As you probably have guessed, I spend a whole lot of time running The Daily WTF when going through submissions, writing articles, and sending out free stickers. While I do this primarily for fun and hobby, it does tend to interfere with my day job at Inedo and, as a result, I tend to earn much less than I could otherwise. But I don’t mind. All I have to do is sacrifice a few, small things. Things like a decent lunch.

Normally for me, lunch is all about getting as much nutritional value for the least amount of money possible. This means my lunch-time staples include things like sticks of butter ($0.23/ea), discarded military MREs (free… if you know where to look), and grocery store free-sample binges (free… if you have no dignity). Today, however, I decided to treat myself, so I scrounged up a dollar and headed on over to the Dollar Tree. After an exhaustive search through bins of expired food items, I stumbled across a wonderful treasure: the Chow Mein “Quick Meal”.

Nothing screams “appetizing!” like artificial beef, and this sure screams ARTIFICIAL BEEF. Even more loudly than “Authentic Chinese Vegetables & Seasonings” – a feature that you’d think would help sell the Quick Meal better. But you’d think wrong: I didn’t even catch that bit until salivating over it on the way back to the office.

The one important thing I did notice, however, was the Nutrition Facts on the back. Keep in mind that, for the frugal lunch connoisseur, nutritional value is key, and this Quick Meal sure knows how to pack that in.

With two servings in this little, 100g box, the Quick Meal manages to pack in 1,200 calories. Considering that 100g of the most caloric food – pure fat – is only 900 calories, that’s a rather impressive feat. Even more impressive is how the Quick Meal delivers 206 grams of carbohydrates from a 100g package. And to think, this amazing treasure was only a single dollar!

When I arrived back at the office, I tore open the Quick Meal and was delighted by the completeness of its contents.

There’s the spoon-shaped fork, the eerily uncongealed sauce packet, the beef “flavour”, and a packet of dried noodles that somewhat resembled a ramen noodle block. But since the packaging clearly stated that the Quick Meal is chow mein, I figured the noodles would somehow morph into something resembling chow mein. There was also the unmistakable pack of Authentic Chinese Vegetables, which are certainly worth a zoom in:

Note that there are exactly three freeze-dried peas – the exact same number as seen on the Quick Meal package. I can only imagine how much trouble some unfortunate factory worker would have gotten in if four peas were accidently included in the packet. But no matter, it was time to prepare my feast. And to that, I needed the all-telling instructions:

First and foremost, I truly appreciated the CAUTION. Who among us hasn’t forgotten how Extremely Hot boiling water can get? But I will say, I was a little put off by the “350ml” thing. Really… what am I, a scientist? Does the Quick Meal think I have beakers lying around to measure things in milliliters!? Just tell me how many cups or half-cups I need, Quick Meal.

Well, as it turned out, I did happen to have beakers lying around, and measured out 350 milliliters as the Quick Meal instructed. After following the rest of the instructions, this is what I ended up with.

I suppose it was just a bit different than advertized. As for the tasting… the Quick Meal delivered a somewhat unpolished, slightly immature nose with hints of broiled sirloin, poached egg, and cellar-dried carrots, though somewhat overpowered by brine. Its palate offered a lively medley of complex flavors from roasted sesame to buttered shallot, all influneced by a hint of smokeyness. The finish was warming, with a touch of bitternes that was quickly replaced by a subtle yet influential balance of spices.

All told, the Quick Meal was a fine meal, and a great deal at a single dollar. Sure, some might point out that a block of ramen noodles (with an obligitory flavor packet) can be had at six for a dollar, but the Quick Meal is no ramen noodle. The Quick Meal comes with a fork and authentic Chinese vegetables. And besides, I’m a bit above eating just ramen noodles for lunch.

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