different cheese such as blue or goat, or even precooked frozen proteins that you can quickly assemble.

4) Bistro Dinner Salad

Credit: Lee Harrelson

This has all the elegant hallmarks of restaurant-quality salad and the ingredients can all be sourced from packaged supermarket lines: fresh-toasted walnuts, soft-cooked eggs, crumbled bacon, tangy blue cheese, and crunchy diced pear―but it takes just 10 minutes or so to assemble. 

5) Steak and Tomato Panzanella

A panzanella is an amazing way to feel like you're eating a handcrafted meal but really is assembled thanks to baguette and quickly chopped tomato and basil. This recipe will come together in a pinch and you can even nix the steak if you're pandering for something lighter than usual. 

6) Chicken and Prosciutto Salad with Arugula and Asiago

Credit: Photo: Johnny Autry

Rotisserie chicken is going to be the best highlight of this amazingly fast salad that is also accentuated by strips of salted prosciutto, which can be acquired after a quick trip to the deli counter.

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

Dinner doesn’t get much easier, or more fun, than sheet pan nachos. The pan does double duty: Toast the chips first, then pile high with toppings and return to the oven to melt the cheese and heat everything through. And rotisserie chicken will definitely do the trick here.

The star of this simple salad is precooked shrimp cocktail that you can easily find at any market, and the accompanying flavors all work together to make this dinner so worth the 15 minutes it takes to put together. 

Credit: Photo: John Autry

Nova lox can be the greatest shortcut for more than just a breakfast plate – this effortless sandwich is basically a riff on Hawaii's beloved lomi-lomi salmon, a salad of salted fish and tomatoes.

Credit: Photo: Randy Mayor

Throw these ingredients all together in a sheet pan, into the oven and voila, you have dinner. And these ingredients can definitely all be found ready-to-roll in your local market as well.