When it comes to putting nutritious, great-tasting food on the table, 90 percent of the work is just getting the groceries into the house, and for busy women, this can be a real challenge. But there is a solution: Do one big supermarket run and load up on healthy ingredients that you can stash in your pantry or freezer. When you do the legwork in advance, making dinner becomes less of a chore and more of a relaxing way to end the day.
- Tuna packed in water
In the can or in the pouch, it's a versatile lowfat source of protein. Flake it over pasta and mix with olives, parsley, capers, and a drizzle of olive oil to make a simple, satisfying dinner. Or for a healthy twist on tuna salad, toss with a little olive oil and lemon juice, minced Granny Smith apple, and a pinch of curry powder.
- Canned beans
Keep an assortment of low-sodium organic varieties-black, pinto, chickpeas, kidney, and navy-on hand. Drain and rinse, then add to soup, pasta, green salad, brown rice, quinoa, or couscous. You can also make a quick bean salad by combining one can of beans with chopped peppers (any kind), celery, and a splash of Italian dressing.
- Boxed organic soups
They taste fresh—almost as good as homemade, and obviously they're a million times easier to cook. Add a can of drained and rinsed beans to the soup and you have a fast, light meal. For a heartier dish, toss in frozen vegetables, too.
- Whole-wheat couscous
What's not to love about a pasta that simply needs to soak rather than simmer on the stove? Just add 1 ½ cups boiling water to 1 cup couscous in a bowl, then cover with a plate for 30 minutes. Turn it into a main course by combining with beans, veggies, and toasted nuts. (You can prepare this in advance--it'll keep in the fridge for up to three days in an air-tight container; reheat in the microwave.)
- Frozen spinach
Defrost in a strainer under warm running tap water. Squeeze out water and purée spinach with some chicken or vegetable broth to make a fast soup, or stir it into rice with some sautéed onion and crumbled feta cheese. For a super-easy side dish, microwave a 1-pound package for 60 seconds, add ¼ teaspoon fresh garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, and a dash of salt and ground pepper. Top with some toasted pine nuts and voilà!—almost a day's worth of vitamin A in only two minutes.