Pantry Tips to Eat Well with Minimum Time and Effort

July 16, 2022


Do you want to know the secret to our last-minute gourmet lunch in Seattle I covered in last two posts?

  1. Pre-prep some versatile base, and keep it in fridge or freezer.
  2. Build a efficient and versatile pantry that’s easy to mix and match to whip up different dishes.

I talked about Stuffed Tomatoes last time, so let’s talk about the rest — Bruschetta with Olive Tapenade and Farmer’s Market Salad with chickpeas.

The Olive Tapenade we used was from Trader Joe’s, but you can easily make it.  Great use of leftover olives from a jar.  If you want to know how to make it, click here. It’s packed with umami, boosts  flavor of many things, such as pasta, sauce, salad dressing, on top of meat, fish, etc etc.

Another big time-saving is that we had all the French bread pre-sliced thin, and toasted, again ready to go.  This “Ready to Go” concept is pretty powerful.  When you do have things in this state, you use them.  When you don’t, you don’t, and end up wasting it.

By just reading it, you’d think “Of course I know that, Mari!”  But when you actually pre-prep some extra, keep in the fridge (or freezer), and experience how convenient they are, you’ll really KNOW what I mean and get hooked with this method.  It’s because when our mind sees it as work we have to do, it convince us “Gosh, too much work!  I don’t wanna do this.”  However, when it’s already done, it will tell us “Oh, look!  It’s already done for me, ready to be used. I should use it!”  Shall I call it the “Convenience Factor”?

When there are more baguette rounds than you can use in a few days, they can even go in the freezer to extend their shelf life and be ready to be used for last minute appetizers and lunch.  With these, and pre-caramelized onion in the freezer, you can make a beautiful French Onion soup, just like those you have in Paris in 1o minutes, instead of hours! Thanks to this trick, I can make it throughout the year, when it’s freezing in the middle of the summer in the Bay Area.

Oh yes, the farmer’s market salad.  All you need are assortment of chopped vegetables, a can of chickpeas, and lettuce.  We used cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots, just because we had them, but it could be anything you have in the fridge.  Cherry tomatoes and baby carrots require virtually no chopping.  If you are short with time, always keep them instead of regular tomatoes and carrots.

These pre-cut cucumbers from the day before also cut our prep time.  Here’s the Kitchen Wizard Tip.  Regular American cucumber have very thick, waxy skin, and huge seeds, so both pretty much need to be removed — meaning extra time prepping.  If you use English cucumber, or better yet, Japanese or Persian cucumbers which has thinner skins and smaller seeds, you can save that time and effort.  They also have lower water content, so they seem to last a bit longer, especially after they are sliced. Because of this, you never see a regular, American cukies in my fridge.

A can of chickpeas is very handy.  All you have to do is open a can and drain.  They add good fiber and protein, and delicious. Good in salads, soups, curry…  Yes, with it, you can make hummus at home!  (I’ll post a recipe soon.)


As you see, what kind of produce you use often determine how much prep you’d end up with.  So when you go shopping, think from efficiency and versatility stand-point, and select accordingly. You’ll be glad you did.  As a rule of thumb, think small and thin when you want to save time, because they require in no (or less) chopping and shorter cooking time.  Keep these versatile produce (and of course, pre-prepped items) in your fridge, so that you can make many different things in very short notice.

For more pantry tips, check out this post.

What do produce do you keep in your fridge that save you time and effort?  Share your favorite with the world!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Sumon July 26, 2022 at 6:43 pm

wow @ Great @ Thanks for share this !

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