3 Disadvantages of Ready Made Meals and TV Dinners

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2010-04-0217

Here’s an admission: I cannot stand ready made meals. In the past, I had gone through a phase where I’d eat them maybe once or twice a week while I was on a work deadline because I just needed something quick and easy to cook before I left for work. But I never enjoyed them because they didn’t taste that good. Talk about bland!

When I started thinking about it I realized there were some major disadvantages to having ready made meals in the freezer. So without further ado, allow me to share some of my opinions with you.

3 Disadvantages of Ready Made Meals and TV Dinners

1. They make you lazy.
If I’m going to be lazy, I’d rather use some restaurant discounts or dining coupons and find an excuse to dine out. But what happened to a bit of good old fashioned home cooking? The truth is, I make my own ready meals simply by cooking things in batches and making sure they are ready in advance. For instance, if I cook lasagna, I always come up with a huge dish –- even if there may only be a few of us eating it. I cut out a portion for each of us, let the rest go cold and then cut it up into portions and freeze it.

ready made meals
Image from Food Mayhem

Then I know that if I have a day where I don’t have time to cook, I can still enjoy having a proper home cooked meal. I simply defrost the food from the night before and pop it in the oven to warm through. Pretty much like any ready made meal really, except you get proper food in decent portions with all the best flavors preserved.

2. They are expensive.
Don’t be fooled by the $0.99 or $1.99 you see on the label. The box might look huge but the meal inside is tiny by comparison. I’m not advocating big portions here, but I’m certainly saying that by cooking stuff at home you can get your money’s worth out of most dishes. Instead of microwave meals, why not try these cheap meals and easy dinner ideas? You can make some delicious family dishes for under $10.

It may feel like you’re spending more to begin with because you have to buy all the raw ingredients. But once you’ve made a dish and have divided it into portions, you’ll find that generally, your dish will turn out to be much more economical. Most times, my own efforts work out a lot cheaper depending on the dish and how I cook it.

3. You can never be quite sure of what’s in them.
Isn’t that the worst part about eating any kind of food? I know you can look at the meal’s container to determine what exactly is in it, but most of the time I don’t understand half the things that are written there. They just sound like chemicals and nasty things that really shouldn’t have any place in food at all. Your health is in your hands; it all depends on what you put in your shopping cart when you go grocery shopping.

As far as I’m concerned, I would always want to know what is in my dinner (and what’s in my family’s meals). And if I cook it with proper, natural ingredients, then I’m confident about what it is we’re ingesting. It also means that I can only get more skilled at home cooking, which is always a good thing!

You can definitely find more reasons for steering clear of ready made meals. If I can plan well in advance, I can fill my freezer with meals that I only have to defrost and reheat. And none of them fall into the category of prepared meals (the kind that you’d encounter in stores).

I’m sure many of us would much rather enjoy our own home cooked meals everyday, and these ready made meals are simply consumed for the sake of convenience. But I’m actually curious about just how much we’ve decided to accept these prepared meals (made en masse in a factory somewhere) as part of our lifestyle.

Copyright © 2010 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

basicmoneytips April 3, 2010 at 4:53 am

Ready made meals and TV dinners have come a long way in the last 20 years, that is for sure.

I agree that they probably are not the best route to go on a consistent basis, but at times they sure are handy. They maybe pricey for the portion sizes, but if do not eat as much, that is a good thing, not a bad thing. Personally if I am in a hurry, I would rather pop in a healthy choice pizza rather than go thru the McDonald’s drive thru – it is certainly better for you healtwise and probably money wise too.

kosmo @ The Casual Observer April 3, 2010 at 8:16 am

Nonetheless, I’m a sucker for Totino’s Canadian bacon pizzas. It’s my way of doing ethnic food 🙂

ConsumerMiser April 3, 2010 at 8:55 am

I like your post on TV Dinners and I have added my comments to the 3 disadvantages that you point out:

1.They make you lazy. I must confess, I used to rely on frozen dinners for lunch and dinner quite a bit. And sometimes breakfast too. A few years ago, my wife and I finally started cooking a lot more after relying on frozen dinners. Now, with cooking, we cook a lot and usually have leftovers for dinner or lunch which works out great. The frozen dinners were so convenient, we got stuck in a rut.

2. They are expensive. Can’t agree more, especially if when you do cook, you cook a lot of food for later. Leftovers taste great (sometime better than the first day).

3. You can never be quite sure of what’s in them. I read the labels, but besides the basic stuff such as sodium, cholesterol, fat, and sugar, I am lost. The long, technical “mumbo jumbo” requires research to understand.

BTW, I also noticed that with cutting out most frozen dinners now, our trash is down significantly. Another plus: less trash and more eco-friendly.

Whitney April 3, 2010 at 1:28 pm

I am an American expat living in Norway. The cost of living here is high-and that includes food (although I’d definitely argue that the quality of food is better here, so it’s probably about the same for the quality you get in most parts of the U.S. when adjusted for cost of living, etc.).

While I don’t think I could eat well on the local equivalent of $1, I do think one can eat better on less. Some things I try:

1. I buy most of my spices (and fresh ginger, fresh chilies, fresh lemon, fresh coriander/cilantro, fresh mint and fresh lime) in Turkish, southeast Asian and African food stores. These items in those stores are normally 10% of the price in the Norwegian supermarkets. The American store Penzey’s is good for spices by weight for those living in the U.S. I buy unrefined sea salt to cook with because I think it tastes better. It also happens to cost nearly the same price per kilo as iodized salt, if I buy it in the health food store (in the normal full service Norwegian supermarkets it’s way too expensive). The extra minerals and flavor in sea salt make it well worth the ‘extra’ price as well as perk up simple dishes like oven roasted vegetables.

2. One or two days a week, I eat vegetarian. This is a lot less painless then it sounds. I usually substitute either chickpeas, red kidney beans and black peas for meat (occasionally tofu as well). I also substitute one of those beans for half of the meat in Crockpot dishes (especially Indian food) when I am trying to save.

3. My Crockpot and deep freezer are my best friends. I cook a full recipe version of a dish, then freeze what I don’t eat that night. I rotate leftover meals (eating the same thing two days in a row gets boring) and take the leftovers to work for lunch or eat them later in the month for dinner. This is especially good on nights when I go to a later gym class or when I can’t be bothered to cook.

4. Look for interesting ways to cook inexpensive frozen (another tip-buy frozen where it makes sense for you) vegetables. Jamie Oliver has some great recipes for cooking spinach-buttered, creamed and curried, and I usually make them with frozen spinach. Curried spinach is a favorite.

5. Make recipes work for you-and what you have on hand. Find or make substitutes for some ingredients based on what you have or what is cost effective. I rarely keep buttermilk on hand since it is about twice the price of regular milk in the stores. I usually buy a small container of milk and mix apple cider vinegar into it to get what I need. I also make my own brown sugar for baking from white sugar and molasses. I bought a huge jar of organic blackstrap molasses to make Christmas cookies with for next to nothing (it’s a health food in Norway and very inexpensive) and instead of letting it sit until next year, I found a recipe online for homemade brown sugar which combines white sugar and molasses whipped in a food processor. I’ll make homemade brown sugar until I run out of molasses.

Also, if a recipe (like one of the ones I mention above) ask for a bag of frozen spinach and you only have half a bag-use half a bag of frozen peas to fill in the gap. Take what you have and make it work for you.

6. Prioritize what tastes better and is healthy for you-not just what’s perceived as healthy. If you don’t eat it, it’s not exactly helping you in the long run. This means don’t buy your weight in spinach if you don’t like it just because it’s cheap and healthy.

Thanks For The Food

Tarrzn April 5, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Well, I wonder what the “mystery meat” is made up of anyways??

THAT is a good question to ask yourself.

Ed H. April 6, 2010 at 4:43 am

Yea, tell me about it. They’re usually loaded with sodium and we definitely don’t want to overload our kids on that stuff.

Credit Girl April 7, 2010 at 1:43 pm

I totally agree. Most of those ready made TV dinners are not healthy for you. They also make you lazy because instead of sitting around and talking with your family, you’re plopping yourself down in front of the TV.

David April 9, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Learn to cook. Seriously it actually works out a lot cheaper in the long run. And there really is nothing to it, it’s not all fancy pictures on plates that you see on tv or in restaurants; some of the best meals I’ve ever cooked have also been some of the simplest. There is no longer any excuse either, with the internet providing many sites with step by step instructions you can’t fail and will soon get the hang of it. I still eat crap at times (frozen stuff like pizzas and chips which you just chuck in the oven) and takeaways too (though I never eat microwave meals or ready made frozen meals), but there’s nothing like the satisfaction you get from cooking a good meal.

The Biz of Life April 10, 2010 at 5:58 am

The obvious complaints: they’re expensive, they typically taste crappy, and who know what that mystery meat really is. It takes a little time and energy to plan out meals, but you save a lot of money that way.

James April 12, 2010 at 11:21 am

There is a lot of sodium in those TV dinners! Keep that in mind especially if you’re watching your sodium intake.

Veronica (lifewithnature) April 15, 2010 at 7:31 pm

I would add that ready-made tv dinner are not good for the environment (over packaging), and eating in front of the tv can make you eat more than your real hunger.

LCD TV Buying Guide June 1, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Wost things ever created on the planet. If you want to kill yourself eventually go ahead feast away. If you want to live a happy energetic life I suggest eating organic foods. 🙂

Garden Groom July 1, 2010 at 9:24 am

Those are all very good points. My partner once got one with fish sticks in it and now refuses to eat those specific ones anymore; mostly because after it was done, she dipped her fish stick in what she thought was some kind of dipping sauce which turned out to be pudding.

Otsego November 19, 2010 at 9:06 am

There are TV dinners that are really good. The Stouffer’s TV dinner’s are awesome. They have lots of flavor and are not very salty at all. I also like the Jimmy Dean breakfast bowls and the Aunt Jemima breakfast meals. The TV dinners I avoid are the Banquet, Swanson, Hungryman and Boston Market meals. Those are all nasty and tasteless.

I love to cook and I will only eat The Stouffer’s when I want something quick.

Silicon Valley Blogger November 19, 2010 at 9:16 am

Yep, I agree! I think there is a hit or miss factor with ready made meals. I was surprised how some are actually quite delicious! Anyway, if you find a brand you like, you can go with it. I don’t eat it often, just when we need the convenience, which is once in a blue moon. Thanks, Otsego, for giving us some good ideas of which brands are good and which aren’t. This should help us at the grocery line!

Naomi November 29, 2010 at 12:39 pm

When “we” were in grad school the TV dinners helped out with the lack of both time and money, but I couldn’t recommend them for high nutrition. Way too much salt and preservatives for a healthy way to eat.

By eating the same brand of ready-made meals, or maybe relying on them a little too much, the taste of them became unbearable. That’s when we found the local farmer’s market. The fresh food – I mean FRESH! – was incomparable to the mystery meat and pre-made meals.

If you haven’t indulged in locally grown foods, you should. There is no comparison!

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