[Disclosure: I was sent a selection of Hey Fresto! meals to try for free. I was asked to write a blog post but beyond that all my opinions are my own. Hey Fresto! have also offered Eat with Ellen readers 20% off all order – just use the code ‘ellen20‘ at checkout]
Microwave meals and I go back a long way. As a paid-up member of WeightWatchers in my 20s and a less-than-confident cook I often turned to their own branded offerings for an easy, ‘points-friendly’ fix. Moving into my 30s and married to someone who works two night shifts a week, I’ve resorted to a ready meal or two rather than bother cooking but it’s safe to say as my culinary confidence has grown my reliance on quick fixes has decreased.
Despite that, our history together means I will never turn my nose up at the much-maligned ready meal. Like everything, they have their place in life, and like many things, they have improved greatly over time. Better quality, better ingredients, better freezing technology that means they retain all the flavour and characteristics of that meal rather than turning into an unrecognisable pile of food, devoid of taste, texture and pretty much everything else. In fact, I analysed their improvements for this piece for The i and found they are a completely different beast than they once were.
And so to Hey Fresto! If you think ready meals are mushy mixes of nondescript nonsense then they’re here to make you think again. I won’t give you the full advertising spiel because you can find it on their website, but to put it simply, they use decent ingredients, years of experience, and what appears to have been a fair bit of care and thought to produce decent ready meals that I’m comfortable in saying are probably some of the best I’ve had.
There are more than 50 dishes inspired by cuisines from around the world. We were sent a selection that included everything from British classics like beef stew to aromatic curries, vegetarian options and more. Some are still in the freezer but everything we’ve tried so far has hit the spot.
Beef lasagne with chianti was big and bold in flavour, rich and far better than many a pub lasagne I’ve pushed around my plate. Vegetable paella was laced with cashews to add an extra crunch to an already impressively-textured rice given it’s been frozen and reheated.
A chilli con carne had clear notes of cocoa promised on the description, and so often lacking from home-cooked versions, let alone a ready meal. And Jamie’s only fault with a Beef Rendang was that he needed 12 more portions because it was just that good.
If you’re a ready meal virgin, you might still be sceptical. But let me add to the simple fact that these all taste good with some of the practical things that contribute to why Brits apparently on average turn to ready meals at least once a week.
Put simply, they’re easy. And while we may all have been wearing our aprons a bit more over the past year, time is – and will remain – a commodity that we don’t always have in plentiful supply. That means, when you weigh up planning, preparation, cooking and serving up versus opening the freezer door, picking one, popping it in either the oven or microwave and then snaffling it the minute it comes out – with or without an accompaniment of some sort – you know what might win on occasions.
No, I’m not saying ease always trumps effort when it comes to food – quite the opposite in fact. But sometimes you just want to eat something nice, and quickly, and that’s where these come in. There’s also the added fun factor that on those occasions when you might not fancy the same meal as whoever you live with, you don’t need to.
Over the past few months, we’ve had occasions when Jamie’s munched his way through a curry and rice while I’ve had a paella, or he’s feasted on lasagne and some ciabatta while I’ve done a bit of rice to go with a thai curry. Everyone’s a winner.
Mirowaved or oven-cooked, we’ve been impressed by the flavour, texture and general quality of the meals. Hey Fresto! will tell you that their meals are rapidly frozen the moment they’re cooked and portioned, which is the secret to locking in freshness. The fact they’re blast frozen means they also apparently rely less on preservatives.
I know what you’re thinking – ‘yes but how much do they cost, Ellen?’ They offer various options – you can buy bundles of meals or sign up to a subscription plan. Things like bundles can work out at about £7 for a meal for two which I don’t think is unreasonable, while subscription plans put the price at about £4.17 a serving.
They do individual plans or family ones, with various options to tailor your choice to whatever suits you. And yes, they’re not the cheapest, but as we’ve said before on this blog, you get what you pay for in life, so if you want a lasagne to taste like a lasagne you made last week and froze, or a curry to have the fragrance and spice that you expect, then you might have to pay more than 99p for a meal that someone has cooked, frozen, packaged and shipped to you.
The other good news is that Hey Fresto! have given you guys a code to save 20% off your order – just use ‘ellen20’ when you checkout.
I won’t go on any more. I just asked Jamie what he thought about Hey Fresto! meals and he summed it up far better than I have in these hundreds of words. “They just don’t taste like microwave meals, and weirdly that’s exactly what you want from ready meals, isn’t it?” Yes Jamie, that’s exactly it.