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My father and I started out with venison, potato and red cabbage, which he pronounced "delicious".

We both agreed that it was the sort of dish that he and my mother would love to eat but which would probably be too much trouble to cook on a regular basis, so rather a good idea for a ready meal.

"It is lovely to come indoors from a morning spent gardening and pop a couple of meals in the oven.

We can choose separate meals if we wish – a bit like a restaurant."It sounds idyllic, but is it all it's made out to be?

With the advent of shops on the high street such as Cook, which provides frozen "home-cooked" dishes suitable for a dinner party, and high-street supermarkets pushing out the range of their ready-meal offerings, this seems highly likely.

While there is undoubtedly a large consumer base of time-poor diners who like to pick up a microwaveable feast on the way home from work, there is another demographic that producers of ready meals have clearly in their sights: the elderly.

People such as Vera James, an Independent reader who wrote to me when I described in a column how my octogenarian parents like to do supper, namely, by peeling plastic off a meal and heating it up.