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Prepared Meals

Pauline Kenny

An alternative to fast food is prepared meals; cooked and packaged meals that you reheat at home in the oven or microwave. These are not frozen meals, but they are refrigerated. Many types of meals are available: English, Indian, Chinese, Thai, Italian, etc. Some are complete meals in one package. Other types let you choose the different parts of the meal, for example, one package with rice, others with different vegetable or meat and vegetable dishes.

These prepared meals are similar to what we have in the US in specialty delis or at Whole Foods, the natural foods supermarket chain. They are a healthier alternative to fish and chips or a fast food burger place.

The large chain stores Marks and Spencer (M&S) and Waitrose both offer a large selection of prepared meals. We even found some prepared meals in the local small grocery store in Winchcombe.

I think Marks and Spencer was the first store to sell these prepared meals. We went into the Cheltenham branch to investigate. The section of prepared meals was as large as a good sized supermarket! There was a whole wall just of different types of sandwiches as well as several sections of prepared meals.

Waitrose has an excellent selection of these called "Meals in a Minute". Waitrose labels all prepared meals to indicate if they are vegetarian.

Waitrose in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

The prepared foods section in the Waitrose in Cheltenham

When you are too tired to cook (after spending the day walking), these prepared meals give you an interesting meal that you can have at your vacation rental.

Don't Forget Dessert

On our May 2006 trip, Jonathan, a Slow Talk moderator who lives in the Cotswolds, told us about the prepared desserts you will find at Waitrose. He favors the "Gu" chocolate pudding (£2.40 for two) and "Fru" fruit cheesecake-like dessert. We tried them and they are great, but our favorite was the Duchy Originals Organic Dark Chocolate Dessert (photo).

The prepared desserts section in the Waitrose in Cirencester

The prepared desserts section in the Waitrose in Cirencester

Sample Prices

These are sample prices from Waitrose (Cheltenham), September 2004.

£2.49 Vegetable Biryani (serves 1)
£1.65 Bombay Potatoes (curried potatoes) (serves 1)
£1.99 Gobi Mutter (curried cauliflower) (serves 1)
£1.29 Pilau Rice (plain rice) (serves 2)
£1.89 Bubble and Squeak (potatoes and savoy cabbage) (serves 2)
£1.43 Country Vegetable Soup (serves 2)
£1.69 Samosas (appetizers) (package of 4)
£3.99 Poached Scottish salmon (serves 2)

Prepared foods from Waitrose

Prepared meals: Poached salmon, vegetable briyani, rice, vegetable dishes,
bubble and squeak

You could make a nice Indian dinner for two with samosas, two vegetable dishes, and pilau rice for £7.00. We did this several times on our September 2004 trip and really enjoyed the meals. A comparable meal from the local Indian take-away would be around £10.00, so if you are not near a good Indian take-away, picking up some prepared meals from Waitrose is a good alternative.

Riccardo from the UK (from the Slow Travel message board) told me that he had read that the prepared Indian foods for both Marks and Spenser and Waitrose are made by the same company, but that Waitrose has their own recipes.

Note: There are no organic versions of these prepared meals but the ingredients list is pretty good and there are many meat and non-meat versions.

Resources

www.waitrose.com: Waitrose supermarkets

www.waitrose.com/about/findyourlocalwaitrose.asp: Waitrose store locator

www.marksandspencer.com: Marks and Spencer (click Store Finder at the bottom of the page)

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