These 8 vintage frozen TV dinners look strange and unhealthy and we want to eat them all

Peel back the foil and dig into these beans, franks, crisps, peas, chopped meats and Twinkies.

Top image: AP Photo

In 1954, Swanson revolutionized the American meal with its TV Dinner. The frozen, three-compartment platter sold for 98¢, which approximately converts to a hefty $8.65 in today's dollars. At least the aluminum trays came packaged in a nifty box that looked like a television, with the U.S.D.A. seal and price emulating knobs.

At first, the selection offered the staples — turkey, beef, chicken. But the industry quickly branched out, giving people a taste of "International" cuisine. 

We are all a little nostalgic for TV dinners, the peeling back of the foil, the tongue-burning hot apple desserts that we would always eat first. Here are some of the more creative frozen meals from the 1960s and 1970s.

1. Morton 3-Course Chicken-N Dumplings

 

The "handy salad tray" could be removed to keep a cool portion. Wait… that's a salad? It looks like a fruit cup in Elmer's glue. It draws our attention away from the main course. We are not quite sure which chunks are the "Chicken-N" and which are the dumplings.

Image: Modernmechanix

2. Morton Beef Pattie Twinkie Supper

 

This comes from a 1974 ad for Morton. One could get a Twinkie with a burger, some spaghetti, pizza or a hot dog. A.k.a. the breakfast of champions.

Image: Flickr / Dan Goodsell

3. Swanson Beans and Franks

 

The arrangement of the hot dogs looks like an emoji for a sad face. Flipping the frank would have done wonders for the subliminal messaging.

See how much happier this looks?

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Image: Flickr / jasonliebigstuff

4. Swanson Corned Beef Hash Dinner

 

Sad Hot Dog Emoji had a friend, the Chunky Triangle Loaf.

Image: Etsy / PrintAdStudios

5. Swanson Polynesian Style Dinner

 

For a taste of the Pacific, Swanson bundled chow mein, an orange tea cake and fried meat chunks into a mouth luau. 

Image: Pinterest

6. Swanson German Style Dinner

 

The dessert is typically the big draw on a TV dinner, but this one looks like a petrified egg. This looks like something from Grimms' Fairy Tales.

Image: Pinterest

7. Libbyland Safari Supper

 

Libby's went after the younger set with their playful Libbyland meals. Originally, they came with "Magic Milk," which was later replaced with the branded Nestle's Quik. The box popped up into a cartoon backsplash, and the options included Pirate Picnic, Sundown Supper, Sea Diver's Dinner and Safari Supper. Putting images of monkeys and lions on a box of a mystery meat might not be smart marketing. The kid in the ad does not seem exactly jazzed to eat this.

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Image: Flickr / jbcurio

8. Swanson Mexican Style Frozen Dinner

 

They say your meals should be colorful. Well, this tray was a rainbow of brown, burnt orange, burnt sienna, rust, brick, ochre and umber. It was basically camouflaged in the shag-carpeted, wood-paneled living rooms of the 1970s.

Image: Vintage Adventures

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141 Comments

carriefan62772 18 months ago
I liked the franks and beans one I like those dinners you can eat when you don’t feel like cooking
Luis 18 months ago
Those kid's meals, I wouldn't exactly call them "Happy".
Vintage_nyer 24 months ago
I remember eating these. Friday night was always TV dinner night. Those Libbyland dinners were the best. Brings back many good memories.
Catmommy53 26 months ago
I can't believe our moms let us eat this crap!
Wylieburp 26 months ago
I’m really intrigued by the German dinner! I would totally eat that!
CouchPotato19 27 months ago
The scariest is when you see someone's house still decorated in the 70's style today!!
Mirramanee CouchPotato19 27 months ago
I don't know if I would call it "scary", but I certainly would call it ugly! I look back on shows like the Brady Bunch and wonder why anyone thought that decor was attractive. Orange Formica countertops? Cheap-looking wood paneling all over the place? No thanks!
carriefan62772 Mirramanee 18 months ago
You better not bad mouth the wooden paneling my grandparents then my parents had that are you sure you’re not looking for attention l???????
jmike 27 months ago
Makes me hungry! What's for supper? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Michael 27 months ago
Didn't the Hungry-Man line start when they were still actuallytv dinners on metal plates? Yet they still use the brand in the microwave era.

Not that I ever had one.
anthony Michael 27 months ago
The funny thing is the old ones in the tin was considered dinner. Dinner that took a least a half hour to cook. No, I don't think they had the hungry man in the tin. How did we ever get by without microwaves?
1Picklenose 27 months ago
I loved every one of them. God I miss the seventies
MichaelVegas 27 months ago
You know I would try the Twinkie one I mean a burger and a Twinkie, Yum, and the hot dog and beans I would buy too, but one I here that I miss the most in the Mexican Dinner one, I really liked that one, and I even remember buying it a few years ago, but I have not found it since then
Hey Grandpa!(Grandpa Jones
From Hee Haw)What's For
Supper ? Answer: Grits and
Gravy topped by mashed potatoes and carrot juice
A gallon of milk Giant pork
Chops and a Twinkie with
Whipped cream and chocolate
syrup .YUM YUM!!!!!
Did you like Hee Haw???????…aI did
Ooops that should be did you like Hee Haw????…I did
RichLorn 27 months ago
These were all the rage when I was young. In fact you could hear the rage 3 houses away if a wife plopped one down in front of her husband after a hard day.
Russ 27 months ago
"Ooh, I'm a pretentious snob now and pretend to turn up my nose at these so I can feel better about myself". You bunch of old windbags in this forum ate these and loved them.
Longhorn Russ 27 months ago
Heck, I’d still eat them if they were available. Late Sixties/Early Seventies, if my mother had to work late at the hospital, that was my supper.
AnnieM 27 months ago
I just remembered - there *was* a frozen meal I did like. My parents used to buy these packs of little frozen cheese pizzas - what would now be called 'personal' size. Not sure of the brand, but I think they came 3 to a pack. Man, I loved those things. 😃
Michael AnnieM 27 months ago
The first pizzas we had were frozen, but generic. Wrapped in plastic with a sticker, I thought they were locally made.

Then there were the Kraft pizza kits. A small bag for the dough, mix with water. A can of tomato sauce. Some spice to sprinkle over it, some kind of cheese. I was still able to get them about fifteen years ago.
boogerdogger Michael 27 months ago
Heck, my Mother made her own 'mini pizzas':
Some browned ground beef, can of pizza sauce on an English muffin covered with cheese.
Yum!
Peter_Falk_Fan Michael 27 months ago
We used to get those pizza kits. I would buy a little can of sliced mushrooms or sliced black olives to put on it. Now, instead of pizza kits, my wife makes french bread pizza.
AnnieM 27 months ago
I was fortunate to have a mom who was a good cook, a fact made obvious to me when I was still a kid on the rare occasions we'd have TV dinners. For me, the big problem was the vegetables. How on Earth they managed to make them rubbery, mushy, and tasteless all at the same time was a mystery to me. As an adult, because I'd always associated frozen veggies = disgusting, it was years before I tried any again. Of course, by then they'd come up with the 'flash freezing' process that actually allowed the veggies to maintain most of their flavor and texture, so now you can always find a bag or two of peas or some kind of mixed veggies in our freezer for when we need a quick side. 😊
anthony AnnieM 27 months ago
Never once had a tv dinner growing up. My mom was the same. Heck she would never use jar tomato sauce. Full breakfast every morning too. Didn't start eating cereal until I was an adult out of the house.
Michaeljscheibn 27 months ago
For me it was Salisbury Steak or Turkey- add in after school Little Rascals, 3 Stooges and The Abbott and Costello show=Great Memories!!!
327053 Michaeljscheibn 27 months ago
My favorites too! 😋
tnminnow 27 months ago
The TV dinners were better back then. I liked the turkey with the mashed potatoes and peas.
BarnabyMannix 27 months ago
I got 2 wrong, even though there were no actual questions...
bnichols23 27 months ago
Corned beef hash maybe. MAYBE. Any of the others, no way in perdition.
JKMallaber 27 months ago
They tasted better with the metal pan that had to go in the oven. I seem to remember they still came in metal trays in the early 80s.

That Mexican one reminds me of our living room. Dark wood paneling, orange carpet on the floor and bright orange curtains that burned your eyes when the sun shown through.
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