Canstar Blue’s frozen meals review has compared Coles, McCain Healthy Choice, On The Menu, Woolworths, McCain Man Size, and McCain on taste and quality of ingredients, variety, ease of preparing, packaging design, value for money and overall satisfaction.
Sometimes cooking dinner is the last thing you want to do after you’ve come home from a long day’s work. And while the allure of takeaway food is ever-present, the cost – as well as the guilt – associated with greasy fast food can quickly make dinner time a bigger decision than expected.
Thankfully, hungry Aussies can turn to the frozen food aisle of the supermarket to fill their cravings ─ whether it means feeding a small army, or microwaving a quick comfort meal for one. To help you avoid a recipe for disaster, we’ve again surveyed nearly 400 consumers about the pre-made frozen meal(s) they’ve purchased and consumed in the last six months. Survey respondents rated brands on their taste and quality of ingredients, variety of meals, ease of preparation, packaging, value for money, and overall satisfaction. Brands that received the minimum sample size (30 responses) are featured in our latest report.
Our latest ratings show consumers are happily scooping up whatever Coles is serving, with the supermarket landing five-star reviews for several categories ─ including overall satisfaction!
Here are the best frozen meal brands in Australia, as rated by consumers in Canstar Blue’s latest review:
Coles was seen as the top-shelf brand, with the supermarket receiving a five-star review for variety, ease of preparation, value for money and overall satisfaction! On The Menu and Woolworths got the edge in terms of packaging design, and again for taste and quality (alongside McCain Man Size). On The Menu also whipped up full marks for ease of preparation.
Like its supermarket rivals, Coles has its own range of frozen meals to help consumers find a convenient option for dinner, at affordable prices. Offering a wide range to suit your cravings, meals include classics like pad Thai, sweet potato cottage pie, macaroni and cheese, satay chicken and Singapore noodles. Coles’ frozen meals usually cost between $3.30 and $8, but most options tend to sit towards the cheaper end.
Under the McCain brand, the Healthy Choice range allows you to choose from honey stir-fry chicken, Thai green curry, rustic ratatouille, tomato and bacon penne, Indian chickpea curry, Chinese chicken with cashews and spinach & ricotta ravioli. These products typically cost between $4.50 and $6.20, depending on which meal you pick up. The brand also offers a similar range, McCain Healthy Choice Whole Grains, for options like beef & chia meatballs with wholemeal spaghetti.
On The Menu’s frozen meal range is loaded with everything from its snack size dishes (260g), such as beef lasagne and cheese macaroni, chunkier 400g plates of tuna mornay, and beef & bacon pasta. On The Menu also offers the Pub Favourites range, which includes hearty classics like chicken parmigiana, buttermilk fried chicken, roast beef, slow-cooked lamb, and beer-battered fish and chips.
On The Menu meals usually cost anywhere between $3 and $9, although the majority of meals tend to be on the cheaper side. If you’re looking to stick to a diet, On The Menu also has the nutritional information of all its products via its website, making it easy to plan what’s for dinner.
Woolworths offers several meals for shoppers to choose from, such as sweet potato cottage pie, chicken korma and rice, beef lasagne, and spaghetti bolognese. Most meals are competitively priced at just $3, making the supermarket brand one of the cheapest options available for those looking to stock up on convenience meals.
For Aussies who think they’ll need a few boxes of frozen meals to get a ‘proper feed’, McCain’s Man Size range aims to provide larger portions of dishes compared to the brand’s other snap-ready convenience meals. Some menu options include butter chicken, pub-style parma, chili con carne, chicken & bacon bake and bangers & mash. These usually cost $8 for a portion weighing between 480g-500g, which is larger than several other frozen meals.
McCain has one of the largest ranges of frozen meals on offer, such as the regular McCain line Healthy Choice, Healthy Choice Whole Grains and Man Size and Hearty Meals. It also has several frozen pizza lines like Rustica and Ultra-Thin Pizzas. The ingredients and nutritional information are also available on the McCain website, along with cooking instructions to help you plan dinner down to the minute.
The regular McCain frozen meal range has a variety of dishes including veal cordon bleu, tuna mornay and lamb cutlet with gravy. These cost anywhere between $5 and $7.
The brands included in our latest ratings aren’t the only options worth digging into. Here are a couple more popular products to check out:
One of the heavyweights of the frozen meal market, Lean Cuisine looks to provide shoppers with a variety of snap-frozen healthy meals. The brand has a variety of options, including dishes from the Nutri Bowl, Protein Plus and its breakfast lines. There’s also the 280g range for people looking for meals claimed to be low in cholesterol, plus the 375g range for products that are supposedly low in fat and sugar.
Some dishes to expect from the brand include honey ginger chicken, lentil curry, slow-cooked glazed pork, beef stroganoff, lamb & rosemary hotpot, and spiced cauliflower lentils & couscous. Lean Cuisine meals will usually cost you between $4.50 and $6.70, depending on your local supermarket and which range you decide to pick up.
While it may be better known for its weight loss plan and global community, if you’re looking for the occasional convenient meal and aren’t interested in signing up to Weight Watchers, you can still pick up a few frozen meals at your local supermarket. It offers dishes like chicken & mushroom fettuccine, chilli con carne, beef bolognese, mushroom & pumpkin risotto, and tuna bake. These typically cost $2.90 for 300g to 330g each, depending on the recipe.
If you’re not signed up for the full Weight Watchers service, the number of calories in each meal is displayed on the front of each box, so you can still get an idea of how different dishes compare.
Frozen meals can be a healthier and more convenient alternative to some fast food. But health authorities suggest picking meals with less than 1,500 kilojoules (kJ) and 45g of carbohydrates per serve. It’s also better to opt for pre-packaged convenience meals without saturated fats or added sugar or salt. The same goes for frozen veggies, too!
Our latest survey found one in three (31%) consumers shop for healthier or lighter frozen meal options, although a handful said they find the portions too small and end up eating more than one serve (10%).
If you’re looking to use frozen meals to save time, just like a third of respondents (31%), Coles and On The Menu impressed Aussies in multiple categories – including ease of preparation. Coles was also rated five stars for value for money and variety. However, if taste and quality of ingredients are your number one priority over getting good bang for your buck, then you could try On The Menu, McCain Man Size and Woolworths, which all rated highly for taste and quality.
With plenty of options available for your next grocery shop, figuring out which brand to scan through the checkout will ultimately come down to your personal preferences, including what you’re craving and how much you’re willing to spend on the convenience of a frozen meal. There’s also the additional consideration of dietary requirements, such as whether you need to eat dishes that are gluten-free or vegan-friendly.
While they may be convenient, subbing frozen meals for cooking can end up costing you in the long run, so it’s important to shop around to ensure you’re getting the best deal – and maybe cook at home when you can!
This report was written by Canstar Blue’s home & lifestyle journalist, Tahnee-Jae Lopez-Vito. She’s an expert on household appliances, grooming products and all things grocery and shopping. In addition to translating our expert research into consumer-friendly ratings reports, Tahnee spends her time helping consumers make better-informed purchase decisions on all manner of consumer goods and services, while highlighting the best deals and anything you need to be aware of.
Canstar Blue surveyed 3,086 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction, via ISO 26362 accredited research panels managed by Qualtrics. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have purchased (from the frozen section of the supermarket) and eaten a pre-made frozen meal in the last six months – in this case, 376 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then alphabetically. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.
Here are the brands that previously rated best for frozen meals in Canstar Blue’s review: