Last Updated on February 2, 2023
If you’re in the mood for macaroni and cheese, you have several options. You can make it homemade using elbow noodles, milk, butter, flour, salt, pepper, and shredded cheese. Homemade macaroni and cheese is a favorite in my family, and some people regularly ask for it for special holiday or birthday meals. You can also buy boxed macaroni and cheese from a grocery store. My family likes Kraft Three Cheese Macaroni and Cheese. We’ve also had good experiences with most of the boxed mac and cheeses that Aldi sells.
If you want mac and cheese on the go, you can even buy small shelf stable cups that only require adding water and cooking in the microwave for a few minutes. These are convenient for taking to school or work, packing in an RV, or anytime you want pasta and cheese in a hurry without having to boil water on the stove.
When I think of macaroni and cheese in a cup, I often think of the job I had during my college years. When I worked as a tutor at the writing center on my university campus, one of the literature department professors who enjoyed scoring grocery deals with coupons and whose office was nearby always kept a little table of snacks for writing tutors. Microwavable mac and cheese was almost always on the table, and it was nice to enjoy a snack or light meal sometimes between tutoring sessions.
I don’t buy mac and cheese cups much these days, but I sometimes get them from Aldi or from a regular grocery store. I also noticed that Family Dollar sells macaroni and cheese cups. Family Dollar actually sells several types of macaroni and cheese, including boxed kits with powdered cheese and boxed kits with pouches of cheese sauce. Here, I’m taking a look at the macaroni and cheese cups.
Chestnut Hill Macaroni & Cheese Bowls cost $4.35 at the time of publication for a pack of four 2.05-ounce cups. That comes out to about $1.09 per serving.
A four-pack of Kraft Original Mac and Cheese 2.05-ounce cups cost $4.92 at Walmart at the time of writing, which is about $1.23 per serving. That’s only marginally cheaper than the Family Dollar cups. If you buy a box of eight Kraft cups at Walmart, that comes out to $1.05 per serving, which is less than the Family Dollar mac and cheese. An identically sized four-pack of express mac cups from Aldi cost $2.72 or 68 cents per serving at the time of writing, making the Aldi mac cups the cheapest by far.
So keep in mind that just because these are from a dollar store, they aren’t necessarily the best bargain. It might be helpful to shop around and compare prices.
If you’re looking out for allergens, these contain wheat and milk. They also contain a lot of processed ingredients along with a lot of fat and sodium, so they’re not a health food, but that’s kind of a given with macaroni and cheese cups.
One cup of this mac and cheese has 220 calories, 3 grams of total fat (4% DV), 1.5 grams of saturated fat (9% DV), 470 mg of sodium (20% DV), 40 grams of total carbohydrates (15% DV), 6 grams of total sugars, no added sugar, and 7 grams of protein.
The cups have directions for heating in the microwave. Start by removing the lid and the cheese sauce mix. Set them aside. (Note: you will see loose white powder in the pasta. This is necessary for proper cooking.) Add water to the fill line in the cup. Stir. Then microwave uncovered on high for 3 and a half minutes or until pasta is tender. Do not drain. (Excess liquid is needed to make the cheese sauce.) Carefully remove hot cup from the microwave. Stir in the cheese sauce mix until well blended. Cheese sauce will thicken upon standing.
This bubbled up and over the sides of the cup a little when I cooked it in the microwave, with it starting to overflow while it still had about 1 minute and 30 seconds to cook. It was annoying but not difficult to wipe up the spilled water with a towel after the noodles were done cooking. Still, I’ve never seen other brands of mac and cheese cups boil over like these. If you’re using a communal microwave — such as in a workplace kitchen — you’ll need to have some paper towels to clean up the water.
The cheese packets are made of thick paper and foil and don’t have much empty space in them, so it can be a little hard to open them without spilling some cheese powder.
My family didn’t think these were the most flavorful mac and cheese cups. They don’t have a lot of cheese flavor, and one family member actually added salt to their mac to doctor it up. They’re not terrible, but they’re not memorable either. My kids thought they were decent enough that they made them a few times for quick snacks or meals. You can’t beat the convenience factor and the fact that these are pretty easy for kids in, say, middle elementary school and older to make without needing direct help from an adult.
If you want microwavable macaroni and cheese, though, you’re probably better off getting name brand Kraft or getting the Aldi version. Other brands taste better and often cost less.
Chestnut Hill Macaroni & Cheese Bowls are sold at Family Dollar, but just because they’re from a dollar store doesn’t mean they’re the best deal. We found a slightly better price buying a bulk package of name brand Kraft macaroni and cheese cups from Walmart, and Aldi branded mac cups are a lot cheaper. This Family Dollar mac and cheese has less flavor compared to other brands, and it bubbled over when we cooked it in the microwave. If you need an easy microwavable meal, it’s not the worst, but there are other superior options.