Supermarket chains have been quick to react to the recent surge in popularity of meal kits. Produce departments now have colorful walls stocked with prepped ingredients such as cauliflower rice, zucchini noodles, onions, pre-shredded carrots and cabbage. Freezers offer pre-cooked whole grains like brown rice and quinoa. The convenience comes with an added cost. However, getting these whole foods one-step closer to the pan can mean the difference between eating a healthy, home-cooked meal and take-out. Whether you are more of a planner or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants cook, making the most of prepped vegetables can help you eat smart when time is tight.

Here are some tips to making the most of prepped foods from your grocery store:

Chopped butternut squash

Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in a 375°F oven for about 20 minutes until edges are browned. Enjoy as a side dish, toss in a salad, or add to a soup.

Cauliflower rice

Sauté in some olive or coconut oil over medium heat until just softened, about 5 minutes – consume as you would rice. If adding cauliflower rice to a dish, such as a stir-fry, add it as the last ingredient so it does not over-cook. Make mashed “potatoes” by steaming cauliflower rice for 10 minutes and mashing with some garlic oil and salt.

Zucchini noodles

A Living Plate Team favorite! If you love pasta, this is the perfect low-glycemic alternative [see our recent blog post].   The key to perfect zucchini noodles is to remove some of the water that the vegetable has by sprinkling it with some salt and letting the noodles sit for some time to sweat. Drain and dry noodles before sautéing.

Frozen quinoa

It does not take long to defrost and most bags are re-sealable, allowing you to remove a recommended serving at a time. Warm with some almond milk, vanilla, and cinnamon and top with raw nuts or seeds for breakfast. Stir quinoa into soup or add ¼ cup to your salad.