Frozen Food Is Making a Comeback

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CC BY 2.0. Rosana Prada

Forget those bland TV dinners. The new frozen food is healthier, simpler, and tastier than ever.

Frozen food is enjoying a renaissance. What was once viewed as an unappetizing relic of the 1950s is now back in style, thanks to food companies offering simpler, healthier, and more flavorful options. The latest RBC Capital Markets report noted the increase, saying that the frozen foods market has grown for the first time in five years, up 1 percent since the beginning of 2018.

Everything is shaped by people's eating habits, and right now we're in the midst of an obsession with health, wellness, and clean eating -- a good thing! Millennials, who are now juggling busy work schedules with parenting, are searching for quick and easy ways to feed their growing broods, but they want nutritious, well-rounded meals that they can eat at home.

Meal kits were an option that seemed to fit the bill for a while, but many of these startups have been unable to turn a profit. According to RBC, they require more labor and time to prepare; hence, the conclusion, "Isn't a frozen dinner just a meal-kit that costs less without the work?"

Frozen food companies have responded to Millennials' desires by shortening their ingredient lists, getting rid of artificial ingredients, adding ones with pronounceable names, and coming up with flavors and recipes that appeal to adventurous palates, such as Mango Edamame Power Bowls or Sweet and Spicy Harissa Meatballs.

Barefoot Contessa frozen meals

the impulsive buy -- Certainly more appealing than chicken wings or pot pie, are they not (at least, for meat eaters)?/CC BY 2.0

Frozen foods have some real benefits that go beyond convenience. Freezing means less waste, which is a sad fate met by some 40 percent of all food produced in the United States. Whether it's home cooks freezing excess ingredients of their own for use at a later time, or relying on frozen produce or fruit in order to avoid having things go bad in the fridge, freezing is very helpful. Consider, too, how much less waste is generated by cooking a frozen meal in a single container or bag, compared to the waste that accompanies most takeout meals -- Styrofoam or plastic containers, disposable cutlery, condiment packages, paper napkins, and plastic bags.

The Washington Post elaborates further:

"Frozen foods can also claim some nutritional and environmental advantages over fresher fare. Frozen foods are often flash frozen after harvest or preparation, locking in nutrients that fresh foods gradually lose in the time it takes to reach a grocery store or kitchen."

As someone who falls squarely into the working-Millennial-parent-with-young-kids category, I can't say I've explored the new prepared-meal options, but I've certainly been buying a lot more big bags of frozen fruits and vegetables, especially the cheaper 'imperfect' varieties, to keep in my freezer. Having them on hand makes for quick side dishes and nutritious additions to soups, stews, and curries.

This is a trend we TreeHugger are happy to see, as it ticks all the buttons -- cheap, healthy, easy, and convenient. It doesn't get much better than that.