We all know that fast food is not only not good for us physically, it’s hard on the budget. In addition, many of us are not only battling the battle of the “bulge” but we’re at war with inflation and a tight budget that isn’t inflating.
Therefore, we have to be creative and cost conscious. That occasionally means with our time as well as our money too. It’s a fact of life, we don’t always have time for that delicious homemade meal, and we’re certainly not ready to cope with the dollar menu at the local fast food joint either.
In preparation for those occasions, one alternative is found in the frozen food aisle at the grocery store. What can we find there?
Almost everything, from vegetarian meals to gourmet desserts, and the prices vary as well. We can choose between the traditional and familiar “tv dinners” to some very tasty and health conscious meals. There are desserts and pot pies, pizzas and lasagna…and we’re suddenly lost in an ocean of choices.
Obviously, our eyes fall first on familiar brands and types of frozen food, especially the less expensive ones. While Marie Callendar pot pies are upwards of $2 each at many stores, the familiar-from-childhood Banquet pot pies still come in under a dollar each. Many of us remember them, baked on a cookie sheet in the oven, they still took from 30-60 minutes to prepare, hardly a “fast” solution to dinners.
Today’s pot pies can be done in the microwave in about 4 1/2-5 minutes each. I tried the beef, and with real chunks of meat, it was tasty, although the peas and carrots were more rare than the meat inside the crust and it seemed moderately salty in flavor. Then, I read the nutritional panel.
With 1010 mg of sodium, it was 40% of the RDA, and way over my limit. I’d just consumed over a day’s allowance of salt, all in one sitting. Saturated fat came in at 9 grams (45% of RDA) and cholesterol at 30 mg (10% RDA.) Those aren’t attractive figures for a 390 calorie meal out of a box. (Other flavors may vary–check the boxes yourself before purchase.)
Dessert is also something we love, and Banquet also offers a dessert “pot pie” at an attractive price for the single serving. I tried the apple, which I found to be “ok”. I wasn’t super excited about it, but I have definitely had worse. It takes 3 1/2-4 minutes in the microwave, and the crust was actually tastier than the beef pot pie crust. Inside the crust, there was a sweet sauce surrounding chunks of apple, mildly spiced and with good apple flavor.
Nutritionally, it was less of a “bomb” than the beef pot pie. Even so, it had 5g of saturated fat (25% of RDA) and 10 mg (27% of RDA) of sodium. It also had 380 calories, nearly identical to the beef pot pie. With 62g (21% of RDA) of carbohydrates, it compares well with many desserts from the freezer case.
All in all, despite our childhood familiarity with pot pies, I’d have to say that the Banquet version is only easy on the budget and stopwatch. It’s not easy on the body from any direction, and many will find themselves craving something more to eat after consuming their pie. There are a lot of meals that have great taste, larger serving, with less sodium and cholesterol, even if they are more expensive. These aren’t even “kid friendly” with the high sodium, and are best left as a “guilty pleasure” comfort food at best.
Maybe we’ll try some Healthy Choice dinners or steamers next time!
**Banquet frozen foods are a product of Conagra Foods. Their website is found at www.conagrafoods.com. The opinions expressed are definitely my own, and the information collected came directly from the packages of the food I sampled. Conagra Foods may have different versions available in different markets, and may change their recipe at any time. Always read labels yourself and do your own research! Also, Conagra Foods did not supply me with coupons or free product, nor did they ask my opinion!