When I’m craving something easy, comforting and full of carbs, my go-to is always a bowl of mac and cheese.
Pasta, creamy cheese sauce and my special secret ingredient: a drizzle of runny honey. What’s not to love?
And, this week, I tried six different supermarket microwave mac and cheese ready meals in a bid to find one that can be made in under five minutes for when time is tight.
One of them smelled like feet, one was spoiled by a news story, in fact realistically, there’s only one that I’d buy again to eat if I was in a rush, or too tired to cook.
So, of Asda, Sainsbury’s, M&S, Morrisons, Tesco and Aldi microwave macaroni cheeses – here’s what I thought.
Asda’s ‘Italian inspired macaroni cheese’ comes in at £2.50, which appears to be the average price of convenience meals.
The 400g tub took five minutes in the microwave, which thickened the cheese sauce until it was bubbling hot.
I sat down to watch the 6pm news with my TV dinner, and everything was going well until a story about wormeries came on, talking at length about worms eating compost.
As someone who is easily put off food, the texture immediately freaked me out and I couldn’t finish it – but it wasn’t the only mac and cheese I couldn’t complete, as the portion sizes seem very large for me personally.
The next day, I had higher hopes for the Sainsbury’s macaroni and cheese, which is served in ‘a creamy cheddar cheese sauce’.
Slightly smaller at 375g, this also took five minutes in the microwave, and cost £2.50.
I found this ready meal tasted a little salty, but it didn’t bother me too much, as the sauce was palatable and the macaroni was less ‘slimy’ than Asda’s.
Following two mediocre macs, I decided to treat myself on day three with the M&S macaroni cheese.
Coming in at £3, it was the most expensive ready meal on the macaroni and cheese menu, described by the supermarket as ‘Everyone’s favourite’. Ironic, seeing as it had been mine until this week.
It’s made with ‘specially selected Italian pasta in a rich creamy mature cheddar cheese sauce’ and the 400g tub took just three and a half minutes to cook.
This for me was the height of micro-meal luxury, and is potentially the only one I’d willingly buy and eat again. The highlight was the grated cheddar that melted into the sauce as it warmed in the microwave.
They say you eat with your eyes first, and Morrisons’ Savers packaging was already not doing it for me.
But, Morrisons does win the award for cheapest mac and cheese (I know, you’re shocked it’s not Aldi, right?) priced at £1.20.
This took five minutes in the microwave, which appeared to be the average time for most, and was also a 400g tub.
But after cooking the macaroni cheese, there was an overwhelming smell of feet that filled my kitchen. Now, I like cheese – and I love a bit of Stilton – however, this was not a pleasant smell and actually made me feel a bit sick. If you hadn’t already guessed, I didn’t finish this one.
Macaroni cheese from Tesco is described as ‘a taste of Italy’ in a creamy cheese sauce finished with mature cheddar. Like M&S, there was a sprinkling of cheese on top of this micro meal, which melted as it was cooked for five minutes.
This was the largest microwave mac and cheese at 450g, and cost £2.75, the second most expensive behind M&S.
Tesco’s macaroni and cheese was inoffensive and edible, but the large portion size meant I couldn’t finish it. There was nothing wrong with it, but really nothing to write home about.
Finally, I ended the week with the Aldi mac and cheese. Honestly, I was putting off eating it because firstly, I was a bit sick of mac and cheese at this point. And secondly, I didn’t hold out much hope for it.
Aldi’s offering was the most pleasantly surprising, with a nice creamy cheese flavor and nice consistency.
The 400g tub cost £1.79 and took four and a half minutes in the microwave.
Whilst I’d likely buy this due to the proximity of the store to my house, I think I’d rather travel the extra distance and pay nearly double for the M&S version. On this occasion, you really do get what you pay for.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.