A Little Survey on Ready Meals versus Home Cooking

I read a blog post recently where the writer had just eaten their first – their very first – ready meal. I think the blogger was in his or her thirties.

I was utterly flabbergasted!

For some reason, I’ve never spent much time wondering whether other people do or don’t use ready meals. I naively assumed that most home cooks are like us.

SainsburysBistro-4577 SainsburysBistro-4590
SainsburysBistro-5224 SainsburysBistro-5262

Our Cooking Habits

Pete and I have some kind of ready meal about once a week. I include in this number the meals where one or more main component is ready-made, even if we serve it with home made vegetables or sides. We usually pick things like oven bake chicken Kiev, fresh ready-made lasagne or a chicken or steak pie. And oven chips! We quickly discovered that the higher end supermarket ranges are very good at these kind of dishes and they’re close enough to home made in quality and taste. We also buy ready-made fresh pasta such as tortelloni and ravioli, which we’ll either have with a home made sauce or a fresh ready-made one. And we love sausages – they’re ready-made, of course, since we don’t make our own.

The rest of the time we cook from scratch and we really appreciate how easy it is to make great food ourselves. And we’re enthusiastic about widening our repertoire via ideas and recipes from cookery books, food blogs and friends. The meals we cook are a mix of tried and tested favourites and things we’ve never made before. Cooking from scratch allows us to tweak recipes to our tastes, substitute ingredients according to availability and personal preference and have control over the provenance of our ingredients. And, even if we spend more on higher quality ingredients, it’s still much cheaper than eating out or getting a takeaway.

Some recipes lend themselves well to being made in larger quantities, meaning we can easily make two or three meals in one go, refrigerating or freezing portions. Other recipes provide leftovers that are perfect for turning into something else – roast dinners are the most obvious example of this in our house.

But we’re also susceptible to feeling tired, lazy or just not in the mood to cook. And that’s when we’ll turn to ready meals or the occasional takeaway.


How I Came To Do A Survey

My surprise at the statement I came across made me think a lot more about the eating and cooking habits of others, and I started to wonder what the norm is (if there is even such a thing), and most especially, what the norm is amongst my friends.

So I sent some questions to a few friends, talking to non-foodies and non-bloggers as well as foodies and bloggers, and making sure to include families as well as couples and singles friends.

My focus was on evening meals eaten at home rather than lunch, since lunch is more dependent on one’s work situation.

My initial plan was to summarise all the responses in just a paragraph or two but I found myself so fascinated by the similarities and differences in our cooking and eating habits and even more in the reasons and opinions my friends generously shared with me. I decided to share their responses in more detail.

I’ve categorised the responses into two main groups – those who cook virtually all their meals from scratch, and those who eat a combination of ready meals and home cooked, to varying ratios. None of my friends fit into the third potential group of 100% ready meals. Note that I don’t claim that my survey is in any way representative of Britain as a whole, or that my friends’s answers are typical of British cooking and eating habits.


100% Home Cooking

Diana, Jennie, Jow and Martine cook all their meals from scratch and do not make use of any ready meals.

Diana explains that she finds it “quite easy to cook meals that are just as or more delicious than ready-made meals” and finds that ready-made sauces are not as tasty as what she makes herself. She is also keen to avoid “chemical additives in processed foods”. She says that although cooking good food doesn’t require much time or effort, it “does require planning”.

For Jennie cooking everything herself is “mainly to do with habit”, as she’s simply never had much exposure to ready meals. She describes herself as “a wee bit fussy about food being seasonal and ethical” and likes to know what goes into her food. Another point she raises is the ability to control diabetes, carb counting, etc. In reference to the common opinion that ready meals are quicker, she says that when she has no time or little energy, she’ll just have some vegetables and an egg. Her husband, on the other hand, will often turn to instant noodles or frozen pizza if he’s eating dinner at home alone.

Jow used to buy more ready-made sauces and food in the past but health issues lead her to re-evaluate her diet, and ultimately that of the whole family. Today, 99% of meals are home cooked, with the remaining percent “accounting for when I cock up and burn something”! She mentions a number of advantages to cooking everything herself including knowing what the family are eating and that the ingredients are fresh. As Jow cooks more and “makes sure to use all leftovers”, “the food bill is less” and she has discovered that she really enjoys cooking. In addition, her “girls are taking an interest in what’s going on in the kitchen and like to come and help”; their increased awareness of what’s going into their dinner and how the meal is made means they are “so much more enthusiastic about eating it”. Jow also points out that she is more aware of the cost of food and has learned to “plan meals in advance to utilise all the produce bought and plan  meals  around leftovers if they haven’t already been frozen for future use”.

For Martine being able to control the content of her and her partner’s meals, in terms of the “level of sugar, fats etc.” is really important and home cooking also means they can ensure the flavours (and spiciness) are to their personal tastes.

Some of my friends make mention of using ingredients like tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, soy sauce, oyster sauce and ketchup, but these are simply part of many normal recipes, and are not what I mean when I talk about ready-made sauces and pastes.


Some Home Cooking With Ready-Made Sauces or Pastes, Ready-Made Elements or Ready Meals

The rest of my friends use ready meals, ready-made elements of meals or ready-made sauces and pastes on occasion, with the frequency varying from rarely to regularly.

Helen likes to cook in larger quantities so she can “make and freeze [her] own ready meals”, that can quickly be reheated when needed. She is happy to use ready-made pesto, mayonnaise, stock cubes and Thai curry pastes. She feels that “ready meals are expensive”, skimp on taste and are too salty. But she does appreciate a “supermarket curry from time to time”, suggesting the supermarket meal deals as good value.

Like Helen, Lisa cooks most of her own meals, relegating both ready meals and takeaways to “last minute can’t be botheredness”. Because much of her cooking is during the week after work and she also finds it difficult to stand up for long periods, time is a key factor for her. She appreciates “the speed of a ready made stock or spice mixture” but has found that “ready made sauces always taste odd”.

Danny says that although the family cooks from scratch most of the time, they “don’t shun ready meals”, and will buy them once every few weeks when caught on the hop, popping into M&S on the way home from visiting his Nan, for example. They do use ready-made curry sauces a lot, because when Danny makes curry from scratch, he “always bugger things up by making them too hot”! He says that premium end ready meals “can be quite nice to eat” but he doesn’t think he’s every found one “absolutely amazing”, though wonders if that’s partly psychological. He does “wrinkle [his] nose” at the really cheap ready meals “that come in a plastic tray that costs £1” because he “sincerely believe[s] that they are full of shite and shite to eat”.

Dave doesn’t buy ready meals either and cooks all his evening meals himself. However, he prefers to keep cooking time on weeknights to no more than 20-40 minutes, and is happy to use shortcuts such as curry pastes, spice mixes, stir fry sauces and stock cubes. On the weekend, he has more time available and is happy to try recipes that need advanced preparation.

Matt is much the same, and it’s rare for him to buy a ready meal. He cooks most meals himself, estimating that about 40% are from scratch and 60% use ready-made elements such as stir fry or pasta sauces. One of the key motivations for him in avoiding ready meals is his preference to avoid “food where there’s packaging that doesn’t seem to need to be there”. He likes to buy “veg at the local grocer where [he] can buy it unpackaged off the shelf and straight into the one carrier bag”; he’s not a fan of supermarkets individually wrapping fresh produce. “Unnecessary packaging makes [him] sad”, especially as Bristol doesn’t recycle black plastic or cellophane, meaning most of it is headed for landfill. Of course, he doesn’t always manage to stick to this – it depends on “energy levels, how much shopping time I’ve had recently, how well I’ve planned it, and how much washing up I can face doing”. Another factor for him in buying shop-bought sauces is that it “doesn’t feel worth making that kind of stuff up when I’m mostly just cooking for me”. He adds that he also has “no idea how you actually make sweet-and-sour sauce”. Lastly, he likes to “keep packs of microwave rice around for those moments when I realise the main meal is ready but I’ve forgotten to put rice on. Or, as happened last time, turned on the rice cooker without actually putting water in it…

Linda and her husband eat ready meals two or three times a month, and likewise for their use of ready-made sauces. The main constraints for them are the time they get in from work, which can sometimes be quite late. Ready meals and ready-made sauces are “quick & easy to use so very convenient” but they try not to use too many “because of the high salt & fat content”.

Tamsin cooks most of the time, especially for her children, though says that she and her husband eat a ready meal “very occasionally for speed”. During the week she will occasionally use ready-made pesto (though says her husband’s home made is better) but has started to make pasta sauces herself “because [she] was a bit shocked how much salt and sugar is in a lot of them, and also they don’t taste as nice”. About once a week, meals will include a ready-made element such as “ready made fishcakes or chicken in crispy breadcrumbs”. On the weekend, it’s “much more about cooking a whole meal from scratch – the kids have school dinners so don’t need a big meal on weekdays”. In terms of motivation, she says “it’s mostly health factors affecting me making stuff from scratch- only something I have started recently” but adds that she is also getting increasingly “fussier about taste too, and just don’t like the taste of a lot of ready made stuff”. She observes that she’d really struggle to cook from scratch as much if she worked full time, as “horrible work days” are when she’s mostly likely to “reach for the ready made stuff in a jar”.

MiMi’s ratio of home cooking to ready meals and takeaways is probably closest to ours. She estimates that 70% of meals are home cooked, with the remainder divided between ready meals and takeaways. Home cooked meals are most commonly from scratch, with ready-made sauces used only occasionally. For MiMi, “time and energy and lack of both are the biggest factors” and she also cites curiosity “when trying a ready-made sauce or meal”. She also points out that one of the “benefits of a ready meal is it can be cheaper than buying all ingredients separately and is definitely easier”. It’s also a good way to try new stuff without investing too much time and energy and if she likes the idea, she often ends up making it from scratch in the future. One of the big impacts on cooking and eating patterns for MiMI has been the birth of her little girl a year ago. She and her husband usually take turns to eat so “the food usually has to be or ends up cold because the boglin needs so much attention”. The “food budget has gone up” because MiMi buys “a lot more ready to eat ingredients that can be assembled quickly, such as ham or mackerel for salads” and she now buys “organic fish, meat, fruits and veg” which she may not have bothered with before, along with “baby-safe biscuits and snacks” that are sugar and salt free.

Chaundra definitely finds time is her biggest enemy, as she doesn’t finish work till 7 and gets home at 8. She reckons half the meals she and her husband eat during the week are therefore ready-made, and she relies heavily on ready-made sauces and pastes, taking care to source ones that deliver on taste. However, on the weekend, she has more time and really relishes “making a good meal, in quantities” that allow for leftovers to be eaten as future meals. She prefers home made because she takes “pride in [her] cooking and associate[s] homemade food as being an expression of love and affection”.

Like Chaundra, Gary works long days. He estimates that in any given week about 4 out of seven evening meals “have a prepared element”, which could be oven chips, a frozen meat dish (such as a pie) or frozen vegetables. One meal in seven is entirely made up of ready-made elements. But he very rarely eats the kind of ready meals that come in a “little black plastic tray with clingfilm over the top” because he “find[s] the cost prohibitive”. On the weekends, Gary tends to cook more often from scratch, though on some weeknights too. He seldom uses ready-made sauces, though he might use a ready-made paste in an Indian dish. Despite the late nights, cost rather than time is the major factor and he’s noticed that “supermarkets are dramatically more expensive across various ranges” in the last 18 months.

Ruth tells me she and her family “probably have one or two ready meals per week, and one or two takeaways/meals out per week” and the rest is home cooked. Home cooked meals are virtually always made from scratch, though she likes to “buy a Waitrose ‘from scratch’ kit per week which makes [her] feel like [she’s] home cooking with the convenience of having it all prepared for [her]”. She is “most inclined to cook from scratch when making a meal for the whole family” and believes it’s “hugely important that the kids see me cook and that we sit down and eat home cooked food together”. When she and her husband eat after the kids are in bed, they’re “hungry and we just want something fast and easy”.


Can I Draw Any Conclusions?

The group of friends I’ve spoken to is neither large enough nor random enough to be representative of the general population of Britain, but the friends who’ve so kindly shared their thoughts with me have certainly given me plenty of food for thought and opened my eyes to how people cook and eat. More importantly, I have a better understanding of the many varied factors which influence their choices, which are as varied as the people themselves.

I don’t think there are any real conclusions to be drawn but certainly the use of complete ready meals is lower than I imagined. That said, a fair few of our friends use ready-made elements of a meal such as fish cakes, breaded chicken, pies or oven chips within a meal that also features home-cooked elements. A fair few use ready-made sauces and pastes in their cooking.

It’s also worth noting that there’s a clearly perceived difference between cheap ready meals and premium ones; this matches my own findings, having tried quite a variety. These days we stick to the premium ranges, though these are significantly more expensive than the budget ranges.


What about you?

Do you identify with one or more of my friends above?

What is the balance in your home and what are the key decision-making factors for you?

Please let me know by leaving a comment below. And I’d really love to get a wider range of responses, so please invite your friends to weigh in too.

Let me know what proportion of evening meals in your home are cooked from scratch, home cooked using ready-made sauces or pastes, feature a ready-made element alongside home cooking or are wholly ready-made items or a ready meal.

Share your opinions about these various choices and tell me why you cook and eat as you do, and how you feel about it.


Many thanks to those who join in and thanks again to all my friends for so generously sharing their habits and opinions.

Please leave a comment - I love hearing from you!
81 Comments to "A Little Survey on Ready Meals versus Home Cooking"

  1. Jane Willis

    I think I’m a “Jennie” – I care too much about what goes into my food to trust other people to prepare it for me. Also I find ready meals are often unsatisfyingly small and over salted. And most ready made food has a strange “boiled” aftertaste, rather like that of UHT milk to me. The occasional ready made item, such as a farmers market pie, finds its way into our diet, but almost always as a quick lunch after shopping rather than as a main meal


    Ha, your trust comment made me giggle but I can totally understand where it’s coming from!
    I have found that the premium range ready made pies are just as good as those I’ve bought from farmers markets and food festivals, to be honest.

    Jane Willis

    I must try some of the other premium branded pies then – the only ones we’ve tried have been Charlie Bighams ones and we both had the same opinion – “Nice bowls” (in fact the bowls from them are in regular use now.


    I like Waitrose’ own ones, there was a nice steak and stilton one I enjoyed recently.

  2. Deepa

    This is fascinating! I love hearing about other people’s food habits. I’d say we were nearly 100% home cooking, maybe 98%. I’ve nearly always been underwhelmed by ready meals and the ones we do really like are pretty expensive – and there is the guilt about how much salt and fat is in them!
    We are both pretty busy so don’t want too much dinner faff when we get in from work – we’ve got a good repertoire of easy, mostly nutritious food for the weekdays. It’s usually homemade soup, pasta with homemade sauce (tomato, tomato and aubergine, pesto, carbonara), roasted aubergine and salad, quick curries with chickpeas, lentils (toor daal cooks quicker than others), paneer, aubergine or potato and then more random things like little bean stews with an egg on top, or mushrooms on toast. Mr is a veggie and I find cooking vegetarian to be a lot quicker than when we ate meat all the time, and cheaper too. We also have the odd night in the week where we’ll have beans on toast or jacket potato and beans or cheese.

    I love cooking and I find learning about quick cooking just as interesting and satisfying as something you’ve slaved over for a whole day.


    Yes, it’s fab when you create something tasty that is also quick. Two cod dishes I’ve blogged come to mine for me, one is miso cod and the other a cod with potatoes and chorizo, both of which are quick and easy enough for a weeknight dinner – assuming I remember to defrost the portions of cod in the morning!

  3. Suelle

    I think I’m a cook from scratch for about 80-90% of the time. Buying a ready meal, or even a pre-prepared component is not part of my shopping routine – I barely look at those areas of the supermarket. Part of that is expense but part is not wanting the additives which bulk out standard quality ready-meals – in particular, sugar (and starches). However, I have to acknowledge that at times I don’t feel like cooking and then I will use pre-prepared elements of dishes, such as battered frozen fish, filled pasta or stir through pasta sauces. The only things I use routinely are curry pastes and sauces – I have cooked curries from scratch but my husband prefers the bought variety. Oh – and there’s an emergency pizza in the freezer!

    I’m also a sucker for the ‘reduced to clear’ cabinets of supermarkets, where I am more likely to be tempted by a ‘ready to cook/reheat’ meal or component thereof – things like meatballs, meat with added sauces, ready made pies etc. That’s the factor which brings the cooking from scratch figure down a bit!

    Of course, saying I cook from scratch could be viewed as a lie of convenience by some – I don’t make my own bread, pasta, sweet biscuits or savoury crackers and I use tinned tomatoes and frozen veg out of season. I also use stock cubes/pots as making my own stock isn’t always compatible with the types of meals I cook. What I mean by cooking from scratch is that I’m not reheating an already cooked meal from a supermarket, or putting a dish into the oven where all the components have already been assembled in a food factory.


    I think additives and salt levels is clearly key for a lot of people.

    We make some of our own bread but certainly not all, and like you we buy ready made biscuits, and used tinned tomatoes etc. too. I would say those are convenience items most people use.

  4. Kate

    When we lived in a bigger place with a decent kitchen we were at probably 90% home cooked meals, with the rest being takeaways. Since we’ve moved into London and our excuse for a kitchen has precisely 50 sq cm of prep space, that’s totally changed – 70% of meals at least have some ready made element. The stress of dropping things and burning myself due to lack of space took all the pleasure out of it, and it’s amazing how many of my fave meals involve a large appliance (blender, slow cooker, etc) which is in storage.
    We are in the prices of fixing the kitchen situation but in the mean time I’ve discovered that ready meals have moved on A LOT since I was at uni. I don’t think I could equal a Charlie Bigham’s Moussaka without spending most of the day in the kitchen. And weirdly altho they are expensive our overall food bills are about the same, as I’m not buying loads of expensive obscure ingredients in order to use a teaspoonful in one recipe any more.


    Charlie Bigham’s is one of the premium ranges we buy the most and I agree – their moussaka and lasagnes are so good, I don’t think anything I produce at home would taste better, though I guess it might have less salt, perhaps. These are the kind of ready meals I turn to and I think many people who think ready meals taste odd haven’t given this type of premium range a try.
    Hope you can sort your kitchen again soon!

  5. kaveyeats

    We are constantly amazed that people have so much waste. Our recycling were replaced recently and we know have an enormous recycling bin, the same size as our regular bin, plus a small brown food waste bin. There was talk of collecting only once a fortnight for the recycling, and people didn’t like the idea, whereas I don’t think we could fill either of our bins in a month, maybe even two! Probably the bulk of what goes into our recycling is the occasional product packaging, though we buy loose fruit and veg even when shopping in the supermarket, but most of it is junk mail, envelopes from real mail and the local bloody newspaper which refuses not to deliver even after 20 years of asking.

  6. Anne's Kitchen

    I don’t buy ready meals but we do buy ready made components and they make up about a third at the most of our meals. I try to cook from scratch mostly and stash leftovers in the freezer but like Kate says about her current situation is similar to us- I used to have a bigger kitchen and lots of space but now have about 3 cupboards, a rack in the hallway with the pans on and we now share our kitchen with another tenant – plus most of my equipment is either in the loft or a pain to get out of the storage cupboard so I try to avoid recipes involving them or buy ready made pastry.

    Lifestyle wise my shift patterns are all over the place which doesn’t help when it comes to planning things and my health has been not brilliant at times and so I don’t feel as guilty if we use something to cheat with! My boyfriend is learning to cook and not confident yet but on nights when he cooks it will be something like fish fingers or a frozen pie perhaps with frozen or fresh vegetables that he knows how to cook. We have bought one ready meal I think in the past year – it was a taste the difference paella on a bistro meal deal! We don’t go out very often to eat, maybe once a month at the most and have a takeaway probably every 3 months.

    I buy stock cubes and happily use them and the odd curry sauce to save time. We have a mixture of home made and bought bread. Most cakes, biscuits etc are all home made.


    Yes I can imagine being restricted by small kitchen and lack of access to your cooking equipment must have quite an impact.

    Good for you for not feeling guilty – the aim of my survey was never to make people feel guilty but to investigate eating and cooking habits and the reasons behind them.

  7. Adam Garratt

    I don’t consider myself a food snob, some people do but normally those that have no idea about me or my food habits and it really winds me up. I have had all sorts of different foods which is expected seeing as I love it so much, and yes I have eaten many a ready meal including those awful microwaveable fish pies that taste like a fishermans wellington boot.

    I probably eat a takeaway twice a month if that, I haven’t eaten a full ready meal for about 6 months, I think it was a beef hotpot, and if I remember rightly it only reminded me how much better my own is, and how expensive it was. I cook because I enjoy it, I love food and I love making other people happy with it.

    Ready made food certainly has it’s place, pasta for one is probably the most used ready made food and unless you have a pasta machine, 00 flour and a spare few hours then everyone is going to be using it. I have used ready made mashed potato to top a homemade cottage pie because I had already made the filling the previous day and wanted to get the meal in the oven as quick as possible so the family could eat at a reasonable time. I think the main thing to note is that ready meals are more expensive, and don’t taste anywhere near as good if you make it yourself, but a few shortcuts in life never hurt anyone. I’d be happier that someone used a jar of dolmio and some pasta to make a meal rather than handing me a kettle and a pot noodle.


    I’m not a food snob either. I find it funny when people express surprise that I love Burger King, that I eat kebabs and instant noodles, that I buy ready meals – as though writing a food blog must put me into a box in their minds!

    The bad ready meals really are bad, the cheap fish pies being a good example!

    Even some of the half-way decent ones are, as you say, good reminders that you can do better yourself, though sometimes it’s the energy and effort saving that balances it out. But there are some where I could seldom be bothered to do it better, things like chicken kiev which I could certainly make but happy to buy, or a top end lasagne.

    And yes indeed, on the pasta! I have never found a bottled pasta sauce I like the taste of but we’ll buy the fresh ones very occasionally, as they taste much closer to my home made ones.

  8. mr reasonable

    I do the cooking in our house. I also do the weekly shopping (online from Sainsburys). I know that I need 6 meat components as we typically have a takeaway/ eat out/ visit relatives once a week and then have recipes which make use of what’s on offer. I always cook from fresh but use items like oven chips once or twice a week. I keep a cupboard of ingredients such as various herbs and spices passata tomato puree etc. Depending on work if I have a busy week I will have a cook up for Monday to Wednesday when I’m preparing the Sunday Roast. For a quick meal I do chicken or turkey in breadcrumbs but find it dead easy to make breadcrumbs with a hand blender flor and eggwash them. I add herbs and spices but not salt. I do use ready made puff pastry ( a lower fat version which is very acceptable).I think I cook this way because my mum always cooked from scratch and it was what I was used to. When we were having our kitchen done we had three weeks of ready meals at at tge end if it tge children were begging for home cooked food again


    I think that sounds sensible, in terms of oven chips and ready made puff – yes indeed. We use ready made puff pastry as well, Pete’s made croissants from scratch and they were good but pretty faffy and time intensive¬!

  9. NickyB

    Rarely do a takeaway – maybe 2 or 3 times a year. And virtually never use ready meals. Again, probably a handful of times a year. I like fresh food and love to cook so it doesn’t even feature as a thought. I will occasionally buy things like a really good pie from a market or deli as pies aren’t something I’d normally choose to make myself. Mum always cooked from scratch so I guess it was how I was brought up.


    Nicky, am just curious whether you’ve tried the higher end ranges of pies from supermarkets, for example in Waitrose I’ll buy their own brand or Charlie Bigham’s pies and have found them as good as any I’ve picked up from Farmer’s Markets.

  10. Fiona Wilson

    I’m a cross between Jennie and Martine. I like to know what is in what I eat for health reasons and it nevet seems to cross my mind to eat ready meals. The one or two I’ve had over the years have been enough to pur me off for life.
    Tbe odd fish finger is about az near as I come to reaxy meals and then it is not for a main meal.
    My idea of ready meals these dayz is something I’ve prepared and frozen earlier.


    Yes, there’s a lot of satisfaction in being able to have a really quick and effortless meal because of forward planning previously!

  11. Corina

    I don’t think any of these match me. My husband and I usually have a Friday night takeaway or ready meal to make things easier at the end of the week. If we have a ready meal we often then have a takeaway another night but the rest of the nights I like to cook everything from scratch. Before we had children we rarely ate ready meals but used to go out to eat more instead.


    Yes I can imagine that having children will always have some impact on eating habits, whatever it may be.

  12. Miss South

    I almost never eat ready meals although about twice a year I’ll buy some microwavable mash and I usually keep frozen rice for quick meals. I cook from scratch, mainly using the slow cooker to save on my rather limited energy or making portions of things in advance.

    I don’t eat curries because on a tight budget, pastes are too expensive and making your own doesn’t work for one as you end up with gallons. When I’m not well enough to cook, I eat sandwiches which is my cheat. I have an endless capacity for fried eggs on bread or porridge for any meal rather than pinging anything in the microwave.

    The only processed food I really ever buy is the occasional bag of oven chips or potato waffles. The really cheap processed food I can afford is so disgusting that I’d honestly rather skip meals or eat toast. Everything else is surprisingly expensive when you mix and match. Also I don’t shop in supermarkets so I never see ready made stuff which removes any temptation or intrigue. I’d say I’m highly unlike most people in my shopping habits….


    I love our slow cooker, but have mostly used it to make stock overnight after a roast dinner, but we’re trying to use it more for meals too.

    Because we’re lucky to have a huge freezer, I don’t mind cooking in larger quantities than we need and freezing the rest but understand that this can be difficult for those without space or budget for such a large freezer. We are also able to freeze home grown vegetables in it too as well as leftovers. And when we see a good deal on meat or fish, we can buy and freeze to use later.

    I agree that the decent tasting ready made stuff is pretty expensive, and the mid-range and cheap stuff just doesn’t taste great. I’d say for those people who spend a fair bit of money on takeaways, then it could be a cost saver because a supermarket curry will be cheaper than a restaurant, but it will never be as economical as cooking from scratch.


    The one time in my life I have cooked everything from scratch was when I was doing an exclusion diet and had to exclude wheat, dairy and sugar. Eventually I discovered that cow’s milk products are problematic, though I can manage a little butter.

    I found that curry was something I missed terribly, so in the end I went looking through Kavey’s mum’s recipe site (Mamta’s Kichen) and found that using her recipes I could achieve some of the dishes I missed without cooking for the 5000 or using dairy. Sheep’s milk yoghurt helps on some of the creamy ones.

    I halve the serves 4 down to two just fine, and they reheat. Mind you, I am a little haphazard about some of the spices, but I create a close enough facsimile to cure the craving.


  13. Sarah Thorley

    I would say I home cook 99.999 %. On the very rare occasion I will use a ready meal.I think its as easy and as quick sometimes to make a meal from scratch.it doesn’t always have to be complicated. In the past when I have eaten ready meals I’ve been disappointed. The flavour isn’t really there. One of the main things I like about home cooking is that I know what goes into my food. There are too many things that are used in ready meals that I don’t like.why does it need a flavour enhancer or preservatives? Also there seems to be a growing craze to put sweeteners in absolutely everything!! Palm oil, added colours. no I just prefer good old fashioned natural food.

  14. Foodie Laura

    We rarely have ready meals but I do freeze leftovers which I’ll heat up in place of a ready meal. It’s partly cost but I don’t find them to taste that great either and they are so heavily processed. The one preprepared thing we have fairly regularly (once a month in place of a take away) is the 2 dine for £10 deals because I think they are good value and include a bottle of wine, main, side and dessert.


    Yes the dine for £10 deals are good value – which kind of ranges do you choose? I think the premium ones are usually not bad at all in these deals.

  15. Ruthy @ Minibreak Mummy

    Last autumn, when we were staying at my parents’ house while waiting to move into our new house, we ate a lot of ready meals rather than cook in someone else’s kitchen. Now we’re in our own house, with a lovely kitchen, we can cook properly again. Hoorah! Real food tastes so much nicer!

    Also, I’ve started to realise that many ready meals are very high in salt, so that is another reason we are eating fewer of them.


    Yes I agree, the salt levels are definitely higher. We add only a little when we cook ourselves, so I do notice feeling thirstier after eating ready meals.

  16. Mamta Gupta

    Well done to Diana, Jennie, Jow and MartineI!
    Rest of you do not despair, properly chosen and accompanied with fresh produce, ready-made meals can be life (or time) savers :-). I do use ready meals ‘in part’ from time to time, as anyone who follows me on facebook knows. Some things take time to make and with just the two of us, and one out of them a Pescatarian, it doesn’t always make sense to make one portion of something fiddly. I make my own Pizza 99% of the time, but on odd occasion, I will buy a ready-made one, especially if I am stocking up freezer for my 1st week back from a long haul holiday, knowing well that it will take me 4-5 days to get back into cooking gear. I do draw a line though on buying ready made, supermarket ‘curries, onion bhajies, rice, creamy salads and any type of pre-fried, soggy foods.


    Mum, no one is despairing because there is no intention here for anyone to feel guilty about their eating habits.

  17. What Kate Baked

    I think this is such an interesting debate and you’re absolutely right- some supermarket ready meals are of very good quality and I guess it does depend on your definition of ‘ ready made’. My definition had been very narrow prior to reading this- I’d not have classed sausages as ready made for example. I’d say we often have one ready meal a week, mainly one of those M&S dine in for £10 offers, which are tasty, convenient and a bit of a treat. We rarely get a takeaway and eat out 2-3 times a week in the evening, mostly over the weekend. The rest of the time is cooked from scratch.

    Felicity Cloake wrote an interesting article last week in the guardian about how little time briton’s now spend preparing food: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/27/can-cook-wont-cook-tv


    Yes, first I was thinking only about complete ready meals.

    Then I started thinking of ready made components such as oven chips, pies, battered fish, breaded chicken… and thought that surely sausages should be in that list too?

    Things like dry pasta or tinned tomatoes wouldn’t be in that list for me because they are simply ingredients that are used in a recipe when cooking from scratch.

    I’ve not tried M&S deals for a long time, as I fell out of love with their ready meals a long time ago, but do buy the Waitrose ones regularly.

    Thanks for the link to Felicity’s piece, I hadn’t seen it, very interesting indeed!

  18. Nicky Bramley

    Hi Kavey, no I haven’t but probably because if I’m in a supermarket I have already planned menus and would have a list of what I needed so wouldn’t even go near the pies section 😀 Farmer’s Markets are more of an adhoc browsing experience, so I wouldn’t have a set meal in mind … Makes me sound very anal but when you work very long hours you need to be organised I guess!


    No I understand. There is a pleasure to browsing a farmers’ market. My only bugbear is that some of the people I know make an assumption that everything in farmers’ market is automatically better than the equivalent bought from regular shops, and while it’s sometimes true, it isn’t always the case. Of course, there is the other advantage that all your money goes to the actual producer, rather than the supermarkets squeezing them for every lower prices!

  19. Jen

    I never buy full ready meals, I find them generally either cheap and nasty, or ok, but overpriced for what they are.
    I also love to cook and spend time in the kitchen, and if I don’t feel like it, will rustle up something quick or take advantage of one of the takeaways!
    That said, I certainly do use ready made elements of dishes, I buy oven chips, pesto, mayto, pastry to name a few, apart from pastry which I’m crap at I can and do make homemade versions of the rest, but not very often.
    For example pesto would be used on a can’t be bothered night, stirred through pasta with some jarred olives from the fridge, so making my own would defeat the purpose of quick, lazy meal.

    I think another reason I don’t buy them is because when I am in the Supermarket I am in cooking mode, so if I see a nice pie with a flavour combination that is new to me, I’ll make a mental note to look up a recipe for it, rather than buy it.

    What I do sometimes do ischoose from the deli meats/olives/cheese and get some good bread and salad and have that which probably is a ready meal still, just not thought of as such because no one expects you to make your own salami and brie!


    I think it’s clear that not many here buy complete ready meals but that many of us use ready-made elements regularly.

    I guess where the price might make more sense is for dishes one wouldn’t cook very often, in which case buying all the specialist ingredients may well be more expensive…

  20. Dasilvajums

    I’m like Dave. Everything home made except the odd spice mix or fresh filled pasta. I have no kitchen at present due to major refurb but prepared lots of my own ready meals beforehand for reheating, and am managing to prepare wholesome tasty meals on one hob. It does take time, and requires preparation, which when I am busy is a struggle. I do approach food as I do fuel. You wouldn’t run your amazing super pricey sports car on bad fuel with unknown additives, so why would you do that to your body? (Bloody love a chicken Kiev though- just buy them from butcher rather than a packet).

  21. Alicia (foodycat)

    I’m more likely to have a ready meal sort of thing at lunchtime, so that skews the results a bit! But for dinner I probably cook 90% of the time, with the occasional filled pasta or bought dauphinois or something.


    Yes, I decided not to look at lunch just because it depends on so many more factors, not least what is available in and near one’s place of work…

  22. sandi

    We have a take away or a ready meal about twice a month. Probably more right now as the oven is out of action due to renovating, but generally we have them as we are tired or my wrists hurt too much to stir pots of things.. I do not buy jarred sauces or pastes as I find my own are better. I do not mind ready meals, but would not like to live on them as they are quite boring. I am shocked people buy ‘white sauce’ and ragu to make a lasagne as it is so easy and cheap to DIY. Even with limited space… we have lived off one ring and a single oven for a bit so I know about restricted space. I think over all I am a bit of a ready meal snob. I’d never buy lasagne and am unhappy with curries, but chicken kiev or the odd breaded fish thing we do do happily.


    Lasagne is an interesting one because the brands I usually buy I really like, but one I tried recently and which will be on the blog soon, was a huge let down. Yet both were from premium ranges, but different supermarkets…

  23. Lynda

    I would say I cook from scratch 80% of the time, 15% eating out, and the rest is takeaways and once or twice a month M&S £10 ready-meal (great value and the quality is sometimes better than i’ve had in restaurants). I wonder how much is cultural and how you were brought up? I don’t recall having any ready meals as a child and I was deeply jealous of people eating Turkey Twizzlers though my health and taste buds now appreciate it!


    It’s interesting that a number of people do buy M&S (or other supermarket) meal deals, which of course include ready meals or ready made elements. I’ve found that these can be pretty darn good, depending on what you choose!

  24. Oanh

    The only full ready meal we buy is lasagne (from Lidl!) – which I buy once or twice a month. I use a ready made sauce of some sort (indian or japanese curry) once a week. Frozen chips twice a week and the rest is cooking from scratch. We rarely have a takeaway, but that’s mainly because we live in the sticks.


    We don’t have a Lidl near us but do pop into our Aldi regularly. But I’ve never tried their ready meals. Perhaps I should check them out!

  25. depresseddancer

    I’m a Helen. Part of that is due to food intolerances in the family – with dairy, wheat, seafood and soya allergies and intolerances to contend with, it’s quicker to cook than read a billion supermarket labels, and I feel safer becuse I know exactly what’s gone into a dish, and there’s no risk of cross contamination.


    Yes I can imagine that dealing with allergies or specific dietary needs is really difficult with ready meals, and when it’s a severe allergy, it’s probably safest to cook from scratch and not have the allergen in the house at all!

  26. Ian Hoare

    I’m a total PITA over ready made food – right down to even making PITAs in house. But because we live in deepest backwaters in France, the main reason we don’t buy ready made, is because the choice is SO dire I’d prefer to eat bread and spread – the bread is home made (Dove Farm’s Organic stoneground flour) bread, and the spread is home made pork terrine (free range pig raised for us by a friend) – so bread and spread is no real hardship. When we lived in the UK, we’d get a take-away Indian, Chinese or Thai occasionally. A couple of years ago when in the Uk I tried a “ready meal” from a supermarket. Give me a bacon (home made) butty any day.


    Yes I imagine that availability has a big impact… mind you I did envy some of the fresh ready meals available in traiteur shops across France. I think that’s a pretty popular choice in towns where a good traiteur exists?

  27. Helen Stevens

    I make my own ready-made components! I cook mince, stew beef, stew lamb in bulk, put into cartons and freeze. I also make and cook pies and freeze. I see little point in freezing uncooked pies, as I make at least six at any one time.
    This means that I have the basis of whatever meal I fancy.
    I have also frozen a mix of mashed potato, carrot and parsnip, and have found it very handy.
    I would not buy any ready meals or components (apart from frozen chips and peas) as I like to know exactly what goes into my food.


    I’ve never thought to make and bake pies and then freeze them, Helen. Can you give any tips on how best to defrost / heat them for eating? Thank you!

  28. Lee

    Dinners are mainly cooked. Lunches are leftovers (when I remember), from the canteen upstairs, or ready meals (I prefer a meal to a sandwich). But even then they will be re-seasoned, a little extra stock added. I can’t think of a single instance where I would eat the ready meal as prepared, except maybe a pizza and even then I don’t bake them in the way given on the packet

    But dinner might well contain 2-3 elements which were “pre-prepared” simply because making some things for one is impossible. I would have to make far too big a batch for just me, the ingredients would be mostly wasted, and as i get home at 8pm or later most nights, it would end up being 10pm or later when I ate if I made pesto or a thai red curry paste from scratch.


    Your suggestion of pimping ready meals intrigues me, will quiz you for more info on that!

    Yes, completely agree, cooking from scratch without use of any ready made elements would make some dishes quite long winded, not really ideal for weekday meals when getting home late from work.

  29. Stokey Sue

    There’s a huge question of definition isn’t there?

    I’d say I mainly make my own from scratch, bearing in mind I am a single person household

    I don’t bake my own bread (not worth it, I eat so little, done it in the past) and I don’t eat takeaways generally though I have done

    I do freeze a lot of my own home-made dishes to heat and eat later, rather than buying them ready-made

    I buy a certain number of components as cooking manly for one person I don’t want to be swamped with ingredients; at this time of year when I’m not eating salad with every meal, a mixed bag is better value for me than trying to work out what to do with three half lettuces/endives. Similarly, I’ll occasionally buy things like ready-made allioli or mayo; I don’t want a lot, and bought keeps better in the fridge, it suits me

    The one thing I do seem to buy is ready made soup for lunch, Glorious Skinny or Covent Garden; I do make my own of course, but soup is something often best made in fairly large amounts, and if you make it from leftovers it means the soup you had for lunch is not that different from what you’ve been having for supper. Neither of these are insuperable, but it suits me; I’d have difficulty making anything as good and as low calorie (5:2 fast day level) as Glorious Skinny Thai Carrot Soup (today’s lunch) and I just can’t be bothered to try

    When I was looking after Mum after Dad died, ready meals were the answer. I really couldn’t get around to doing major cooking in Mum’s little kitchen when there was so much else to do and I was upset. Waitrose & Charlie Bigham saved me! And they were fine though I prefer my own

    I also have an Admiral’s pie habit, but I don’t indulge it very often (and the whole point is I don’t have to think about it, and it costs me very little)

    Given that apparently many people in the UK are living on sandwiches and snacks, turning to ready meals could be better for some



    Thanks Sue.

    Completely see your point on salad – if one enjoys a mixed salad, doesn’t make sense to buy whole of each lettuce and vegetable, would easily go to waste.

    I don’t eat much soup but can see your point on large batches, though soup freezes very well too, I find.

    We like some of Waitrose/ Charlie Bigham’s ready meals too. I don’t know Admiral’s pies.

    Stokey Sue

    Ross Admiral’s Pie
    A basic fish pie, often less than £1 at Iceland 🙁

    Not haute cuisine, but perfectly edible & easy; better than a sandwich anyway!

    May be served with another ready-thing I buy sometimes, Bird’s Eye Steamer veg portions, which are very handy being a nice sized portion of decent veg to keep for the days that the cabbage has wilted and the cauli rusted.

    Perhaps that’s point – ready meals are one thing, and I don’t think I ever buy them ones that comes with sides included in the box TV dinner style; even with Mum she got fresh veg (sometimes prepped, she lived 150 metres from Waitrose & I did very well on mark downs!)

    I know you can freeze soup, but it takes up a lot of room, and I probably need to get some suitable containers for use in my new bigger freezer


    Aah, we had an Iceland locally but it closed many years ago, not familiar with their food at all.

    We use yoghurt and ice cream containers for freezing soup, as well as regular plastic (not) tupperware boxes.

  30. Dom

    fab post… it’s really funny because I think your idea of a ‘ready meal’ is too broad. I consider a ready meal to be a dinner in a box type meal, like those reviewed in your next post and The Viking and I haven’t bought one of those for years and years… if we want something like that then we’d get a take-away… on the other hand I eat pre-made sandwiches from shops for lunch on a regular basis and I guess they are a ready meal? On a normal weeknight we tend to eat a large salad with ‘something’ on top such as a veggie something for The V and tinned tuna or pre-cooked salmon for me but we’d never turn to a ready meal, not out of any kind of snobbery, we just don’t pick them up in the supermarket… plus they’re usually pretty lousy for vegetarians anyway… but saying all this we have quite a transient lifestyle… we don’t have kids but we do work late nights so for us the option is take-out of home cook… I make my own bread at the weekend but buy shop bought for toast during the week… I’m still a fat bastard.


    I think my definition of ready meal is much like yours – the dinner in a single tray type affair. But I’ve also added in ready-made components such as battered fish, breaded chicken, sausages, pies into the survey because I think there’s a difference in cooking from scratch and using those elements, in respect to my little survey. I think it’s perhaps a matter of degrees…?

  31. Richard Smith

    I think it is as Ian said ,what is available, what is the quality, what time I have to spare. but most of all what priority do I put on things like the providence of the ingredients, the availability of raw ingredients and the time it takes to collect a ready made meal.

    I do from time to time buy a ready cooked chicken from the market stall, or a pork hock with sauerkraut as to make these on a Saturday when we both seem to have more than enough to do is a time saver, but this is more the exception than the rule and we know that they are top quality products.

    I do a lot of batch cooking so always have stock of soups, stews and Eintopf in my deep freezer. I do not know the last time I bought a ready supermarket meal. I love cooking so think it is depriving myself of one of my greatest pleasures. If I am out and about I can pop into most restaurants and get a midday meal for €7,- (three courses) so why pay for a one from the supermarket, when I can either go home, open the freezer and get a finished meal or pop into a restaurant.

    Now if we take into account meals on the go (street type food) then there you have me, I love them and will often have Currywurst und pommes rot (I am not too fond of Mayo on my chips) or a Rostbratwurst in a bun, a piece of Leberkäs in a bun, roast pork with crackling or a Berliner Frikadelle. I have just come back from SE Asia and there of course Street food is very very big and in reality cannot be called ready made as it is made fresh while you wait and eaten either there in your hand or sitting on a baby stool at a baby table.

    But I think the original question was more about the Supermarket meals (either refrigerated or frozen) these I have never had for at least 30 years (called TV dinners back in the old days, though God Forbid we never had them at home). At my Sis’s we will often have fish n’ chips, but that is an institution not a ready meal, so does that really count?

    I do bake bread from time to time, but with the quality and variety of really good bread at 6 bakers within easy walking distance, it is more a case of trying something new out rather than wanting too bake a loaf.
    As for salad I buy most of my ingredients in small quantities being in lucky position as the local vegetable shop has boxes of small leafs at a uniform price so pick ad mix is great, you get what and how much you want. Though I do see the plus of having a packet of ready washed salad leaves all ready to go onto the plate (I used them a lot before I retired and moved in with my partner), though again I have never used a ready made dressing as I have all of the makings at home.

    So in conclusion, I do on rare occasions buy ready meals, but not to take home, with the exception of Saturday chicken or pork hock and fish n’ chips when in the UK (I live in Germany as you may have guessed, though Kavey knows that). I do on occasions use ready made ingredients (sauerkraut, fish sauce, shrimp paste etc.). but most things I will make from scratch, using local ingredients if possible (no coconut or banana plantations reached this far north yet, though I do have my own lemon tree), I use my local butcher as I know where the meat comes from. I purchase my fish from the local market, fish quay or catch it myself, all game is self shot and butchered so I know where my food comes from and in the main what it contains.
    I am not saying my food is any better or the ingredients of ready meals are worse than self prepared meals, but there is always that niggling doubt, what do all those E-numbers mean?


    Aah, goodness, I’d completely forgotten the expression TV Dinners, what a blast from the past, I remember it well!

    Very interesting to read your comments on the price of eating out in your area, of course, that must have an impact on the use of ready meals, and also your points about good quality takeaways / street food.

    I think many of us make good use of large freezers so we can cook in batch. Definitely a key kitchen appliance for us!

  32. Ian Hoare

    Kavey makese the point that in large towns in France, where we live, Traiteurs/charcutiers do have decent food available, and of course she’s right. We’ve never really made use of that type of service, dunno why, really. I guess that by the time I’ve got into the car, driven the 7 miles down to Argentat and gone into Tradicorrèze to pick up some stuffed cabbage, I tend to feel I might just as well have stopped off on the way Chez Gilberte and had a five course meal at 13 € or a single dish for around 7 €. What I’m saying here is that in our area, a meal out isn’t so expensive that it’s a major problem, so the cheaper “ready meal” alternatives are less attractive by comparison.

    Because (at >70) neither of us are in full time employment (though we seem to manage to be busy 12hrs+ a day) we have more time to cook for ourselves and make things that most people can’t consider making, either because we can’t get it at all here (real bacon for example, where we have to order it a month at a time and in advance) or because what we CAN get (eg brown bread) is so dire generally, that I won’t eat it.

    We also much prefer to know exactly what we’re eating, and something as commonplace as an egg mayonnaise sandwich – where the egg is free-range from someone we know and trust, the bread is made from unadulterated organic flour, water and yeast with a couple of minor additions, like oil and sunflower seeds, the mayo is made from the usual 5/6 ingredients, all pure – becomes a joy to eat. Not only that, but we know that some food chemist somewhere hasn’t decided that the mayonnaise needs an emulsifier, a preservative & a stabiliser and god knows where the eggs, vinegar and oil come from – with the same sort of unknowns applying to the bread as well.

    I’d never say to anyone with a family, or working full time should do the same as we do, I couldn’t imagine they could possibly find the time, but here, now, and with our access to world class ingredients, we’d not be living true to ourselves if we bought a lot of ready made dishes. About the only “prepared ingredients” we get are things like fermented bean sauces, & Hoi-sin & other Chinese ingredients.

    I should add one thing. We pre-prepare a lot of our own foods. Soups, sauces, terrines, mashed potatoes, fried onions as a sauce/soup base and so on. I don’t count these as “ready-meals” as I didn’t read Kaveys original remarks as addressing that type of food.


    Yes I think lifestyle has a big impact on this, as does where one lives (and the resulting availability or not of good produce, affordable options for eating out, quality of ready meals and how far one might have to travel to even purchase them).

    When we buy ready meals we tend to buy the fresh ones, rather than long life – and these are often made to not dissimilar recipes from home cooked items, certainly less odd ingredients than long life versions, though still more than if genuinely cooked at home.

  33. ShotleyGirl

    Louis and I are pretty much like Helen on your blog. We cook from scratch 80-90% of the time, but would cook for either 4 or 6 portions and then freeze these for a later date. It suits us both and at least once per week we would cook a meal from scratch. I would bulk cook chilli and bolognese sauce and freeze these in portions for 2 people. I also make my own soup on a monthly basis and freeze that for when I need it.

    The only day that we may buy a ‘ready meal’ would be on the evening that we would do our food shopping, when all you want to do is get home and relax.

    Rarely would we get a take-away, although saying that, yesterday Louis really fancied an Indian take-away, so we picked one up on the way home and there was so much left over that I have managed to freeze my butter chicken dish and Louis will be having the remainder of his Tandoori mix with pilau rice and the remainder of the naan.

    After updating my freezer contents list, I have managed to find seven meals in the freezer until next Wednesday evening – that means that I shall only be cooking one meal from scratch this coming week.


    Sounds like you are really good at batch cooking, to create your own ready meals. Quite a few of us here do the same, but I think not to the extent you guys manage it. Very impressed.

    When we get a takeaway, we’ll sometimes fancy a little more variety, so we’ll have leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day, if there are any.

  34. Dennis

    We’re retired so it’s much easier to eat as we want to with taste and health being important. Most main meals are cooked from fresh ingredients, usually bought the same day (gives me a walk into town).

    Usually we go out once a week (good quality pub) having our main meal at lunch times, can’t remember the last time we had a take away, occasionally we buy an M&S ready meal (if we’re in the big town) or Charlie Brigham one from Waitrose.

    At one time I made our own stocks but now buy them, same with mayo (Helmann’s) but make our own salad dressings. OH tends to buy ready made sauces for meals but that’s unusual for me. In the freezer are lots of little pots with left overs that get added to dishes.

    Any yeast based food I do, OH does ‘proper’ cakes from scratch all soups are homemade
    as are jams, chutneys, mint sauce and so on.

    We don’t do as much from scratch as we once did but with only two of us (and a small freezer) it suits us.


    It sounds as though the balance has changed since you retired, and for the better in terms of health and properly made food.

    Aren’t freezers the unsung hero of our kitchens?

  35. Mary J

    Living in the Welsh mountains until recently left little or no access to takeaway food. If we were going to drive for 40 minutes to get a take away our theory was that we might as well make an evening of it and eat out.

    Now I live alone in a small country town I have very close access to at least 5 different takeaways but only have one per week. I do, however, occasionally pick up a ready meal to take home and eat when I have been shopping further afield and am to tired or can’t be bothered to start cooking. I also have my own ready meals in the freezer for emergencies.

    Mary J


    Hello Mary!

    I agree, one’s eating habits are very dependent on where one lives and what one has access too.

    It sounds as though, now, you have a balance similar to many – mostly home cooked, using batch cooking and the freezer to create your own ready meals, but the occasional shop-bought one as well.

  36. Lesley Williams

    I have occasionally tried ready meals from M&S and Waitrose which I am led to understand are better than most but I find that they all have an unpleasant sweetness about them. I think the only one that I have eaten and thought that it was ok was a Charlie Bingham macaroni cheese. If I need a quick meal for the two of us after working all day I am more inclined to rustle up a spaghetti carbonara or an omelette and salad in about the same amount of time that it takes to put a chilled meal into a conventional oven to reheat. In the summer I am happy to pile a selection of charcuterie, cheese and olives onto a platter and add bread and salad for a quick and easy supper.


    I agree that you can definitely rustle up a quick meal in the time it takes to bake a ready meal in the oven. My response would be there that it isn’t always the time factor but the tiredness or laziness factor. Sometimes, for me, the thought of standing up and doing anything much at all in the kitchen is offputting.

    It’s interesting you have found ready meals sweet, I haven’t noticed this but it’s true that sugar is used as a flavour enhancer, much as fat is, so I can imagine some people are sensitive enough to pick that up in the taste.

    We do the picnic meal sometimes too – charcuterie, cheese and some fresh bakery bread. Very nice.

  37. Clairetweet

    Fascinating…and what amazing comments, Kavey. Yes, ready meals can mean different things to different people. I think most of what I want to say has been said, but to add to the pot of how we eat:

    We don’t buy ‘box’ type ready meals, but I am not averse to some sort of component of a meal. Of course we buy sausages etc, but I buy then from the butchers in preference to the supermarket and I will often do something like make my own pizza dough, yet to save time use a sachet of pasta sauce for the topping. Packaging on processed food is ridiculous and the flavours and textures often disappointing.

    We bow to George’s wishes and have a takeaway once a fortnight or so, but I am becoming increasingly disappointed with those too, of late. Finding the meat poor quality or waking in the night with a raging thirst due to excess salt and MSG.

    I do think that people that write and read blogs are a sub-set of normality though and there are many, many people out there who live on ready meals by buying stacks of £1 dinners from Iceland.


    I definitely think the subset of people who originally approached (and of course, those who have responded since) are not typical or representative of the entire population, definitely. The surveys in the papers tell us more and more people out there are not cooking at home at all, other than putting ready meals into the oven, so clearly all of us responding here are in a different subset to that. That said, some of the people I originally approached would not consider themselves foodies, and don’t write (or even read) food blogs… but even then, I know I haven’t got a wide enough sample group!

    You are right that packaging is often ridiculous, and is definitely something we have become more aware of over the last few years. We are constantly amazed at how much rubbish some of our neighbours produce – we rarely fill our bins, not even nearly and are slightly amazed that others manage to produce quite so much waste.

    I do know what you mean about salt / MSG – I find I am much thirstier after both a takeaway and going out to a restaurant, and sometimes I have concerns about hygiene standards, though I’m not a “germaphobe”, it is something that occasionally pops into my mind. For that reason, I tend to use the same few takeaway places that have been consistent over a long time…


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