How Freezer Meals Changed the World

Freezer meals, also commonly referred to as TV dinners, microwave meals and frozen dinners, have evolved quite a bit since their inception during the mid-20th century. But the greatest evolution may have been in how freezer meals changed the world.

What many people don't realize about the TV dinner is that it was an invention of necessity rather than one of executives trying to figure out the next killer food product. Rather, it was Swanson executives trying to figure out what to do with several railroad car loads worth of frozen turkeys in 1953.

One executive, inspired by the airline dinners he had received during his business travels across the nation, came up with the idea to prepackage ready-to-cook meals on metal trays similar to airline meals. Although the "TV Dinner" brand (yep, it was a brand name... which is where we get the terminology from) was not the first prepackaged frozen meal in a box, it was the first to really be successful.

The success of the TV Dinner was surprising. Swanson had hoped to sell 5,000 units. Even that was considered a high estimate, a goal worthy of shooting for. Imagine the joy of Swanson's top dogs when the TV Dinner went on to sell over 10 million units. One thing we can be pretty certain about, however, is that they didn't celebrate by heating up a bunch of frozen meals.

This early success came despite the fact that many households didn't not have a freezer, so frozen meals were typically purchased the day that they were expected to be eaten. In a way, TV dinners were the fast food of the day.

The fast food of the 1950's became even faster in 1982 when the first prepackaged frozen meals that were microwavable were introduced. Prior to that, frozen meals were packaged with aluminum trays, and therefore not microwave friendly.

Preparing a TV dinner went from taking 25 minutes plus oven preheat time to just a few minutes straight from the freezer. Furthermore, nearly every household had a freezer by the 1980's, so purchasing frozen dinners in bulk became a common tactic for the busy man or woman on the go.

Long gone now are the days of Mrs. Cleaver staying at home and taking the entire day to prepare a beautiful, healthy meal for the family. With more and more households in need of two incomes, time is a luxury that many parents and even individuals simply don't have. Prepackaged meals, therefore, have become more of a necessity than simply an expenditure of luxury.

But in today's society, healthy eating is becoming more and more of a concern. Due to the fact that frozen meals are designed to store for long periods, they are pumped full of preservatives and the freezing process often robs the food of its flavor.

An alternative for the busy family is to prepare custom meals at home, rather than purchasing the prepackaged meals, to make their own unique TV dinner. Meals are commonly prepared in one day to cover the entire month, preventing the need for long term storage and, thus, preservatives.

Databases of healthy frozen meals recipes can be found online to get you started on your own path toward a healthier frozen meals lifestyle.

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About The Author, Art Gib
Fast food doesn't have to mean unhealthy food. Red Timer Inc. ( offers great freezer meals recipes for the individual or family on the go. Art Gib is a freelance writer.