In times like these, most of us need to make sure we're spending our hard-earned dollars wisely. We want to get a good bargain whenever possible while not compromising quality. Convenience, saving time while saving money are important goals too. Sometimes, however, the quest to save time and cost you big time!

For most families, food costs can be an area we look toward for saving money while satisfying everyone's tastes and many of us are short on time as well. That's where ordering something 'ready-made' can be particularly inviting. Just heat and serve -- words that bring a sigh of relief to the busy home chef.

Recently, a much-beloved relative generously ordered a culinary surprise for us that would be delivered in special packaging with dry ice and a promise of 'gourmet' quality. No, it wasn't Omaha Steaks. They're wonderful. The company name is something I won't share here because the purpose of this article is not to impugn anyone or to be ungrateful. Rather, my aim is to caution would-be-buyers to beware of anything 'gourmet' that is provided by a company best known for the jelly of the month club.

Brian Stephenson

Now, I know what you're thinking: what the heck is that?! Well, the packaging says it's 'Gourmet Meatloaf'. Our thoughtful relative paid - hold on to your toque - $29.99. Yep. Thirty bucks for a frozen meatloaf. I happen to make amazing meatloaf and I can splurge on ingredients and do one for $10.

I was intrigued by this product and so I checked out the company online. I looked up the gourmet meatloaf and that's when I discovered how much it cost. I was also searching for cooking instructions since there were none included in the box or on the package, save for a sentence which said 'just cook and enjoy'. No temp, no time, no Bueno. Fortunately, I know how long and at what temperature one cooks a meatloaf, but I found it strange the company left out what they had promised on the website:

The perfect dish for your comfort-food craving!

  • Ground beef and pork with tomatoes and Dijon mustard

  • Seasoned perfectly with red bell peppers, bacon, oregano and mushrooms

  • Simply bake and serve

  • Includes our FREE cookbook with cooking instructions and other helpful recipes

Ground beef and pork? I sure hope so. Not confident, but hopeful. Seasoned perfectly? If you're trying to get uncle Harold's blood pressure under control and want him to give up salt for good -- then yes, this is seasoned perfectly for the job. Free cookbook and instructions and helpful recipes? Nope.

Customers gave the mysterious block of meat less-than-stellar reviews:

 I remember when I had ptomaine poisoning. I now look back on that experience more fondly.

 

My wife has been urging me to go vegan for years. I can't wait!

 

I just can't help but think someone in Bulgaria is saying: Hey, where's my ferret?

 

My greatest fear used to be getting lost in the wilderness with no provisions. Now I shudder when the UPS guy delivers a package. I pray Lord, don't let it be meatloaf!

These customer comments are a figment of my imagination. But they're all plausible.

I've just eaten a second slice while writing this review.

Does anyone know a good therapist? And a gastro doc?

KEEP READING: 3-ingredient recipes you can make right now