It’s The Little Things: The Best Of The Pre-Prepared Meals

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My husband’s shifts at work vary. I usually make a meal when he is home about five times a week. There are those nights though when I just don’t want to cook. Either it is just me and the kids and I don’t want to make a huge meal for just the three of us or my kitchen might be clean and I don’t want to mess it up. I can’t be the only one who feels that way about a clean kitchen, right? Please tell me I’m not alone.. Or maybe I am just plain ol’ tired. Whatever the case may be, I have tried many a prepared meal from the grocery store. Here are some that I go to again and again that I felt were worthy enough of sharing:

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Raviolis by Rana. I think these are the most authentic tasting Italian items at the grocery store.

I love their lasagna noodles. I use them exclusively for my lasagna. A few months ago I was at the grocery store and a woman was blocking my access to the noodles.

I waited and waited for her to move but she kept studying the packaging.

Finally, I decided to intervene. I assumed she was undecided upon the product.

“They’re really good,” I said.

She looked up at me in surprise.

“Oh! Yes! This is my brother’s company,” she proudly proclaimed. “I didn’t know it was in stores yet.”

We chatted some more and she recommended the pesto product which she used to help sell at the farmer’s market. I am so glad I ran into her because I loved the pesto she recommended and now I purchase it whenever I need it for a recipe.

Isn’t it a small and funny world?

I buy the family ravioli version which is around $8 a package. I add a can of marinara sauce that I have heated on the stove to the drained ravioli. Easy peasy.

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Indian food.

Hands down. Feet down. Any old body part you want to throw in right now would be down. Whatever that means. Down is good here. Maya Kaimal’s Indian sauces in a two pack from Costco are the very best preprepared dish I can find. The flavors are so intense and wonderful. I love Indian food and these little containers of curry taste like sauces I would find in a restaurant.

I shred up a rotisserie chicken and add it to the simmering sauce. I also add a half of a stick of butter to it. Because why wouldn’t I? One container serves my whole family of four with no leftovers. I always have these in my refrigerator. I serve them over steamed white rice (perfect white rice is double the water to your amount of rice- I do 2 1/2 cups of rice and 5 cups of water, 2 Tbsp. Butter. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cover with a lid for twenty five minutes. Turn off heat and allow to rest for five minutes before removing lid).

I also serve it with naan bread that I always have in my freezer. And I also chop up some cilantro (another refrigerator staple) and sprinkle it over the top.

My family loves everything about both of these sauces. We cannot decide which flavor is our favorite. They are both amazing. Very spicy but good.

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Trader Joe’s Pastas

My family and I actually find Trader Joe’s dry pastas gummy and feel they have an odd off-putting flavor (if I were to guess, I would guess cinnamon). However, their frozen pastas are actually pretty good.

They are not amazing but they are good for a frozen pasta. I am not a fan of frozen pastas with meat in them. I like that these are exclusively noodles and sauce. That is surprisingly hard to find. I buy two and serve them to my children. My daughter likes the marinara version best. My son likes the Alfredo. As for me? I like to mix them.

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Of the five brands that I have tried numerous amounts of times, the best pre-packaged spinach is found at Von’s. I know that seems odd, but there it is. The flavor at Von’s is always mild and just fantastic. I use it in my favorite salad at least twice a week.

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Foster Farm’s Chicken Tenders

I know. Frozen chicken strips? How original, Jenni. This is more of a comparison recommendation than something that is unique and special. This brand is my family’s favorite. I have tried many brands. In my opinion, these are simply the best. They stay crispy cooked in the oven. The calorie count is not bad compared to fried chicken strips in restaurants. They also make a glutten free version. I serve them with baked potatoes and salad. It does not get easier than that.

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Last, these french fries from Trader Joes are amazing. They are oven baked so they are not as bad for you as other fast food fries. I used to grab bags of these from the San Diego Trader Joes because I had never seen them at my local store. The other day, my store had a few bags. I exclaimed to the man stacking them in the freezer section, “Yay! You finally got these fries in!”

He looked at me puzzled and said, “We’ve always carried these. They just sell out.”

So, if you don’t see them at your local store, now you know why. They go quickly!

What are your go-to pre-prepared meals? I am always looking for new ones to try. I was madly in love with Albertson’s frozen manicotti and they discontinued it a few months ago. Do you know any store that sells frozen manicotti with no sauce? Just stuffed shells or noodles? They are more expensive to make than I used to find frozen. Any leads would be very much appreciated. : )

7 thoughts on “It’s The Little Things: The Best Of The Pre-Prepared Meals

  1. Jenni- Our costco cells frozen manicotti with no sauce. I think they call it crepe manicotti but whatever, it is very good. Bake it with sauce and there you go. Check your costco next time you go –

  2. Mmmm, I love chicken fingers and fries. I’ve been told Trader Joe’s sells a frozen poutine and it’s not bad as far as frozen poutines go (but for the real thing, come to Montreal), so maybe that would be something to try? I try not to keep a lot of pre-prepared meals in my house, I try to cook from scratch every day, but there are just some nights that I don’t want to. I either end up eating takeout or frozen dumplings.

  3. Right there with you on the clean kitchen thing! Or it just may be a good excuse to not have to cook! Either way, I’ll be on the lookout for those Maya Kaimal sauces. They look wonderful, but without a Costco or a Trader Joe’s in my town I may be out of luck! Sometimes when I’ll be alone for dinner I’ll pick up a Kashi Mayan Harvest Bake. It’s sweet potato, plantains, black beans, greens, in a spicy sauce. Really flavorful for a frozen dinner.
    l

  4. Do any of these pre-packaged meals NOT contain dairy? I’m lactose-intolerant and prefer to avoid dairy whenever possible, but I’m also super lazy about cooking. So far my go-tos are Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Chicken (their Orange Chicken is also good if you don’t mind a sweeter, American-Chinese-style sauce) and frozen Asian dumplings that can just be boiled. I would be really happy to find a good pre-packaged pasta (including sauce) or curry that’s dairy-free.

  5. I LOVE this post. Hate to admit it, but I eat a lot of prepared food. The husband works swing and I work days, so all weekdays I’m on my own for dinner. It’s just so easy to eat something packaged because it’s fast when I’m home late from work and starving, and also I use My Fitness Pal to track calories and it’s nice to scan a barcode and know easily what I’m adding up to. I’ve got a few new things to try now! I hope I can find these items in Washington.

    • Oh! Those are good! I hate eggs and I can even eat those. I need to buy some one day. I have only ever eaten them at a friend’s.

      Have a delightful rest of this beautiful Sunday!

      Jenni

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