Canstar Blue’s frozen meals review has seen Super Nature, On the Menu, McCain Healthy Choice, Coles, McCain Man Size, Woolworths, Weight Watchers, McCain and Lean Cuisine rated on variety, ease of preparing, taste & quality of ingredients, 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 Aussie households have plenty of other convenient options available, with the frozen food aisle of your local supermarket packed with plenty of dishes and comfort foods, whether it’s to feed a small army, or a meal for one. But not all frozen meals are created equal. Sure, they’re generally cheap and cheerful, but that doesn’t mean you should settle for average.
In the second year of our frozen meal review and ratings, we surveyed almost 700 Aussies to get their feedback on the frozen meals they have most recently purchased and enjoyed – or otherwise. Survey respondents rated brands on factors including the variety of meals available, ease of preparing, taste and quality of ingredients, value for money and overall satisfaction.
So, which frozen meal brands are Aussies eating up? Super Nature has proved to be the hot choice with a five-star performance for overall satisfaction, as well as variety of meals, ease of preparing and taste & quality of ingredients. It also got three stars for value for money.
Here are the best brands for frozen meals in Australia, as rated by consumers in Canstar Blue’s latest review:
Super Nature ate up the competition with the only five-star rating for overall satisfaction, and scored more five stars when it came to taste and quality of ingredients, variety of meals available and ease of preparing. It got three stars on for value for money. Most brands finished with four stars overall, except for Weight Watchers, McCain and Lean Cuisine who each got three.
Despite Super Nature’s standout performance, several other brands still managed to dish up five-star ratings worth bragging about. Coles earned the highest score for value for money, while On the Menu got top marks for taste & quality and ease of preparing. McCain Healthy Choice scored similarly in the variety of meals category, alongside McCain Man size when it came to taste and quality of ingredients.
Plus, here are some of the noteworthy results from our survey:
If you’re tired of the standard beef lasagne or butter chicken curry that most frozen meal brands serve, then you may want to consider the Super Nature range to freshen up your freezer. Super Nature offers a range of Super Pulses, Wellness Bowls and Super food meals to target different cravings and dietary goals, such as Protein, Wholegrain, Super Foods, Fibre, Vegan and Pulses. The wide selection includes the Super Pulses range with Creamy Chicken Carbonara made with Yellow Lentil Pasta, Thai Green Chicken Curry made with Chickpea couscous and Vegan Bolognese made with Green Pea Pasta, available in a 300g pack at RRP $4.00. The Wellness Bowl range includes a vegan Super Green Sri Lankan Root Vegetable & Ancient Grain Curry with Cauliflower & Brown Rice mix, Super Wholegrains Chicken, Porcini Mushroom and Truffle Risotto, and Super Protein Super Nut Satay Chicken with Quinoa, Chickpea & Wild Rice mix, available in a 350g bowl at RRP $6.30. The Super food meals range includes popular recipe options such as Chicken Pad Thai with Rice Noodles, Sweet Potato Cottage Pie and Split Pea Lentil Dhal, available in a 350g pack at RRP $6.30.
Operating under the Vesco brand, On the Menu offers plenty of frozen meal options, regardless of what type you’re craving. With a range that consists of King Size Power Bowls, for those looking for a higher protein intake, to the Pub Favourites range which includes crowd pleasers such as chicken Kiev and fish and chips, On the Menu also offers family-sized lasagnes and single-serve pies for those in a hurry.
Competitively priced, the Pub Favourites range will set you back $6.50 per packet, while the Power Bowls will cost you $7.50 at checkout. 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.
Under the McCain brand, the Healthy Choice range allows you to choose from honey-stir fry chicken, spinach and ricotta ravioli, creamy chicken carbonara, lemon chicken, lemon chicken, Chinese chicken with cashews, chicken honey stir-fry, butter chicken with steamed rice, tomato & bacon penne and apricot chicken with steamed rice. These products typically cost between $5.60-$6.20, depending on which meal you pick up.
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 lamb moussaka, pad Thai, sweet potato cottage pie, macaroni and cheese, massaman chicken curry & steamed rice, pesto pasta & feta and Singapore noodles.
The wide variety of frozen meals cost between $3.30 and $8. But most options tend to sit towards the cheaper end, while the vegan dishes and ‘Mega Meals’ are usually priced under $7.
For Aussies who think they’ll need a few boxes of frozen meals to get a ‘proper feed’, McCain’s Man Size range provides larger portions of dishes including butter chicken and curry, BBQ Faves with Sausage & Beef Patty, Pub Style Parma, Chicken Pops with Mash & Gravy and southern style chicken. These usually cost $8 for a portion weighing between 480g-500g, which is larger than many other items in the range.
Not to be outdone on supermarket shelves, Woolworths offers a number of meals for shoppers to choose from, including chicken satay, butter chicken and rice, chicken korma and rice, and chicken breast garlic and herb Kiev. Each will set you back $3.50 per 376g packet, making it one of the cheapest options available for those looking to stock up on convenience meals.
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.
Meal options include chili con carne, cottage pie, beef hot pot, beef Bolognese, mushroom & pumpkin risotto, creamy chicken tuna bake and creamy spaghetti with prawns, all of which typically cost $5.80 each. If you’re not signed up to the full Weight Watchers service, the number of calories in each meal is clearly displayed on the front of each box so you can still get an idea of how different dishes compare.
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, as well as several frozen pizza lines like Flavour Boss and Rustica. 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, beef and bacon pasta, tuna morays and chicken parmigiana. These cost anywhere between $4.50 and $6.
One of the heavyweights of the frozen meal market, Lean Cuisine looks to provide shoppers with a variety of healthy meals, offering the Balance, Steam, Wholegrain and Classic ranges. Lean Cuisine also provides the ingredients lists and nutritional information of its menu online, making it easier to decide which pack to pick up at the supermarket.
The Balance range includes meals such as beef stroganoff, lamb and rosemary hot pot, satay chicken noodles and cream salmon & dill linguine, each coming in a 290g-300g pack. The Steam range brings Thai green curry, sundried tomato & chicken pasta and Indian butter chicken with rice, each available in 370g-390g packets. If you want a meat-free option, then it might be worth checking out Lean Cuisine’s Plant Protein range. It offers a variety of options such as a burrito bowl and a butter chicken style dish, each sold in 300g packs, similar to the Lean Cuisine Veggie collection which includes meals like lentil dahl and Moroccan tagine. There’s also the Wholegrains range with dishes including Mexican Chicken and rice, which comes in a 350g pack.
The meals will usually cost you between $5.70-$6.70, depending on your local supermarket and which range you decide to pick up.
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, if you’re gluten-free or vegan, as well as how much you’re willing to spend for the convenience of a frozen meal. And it seems Aussies are willing to spend a little extra on something tastier, with an analysis of our research showing that the taste and quality of ingredients is the largest driver of customer satisfaction when purchasing frozen meals.
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.
Picture credits: Sea Wave / Shutterstock.com, Piotr Krzeslak
Canstar Blue surveyed 3,083 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 and eaten a pre-made frozen meal (i.e. from the frozen section of the supermarket) in the last six months – in this case, 674 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.