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Packages cooks are thankful for this holiday

Packages cooks are thankful for this holiday

With all its trimmings, it can take hours to prepare a traditional holiday meal. But today’s cooks know that certain product packages can lend a hand, making it possible for them to enjoy family, friends and fraternity instead of slaving in the kitchen all day.

What convenient or innovative packages made it into your pantry or refrigerator this year? Here are notable food and beverage packages that caught my eye at a local—and incredibly busy!—Trader Joe’s in the Chicago area. From the meal’s main protein to sides, deserts and drinks, here’s a cornucopia of glass, flexible, paper, metal and plastic packages delivering delight to grateful chefs.

Turkey: This frozen turkey packaging uses the same shrink-wrapped bag as most other brands. But the clean graphics and simple color scheme focuses the eye on “Organic,” for consumers who care about that, which is pretty much anyone shopping at Trader Joe’s, right?

For the ultimate in main-course convenience, though, Trader Joe’s packs up a frozen meal kit of turkey tenderloin wrapped with stuffing in a tasty puff pastry. The tenderloin is shrink wrapped in clear film inside the carton, along with cranberry sauce and gravy packets (also in clear, unprinted pouches). High-impact photography on the glossy carton shows the appetizing final cooked presentation.

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Gravy: You could choose from cans or jars or even pouches of gravy. But this shelf-stable Tetra Pak aseptic carton opens easily along a perforation once the top ends are lifted. A quick pour—without any glug—into a pan or gravy boat and you can move on to the side dishes.

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Dressing/Stuffing: It doesn’t matter what you call it or if you put it inside the bird or not, this carb staple can taste good from a kit. Appetizing imagery on the paperboard carton shows the cooked “Gluten Free” product in a nearly-country table setting.

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Cranberry sauce: It’s easier to remember the cranberry sauce when it doubles as a sweet topping for a slice of turkey instead of ho-hum gravy (thanks for the recommendation, Trader Joe’s!). This heavy-weight glass jar with metal screw-on closure and paper label imparts a homemade feel to go with the rest of the looks-like-from-scratch meal.

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Veggies: For these frozen Brussel sprouts—a healthy side dish that has gain popularity in recent years—the typical center-fin sealed layflat bag features crisply printed graphics that do the bare minimum for product ID on the front and info/instructions on the back. This lets the consumer see as much of the vegetables inside the bag before the buy.

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WestPack-2020  WestPack 2020: Ideas. Education. New Partners. Feb. 11-13

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Not into mini cabbage heads? Ingredients for a classic green-bean casserole—green beans, mushroom soup and Fried Onion pieces—are easy to assemble with easy-open packs like these:

The convenience of this stiff 2-lb. bag of French Style Green Beans is that they have been washed and are ready to cook—a large window on the front panel makes it easy to see that. The seam of this familiar center-seam layflat bag also pulls apart easily with a tug.

Cooks can easily open this mushroom soup in a Tetra Pak shelf-stable Recart aseptic pack because of its perforated top that, like the gravy carton you saw earlier, allows easy dispensing without a tool.

Paperboard canisters with easy-peel lidding hold pieces of Fried Onions. Color photography on the glue-applied paper label illustrates the main use of the product this time of year.

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Potatoes: Yam, man! Sweet potatoes mate well with a turkey meal. But as I age and arthritis sets into my hands, holding the spuds for peeling becomes a chore. Okay, peeling potatoes is a chore no matter what state your hands are in. This inexpensive poly bag, with a clear peek of the product from the back, holds peeled and cubed yams, ready for stove-top or microwave cooking. Stirring is all that’s needed to smooth these chunks into a creamy consistency. Don’t forget the mini marshmallows to sprinkle on top!

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Drinks: This glass bottle of Egg Nog has clarity, purity and heft. High-end labels add to the product’s upscale image: “Egg Nog” is embossed on the front label and “Trader Joe’s” is also embossed in dazzling red metallic ink or foil (it really looks like foil but the type is pretty small on neck label and front label, so it’s hard to tell).

Is Thanksgiving too early for egg nog? That’s debatable, in my opinion. But a good old-fashioned Ginger Brew will go down smooth too. The swing-top closure atop the glass bottle harkens back to Grandma’s dining table.

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Desert: Choosing a pie filling is personal preference. I’ll leave that up to you. But a perfect crust is within your easy grasp with this pastry layered pie tin. A simple tamper-evident band holds a plastic lid close to the crust, and clear film underneath that helps keep moisture levels even until you’re ready to fill, bake and enjoy.

If you’re watching calories at this point (really, tho?!), whipped cream on top of the pie instead of ice cream will make all the difference (really?!). This typical pressurized can sports high-end matte graphics (the photos don't do justice to the matte effect). Quality printing showcases a photo of a coconut to further emphasize the flavor and ingredients. Clear, icon-style instructions on back are super easy to follow.

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