Ring the (Frozen) Dinner Bell

Published March 20, 2013 by jrm17

Once upon a time there was a girl who had a lot of late classes and never got to eat dinner at home.  That girl would be me, and as much as it annoyed me, I learned the magic that is frozen dinners.  I also learned all about, which ones are good for vegetarians and which are not, even though I am no longer one.  So, if you are a college student like me, trying to eat better and cheaper than the crap on campus, or just someone who lives off these things (which honestly I don’t think I blame you), here’s a rundown of the big three (for me at least): Lean Cuisine, Smart Ones, and Healthy Choice.

In all honesty, I think Lean Cuisines are my favorite.  You get a lot of variety, and I haven’t met one that I didn’t like, yet.  I usually stick to the culinary collection when I munching on these.  In fact, I just finished off a cheese pizza for dinner right before I started typing this.  Out of all the brands, their pizza in my favorite.  The calories aren’t bad–it was 350 for the cheese I just ate and 340 for the spinach and mushroom one I had over the weekend–and the crust isn’t thin crust.  I’m not a super big fan of thin crust so their normal, pan style works great for me.  What’s even better is that it gets nice and crunchy, too.  My only complaint here is that with the spinach pizza even though I really liked it, I had to add more pizza sauce because there didn’t seem to be any on my pie.

Monday, while I was stuck at school forever, too, I had probably my favorite out of all their paninis.  It was the chicken, spinach and mushroom–three of my favorite things plus cheese and bread.  You just can’t go wrong with it.  At only 300 calories for a whole sandwich, the crunchy bread is so worth it.  In fact, all the paninis I’ve had I’ve really liked.  The Philly Cheese steak one is awesome, and so is the steak, cheddar and mushroom, but I’m a big fan of steak and cheese and anything really.  I’m itching to try the chicken with spinach and artichoke and the southwestern chicken ones.

My favorite thing about Lean Cuisine is that nothing is too high in calorie content so I can have two for dinner.  I have two different pasta dishes in the freezer–the cheese ravioli and pasta with marinara.  Both are about 230 calories so I can add something else I really enjoy like the broccoli and cheese with potatoes (probably my all time favorite) or the mac and cheese.  Other suggestions I’d give you are the baja chicken quesadilla, the santa fe rice and beans, and the chicken enchiladas.  The enchiladas are actually a whole meal and come with rice, which is really nice if you are like me and don’t have any side dishes chilling in your freezer.  I really should start trying the complete meal ones.

You are going to notice that in Smart Ones I eat basically the same foods as with Lean Cuisines.  It’s all pizzas and quesadillas and flatbreads.  I have two problems with the pizza, though I still really like them.  The thin crust just doesn’t work.  Maybe it’s because I’m not a thin crust girl or maybe it’s because it’s mircowave pizza.  The second problem is the calories.  It runs a little higher than Lean Cuisine.  The cheese is 380 and the pepperoni is 410.  I’m not eating a whole lot else with those counts.  My absolute favorite that Smart Ones makes is the three cheese and bean quesadilla.  There are two servings in the box, but if you are eating it for dinner like I do, both only totals 460, and it really feels like a complete meal.  Throw a little salsa on top and you’re good to go.

As for flatbreads, there are two here: chicken marinara and steak and ranch.  I’ve had the chicken one, but I can’t really remember my thoughts.  I remember thinking it wasn’t bad, but it’s not one I’m going to freak out over.  However, I do not like ranch, but let me tell you, I enjoy the steak sandwich.  Okay, maybe I just am a steak sandwich girl, but this one is good.  There’s quite a few good ones in the Classic Favorites options that are good, but I won’t bore you.  Just keep in mind I like almost anything with cheese or spicy.

Finally, we are brought to Healthy Choices.  These were the first kinds I tried, and they probably are the most vegetarian friendly of the bunch, but now that I’m eating meat again, they are the ones I go after the least.  I find everything to be too pasta based.  I love pasta but I like having other option, too.  However, the portabella spinach Parmesan pasta is awesome.  Whenever they are on sale, I seriously just debate buying them all as this pasta.  Unlike with the other two brands, I have found two Healthy Choices I do not like.  Maybe I don’t like pumpkin (I honestly don’t know) but I thought the pumpkin squash ravioli was absolutely gross.  I wanted to spit it out as soon as I put it in my mouth.  I powered through it, but it was not worth it.  The other is the garlic herb shrimp.  I just really didn’t like this one, which is odd because I love both garlic and shrimp.  Whatever the case, I avoid eating it when it is in the freezer.  Healthy Choices do usually have a reasonable calorie count, especially considering they are so pasta oriented, but I prefer the other two brands.

Well, there you go.  Take this with the idea that I am a normal college girl who doesn’t have too adventurous of taste, but I know a thing or two about these meals.  I usually end up eating them for dinner about 3 times a week.  Happy munching!

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