WHEN parents return to work and children return to school, we need the best pre-prepared meals to help make the day run smoother.
There are many services in the UK that offer different types of meals for parents—whether they're on a budget or have cash to splash. So to help busy bees, we've rounded up the best pre-prepared meals for different occasions and budget.
Now that COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted and parents are going back into the office again, mealtimes could become more fraught than in the previous 12 months.
According to supermarket cashback app Shopimum's research, lockdown saw a rise in families (80 percent) cooking their meals from scratch. However, this is expected to decrease over the coming months to 77 percent as parents leave the home office.
So if you're a parent panicking at the thought of preparing meals from scratch after a long day at the office and a chaotic commute, stick with us. We've rounded up the best pre-prepared meals for busy parents.
1. Best for authentic Indian curries: Chef Akila
- Chicken lover's curry box for 2, £59 on Chef Akila — buy now
We honestly were sceptical about this service—can a ready meal really be better than an Indian curry from our local takeaway? Well, the meals from Chef Akila absolutely did just that.
We reviewed the Chicken Lover's curry box for two and were blown away by the flavour of each dish. Even the rice dishes were tasty. One thing we did note—be careful is you're allergic to nuts as quite a few of the dishes did contain them.
2. Best for pre-prepared pies: Yorkshire Handmade Pies
- Mixed steak selection bundle, £22.50 on Yorkshire Handmade Pies — buy now
If you're going to have a pie, you've got to do it right. Yorkshire Handmade Pies are prepped and then frozen before delivery. But this doesn't take away from the amazing taste once they're reheated at home.
The mixed steak selection comes in under £25 for 6, which makes it similar in price to your local food market—taste and all.
3. Best for pre-portioned ingredients: Hello Fresh
- Quick cook box with 5 recipes for 4 people, £67.99 on Hello Fresh — buy now
Sometimes we want to make meals from scratch, so this "quick cook" range from Hello Fresh is exactly what we need.
Ingredients are proportioned before being sent out, meaning there's no need to weighing. They also arrive fresh, with ingredients which need refrigerating packaged separately to avoid confusion.
4. Best supermarket pre-prepared meal: Morrisons "The Best"
- Buy Morrisons The Best Thai Green Curry, £3.50 or 2 for £6 on Morrisons — buy now
When we think gourmet, we might not consider our local supermarket. But Morrisons has outdone itself with its "The Best" range of pre-prepared meals.
We samples a number of tastes from around the world and loved the Thai green curry meal. You can also choose from meals such as a burrito bowl, enchiladas and more.
5. Best tailored recipe box for fitness fans: Tweakd
- Tweakd 5-day recipe box, £47.50 on Tweakd — buy now
Absolutely one for the fitness fanatic parents out there. Tweakd tailored your meal plan based on your fitness goals such as endurance, strength etc.
A 5-day recipe box includes meals and drinks for under £50. The food is far from boring and includes tastes from around the world.
6. Best budget buy: Aldi "Inspired Cuisine"
- Inspired Cuisine Beef Chilli, £1.99 on Aldi.co.uk — buy now
We all know Aldi is good for a bargain but what about quality? Well we tried the Inspired Cuisine range and it hit the right spot.
What's more, the price means that you don't have the break the bank for a good meal when you get home after a long, hard day.
7. Best for gluten and dairy-free meals: Mindful Chef
- Mindful Chef Family Recipe Box, £55 on Mindful Chef — buy now
Ranked the UK's top healthiest recipe box service by Trust Pilot, Mindful Chef looks to put the ease back into healthy meal making.
Its recipe boxes contain pre-portioned ingredients and recipe magazine, plus all its innovative meals are free from dairy, gluten and refined carbs. It also donates a meal for every meal bought.
8. Best for those on low FODMAP meal plans: Field Doctor
- Low FODMAP bundle, £62.50 on Field Doctor — buy now
This diet is used to help combat symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and having meals that do not contribute to the condition is imperative. This is why Field Doctor is perfect for people who are on a low FODMAP diet.
The company has a bundle dedicated to the diet, with some tasty meals to boot.
9. Best for recreating authentic pho: PHOMO
- Beef Pho for 2 meal kit, £23.95 on PHOMO — buy now
This meal kit is preproportioned and prepped before being sent out. All the parent chef has to do is bung it all in a wok and cook for up to 5 – 10 minutes. Easy!
We liked the Beef Pho for 2 meal kit, which came with noodles, stock, meat and more.
What is the best premade meal service?
From the reviews, we enjoyed the Chef Akila meals the most. It reminded us of going to our local Indian takeaway, which makes it perfect for familieswho need a bit more variety in their evening meal.
The Yorkshire Homemade Pies were also a big hit in the reviews.
What is a pre-prepared meal?
A pre-prepared meal, also known as a ready meal, is when the food is prepped and cooked, but sold as chilled or frozen.
They are known for their convenience as normally they can be reheated in the microwave, reducing cooking time.
What is the cheapest pre-prepared meal service?
From the meal services we reviewed, Tweakd was the cheapest. It was also better value for money as a parent would receive meals and juice.
However, Hello Fresh comes in a close second as it also has five recipes for a family of 4.
What are the healthiest pre-prepared meals?
This is dependent on what you want from your ready meal—in terms of focusing on health and nutrition, Tweakd and Field Doctor were the ones that were the most healthiest.
"There are great nutritious ready-made foods out there, but there are also those kinds that are rich in saturated fat, added sugar and have high amounts of sodium, which all are things we should aim at eating in moderation," explains Signe Svanfeldt, a nutritionist at Lifesum.
"Find the kinds that are low in saturated fat, added sugar and sodium but rich in dietary fibre."
Are pre-prepared meals worth it?
In the past, we might have said no as ready meals have been known to be lacking in flavour. However, with the meals we samples over the past couple of weeks, we have no doubt that pre-prepared meals have taken a step in the right direction and are worth the cost.
There's also no need to buy from an online service exclusively—supermarkets such as Aldi and Morrisons have a great selection of tastes from around the world.
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