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For this week's review we made a special trip to our local Walmart to find items to review. In addition to their wider selection of products from such companies as Sweet Earth Foods and evol, their in-house frozen food brands yielded quite a few options that meet our criteria. We have two today and have more for a few weeks from now.
The meals today come from Walmart's Great Value line and cost $1.88 each. What do you get for that low price? I'll admit that my expectations were pretty low.
The first meal, their Italian-Style Pasta with Sausage (290 calories, 470 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber), is a dish of cavatappi (spiral-shaped tubes of pasta) with a sausage and marinara sauce. After about 5 minutes in the microwave, this comes out with a bright tomato/oregano/basil scent. Some of the pasta wasn't covered by the sauce while cooking, so they stick together, and overall the pasta is more chewy than al dente. While we wished the pasta could have been whole wheat pasta for greater fiber content, we did note that the pasta is not overcooked, which is all too common in pasta dishes.
The sauce's flavor matches its scent and isn't too sweet - also a common problem with frozen pasta dishes. (The Nutrition Panel notes that there is only 1 gram of added sugar.) While the panel wished there was more sausage, when we did get a bite of the sausage crumbles it has a "fair bit of fennel seed zing," as one panelist put it. Overall, "a nice little dish."
The Fiesta Chicken & Rice disappointed the panel, who expected from the product image that there would be far more chicken than we actually found in the meal. What we did find was pretty good, however: 1/2 to 3/4-inch chunks are fairly tender and juicy, with "good, savory chicken flavor."
The vast majority of this dish is rice, however. There are few enough black beans that they seem to be there more for color than for flavor: certainly once you mix up the dish the whole takes on an evenly yellow-orange color that, well, "looks like the dog's breakfast."
One panelist described it pretty accurately as "basically Spanish Rice-a-Roni but without the pasta." The dish tastes mostly of salsa: tomato, onion, and a hint of cilantro, but we were hard pressed to find more than tiny bits of tomato - or any other vegetable, really. "The flavor's good," the panel insisted. "It's just... not much more than rice with salsa and maybe a little bit of cheese."
That assessment is pretty accurate: both dishes have no more than 15 grams of protein and and almost three times the carbohydrates, but very little fiber. I would be concerned that these might not be as satisfying as other frozen meals. Pair these with a piece of fruit and maybe some nuts for lunch and they might be OK. We'll give them thumbs up with these caveats.
Reviewed: March 2, 2018