Bertolli frozen dinner bags

As another Grand Central freebie, Bertolli reps were giving away free frozen dinners. (Indirectly. Since frozen dinners don't travel well on long train rides, they just gave everyone coupons for free dinners if we went to the grocery store ourselves to get them. At least it wasn't a mail-in rebate.)

They've just launched a line of frozen pasta-meat-bags that they're advertising heavily. The handful of varieties include a pile of shrimp, some sort of mushroom-chicken contraption, a sausage-tomato-sauce combo, and a chicken-spinach-alfredo assembly. Who needs fancy foreign names when English can be so much more descriptive?

I tried the latter two, but forgot to take pictures of the sausage-tomato-sauce combo. Everything here applies to it too. I don't like mushrooms or piles of shrimp, so I can't speak for those.

Everything comes precooked and frozen, including the little sauce logs. Dump the bag into a pan and cook for 10 minutes. That's about it. They say to stir it once in the middle, but that's not enough - stir it a few times, otherwise the edges dry out and the middle doesn't mix.

They call it "dinner for two". The sausage-tomato-sauce version was too small - I'd say it was dinner for 1.5. But this chicken-spinach-alfredo variety is sufficient for two decently-sized meals, although the majority of the food is pasta, not meat or vegetables.

This tasted pretty decent, although I would have liked to see more chicken. The sausage-tomato-sauce version was unmemorable. With the conveniently short and simple preparation, although I still have to wash a pan, it's a decent product... until you try to buy one without a coupon.

$8.50‽ Yes, they want $8.50 for these. (I'm a little biased because I really wanted to use the interrobang, but I'm genuinely surprised by this high price.)

It's a good meal or two, but it's just not worth that much. $8.50 for a bunch of frozen pasta (worthless) with about a quarter-pound of meat ($1.50?), a few vegetable pieces ($0.75?), and some very light sauce?

These meals aren't that complicated to make from scratch. This one is particularly easy, and you can get a better meat-to-pasta ratio: $5 for a pound of chicken breasts, $1 for a box of bowtie pasta, $3 for a jar of Bertolli alfredo sauce (you'll only use half), and some frozen or canned spinach ($1). That's $0.50 more than the frozen bag for about 3 times as much food and a half-jar of surplus alfredo sauce.

There are plenty of times when I don't want to cook something from scratch, and I'm willing to pay a premium for that convenience, but there are plenty of better frozen-meal options for a lot less money, like California Pizza Kitchen frozen gourmet pizzas: $6, almost as much food, and no pan to clean.

I'd gladly eat more of these for free. I'd even pay up to $6 for one. Maybe the pile-of-shrimp or mushroom-chicken contraptions are dramatically better. But at $8.50, I'll pass.