Chicken! Cream! Pasta! Frozen TV Dinner Study

Everyone knows I’m obsessed with food. Nothing gives me greater joy than walking through a food market and buying the freshest fruits and vegetables in season, cheeses from local dairies and ethically raised meats from the butcher.

I always quickly walk (scurry) down that “prepared frozen food aisle” and try to forget it exists. Recently however I twisted my ankle and was unable to avoid inspection of all of those little brightly decorated cardboard boxes promising easily prepared dinners in seconds. I decided rather than continuing to hate on these foods with my nose in the air I’d actually conduct an experiment. I grabbed four different boxes that fateful day in the Parkdale No Frills frozen food aisle. Each dinner had to have the following in common: it had to contain chicken, cream and pasta. I ate the following dinners and compared them based on cost per gram, positive and negative notes, questionable ingredients and an overall pass or fail regarding edibility.

 My overall conclusions…I found the number of ingredients alarming, the amount of salt disturbing, the chemical taste in my mouth annoying and the visual appeal of the meals was atrocious. For those of you who willingly consume these (prisoners of war and Chilean Miners with exception) why why why? Why does your chicken and pasta with cream sauce need xanthium gum or corn syrup solids…why on earth should chicken include rib meat and faux grill marks. You will note that two of these dinners passed and two of them failed. Failures indicate that I would not serve these two my worst enemy. Passable dinners I would serve to my best enemies. I would never consume these dinners in the future but I’m glad I tried them for myself and am able to hate on them publicly with this blog post as a reference of my due diligence and research. I encourage people who purchase these foods to think about what they are putting in their mouths, to remember that cooking your own food with local and fresh ingredients is a fun part of our social culture that we need to pass onto our children for generations to come. Buy your food from your farmer, make the food in your kitchen with family and friends and eat slowly…relish in your food and enjoy the company that joins you at your table. And forevermore I will walk down the frozen food aisle with my eyes closed, slumping and scuttering like a zombie while imaging that I am passing through a sub zero morgue: where food goes to die.

President’s Choice Chicken Alfredo: Fettucini with seasoned roasted chicken breast strips in a creamy sauce

2.79 / 300g= 0.009 per gram

Positive Notes: big pieces of chicken breast, an edible cream sauce

Negative Notes: overdose on dried parsley, pasta was overcooked mush

Questionable Ingredients: Cooked Seasoned Chicken Breasts (chicken breast with rib meat)

Edible: PASS

Michelina’s Penne Pollo: Pasta in a Cream Sauce with Chicken

1.97 / 255 g = 0.008 per gram

Positive Notes: penne is al dente, sauce has a strong chicken flavor and is less thick than the PC product.

Negative Notes: there are no visible chunks of chicken…I was able to find a few “shreds” of brown chicken meat.

Questionable Ingredients: maltodextrin, yeast extract, xanthian gum, “if you can’t find it in your fridge or cupboards you shouldn’t eat it”…as a general rule chemicals and gum should be left for club kids.

Edible: FAIL

Lean Cuisine Grilled Chicken Carbonara: with bacon in a rich creamy sauce

3.29 / 244g = 0.013 per gram

Positive Notes: pasta al dente, large pieces of white chicken breast

Negative Notes: after removing from microwave and peeling back the plastic wrap the visual appeal of this dish was lacking. I actually had to close my eyes and swirl a fork around to make the dish something worth eating.

Questionable Ingredients: most questionable was the long list of ingredients in the “cooked and seasoned chicken”: white chicken meat, water, modified tapioca starch, chicken flavor, dehydrated chicken broth, chicken powder, flavor, carrageenan, modified milk ingredients, soy oil, corn syrup solids, sodium phosphate, salt). That is 14 ingredients associated with the chicken in this dish. Why are corn syrup solids necessary? It is also noted this chicken has fake grill marks on it (edible paint?) this is one of my biggest pet peeves (in life).

Edible: PASS

No Name Chicken Penne: Seasoned Chicken in a delicate cream sauce

0.93 / 215g= 0.004 per gram

Positive Notes: snazzy “delicate cream sauce” title.

Negative Notes: chicken quality similar to that of Michelina’s. Best described as “little chicken bits.” Pasta is a bit past the al dente stage.

Questionable Ingredients: seasoned chicken described as “chicken breast with rib meat.” Gross.

Edible: FAIL


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