Let's face it — frozen meals don't usually inspire grocery shoppers to stop in their tracks and think this is exactly what I want to eat today. At least in my own experience, they are often looked at with some uneasiness, uncertainty and occasionally pure disgust.

However, I think we need to end these preconceived notions around frozen meals (especially as freshmen with limited food options). They're viable food to eat, especially if you're feeling lazy after a long lecture and have a meal plan to work through at Campus Market. Sure, they might be loaded with sodium and other questionable things, but as long as these frozen meals don't make a daily appearance on your dinner table (or desk, if you're in the dorms like me), they can be great, time-saving options.

Amy's Pad Thai

Lauren Black

Coming from the Bay Area, I'm used to having quality Asian food just a short drive from my home. There aren't as many options down here in SLO, so naturally I was drawn to find a frozen food alternative that would do my favorite Asian dish justice.

Flavor-wise, I was pleasantly surprised. It tasted fairly similar to the pad thai from a high-quality Thai restaurants. Granted, the sauce was a little bit off and not nearly as tangy as I would like, but nonetheless enjoyable. The vegetables were well cooked and their flavors weren't too overpowered by the sauce — which was an original concern of mine. The inclusion of broccoli was confusing, as it's not something you would typically find in traditional pad thai, but it added a nice texture that balanced out the noodles and carrots well. 

This Amy's pad thai is vegan, gluten-free and kosher, making it  a good option for people with varying dietary restrictions. However, it does contain cashews, so beware if you have tree nut allergies. I give this meal four stars out of five, marking it down for the sauce's underwhelming flavor. Regardless, I would definitely still purchase it again.

Stouffer's Lasagna with Meat and Sauce

Lauren Black

Lasagna has always been a comfort food for me. It's not that my family has an age-old recipe that's been passed down to each generation for the last one hundred years (though that would be cool), it's actually this particular Stouffer's lasagna that reminds me a lot of my childhood. I don't know why, as I've only had the larger family-size of this a couple of before, but it just makes me think of home.

This lasagna does exactly what a lasagna should do, having all the same flavors and consistencies I would expect from a homemade one. My one complaint is the lack of ricotta, which was mainly at the top of the dish and didn't balance out the meat sauce. The lasagna was very filling and felt like "real food", even though it was cooked by microwave in just six minutes.

I would rate this four-and-a-half stars out of five, with the ricotta being the only issue. I definitely plan to stock my dorm freezer with this frozen meal when I'm too busy to hustle down to the dining halls.

Amy's Pesto Tortellini Bowl

Lauren Black

Pesto pasta is yet another classic and simple dish that I was fed quite a lot during my childhood. I was hoping for a good, traditional take on this dish without too many surprises.

Luckily, this dish is another good option from Amy's! The pesto had a nice consistency that wasn't too soupy and provided a clean flavor without overpowering the dish. The pasta itself was good, the ricotta filling adding a nice burst of flavor with each bite of a tortellini. I can't think of any complaints, as this dish did exactly what it set out to do.

This pesto tortellini is kosher, soy and tree nut free. Considering that and the killer taste, I'm giving it five out of five stars. I enjoyed every single bite of this bowl and intend to purchase it again soon. For better of for worse, this frozen meal is tastier than much of the food Cal Poly serves in the dining halls, so definitely give it a try.

Amy's Vegetable Pot Pie

Lauren Black

The few pot pies I've had in my life were all homemade and completely without fault, which has given me lofty standards for the dish. Although this was my first vegetable pot pie — I've only had chicken and beef ones in the past — I still had a good idea of what I wanted from the meal.

And, thankfully, Amy's delivered again. The filling of tofu, carrots, potatoes and peas was delectable; the flavors mixing perfectly together to complement each other. The crust worked well too, adding a harder texture that balanced out the filling's softness. Unfortunately, the crust was a little bit too hard for my liking (my fork struggled to cut it), but besides that it was a nearly perfect dish.

This pot pie is both tree nut free and kosher. Out of five stars, I give it four and a half, only marking it down for the crust's consistency. This pot pie is another great frozen option from Amy's.

Saffron Road's Chicken Enchiladas Poblano

Lauren Black

Again, coming from the Bay Area, I'm used to having really good Mexican food just blocks away from my home. So, as a Cal Poly freshman, having to rely mainly on Tu Taco for Mexican food is a bit disappointing. When I found this option from Saffron Road, I was hoping it might better replicate the Mexican food I ate growing up. 

I was so pleasantly surprised when it did. This meal tasted like something that I could find at a good, authentic restaurant — the quality far above anything I've ever cooked by microwave. The texture and flavors of the enchiladas were completely spot on. The rice and black beans both complemented the dish well and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire thing. The spice — which was labeled medium — wasn't too powerful either and just added a subtle kick.

This enchilada meal is both gluten-free and halal. I am giving this frozen meal five out of five stars and it is definitely my favorite choice from Campus Market. If you are tired of Tu Taco, this is the dish for you.

Microwave Them Up! 

I knew searching for the best frozen meals at Campus Market would lead me to some duds — which there were. Some dishes were way too salty, had strange textures or just tasted off. However, I can happily say the options above are worth microwaving up.

I definitely see myself buying a lot more frozen meals in the future — especially these top five — when I'm in a rush or feeling lazy. If you want a break from the dining halls but don't want to tackle your dorm's kitchen, give these a try — you might be surprised by how good a frozen meal can taste.