Comparisons

Ready Meals vs Meal Kits: 10 Things You Must Know

Ready Meals vs Meal Kits: 10 Things You Must Know

Ready Meals vs Meal Kits

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Ready Meals and Meal Kits dominate today's foodscape. Learn more about each of them and 10 things which should know when it comes to Ready Meals vs Meal Kits

In those early days, if you ever decided to skip cooking a meal, you were limited to going out to a restaurant or a diner and enjoying a meal with your family. Since then, times have changed. After that, Fast-food’ restaurants and their ‘Drive-thru’s revolutionised eating out. 

Fast-forward to today, and you have plenty of other options to enjoy great food. Today, we will look at two most popular options – Ready Meals and Meal Kits.

What are Ready Meals?

Ready Meals

Ready Meals have existed for decades (Apricot Chicken Frozen TV Dinner, anyone?). However, only now, many have unlocked the true power of ready meals. With Ready Meals, all you have to do is ‘heat and eat’. They can be heated up in a microwave oven for not more than 5 minutes for a single serve, or in a conventional/fan-forced oven for up to 40 mins, depending on what appliance you have at home. 

Ready Meals come in two different forms – Chilled or Frozen.

Chilled Ready Meals

Chilled Ready Meals are often chilled to refrigerated temperatures, say below -5°C and stored at those temperatures, until they are consumed. Chilled Ready Meals often have a short shelf life (often 1 week) compared to Frozen Ready Meals. Oxygen is often the culprit that fast tracks the deterioration of Chilled Ready Meals. That being said, modern advances in technology have helped improve the shelf life of Chilled Ready Meals significantly (to up to 21 days). This is achieved by replacing the air (which is made of oxygen mostly) in the packaging with a mix of odourless, tasteless inert gases, while packaging the Chilled Ready Meals. They must be consumed within these timeframes or frozen as early as possible if they are to be stored for longer periods of time.

Frozen Ready Meals

Frozen Ready Meals are frozen to freezing temperatures, say below -18°C and stored at those temperatures, until they are consumed. Frozen Ready Meals often have a very long shelf life, if not an infinite shelf life, as long as they are stored in freezing temperatures. Ready Meals that are frozen often can be consumed safely after the ‘Best Before’ date. There may be some loss in texture, the longer they are stored, say after a few years, but more often than not, people often consume them earlier than most people think to notice significant deterioration in loss of texture. 

As long as the Ready Meals are made with quality premium ingredients, with no added nasties, ready meals are a great choice as a no-cook meal option for anyone. Manufacturers that take great care in the ingredients they use, nutrition they wish to incorporate into their recipes ensure not much food goes to waste. For example, Tasteville always uses potatoes with their skin on, spinach with stem on, chicken that is at its freshest, meatballs that are baked not fried, and more.

Fixed portion-sizes continue to be a challenge for most people who go for Ready Meals. Most manufacturers continue to err on the side of caution and often smaller single serve sizes than larger single serve sizes. 

What are Meal Kits?

Meal Kits

Meal Kits are fairly new in the world of quick meal options. Most often, they come as portion controlled ingredients, portion controlled spice blends and recipe cards. Meal kit ingredients are usually cut, prepped, portioned and packaged individually, ready to go into a pan or a pot, thus saving valuable time compared to daily home-cooking. 

They are often delivered to your door in chilled packaging that would withstand the elements till you return home from work. Meal kits are often very fresh but have a shorter shelf life compared to ready meals.

Mind you, food must still be cooked, albeit for a shorter period of time, compared to the no-cooking option with Ready Meals. On the plus side, you can be assured that you will get to use ‘fresh’ and ‘good-looking’ produce in your meal. This also means that, similar to the supermarkets, almost all the produce that is prepped and delivered to you, must be ‘good-looking’ with no room for wonky vegetables. You eat with your eyes, and in this instance, you come to appreciate ‘how good’ a meal-kit provider is, based on how fresh and good-looking the produce is. And, potatoes for example, might have to be peeled as a standard offering to all customers. Broccoli stems would go into waste, because they are never used in recipes. This means, unseen to your eye as a customer, tons and tons of usable food go to waste with meal-kits. 

Portion sizes are a challenge for Meal kits as well. If you are someone with higher metabolism and have higher nutrition requirements, then you will have to carefully evaluate and deal with the portion sizes offered, in addition to having to ‘cook’ your meal.

Very recently meal kit companies have moved on to digital recipe cards, as a matter of convenience to customers and cost-savings to themselves (yes, printing millions of recipe cards costs a lot). Squinting on a mobile while cooking our meal from a meal-kit has become the norm in today’s world.

Meal kits are a great compromise between convenience of ready meals, and the care and love that goes into fully home-cooked meals.

10 Things you should Know about Ready Meals vs Meal Kits

FeatureReady MealsMeal Kits
Key DifferentiatorCooked and Ready – Simply heat to eatPrepped and portioned ingredients. Must be cooked or made before eaten
Temperature ControlChilled or FrozenChilled for Fresh ProduceRoom Temperature for Dry Ingredients, almost always delivered together with Chilled produce
Shelf LifeFew weeks for Chilled.Months if not years, for FrozenThree to four days from delivery
Ingredient Food WasteVery Low, manufacturers often rationalise waste very well while ensuring high qualityHigh, as ingredients often need to be good-looking and unblemished
Finished Product Food WasteHigh for Chilled because of lower shelf life compared to Frozen. Very Low for FrozenVery Low for single serves, higher for multiple/family serves, same as home-cooking
ConvenienceVery Convenient – simply heat to eatMore convenient than home-cooking but not the most convenient
Skill LevelMinimal skills needed – to follow appliance instructions to heatMust know how to cook and be able to follow instructions
Portion Size FlexibilitySingle or Family servesSingle serves with ability to 2x or 4x as per need
Serving SizeFixed Serving SizeFixed Serving Size
Food MilesMust show Country of Origin labellingRecipes often don’t need to show Country of Origin labelling, Not all individual ingredients show where they are from.
Ready Meals vs Meal Kits

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