This week I am mostly eating stuff from Waitrose. Sadly…

A couple of years ago I tried shopping at Ocado – three orders placed, three orders screwed up. Didn’t bother again. Until December, when I thought I’d give them another chance, since they kept telling me how much they’ve improved.

They have, too – three orders to date, no problems.

So in the order delivered a few days ago I got a week’s worth of ready meals. Looking at the online reviews, it was clear that many meals left an awful lot to be desired, so I limited myself to those with 4 or 5 stars, even though that meant missing out on some I’d have liked. Still, I’m happy with what I’ve got, and they’re all reassuringly weighty, and with a spread of dates sufficient that I don’t have to freeze any.

Just had a Cumberland Pie at £2.39 (basically, cottage pie topped with cheese and breadcrumbs), which was quite hefty, and pretty good (needed salt, but the damn salt police are everywhere!). Of course, the question right now is, having eaten it, how long do I get to keep it? We’ll see. (turned out OK – like last time, the barfing spell just lasted for one interminable night.)

Price-wise they compare very well with anyone else, and are heavier than the ones from Wiltshire Farm Foods – the standard ones, not the “hearty” ones.

So, in addition, I got these (all Waitrose except the obvious ones) :-

Chicken casserole 450g, £3.29

Braised beef with mash 450g, £3.29

Chicken with cheese and bacon (plus spuds and veggies) 400g, £3.29 – no reviews for this one but hopefully hard to cock up (no longer confident about that – see below).

Pegoty Hedge Traditional Fish pie 400g, £4.25 Some complaints about the mustard mash being mustardy – fine by me.

Aunt Bessie’s Toad in the Hole (frozen), 190g, £1.50 Had this years ago and not impressed. Now comes with better sausages so worth another try (if you try this, knock it out of its tray and lightly grease it, or it’ll stick with great enthusiasm!

To pad out smaller meals, like the toad and some of the WFF, I got a bag of Aunt Bessie’s frozen roasties, and some McCain’s frozen Micro Chips – a couple of the former can be tossed in the fryer, the latter can go in the microwave for the last few minutes. I’ve also bought a microwave egg poacher so I can plop an egg or two onto small meals where appropriate.

In addition I got a bunch of frozen pizzas, just to ring the changes. Something that’s not occurred to me before, but it makes sense. Not too expensive either, as they were on offer (yeah, yeah, I know – carbs and fat – don’t care!).

Along with the other stuff I ordered, it all got a bit expensive, but it does mean I don’t need to order any more food for a couple of weeks – longer if I get my act together and make some bread.

So, all things considered, a successful shop – now if my innards would just stop making life miserable, I’d be a happy bunny!

By the way, I also had the Chicken Casserole a couple of nights ago, which was dire. Ragged pieces of chicken (obviously, crudely torn from the carcase), some with a very odd texture, floated in a watery broth in which lurked uneatable slices of carrot (one slice was actually cooked – clearly a mistake), along with some unidentifiable, but at least cooked, veggies. The dumplings were – well, let’s just say that calling them “leaden” would be over-generous. Four smaller ones, rather than two large ones would have cooked better. Better yet would be to start again from scratch, using people who can actually cook. And, unbelievably, this crap got 4 stars!

I’ve just tried to post a review (the above para), only to be told “The review contains invalid characters! So I re-wrote it just leaving full-stops and commas – same result. Clearly their facility with written English is as poor as their ability to cook. I suspect that it also explains why so many dishes are un-reviewed.

I have two more Waitrose meals still to go, Braised beef with mash, and Chicken with cheese and bacon, the anticipation of which fails utterly to fill me with joy. Why is it, I wonder, that so many ready meals suck?

If you’re shopping for ready meals at Ocado then ignore the star ratings – the customers awarding 4 or 5 stars clearly have extremely low standards. Or perhaps they asked the dog…

7 thoughts on “This week I am mostly eating stuff from Waitrose. Sadly…

  1. Thanks for your ready-meal reviews, Ron! I have always been an enthusiastic and, (if I say so myself) fairly skilled cook, and I still like to have a go because, well, nobody’s ready meal is as good as home-made, is it? Still, as I get sicker, I find we are eating more ready meals and the like, because these days I forget to switch the hob off; try, idiotically, to pick up HOT things with my bare hands, don’t have the dexterity or strength to peel or prep veggies, or I’m increasingly just too weak, knackered or in pain to stand in the kitchen and cook. My husband stands behind me in the kitchen and has kittens, watching me blunder about and cuss the air blue.
    I got a breadmaker years ago to take the strain of kneading out of that job, and I would recommend the Panasonic I’ve got to anyone who wants good bread, whether they’re a spoonie, or just disgusted by crappy, tasteless commercial “breadproduct”. You can bake a tin loaf in the maker, or turn out the dough and make any kind of loaf or rolls you fancy, even pizza bases, which are 45mins in the machine, and then out to be rolled or pressed out, topped to taste and into a hot oven. After a little practice, you can achieve near-pizzeria quality. IF you’ve got the spoons.
    God, how I miss my own marmalade! Nothing touches it, and I just can’t do it any more. It’s that marmalade time of year…

  2. I’ve been cooking since I was 12, and it feels strange not to. Still working on my own bacon though – that takes no effort at all, and I know where I went wrong last time – simply too much salt, easily fixed.

    I use a stand mixer for my bread – does all the hard work. All I have to do is prove it, shape it and bake it. Mind you, for shop-bought bread, Allinson’s Wholemeal Batch Loaf is about as good as it gets. Nothing outrageous in it, and it makes great toast.

    And if I leave a pan on the heat, you can guarantee it’ll be the frying pan!

    • I’ve tried all kinds of easy-blend yeasts in my breadmaker, and Allinson’s is the best by far, and makes a noticeable difference in the quality and taste of the finished item. I would rather do without than buy a cheaper product. I’ve thought of getting a stand mixer, but the better ones tend to be rather heavy and physical strength is an issue for me. I get around most problems with my breadmaker and food-processor (mostly pastry) but I wouldn’t be without a stick-blender for fabulous soups and sauces. The little Philips model I have comes with a mini-processor with is perfect for dips (Smaller quantities) or chopping nuts, which I find tremendously awkward by hand.
      I told my son-in-law about your adventures in bacon-curing, pancetta and sausage-making, and he is fascinated. We watch this blog with interest. 🙂

      • I think the best yeast, by a country mile, is Fermipan Red. Comes in 500g vac-pacs which get tipped into a jar and frozen – used straight from the freezer. Not easy to find, so I buy a couple of kilos at a time. Keeps for years frozen.

      • By the way, just had a Waitrose braised beef and mash. Pretty good, but the mash was a bit dry. Luckily there was enough gravy to spoon over and lighten it.

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