I love cooking. But sometimes I don’t have time, sometimes I don’t want to, and sometimes making the kind of meal I want when it’s only for one person is a challenge. So as much as I love cooking and eating fresh whenever possible, I do eat frozen meals, especially for lunch.
However, being an adult means we get to choose what we eat, and that should never mean we consistently subject ourselves to underwhelming frozen meals. I spent most of college without a kitchen, which started my quest for affordable, enjoyable frozen meals. Relative health is also a factor, so while they are frozen meals I try to only rarely eat ones that are especially unhealthy. And of course, if you’re able, you can always prep meals and freeze them for a more healthful, often even cheaper approach to the same idea.
If you’re in search of store-bought options, I’ve listed some of my favorites below. The best news is that all of them (except the ones with asterisks) are $4 or less, and several can make multiple meals. I’ve also ranked each section in terms of my favorites. Check them out below:
- Trader Joe’s tomato and arugula pizza – This is probably my favorite frozen meal. It feels like a treat but isn’t way unhealthy, and I can usually make two smaller meals of it
- DiGiorno garlic bread crust pepperoni pizza* – Good for 2-3 meals. Less healthy but a good treat if you can find it at Walmart, Target, or a local grocery store
- Amy’s spinach pizza* – Pricier but fairly healthy. Good for multiple meals and available at most grocery stores
- NOTE: All of these need to be cooked it an oven based on size
- Single serving
- Trader Joe’s chicken tikka masala – This is so good. Simple, not super spicy and filling
- Evol cilantro lime chicken burrito – Could use some lime or guac, but a healthy, well-portioned frozen meal option that can be found at Target and most grocery stores
- Trader Joe’s organic pesto tortellini – This needs a little something, so I usually top with fresh parmesan, but with the addition is a treat that feels healthy, and is filling without being a large portion
- Trader Joe’s yellow jackfruit curry with rice – A delicious and flavorful vegan frozen meal. I didn’t even miss the meat, and genuinely enjoyed vegetables I usually don’t like
- Trader Joe’s chicken and cheese tamales – Homemade tamales still win, but these are a quality substitute. You can always top them with some cheese and/or guacamole to boost the flavor
- Trader Joe’s chicken and vegetable wonton soup – The only frozen soup that’s been worth it for me. It isn’t restaurant quality, but it’s good on a cold day
- Mac and cheese
- Evol truffle mac and cheese – I love these. They are amazing. They are comfort food after a long day. Please go to your nearest Target or grocery store and treat yourself
- Trader Joe’s gorgonzola gnocchi – not technically mac and cheese, but honestly delicious. Makes two small or 1.5 normal meals
- Lean Cuisine Vermont white cheddar mac and cheese – I am not usually a Lean Cuisine person, but these are pretty yummy while also being easy and light on calories
- Not standalone meals
- Frozen green beans or broccoli – No brand here, though I usually get Trader Joe’s, C&W, or Target’s generic one, but it’s a great way to get veggies in small servings without them going bad before you can use it all
- Trader Joe’s gyoza potstickers – These are a tiny bit tricky too cook, and definitely need soy sauce, but are great with a side of veggies
- Trader Joe’s chicken spring rolls – I didn’t love the vegetable spring rolls (too much mushroom for me), but these were a good alternative. A very mild flavor, but good when dipped in sweet chili sauce. NOTE: These guys have to be baked in an oven or toaster oven
General reminders that it’s important to have a balanced diet — which means eating foods besides frozen meals — and that despite my obvious love of Trader Joe’s I’m not compensated in any way for mentioning brands or products. Just trying to save emerging adults the disappointment of buying and trying underwhelming frozen meals.
(Photo is a free stock photo because my freezer doesn’t have the aesthetic.)