Frozen dinners were first marketed in 1949 by Albert and Meyer Bernstein under the brand Frozen Dinners, Inc. They sold under the name “One-Eyed Eskimo” that same year.
Jack Fisher also made frozen dinners available at bars and taverns, during this same period, under the name “FridgiDinner.” However, neither company was nearly as successful as Swanson’s, who truly “perfected” the frozen meal in the early 1950’s when they capitalized on America’s new found love, television.
Swanson made TV-themed frozen dinners called “TV Brand Frozen Dinner,” and moms all over the country suddenly had a night or two free from their hot kitchen. The first TV dinner was sold in 1954 and cost just under a dollar. It contained cornbread, stuffing, peas, sweet potatoes and turkey.
Desserts did not appear until about 1960, so moms were still responsible for the sweet treats. Initially 5,000 dinners were assembled by 24 women, but by the end of the first year of manufacturing, over ten million TV dinners were sold, mostly to middle and upper class people who could afford television at the time.
Women, who had been the main cooks in the family up until the time of the frozen dinner, suddenly had free time to pursue a job or other activities without feeling guilty about providing a hot meal for their family. However, it was at this point in history that we started seriously compromising the nutritional quality of our food – in short, we sold out to convenience.
The frozen meal has continued to evolve over the last 40 years and is now driven by flashy marketing, seductive illustrations and billion dollar advertising campaigns. Although Swanson’s no longer carries the iconic name, the frozen meal lives on and will continue to live on as long as we allow our time-challenged lives to drive our food choices. The fact that over 90% of what Americans spend on food is spent on processed items paints a very grim picture indeed.
So What is Wrong with a Frozen Dinner?
Obviously, a frozen meal is processed. Frozen and fast food may sustain your life, but they are void of the real nutrition that the body needs to be strong and vital. From coughs and colds to degenerative disease, without proper nutrition the body will not have the energy it needs to stay well.
If 90% of our diet is processed, that means that we are getting very little, if any, raw, uncooked foods. In reality, the best health possible is achieved when we are consuming 90% raw food.
Many frozen meals contain high amounts of sodium, trans fats and sugar. People who consume frozen meals may find themselves hungry a short time after eating because of the improper balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fats and a high amount of sugar.
However, there are a few frozen meal options that are better than others. According to the Good Guide, the healthiest frozen meal awards go to Veggie Patch with its frozen vegetable patty, Stouffer’s Easy Express Skillet Chicken Alfredo and Presidents Choice Yorkshire pudding.
Kicked to the curb were Hungry Man’s grilled bourbon steak strips and Swanson’s Hungry Man, noodles, gravy and beef and Barney’s potato puffs hors d’oeuvres. Naturally, we are not recommending any of these products.
Homemade Frozen Meals
Rather than spend time trying to read labels and figure out what is healthy and what is not, why not make your own frozen meals? Taking a couple of hours each week to prepare “real” food dinners for your family honors your busy schedule and truly makes you feel good about providing nutritionally sound meals. Here are a few options to consider.
- 1 1/2 cups of french green lentils
- 4 cups of vegetable broth
- 4 cups of cold weather
- 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 3 large carrots, finely chopped
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- 3/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper
- 4 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cumin
- 1 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa
- 1 bunch of red chard, leaves discarded and roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
- Put lentils, broth and water in a dutch oven. Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 25 min.
- Brown the carrots and onion in the oil on a skillet for 15 minutes. Add salt, pepper, garlic, and cumin. Cook stirring constantly for 30 seconds.
- Stir the cooked quinoa and chard in with the lentils, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the carrot mixture and lemon juice. Store in an airtight container in the freezer and heat to serve.
Mini Frozen Quiches
- 8 ounces of organic ground turkey
- 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
- 8 ounces of organic mushrooms, sliced
- 1/4 a cup of shredded Swiss cheese
- 1 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
- 5 organic eggs
- 3 organic egg whites
- 1 cup of organic milk
- Preheat oven to 325 F and grease a muffin tin.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Cook turkey until brown and place in a bowl to cool.
- Put oil and mushrooms in the pan. Cook mushrooms for several minutes then stir in with turkey.
- Mix the eggs, whites, and milk with a whisk. Divide the mixture evenly into each muffin cup. Put a heaping teaspoon of the turkey mixture into each cup with the eggs.
- Bake for 25 minutes or until the tops are brown. Wrap each quiche individually and store in freezer.
Baked Mac and Cheese
- 3 tablespoons of plain gluten-free breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon of coconut oil
- 1/4 teaspoons paprika
- 10 0z of frozen organic spinach
- 1 3/4 cup of organic milk
- 3 tablespoons of gluten-free flour
- 2 cups of organic shredded cheese
- 1 cup of organic cottage cheese
- 1/8 a teaspoon of nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 8 ounces of gluten-free elbow pasta
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Preheat your oven to 450 F. Grease an 8-inch baking dish.
- Mix gluten-free bread crumbs, oil, and paprika together.
- Heat 1 1/2 cups of milk over medium heat until steaming. Whisk the remaining milk and gluten-free flour together.
- Add the mixture to the hot milk, cook, stirring constantly. After 3 minutes, remove from heat and stir in cheese.
- Stir the cottage cheese, nutmeg and other spices in after the cheese has melted.
- Cook gluten-free pasta for 4 minutes in boiling water. Drain the pasta and add it to the cheese mixture.
- Add half of the macaroni to the dish and spread evenly. Cover with a layer of spinach. Put another layer of macaroni, then spinach, then gluten-free breadcrumbs.
- Bake the macaroni for 25 minutes. Freeze in an airtight container and heat before serving.
-The Alternative Daily