The best (and worst) Valentine’s Day meal deals for 2023, from M&S to Aldi

Valentine’s Day is fast-approaching, which means supermarket shelves are once again stocked with corny cards, bargain presents and the pièce de résistance: easy-cook meal deals.

Each year, retailers across the land compete for the unofficial accolade of the best dine-in dinner, with the likes of M&S, Tesco and Aldi going head to head.

But before you splash your hard earned cash, it’s worth getting clued-up on the latest launches.

To help, the team here at bagged previews of the meals available and spent the week eating heart-shaped foodstuffs for your benefit (it’s a tough job…)

Here’s what we thought about the options out there.

Waitrose: ‘You get a lot for your money.’ 4/5 stars

What’s in the deal?

‘For £20 you get to choose one starter, one main, one side, one dessert and a bottle of wine, available from February 8 to February 14.

‘My partner and I tried the cheddar and emmental souffles, the truffle and parmesan chicken Kiev and potato gratin as a main, the melt in middle chocolate puds for dessert, and the wine was the Yalumba Galway Vintage Barossa Shiraz.’

Is it any good?

‘It was all very easy to prepare. I didn’t even have to change oven temperatures between courses.

‘The souffle was tasty, but it really wanted something sharp to go with all that cheese. As a part of his ongoing campaign to ensure I get the proper nutrients necessary to stay alive, my partner added a salad with vinaigrette and some chutney on the side that went down a treat.

‘The gratin was similarly one-note but if, like me, you’re a fan of anything covered in cheese, you won’t mind too much. We really enjoyed the hint of truffle in the chicken Kiev – it helped elevate it from a bog-standard ready meal to something a scooch more special.

‘The wine and the puds were my favourite parts of the meal – the former smooth and light, the latter super gooey and moreish. Dessert would have been perfect with a bit of cream.’

Overall verdict: ‘The food was good, the wine went down easy, and you get a lot for your money. If you can add some finishing touches of your own, you’ll be on to a big winner.’ – Reviewed by Aidan Milan, lifestyle reporter

Asda: ‘A stress-free, romantic night in.’ 4/5

What’s in the deal?

‘£15 gets you a starter, main, two sides, dessert, and a bottle of wine or box of chocolates, between February 9 to February 14. The deal also comes with a code for a free movie on Sky to make a proper night of it.

‘We went for tempura prawns with a sweet chilli dip, braised beef cheek parcel with a porcini mushroom and peppercorn sauce, dauphinoise potatoes, chantenay carrots with citrus yuzu, and dark chocolate hearts with raspberry to finish.’

Was it any good?

‘It was easy to cook as everything went in the oven at the same temperature, and the metal trays helped save on washing up (always welcome after a romantic night in).

‘The prawns were lovely and crispy, with a light batter that didn’t overfill you before the main. There were three per person, which avoided any faux “no, you have the last one” insistence.

‘For the main, I was pleasantly surprised by how flavourful and peppery the parcels were, which nicely off-set the creaminess of the dauphinoise potatoes. We left the yuzu dressing off the carrots because it seemed like a strange combination, but they were still tasty with plenty of seasoning regardless. I would advise cooking the parcels on some grease-proof paper, though, as the pastry slightly stuck to foil and left a bit of a soggy bottom.

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‘The dessert was lovely – and vegan, despite a deceptively thick mousse-like texture. The raspberry compote went well with the wine – a malbec merlot blend – which had notes of berry and also complimented the richness of the main.’

Verdict: ‘It’s great value and quality, and there are loads of options to choose from – including plenty for vegans and veggies. Along with the movie voucher, it makes for a stress-free romantic night in.’ – Reviewed by Jessica Lindsay, lifestyle reporter

Marks & Spencer: ‘BYO vegetables.’ 3.5/5

What’s in the deal?

‘Choose a starter, main, side, dessert and a bottle of booze (or alcohol-free fizz) for £20, available from February 9-14. There are lots of options, but we went for the Coquille St Jacques, followed by steak and chips, then melt in the middle chocolate puds and the Conte Priuli Rosé Prosecco.’

Is it any good?

‘The Coquille St Jacques (aka scallops in a creamy sauce with mash on top) did not disappoint. It was packed with delicate, delicious fish and had a gorgeous luxurious texture, which felt like a real treat.

‘My husband and I were less enthused about the steak and chips, which didn’t come with any veg, so we improvised with some sad-looking sweetcorn from the freezer. But what it lacked in greenery and inventiveness, it made up for elsewhere. The steak was tender, the herby butter full of flavour, and the triple cooked chips were genuinely the nicest ones I’ve had outside of a pub. 

‘Pudding was similarly lacking that extra touch (we added our own vanilla ice cream to break up the indulgent chocolate). Still, it was delicious, helped by the light rose Prosecco, which provided the perfect level of acidity for cutting through all that fat and cream.’

Verdict: ‘You’ll be full until next Valentine’s Day, but be prepared to add your own sides to make the meal feel complete.’ – Reviewed by Rachel Moss, lifestyle editor

Co-op: ‘Perfectly adequate.’ 3.5/5

What’s in the deal?

‘A starter, main, side, dessert and drink for £12 with a Co-op member card, and £15 without one. There’s also the option for booze (wine or prosecco) bumping it up to £20, or £15 as a Co-op member.

‘We sampled the Scotch Egg starter, the Hereford sirloin steak main and triple-cooked chips as a side, as well as the dark chocolate and raspberry velvet tortes.’

Is it any good?

‘You can’t really go wrong with a Scotch egg starter and this one definitely had a few selling points. Once heated up in the oven, I was impressed that the egg yolk was runny in the middle and the ratios of pork to egg were on point – so each mouthful had a good amount of each. However, the pork filling itself had very little flavour. 

‘The steak came on its own, with no sauce or butter accompaniment, which I thought was a missed trick from Co-op. It was also slightly on the thinner side (so was done in a flash if you like it medium-rare), but for supermarket steak at that price, it was perfectly adequate. 

‘Co-op’s triple-cooked chips, on the other hand, were a whole other story. These stole the show by far. Perfectly fluffy on the inside, beautifully crispy on the outside, I don’t think I’ve had supermarket chips quite like them before. 

‘The dark chocolate and raspberry velvet tortes were a delicious finish – but are incredibly rich after such an indulgent dinner. If you love Gu dessert pots, you’ll adore these, trust me.’

Verdict: ‘Decent for a supermarket steak dinner for two, and still dreaming about those chips.’ – Reviewed by Lizzie Thomson, assistant lifestyle editor

Tesco: ‘It’ll do the job.’ 3/5

What’s in the deal?

‘With a Clubcard, for £12 you can choose one main, one side, one dessert and a bottle of Tesco Finest Prosecco. The deal also includes wine and soft drink options, as well as vegetarian and vegan dish – available from now until February 14.

‘We sampled the Dauphinoise potatoes, the smoked salmon gratin and the white chocolate and raspberry pots.’

Is it any good?

‘The dauphinoise potatoes and smoked salmon gratin did make for a yummy combination. It was tricky to get my hands on a completely gluten-free meal, so if you’ve got a gluten allergy or intolerance you may have to think twice before indulging in a meal deal.

‘The dauphinoise potatoes were creamy, although they could have perhaps been slightly more flavourful. The smoked salmon gratin, while yummy, wasn’t necessarily big enough for two people with big appetites – maybe more generous portion sizes would be beneficial. The star of the show was the pudding. Although a very small pot, it was just the right amount of sweetness and the white chocolate balanced out the sharp raspberry very well. It was a shame there was only one each.’

Verdict: ‘For someone who struggles with a gluten allergy this meal deal wasn’t the best for me but what I could eat I would definitely buy again (my housemate ate the rest). Will it blow your mind, no. Will it do the job, yes.’ – Reviewed by Alice Giddings, trainee reporter

Aldi: ‘Lackluster, but can’t be beaten on price.’ 2/5

What’s in the deal?

‘Aldi’s Valentine’s offering works a little differently to the rest. Instead of a set price, the elements are all mix and match, to help shoppers stick to their personal budget. Meals start from £3.84 per person without wine, or £5.83 with. 

‘We sampled the Heart Shaped Lobster Filled Pasta (£2.99) with a bottle of Grapevine Pinot Grigio (£3.99).

Is it any good?

‘Aldi immediately gets a bonus point for price in this economic climate. No, our meal doesn’t have the bells and whistles of some of the others, but it’s also a damn sight cheaper.

‘The lobster pasta is cooked within a few minutes – perfect after a long day. I’d have loved a sauce, but we stuck to the serving suggestion and of a swirl of butter, though we embellished a tad with parmesan, cracked black pepper and basil leaves.

‘Sadly, the dish wasn’t identifiably “lobster flavoured” and reminded me of every other mid-week meal. It’s also a fairly small portion, so I’d recommended spending extra and buying a pud. Considering the price though, we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the wine, which was not too shabby at all. 

Verdict: ‘It won’t blow your socks off, but it can’t be beaten on price.’ – Reviewed by Rachel Moss, lifestyle editor

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