The Tasty Lies Behind Your Favorite Convenience Foods

There are a number of criticisms you can make about frozen meals and chain takeout: poor nutrition, factory farming, and wasteful packaging. Most Americans don’t care about that, though. What they want to know is: does this meal look anything like the photo on the package? Does it taste like beef-flavored cardboard? Is the portion big enough to keep me from running to the break room vending machine by 3:00? For them, the convenience food blog Tasty Lies exists.

Here, for example, is their package/reality comparison of an Aunt Jemima brand frozen breakfast that includes scrambled eggs and bacon:



The reviewer gave this meal three and a half stars, noting:

It tasted pretty good. Some of the eggs were a little dry and the hashbrown wasn’t really crunchy at all…But you expect that with a fried potato in a microwave. The bacon was pretty perfect. Not rubbery at all, also not burned to a crisp. Good on them.

Tasty Lies [Blog] (Thanks, Simon!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    Serving Suggestion

    • SaltWater says:

      I say anyone who buys crap like that deserves whatever they get. Besides that, the edible contents of the item pictured is 5.25 ounces. That’s hardly anything.

    • The Slime Oozing Out From Your TV Set says:

      Except that you can’t actually make it look like the serving suggestion.

      Cereals and such, FI, you can prepare like on the box, when it’s not showing precisely what is inside.

      While I do take umbrage at their ability to call an entirely different meal a serving suggestion, I’m not disagreeing with SaltWater on the matter.

  2. fadetoblack says:

    I forgot that they still use mammies in advertising.

  3. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I think prison food looks better than that. Eggs shouldn’t be the color of Big Bird….oh god, who scrambled Big Bird?!!

    • RiverStyX says:

      Yep, you’re paying for it too. Costs somewhere around $30,000 a year, per inmate, to have one fight over cigarettes with the aryans while dining on fine mess-hall food in between the top-ramen with hot sauce and pork rinds.

    • tinyninja says:

      Eggs should absolutely be the color of Big Bird. Ever had eggs from true free range chickens? Their yolks are bright day-glo orange.

      The best eggs I’ve ever had were given to me by a woman who let her chickens eat table scraps. She tried switching them over to regular old chicken mash, but the egg quality went down drastically.

      • aloria says:

        Was just about to reply with the same thing. My mother has a neighbor who gifts her eggs from her hens; the yolks are bright orange. Tastiest eggs I’ve ever had.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        Oh yeaaaah. My ex and I used to raise chickens and those were the best eggs ever. A coworker’s dad had them too, and I bought eggs from him, but he sold all his chickens.

        If I didn’t have an outside cat, I could now legally have up to six hens in my backyard in my city. I would totally do it too, but for Miss I-Own-The-Backyard-Everything-Else-Must-Be-Bloodily-Vanquished.

    • Rhinoguy says:

      The best eggs I ever had came from chickens that ate what chickens were invented to eat, bugs. Did I just say that? Thank goodness we never see where our food comes from because the best food is the most disgusting!

      • Saltpork says:

        t’s being part of a natural system that often requires some form of death. It’s not good or bad, it just is.

        What makes bread great is yeast excrement.
        Honey is bee vomit.
        Eggs are chicken reproduction parts.
        Milk has colostrum(high nutrition mucus) and blood.
        Cheese, Yogurt, Cottage Cheese and Sour cream are all making milk rot to a certain level.

        I’ve left out the whole process of butchering and rendering meat into food. I’ve done this specifically because people have no desire to know the process.

        I’m no vegetarian. I grew up on a farm. I’ve taken apart rabbit, deer, lamb, goat, squirrel. Holding a lamb’s heart is a weird feeling, but connects you to your food. You learn very quickly what the law of killing to live actually means.

        Nature can be disgusting if you view it that way. It can also be incredibly cruel. It’s perspective. There is nothing nice about food unless you accept it for what it is and treat it with respect and enjoyment.

        I completely agree about eggs from chickens btw. When they eat what they’re meant to, everything about them tastes better, including their flesh. Same holds true for just about every animal.

  4. larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

    The box says “keep frozen” and then it says “cook thoroughly”. OMG, how can I do both?

    • Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

      What I love are the ones that say to cook to an internal temperature of 165°.

      Yeah, I bring by instant read thermometer to work with me.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        What I do with pot pies is cook them for the time recommended on the box and then add 30 more seconds.

  5. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    Them “hash browns” look like a rubber puke puddle joke I bought once.

  6. Razor512 says:

    Most frozen foods are not close to whats advertised.

    eg check out foodirl

    I have pretty much stopped buying frozen foods, the prices have gone up to a point where the cost per gram if just too high compared to food you make your self or buy hot and premade.

    • Nobody can say "Teehee" with a straight face says:

      The only frozen foods I’ve found to be decent are the frozen pizzas (and only worth it when they’re half off). They have like 1400 calories though, so I can only eat them on the weekends when I have a light lunch and skip breakfast.

  7. Dallas_shopper says:

    My absolute favorite frozen meal is the roasted vegetable pizza on whole wheat crust from Whole Foods. It’s vegan so it has no cheese, and it’s only 150 calories. However, it never has as many veg on it as the box (and it rarely has artichoke on it even though the package says it does). I have diced eggplant and mushrooms in my freezer so I just throw some of those onto the pizza and 15 minutes later I have tasty vegan pizza goodness.

    I love that there’s no cheese on it; some people see this as a negative, but if I want cheese on the pizza I can add it myself. I love having that option.

    I buy these things by the case. Seriously. I call up the Whole Foods locations in my area until I find one with a case of them, then I zoom over and snap it up. You also get a discount for buying things by the case at Whole Foods, so double bonus for me. The only thing I don’t like about it is the price….$4 for a single frozen pizza that isn’t very large…but it is DELISH.

    • chizu says:

      I finally went to Whole Foods for the first time the other day. I got some of their food at the food court and god… The food court was huge, it had a great selection of prepared food, and it was delicious! Unfortunately, Whole Foods is expensive… Which is probably a good thing that it’s so far away from me, or I’d be so broke…

      • Dallas_shopper says:

        I tend to stay away from their prepared foods because they’re either very fattening or they don’t publish the nutritional contents. I won’t eat anything if I don’t know what it is or what’s in it, or how many calories per serving. :-D

        And yeah, it’s expensive…though not much more than other supermarkets in this area. Groceries are expensive in Texas. :-(

  8. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    Part of my diet regimen last year where I lost 30 lbs was eating more prepackaged frozen meals for lunch instead of fast/quick carry outs. Portion control FOR THE WIN!

    Unhealthy? Depends on what you choose. There are many options in the 280-350 calorie range that provide a very balanced meal. The biggest “unhealthy” choice at that range is sodium. If you don’t have sodium restrictions, a wide range opens beyond Health Choice, Lean Cuisine, etc, at that calorie count. Many options that you would think would not be in that range open up if you can handle 30-40% daily sodium. Things like SOME Marie Callendars and some store brands not labeled light and/or healthy. Even Trader Joes has some pretty tasty options that are not labeled healthy, Chile Relleno anyone?

    Wasteful packaging? It depends. I kind of like the plate my food is being eaten off of to be protected from the elements in trucks, trains, carts and all the people handling it, both workers and the general public. So I take a thin cardboard box as a health and safety cost. I worked in a grocery store for 11 years, trust me on this.

    Factory farming? Well, it comes with economies of scale. It is my choice whether I go with ConAgra who can make a profit and employ people and sell me nutritious meals for $2.50 each, or Cascadian Farms (which is owned by General Mills) doing the same for $4.75 each. If you can tell me where I can get non factory farmed quick lunches for a competitive price, I am all ears (OK Eyes, this is a web site).

  9. HalOfBorg says:

    Hardee’s breakfast platter is what gets me. It all tastes good to me (for fast food), but the scrambled eggs are the EXACT same ones as go on the biscuits – they are like a sheet of scrambled egg, and this makes them feel all wrong in your mouth. The picture shows them just like the Aunt Jemima box.

    • Saltpork says:

      Almost every quick dining place(except greasy spoons/American diners) use powdered eggs. This is what you’re getting.

      It takes a good short order cook to get eggs right. That’s why Waffle House has one. Eggs are easy to screw up.

  10. chizu says:

    So last semester, my boyfriend ate very very poorly because of his rough schedule and was never home to cook for himself. When he was home, he just didn’t want to cook because he was tired. So I thought about making him a bunch of home-made frozen food when I got visit him in the near future. I’m probably going to be doing the sous-vide, or boil food in a bag, method because he doesn’t have a microwave, and boiling water is easy enough.

    So far, I could only think of making him Chili, a basic Mapotofu sauce so he could just add tofu to it, and pasta. I can’t think of things that are more nutritious, tasty, and I could still stick into baggies for him.

    Has anyone made home-made frozen food before? He doesn’t have a foodsaver so I can’t really use that… And I figure if I use ziplock bags, he could let his food cook a little longer in hot (but not boiling) water. Anyone has any freezing/bagging/packing/menu suggestions for me?

    • Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

      This is going to sound silly, but ramen meals??

      A cup to cup and a half of frozen veggies in the water along with some protein. Bring to boil then add noodles and cook, go lightly on the packet. You can even used canned broths instead of the water and skip the packet. Add some white vinegar and black pepper for Hot and Sour. A drizzle of Sesame oil to brighten up the flavor. Or, drain after cooking and add some premade peanut sauce.

      • chizu says:

        Ah, I forgot to mention he hates soup… Chili is okay but he hates soup, both for the flavour and texture. A lot of texture puts him off, so I have to stay away from “soft” and “liquidy” stuff…

        He does eat Ramyun (and ramyun only — the Korean stuff), but it doesn’t really fill him up and he goes hungry really quickly after that…

        • Wiggs says:

          If he likes Chinese food, I’ve had pretty good luck with the P.F. Chang’s frozen meals-for-two things, an extra bag of frozen vegetables (usually a stir-fry combo of some kind) and rice. Makes enough for five frozen meals, and it’s pretty filling too. I use the entree-sized resealable plastic containers to freeze & reheat them in (they’re like $2 for 5 containers).

          Just make sure you get the P.F. Chang’s things without the rice or noodles in them, because you lose a lot of good stuff that way. The sweet & sour chicken, orange chicken, and beef & broccoli have been great ones to use.

    • PunditGuy says:

      Gyoza. Teach him how to pan fry and deglaze with some stock or water, and he’ll be set. Get a mixture of meat ones and veggie ones and he’ll get something on its way to being a balanced meal.

      • chizu says:

        Yeah, that’s a good call. I somehow just totally forgot about them. I could always make him a bunch (with lots of veggies in them, or kimchi…) and just have him panfry them… Speaking of which, he’d need to get a splatter screen so he doesn’t burn himself like last time…

    • Tiffymonster says:

      I frequently make frozen meals for myself. Since I enjoy variety I will frequently make 2 or 3 different frozen meals out of the same thing. For example out of a pot of chili I might freeze a few bowls of chili then I would make frozen burritos (I use the low carb whole wheat tortillas) I add the chili and some cheese and roll them up and wrap them well in seran wrap. I also make something like chili mac and cheese and freeze that too.

      Pot roast freezes beautifully and I also make mini pot pies with refrigerated crust unbaked and just stick it in the oven.

      I don’t freeze pasta often since with a fasta pasta I can have pasta within 10 minutes from start to finish but I do freeze lasagna both baked and unbaked.

      Costco has these frozen, lightly breaded uncooked chicken breasts they have 9g carbs in them (sorry I am kinda carb obsessed lol I use low carb pasta too lol) and they taste fantastic. I frequently add sauces to them and they are a HUGE time saver.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      THat’s a good idea..I wish my bf would do that, but he likes to go out to eat at lunch *sigh*. He always ends up with crap food. No wonder he takes so many naps. I wish we could finally be in the same place because I would totally make his lunch for him.

      LOL Ok that sounded really REALLY mom-ish but I don’t want him to croak on me!

  11. dush says:

    On a lot of them if you took the food out of the heating container, and arranged it nicely on a plate you could conceivably get it to look like the packaging picture.

  12. shepd says:

    I ate that yesterday. No, really, I went to the US shopping and picked up a bunch of frozen foods.

    While sad ( The food, NOT ME :P ), it was still fun. I’ve actually had worse. You guys have way more instant frozen food selection. :-)

    Still wondering what the banquet burgers & gravy are going to be like. Maybe for tonight…

  13. Yacko says:

    My God! Have standards fallen so much that this qualifies as anything more than barely edible calories? How much worse does it get in 10 years? 20 years?

  14. central_ny_dude says:

    Its called “marketing”! Food you see for display or advertising is usually not even “food” at all, but a mixture of corn starch, gelatin, lard, coloring, wax, paint, and other really yummy stuff, arranged to look like whatever its supposed to represent. There are special effects companies that do this for a living. “Real” food doesn’t photograph well, so artificial “food” takes its place. If anyone actually thinks that a photograph or image of food on a box or menu, is what you are actually going to get, I have a bridge to sell you. I’m surprised that some people are still surprised by this. On a side note, at least they got the most important part of it sort of right… bacon. Mmmm…bacon.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Yeah, the bacon looks pretty good. I wonder if they used real bacon and then the photographer got to eat it.

  15. thanq says:

    I am sorry, bot microwaving bacon is a crime against humanity. If not that at least against food and what bacon stands for.

    In my opinion, microwaving the final dish is easy but just kills the moisture, flavor, and destroys the texture of the food.

    • Saltpork says:

      Microwaves work off a principle of exciting water molecules until they absorb so much energy they turn into steam.

      Very useful for soups or reheating water heavy items. They do damage the structures of foods, specifically meat.

      Microwaves have their place. Being the one stop appliance in making dinner isn’t it.

  16. dks64 says:

    Amy’s Kitchen is my favorite frozen food. It doesn’t always look perfect, but it taste great.