What comes to mind when you think of a ‘ready meal’?
It may depend on where you grew up. In some countries, it’s probably non-existent, or it may conjure up mental images of a ‘TV dinner’.
It all started in the 50’s with ‘turkey and television’ and is now a huge and growing industry. Left with a surplus of turkey after Thanksgiving, the American food company Swanson’s came up with the clever idea of packaging it up with all the other components of a traditional American dinner. But the stroke of genius was packing it into aluminium trays used to serve food by airlines, which meant you could just pop it in the oven as-is.
It then took a while before ready meals really took off mainly because large domestic freezers didn’t become the norm until the late 60’s
Since then, the industry has steadily grown, and also family life has changed so much putting more demand on ready prepared food. Gone are the days when the wife stays at home to look after the kids and have a nice homecooked meal on the table every day, (for most of us anyway). Many women now are working long hours and don’t have time to cook during the week! Who wants to spend all of their spare time cooking anyway?!
Knowing the good from the bad?
We all know there is a lot of bad convenience food out there – usually the really cheap highly processed meals contain so much sugar and lots of nasty additives, which means ready meals get a bad reputation.
A hierarchy of products was introduced for people willing to pay more for something ‘posher’. The focus on quality has continued offering people who want restaurant quality food at home without having to cook a meal from scratch if they don’t have the time or the skills for it.
New technology influence on the ready meal
Another huge influence on the rise of the ready meal was the introduction of the domestic microwave – this revolutionised food convenience in the home!
The first domestic microwave was sold in 1955 for a whopping $1295. Understandably they did not take off as they were too expensive and no one really knew or trusted microwave technology. It wasn’t until 1967 that it finally caught on in American homes.
However, the Radarange microwave oven stood at nearly 6 feet tall and weighed 750 pounds!
Early microwaves did look like an extra from Lost in Space!
Thankfully nowadays you can buy good quality ready meals suitable for the microwave saving you loads of time!