Grandpa Gotta Eat: TV Dinners

in FoodiesUnite •  5 days ago 

Layoff Food

In this edition of Grandpa Gotta Eat, I will take you inside my most secret eating habits and show you what I ate for lunch while I was laid off.

Music, Maestro!


TV Dinners

I don't think they call them TV Dinners anymore, but when I was growing up, that's what my family called them. You took them out of the freezer, and back in the day, you baked them in the oven at the specified temperature and time, and ding! a virtual home cook meal, without the muss or fuss.

You might even want to put them on your best china.

But why do that, when you can merely eat them out of the tray they were packaged in?

With microwave ovens, of course, the cooking time is reduced and thus you can get to the prepared goodness quicker.

Okay, so let's face it. The meals aren't exactly like Mom or Grandma used to make, but hey, some of them are kinda tasty and you don't have to leave the house (once you've bought them) to have something quick and easy to eat for lunch.

Fast Food

I've talked about before some fast food meals I've eaten for lunch while working. It's an easy thing to take about five minutes or less to go through a drive-thru, pay for someone else to cook your meal, and then enjoy it on the go.

However, fast food isn't cheap. Prior to my layoff, I was spending anywhere from $5 USD on the very low end, to $15 USD on the high end, with the average over $10. That came to roughly $50-$60 a week in lunches, so $200-$240 a month, give or take a few bucks.

My wife wasn't very happy with me. She doesn't like me eating out so much, and she doesn't like me spending money. So, double whammy.


While I was laid off, I decided I needed a lower cost alternative. I didn't need to go into town every day, and I could avoid exclusively eating peanut butter sandwiches or maybe a smattering of dinner leftovers.

Enter The TV Dinner

If you spend anytime at all in the frozen food section of your local grocer, you've no doubt noticed several sections devoted to a variety of frozen dinners. They range from individual to what they consider family sized, and can include just an entree to full blown meals.

The price?

Well, for the chicken pot pie pictured above (frozen and then cooked), I paid $0.87. Yes, you read that right! Eighty-seven cents, or roughly three HIVE.

Pot pies at that price are kind of small, though, so I typically ate them with an actual dinner, generally of the Hungry Man variety. Those dinners are a little larger than the other brands, without being that much more expensive. A typical dinner costs $2.13.

Again, you read that right. Let me spell it out just in case. Two dollars and thirteen cents.

That means for the price of the pot pie (which come in turkey and beef flavors, too), plus the regular Hungry Man dinner, I could feed myself for $3 even.

Throw in a couple of cans of soda ($0.23 plus $0.10 deposit x 2), and total spent for my lunch meal was $3.66 ($0.20 of which I get back upon return of the cans).


Now, Hungry Man also has a Selects version which costs $2.98—so more expensive, but supposedly fancier. The meal pictured above is what they call their Mexican Style Fiesta—a couple of enchiladas filled with ground beef, a rice and refried bean combo, and coconut pudding.

As you can see from the image below, my meal did not come out looking like what was on the box.

That said, I think it tasted better than it looks, and while I've never had a ground beef enchilada before it, was good. The rice and beans were actually the most flavorful, though, and the coconut pudding was just plain blah. I'm not sure what it tasted like, but it was not coconut.


A Variety Of Dinners

Yes, I saved the boxes so I could take the picture. Something else my wife wouldn't like.

For the main entree, I've eaten salisbury steak in gravy, turkey in gravy and dressing, variations of barbecued pork or beef, and pastas, like spaghetti, lasagna and beef steak with noodles. The pot pies and some Italian food are primarily made by Banquet and are typically smaller meals—the dinners can be found for $0.99 to $1.21, which I would generally eat two of. That still meant the cost of dinner and sodas were roughly $3 USD or less.

The other brand of dinner I tried came from Boston Market, which is also a restaurant. Their meals were $2.74 each.


With the dinners, I typically got some vegetables and mostly mashed potatoes. A few also included a dessert of some kind, which could be a brownie or a fruit based concoction. Like the pudding, the desserts were generally a nice try, but mostly disappointing.

The Taste Test

I think I like the turkey and salisbury steak meals the best. The pasta dishes just don't measure up to home cooked. I'm not that crazy of the barbecued pork or beef, but they do add some variety.

The Tale Is In The Tape

However, just including the TV dinners, the last time I went to WinCo, I paid $38.92 for what amounted to three week's worth of food. Add on what I paid for two dozen cans of sodas and their deposits, the total bumps up to $46.88.

So, for less than what I might pay in a week of fast food, I got three weeks worth of TV dinners.

No, we're not talking gourmet, nor all that nutritional, though I think typically I was eating fewer calories than I did eating out. But for the price and the convenience, I think it was well worth avoiding a steady diet of peanut butter sandwiches.

However, as of last week, I'm back to work, and no, I haven't been heating up and taking the TV dinners with me. I'm back to my old fast food habits, and after only eight days, I'm kind of bored with it. I kind of like my TV dinners.

So, I'll need to figure something else out.

In the meantime, while I'm attending to that...


All images courtesy of Glen Anthony Albrethsen. Video found on YouTube.

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That's a lot of boxes on your desk! I prefer to cook from scratch as much as possible (well that's not true, I don't enjoy cooking I'd prefer if someone did it, but I prefer to eat cooked from scratch, so I know it's good food, without unwanted additives), but at those prices it's probably hard to cook from scratch at a cheaper price. I haven't had a decent pie for so long. They give my husband an acidy stomach, so I stopped getting them. Sigh..

Hey, @minismallholding.

Yeah. I just got rid of them, so they're no longer decorations. :)

I'd like to eat homemade food from scratch, too, but like you, I'm not that fond of all that goes into the preparation, cooking and cleanup. I cook because I'm part of the rotation, not because I really want to. I can enjoy it, but mostly, it tends to stress me out.

But eating out has gotten ridiculously expensive, so I've got to come up with something. My wife used to by lunchmeat, but then it might sit because no one ate it, so she no longer brings much of it home. So, basically, we have peanut butter and tuna. I ate peanut butter sandwiches every day for about two months when I first started working, and while I like them, anything eaten repeatedly will get old after a while.

That's too bad about the pie. One of these days I'll have to try make one, I guess.

My eldest keeps asking me to by lunch meats in, then she goes our for a couple of days, doesn't use them, but gets upset if we use them before they go bad. Needless to say, I also stopped getting them.

For us at school it was cheese sandwiches every day, because that's what my dad liked. I can only eat them now if they have loads of salad on as well! Always found peanut butter too dry.

I am not a fan of TV/Frozen dinners, but perhaps a portable toaster over, or mini microwave for you, or just make sure your lunch schedule stop is at a bar that has a microwave and they can heat your meal for you, and sell you a coke., (no rum if you still need to drive though).

Hey, @bashadow.

I'm kind of thinking I'm going to just need to have some kind of carrier that will keep my preheated dinner warm or something, but the toaster oven or mini-microwave are both cool ideas. Especially if they can be used with a cigarette lighter plug. A lot of things won't run off that plug, though.

Glad to see you're enjoying a budget meal.

I've been working from home since I got a new job a couple weeks ago, so I'm able to make eggs most days for lunch, which is far better than the peanut butter and butter sandwiches that were my staple at my old job.

Cheapo pot pies have long been a favorite of mine, though. I hope they never change them.

Hey, @protegeaa.

re: cheapo pot pies

I remember them being larger. :)

There may be other varieties that I've been missing, since I'm kind of honed in on the Banquet kind.

Peanut Butter is one of those things that you probably can't consume a whole lot of in any one setting, and probably best if not eaten every day. Which is why I'd rather not. Otherwise, as far as taste goes, I do like them.

To me those foods are costly. How can people cope buying those foods.

Hey, @adechina.

I always wonder what prices in one place, like here, will look like to others elsewhere. Everything seems to get expensive over time. In the case of the frozen dinners, though, I think they've actually held their value pretty well.

Obviously, local economics and a person's personal financial situation will always come into play as to what is cheap and what is not.

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