The concept of the ready meal grew from the frozen food products arriving on the market during the 1950s. As the ownership of fridges and freezers increased throughout the 1960s, so did the range and use of these convenient meals ‘ready for the oven’. The popular Vesta products did not need to be frozen, being made from sachets of dried ingredients. Chilled cabinets provided more choice for food such as pre-packed pizza in the 1970s.
The name ‘TV dinner’ came from the brand of packaged meal developed in 1953 by C.A. Swanson & Sons – its full name was ‘TV Brand Frozen Dinner’. This TV dinner came in an aluminium tray and was heated in an oven.
It took some time before the ready meal took off elsewhere. This was largely because domestic freezers did not become the norm until the late 1960s. But also because people worked longer hours and convenience food became more desirable. The ultimate convenience meal came in the 1980s with the introduction of the microwave oven.


  • Title: Pre-packaged Ready Meals
  • Type: Food container
  • Rights: Robert Opie Collection

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