A Comparison of Actual “Banquet” Frozen Dinners with their Box Cover Photographs

Today, I found myself standing completely still in the frozen food isle of the supermarket, without a single thought in my brain, lips slightly parted, staring blankly at the two dinners I held in each hand. One was a bag of something called “Sautes For Two” Steak Gorgonzola, by Stouffer’s. The other was some sort of miniaturized Philly cheesesteak, rendered in appetizer form, intended to (presumably) be eaten by the handful.

I was locked in a moment of self-doubt. I knew that they would be equally terrible, that each would contain weirdly salty meat, and some kind of vague chemical aftertaste. Where I was stuck was on the price. Each of these options cost about $7.00, which I couldn’t help but notice is what actual food costs. If I was going to spend seven bucks getting something for tonight’s beer to sit on, I could buy a real steak, and throw it on the grill. A cheap steak, sure. But I could saute up some mushrooms. Why, I could probably still have enough left over to add some spinach and a baked potato. Why was I going to waste the money and calories on something that was going to be so, so inferior to something I could actually make myself?

As I sat staring at these two options and thinking about how little I wanted either of them, the “Banquet” brand frozen foods caught my eye, and I decided to go another way. Costing just 97 cents each, I thought about how I could have seven dinners instead of just one. Instead of buying something that was trying to approximate the sensation of eating a real meal, I would spend as little money as possible, on something that was unapologetically basic. Each promised to be “a great source of protein,” if nothing else, and it got me wondering: Just what in the hell can you expect for under a dollar for a frozen dinner?

Presented without further comment are my seven dinners, as they actually came out of the oven, as well as how those dinners appeared on their boxes, where they were professionally lit and photographed.


Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road." He currently owns and operates the Ancho Honey restaurant in Maine.


  1. Your work in the area of frozen foods is really brave, Malcolm. You’re pushing boundaries and braving culinary wildernesses that I’m not sure I could face.

    Some things that struck me:
    The mashed potatoes are really, really white.
    Is that hair in the Swedish meatballs? Are the meatballs growing hair?
    The sweet and sour chicken was the least horrifying to me, based on looks alone.

    1. Thank you very much. That isn’t hair in the Swedish meatballs, though that is certainly a horrifying thought. It’s a trick of the light, playing off the congealing surface.

      Some other answers for questions you didn’t ask, but will if you keep looking:

      The meatloaf, Salisbury steak, and Swedish meatballs are all exactly the same meat.

      If I drove my car off a cliff in a snowstorm and was buried for three days, and was forced to eat one of these again to stay alive, but for some reason retained the power to make decisions, I would choose the Swedish meatballs.

      The peas were surprisingly bursty. Overall, the vegetables were the winners in each dinner.

      The brownie was delicious.

    2. The mashed potatoes struck me, too.

      To borrow phrasing from Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap, it’s like, how much more white could they be? And the answer is none. None more white.

    3. The terms “frozen foods” and “culinary” should never be used in the same sentence. It just doesn’t exist. Once you’ve frozen a meal the freshness, texture and quality of the food decreases 90{3d9e2dd3ff4a6ad7c579f6992fba32c39af0ae46cb1a0bfdb9adec03cc9df88f} – I don’t understand why people “freezer cook” they spend all day in the kitchen to create a week or two worth of meals only to freeze them. I understand that it saves them time but at the same time the food just isn’t as good. I’d rather take some extra time to fix my meals each night and have an amazingly fresh, delicious meal than have a freezer full of frozen, mediocre meals for my family. YUCK!

      1. Sometimes, Cynthia, you just don’t have a choice. You don’t have the time to make something fresh every night. So the freezer it is. Of course it depends on what’s in the freezer – my mum’s freezer is filled with soups and stews, which, all things considered, don’t really turn out that bad when you take them out of the freezer, thaw them, and recook them.

        I know, i know, freezers are terrible terrible things, but when you grow up in a jungle in the middle of nowhere, 4 hours away from town, you kinda do need freezers.

        Also… this is probably because I grew up in a jungle village, but the above meals don’t actually look that bad. :p Well, except the turkey.

      2. Not all of us have the money or access to fresh produce to cook fresh meals every day.
        Soups and stews, dahl and curries can all be cooked, frozen and then reheated with minimal loss of quality to taste &/or texture- heat the meal slowly to a gentle simmer and the food tastes wonderful (rather than blasting it with a microwave). Throw some freshly steamed veggies (if you have some) on the side and you have a satisfying, healthy, delicious meal.
        TBQH your tone comes across as a wee bit snobby… it might be beneficial for you to really think about just how lucky you are that you have the privilege, time and money to provide for your loved ones the way you do (and perhaps have more empathy for those of us who don’t share that privilege).

    4. Ah Banquet…a pity you did not have some pictures of their old fried chicken dinner, from the aughts. I bought one, once. I felt bad for the chicken, really bad. This was a bird that starved to death. This was a bird that needed a meal before it BECAME a meal. This was a bird that would make PETA swoon in rage. Bones, and skin. The peas and carrots? About 8 peas, and a weensy carrot sliced to delight a mouse.

      You quickly move past the chicken, after attempting to eat the skin/breading (no meat..we are talking an anorexic chicken peeps). You desperately shovel a spoon or two of the veggies to get some sustenance. And then you move on to the DESSERT. Probably should be spelled desert. Not sure if was supposed to be cake or brownie, but brown-ish either way, sorta shriveled towards the center despite all instructions followed.

      You could have unlimited Banquet Old School Fried Chicken Dinners, and you would starve to death with the effort of making them vs calories reward.

    5. Ever after my post below, and my somewhat basic knowledge of biology, I STILL eat their pot pies in 2019. But I make two at a time, and alcohol is always involved. Those bits of meat aren’t nearly so suspicious when they are blurry.

  2. If I look at that turkey picture again I’ll…wait, you’ll have to excuse me…okay, that’s better. On the other hand I have what I always thought were fond memories of Swanson TV Dinners, particulary the fried chicken, mashed potatoes and the apple dessert, but that was in the, er, 1960s.

    1. I’m in the same boat…I had somewhat fond memories of those metal trays, as well. You’re right: the turkey was particularly appalling, though I did eat the hell out of the peas.

  3. This is so (disgustingly) funny ! I planned on doing the same thing with the ‘gourmet’ frozen dinners they sell in France… Costes, Robuchon, etc. I bought the Robochon ‘shrimp in coconut mild with rice’. After heating, the shrimp smelled so fishy I could hardly get down a bite. Experiment left uncompleted.

    However, I do find it totally hilarious that the sweet and sour chicken just has chicken nuggets in it…

  4. The turkey and “stuffing” is particularly pallid. I also enjoy how the word “meal” is used as a necessary product descriptor.

  5. I’m not sure how you ate that dark shiny thing that looks like it exploded out of a dog’s ass. Tasted good, you say? The sight of it makes me feel kind of cringey inside.

    1. The worst part of this comment, is that I’m not 100{3d9e2dd3ff4a6ad7c579f6992fba32c39af0ae46cb1a0bfdb9adec03cc9df88f} sure which picture you are referring to.

    1. That’s a very good point. Put any of these items on a plastic tray with little sections, and you’ve got the US school lunch program.

  6. Funny, I found myself in the grocery store one day pondering which $3 Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice I should buy and then my eye wandered to the Banquet meals and then the price tag that read $0.88 cents!!! Wow, next I examined the nutrition labels and they were not much different than the Lean Cuisines! So then I had to try them, I bought the Boneless Pork Rib and thought the ribs and corn were tasty but the mash potatoes tasted a little like grits…I added some ground pepper to the potatoes and I actually enjoyed this $0.88 cent lunch! Better than the last school lunch I had with my kids last month! 🙂 ha!

  7. Banquet entrees actually look a lot better if you put them on a plate instead of leaving them in the plastic microwave tray. The mashed potatos look and taste much better if you mix them up with the meat and gravy and stuffing because after all who likes eating raw potatos? Potatos are big fat tasteless roots you need to mix up with something that actually tastes good like cheese or gravy. The Banquet spaghetti meals either with the popcorn chicken or italian saugage meatballs are the best especially if you mix in a little HEB chile con quesa dip.

    1. I have to agree with you. While my first choice is not frozen foods, Banquet tastes the best and is so inexpensive it’s what I go for. I tried the Banquet chicken fried chicken and then the Marie Callendar chicken fried chicken and the Banquet was by far better tasting and so much cheaper. If you have the time and money to make dinner from scratch then of course that’s great but if you need to have a quick microwave meal then Banquet is the way to go.

  8. I have been eating Banquet meals for lunch every day for 5 years. They are all actually quite good. I especially enjoy the turkey meal, and the swedish meatballs. Just needs a little pepper and for a buck, you have a whole meal.

    1. I nearly wretched just reading this reply.

      Really? Really?

      Matthew, are you absolutely certain that it was the Banquet Swedish Meatballs that you ate?

      Because they are really, really, REALLY, really bad.

      And every day for five years??????

      Please, please visit some other brands in the frozen foods section. Please. And believe me when I tell you that you do not know what you are doing to your stomach. Or mine.

      Just mix another brand in at least occasionally. Or every day. Please. For me, if not for yourself.

      I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t care.

  9. Malcolm, you are brave, except where are the taste comments. I provide one YAK! the potatoes are grainy, the vegies are even worse, too much H2O in each. I had the chicken one nite and pressed pork another and neither one tasted like what they were supposed to be, FOOD! Never again . . . The End!

      1. Hi Matt! I don’t know what you did to those meals, but I’ve been eating them 2x per day for 3 months, for portion control to lose weight and have lost 17 lbs. AND I think they taste pretty good. Not to mention that I’ve had complete blood work done before and after 2 months to see what impact, if any they have had on my system. My Dr. reported that I am better AFTER eating Banquet meals VITAMIN wise than before…now how that is, I do not know, but something is working. I am saving $$$ since they are cheaper than Healthy Choice and Lean Cuisine, etc…and they taste pretty good if you cook them correctly. (you do have to adjust microwave ovens by the way…) Yes, they won’t look crispy but what food does cooked in a microwave, and for less than a $1, I’m a happy camper! Thanks Con Agra!

        1. Hi Dakota. I cooked each meal exactly according to the printed package directions. Congratulations on your weight loss.

          1. I’m in agreement with Dakota. We have one for supper every other night in an effort to control calories . Along with a salad it fills you up and the flavors are good. We have done nutrisystem in the past and find these meals taste as good but much cheaper.

  10. What’s your point? What do you think you were going to get for less than a buck? I too have eaten Banquet dinners almost every day now for several years and like them. Sorry I don’t have your money and gormet taste to afford fancy stuff. I think you are unfair to Banquet, and a little bit of a snob.

    1. My point is that the prepared meals look different than the photograph on the box. I don’t think I made any further comment. And what is unfair about buying, cooking, and photographing a company’s products?

    2. I TTOTALLY agree with Phil. Malcolm you already know that he is talking about the way you are saying they are disgusting and only the vegetables taste good and blah, blah, blah, But I also, along with many others, have eaten Banquet products all the time and have enjoyed them. They arent supposed to taste delicious and why do you think they cost less than a buck? Its not a gourmet meal but it will feed someone up for the night.

      1. Dear Kayla/Monique,

        I didn’t say that Banquet meals were disgusting, and I didn’t say that “only the vegetables taste good.” I suppose if you did want to make my introduction to the photos more concise, “blah, blah, blah” would be as good a summation as any. All I did in this post was share photos of each Banquet box cover, juxtaposed with a photograph of how the meal actually appeared after cooking, without making any further comment or passing any further judgement. Any conclusions you are drawing from the comparison of the two photographs are your own.

        I’m glad to hear you are enjoying your frozen Banquet meals, and that they are “feeding you up.” I might suggest, though, that you seem to be getting a tad defensive about them.

        Your friend,

  11. Y’all being overly dainty. All frozen dinners look like this – that’s why I prefer my cheap frozen chow in pot pie form. Banquet pot pies are very consistent, with crusts top & bottom and a pleasant enough flavor, and my toaster oven will cook one perfectly with 2 button punches.

  12. Well, what do you expect for $1 or less? Anyway, you are supposed to stir the potatoes, etc. halfway during the microwave cooking. Maybe that makes them more appetizing.

  13. you chose the wrong dinners, dude. i’m something of an expert on banquet dinners (as well as michelina’s), as i average at least twenty a month. these are ok, but there are others that are much tastier.

  14. Last night I tried the Banquet frozen chicken nuggets and I have to say they were the worst chicken nuggets I have ever tried! They actually tasted like potatoe nuggets instead of chicken! They were so disgusting that I fed them to my room-mates dog, and I never feed her dog.

  15. Hi Malcolm, I enjoyed your photos. I eat Banquet meals more frequently than I’d like, for the sake of cost and convenience, usually for lunch at work. I have often mused over the appetizing picture on the box vs. what’s actually inside, so I appreciated your post. For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts:
    1. The best-tasting dinners for my money are the spaghetti & meatballs, the rigatoni & sausage, and occasionally the sweet & sour chicken. However, I doctor the first two with extra cheeses and the last with Sriracha.
    2. I would never consider these meals “healthy” choices, merely sustenance choices. Kudos to the gal who has lost weight on them, though. Makes me wonder what she was eating before.
    3. Some commenters seem way too defensive about your post. Are they ConAgra employees? Just curious.
    Thanks for sharing. I’d love to see your take on Hungry Man meals.

  16. Good Job.
    I am really glad someone can show the true form of things. It’s not bad at all, you are only telling the truth. If anyone has a problem with what you are doing, then they should be complaining to the food company for making them look unappealing in the first place. I think these actually look more appealing than when I cook them, except that I stir them after.

    I wanted to show these to my friend, to describe what my parents buy for me to eat, and why I prefer the more expensive frozen food or restaurant food. 🙁

    I have had a positive experience so far with Healthy Choice, but my dad will only buy me one or two boxes when we go, and only if I really insist on it.

    We’re not even close to poor, my parents are just cheap when it comes to health/nutrition… yet they have no problem buying things like new TVs, iPads, iPhones, furniture, etc. D: I don’t think I’ve even been to a doctor in over 5 years. Whenever I ask, they just say “another day”. >_<

    Anyway, I would like to also see other brands. Maybe that will help me decide in the future which dinners I should consider.

  17. The problem isn’t so much the final cooked product as it is the package photo. It is almost never a photo of the actual food, but a photo of fake food made by professionals to look as good/appetizing as possible (to increase/motivate sales). Most industries do this: Fast Food, Grocery stores, Restaurants (menus), Frozen/Packaged meals, etc…..
    And yes, just cooking the Banquet meal out of the package without any “clean up” will produce a less than appetizing product. It doesn’t help that these meals are put together by machine at a rather high speed, with an emphasis on speed/quantity versus appearance.
    I saw a program on one of the Discovery family of channels (Discovery, TLC, Science Channel, etc..) that went into details about the industry of photographing food/menu items for companies. It was very informative and a bit upsetting. A good example is to compare a Whopper or Big Mac you buy at the restaurant with the image of the same product on a TV ad, Circular/coupon, or even the menu board at the restaurant. The difference is like night and day.
    The bottom line is they are never going to look the same because it would cost too much to make that product look that good while still having the same convenience (In other words fast/instant cooking).
    As for the taste, most of them are actually pretty good. I just don’t understand why all major manufacturers of frozen vegetables can produce an excellent tasting product, but Banquet has to use the worst tasting corn on the market. I mean come on! What are they using Maze, or is it cattle feed? And the least said about their attempts at fried chicken, pizza, and chicken nuggets, the better.
    This is all just my experience and 2 cents worth.

    1. After watching all those shows on Discovery, you should know that it is illegal for a company to take pictures of “fake food”. They ONLY use real food – they can make it look as wonderful as possible, but it isn’t fake. Way to misinform people.

      1. Tracey, I was going by what the programs said. They stated outright that many companies use this technique. I personally know of no such “law” that you mentioned. Of course, in all due fairness, I am not an expert or involved in any field related to this issue (or a lawyer). I will say this, if you know of such a law (or regulation), you should list it in your statement. I would never argue with facts, if you actually provide them. But don’t expect me (or anyone else) to just take it as fact without some type of details.
        I simply stated what the programs I saw had said. And those programs did disclose their sources at the end, as well as give details. My original statement was not an attack on anyone. It was simply my opinion about said products, as well as the details from those programs.
        And on a personal note: “Way to misinform people” ???? How exactly did I misinform anyone. I stated what the program said, and my opinion of these products.
        You stated, “After watching all those shows on Discovery, you should know that it is illegal for a company to take pictures of “fake food”. They ONLY use real food – they can make it look as wonderful as possible, but it isn’t fake.”. How exactly do you know what they use or if it’s fake. Your stating it doesn’t make it true. Back up such statement with more than just snide comments if your going to attack a benign statement. If and when you do, I will happily deffer to your expertise.

  18. From the photos, it appears that the cooking instructions were not followed correctly. For example, the mashed potatos are supposed to get stirred between the first and second heatings. Ditto for the Swedish meatballs. I think also the rice and sauce in the Sweet & Sour Chicken had instructions to stir before serving. The mashed potatoes NEED to be stirred after the first heating so you can break up the slightly softened lump of ice that might still be in the center to get the potatoes to cook more evenly. Stirring the sauce and noodles in the Swedish Meatballs meal will also help the sauce flavor the noodles more evenly and also keep stray, dry noodles near an edge from cooking themselves back to crunchy for lack of moisture from the sauce. When instructions say to leave it sit in the microwave for 2 minutes after the cooking stops, they mean it. I find the potatoes are fully rehydrated if allowed the time specified. I sometimes might add a small pat of butter to either the mashed potatos or green peas, or both. I actually enjoy all the Banquet dinners and have 3 in the freezer at this moment (2 turkey pot pies, and one turkey dinner). Not many TV dinners out there work out to 11 or 12 cents per ounce. Nice photography on the home-heated TV dinners.

  19. Thanks–I have pondered these for easy meals or nights when I just cannot stay up til hubs gets home at 1 AM or later. As I have a handicap I am not able to always stand n stir and cook myself either. But–somehow—I just cannot bring myself to actually BUY them.

    OH I do buy frozen–Stouffers has a few he likes and the Pot Pies are very good—and the Michealangelos (I think?) Chicken Picatta is actually GOOD. A bit spendy but way better than some we have tried. We are lucky that the cost is not a major deal here. I DO think tho if I was a student or starting out–or as they say–IN THIS economy!!!—I would try and figure out the best tasting Banquet for the savings.

    The Stouffers Stuffed peppers–I can’t even stand the smell of peppers so he is happy when these show up on the “menu”! The mac n cheese is OK also and you can add this to another “meal” and have it be more complete. My son LOVES the French Bread Pizza. The meatloaf–again something I can’t stand altho if i have the time and the energy I do make this from scratch–they do seem to like this one! The giant lasagna is actually good but we do add extra mozz and other cheeses.

    Sooo—I dunno if I would still choose to buy these. But I DO admire someone who did this FOR US in the name of SCIENCE.

    And ya know you didn’t DIE sooooo——

  20. I have been trying to complete research for my daughter. My children go over to their fathers house and they have pretty much nothing but frozen dinners. She said that they are good and good for you. I shouldn’t complain about her eating them for their meals because they are better than home cooked meals. Sometimes she gets to have two of them since there are just SO good. Any tips for my daughter so she understands that she may not be right and her dad good be brain washing her?

  21. Having lived now on a fixed income for several years now, , I’ve tried about every frozen food out there that’s cheap. Some you try one time, and never look back, while others you find are as good, as some of the meals I’ve cooked from scratch for myself. Banquet has been a hot meal to go to bed on, some are good and some are not as tasty, but all fill you up. one to to try that will surprise you is the Banquet Boneless Pork Riblet Meal, this is by far the best one so far. enjoyed your article.

  22. I’m detecting ConAgra damage control all over this discussion. But, I can also see some people getting defensive over the pig slops they’ve allowed themselves to eat on the regular. Yes it’s cheap stuff and the pricing is pretty much up front about that. Banquet dresses their products up for the ads, nothing new there. But what you get inside the box is far less in quality or portion than they would have you believe. I was in a hurry at the grocery at wound up grabbing a Banquet meal of “turkey slices” in gravy. Two of them actually. Now I don’t know what to do with the second one. I could give it to a food bank, but I’m not that cruel. My dog may be in for a treat though. The alleged turkey medallions were rubbery and tough. They tasted vaguely like turkey but with that consistency they didn’t seem like anything a human being should be eating. The gravy made up about 75{3d9e2dd3ff4a6ad7c579f6992fba32c39af0ae46cb1a0bfdb9adec03cc9df88f} of the meal itself and it tasted like almost nothing at all. Just warm snot with a tiny bit of beef bouillon mixed in for color. When you pull the meal out of the grocer’s freezer the weight of all that snot gravy is what you feel. ConAgra is hoping you believe most of that bulk is tasty meat. Nope, just gravy flavored with sadness.

    It’s actually depressing to think that people buy these meals for themselves and their families and wind up with a plastic tray full of schlop that’s really only fit for a dog. Sorry if that’s insulting to you but these Banquet entrees are insults in the first place. There are better options for eating on a budget than this crap. People deserve better than Banquet. And if you care to look for better alternatives you’ll find them. A lot of those alternatives come in cans and cost the same or maybe twenty-five or fifty cents more. Banquet is bad and ConAgra should feel bad.

  23. I think these meal are okay. My husband and I are poor and we can only afford these for MEALS. sometimes we buy other things too but when were really struggling we buy these and were feed.
    I like the photos Malcolm. I know this is true because I eat them. The picture on the box looks appealing and yummy, as for the inside, it’s a surprise!
    Someone posted a comment about how only these banquet meals look different from the inside. So not true! How about fast-food. When was the last time you had a Big Mac look like the commercial. Never! Or how about Taco Bell. laugh out loud, literally. I worked both these jobs and tried mt hardest to make them perfect. Yeah right! I’m not complaining about these meals but Malcolm is right about what’s inside those boxes. There still good though!

  24. Thanks for the pictures Malcolm! I eat the sweet & sour chicken one which doesn’t look like the box but I have enjoyed it until here lately the rice isn’t cooked all the way & is hard on the teeth, but up until recently I did enjoy them. I am handicapped & just can’t stand at the stove for long periods of time anymore as much as I love my own cooking. The price is great especially on my fixed income. The turkey dinner & chicken marinara I don’t care for at all. It was really nice to see the pictures of what they look like inside the box so I thank you as I have wanted to try a couple of the others but knew they would look different than the box. People should understand, the more they add to these meals the more calories they have to add & the price would have to go up too. They are in competition with other companies to keep calories low, so of course the mashed potatoes are going to be very white. If you don’t add butter etc to them they SHOULD be white. They are plain, you add what you want but just remember you are adding more calories to them & taking more time to prepare them which kind of defeats the purpose of a quick dinner if you stand there remaking it. Nothing is as good as homemade (as long as your a good cook) but for me on the days when I can’t do much or for someone with very limited time or a very tight budget (again for 97 cents) it’s ok. You do have to waste a little money & buy several to find which ones you actually like but don’t we all do that at a buffet too? I really appreciate the pictures so I can have an idea of what I will try next or not. Thanks for posting for us all. I’m sorry you have to deal with some of the nasty comments.

  25. Interesting how long this post has been garnering comments.

    I remember, years ago, liking Banquet’s big boxes of frozen fried chicken. I once told a coworker how I was looking forward to going home and eating it and she just laughed. As my tastes matured, I discovered why.

    To be fair, I haven’t had their fried chicken (this is just a big box of frozen chicken, not a meal) in many years, but I have had their TV dinners.

    I wrote a letter to the company complaining about their Swedish Meatballs and never got a reply.

    They smelled and looked very, very bad. I bravely tried eating them but could only choke down a bite or two. They tasted like they looked and smelled. I couldn’t believe anyone could actually eat them, especially repeatedly, on purpose.

    I get it, you can’t expect gourmet meals for a buck or less, but I do expect something edible, at the very least.

    I really don’t recall having eaten any of their other meals, but I really didn’t feel it was necessary to do so after the “meatball incident.”

    Just throwing in my two cents’ worth.

  26. This is way too funny, and sorry I did not find it sooner. Great comments and great experiment. I do agree that the original TV dinners back in the 50s and 60s were much better quality and a lot more of it in the tray, and we did actually give Mom that night off from cooking and put up the flimsy TV trays and watch a movie together as a family. We usually saved those nights when King Kong or something like that was the 4PM show. Dad of course hated them as he worked hard outdoors all day and liked a homemade hot meal, but he endured, especially when it was Swanson fried chicken, which he loved back then, all that good greasy stuff…was never enough to fill him up tho, but always something left from we 5 kids for him to scarf up.

    I found your blog as I was looking for a way to doctor up Banquet fried chicken, will make my own veggie sides, but couldn’t find much other than sauces, spicy or whatever. Think I will just make some chicken milk gravy.

    My hub LOVES, LOVES, LOVES frozen dinners, altho for health reasons he should not be eating them often, once in a while a treat for him. He ADORED cafeteria food at his schools, as his mother was a horrible cook, canned Brussels or cold canned baked beans, canned hams, etc. She worked at the local supermarket as a cashier, so she got a discount, and then of course access to the dented can barrel. She tried to heat things up, but somehow they were always only half heated, before the days of microwaves.

    So he appreciated that terrible cafeteria food, the shephard’s pie was his absolute favorite, with all the canned vegetables in there and potato flake mashed topping. He looked forward to getting a hot meal at lunchtime, and talks about it all the time, how so very good it all was…yech!!! The best day was cheesesteak day with those pressed minute steaks for us, and you were only allowed to have one. The rest of the slop they dumped on your tray came out of those big cans. The ladies who worked behind the line were the best part of the whole deal, with their hairnets and red lipstick, rolled down knee high stocking, and their brutal personalities.

    But guess my hub must have been a cute kid, he says they all loved him and always gave him extra helpings. Which could very well explain his health issues and weight problem 50 years later, who knows what they put in that stuff to make it taste like SOMETHING. Did they use MSG back then, you know they sneak it into frozen dinners even today, but call it other things. Everyone should take a peak at what names they put it under, you will be amazed when you read the ingredients and see what you are really eating!!!

    But thanks for the blog, great idea, and isn’t it nice that after a few years, it’s still up and running! Good luck with it. Off to at least make homemade chicken milk gravy!

  27. Cripes, I used to eat these regularly when I was first starting out after college. They were cheap and easy to tote to work. But I used to call them emergency rations because they seemed like the kind of thing you’d eat at a military base overseas, like a half-step up from MREs….or prison food. They didn’t taste that bad to me but you could tell that the potatoes were once powder and the stuffing was rehydrated croutons, etc.

  28. Hey I have a tip about the potatos- they are watery so add some instant mashed potatos to them to thinken up and butter and voila the mash taters taste better I always keep instant mashies on hand for that reason

    1. That is a great idea. I can’t believe I have never thought of it. I just finished eating the Banquet Spaghetti and Meatballs, (my favorite Banquet dinner), and have 7 more in the freezer, many with the watery mashed potatoes. I am going to try that tomorrow when I eat the Turkey meal. BTW, I also check the portion size..if you are paying $1.00=$1.25 for only a 6-8 oz size, that is really not such a great buy. The spaghetti and meatballs dinner is 10 oz and they have added 2extar meatballs, so it is very satisfying. I like add some parmasean cheese and also a few slices of garlic bread, (bread, butter, garlic powder), and it is a satisfying meal. I also add a salad on occasion. I always add seasoning and butter to my banquet meals as well. My personal faves are the Spaghetti and Meatballs, (asmentioned), Swedish Meatballs, Riblet meal, (which I place on a slice of bread to eat), and the Classic Turkey meal. I alsoplace the turkey on a slice of bread to eat. I also enjoy the Hungry Man dinners, which are generally at least 16oz and very filling, however, I look for them and buy in bulk onky when they are on sale. Again, pay attention to the price per ounce and the ounces in the meal to make sure you are getting a good deal.

  29. Why do you only have peas in the turkey and dressing TV dinner ? It’s always corn . Can’t you put in green beans or carrots and peas ?

  30. Did you even stir the swedish meatballs?! Also, these meals taste fine to me, they’re tv dinners that cost 88 cents what did you think they were going to look like? And who cares if the image looks more perfect than the actual meal? Companies do that ALL the time!

  31. My favorite Banquet meal is the Spaghetti and Meatballs. It is also a great value at 10 oz. Banquet has just added more meatballs as well, for a total of 5, and they are delicious. I just add some parmesen cheese and homemade garlic toast, (bread, butter, garlic powder). On occasion, I add a small salad. It is very filling. I always look at the ounces and price per ounce, as well. Some of Banquets’ meals are only 6-8 oz, so paying $1.00-$1.25 really isn’t as great of bargain for the same price, and obviously not as filling. Another poster mentioned adding potato flakes to the watery potatoes, which is a great idea..then add some butter and spices..Overall, if you do a little research, (taste testing and price per ounce comparison), you will see that some of their meals are a great deal and very satisfying. I also enjoy the Swedish meatballs, (always add pepper and sometimes a little sour cream on top), and serve with buttered bread..as well as the barbeque riblets, (I like to put the riblet on a slice of bread). The sweet and sour chicken is ok, but the serving size and amount of chicken is too small for an adulr. You would need to buy a few to fill you up. On a side note, the Hungry Man dinners are great and again if you look at ounces, they average 16 oz per meal, and you can get them for just over $2.00 on sale, which is a great buy. The only Hungry Man dinner I have tried and not liked is the spicy chicken wings,(too spicy for me).But, overall, as someone who is single and does not cook, tv dinners are a time saving, convenient and inexpensive way to eat and it always feels good to save some $$.

  32. I purchased The Banquet Sweet and Sour Chicken on a bed of Rice…I am sure THERE WAS NOT AN OUNCE OF CHICKEN in the whole thing.!!!!!!

  33. If you are going to critique a product you should probably learn to follow the products instructions first. Not a one of these meals was stirred as per the instructions. Some even require stirring and then further cooking so you didn’t even completely cook the product. No product EVER looks like the perfect image on the box, but these meals at a whopping $.88 each come much closer than what you’ve depicted. Shame to put some much time in this just to end up with sub par results and a less than honest review.

    1. I appreciate your willingness to go to bat for your favorite frozen dinner, but if you’ll notice, I never actually offered a review of this product. The photos were presented without comment, as I noted in the introductory paragraphs.

  34. its 1994, 23 years old and a starving musician, working a full time day job as an electrical assembler, living on my own, and living from paycheck to paycheck. Banquet TV dinners kept me alive for several years on end (not to mention – tuna helper, Kraft dinner, cheap peanut butter, and Stagg Chili.) When you get your paycheck and you pay your rent, utility bills, and fill up the gas tank, then only have about $35 in your pocket to buy food to last you for two weeks, Banquet dinners are a welcomed great change from eating egg and cheese burritos.

  35. Well, it’s 6/2020, & years since I’ve (male, 70) bought Banquet frozen dinners.

    I bought the Chicken Fried Steak, Turkey & Dressing, and Spaghetti & Meatballs. There were some hints at improvements contained in claims on the front of the boxes, which I did not believe. I was pleasantly surprised.

    Unlike many more expensive dinners, these dinners have not seemed to have reverted to using “recovered meat” (“meat” that is pressure-washed off carcasses & then “recovered” and pressed into forms for shape). No matter the shape or recipe, it always tastes the same: NONE. And feels the same: RUBBER.

    The Banquet chicken fried steak seemed to still be finely ground real meat. The claimed improvement in the mashed potatoes may have been noticeable.

    The turkey dinner seemed unchanged, definitely a “good news/bad news” deal, though again the potatoes may have been a bit better.

    The real surprise was the spaghetti & meat balls. They’ve completely changed the sauce! I have never “liked” the sauce, and it has ALWAYS (!) given me horrible heartburn, and it was tangy and greasy, yet somehow tasteless. Not this time. And I had no trouble eating the whole thing, with a big serving of green beans with ranch dressing “on the side”. I will actually look forward to having this again when I get back to the store. Now, I did put a “pat” of real butter on it, but that wasn’t the big difference, but does add to it. My complements to the chef, Banquet!

    I SHALL get more of these, now, to take away some of the terrible chore of cooking for one, 3 times a day, when the low is 80 degrees & the high is 106 & humid (Austin, TX).

    Well, it’s 2 AM, 83 degrees, and 80% rel. hum. Time to try to get in an hour’s walk!

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