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Frozen Lunches: The Year-End Wrap-Up
Friday, 2010 December 24 - 2:17 pm
Well, that's the end of my year-long experiment. All told, I reviewed 131 frozen meals; not quite the 150 I had planned, but still a good chunk. Here's the year-end wrap-up.

Object lessons:
  • Don't get seafood. There are basically two kinds of seafood you get: low-grade white fish like pollock, or tiny rubbery shrimp. It's rarely any good.
  • Don't get beef. It's always a cheap cut of beef that's been pressure-cooked to make it tender. It comes out looking and tasting like dog food.
  • Go with chicken. Although you have to watch for mechanically separated chicken whenever you get anything breaded or otherwise coated, most of the time chicken comes out pretty well in a microwave meal.
  • Eat Italian, not Chinese. None of the major frozen food vendors can make a decent Chinese meal; it's almost always just ordinary food coated with soy sauce. While you could argue that the Italian meals are just ordinary food coated with tomato sauce, the Italian food tends to be more flavorful and vibrant, and certainly more consistently executed.
  • Steamer packages work. The packages that cook with steam (both the two-part trays and the bags) are dead-simple to use and cook the food evenly.
  • Kashi is overrated. You really want these things to be good, with all the whole grains and recycled packaging and all. And most of the time, they're pretty healthy. But the many of the meals are just not very flavorful.
The worst frozen meal of the year: Tai Pei Chicken Fried Rice. I think my nutrition comment summed it up best: "It's like drinking a box of oil and salt."

Here are the top three meals of the year:
  • Bronze Medal: Smart Ones Lasagna Florentine. A good deal healthier than some of the other frozen lasagnas, this meal had plenty of flavor and good texture. It doesn't seem like diet food, but it has just 290 calories and six grams of fat.
  • Silver Medal: Lean Cuisine Garlic Chicken. Garlicky, nicely seasoned, and perfectly cooked. It was a rare thing to find a meal that had a decent amount of garlic. It had a rich sauce but still just 270 calories and six grams of fat.
  • Gold Medal: Lean Cuisine Chicken Margherita. Remarkably flavorful, with a wonderful rich sauce, and big pieces of spinach and bell pepper. If it weren't just over the edge on sodium, this would have scored the only 9.0 of the year.
I hope you've enjoyed these reviews. Women generally tell me, "I love reading your frozen lunch reviews." Men generally tell me, "What's the deal with all the frozen lunch reviews?" Like everything else on this blog, I did this mostly for myself. But with this, I think I've created something genuinely useful.

I may still review a new meal from time to time, but it won't be a daily thing any more. I'll soon be launching frozenlunches.com where I'll continue these posts on a less regular basis. And for my experiment next year, I'll be attempting to make my own healthier and better-tasting frozen meals at home; I'll make the meals from scratch, calculate the nutritional value, and see how it comes out after microwaving. I'm convinced that I can beat the store-bought meals in both flavor and nutrition. Obviously I won't be able to make a new meal every day, but perhaps once a week will be a good goal.

Have a happy holiday season everyone!
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Posted by Ken in: foodinterestingsite-business

Comments

Comment #1 from Julie (Guest)
2010 Dec 24 - 2:27 pm : #
If only I didn't despise bell peppers.
Comment #2 from Julie (Guest)
2010 Dec 24 - 2:27 pm : #
p.s. merry christmas!

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