Make-Ahead Meals in Jars

Keep these mixes on your shelf for quick and tasty dinners, or give them away as thoughtful gifts.

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by AdobeStock/dbvirago

Like many young couples, my husband, Stephen, and I searched for ways to stretch our grocery budget. I’d learned to cook as a child and had been preparing meals since I was 10 years old, so the idea of cooking didn’t intimidate me. But it was difficult to find the time to cook every night while caring for two children under the age of 2 and also running my side-gig. Then, I acquired a coupon one day for a free convenience mix. It was a no-brainer – an easy-to-prepare chicken and stuffing dish that was ready and on the table in minutes. Our eldest loved it, but it didn’t stay in his stomach long. I immediately turned into a food detective, and we eventually determined that our son was allergic to yellow food dye, an additive that can be found in almost all convenience foods.

That experience also taught me that I really liked the convenience of packaged food mixes. Thus, I began a quest to create my own mixes that were full of wholesome ingredients and could be quickly pulled off the shelf for dinner on a busy night, or for a last-minute bake sale. And, most importantly, I wanted them to be mixes with great flavor that my family and I would be happy to eat time and again.

In our busy world, the value of an easy meal can’t be overstated, and homemade convenience meals are safe, nutritious, and delicious. These recipes make great meals or delightful gifts, and they help us prepare for those days when we’re too tired or overwhelmed to cook.

Chicken and Pasta Soup

No matter how it’s served – as chicken noodle soup, chicken and stars soup, or chicken and rice soup — chicken soup in all its variations is comfort food at its best. More filling and flavorful than its commercially canned cousin, this mix is a welcome addition to any kitchen cupboard. Yield: 4 servings.

To make the shelf-stable mix, you’ll need:

  • 1 cup small pasta (shells, elbows, or thin noodles)
  • 2 tablespoons dried garden peas
  • 2 tablespoons dried celery
  • 2 tablespoons dried carrots
  • 1 tablespoon instant minced onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried dill weed

To make the soup, you’ll need:

  • 2 cups cooked and chopped chicken
  • 4 cups water


  1. Layer pasta, peas, celery, carrots, and onion in a 1-pint jar.
  2. Place bay leaf standing up along inside of jar.
  3. Combine bouillon powder, nutritional yeast, parsley, poultry seasoning, and dill weed in a small zip-close bag.
  4. Seal bag, and place on top of soup mixture. Label jar.
  5. When you’re ready to make the soup, add dry mix, chicken, and water to a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf before serving.

Rosemary Focaccia

Easy yeast bread mixes, such as this focaccia, save time for curious cooks and otherwise busy people. Use sealed yeast packets so the mix stays shelf stable.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

To make the shelf-stable mix, you’ll need:

  • 2- 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 packet active dry yeast

To make the bread, you’ll need:

  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
  • Salt, fresh or dried herbs, cherry tomatoes, grapes, or Parmesan cheese, for topping (optional)


  1. Layer flour, salt, rosemary, and oregano in a 2-1/2 – or 3-cup jar in order listed.
  2. Place yeast packet on top of other ingredients. Label jar.
  3. When you’re ready to make the bread, dissolve yeast and sugar in water in a small bowl. Let sit until foamy. Meanwhile, add bread mix to a large bowl. Add yeast mixture and oil to bread mix. Stir until well-combined, adding more flour if necessary.
  4. Knead dough for 10 minutes, or until smooth and shiny. Shape dough into a ball, and place in a greased bowl. Cover dough, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  5. Gently deflate dough. Grease a 10-inch pie pan and place dough in pan, stretching to fit. Cover, and let rise for 30 minutes. Oil your fingers and make impressions in dough. Let rise for 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 400 F. Brush dough with additional olive oil and any other desired toppings. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool for at least 15 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve.

Renee Pottle is a freelance writer, author, and serial side-gig entrepreneur. She’s written several cookbooks, including Mixes In A Jar. Renee is passionate about food preservation, gardening, cooking, and real food. She believes that the best gifts come from the heart – and the kitchen.

book cover with jars of dried mixes on a table

The Safe, Nutritious, and Delicious Alternative

Mixes in a Jar is a culmination of author Renee Pottle’s years-long search for the perfect convenience food. In Renee’s collection of 106 mix recipes, you’ll find the perfect spice blend for a pot of award-winning chili or a delicious minestrone; recipes for meals as diverse as Mulligatawny Soup and Creamy Ravioletti Salad; breakfast favorites, such as Buckwheat Pancakes; breads for every meal, including Mulled Wine Muffins; and desserts for every sweet tooth. Choose from recipes that may need a few fresh ingredients added, or others that need just a splash of water. Whatever the case, Mixes in a Jar has a recipe for all tastes and occasions!

This title is available at the Grit store or by calling 866-803-7096. Item #11145.

  • Updated on Oct 8, 2021
  • Originally Published on Oct 7, 2021
Tagged with: focaccia, jars, kitchen, meals, pasta, preparation, soup
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