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  • Sarah Whitebloom


Marks and Spencer's Roast Turkey Dinner (£4.75) scored 10 out of 10 in OlderLivingMatter's test of pre-prepared Christmas lunches for one - well ahead of rivals, including one which specialises in ready meals for the pensioner market.

OLM's panel selected the Marks meal, see picture below, ahead of offerings from three rivals. Our consumers maintained it represented the best value and best taste for any lone diner - if they are not able to enjoy a home cooked meal.

The results of OLM's comparison were:

First 10/10 - Marks and Spencer Roast Turkey Dinner (£4.75) - 'The best if you're eating a ready meal'.

Second 8/10 - Tesco's Roast Chicken Dinner (£3.70) - 'Quite nice.'

Third 7/10 - Sainsbury's Roast Turkey Dinner (£3.70) - 'Mark deducted for no stuffing'.

Fourth 5/10 - Wiltshire Farm Foods' - Honest Roast Turkey Breast (£3.99) - 'Christmas is supposed to be a happy time. This is awful.'

M&S Christmas ready meal

The Marks meal was far more complicated to cook, requiring several interventions in the oven and it did cost more than those of rivals. But OLM's panellists said: 'There's nothing really wrong. Nothing unpleasant.'

'If you're having a ready made dinner, then this is the best we've tried,' agreed another.

It did also include a Yorkshire Pudding and the plate was piled higher than rivals - mainly with additional vegetables. But the potatoes, carrots and Brussels were all 'edible', said panellists.

Tesco did not offer a specific Christmas dinner, but its Roast Chicken ready meal was also appreciated by our diners and was said to have 'the best roast potatoes' of the bunch. And its stuffing was widely admired - although the chicken was described as 'tasteless' and there were no mini sausages, which accompanied the other meals.

Sainsbury's Dinner

Sainsbury's Roast Turkey Dinner would have scored higher had it not been for the omission of stuffing, which cost the supermarket a mark from our panel. The meal was 'verging on good', according to the panel. But the praise was not without qualification.

'The carrots were edible but there was not enough on the plate for a Christmas dinner. You would be disappointed with that on Christmas day,' maintained one of OLM's diners.

Lowest in the tasting came Wiltshire Farm Foods, which failed to impress - despite being specifically targeted at older people. It was the easiest meal to prepare and went into the oven straight from the freezer. But, despite following the instructions to the letter, our panel found the meal not to their taste.

'The plate is pretty full but mainly with vegetables and potatoes,' according to one man. 'And they are actively nasty,' he said.

Wiltshire Farm Foods

'There is not enough gravy, the vegetables are horrid and the meat is tasteless,' said another diner.

A third person left the room altogether while a fourth maintained that the meat was 'ok' but said: 'You wouldn't want to eat it on Christmas Day. Christmas is supposed to be a happy time.'

Should anyone be on their own this Christmas, OLM's panel would recommend Marks and Spencer's Turkey Dinner. But it is nothing like a home cooked meal.

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