Sunday, November 15, 2015

Convenience Food Rip Off Report - And an Alternative

I don't have to tell my readers that the majority of convenience food is a rip off, one can cook from scratch for so much less.  However, I still have times I'm willing to try a product, for that rare day I've nothing in the freezer at the crash pad, and I've come back from days on the road.

I've had my not so pleasant surprises, like the Bob Evans frozen Omelet from the grocers which was LESS than a filling breakfast (even on a salad plate you needed an electron microscope to find it).
But I had always liked Kashi products.  Kashi started out with some good cereals and bars, then they were sold to another company ten or so years ago.  New cereals coming out had a fair amount of sugar so I usually do Cheerios or a generic version of Grape Nuts. But I did try their frozen individual black bean burrito meal and it was tasty, if expensive for the amount.  So when I saw this "steam meal" I had to try it, even if the price $4.79 was well, still high.  But look how big the bag is for one serving.
Four and a half minutes in the microwave and there would be my big heaping plate of grilled chicken breast, veggies and a bit of pasta. It's not advertising itself as a "diet" meal, simply a healthy one.

This is the picture on the package (and on their website, kashi dot com)

This is what I got (I separated out the ingredients so you could see). 

A cup of noodles in some "sauce",  1/4 cup of limp veggies (and I cooked at the minimum time on the package), and  about three and a half anorexic strips of chicken.  The noodles were whole grain but the "Parmesan sauce" tasted like salt, mixed with salt with a dash of salt.
click to enlarge photos, hypothetically speaking

The chicken was as tender as a parking meter and apparently whatever they painted the "grilled" marks on the cover picture with  must have washed off during the steaming process. They advertise it as "natural" but it tasted just like those"brined with rib meat" breasts that you can buy at Big Box Mart in 20 pound bags.  But their website says the "natural"  means "minimally processed" with "no artificial sweeteners or preservatives", which simply means they didn't take the chicken out for a couple of martinis and Cirque du Soleil, before turning it into chicken bits.

I've had much worse tasting pre-packaged meals but mixed together, the contents of the bag wouldn't cover 1/4 of a normal size plate.

Frankly folks, this was about twenty cents worth of food, for which I paid close to $5.

The day I made that I had spent the majority of the day in tabletop exercises that involved neither a table or exercise. I donated blood with the Blood Center on my meal break.  I washed and vacuumed the Bat Truck, which is roughly the size of Delaware.  I wanted something that would fill me up.

I could do better than that, and almost as fast.

Cowboy Pasta (light version) - serves four and freezes well

2 cups dry pasta
2 reduced fat Brats or Chicken sausages (If you want a vegetarian version, Whole Foods has a good vegan bratwurst)
1 cup Light Alfredo Sauce (Classico and Bertolli both have good ones).
1 can sliced black olives
2 cans MILD Rotel (tomatoes with green chilis) DRAIN before using.
1/4 tsp dried jalapeno (I used Spice Island brand)
1 to 3 shakes of dried red pepper (three makes it HOT, but not "reach for the water" hot).
2 cups lightly steamed veggies such as broccoli
smoked cheddar (garnish only).

 Mix Rotel, olives, and Alfredo sauce and spices, and heat on low. While that heats, cook pasta in boiling water until al dente (about 10-11 minutes for the thicker wagon wheel style pasta).

While pasta cooks cook Brats. I sauteed with some non stick cook spray and a teaspoon of olive oil until lightly brown then, poured half a can of light beer over the top and covered, reducing heat, letting them steam while the pasta cooks. Drain the pasta, and keep warm. Uncover the Brats and saute in the pan juice/beer mixture (you can use water if you don't wish to use alcohol) until nice and brown and about 170 degrees internal temperature (easy way to figure, slice, should not be pink in the middle). Should be just a minute or two on the saute part. Slice bratwurst and mix with pasta, sauce and a the steamed veggies. Sprinkle with a little bit of freshly shredded smoked cheddar.

A bowl weighs in at less than 500 calories and is a complete, and filling meal.  With a breakfast and lunch of around 300 you can enjoy this and still have a small glass or wine or a couple of pieces of fruit during the day as a snack and be around 1500 calories for the day.


  1. Omgosh that was it??? What a ripoff!

  2. Hari OM
    Was just having this conversation with a mate yesterday evening as decisions were being made about what 'bring home' food to order. I guess it was still cheaper than the whole family eating out (as the alternative to mum cooking - giving her a break, y'see...)... still and all. Very disappointing. I could have whipped up roti-based pizzas equally or more delicious in the same time and a fraction of the cost and minus that huge amount of salt. Oh well. I wasn't paying, so just swallowed my slice and decided to surprise them next weekend!
    Eyes-on... YAM xx

  3. Oh no!! That looks BRUTAL!!! They are a rip off and I stay away from them. I know they are tempting for me but I keep thinking that I can make it cheaper myself and talk myself out of it!! Your food looks much better and I know tasted better.



Thanks for visiting. Having been fortunate enough not to have to diet as a young woman - hitting middle age to find my Metabolism moved to Aruba and didn't even send a postcard was a rude awakening. Thanks for sharing the fun and the pain of getting back in shape. Note: If you are a stranger and include a link in your comment - it will not be posted, to ensure no SPAM or viruses are shared. Any link I post is tested first.