YouTube is one of my most-used social media networks. I find myself on YouTube everyday watching whatever’s trending, or, simply whatever I’m interested in at the time being. Currently, I’m totally obsessed with a YouTube channel called “TheWolfePit.” Larry, your average American, blue-collar husband and father, films reviews of cheap, highly processed frozen foods. He also occasionally films recipe videos for people looking to cook hearty, delicious meals for families on a budget. All in all, his videos bring up a very important question: why is America consuming millions of frozen foods with novel-like lists of ingredients? Are fast and “cheap” meals worth all the sodium, calories, and carbs?
Larry has reviewed sausage biscuits, lasagna, eggplant parmesan, fried chicken dinners, whole racks of ribs, bread, pickled pig lips, whole cooked chickens, and just about everything else you can imagine, all of which are either frozen dinners or tightly sealed in cans. That whole chicken and bread that I mentioned earlier? Those were both canned. I don’t know how you manage to market a whole cooked chicken in a can to the public, or canned bread for that matter, but Larry has eaten and reviewed both. You name it, Larry has probably reviewed it.
When it comes to cheap, frozen dinners, Larry’s “favorite” place to stop is the Dollar Tree. Larry stops in there so often that he now calls it his “personal adult playground.” I haven’t actually been to a Dollar Tree in probably five or more years, so I can’t confirm nor deny this, but apparently everything at the Dollar Tree is a dollar. So that would mean all of the frozen dinners are no exception.
Instead of simply recommending that everyone check out his channel on YouTube (which I certainly do), I’m going to be analyzing two very important videos that he has uploaded. Both of them bring up great points about the frozen food industry and consumers. Like I asked earlier, are frozen foods worth the cost? Let’s find out.
Before anyone shames the frozen food industry, there are plenty of diamonds in the rough. Don’t believe me? Ask Larry. Our prime example is Michael Angelo’s Frozen Italian Dinners. In Larry’s video, both the eggplant parmesan and lasagna are tasted on camera and thoroughly reviewed. The list of ingredients for the two meals is surprisingly low for frozen food without any preservatives or unnecessary fillers. The lasagna has 390 calories, 740 mg of sodium, 50 g of carbohydrates, and 21 g of protein. The eggplant parmesan has 480 calories, 840 mg of sodium, 31 g of carbohydrates, and 21 g of protein. Considering one serving size is the whole tray, or 312 g if you want to be really specific, it sounds like an OK meal.
Both the lasagna and eggplant parmesan are absolutely delicious. Unlike most frozen lasagna out there, even the good ones like Stouffer’s (I know from experience), the sauce is thick and rich with tomatoes and basil. The pasta holds up well, layered with ricotta cheese and that thick, tomato sauce. Some other frozen lasagna out there are more like soup than actual pasta dishes and lack cheese. Larry gives the lasagna a 9/10.
The eggplant parmesan is out of this world, however. The sauce, just like the lasagna sauce, is perfect, the breading on the eggplant is terrific, it’s seasoned perfectly, and the eggplant is wonderfully tender. Larry explains how even some eggplant parmesan from restaurants have been “mush” compared to this cheap frozen one. I can vouch for him. I absolutely love eggplant parmesan. It’s one of my favorite Italian dinners, and if there’s a good frozen dinner version of it, I want in on it. I can’t recall the brand name, but one frozen eggplant parmesean dinner was so disgusting, so rough, so watery, it actually made me scared to eat eggplant parmesean for a long time. That was, after all, before I watched this video. Today, whenever I’m at the grocery store, I never forget to check the frozen food section in search of this dinner. At $3.33 for both dinners, you simply can’t beat that kind of value. Larry gives the eggplant parmesean his first ever 10/10.
This next video is about one dollar burger patties wrapped with bacon from the Dollar Tree. There are two patties per package for one dollar that weigh in at a quarter pound, which actually equates to those burger patties costing four dollars a pound. That seems a little pricey, considering you can buy 1 pound of fresh ground beef for that same price, or sometimes even cheaper if it’s on sale, and make your own patties. These one dollar beef patties better be really good.
The ingredients leave a lot to be desired. I don’t mean that in a “I wish there were more” way. In fact, the fewer the ingredients, the better the frozen meal tends to be. I mean that in a “I wish that more than 70% of the beef patties were actually beef.” The whole package is 30% water solution. That sure sounds yummy to me. These patties are highly processed with just about every different kind of sodium you can imagine. Each patty has 310 calories, 590 mg of sodium, just 1 g of carbohydrates, and 16 g of protein.
The patties, when cut in half, look as though they’ve been ground to “mush,” but they certainly are moist. “That’s what 30% of water will do,” Larry says. Considering just how completely ground the beef is, Larry contemplates what must be keeping the messy patties together. He says that it may be the calcium sulfate. Calcium sulfate is typically used to make Plaster of Paris. Plaster of Paris is a white, powdery substance found in moulds and casts. Take, for instance, an arm cast. The flavor was lackluster, but the texture of the patty was downright gross. It was sponge-like. It simply couldn’t compare to a fresh-made, real burger patty. The only edible part of the burger, according to Larry, was the soggy bacon. Larry gave this meal a sad 1/10.
What I love so much about these videos Larry from “TheWolfePit” shares is that so many different kinds of frozen meals are brought to light to be eaten and reviewed without any bias. Larry also takes the time to read every list of ingredients, no matter how big or small, to see exactly what he and the rest of America is eating. This raises an important question: what is America eating? To be completely honest, America is eating a lot of different meals. Not all meals are equal, though. This is especially true for frozen meals.
I decided that these two videos were two of his most important ones to date because they represent two completely different sides of the frozen food debate. The lasagna and eggplant parmesan meals were cheap, easy to make, and very delicious. The burger patties, while only a dollar per package, really aren’t much of a bargain when you consider how much a full pound of said beef patties costs. The value of that meal was horrible.
Americans today are in such a big hurry. That’s why restaurants and fast food businesses seem to be flourishing. If someone wants a burger but doesn’t have the time nor motivation to make one from scratch, what is he or she to do besides pick one up from a fast food restaurant or pick up a frozen meal from the grocery store? Fast food, just like frozen meals, have diamonds in the rough, but it simply ends up costing too much to the consumer to buy every other day. It’s also not the best for your health, to say the least. That’s where frozen meals come in. There are millions upon millions of frozen foods that are cheap and easy to make, but when we consider how much “crap” is packed into them, it stops becoming food and starts becoming a stomach-filler–something to last you a few hours and hopefully not make you feel sick. These two videos prove that there are perfectly reasonable, delicious frozen foods and equally terrible frozen foods out there.
If you can get past the constant dad-jokes, Larry’s “What are we Eating?” videos are fantastic. They’re informative, hilarious, and plan-old entertaining. Next time you go to the grocery store, try something new. Pick out a couple frozen foods–maybe ones that look good, ones that look bad, ones that are cheap, and ones that are expensive. Try them out. You may just find a diamond in the rough.