“Speed Scratch” is fast becoming a celebrated buzz word in the culinary world. The term was most often associated with catering or institutional cooking when the first part of the cooking is prepared off-site in a large kitchen and the final dishes are finished at the event or the cafeteria.

But these days, home cooks everywhere are embracing speed scratch cooking for their own. The basic concept of speed scratch cooking at home is using convenience, or ready-made products and adding a few fresh ingredients to personalize it and round out the meal. The result, a homemade, ready to eat meal in minutes that is also healthful.

When life has you running circles around yourself, speed scratch cooking can be the answer to saving time, while still providing a tasty and nutritious meal for your family. Here are a few tips to get you started on the path to speed scratch cooking.

STOCK A SPEEDY PANTRY - Nothing is worse than coming home to empty cupboards at the end of a long day. This is when the automatic default to take-out is most prominent. Instead, keep your pantry stocked with items such as canned soups, dried pasta, canned beans and canned vegetables. One, or a combination, of these ingredients can quickly lead to a fast and healthy meal for you and your family.

THINK FRESH - Fresh herbs and vegetables can turn a ho-hum ready-made product into out of this world in a flash. Grow fresh herbs easily on your windowsill all through the year or purchase fresh herbs and freeze what you don't use to prevent waste. Thyme, oregano and parsley are great beginner herbs and go great with almost anything. Fresh vegetables are essential for healthy cooking. Frozen vegetables are great to have on hand too, especially for last minute cooking.

THINK QUICK - The beauty of speed scratch cooking is that some, or most, of the work has already been done for you. Therefore, the time spent in the kitchen is minimal. For recipe ideas, think quick and easy. Pasta, sandwiches, stir-fries and soups can all be prepared in about 30 minutes or less and with ingredients you likely have on hand. Check out the following recipes for some inspiration to get you started.