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Packaged Mixes, Sauces, Spices & Boxed Items You Use

I know some of you don't like to touch these items because of all the additives & preservatives, but sometimes I think it helps the budget to purchase them on occasion.

I heard Knorr hollandaise sauce is good. I sometimes buy the spaghetti sauce package & packaged corn bread mix that makes one batch since I do not eat cornbread very often & having a large container of cornmeal sitting around would take forever for me to use.

Also, instant potato flakes can be added to thicken different things, although have not tried it.

Seems to me if we stuck to the name brands, it would not be too bad.

Italian blend seasoning is a big help to me - no need to buy individual bottles of each individual herb.

What do you purchase to save time & money?

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  1. I use the Knorr hollandaise with asparagus and a dish I call 'pork Felix'. It's like steak Oscar but with pork tenderloin, topped with spokes of asparagus and snow crab.

    1. I use Jiffy corn bread mix on occasion. Zatteran's rice pilaf. Krusteaze pancake mix (can make small portions easily!). And, although I rarely admit it, Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit mix. So bad for me. So salty. So tasty.

      1 Reply
      1. re: YvonneChristine

        I use Morrison's pancake & cornbread mix. Have seen several Krusteaze products but have never tried them. Do you use any other krusteaze products?

        The Cheddar Bay biscuit mix sounds mighty good too.

      2. We like the Marie Calendar's corn bread mix.

        I buy packaged Italian dressing mix to make cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches. But I don't use it to make dressing, go figure.

        I buy taco seasoning in the big bottle from Costco. Tacos and burritos are a quick weeknight after a long day at work meal for us, so it's easier for me to dump in some of that as opposed to spending 5 minutes measuring out individual spices.

        I use some MDH and Shan brand prepackaged spice blends from the indian store. They are very good and a good change from my usual indian cooking. I keep. Italian seasoning in hand because I like to sprinkle some on top of my homemade pizza before baking.

        I use things once in a while like the Knorrs hollandaise mix or jiffy corn muffin mix just they aren't things I keep on hand. I only buy them if I'm making something particular, but I'd say I purchase those 2-3 times a year.

        3 Replies
        1. re: boogiebaby

          tI was wondering if anyone else buys the package salad dressings & doctors them up with fresh herbs or other things. Seem like they would be a good base to start out with.

          1. re: cstout

            I use mine (I'm assuming we're talking Good Seasons Italian and the like?) as a flavoring for meat, either directly sprinkled on or in a marinade. Never for dressing anymore. I have a few gallon size bags so they will last me until the day I'm gone. It has a very nice "flavor profile".

            1. re: cstout

              Subbing lemon juice for the vinegar is a nice change up.

          2. I use a line of Indian simmer sauces and sometimes prepared salsa.

            1. Carbon's Golden Waffle/Pancake mix. I buy very few boxed things. I do buy pasta sauce after reading the label. So many pre-made things are so full of sugar that it is terrible. I never use the Jiffy mix, that is chocked full of sugar.

              1. Taco spices! I've used the McCormick packet for forever and, while I love labor intensive tacos, I've also got those packets in the cupboard.

                1. Hidden Valley ranch dressing, Lipton onion soup and some kind of taco seasoning mix. I don't use them that often but they are nice to have on hand for extra seasoning or to make dips rather than the intended use.

                  1. I'm also a Lipton Onion Soup mix user (for my oven beef brisket) and Hidden Valley Ranch mix (dip, chicken cutlet or hamburger seasoning). They're both salt bombs, and I haven't even read the ingredients list lately, but the results they produce are very yummy.

                    1. Uncle Ben's Long Grain and Wild Rice, original recipe. It rocks.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: bitchincook

                        Uncle Ben's Long Grain & Wild Rice mix - oh yes!

                        Here's my recipe that everyone loves - so simple.

                        Cornish Game Hen with wild rice stuffing
                        (one bird will serve 2 people)

                        Wash & split the bird down the back & breast so you have 2 halves. Place skin side up in a smallish glass casserole dish, room enough for both halves plus enough room to spread the rice around the birds without covering them with the rice. Oil skin all over with olive oil & a bit of softened butter. Season with paprika, Krazy Jane salt or whatever seasonings you like.

                        In the mean time empty rice & seasoning mix in a sauce pan with one can of chicken broth. I use Swanson's. Add some pats of butter, finely chopped celery plus leaves, poultry seasoning, chopped green onion tops & cook to where almost all liquid is absorbed, but want to leave kinda moist so rice does not dry out during baking. Spoon rice around the birds & bake in 350 degree oven. Check to see if rice is drying out, if so, can add more water or broth. The birds will give off some wonderful juices to blend into the rice mixture too.

                        Serve with cold whole cranberry sauce & roasted asparagus spears, glass of wine & some crusty bread. Ambrosia is good for dessert, but after this meal, I am stuffed.

                        1. re: cstout

                          Thanks for that, I have some in the pantry and never could think what to do with it. I have way too many rices on my shelf! This sounds like something my husband would love.

                          I have some regular split breasts in the freezer; there you go, a free meal!

                          1. re: coll

                            You will need extra broth since the chicken breasts will not provide much juice.

                            Also there are some very good chicken & wild rice soup recipes out on the internet. I will try to find the one I use.

                            1. re: cstout

                              Oh man, hope I remember for next winter. I made enough chicken soup this year that I could have used up the whole box (and it's restaurant size!) I like to change up the starches.

                        2. re: bitchincook

                          UB's wild rice was a staple growing up and I still use it to this day. I substitute one can of beef consommé for one can of water - I'll always love it.

                        3. Dry Italian seasoning, curry powder, sometimes Jiffy corn bread, soup base/bullion paste. Otherwise I usually make things from scratch. The curry powder in the tin works well for some of the British uses of curry powder. For actual Indian food I make the spice mixes as needed from what is in the spice stash.

                          1. Jiffy cornbread mix (have tried a million recipes from scratch, but the stuff in the box is what I'm after and I can never replicate it.)

                            Hot sauce (Cholula)

                            Lawry's seasoning salt (so good on fried potatoes)

                            Ghirardelli brownie mix

                            Pancake mix (I keep in the freezer and use for late night 1-or-2-pancake cravings)

                            Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce

                            Lipton Onion Soup mix (I don't care what anyone says--stirred into sour cream and eaten with Ruffles, that stuff is the best)

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: nothingswrong

                              Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce - I always doctor it up so it is not too sweet. Add in juice of 2 lemons plus the rinds, finely chopped onion, splash of vinegar, maybe some picante V8 juice to thin down a little & some butter. Cook slow & taste as you go until you have the flavor you are looking for.

                            2. Better Than Bouillon, MSG laden chicken stock powder, Swanson Chicken Broth in a can, tomato paste in a tube, canned roasted tomatoes, Tapatío sauce, Huy Fong Chile-Garlic sauce, Shan Masalas, Tony Chachere, Paul Prudhomme Pizza Masala are some items that I typically have on hand for various dishes.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: luckyfatima

                                Your prepared food list looks like mine! I have a lot of MSG chicken stock powders around too. I cook a lot of Asian and Latin cuisines and there really are not substitutes that are similar in flavor.

                                What is paul prudhomme pizza masala? What kind of things do you use it for?

                                1. re: luckyfatima

                                  Don't you think most of us use thing like Tapatio, chile-garlic, etc? I have Costco/Kirkland chicken STOCK on hand for when I just need a small amount and haven't thawed any. I have used a prepared pasta sauce in years. For me anyway it's just as easy to make.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    I don't know what most people have. I use the Tapatío and chile-garlic as repurposed seasonings in random stuff, so that was what made me think of it. Like putting a dash of Tapatío in cauliflower mashed potatoes.

                                    Sedimental: I just call it pizza masala for fun but it is just that Paul Prudhomme Pizza Pasta Magic spice medley. I just sprinkle it on pizza, in tomato soup, etc., or like this week I had zucchini spiral noodles in red tomato sauce and sprinkled some on top. It's like a blast of commercial faux-Italian pizza-esque savoriness.

                                    1. re: luckyfatima

                                      I just meant that I doubt many of us consider that type thing as "packaged" and I doubt many of us make them from scratch :)

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        I agree, many of the items in this thread I don't consider "packaged." Panko? It's pretty difficult to make that at home.

                                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                                          Chuckle. I'd wondered about panko also!

                                        2. re: c oliver

                                          I do make a lot of chile based sauces at home. Also, it's common in desi Chinese recipes to have to first soak dried red chiles and grind them, but I just use Huy Fong chile-garlic sauce instead even though it has a sour vinegar under taste. It saves time.

                                    2. re: luckyfatima

                                      with the exception of the Paul Purdhomme spice mix, your list is similar to mine, I'll Add Stubb's Bar-B-Q spice rub
                                      love that stuff when I don't have time/list of ingredients to make my own

                                    3. Not necessarily pre-packaged in the traditional sense, but I keep all the crumbs from potato chip and pretzel bags, and then use them in my meatloaf or meatballs.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        That's a cool idea, an amount that small would probably be good combined in breading too.

                                      2. Canned beef vegetable soup to be used in meat loaf. Tastes better than it sounds. Oh my.

                                        1. I can (and do) make my own hollandaise. But I buy Knorr Bearnaise and hollandaise because it's easy, and because there's less butter per serving than in real hollandaise.

                                          At least twice a year (summer and winter holidays) I whip out the Lipton Onion Soup mix and add it to sour cream to re-create a childhood favorite. We pass potato chips and also Ritz crackers with this mess.

                                          I recently gave in to a hankering for Swedish meatballs (another childhood thing). The McCormick seasoning/sauce mix packet sang its siren song and I got it. The fragrance was remarkable and the meatballs and sauce disappeared in record time.

                                          1. We keep on hand a mix for white country gravy, the kind for sausage and gravy biscuits and chicken fried steak. Sometimes it's just easier to use a mix packet. (Actually, this is used at the cabin more than at home.)

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: John E.

                                              White country gravy - I sometimes add a little canned cream instead of the boiling water it calls for, just makes it more flavorful.

                                            2. I can get some very good Thai curry paste blends - particularly the green curry paste and hot and sour soup paste. As it's hard for me to find lemon grass, galangal and kafir lime leaves, it's not worth making my own.

                                              We always have Japanese curry and cream stew blocks on hand for quick meals.

                                              I always keep bouillon cubes on hand - I like a mix of shitake and chicken for a hot drink in winter.

                                              At one point I found Swiss Chalet dipping sauce mix packets when on a visit, which were wonderful - I love that stuff.

                                              1. Panko Bread Crumbs - use on top of all kinds of things plus use as fillers in meat balls, meat loaf, salmon patties
                                                & on & on.

                                                Anyone else Zataran's boxed mixes?

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: cstout

                                                  I bought some assorted Zataran's at a really cheap price, but they were SO salty. And I'm not one to usually complain about salt.

                                                  1. re: coll

                                                    I bought a box of Zataran's red beans & rice a long time ago & it was a complete flop, the red beans stayed shriveled & the taste was not good at all, but maybe it was an old box or something.

                                                    The yellow rice looks so good, but have not tried that.

                                                    1. re: cstout

                                                      I've heard that Vigo's makes a very nice yellow rice. Probably in the Spanish section, if they have it.

                                                      1. re: coll

                                                        I love that Vigo yellow rice and have been eating it for years. Widely available here in the "Midwest" with the other flavored rice mixes at the store.

                                                        1. re: coll

                                                          love Vigo's yellow rice and Goya arroz amarillo
                                                          it's a nice quick way to do a pseudo arroz con pollo (throw in some peas and roasted pepper strips at the very end)

                                                  2. I keep instant potato flakes around for thickening, and for when the urge for potatoes strikes and I find myself out of potatoes.

                                                    I have a big bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's Original BBQ Sauce in the fridge, because I rarely whip up a batch of my own BBQ sauce if it's just for me. If I'm going to entertain, then I'll make my own sauce.

                                                    That's about it.

                                                    1. Better than bouillon
                                                      Boxed chick and beef stock-not brand loyal
                                                      Annie's Mac n cheese
                                                      Assorted bottled hot sauces, BBQ sauces and salad dresses.
                                                      Packaged good seasons dressing
                                                      Assorted herb blends like Herbs de Provence, BBQ rubs, taco seasoning, Bells poultry mix, etc
                                                      Middle East and TJ's packaged couscous and rice blends.

                                                      However I do have say that none of these are really budget helpers. The unit prices are often very prohibitive compared to the cost of making my own. But as a WOHM it more the convenience/time factor for me.

                                                      1. We usually make our own sauces and such but here is a list when we don't have time

                                                        Paul Newman Salsas
                                                        Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce
                                                        Vindaloo Spice blend - usually Penzeys
                                                        Penzeys Taco Seasoning
                                                        Chicken Tikka Marsala paste
                                                        Zataran's box mixes.

                                                        1. I use chicken & beef base, (usually Better Than Bouillon brand) brown or beef gravy dry mix (Knorr's or McCormick's) McCormick's dry chicken gravy mix. I also use Knorr's Demi Glace but I only see it @ restaurant supply places like Restaurant Depot. I use the dry gravy mixes for flavor & as a thickener. I deglaze then thicken the drippings of a roast with the gravy mix. Results are generally excellent. If you cook sous vide you can thicken/flavor all the purged liquid in the bag to make a nice sauce. I have a bottom round of beef roast cooking in my sous vide cooker since yesterday morning. I seared & added some soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce to the cooking bag. Tonight I'll pour this liquid into a sauce pan & thicken with brown gravy mix. Easy & delicious!

                                                          1. I mostly buy ketchup, and asian condiments, and every now and then I buy a premade curry from Maya Kaimal.

                                                            Packaged stuff is pretty disgusting for the most part, I haven't found many items that offer a good value proposition.
                                                            I do buy lots of stuff from Modernist Pantry though, Iota carrageenan, sodium citrate, sodiumhexametaphosphate, tapioca maltodextrin, xanthan etc all very useful tools.

                                                            1. Jiffy cornbread mix. it's the best, and it's inexpensive. easy to "doctor" with a can of corn and some jalapenos.

                                                              i buy fiber one pancake mix, because it's non dairy...

                                                              jars of pasta sauce because my attempts to make it did not taste good to us.

                                                              1. I love Savory Choice Demi Glace. Comes concentrated in a foil packet --just add water. Great on mashed potatoes, or added into a pot roast for a beefy punch. SO thinks it tastes like Bovril.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: Steve Green

                                                                  Steve have you ever tried the brand Demi-glace gold? it's excellent!

                                                                  1. re: cgarner

                                                                    Yes, and I don't like it nearly as well as the Savory Choice.

                                                                2. I have used Integrative Flavor's soup bases for years and years. They've gone through a name change or two, and added lots of very interesting looking flavor combinations that I'd like to try.


                                                                  Right now I have their chicken and beef bases, natural chicken, vegetable, seafood and there may be a ham base lurking in the extra fridge.

                                                                  A new favorite dish of mine is the seafood base in tricolor large size couscous. It doesn't taste fishy, just unctuous.

                                                                  1. Trader Joe's Marsala simmering sauce...oh! my! so delish! I try to make all of my sauces from scratch (Pomi tomatoes help here for the base) but I wish I knew how to replicate this sauce...it ...is...delish! I love it with basmati rice and cilantro...and I don't eat chicken anymore but when my son comes over, I make it for him with chicken thighs. I always add my own chopped onion & garlic & mushrooms to it too.

                                                                    1. Salsa-I make my own too but we do go through it like it's going out of style.

                                                                      Penzey's Creamy Peppercorn and Sanwich Sprinkle.

                                                                      Chicken broth-Swanson's Natural Goodness reduced sodium, one of my few hard brand loyalties.

                                                                      Pretty much all condiments; ketchup, mustard, mayo, housin, sriracha, etc.

                                                                      1. Frequently used:
                                                                        Better Than Bullion
                                                                        Garlic Expressions (it is wonderful for roasted tomatoes)

                                                                        Once or twice a year:
                                                                        Lipton French Onion Soup mix for for sour cream dip
                                                                        TJ's simmer sauces are handy for a quick fix for leftovers
                                                                        Ghirardelli brownie mix
                                                                        An emergency jar of marinara sauce for a quick dinner

                                                                        I used to be able to find a baking bag/seasoning packet by McCormick for Swiss Steak. It tasted just like the one from my childhood. I've found it on-line for packs of 12 but I only crave the dish once every year or so...

                                                                        I have dozens of herbs and spices.But there are times when a blend is nice. My most used:

                                                                        pickling spices
                                                                        crab boil
                                                                        Pirates Bite (wonderful, flavorful pepper mix with a little kick)
                                                                        various curry powders
                                                                        Italian herbs
                                                                        Herbs de Provence
                                                                        a number of Penzey's rubs and blends

                                                                        1. oh, so many...
                                                                          Better than Bouillon (chicken and beef)
                                                                          green and yellow Thai chili pastes can't remember the brand)
                                                                          Lee Kum Kee black bean/garlic sauce
                                                                          Marie's Blue Cheese vinaigrette
                                                                          sweet chili sauce
                                                                          garlic chili paste
                                                                          various and sundry hot sauces
                                                                          Lipton onion soup mix (for dip)
                                                                          boxed cornbread mix
                                                                          jars of pasta sauce
                                                                          at least that's what I can remember right now...

                                                                          1. Hidden Valley original ranch dressing packets.

                                                                            Make dressing according to package direction, but put in a food processor or blender. Add in a small handful of rough chopped watercress & blend. Fantastic.

                                                                            Only trouble, watercress is very seldom seen in my area.
                                                                            Try this, you will like it.

                                                                            1. Oh heck, I used prepackaged often.
                                                                              Panko is a big one for me. Sweet Baby Ray's bbq sauce, tabasco, Sriracha, and Rao's pasta sauces are popular around here. I do generally like to make my own pasta sauce, but Rao's is pretty damned good.