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If there’s one thing my family could eat every day and not get tired of, it would probably be macaroni and cheese. It’s not just the kids who like this dish either. The grownups love this comfort food, too.
I often get asked to make homemade macaroni and cheese for special occasions such as birthdays or holidays. My homemade mac and cheese has a rich sauce made from milk, butter, flour, and cheese that everyone raves about. My family also is fond of boxed kits with powdered cheese or a gooey cheese pouch. We like it all. We don’t eat mac and cheese often, of course. But I do keep a few boxes in the pantry at all times for those days when we need an easy lunch or a quick side dish to accompany dinner.
My family likes several types of boxed mac and cheese from Aldi, and we’ve also been trying some of the macaroni and cheese options from various dollar stores lately. Dollar General sells a few varieties, including mac and cheese with powdered cheese mix and mac and cheese with a ready-to-serve cheese pouch. They’re both pretty good. Even the extreme discounter Dollar Tree sells a decent boxed mac and cheese.
Recently, we tried some macaroni and cheese from another dollar store, Family Dollar, to see how it compares. Family Dollar sells several types of boxed mac and cheese, including two types that come with the gooey cheese pouches and no need to add extra ingredients such as milk or butter. Family Dollar also sells a boxed mac and cheese with a powdered cheese mix that calls for adding milk and butter.
Here, we’re looking at the two Family Dollar mac and cheeses that don’t require any additional ingredients. (I like to keep this type of mac and cheese in my pantry in case of power outages because I can prepare them on my gas stove top and I don’t need to use perishable milk or butter.)
Chestnut Hill Shells & Cheese and Chestnut Hill Deluxe Macaroni & Cheese both cost $1.50 per box. The Shells & Cheese comes in a 12-ounce box, while the Deluxe Macaroni & Cheese comes in a 14-ounce box. That’s the same price as a 14-ounce box of similar mac and cheese with the cheese pouch from Dollar General. At the time of publication, a 12-ounce box of Velveeta Shells and Cheese cost $3.43 at Walmart, while a 14-ounce box of Great Value Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese cost $1.48 at Walmart. So the Family Dollar mac and cheese is much cheaper than name brands, by more than half, but it is similar in cost to other store brands.
Both of these Family Dollar mac and cheese boxes say they’re made with real cheese and milk. If you’re looking out for allergens, these both contain wheat and milk.
These are distributed by Midwood Brands LLC, which is the company behind Family Dollar private label products.
The back of the boxes list easy add-ins if you want to dress up your mac and cheese:
- Stir in chopped cooked broccoli
- Stir in chopped cooked chicken
- Stir in chopped cooked ham and peas
I made both of these mac and cheese boxes to accompany a recent dinner of hamburgers and homegrown green beans and cherry tomatoes from my garden. The mac and cheese boxes are easy to make, and I opted not to include any of the suggested add-ins.
My family liked both macaroni and cheese options, but we definitely felt the Shells & Cheese (yellow box) was better than the Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese (blue box). We liked the shape and texture of the Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese noodles, but in a side-by-side comparison, the Deluxe Macaroni & Cheese sauce had less flavor than the Shells & Cheese. It could be the that the shell-shaped noodles are simply better at holding sauce and delivering more flavor. Both boxes would be okay to serve for a family dinner or an event or gathering, though.
Keep reading for more information about each type of macaroni and cheese.
Chestnut Hill Shells & Cheese:
The box describes this as “complete with creamy cheese sauce & enriched shell macaroni.” This has slightly fewer calories and and slightly less sodium compared to the deluxe version, but not by much. It also has marginally more fat. As mentioned earlier, my family liked this box the best because it had the most flavor.
One box has about three 1-cup prepared servings, and each serving has 320 calories, 12 grams of total fat (16% DV), 3.5 grams of saturated fat (23% DV), 18 mg of cholesterol (6% DV), 820 mg of sodium (25% DV), 49 grams of total carbohydrates (16% DV), and no added sugars.
To prepare, stir the pasta into 6 cups of boiling water. Boil rapidly, stirring occasionally, for 9-12 minutes or to desired tenderness. Drain the pasta (do not rinse) and return to the pan. Cut open the cheese sauce pouch and squeeze onto hot shell pasta. Stir until well blended, and serve.
Chestnut Hill Deluxe Macaroni & Cheese:
As mentioned above, this has slightly more calories and sodium and slightly less fat compared to the other mac and cheese. This is a decent mac and cheese in terms of taste, although it’s not as flavorful as the yellow box above.
One box has four servings, and one serving has 330 calories, 9 grams of total fat (12% DV), 2 grams of saturated fat (10% DV), 10 mg of cholesterol (3% DV), 850 mg of sodium (37% DV), 51 grams of total carbohydrates (19% DV), and no added sugars.
To prepare, stir pasta into 6 cups of boiling water. Boil rapidly, stirring occasionally, for 9-11 minutes or to desired tenderness. Drain pasta (do not rinse) and return to pan. Cut open the cheese sauce pouch and squeeze onto hot pasta. Stir until well blended, and serve.
Chestnut Hill Shells & Cheese and Chestnut Hill Deluxe Macaroni & Cheese are both good options if you want really inexpensive macaroni and cheese that requires no additional ingredients such as milk or butter. Our family slightly prefers the Shells & Cheese in the yellow box, but the Deluxe Macaroni & Cheese in the blue box is okay, too.
You briefly mentioned Dollar Tree’s version of mac and cheese. I tried that once several years ago, and found it to be pretty terrible. Hopefully it has improved since then!