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Ready meals vs. Home cooked

Published Monday, 09 December, 2013 by Beth Bradshaw

Ready meals – very much the food baby of Western Civilisation. What’s more, us Brits are the worst in Europe for stocking up on them. £1.9bn was spent on ready meals in last year alone, double that of France and even triple that of Spain. More than 1/3 of adults in the UK admit to eating ready meals more than once a week – I wonder how many of those guilty are students...

I can see the attraction of ready meals – those busy weeks full of deadlines, presentations and assignments where you think you have no time to cook. Freezer into microwave – ping – and you’re done! However, with programmes and cookbooks such as “Jamie’s 15 minute meals”, you don’t really have an excuse. Plus the fact you can’t physically study 24/7 – take a break and cook something delicious to reward yourself!

So, here are some reasons why you should avoid the lure of the ready meals and cook your own meals.

  • Salt content: some dishes contain just under ½ your guided daily allowance! For example, Tesco’s Beef Lasagne contains 2.8g salt or 48% of your GDA. Regular consumption of salty foods can lead to high blood pressure which can cause all sorts of nasty health problems later in life.

  • Full of fats: A meal like Tesco’s Spaghetti Carbonara contains 19g (!) and 97% of your GDA of saturated fats. That’s just in one meal - shocking right? It’s not the healthiest of meals anyway, but with homemade you can make little changes like using low fat crème fraiche or cutting the fat off the bacon. I’m sure we all know the consequences of a high fat diet!

  • Packed with additives and preservatives: Supermarkets pack their ready meals full with chemicals that prolong their shelf life – much longer than fresh food. Also they provide the flavour due to the poor nutritional quality of the dish.

  • Watch out for “healthier choices”: they tend to replace the fat with high sugar contents and lots more additives. In reality – no ready meals are a healthy choice.

  • Synthetic vitamins and minerals: ready meals are so processed and as a result they are void of any natural vitamins or minerals, therefore they are pumped full of synthetic ones.

  • The cost: supermarkets extortionately price ready meals are they know people will pay for the convenience and ease of them. They are so uneconomical, for the price of one meal you can cook enough for four. Below I’ve created some recipes are not only better for you and so much cheaper than ready meals...

    • Better-for-you Macaroni Cheese : This recipe only serves 1 – however if you quadruple the ingredients list you can get the cost down to 63p each – that’s the beauty of batch cooking . So compare that to your average macaroni cheese ready meal at £2.50 for one portion, working out at nearly 4x more expensive. Not only is it easier on our student budgets, but this recipe is alot healthier for you– no competition there really.

    • Spaghetti Bolognese : Italian is the best selling cuisine when it comes to ready meals, which baffles me as it is one of the simplest and tastiest to make yourself. This recipe serves 4 and is only 72p per serving compared to £2.50 for one portion of a processed, flavourless and un-necessarily unhealthy Spag Bol. Where’s the logic?

    • Chicken Tikka Masala : Next up is curry – the UK’s favourite dinner. There are a great range of delicious sauces on the shelves, and this recipe gets the price per serving down to as little as 94p! You’ll find the same dish sitting in supermarkets looking quite sorry for itself for a price tag of £3.50 – oh and not to mention 900 kcals...

    • Chilli Con Carne : A really filling, tasty and warming dinner that is actually incredibly easy to make. Why buy a £3.35 ready meal when you can make it yourself for only 85p per serving?

Batch cooking is the answer to the convenience of ready meals – spend 1 hour in the kitchen and make enough for tea tonight and 3 more meals for the freezer which you can take out for those hectic weeks where you have little free time. Besides – after the horsemeat scandal – who knows what’s actually in your microwave meal...

Hopefully this blog has convinced you that ready meals are not the answer for a busy lifestyle and seen the light!

Next week is the Student Christmas Special – don’t miss it!

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