Eating out at a restaurant can be a luxury in the best of times, but over this past year, many of us have found ourselves dining at home more often — either due to restaurant closures or a pressing need to trim the household budget. That doesn’t mean you have to cook everything from scratch, though, as many popular restaurant chains offer frozen versions of their signature dishes. Here are some you can find in most grocery stores.
Prices and availability are subject to change.
Price: $7 for 22 ounces
P.F. Chang’s puts its own spin on Chinese food classics. Instead of General Tso’s Chicken, it makes General Chang’s chicken, a sweet and spicy dish with chunks of chicken and vegetables. Seven bucks may seem like a lot for a frozen dinner, but it’s less than a third of what you’d pay in the restaurant or for pickup and delivery. The food blog Magie’s Noms says that if you’re going to try any P.F. Chang’s frozen entry, start with this one. She was impressed how spicy it remained for a frozen meal.
Price: $8 for 22 ounces
If you want a Jack Daniel’s chicken or other T.G.I. Friday’s entree, you still have to go to the restaurant. If you’re craving just an app, go frozen. For example, a box of loaded baked potato skins retails for about half what you’d pay sitting down. Natalie at Costcuisine was impressed by the size of the skins, saying Friday’s basically gives you half a potato, but cautioned the cheese tasted fake. Perhaps you could pry it off before cooking and just enjoy the bacon and potatoes?
Price: $7 for 15 ounces
Barbecue chicken pizza is a signature dish for California Pizza Kitchen. Why should imitators such as DiGiorno and Tombstone corner the home market? These full-sized pizzas — about the same size as you’d get at CPK for $10 more — are too big for a microwave, but bake them in your oven rack and you get what we called the best frozen pizza without tomato sauce (since it uses barbecue sauce). Our contributor Wilder Shaw wrote, “The onions are well cooked. The chicken tastes, well, not frozen.” (Though the crust can get hard.)
Price: $6 for six sliders
There isn’t a White Castle on every street corner, like with some burger chains. Fortunately, a box of six frozen sliders will cost about the same as six fresh ones when you get the craving, and provide everything but the pickle, which doesn’t freeze or microwave well.
Price: $3 for 22 ounces
Arby’s put a twist on the fast-food french fry by offering spicy seasoned curly fries. For less than the price of a small curly fries in a franchise, you can buy a whole bagful for home. Influenster lists many five-star reviews that vouch for the frozen version tasting just like what you get on the road. One even said the fries taste fresher out of the oven than they do sitting under heat lamps at the restaurant.
Price: $4.50 for 10 ounces
There’s really no substitute for going to a Benihana, where chefs put on a show of cooking the food right at your table. You pay three or four times the price for that show, though, and eating at Benihana takes a minimum of two hours. If you just want to get right to the food, the chain’s frozen varieties offer the likes of Hibachi Chicken Rice, which gets positive reviews from BrandEating. Maybe frozen rice can’t taste fried, but the garlic sauce set it above other frozen chicken and rice bowls.
Related: 33 Places Where Dinner Is the Show
Price: $3.50 for 15 ounces
Many diners may know Marie Callender’s only as a frozen entree. There are restaurants, but maybe you’re better off not knowing, considering how well this chicken pot pie cooks all the way through in just microwave, providing a hearty meal at less than one-third the price. It’s one of our best buys for packing your freezer, giving you a lot more meal than the higher priced Lean Cuisine variety.
Price: $4.50 for 11 ounces
Boston Chicken transformed into Boston Market to emphasize all of its other meats and sides. Now it’s competing with Stouffer’s. Its Country Fried Chicken with green beans and red potatoes appears to be a frozen exclusive, with an overall positive take from Lunchtime Review. The gravy may be lacking, and you may have a hard time tasting the bacon, but “the potatoes are cooked perfectly” and the chicken flavor comes through.
Price: $4 for five
Auntie Anne’s makes for good mall walking food across America, but a box of five from the freezer also costs less than a single pretzel at the mall. BrandEating prefers the frozen variety to the fresh because the oven can make the pretzel skin crispy — the site also recommends scraping off some of the salt — and is also a fan of the pretzel dog, though the hot dog in it can turn out better than the pretzel.
Price: $3 for 28 ounces
The Checkers and Rally’s sister burger joints will sell you a medium fries for the same price as this bag – which is enough fries for around three medium side dishes. Influenster has lots of five-star reviews for this side dish, and even people who’ve never eaten at Checkers are fans.
Price: $4 for 11 ounces
P.F. Chang’s made so many of its signature dishes available as frozen dinners, it’s hard to choose just one — so we didn’t. The frozen lo mein noodles with chicken or shrimp are $10 less than in the restaurant. Magie’s tried the shrimp variety and found the noodles heat better than most frozen versions. Freezer Meal Frenzy agrees the noodles are superior to the meat, but it also stays firm and has a nice kick, with a spicy sauce.
Price: $5 for 17 ounces
If this chain’s loaded baked potato skins’ cheese was dissatisfying, these mozzarella cheese sticks will make it better. Timmy Timato finds that while the restaurant’s sizzling apps can’t be beat, these are the frozen version to buy over any other. “I think these are the best frozen mozzarella sticks I’ve ever had,” the site says.
Price: $6 for 13 ounces
California Pizza Kitchen popularized pizza without sauce — and while the white pizza is no longer on the restaurant menu, you can still get it at home. Big J Reviews said the creamy garlic sauce can overpower the cheese and super thin crust, but the spinach rallies in the flavor mix.
Price: $4 for 10 ounces
Homestyle meatloaf is paired with mashed potatoes and gravy for less than half the in-store price at Boston Market. Lunchtime Review says this dish could be bolder, but compliments the texture and flavor of the loaf and likes the plentiful sauce. The potatoes were nice and tender, too.
Price: $2.50 for 12 ounces
Get a taste of Marie Callender’s restaurant-style turkey dinner for about $15 less than in the restaurant. Lunchtime Review says the stuffing tastes like Stove Top, so while it may not be homemade, it’s better than most frozen stuffing. The gravy improves the mashed potatoes. “Overall, pretty good meal,” the review says. “You definitely get a lot of food. Not tons of turkey, but there’s enough in there to give you a feel for turkey.”