If There’s a Hell…

IMG_20131105_140428I was raised by a Depression baby so perhaps I’m more sensitive to this kind of thing than most. But I can’t help thinking that when the Edward Gibbon of some future generation, or the scribe of our conquering alien overlords, writes the chronicles of our decline and fall, the packaging of Lean Cuisine “Honestly Good” meals will figure prominently. To convey 390 calories from an industrial processing plant to my gullet, Nestle required a plastic dish with a clear plastic top, wrapped in another layer of plastic shrink wrap, accompanied by a plastic sauce pouch, encased in a remarkably sturdy cardboard box. Could any more non renewable resources have been wasted on this product? Probably, but it’s hard to see how.

By the way, the packaging effort was more-or-less wasted. The sauce, as with most pre-prepared food was too sweet and too much. They could have done with half of it. The rest of it was the usual meh frozen dinner.

Consider this an open thread. Hopefully the database issues we had this morning are past us.

102 replies
  1. 1
    Pincher says:

    Just think if Lewis & Clark had had Gore-Tex clothing and modern packaged food. They would have done so much more than they did, and left a trail of plastic across the West.

  2. 2
  3. 3
    Jamey says:

    What the **** did you expect when you bought a pre-fab frozen dinner? Seriously?!

  4. 4
    BGinCHI says:

    I hope you bought that as a blog show-and-tell and not to eat.

    You could have made that yourself in 10 minutes without also giving yourself cancer.

  5. 5
    cleek says:

    well, there are a few makers who use paper for the containers and non-coated cardboard for the boxes, so they can mostly be recycled.

  6. 6
    Ash Can says:

    If you need to keep frozen pre-fab food in your freezer for those times when lightning-quick meals are necessary, stick to frozen burritos. Tasty, filling, and just one little plastic outer wrap to deal with.

  7. 7
    BGinCHI says:

    dpm, why don’t you just eat at Dinosaur BBQ every day?

    You know you want to….

  8. 8
    MattF says:

    I’m sure there’s more than one advertising genius who secretly regrets the need to put food inside the pretty packaging. “It just makes a mess and it doesn’t even taste good.”

  9. 9
    TheMightyTrowel says:

    I’m unexpectedly going to Ireland tomorrow. Funding finally came through for a conference so today I need to sort my life or and but flights etc. Stressful as fuck but at least I’ll see lots of friends there.

  10. 10
    charluckles says:

    Why do you hate capitalism comrade?

  11. 11
    tybee says:

    @Ash Can:

    for frozen burritos, try these things: http://www.elmonterey.com/mexi.....-burritos/

    they come 8 to a pack, they’re not individually wrapped and the pack can be folded over, clipped (clothespin!) and thrown back into the freezer until the package is empty.

    bonus: they taste pretty good, no transfats and two is a meal. dribble on some hotsauce and you’re good to go.

  12. 12
    Anoniminous says:

    @Ash Can:

    We make large amounts of chili, soups, stews, & etc, and then freeze part of the pot for those times when neither of us feel like from-scratch cooking. Doing so ensures quality ingredients and the cost plummets to around one dollar per serving.

  13. 13
    Belafon says:

    A few years ago, I bought a sandwich that was supposed to be deli quality that you would warm up in the microwave. I opened the box, and each part of the sandwich was in its own wrapper. There were about 6 different wrappers.

  14. 14
    dpm (dread pirate mistermix) says:

    Thanks for the diet tips, but I rarely if ever eat a frozen dinner. I happened to see this in the freezer section and thought, hey, this might be some kind of improvement on frozen dinners. I was wrong.

  15. 15
    Ash Can says:

    @Anoniminous: That’s always best, of course. I was just talking about the store-bought stuff.

  16. 16
    MCA1 says:

    As anyone who read The Omnivore’s Dilemma could tell you, since you’re wondering about other nonrenewable resources going into that “dinner,” there’s also the large amounts of petroleum going into the nitrates used to overfertilize the corn that either (i) feeds the protein that comprises said meal, (ii) is used to oversweeten or preserve it one way or another, or (iii) is sourced for the corn syrup used to make the “sauce.”

  17. 17
    dedc79 says:

    The Europoean Commission is setting goals to reduce/eliminate plastic waste through a combination of reduce/reuse/recycle. The US, on the other hand…..

  18. 18
    hohara says:

    how about stick chewing gum in bulk. Two boxes wrapped in cello together, each box wrapped individually, each pack of gum wrapped in foil, each stick in paper. Amazing

  19. 19

    The only frozen dinners worth eating that I know of are the ones at Trader Joe’s. Their Paneer Tikka Masala frozen entree is quite good, for instance.

  20. 20
    J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford says:


    Beat me to it. How hard is it to make a fistful of fresh vegetables and a small medallion of whatever meat was contained therein? Also, you can save yourself a bunch of calories if you don’t put a sauce on your “healthy choice” meal.

    The post just seems really out of place.

  21. 21
    handsmile says:


    Pictures or it didn’t happen. The one where you’re hoisting a Guinness in a smoky shebeen would be sure to win friends here.


    Also too, last week or so, there was a FP post on the controversial “SpongeBob SquarePants” gravestone. I replied to your comments there several hours after you had submitted them. If you’d not seen it, I’d be interested to learn more about your activities/interest in funerary monuments. At your later convenience. Safe travels!

  22. 22
    Felonius Monk says:

    Tasteless, frozen shit, wrapped in plastic, nuked to scalding and then ingested — ughhhhhh!

    Better change your name to “ibm”( iron belly mistermix).

  23. 23
    kindness says:

    If they made the plastic out of cornstarch you could eat that. Except that would probably screw up the calorie content.

    Aww shit. Never mind.

  24. 24
    catclub says:

    @low-tech cyclist: I would be broke and weigh 300 ponds if I could get Fish (salmon!) Tikka Masala on a regular basis. That restaurant folded.

  25. 25
    Violet says:

    My former boss used to eat those Lean Cuisine meals every day for lunch. She was super busy, with two kids, a full time job, and going to graduate school at night, so I got how she didn’t have any time to cook. But even so I couldn’t figure out how she could eat those every single day and not be sick all the time. Plus, they smelled up the break room. Half the time she’d stick one in the microwave, get called away for some meeting, and it would sit there for an hour in the microwave. Ugh.

  26. 26
    catclub says:

    @J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford: “fistful of fresh vegetables”
    Important if suitably restrained. This requires buying a quarter fistful of three types of fresh vegetables, almost daily – or they are no longer fresh. Not impossible, but requires discipline.

  27. 27
  28. 28
    catclub says:

    I love the ad for shrinkwrap film in the banner ad. They know what we are saying.

  29. 29
    raven says:

    Try some lrp rats.

  30. 30
    Violet says:

    @J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford: I keep frozen vegetables on hand all the time. Takes a few minutes to heat them up. Microwave works fine. If you have a stovetop, you can stir fry them. Maybe takes five minutes then.

    People think cooking takes a bunch of time but it really doesn’t if you keep it simple and have a few things on hand.

  31. 31
    NotMax says:

    TV dinners have been steadily going downhill since the switch from aluminum.

    On second thought, from even before that: from when Swanson added the little dessert section to the aluminum tray.

    For food ostensibly intended for humans that is truly hog swill, one need look no further than canned spaghetti or canned ravioli.

  32. 32
    Violet says:

    @catclub: Frozen are usually healthier for you than fresh, due to flash freezing keeping the nutrients in, and long travel times for fresh meaning less nutrition.

    I buy individual packets of various vegetables and toss them all together in a large ziploc to create my own frozen mixed vegetables varieties.

  33. 33
    Cassidy says:

    If you’re eating frozen meals for taste, you’re doing it wrong. Low calorie count, passable enough to swallow, filling enough to make it to dinner, better than drive thru garbage.

  34. 34
    PeakVT says:

    Sherrod Brown is very, very unserious. Perhaps a little too message-y about the message, but still very, very unserious.

    Moar, plz.

  35. 35
    jeffreyw says:

    @raven: Mmm… I remember when lurps came out, the beef and rice was OK, the spaghetti worked if you could bum a tin of cheese to put in it. The beans in the chili would bust a tooth unless you waited a looong time for it to soak.

  36. 36
  37. 37
    Kylroy says:


    Yeah, cooking’s really easy if you have the skill set to juggle keeping a large and varied inventory of perishable items around in the proper proportions to make interesting meals. And if you don’t:



  38. 38
    Kylroy says:

    Yeah, cooking’s really easy if you have the skill set to juggle keeping a large and varied inventory of perishable items around in the proper proportions to make interesting meals. And if you don’t:



  39. 39

    The Illinois House is currently debating the marriage equality bill. If it passes (and it should — Greg Harris has insisted all along he wouldn’t call the bill if he didn’t have the votes), it’ll have to go back to the Senate for a technical fix regarding the effective date, and then Pat Quinn has promised to sign it.

  40. 40
    Kylroy says:

    Yeah, cooking’s really easy if you have the skill set to juggle keeping a large and varied inventory of perishable items around in the proper proportions to make interesting meals. And if you don’t:



  41. 41
    Belafon says:

    @NotMax: I’m pretty sure meals have gone downhill since we stopped sending parties out to chase down a mammoth.

  42. 42
    catclub says:

    @PeakVT: Yes, more indeed. Atrios’s repeated message is starting to get more play. Good.

  43. 43
    Kylroy says:

    Sorry for duplicates, kept getting errors until I switched to desktop site.

  44. 44
    raven says:

    @jeffreyw: if you had plenty of potable water, I know you guys each humped a gallon jerry can apiece!

  45. 45
    handsmile says:


    Hey, before Marcella, Lidia or Mario, Chef Boyardee was Italian cuisine in this country! Topped by canned Kraft parmesan cheese.

  46. 46
    catclub says:

    @Kylroy: I like the decision paths from “Does it taste good?”

    on xkcd.

  47. 47
    Anoniminous says:

    @Ash Can:

    Yeah. I shouldn’t have directed my comment at you. One of these days I’ll figure out this blogging thing.


  48. 48
    Violet says:

    @Kylroy: Sure, if you want mango bison whatever it is in the comic, then it’s probably easier and cheaper to order out. But if you have a freezer, and I know not everyone does, but most people do these days, it’s not hard to do some prep work, freeze it in whatever sizes you need for your household, and cook it fairly quickly. Things like rice and pasta are easy and don’t take long to prepare. The rest of it can be kept in the freezer in ready-to-cook form and stuck in the fridge to thaw before someone heads out to work that morning. Or whatever.

    It’s not without some effort, but it’s not as hard as many people think.

  49. 49
    J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford says:


    Agree, frozen is fine too. I live in the city where I walk past a “produce truck” on the way home from the train, so my perspective is a little warped. But frozen or fresh – prep for both is very simple.

  50. 50
    jeffreyw says:

    @raven: We spent a lot of time on a pacification mission, we had semi permanent positions with wire and sandbag bunkers. Most patrolling was short range, day patrols back by dark. The positions were located near wells and the Brigade made a try at providing drinking water via “elephant ear” bladders. We weren’t in the desert. LOL

  51. 51
    raven says:

    @Violet: Cooking takes me all the time.

  52. 52
    Sugar Daddy says:

    By the way, the packaging effort was more-or-less wasted. The sauce, as with most pre-prepared food was too sweet and too much. They could have done with half of it. The rest of it was the usual meh frozen dinner.

    Would make a perfect epitaph for this administration.

  53. 53
    Miki says:

    There’s no excuse for frozen dinners when it’s easy and fast to make your own. Soups and stews are especially easy and fast. (A) First, get your self a pressure cooker. Amazon has a bunch of expensive and not-so-expensive ones. I’m partial to Fagor stove-tops because that’s what I happen to have. (B) Google around for some recipes – there are bunches of them out there (e.g., http://www.yummly.com/recipes/.....-and-stews). (iii) Freeze in ziplock baggies like this – http://www.southernliving.com/.....000075414/. Srsly.

  54. 54
    Morbo says:

    @tybee: I always have a pack of the green chili ones in the freezer.

    If you’re willing to eat vegetarian MM, I would strongly recommend Amy’s Kitchen meals. Single paper tray, single plastic wrapper, recyclable box. Tasty, too.

  55. 55
    Belafon says:

    @Miki: I also recommend not having any kids and not having to work more than one job, or making sure your job doesn’t run really late into the evening and making sure your not in college while working full time, and do not especially have three kids and work full time and go to college.

    It also helps if you have no friends, especially if you have other obligations.

  56. 56
    shortstop says:

    @TooManyJens: Jehan Gordon-Booth and Al Riley got on board overnight. I think we have 60. This is so emotional and nerve-wracking…to think we’re near the end of the road after all our work. Can I finally stop calling crabby old Christian ladies now? Please?

  57. 57
    Amir Khalid says:

    Saw the second Thor movie yesterday. I liked it. It works like a typical superhero movie, in that it’s all about setting up for the big fight in Act 3. That said, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, nor does it forget to entertain. You see (SPOILER ALERT!) a man’s pixelated bottom in this movie — though not Chris Hemsworth’s. There’s a good plot twist at the end, and don’t forget to stay for the teaser in the end credits.

    That big fight is set in London. There’s a comic moment when two of the superguys in the fight take a breather to go slide down the outer surface of the Gherkin, much to the surprise of the office workers within. And I’m almost sure I saw the location used for the Paris street scenes in Les Misérables, including the reenactment of General Lamarque’s funeral.

    Re the experiment with the prepackaged meal: Can’t blame you for trying them once in a blue moon out of curiosity. You were clearly and rightly unsurprised by what you found. But one would think that after all the experience we’ve had over the past century with frozen foods, we could surely have come up with something less processed and healthier to put in meals like that.

  58. 58
    chopper says:

    @Sugar Daddy:

    shorter: “2/10, would not bang”

  59. 59
    22over7 says:

    I bought a PF Chang’s frozen orange chicken thing, thinking maybe it would be edible. It was not. What a waste. Do not buy.

    Tonight is a little pork loin (dry rubbed and in the fridge) and sweet potatoes.

  60. 60
    Napoleon says:


    I would strongly recommend Amy’s Kitchen meals

    I always keep some of their burritos on hand for a quick frozen lunch if, say, I am working in the yard and need something quick before going back out side or are otherwise pressed for time. They are pretty food an quick. Maybe I should try some of their other products as well. As someone mentioned up thread burrito packaging is pretty landfill friendly as well.

  61. 61
    eemom says:


    Loved that Oatmeal piece! Thanks for much needed lolz.

  62. 62
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    Overpackaging of unhealthy food? Welcome to 1970.

  63. 63
    Belafon says:

    The easiest to make and tasty microwave meals are the Marie Callender steamers. Put them in the microwave for four minutes, peel the clear plastic, pour the steamed food in the sauce, stir, and eat. The bottom plastic can be reused as a soup bowl.

  64. 64
    Kylroy says:

    @Belafon: But it’s so easy! Everybody says so!

    I know a lot of people who knit and/or sew. Not one of them shames people for wearing store-bought clothes. I wish foodies worked the same way.

  65. 65

    @shortstop: There were 59 on the amendment, which I doubt marriage opponents would have voted for, and Jakobsson and Zalewski are yesses who didn’t vote on the amendment. We should be over 60.

  66. 66
    Miki says:

    @Belafon: Okay – you’re right. Kids wreck everything. The rest of it I’ve done. But not with three kids. Good luck to you.

  67. 67
    Ash Can says:

    @Anoniminous: Not to worry. You raised a very good point. (That’s another reason for me to love my crock pot, too!)

  68. 68
    Chyron HR says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Does Kat Dennings let her Kats out in this one? (The movie, not the frozen meal.)

  69. 69
    Jebediah, RBG says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    You see (SPOILER ALERT!) a man’s pixelated bottom in this movie

    Pixel-ass in a movie? I thought pixelation was just for TV.

  70. 70

    @shortstop: Jehan Gordon-Booth is giving a great speech right now. When she got on board, she didn’t do it halfway.

  71. 71
    bemused says:

    I’m not even enthused about frozen meals made by Amy or Paul Newman. Prepackaged salads like you get at Subway, etc, don’t thrill me either. They just don’t taste quite right.

    I listened to a debate on MPR today while driving, “Do Red States have a Better Future?” with panelists Stephen Moore, Hugh Hewitt, Gray Davis and Michael Lind. Interesting but of course, annoying listening to Moore and Hewitt pushing the same old. I think it was Gray Davis that pointed out those two choose to live in blue states.

  72. 72
    Belafon says:

    @Kylroy: A lot of it really sounded like first-world upmanship to me. “I’ve got so much free time, you should, too.” A lot of people, and they don’t all have kids like I do, get up in the morning, and don’t settle down until it’s nearly bedtime.

    Empathy, it’s what’s for dinner.

  73. 73
    SinnedBackwards says:

    So sorry for your dining experience.

    (I think their name is honest when you consider so much is thrown away. I always thought the wretchedness was a feature, not a bug, for people losing weight.)

    Too bad, being BJ, that there are hints of arguing. I would think it useful to learn that there are lots of easy, nutritious ways to have quick, tasty meals.

  74. 74
    p.a. says:

    @handsmile: not where I come from my friend. Cole was pushing the ‘steam in the bag frozen veggies’ during one of his previous weight loss attempts. They’re not bad. Not that I’ve lost any weight eating them. I’ll take canned soups over frozen dinners any day. Just read the labels. Progresso has a bunch of soups that come out to 20% or less fat content. Sodium, on the other hand… And the days of 10 cans for $10 are looong gone.

  75. 75


    I know a lot of people who knit and/or sew. Not one of them shames people for wearing store-bought clothes. I wish foodies worked the same way.


  76. 76
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Jebediah, RBG:
    I can’t give away more than that, nor can I explain the circumstances, but a man’s pixelated bottom is indeed what you see in this movie.

    @Chyron HR:
    Alas, no. This movie does have to stay in PG-13 territory, so if you put in violins you can’t have sax too.

  77. 77
    the Conster says:

    If there were such a thing as food pellets for people, I’d eat them. I hate to cook, and just want to not be hungry.

  78. 78
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    To riff off Clothaire Rapaille, Americans like their food dead, wrapped in plastic, then wrapped in more plastic, and placed in a box that’s wrapped in plastic.

  79. 79
    Kylroy says:

    Yes, I can’t imagine why there would be arguing when people respond to mistermix bitching about the unnecessary excess of packaging on his TV dinner by informing him that he is wrong to eat things he hasn’t personally cooked.

    Hell, I’m thrilled we got some comments about other, less packaging-intense prepared foods before the inevitable shaming.

  80. 80
    chopper says:


    i’ll bet you don’t even grow the vegetables yourself.

  81. 81
    chopper says:

    @the Conster:

    there is. it’s called ‘cereal’. it’s quite good for dinner.

  82. 82
    ruemara says:

    No offense, but cooking in quantities you can use for lunch later is really easy. You buy a whatever queasine, and you get what you get. I’d rather snack on cold tofu with a dash of braggs and hot sauce over a green salad, first.

  83. 83
    Cassidy says:

    @Kylroy: Seems to me that being a foodie isn’t about eating well, but showing others how much better you are than them.

  84. 84
    elmo says:

    Panko-breaded frozen tilapia from Costco FTMFW. I don’t even like tilapia, and my wife doesn’t like breaded fried food at all, and we both love these.
    Also salmon burgers from Costco. YUM.

  85. 85
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @elmo: The Kirkland cheese pizzas from Costco work well I put fresh toppings on them and presto. Not as good as if from scratch, but way better than standard frozen. They’re about $10 for a pack of four.

  86. 86
    keestadoll says:

    My oldest has been doing great in school and after a several-weeks-long campaign, I finally gave in and put a pepperoni Hot Pocket in his lunchbox. You have to understand that I’m one of “those” parents that grows her own apples, makes her own bread, etc, so the so-called “fun foods” just never get in his lunchbox (yeah, lunch trades just don’t happen for him). Anyway, I tried to resist the urge to view the ingredients, but at the last second I did…

    Not sure about tomorrow, but he should glow in the dark enough tonight to read by.

  87. 87
    Kylroy says:


    Case in point:

  88. 88
    elmo says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    Oh, for pizza, nothing beats Costco’s deep-dish take-n-bake. NOTHING, not even my fave delivery outfit. That shit is the BOMB.

  89. 89
    keestadoll says:

    @elmo: yikes! Noooooo! Get the Trident breaded anything-else, but don’t get the tilapia. It’s all farm-raised in Asia in the most disgusting of conditions. Cod, Pollock–go for it.

  90. 90
    Cassidy says:

    @Kylroy: FWIW, of all the people on here that are like that, and there’s a lot, she ain’t one of them.

  91. 91
    I am not a kook says:

    @dpm (dread pirate mistermix): “Honestly Good” should have been your tip-off. Anything or anybody who advertises themselves as “honest”, isn’t.

    Took me the second “honest guy” manager to figure that out.

  92. 92
    Kylroy says:

    @Cassidy: Fair enough. I have little idea of people’s comment history here.

    I just wish people who like cooking could recognize that it is going from being a life skill to being a hobby, the same way sewing did 50 years ago. There were no blogs to record it back then, but I wonder – was there a similar backlash in the 1960s from dedicated sewers against mass-made store bought clothes?

  93. 93
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN) says:

    @the Conster: Amen. It isn’t that I can’t cook, because I’m actually not bad at it. I just bring to the activity a complete lack of interest. Every time I declare that I’m going to eat at home more often it just doesn’t happen.

  94. 94
    batgirl says:

    @elmo: I always keep that tilapia from Costco in the fridge. It is great!

  95. 95
    shortstop says:

    @TooManyJens: We did it! FINALLY! Cheers, statemate!

  96. 96
    WereBear says:

    @Kylroy: I just wish people who like cooking could recognize that it is going from being a life skill to being a hobby, the same way sewing did 50 years ago. There were no blogs to record it back then, but I wonder – was there a similar backlash in the 1960s from dedicated sewers against mass-made store bought clothes?


    The difference is, tatty seams and crooked darts won’t wind up killing you.

  97. 97

    @shortstop: We’re finally catching up with Iowa! #ThingsNobodyInILEverSaidBeforeToday

  98. 98
    shortstop says:

    @TooManyJens: Love it. Just emailed a friend there that we can finally look them in the eye.

  99. 99
    Mo MacArbie says:

    Sheesh. Cooking does not equal foodie. Not too many foodies would be impressed by my pots of beans. Hell, I don’t even bother cooking any rice to go with them most of the time. Yes, I take a 4-5 hours to do it one day, mostly because I dawdle. But it’s cheap, and easy to nuke bowlfuls the rest of the week.

    And there are usually pot pies in the freezer, and more than a few “Screw it, I’ll just get some bread, cheese, and salami” nights. My junk’s probably foodier than my cooking.

  100. 100
    Annamal says:

    Cooking is definitely still a lifestyle skill in New Zealand (everyone I know got funneled through at least some of the cooking classes at intermediate).

    There’s a vege market here on the weekend for fruit and veges that aren’t quite supermarket/export quality (i.e. weirdly shaped peppers or marked apples) and it’s always packed with people.

    I can usally pick up a weeks’ worth of fruit and veges for a fraction of supermarket costs and the bulk of them are quick to cook or prepare (I can whip up a simple salad in less than 10 minutes). I realise this is a function of my environment (fresh, if ugly, fruit and veges easily available at a low cost) but I wish the same thing were available elsewhere.

  101. 101
    mattski says:

    Hey Chump…. Get your ass over to the smittenkitchen.com for totally awesome tasteting and relatively easy to prepare shit to stuff in your gullet. That frozen shit will kill you and the planet

  102. 102
    mattH says:


    bonus: they taste pretty good, no transfats and two is a meal.

    The “Cheddar Cheese Blend” has Hydrogenated Soybean Oil; transfats. Under the 0.5g per serving I am sure, but transfats nonetheless.

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