The Battle of the Microwave Meals

I’ve mentioned before that my mini fridge’s freezer does not actually keep things frozen for long at all. This, combined with the fact that the dining center is not open for dinner on Sunday, has been frustrating for me all semester. I had been using my built-in dining dollars at the dorm’s convenience store for dinner on most Sundays, but that ran out less than halfway through my second semester.

So I’m always looking for new things to eat on Sunday nights. I don’t like having to pay for delivery or having to walk downtown to get something. While I am always pretty lazy, my Sundays are almost immeasurably lazy. Which is why microwave meals are perfect for me.

Except for the fact that a lot of them suck.

When I was shopping at CVS the other day, I got the idea to pick a few microwavable meals, not only to feed myself, but also to rate for this blog. None of them have to be refrigerated or kept frozen. So the contenders for best microwave meals are Bowl Appetit Garlic Parmesan Pasta, Barilla Mezze Penne all Marinara, and Simply Asian Spicy Kung Pao Noodle Bowl.

You may be wondering what the method was in choosing those three. It was a very simple selection process: 1. They were all next to each other on the shelf and 2.  I had never tried any of them before.

I started with the Bowl Appetit. I’ve tried this brand’s Three-cheese Rotini, and while it is not the greatest meal ever, it is slightly better than Easy Mac for me (I had an unfortunate incident last year where my roommate’s hair somehow found its way into my bowl of Easy Mac, and for some reason I haven’t been able to enjoy Easy Mac since then. She didn’t shower very often).

Anyway, while I didn’t have too high of standards, I was expecting this one to be good.

It is not very appetizing when you first take it out of the packaging or before you microwave it for 5 minutes.

Or right after you microwave it.

But it looks a little better once you’ve let it set for a few minutes. To be fair, the lighting in the two pictures is different. You can still see how much better the sauce is consistency-wise though in the second picture.

Ratings:
Taste: 2/5– This pasta was just not very good at all. While it didn’t necessarily taste gross, it didn’t really taste like anything. Even after I added some garlic powder to try to give it some sort of taste, it still wasn’t worth eating. I ended up giving up on it and throwing it out halfway through. If you’re going to get a Bowl Appetit, I would recommend the Three-cheese Rotini instead.

Price: 4/5– It was $1.99 for this, the cheapest of all the contenders. While it is not as inexpensive as Ramen or Easy Mac, it is still a cheap option for lunch or dinner.

Ease: 3/5– All you do is fill the bowl with water to a certain line and then microwave it for 5 minutes. Once you’ve taken it out of the microwave, you have to let it sit for two or three minutes so the sauce thickens. I thought this one would be the easiest, but that was before I tried the Barilla.

I’ve had Barilla sauce and pasta before, so I already trusted the brand. I just wasn’t sure that this would be any easier than making my own pasta in the microwave. I was wrong. It was so much easier.

All you do is lift the film to the dotted line and then put it in the microwave for one minute.

The noodles must be already cooked and the microwave time is just to heat up the sauce. I don’t know that for certain though, because I didn’t peek under the film to check it out.

The sauce tray conveniently pops out so you can cover your pasta with the sauce easily.

The finished product.

Ratings:

Taste: 4/5– The sauce is exactly what you would expect from a jar of Barilla marinara, but the pasta was a little al dente for my liking. I still enjoyed the meal though, and the serving was perfect. I thought it would be a little too big, but in the end I was full without hating myself for eating too much.

Price: 3.5/5– I paid $3.19 for this, which is more than it would have been to make one serving from pasta and sauce I already had. However, for lunch at the office or something of that sort, the convenience and taste make the price absolutely worth it.

Ease: 5/5– I was most worried about this one taking awhile to cook. I didn’t think to check the instructions before leaving the store, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that all I had to do was pull back film and put it in the microwave for a minute. The whole thing didn’t even take me three minutes. If that isn’t easy, I don’t know what is.

Finally, I tried the Simply Asia. I had never tried anything from this brand or any spicy kung pao noodles before. It looked good enough though, so I decided to go for it.

The contents. I didn’t realize there would be a fork with it, which was nice. The bowl was also good quality and would be nice to have if you were taking this to work.

This is another one that does not look entirely appetizing before it is cooked.

The finished product looks much better, and other than the vegetables, looks pretty similar to the picture on the packaging.

Ratings:

Taste: 3.5/5– This was definitely spicy for me, but that is also coming from the girl who can barely eat medium salsa. So for all I know, to other people this would not be too spicy. I enjoyed it, but didn’t end up eating it all. After about half of the bowl I got bored with the taste.

Price: 3/5– This cost $3.69. While that is still cheaper than a lot of lunch options, it was the most expensive of the three.

Ease: 3/5– The whole process took about 5 minutes. There was a lot of stuff to take out of different packets, though. It was the least easy of the three to make, but the taste made it a lot better than the Bowl Appetit.

 

Overall, the winner was Barilla for me. Although it was more expensive than the Bowl Appetit, it was absolutely delicious. I could see myself bringing this into work this summer for lunch.

 

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