DIY TV Dinners

I’ve discovered that one of my biggest challenges as we’ve moved to our more sustainable, limited electricity, homesteady lifestyle is how to get good food on the table without a lot of fuss.  There are just some days when we’re gone late or it’s just been super busy and I just can’t spend an hour cooking dinner!  Or nights when I teach piano lessons and Sam is in charge of dinner (and he really doesn’t cook).  I mean, easy mac is fine in a pinch or P&J sandwiches, but I really wanted a healthier option (and something that would fill tummies better, too!).

So I started making Swanson-esque TV Dinners….and they have worked great!

I say “Swanson-esque” because these aren’t the modern, pop in the microwave TV dinners.  These are the old-fashioned, tinfoil wrapped, put it in the oven dinners.  We don’t have a microwave.  So cook times are more like 30 minutes than 5 minutes.  BUT you can cook four dinners at once AND there’s still almost zero clean up afterward.

I made our first round of dinners out of a massive amount of leftovers I inherited after a community event we attended.  The caterer had made way way way too much food and was desperately giving away leftovers instead of seeing all the deliciousness go to waste.  I brought home pounds of pork loin, green beans, and mashed taters.

I bought a couple of stacks of aluminum ‘disposable’ (but I saved and will reuse!) pie plates and in each plate put a heaping pile of potatoes, scoop of green beans, and two slices of pork.  I had more beans and potatoes than pork, so once I ran out of pork I made plates of just beans and some of just potatoes to use as sides with meals at a later date.  I covered all the plates with tinfoil.  Don’t go cheap on the foil.  You want the sturdy kind that won’t tear just because you looked at it sideways.  Then I stacked the plates on top of each other and shoved in the deep freeze.

To warm up, I just pulled out the plates, tossed in a 350 oven with the foil still on and let cook for 30 to 40 minutes.  These worked great on piano lesson nights since town is about 30 minutes away, I’d call Sam when I was leaving, he’d put the dinners in the oven, and there would be a well rounded dinner ready when I got home!  Without any pots or pans to wash. YES!

Four months later we just ate our last one.  And it was still in great shape with no freezer burn.  The only slight negative with the pork/green beans/potatoes combo was that the pork had a little gravy on it and when you cooked it the gravy went all over everything.  That didn’t bother us, but I know some people are a little weirded out when different foods touch.  So if that’s you, choose a meat without any sauce!

This time around I am thinking of making a couple of varieties.  Any suggestions?  Maybe some fried chicken legs with green beans and corn?  Or homemade mac and cheese and peas and carrots?  Interested in your thoughts!