This is a slightly expanded version of my glass food storage post the other day, focusing specifically on an alternative to prepackaged frozen dinners/microwave meals. Like so many other products out there, there just aren’t a whole lot of alternatives to the quick and easy frozen dinner that you just shove in the microwave for a few minutes. Especially if you have kids. Don’t get me wrong, I do a ton of cooking, but every once in a while I just don’t want to do that. I especially can’t stand having to cook 3 times a day over summer break, hence the frozen meals.
Most all of the frozen meals we’ve gotten over the years have come in a crappy plastic container with a thin layer of plastic over the top to seal it all in place. I’ve run across one that has switched their containers to a paper/cardboard version, but it still has the plastic film. Where I live, most of the containers are not recyclable, even if you wash them. The worst are the ones that my kids love for quick lunches over the summer a couple of times a week, so I really wanted to see if I could find SOMETHING that would work to replace them.
I found these awesome glass containers that are sectioned off, kind of like you see on little kids’ dishes. It is like the other containers I’ve bought where it has the silicone seal to give it a liquid tight fit. The cool part about that is that it has an additional line of that across one of the dividers to keep the sections from slipping into each other. The two sections that run parallel to each other, are not sealed from each other, so you’d have to pick and choose what to fill these sections with carefully.
For my first trial, we went with their top picks. A crappy fish stick and macaroni and cheese meal. The other one was pretty much identical, except it had chicken nuggets. We did some research and found a fish stick that came in a box and no plastic. We used the basic Kraft macaroni, though I knocked about 30 seconds off the cook time to try to keep the noodles from becoming mushy when reheated. We also found some chicken nuggets, but none that came in anything other than a plastic bag.
The fish sticks had to be cooked first, which was a little extra work, but I did all this on a day I planned to cook lunch so it didn’t require too much extra time. I just made more than what they were going to eat that day. Same with the macaroni. The nuggets were already cooked, so I didn’t do anything to them and left them frozen until I was ready to put these together.
Once the fish sticks and macaroni were done and cooled off, I divided everything into the different sections. The kids decided on a blend of their two favorites and these ended up being both fish sticks and chicken nuggets. Those went in the parallel sections and the macaroni went in the sealed off section. I did also add just a tad bit more milk in the hopes that this would stay on the creamy side.
Once these were all put together, I just popped them in the freezer. MC had one for the first time and they seem to have come out really well. Granted, these have only been in the freezer for about a week, but the plan seems to work. We still have a few bugs to work out on the cooking timing, but we got it really close with a defrost for about 45 seconds and then cooking it on high for another minute or two.
In this entire prep, I was able to recycle all the boxes and only threw away the macaroni cheese packets and the plastic chicken nugget bag. Out of that, I got 4 frozen meals and a different ratio of items for lunch for both kids that day, so a total of 6 meals. It eliminated tossing 6 plastic containers and 6 plastic films if I’d gone with the prepackaged meals instead.
Alternative to prepackaged frozen dinner/microwave meals.
- Eliminates most if not all plastic in the prepackaged meals
- Microwave, Oven, Freezer, Dishwasher Safe (minus lids on all except freezer and storage)
- Liquid tight seal on outside and between large sections
- Potential long lifespan
- These are glass, therefore breakable, but not easily (most have good warranties against breakage)
- You are limited on using and cleaning the lids because of both the plastic and the silicone.
- Recommended hand washing the lid because of the silicone seal (even needing to remove the seal to dry)
- Physical space needed to store when not in use
- Plastic lids
- Potentially shorter freezer life for meals
- Time invested in prepping the meals
This was only a test run, but my kids were suitably impressed with this. There are downsides. If you aren’t someone that does a lot of cooking, this may be too much. You CAN potentially work these up with leftovers, whether you make the food yourself or you buy from a restaurant. You just don’t have control over things like I did with the macaroni to ensure it isn’t overcooked and mushy when it is reheated unless you make it yourself. Not all foods freeze and reheat well, so it is going to be a lot of trial and error, but I really like this whole concept. There are so many different options to this and your only real limits are size (MC thought this was almost too much for a lunch) and what does well frozen and heated this way.
The only other major downside to these (and a couple of other styles of glass containers) are the way these lids are made. They are a solid unit, including the snapping flaps. The plastic is just thinner, like a score line, where it bends rather than having separate pieces connected with a hinge (my set from the other day is hinged and I like that better). I don’t think that with these it is a question of whether or not that is going to break so much as when it is going to break. You can bet I’ll still try to find a way to make those suckers work if that does happen.