The best ready meals and recipe boxes
With self-isolation becoming the norm during the pandemic, the benefits of the ready-meal and the home delivered recipe box were laid bare. There is so much to be said for having tasty, nutritious food in your freezer, as you never know when you might need it.
We’ve tried and tested these 6 offerings and all pass the test of decent portion sizes, full on flavour, and easy preparation. So if you’re sick as a dog, or just stuck indoors and unable to pop to the shops, it’s still possible to eat healthily without the need for Deliveroo each night.
Are ready meals bad for you?
Whilst many mass-produced ready meals contain processed ingredients and excess saturated fats and salts which are best avoided, there are many new companies offering homemade meals that are balanced and healthy. All those listed here offer nutritional information and calories come in in line with most recipes on our website.
How long can you keep ready meals in the freezer?
Frozen ready can be kept for up to 3 months, with some meals able to be kept frozen for up to 6 months. It’s always best to check the label on the particular meal though, as some ingredients such as meat or fish can spoil sooner.
Our pick of the best
The best for family meals: Potage
Potage began with an aim to make home-cooked meals for those who can’t or don’t have time to do so themselves, and we can confirm they have succeeded! These delicious dinners taste just like they’ve been made for you by a loving relative. From meatballs to lasagne, fish pie to Thai curry, each dish is a well-balanced meal, you just need to add pasta or rice if you wish while you wait for the dishes to cook in the oven, and then dinner is served. Available from Potage (from £54 for 8 meals).
The best for the experimental: Mindful Chef
The Mindful Chef recipe boxes are among our favourite because they offer healthy, new ideas for dinners and don’t take hours to put together. The company sell both recipe boxes and frozen ready meals, smoothies and desserts, so you can pick and choose. We loved the butternut squash and sprout curry with black rice, and were particularly impressed by the quality of the vegetables. Available from Mindful Chef (from £5.50 per meal).
The best for fussy eaters: StockedFood
Batch cooking done for you? Portioned into cubes AND delivered frozen to your door? That’s exactly what StockedFood offer, with super-versatile and excellent recipes, from jerk chicken to plant-based hearty ragù. While most people would enjoy the meals (and they have a handful of Great Taste Awards too), we think this idea is particularly suited to two groups of people: those with very busy lifestyles and those with household members who have different tastes, making cooking tricky. All you need to do is provide a base, say, rice, couscous, or pasta – then heat up your choice of cubes, for completely different meals in yes, minutes. Is there a downside? It’s not the cheapest way to buy food, unless you eke out the portions very well. But these would also make a great gift, as Stocked put it “Save a loved one from their rubbish mealtimes. No more bland ready meals or overpriced takeaways.” Available from StockedFood, with various subscription and delivery options, from £38 for 16 meals.
The best for the health-conscious: SimpleFoods
The SimpleFoods offering is ideal for those on a health kick, or young professionals who are limited in time but want to eat something with a higher health value than takeaways. The dishes are super simple to prepare: they can be heated up in the microwave or in hot water on the stove, and all you need to add is a carb or salad to most dishes. We particularly liked the breakfast smoothies, which just need whizzing in a blender with your choice of milk; and the Thai curry and fishcakes were equally enjoyable. Available from SimpleFoods (from £3.35).
The best for the travel lover: Cookaway
There’s a globetrotting theme to recipe boxes offered by The Cookaway, with Japanese, Spanish, Indian and Italian among the meals on offer. Each is overseen by a cook who’s an expert in that particular cuisine, with live online hosting on certain dates (otherwise you can use their recipe cards, if you’re not feeling well enough for an online event). For the Malaysian Night Market Experience box we tried, Ping Coombes, the recently crowned MasterChef ‘champion of champions’, was the enthusiastic host. The highlights were pork and prawn dumplings, and a chicken wing recipe from Ping’s esteemed mum.
The best on the high street: COOK
You might have spotted a COOK shop on your local high street, as they have many branches now sprawled out across the UK. Specialising in high quality home-cooked meals, packaged and frozen for a longer shelf-life, COOK meals are always of an exceedingly good standard. Order meal boxes for any quantity: one person or for large groups and choose from a range of dietary requirements, from gluten free to vegan. They also cater for kids. We recently tried out their honey-glazed duck with an orange & madeira jus as well as their slow-cooked osso bucco and were blown away by the restaurant-standard quality in frozen form.
In the mood to plan ahead? Batch cook away to your heart’s content with our best freezable recipes.
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