Saturday, October 28, 2006

WHAT a Crock! (Marie Callender's Crock Pot Meals)

Marie Callender's Crock Pot Meal Chunky Chicken and Noodles
vs.
Banquet Crock Pot Classics Creamy Chicken with Pasta


While at the grocery the other day, I noticed that Marie Callender’s has put out a new line of Crock-Pot™ meals to compete with Banquet and the other meal-in-a-bag competitors like Bertolli and Contessa (although neither Bertolli nor Contessa has slow-cooker meals).


Now, I’ve had some pretty terrific Marie Callender’s frozen meals; their Fettucini with Broccoli & Chicken is fantastic, if not exactly diet food. And who doesn’t love their Pot Pies, which are incredibly nummy? So, naturally, I thought that the idea of a Marie Callender’s slow-cooker meal made up of chicken, sauce, peas, carrots and noodles - pot pie without the crust, basically - sounded enticing. The Banquet version had been absolutely to die for (see Diner reviews), so I thought I’d try it and compare the two.

What a disappointment! The cooking is simple enough; open the bag, take out the sauce pouch, stick it under hot running water to defrost it, put the sauce (along with 3 cups of water) in the cooker and stir; add chicken and vegetables, cook for 8-11 hours (or 4 hours on high). A separate bag of noodles is included, which you stick back in the freezer until 30 minutes before mealtime – then you add the noodles to the mixture, cook on High for 30 minutes, and the cooking is finished. As I said, it couldn’t be simpler, and unlike the Banquet version, you don’t need milk.

But any comparison ends there. The Marie Callender’s sauce was insipid and flavorless. It wasn’t quite papier-mâché, but it was close. Unlike Banquet’s delightful, pot-pie type sauce, this didn’t even rise to the level of your basic Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup-type base. The chicken chunks were all thigh meat, some with “icky” parts still visible, while Banquet uses large cuts of breast meat. The two meals are like night and day; Banquet wins, flavor-wise, by a mile.


To add insult to injury, Callender’s charges $7.99 USD for their version, which contains 44 ounces, while Banquet regularly charges $5.99 USD (and you can usually find it for $5.00 or less on sale) for their 42-ounce product. In other words, Callender’s costs more than half again as much. Banquet is dramatically the much better buy, ounce-for-ounce.

Lastly, I really get heated about food companies playing games with serving sizes in order to fool their customers. Callender’s claims that its Chunky Chicken and Noodles will serve 8, each serving being “2/3rd of a cup.” This serving size is nonsense. I’m far from a big eater, and this is about half of a serving for me. Realistically, Callender’s product would serve the same number of people as Banquet’s – 4 or 5, depending upon whether you’re feeding kids, or folks with large appetites.

Here’s what Callender shows as its nutritional information for Chunky Chicken and Noodles, but please remember that this is for their serving size, which is about half of what someone would actually eat: 220 calories, 10 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams Trans Fat, 40 mg of cholesterol, 590 mg of sodium, 18 grams of carbs, 6 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar and 12 grams of protein. Taking into account Banquet’s far more honest serving sizes, the two products are roughly comparable in calories, fat, carbs and protein.

I give this product a BIG thumbs-down. Don’t waste your money. This product doesn’t compare with Banquet’s version, and you’ll save about a third of your food budge by purchasing Banquet's Creamy Chicken with Pasta.

Next week: Superpretzel! Hot or Hype?

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dangit! I passed up the banquet for Marie at the grocery store. I even had it in my hands. dang dang dang. It's cooking right now...I guess I'll see.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Auntie's Food Life said...

Hi!! I'm looking forward to your review of the Marie's! I've been having trouble the last few weeks finding the Banquet version, and I've had emails from readers saying the same thing...I've written to Banquet to see what I can find out. Thanks for the comment!

4:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tried the Marie's beef stew. Insipid and flavorless applies there, too. I even told my son not to eat it when he came home later in the evening. What a disappointment!

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am very concerned cooking Banquet Beef crock pot dinner that there are very adamant instruction to "wash your hands" not before cooking and handling but AFTER!!! What is this all about?? I'm not going to eat something that the very handling of the packaging means that I need to wash my hands. And I'm expected to eat the stuff. I don't think so.

1:29 AM  
Blogger Chancian said...

What was i thinking? I believe that anything I make in a crock pot is an automatic easy-made-meal so why did i let Marie tempt me? honestly i agree with Auntie, the dinners and pot pies are amazingly good. The Beef Stew was a bit bland but i can handle that to some degree, but i culd almost swear i see dirt onthe potatoes in the 2nd bag after i had opened it and didnt use them. Of course i am paranoid of potatoes i dont clean myself so dot take that to heart. Unfortunatly i had to go potatoless and i noticed just how few chunks of meat were in there. next time i am just buying my own items and dumping them in the crock pot, it turns out so much better.

5:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't beleive your review. My son and I absolutely LOVE this stuff!! I make a killer homemade chicken noodle soup, so it's not like I don't know what it should taste like. Ours (and we've had it twice) was very flavorful and deelish!!

10:51 AM  

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