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Store-Bought Shortcuts: What's Worth It, What's Not
Food & Drink
Guacamole: Worth it. Making this chips-and-salsa accompaniment from scratch is easy, but smooth, creamy, good-for-you avocados can be pricey (as much as $2.50 each). Plus, it's often hard to find perfectly ripe ones at the store.
Wholly Guacamole sells two 7-ounce packages for $5.49, which, depending on the current price of avocados, can be a steal. The company uses high-pressure processing to extend the product's shelf-life—and it also just started selling 100-calorie individual packs.
Frozen Corn: Worth it. While the freezer's arctic chill can destroy some vegetables (Brussels sprouts, carrots, asparagus), others hold up amazingly well. Corn is one of them, considering this summer veggie may only be in season for two short months, depending on where you live.
Thawed corn isn't as crunchy as fresh, but it's just as sweet, and it defrosts much more quickly than a big block of iced broccoli. Whole Foods now carries organic bicolor, fire-roasted, yellow and white varieties that are perfect for soup, chowder and salsa
Pre-peeled Garlic: Not worth it. Often sold in pint-size containers, the cloves may taste fine the first time you use them (and they'll certainly come in handy if you're making a dish that requires, say, an entire head of garlic).
Unfortunately, if you use only one or two cloves and then come back a week or so later to grab more, you'll find they've deteriorated into tasteless bulbs. Peeling one or two for dinner isn't difficult: Either whack them on a cutting board with a wooden spoon or the flat part of a chef's knife.
Shredded Carrots: Not worth it (for cooking). The julienned carrots you'll find in a bag in the produce aisle may be perfect for baking a carrot cake. But if you're planning to use the vegetables in a cooked dish most require smaller cuts. So your better off shredding your own with a box grater.