Keep these on hand, and you can make a nourishing meal without turning on the stove.

If there’s any excuse to be dolefully lazy after a long day at work, I usually find it in the wintertime. Between the darkness and the cold, some days it feels like too much work to even turn on the stove. But I still want to eat healthy.

That’s why I’m always looking for ways to take a few ingredients and put together a wholesome meal in the simplest way possible. I sat down with our executive food editor, Ann Taylor Pittman, to discover which ingredients can help you put a meal on the table without having to stand over the oven.

It’s feels like cheating on a balanced diet, but assembling in lieu of cooking your meal can work out in your favor. Especially if it means you’re not ordering takeout for the umpteenth time.

If you’re looking for satisfying meals in the dead of winter, our shortlist of essentials will help you put a meal on the table, regardless of whether you’re in the mood to cook or not.

1) Frozen Ready-to-Eat Shrimp

A big bag of these precooked powerhouses can help you craft many different meals in a flash. The key to using pre-cooked shrimp is to season them with a little bit of salt before rinsing and patting them dry.

Credit: Caitlin Bensel

2) Canned Chickpeas

Credit: Photo: Victor Protasio

One of the heartiest dishes you can put on the table without a lick of heat is a panzanella—a Tuscan salad made with bread and tomatoes. It’s even better with whole chickpeas. Keep a few cans in your pantry and you’ll find that they can take what seems like a boring meal to the next level—and fast.

3) Packaged Bulgur

The key to crafting a no-cook tabbouleh dish is to let your bulgur wheat soak in water overnight. Classic tabbouleh salad is a highly portable dish that you can take with you on the go Our version doesn’t require you to cook anything at all.

4) Pre-Cooked Canned Beets

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

A hallmark of cold month eating is root vegetables, and there’s little heartier than a pre-cooked beet—especially when paired with the robust flavor profile of kale, winter’s best green.

5) Canned Salmon

Credit: Photo: Greg Dupree

Canned salmon is a champion of convenience for any home cook who just wants to throw something together—it provides plenty of DHA and EPA, which are omega-3 fatty acids that not only suppress inflammation but also increase production of anti-inflammatory compounds.

6) Frozen Crabmeat

Credit: Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

Pre-cooked lump crab meat can be easily defrosted and incorporated into a multitude of dishes on the fly. While warming the crab can be easy and delicious, our stuffed avocado recipe comes together in just 10 minutes, even if you don’t choose to sear them.

7) Prosciutto

Credit: Photo: Rachel Johnson

Often substituted for bacon, this salted meat can be used to dress up any dish, sandwich, or salad, and doesn’t require heat whatsoever. Be careful, though—the key with prosciutto is moderation and keeping it to a single serving.

8) Hard Salami

Credit: Rachel Johnson

Another cured meat, salami can be a hearty substitute to cooked protein and can make lunch a pleasurable occasion. It can also be the star of your snack dinner, too.

9) Rice Noodles

Credit: Rachel Johnson

You might immediately think noodles need to be cooked, but not brown rice noodles (also known as Maifun). And nothing is quite as comforting as a bowl of noodles that do not require you to boil a pot of water.

10) Kale

Credit: Greg DuPree

There’s a laundry list of health perks when it comes to kale—beta-carotene, antioxidants, potassium, vitamins A and C, fiber, iron, and calcium. Another perk? It is winter’s in-season green that can stand up to a lot of different flavor profiles, and you can eat it raw.
Make this: Creamy Kale Caesar Salad with Soft-Boiled Eggs