• Top 10 Best Ready Meals in the UK 2021 (Tesco, Charlie Bigham's and More) 1
  • Top 10 Best Ready Meals in the UK 2021 (Tesco, Charlie Bigham's and More) 2
  • Top 10 Best Ready Meals in the UK 2021 (Tesco, Charlie Bigham's and More) 3
  • Top 10 Best Ready Meals in the UK 2021 (Tesco, Charlie Bigham's and More) 4
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Top 10 Best Ready Meals in the UK 2021 (Tesco, Charlie Bigham's and More)

Ready meals have had somewhat of a bad rep since their conception in the 1950s, but we say, quash those thoughts of unappetising foil-trayed TV dinners! Instant food has never looked so good, with supermarkets now catering to all of our foodie desires, be it calorie-controlled or muscle-building meals, a vegetarian or vegan lasagne or a healthy take on a curry or Chinese. 


Talk to any household and they'll all give a completely different answer when it comes to taste preferences, budget and dietary requirements, so what constitutes the best ready meal? Our guide and top picks are here to reveal all. We've got recommendations for camping and fussy kids, gourmet suppers for one and everything in between, all ready for delivery from Tesco, Asda, Waitrose and Amazon. 

  • Last updated: 19-02-2021
  • 8,812 views
Table of Contents

How to Choose a Ready Meal in the UK - Buying Guide

While the final decision of what you want to eat for dinner absolutely entails picking the cuisine and flavours you like best, we're here to guide you through some of the things you may not have thought of, and give you some answers to those you have. 

What's on the Menu? Think About the Type of Meal and Any Dietary Requirements

As well as picking the cuisine or type of meal that gets your mouth watering, there are a few other things to keep in mind to ensure your ready meal is top quality tucker – and made with the right ingredients to suit yours and your household's dietary needs. 

Pick the Type of Meal Based on Preference, Budget, and Quality

Pick the Type of Meal Based on Preference, Budget, and Quality

Whether you see food as a necessary fuel or one of life's great pleasures, you're still going to want a meal you like the taste of. Try narrowing your online search to your favourite cuisines and parts of the world you like to eat from. Then, you can decide which of these are within your budget.


For maximum taste and quality, look for ready meals that are made from mostly real ingredients, comparable to the kind you'd use if you were cooking a meal from scratch or that you'd be able to find in your cupboard. Think meat cuts you can recognise, whole vegetables and seasonings and fewer processed fillers. 


You could also plump for organic meals or those made with free-range or British ingredients if shopping and eating ethically are important to you. They normally result in a higher quality meal, too.

Dietary Needs Don't Mean Missing Out on Your Favourites

Dietary Needs Don't Mean Missing Out on Your Favourites

Nowadays supermarkets are stacked to the rafters with dedicated dietary-friendly items, so don't think you'll have to miss out when buying a ready meal online. 


Whether you're vegetarian, vegan, or avoiding dairy or gluten, chances are a brand or supermarket have an entire 'free from' ready meal range, or at least a few variations of old favourites like curries and pasta dishes. 


The demand for meals that meet our dietary needs has also meant that supermarkets are getting better at listing whether each product is halal, vegetarian and so on, as well as any common allergens. It may be worth checking what's inside the meal you like the look of anyway, as there's a chance it's suitable for you even if it's not part of a dedicated range! 

Scan the Nutritional Information to Know if Your Ready Meal Is Healthy

We all know the consequences of eating too much sugar, saturated fat, and salt (heart disease, diabetes and obesity, to gently remind you of a few), and we also know that ready meals are notorious for packing them in. In this section we'll help you choose a meal that's just as nutritious as the real thing!

Follow the Recommended Guidelines for Calories, Fat, Salt and Sugar

Follow the Recommended Guidelines for Calories, Fat, Salt and Sugar

If you're actively counting calories or other nutrients or you'd just like to have the guesswork taken out so you can grab and go, the key is to check the nutritional information.


While your calorie intake will vary depending on your body type and energy expenditure, there are some guidelines to follow to make sure you're not overdoing it on the other nutritionals. Although don't forget the odd treat meal or indulgence is fine, and healthy for the mind if nothing else! 


  • Sugar: The daily recommendation is 30 grams, which can be divided between each of your meals. 
  • Saturated Fat: 7 grams or less per serving. 
  • Salt: 1.5 grams or less per serving. 
  • Calories: Up to 700 per serving (as an evening meal), based on the recommended 2000-2500 daily intake. 

Check for 'Lighter' Ranges and Meals that Contribute to Your 5-a-Day

Check for 'Lighter' Ranges and Meals that Contribute to Your 5-a-Day

Not all of us are into calorie counting or have time to scan the labels – hence the ready meal – but there are some other tricks you can employ to ensure you're getting a balanced, nutritious meal. The first is to choose one marketed as a balanced or healthier choice, as these are often lower in calories and fat. 


Secondly, check how many portions of vegetables are included in the ready meal – if it has any worthy health credentials, it'll proudly display how many on the packet. This is also a good tip if you're trying to get more veg into your diet. Otherwise, look for vegetables in the first few ingredients, alongside protein and carbohydrate sources.

Note the Serving Size, the Pack Size and Whether Additional Sides Are Required

Note the Serving Size, the Pack Size and Whether Additional Sides Are Required

Ready meals are a great way to take the strain off cooking for both multiple and single mouths, so to make sure you and your diners don't finish the meal as hungry as when you started, always check the portion size.


Meals for one not sufficient? Some supermarkets now offer bundles or multipacks of meals with 3-5 different dishes to sample. This is a great way to order what you need for you or your household without hours of browsing, plus it often works out a little cheaper. 


It could also beneficial to note exactly what's included in the portion, as some ready meals are intended to only be part of your plate, and may require you to prepare extra side dishes such as vegetables or rice. On the plus side, this is a way of saving time while filling up on fresh veg (and pretending you cooked it all yourself). 

Check the Heating and Storing Requirements Will Work for You

Check the Heating and Storing Requirements Will Work for You

Believe it or not, some ready meals aren't actually safe for microwave cooking! Make sure to check how your meal is able to be reheated to save yourself disappointment and forego a potential safety hazard. 


Don't forget to check the storage information, too, as some meals will be best kept frozen, some chilled, and some will even be fine in the cupboard. The beauty of ordering ready meals online, particularly those that are freezer-safe, is that you can stock up – which is why the storage duration is also an important factor to consider. 

Top 10 Best Ready Meals in the UK

We don't know about you, but we're famished after all that food talk! So let's get down to the 10 best ready meals you can stick your fork into this year, all available online and all guaranteed not to disappoint even the pickiest diner. 

10

Mr Lee's NoodlesMeat Lovers Box

£15.00

Meal TypeVarious, East Asian
Diets Suitable For Gluten-free
Sugar/Sat. Fat/Salt Per ServingVarious
Calories Per Serving 218, 222, 274
5-a-Day -
Portion Size 6 x 1-serving pots
Heating MethodsAdd hot water
StorageCupboard
9

Amy's KitchenGluten-Free Rice Mac & Cheese

£2.69

Meal TypePasta, organic
Diets Suitable For Gluten-free, vegetarian, Kosher
Sugar/Sat. Fat/Salt Per Serving6 g, 10 g, 1.5 g
Calories Per Serving 400
5-a-Day -
Portion Size 255 g, serves 1
Heating MethodsMicrowave, oven
StorageFreezer
8
Meal TypeIndian
Diets Suitable For Vegan, gluten-free, halal
Sugar/Sat. Fat/Salt Per Serving0 g, 10 g, 1.7 g
Calories Per Serving 240
5-a-Day 1
Portion Size 280 g, serves 1-2
Heating MethodsHob, microwave
StorageCupboard
7
Meal TypeItalian
Diets Suitable For -
Sugar/Sat. Fat/Salt Per Serving9.3 g, 17.3 g, 1.9 g
Calories Per Serving 650
5-a-Day -
Portion Size 690 g, serves 2
Heating MethodsOven only
StorageFridge (4+ days)
6

Weight WatchersRed Thai Curry & Sticky Jasmine Rice

£2.00

Meal TypeDiet, Thai
Diets Suitable For Gluten-free recipe
Sugar/Sat. Fat/Salt Per Serving5.3 g, 3 g, 1.3 g
Calories Per Serving 350
5-a-Day -
Portion Size 380 g, serves 1
Heating MethodsMicrowave
StorageFridge
5

TescoFinest Chicken Madeira & Mushroom Rice

£3.50

Meal TypeComfort food, Italian
Diets Suitable For Gluten-free recipe
Sugar/Sat. Fat/Salt Per Serving4.6 g, 7 g, 1.3 g
Calories Per Serving 571
5-a-Day -
Portion Size 450 g, serves 1
Heating MethodsMicrowave
StorageFridge (6+ days), freezer
4

AsdaSmart Price Bolognese Pasta Bake

£1.20

Meal TypePasta
Diets Suitable For -
Sugar/Sat. Fat/Salt Per Serving5.7 g, 7.2 g, 1.8 g
Calories Per Serving 453
5-a-Day -
Portion Size 400 g, serves 1
Heating MethodsOven, microwave
StorageFridge, freezer
3

Asda Good & Balanced Meals Bundle

£12.00

Meal TypeVarious, healthy
Diets Suitable For -
Sugar/Sat. Fat/Salt Per ServingVarious
Calories Per Serving 338 - 456
5-a-Day 1 per meal
Portion Size 4 x 1-serving bowls
Heating MethodsMicrowave
StorageFridge (~3 days)
2

Tesco Beautifully Balanced Tandoori Chicken & Roasted Vegetables

£3.00

Meal TypeIndian, healthy
Diets Suitable For Gluten-free
Sugar/Sat. Fat/Salt Per Serving16 g, 1.3 g, 1.1 g
Calories Per Serving 390
5-a-Day 2
Portion Size 380 g, serves 1
Heating MethodsMicrowave
StorageFridge (4+ days)
1

Tesco Wicked Kitchen Big Bros Enchiladas

£3.50

Meal TypeTex-Mex
Diets Suitable For Vegan
Sugar/Sat. Fat/Salt Per Serving19 g, 4.8 g, 2.1 g
Calories Per Serving 565
5-a-Day 2
Portion Size 450 g, serves 1
Heating MethodsOven
StorageFridge (4+ days)

Compare the Best Ready Meals

Image
1
Tesco  Wicked Kitchen Big Bros Enchiladas 1

Tesco

2
Tesco  Beautifully Balanced Tandoori Chicken & Roasted Vegetables 1

Tesco

3
Asda  Good & Balanced Meals Bundle  1

Asda

4
Asda Smart Price Bolognese Pasta Bake 1

Asda

5
Tesco Finest Chicken Madeira & Mushroom Rice 1

Tesco

6
Weight Watchers Red Thai Curry & Sticky Jasmine Rice 1

Weight Watchers

7
Charlie Bigham's Lasagne for Two  1

Charlie Bigham's

8
Ashoka  Punjabi Choley 1

Ashoka

9
Amy's Kitchen Gluten-Free Rice Mac & Cheese 1

Amy's Kitchen

10
Mr Lee's Noodles Meat Lovers Box  1

Mr Lee's Noodles

Name

Wicked Kitchen Big Bros Enchiladas

Beautifully Balanced Tandoori Chicken & Roasted Vegetables

Good & Balanced Meals Bundle

Smart Price Bolognese Pasta Bake

Finest Chicken Madeira & Mushroom Rice

Red Thai Curry & Sticky Jasmine Rice

Lasagne for Two

Punjabi Choley

Gluten-Free Rice Mac & Cheese

Meat Lovers Box

Features

Totally Addictive Restaurant-Quality Ready Meal

A Nourishing Curry Alternative

A Balanced Meal a Day for a Busy Week

The Best Taste You'll Get on a Budget

Utterly Divine Comfort Food in Under 10 Minutes

Ideal for Take Away Lovers Watching the Calories

A Rich, Beefy and Satisfying Lasagne Baked to Perfection

A Mouthwatering Shelf-Stable Curry Meal

An Organic, Gluten-Free and Kid-Friendly Version of a Classic

A Healthier Cup Noodle for a Quick Lunch

Price£3.50£3.00£12.00£1.20£3.50£2.00£7.75£1.50£2.69£15.00
Meal TypeTex-Mex Indian, healthyVarious, healthy PastaComfort food, Italian Diet, Thai Italian IndianPasta, organicVarious, East Asian
Diets Suitable For VeganGluten-free-- Gluten-free recipe Gluten-free recipe -Vegan, gluten-free, halalGluten-free, vegetarian, Kosher Gluten-free
Sugar/Sat. Fat/Salt Per Serving19 g, 4.8 g, 2.1 g16 g, 1.3 g, 1.1 gVarious5.7 g, 7.2 g, 1.8 g4.6 g, 7 g, 1.3 g 5.3 g, 3 g, 1.3 g9.3 g, 17.3 g, 1.9 g 0 g, 10 g, 1.7 g6 g, 10 g, 1.5 gVarious
Calories Per Serving 565390338 - 456453571350 650240400218, 222, 274
5-a-Day 221 per meal ----1--
Portion Size 450 g, serves 1380 g, serves 14 x 1-serving bowls400 g, serves 1450 g, serves 1380 g, serves 1 690 g, serves 2280 g, serves 1-2255 g, serves 16 x 1-serving pots
Heating MethodsOven MicrowaveMicrowave Oven, microwave Microwave MicrowaveOven only Hob, microwave Microwave, oven Add hot water
StorageFridge (4+ days)Fridge (4+ days)Fridge (~3 days)Fridge, freezerFridge (6+ days), freezer Fridge Fridge (4+ days)CupboardFreezer Cupboard
Link

Hungry for More Time-Saving Meal Ideas?

Hungry for More Time-Saving Meal Ideas?

Sometimes zapping a ready meal or boiling the kettle for some Mi Goreng is about all you can muster, but we've got a couple of other product guides featuring stress-free meal ideas for those days when time is on your side. 

Summary

Your dream dinner could take the form of a fragrant Thai curry, a healthy noodle dish or the comforting hug of a creamy lasagne, but so long as you look for those signs of quality and get the right ingredients, size, and storage for your needs, you'll be able to find your best ready meal yet.

Author: Natasha Dziubajlo

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