Kraft Velveeta Cheesy Dinner: $2.49 for one cup of Orzo and a bit of cheese sauce, plus the cost of your chicken - over twice the cost of making a similar meal homemade. An equivalent amount of my easy homemade Cheesy Chicken Casserole, including the chicken and chock full of vegetables is $1.54
I’ve got a package, bought with a coupon on sale – what was I thinking? $2.49 with a 50 cent off coupon made it $1.99. I picked it up last summer when I was ill for a while; thought it’d be easy, yet still haven’t had the guts to make it. To tell you the truth, after getting on the mend, I tried to give it away to three different people along with a few other items we weren’t going to use: A young woman on her own working at McDonald’s and just getting her own apartment, living on a shoe string, a single mom on Social Security supporting two kids, and a young woman on food stamps and public assistance. No one wanted it.
I also suggested on more than one occasion when my 19 year old was complaining about “nothing good to eat,” that he might make it. Now this is the kid that was rarely served “junk” food or “boxed food” through out his life – he LOVES this kind of thing – yeah, that backfired, didn’t it? He’s coming around now and concerned about his health, especially after seeing what I’ve been through as I’ve aged. He turned up his nose at this, though. Now several months later, I’ve plucked it out of the “for the food shelf bag” and decided to make it, just to see what it’s all about.
First thing I noticed: The name is “Velveeta Cheesy Skillet Dinner Kit: Chicken and Broccoli Pasta with Creamy Cheese sauce, Broccoli Florets & Seasoning.” When I turned the package over, it says I’ll need a POUND of boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into one inch pieces and 2 1/2 cups of water. Interesting that it appeared to be a full dinner on the package front – it wasn’t until I looked at the back that I noticed on the bottom left hand side of the package front it says “Just add chicken.” Even more interesting: Your own chicken makes up the bulk of the dinner.
This makes five 1 cup servings – including the chicken you add, and contains one cup of Orzo, a pouch of Velveeta cheese mix (1/2 cup,) two tablespoons of dried broccoli, less than 2% of the total serving, and a tablespoon of spice seasoning, detailed in the ingredients below, which had a very salty, somehow creamy taste – my tongue and throat burned after trying it.
Since that amount of broccoli doesn’t count as a vegetable, I basically paid $1.99 for a cup of orzo and a bit of cheese sauce. I could have bought two cups (one pound of orzo) with a coupon for $.19 and used 10 cents for a cup of it, and made a 1/2 cup of Velveeta cheese sauce from Velveeta (2 pounds for $3.99 – on sale with a Kraft coupon – which is the only way to buy it cost effectively) for about 50 cents. Basically, I paid $1.40 extra for all the additives.
Now, not using coupons, the cost of the Skillet Dinner would be $2.49, and the cost of the Orzo and Store Brand cheese sauce, homemade, would be $1.13. (The orzo would cost 60 cents, the 4 ounces of the store brand cheese would be 53 cents.) That’s still $1.19 more than buying your own ingredients.
The nutritional values are (without chicken):
Calories: 390, Cal fr Fat: 100, Tot Fat 11g, Sat Fat 3g, (The package does say trans fat zero, which means part of the unidentified fat is trans-fat. A read down the package does indeed state that it contains Partially Hydrogenated Soy Bean Oil which contains Trans-fat, highlighted in red.) Chol: 75mg, Sodium 620 mg, Carb: 39g, Fiber 2g, Sugars 5 g, Prot 33g. The prepared Nutrient amounts were listed in very small print underneath the Nutrition Facts and below the vitamins, run together, not on the chart.
The ingredients, which contain a lot of additives, in my opinion, are Wheat flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate , thiamin, mononitrite, riboflavin, folic acid: in other words, the Wheat Flour is enriched. Cheese sauce contains: Milk Whey, water, whey protein concentrate, canola oil (which contains trans-fat), milk protein concentrate, sodium phosphate, salt, and contains less than 2% of milkfat, lactic acid, sodium alginate , sorbic acid as a preservative, oleoresin paprika for color, annatto for color, natural flavor, cheese cultured enzyme, broccoli, sugar. (Whey protein, Milk Whey, and milk protein concentrate contain processed free glutamic acid, msg.)
Seasoning Blend contains Whey, milk, dried onions, dried garlic, partially hydrogenated soybean oil (contains trans-fat), whey protein concentrate, (may contain msg) lactose, maltodexyrin, (may contain msg), spice salt, sodium phosphate, yeast extract, (contains msg) autolyzed yeast extract, (contains msg) chicken, citric acid, chicken broth dried, chicken fat, natural flavor, (natural flavors can contain all kinds of substances – take a peek at the link.) cheese culture, lactic acid and enzymes.
All this being said, I’m not above using a little Velveeta now and then in a casserole – I have one posted on this site, Cheesy Chicken (or Turkey) casserole that’s easy, quick, contains a lot of real vegetables and makes 12 servings, enough for two casseroles, one for now and one to freeze. (You could cut it in halves or thirds, but it freezes beautifully.) If you’re not a Velveeta fan, there are instructions to use a roux and real cheese as well. It could certainly be cooked stove top like this dinner; you’d spend more time – you’ll have to cut and cook the vegetables and the pasta will take a few minutes longer than than the orzo. The Kraft Dinner took about 23 minutes including the chicken. Cheesy Chicken Casserole takes about 35 minutes stove top with good organizational skills (but because it makes a lot, you’ll have two dinners.)
Here’s a photo of the Kraft Velveeta Skillet Dinner with Chicken, Broccoli and Pasta – with the one cup of Orzo, the pound of chicken I put in made up the bulk of the dish. The broccoli was practically non-existent, and the “Dinner” really didn’t look much like the box.
Taste wise, it was edible. I think I might have liked it a lot more if that man from the commercials had come and helped me make it! It had a lot of the hot, salty taste I’ve come to associate with boxed dinners. It didn’t taste particularly cheesy, and following the instructions to the letter, the orzo was overcooked and mushy.
My Final Frugal Judgment: I feel a little “cheesy” for have fallen for this convenience product. I’ll stick with my Cheesy Chicken (or Turkey) Noodle Casserole!