7 Best And 4 Worst Grocery Stores To Buy Pre-Made Meals

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Say what you will about how the world is these days, but there are a lot of modern conveniences that we have to be thankful for. You can conceivably order dinner on an app without ever having to talk to another person, for instance, while it's also more accessible than ever to run to the grocery store and grab exactly what you need to make what you happen to be craving at the moment. And if you're extra short on time and don't want to pay for a delivery, grocery store pre-made meals make for an easy option. 

Looking back, these sorts of grab and go meals have come a pretty long way. Gone are the days of questionable gas station sushi or unappetizing burritos waiting around for when you need a quick meal. More recently, grocery stores have stepped in and filled that gap with fresh, convenient, and affordable meals that you can get for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and just about everything in between. 

The prepared foods section in almost any grocery store these days tends to be pretty tempting. Don't have time to cook dinner? Sick of pizza or tired of paying for fast food and want to feel a little healthier? Grocery store ready meals to the rescue! But not all pre-made meals are created equal. The truth is that some groceries offer better options than others. If you want a rundown of which stores have the best (and worst) prepared meals, we've got you covered.

Best: Whole Foods

This should surprise no one who has ever been inside a Whole Foods (and maybe even those who haven't!), but this sometimes spendy grocery store has some of the best prepared foods out there. Whole Foods is known as a grocery store with health at the forefront, a reputation that's reflected in its prepared foods section as well as its hot bar foods. So, whether you go into Whole Foods looking for a pre-packaged meal to grab and go, or you want to take your time at the hot bar or salad bar assembling a little bit of everything, odds are you will end up with a delicious, satisfying, and fresh meal.

The prepared meals at Whole Foods might not look any different than what you'd see at just about any other grocery store out there, but the flavor is actually quite impressive. Everything from the sushi to the pre-packaged meals like enchiladas, chicken alfredo, chicken tikka masala, and much more not only are made with high-quality ingredients, but they taste great, too. meanwhile, the hot bar is pretty legendary as well. While many grocery stores' prepared foods are just decent, Whole Foods' pre-made meals are sometimes even as good as homemade, or even what you might find in some restaurants.

Worst: Safeway

Almost everyone has been to a Safeway before, and for good reason. This is the perfect example of a typical American grocery store. There's a decent selection for just about every category, from produce to frozen foods, baby foods, snacks, and everything in between. Safeway also offers prepared meals in its deli. Yet, while they might be convenient to grab with the rest of your groceries, they aren't the best out there.

Like most other grocery stores, Safeway offers standard salads, sandwiches, and sushi, while also serving up what it calls "meal solutions," or pre-made meals. While not all of them are terrible, they also aren't that impressive. The meals never really seem to be that fresh, and some reviews of the offerings aren't that great either. "If you've ever considered getting the steamed pork buns from the ready-to-go meals section of Safeway, do yourself a favor and just don't," one Twitter user said. Another added that the lobster mac n' cheese they purchased tasted more like pollack.

Best: H-E-B

If you or someone you know hails from Texas, then you've likely heard all about what may be the state's most beloved grocery store: H-E-B. It's practically a sin to live in the Lonestar State and shop anywhere else for your grocery needs, at least when you have an H-E-B nearby. This store has all your typical grocery finds, but what sets it apart is the competitive pricing, the store brand's relatively high quality, and of course, the ready-made meals you can find inside.

Most H-E-B locations will have a pretty wide selection of meals ready to go, with rotisserie chicken of practically every flavor, sushi, pizza, fried chicken, and more. Some locations will even have BBQ options available from an in-store BBQ restaurant. So, to say that H-E-B's ready-made meals are something spectacular would be an understatement. Not only are there many options, but they're all reliably delicious, fresh, and affordable. On top of that, H-E-B also offers ready-to-cook meals that you just need to take home and pop in the oven to enjoy! That way, you can still feel like you made a home-cooked dinner — just with way less stress.

Worst: Walmart

When you think of grocery stores with the freshest produce and highest quality items, you probably don't think of Walmart. Sure, Walmart is a grocery store, but it's not exactly known for being a high-end place to score food. So, you wouldn't likely think that it has good pre-made meals. And for the most part, you'd be right, as Walmart is one of the worst places for ready-made meals.

For instance, its Heat & Eat Chicken Alfredo might sound like an easy option for dinner or lunch, but based on the reviews, you could do way better. "It's okay, not great. [The] ingredients were fresh, but not much flavor at all. I added plenty of salt and pepper to make it palatable," one person wrote. "It's called chicken alfredo but there's barely any chicken in it," another added. One person simply called it "awful." 

Clearly, there's an issue in quality, ingredients, and flavor that's to be expected throughout Walmart's ready-to-eat meal options. But it's not all bad, as Walmart's hot meals have actually gone viral on TikTok for being such great deals, though the taste might still leave something to be desired.

Best: Costco

Costco has a special place in the hearts of just about everyone who has a membership there (and those who use their friends or family members' cards to get in). That's because Costco has great deals on items bought in bulk, offers amazing and delicious samples throughout the store, boasts an iconic food court, and has delicious rotisserie chickens and other prepared meals. Now, we admit that its selection of ready meals can be limited. Yet, while Costco doesn't offer as many pre-made meals as other grocery stores, what it does sell is worth your money.

For instance, Reddit users raved about Costco's gyro meal kit, a relatively new entry to the pre-made meals section. "This is so good and honestly one of the better-priced pre-made meals. There's enough meat in there that once you get toppings on the pita, the gyro is overflowing," said one customer. Twitter users also rave about the meals, calling them underrated and saying that they come in "clutch." All told Costco's pre-made meals are seriously tasty, filling, and made with high-quality ingredients.

Worst: Target

Target is a great place to kill time, as well as the ultimate stop for clothes, home goods, snacks, and much more. But is it a good place for pre-made meals? Not really. Sure, Target has a good selection of snacks, frozen foods, produce, and deli products. But its label of pre-made meals is off.

Perhaps the issue is due to the fact that most Targets don't have an in-store deli with employees prepping food all day. As a result, Target's Good & Gather prepared meals don't typically taste fresh, and they certainly aren't anything to write home about. One customer called the store's egg salad "disgusting." They went on to say "Only one of us could choke it down so it didn't go to waste but it was a struggle. Also it's expensive for the small size."

Meanwhile, other ready-made items haven't fared much better. The chain's Sesame Ginger Asian Noodle Salad isn't much better. "The noodles are mush and the sauce is not tasty," said one reviewer. The list could go on and on, but just take our word for it: Target's pre-made meals probably aren't worth your time or money.

Best: Sam's Club

Much like Costco, Sam's Club has a large base of loyal customers who love shopping at the store, thanks largely to its great deals on bulk items. And while there are many similarities between Sam's Club and Costco, we think that Sam's Club has a bit more to offer when it comes to the store's prepared foods section. In other words, while Costco seems to focus on only a small number of pre-made meals, Sam's has it beat in terms of volume. There are enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas, and so much more. But what about quality? Going by the reviews, many Sam's Club members are ready to call nearly all of those meals delicious.

TikTokkers and Twitter users alike are obsessed with Sam's Club's pre-made meals, and for good reason. The meals usually just need to be heated up in the microwave or oven before serving. Occasionally, meals like the chicken quesadilla are best served if you grill it up at home to lend a nice crisp texture to the tortilla. Sam's Club also offers great deals on pre-made meals, especially if you have more people to feed than just one or two diners.

Worst: Aldi

Just about everyone knows that Aldi is the place to shop if you want good deals, and maybe a little bit of stress with your grocery order (those cashiers are fast!). But while Aldi might be your one-stop shop for cheap groceries, it's not where you want to go for pre-made meals. Not only are the portions small and lacking in value, but the meals themselves don't have much flavor. What's more, there's not a lot of variety to be found in the lineup.

Additionally, Aldi's ready meals taste stale, lack flavor, and make it obvious that they don't cost much. While that might sound ideal when you want to save money, it's not suited to when you want a delicious meal. And back in 2013, Aldi ready meals in the U.K. were found to contain significant amounts of horse meat, though the chain vowed to do away with those meals. Doesn't sound all that appetizing, does it? While the store might offer good deals on regular grocery items, those prepared meals just aren't it.

Best: Wegmans

If you live near a Wegmans, it's probably your favorite grocery store or at least one of them. Wegmans really does have it all, including great produce, frozen foods, quality meats, and an amazing store brand that rivals the name-brand competition in just about every area. Its ready-made meals are also a huge part of what keeps customers coming back to this grocery on a regular basis.

"I need to shout out Wegman's and Costco for their delicious variety of ready-made meals. They are pretty much the only reason my kids get dinner most evenings," one Twitter user wrote. Items like the store's rotisserie chicken and sushi are also just as beloved across the internet. At the end of a busy day, it's clear that you can't go wrong with Wegman's. Whether you get something from the hot bar or a pre-made meal, it's sure to be delicious.

Worst: Kroger

Kroger is another grocery store so widespread almost everyone has been there at least once. Kroger is a typical grocery store, but its offerings aren't as unique or fresh as other grocery stores out there. Sure, Kroger is convenient, but its pre-made meals aren't anything special. Even though the chain has started working with Home Chef to bring more pre-made meal options, it's still not worth it.

As one Twitter user put it, "I miss HEB. :-(. Just moved to Atlanta from Austin, so we have Kroger's. Miss their ready-made meals & the produce/meat were so much fresher than Kroger's." Additionally, at least one customer writing on Reddit claimed to have gotten food poisoning from a ready-made shrimp cocktail from Kroger. Kroger's pre-made meals simply aren't the best quality. What's more, the high prices mean that they aren't even a good deal and definitely not worth your money.

Best: Publix

If you're lucky enough to live near a Publix, then there's a good chance you've probably had the famous "pub sub" one or 12 times before. But it's not just the hot bar or deli department that makes Publix such a great grocery store. Along with a large selection of just about everything you would expect a top-tier grocery store to have, Publix also has a great array of prepared meals. Its ready-made meals are also perfectly suited for when you're in need of a quick meal with minimal effort. When it comes to busy weeknights, Publix has you covered.

As Reddit users have agreed, Publix food is all pretty delicious, though some of the store's offerings are better than others. "The pre-cooked turkeys have been my go-to for the last couple of years," one user wrote. "All you really do is warn it up. Perfectly cooked. Great flavor. Takes little time." And given how popular the pub sub is, it makes sense the grocery chain's pre-made meals would be just as delicious. Just look at Twitter or TikTok, and you'll see people agreeing that a good, cheap meal can always be found at Publix.

Best: Sprouts

For many hungry shoppers, Sprouts Farmers Market has proven itself to be a truly great grocery. That's especially true if you like to be health-conscious when it's time to go shopping. The grocery offers a variety of organic and natural products, tons of produce, and brands for a variety of diets, including vegan, dairy-free, and paleo. Its pre-made meals in the deli section are also pretty great. If you haven't heard of the viral $5 Sprouts sandwich on TikTok, well, let's just say that it's become viral for a pretty good reason. The quality at Sprouts is unmatched, and its sandwiches aren't the only thing worth checking out.

Sprout's pre-made meals might not have as much variety as other stores, but that might be a good thing when you consider the quality. One Twitter user said that Sprouts ready-meals were often better than what was on offer at many other grocery stores, while another noted that the sushi was their favorite. 

Best: Market Street

Market Street is yet another regional grocery store that has plenty of fans and a lot to offer. The store has a large produce section, a great bakery, offers catering, and, perhaps most importantly, a large and impressive prepared meals section. Market Street offers both ready meals and ready-to-cook options, as well as a hot bar that sells breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Some locations even have a special salad bar and pizza area.

Market Street's prepared meals are seriously good. Its sells enchiladas, casseroles, fried chicken, and so much more. It even has ready-made sandwiches, chicken salad, and soups. All its options are seriously tasty and well worth the trip to the grocery store. 

As if that weren't enough motivation, the prices here are affordable. Moreover, Market Street's pre-made meals are also pretty fresh. It's impressive for a grocery store to whip up so many different meals every day at such quality. For when you want an easy meal, but fast food doesn't sound appetizing, Market Street has exactly what you need.