TV Dinners - When You Just Can't Cook from Scratch (or can you?)


I can just taste the Salisbury steak right now...

There was a period of time in my childhood where I became well acquainted with that culinary delight known as the TV dinner.

My dad was in charge of meals for a period of time when my mom was recovering from ankle surgery. We later discovered that she was dealing with the effects of the Multiple Sclerosis, although that diagnosis didn’t come until my senior year of high school.

Some of you younger people might not know about a TV dinner and why it's called a TV dinner.  I gotta tell you, in retrospect, I couldn't really tell you why it's called a TV dinner. In any case, it kind of looked like a school cafeteria lunch in a small, tightly-sealed microwave-safe container. I can remember peeling back the the plastic off of it after it had it had been microwaved and seeing the wisps of steam rise up from those mashed potatoes and green peas.

Was it food? Yes.
Was it good? Sure.
Was it healthful? I guess.
Was it convenient? Absolutely.
Was it worth the price? Well, that's probably the area most up for debate.

The benefit of Processed Foods

These prefab dinners from the freezer section are a prime example of what we call processed foods; they’re foods in which the raw ingredients have undergone a certain amount of processing by which they are closer to a finished product, thereby reducing your time and effort in having to finish the preparation and get them to the table. In other words, you're paying someone else to pre-cook your food for you.

So that's so that's what you gain -  the time that would have been spent shopping for ingredients, chopping, slicing, dicing, and whatever else is involved in the process of producing that food it.

the costs of processed foods

What is it that you're sacrificing? What are you giving up in in the process of processed foods?


Well, for starters, you’re handing over more of your hard-earned money. I don't care what food factory is churning out these things; it's still more expensive to pay someone (or something) else to do for you what you could theoretically be doing for yourself.


You're giving up control. When you prepare food from scratch, you get to control what goes into the dish. If it's already made for you and there's something in there that you don't want, there's really no way of taking it back out.


Lastly, processed foods are typically less healthful than freshly-prepared foods because of this little thing we like to call preservatives. Processors have to add stuff to the food in order to make it last longer and to keep it from spoiling. That means things like salt, sugar, and a whole litany of impossible-to-pronounce chemicals and additives.

Don't get me wrong: convenience foods are convenient. However, you do pay for that convenience in more ways than one.

what other choice do i have?

So what's the alternative? How can you avoid the trap of processed foods? Well, here's a few simple things that you can do to help you to save some time in the kitchen:

make a plan

First is menu planning. Planning a menu - for the week or for the month or even for the next couple of days - can help you to get a better grip on what it is that you need to do, what it is you need to buy, and how you can organize your time in the kitchen in order to make a better use of it.

take a class

That next thing you could do is boost your skills. When you have a better grasp on foundational food preparation techniques, such as safe and effective knife handling, you’ll make your time in the kitchen more productive.

don’t do it alone

Next, you can bring in reinforcements.  Even if your kitchen has an island, you don't have to cook like one. Find ways of bringing friends or family into the cooking process with you. If you have kids, they can offer a surprising amount of assistance in the kitchen - not to mention the fact that you'll be spending more valuable time bonding with them as well!

go semi-processed

Another option would be meal kits. Nowadays, there's a whole number of different companies that are providing meal kits that can save you the time of having to find recipes and search the store trying to find all those different ingredients. All you have to do is open it up and prepare it.

Now that being said (going back to the whole boosting your skills part of things), even if someone's doing all of the shopping and the recipe development for you and delivering the meal kit right to your door, there's still a chance that - if you weren't raised in a home where a lot of home cooking was taking place, if you were raised on TV dinners or fast food or going out to eat - even the simplest of recipes could still be very intimidating to you.

That’s why I’m here and why Cookin’ with Kibby exists. I want to take my experience of over 20 years in the food service industry and all of my years as a home cook - being a husband and a biological, foster, and adoptive parent - and use those practical experiences and offer them to you so that you can be inspired and encouraged and equipped to be able to make better cooking and eating decisions for you and your family.

What are your next steps? Is it meal planning? Is it learning a new skill? Is it finding ways of of bringing your family into the kitchen with you? Is that signing up for a meal kit plan? What are you going to do next? I would love to hear what you think is going to be the the most logical next step for you and your family to be able to have more healthful, more freshly-prepared and satisfying meals. Let me know in the comments section of this post. Send me an email or shoot me a message on Facebook. I would love to hear from you and also like to know how I can best encourage you and equip you.

Thank you so much for being a part of this community, and I will see you in the kitchen.

Jim KueblerComment