With the costs of groceries continuing to rise, the question, "What's for dinner?" can be stressful to answer. Add to inflation the very American problem of working long hours with little to no tangible appreciation for work-life balance, and the question becomes even more fraught because now you've got not only to worry about paying for dinner, you've got to worry about the time it takes to prepare it.
If the mere thought of taking the time to cook a meal for the family (or, frankly, even just for yourself) is making your head spin with dread, you're probably better off purchasing a premade dinner. On a financial level, this is seldom the cheapest choice, but time, as they say, is money -- and that's worth saving, too.
You can find some great ready-to-go meals at Costco. Let's see what the experts recommend.
"Hands down this is one of the best prepared food deals to get at Costco, as they're about $5 and make an easy, great main dish for dinner," said Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews. "All you have to do is carve it up and add some sides, which you can readily pick up from Costco while you're there, and dinner is done. Even better, if you're only feeding one or two people, you can eat the juicier pieces like the thighs and legs, and use the chicken breasts for something else, like chicken salad."
Macaroni and Cheese
"It won't be as cheap as the boxed stuff, and it'll take more time to cook since you have to throw it in the oven," Ramhold said. "But you'll be rewarded with a pan full of cheesy goodness that works perfectly as a side dish or even a main, especially if you throw some meat into it (a friend swears by the Johnsonville Beddar with Cheddar smoked sausage with this mac and cheese for a full meal). Plus, you can easily feed two to four people with this pan."
"Lasagna is delicious but super time-consuming to make," Ramhold said. "This Costco rendition of it takes all the hard work out; the lasagna is made up of huge raviolis and topped with a bolognese sauce and shredded cheese. You'll probably spend around $20 for a pan, but you'll get around 4 pounds of food, and easily be able to get three to six meals out of it, depending on how many you're feeding."
Kirkland Signature Stuffed Bell Peppers
"For those looking for an option on the healthier side, Costco has Kirkland Signature Stuffed Bell Peppers made with ground beef and rice that will last a meal or two," said BlackFriday.com shopping expert Kristin McGrath.
Kirkland Signature Yakisoba Stir Fry with Seasoned Chicken
"Another great family pick is the Kirkland Signature Yakisoba Stir Fry at Costco," McGrath said. "This prepared meal comes with all of the ingredients packaged together. Shoppers will just have to throw the ingredients in a pan to cook and they'll have one large stir fry for the family."
"Shopping these can save you a lot of money and timing because you can freeze the meat and thaw it out whenever you need an easy dinner option," McGrath said. "Throw the meat on the grill or heat it up in a pan, and you've got an easy main course or taco filling."
"Pick up some rosemary bread from the bakery while you're at it, and [with the lasagna], you have an easy Italian dinner that just has to be thrown in the oven," Ramhold said.
Meatloaf With Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes
"You can't go wrong with classic meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and once again you're looking at about $18 or so for 4 pounds of food that just needs to be heated," Ramhold said. "The meatloaf comes with a ketchup based sauce, though, so if you prefer brown gravy for yours you may want to skip it. At the same time the potatoes even come with pats of butter on top so you really have to add minimal seasoning to have a hands-off dinner made."
Chicken Street Tacos
"The kit comes with everything you need, including seasoned and cooked chicken, 12 corn tortillas, salsa, cilantro lime crema, lime slices, shredded cheese, and lettuce," Ramhold said. "All you have to do is warm it up and feast; and this is another meal that's about $18 or so, and amounts to about 3 pounds of food. It might not be the best deal compared to some of the other prepared foods, but it's still hard to beat Taco Tuesday made easy."
Chicken Pot Pie
"The chicken pot pies are ridiculously huge -- about five and half pounds or so -- and will set you back around $20 depending on where you shop," Ramhold said. "They're big enough to feed a family or a couple of people for several meals, and the taste is perfect; it's the best chicken pot pie I've had. I refuse to make my own when I can buy this from Costco."
Kirkland Signature Chicken Noodle Soup
"Another great option at Costco is the Kirkland Signature Chicken Noodle Soup," McGrath said. "With allergy season upon us, Costco makes it easy to feel a little better with this quick chicken noodle soup option."
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