While sales of organic and unprocessed foods were on an uptick in recent years, the pandemic has proven one thing: comfort is king.

According to Food Industry Executive, a food industry news site, snack food consumption was up 8 percent this spring (compared with only a 1 percent increase during the Great Recession), sales of frozen foods like pizza had increased by as much as 80 percent in March and data indicates packaged food sales—things like mac and cheese, desserts and soup—will have risen by as much as 30 percent from 2019.

But just because you may be reaching for a convenient comfort food option a little more often, doesn’t mean there aren’t still plenty of ways to serve an elevated entrée.

Chef Sofia Tejeda, who represented San Antonio in Food Network’s Girl Scout Cookie Championship , says when it comes to baked goods, home cooks can substitute milk for water and butter for oil in boxed cake mixes to achieve a fluffier, tastier dessert. Or, experiment with zests or extracts—lime, lemon or orange into a vanilla cake mix—to make your pre-packaged treat stand out.

When it comes to savory foods that consumers often reach for as the weather turns cooler, Tejeda says the most important thing to think about is your “anchor ingredients.” That means if you’re adding veggies to your mac and cheese or brisket to your bag of Fritos, opt for fresh, high-quality ingredients. And when your creativity runs dry, consider one of these elevated comfort food options from local restaurants.
 

Jalapeño Mac & Cheese at Myron’s Prime Steakhouse

Poblano Soup at Picnikins Cafe & Catering

Bacon Wrapped Quail Poppers at Boiler House Texas Grill & Wine Garden

Chopped Beef Frito Pie at Alamo BBQ Co.

Buttermilk Biscuits by Chef Sofia Tejeda