The Best Packaged Food from the 1980s

When it comes to food, the buzz words today are generally in the vicinity of “natural,” “fresh,” and “organic.” This movement towards real, rather than processed, food is a good thing. Foods that aren’t processed and that aren’t loaded with pesticides and preservatives are what we should be eating.

But … sometimes pre-packaged, sodium-laden, processed foods are kind of good. No, they’re not good for us, but they’re just straight-up yummy. Here’s a throwback to some of our favorite foods that couldn’t be beat in the ’80s. Which ones do you secretly (or not-so-secretly) still eat when you can?

1. Hunt’s Manwich.

Sloppy Joe’s were arguably the most fun we could have as far as dinners went in our house. We always ate them on regular hamburger buns, which means that the bottoms got soggy within seconds of spooning out the meat mixture. And when we took a bite, it all just fell out the sides, burning the sides of our mouths as it did.

2. Lunchables.

I think my parents actually thought they were sending me to school with a hardy lunch when they packed my bag with Lunchables. It was so processed, but I fully appreciated it when the company added chocolate pudding as the dessert in the package. All of my friends were so jealous.

3. Hungry-Man.

The best was obviously the fried chicken dinner. It came with mashed potatoes, corn, and that beautiful brownie that looked nothing like the package. Okay, maybe “beautiful” isn’t quite right, but it was definitely yummy. My only regret was under-cooking the meal and getting a mouthful of cold, gritty potatoes, or over-cooking it and getting a rubbery, puck-like brownie.

4. SpaghettiOs.

Since I’m Italian, SpaghettiOs actually weren’t allowed in my house, but every so often my husband reminisces about his childhood enjoying pasta and sauce from a can. Personally, I don’t get it, but I can understand nostalgia like anyone else. Uh oh, SpaghettiOs!

5. Easy Cheese.

I’m not sure that anyone actually liked the taste of Easy Cheese, but it was SO. MUCH. FUN. to squirt it out onto crackers. It was hard to get it to stick because of its funky texture, but you could hardly go to a party without finding it!

6. Fruit Roll-Ups.

Using the word “fruit” in this product is stretching it a bit, but it didn’t really matter at the time. The strawberry seeds didn’t fool anyone. Once again, my parents were happy to throw this glorified candy into my lunchbox every day, and I loved them for it. It got really fun when they started carving shapes into it and you could eat little cut-outs bit by bit.

7. Maruchan Ramen Noodle Soup.

I was always so excited to get to use the hot water tap on the big water cooler at school. I inevitably scorched my mouth after letting the noodles “cook” for the requisite 3 minutes, but I was just so impatient to get to that salty, chewy goodness. When it came to flavor, though, chicken was the only way to go. I’m not sure I ever knew someone who opted for shrimp…

8. Spam.

We didn’t do Spam in our house, but it is my understanding that families that ate Spam embraced it fully. Amazingly, the product is still sold, despite being made of cooked pork, salt, water, potato starch, sugar and sodium. Only six ingredients that are far from healthy.

9. Hot Pockets.

It’s amazing that the woman in this commercial clearly just “worked out” in her sporty top and sweat band, and is now choosing to have a Hot Pocket for dinner. This was yet another product that promised to give you second-degree burns on your tongue. An hour after eating it, your hands would blow up like balloons from all the sodium, but weren’t they good?

10. Hostess Fruit Pie.

We seriously thought we were eating a serving of fruit with this dessert. It wasn’t until I was in middle school and able to understand the nutritional information on food that I discovered that this particular item packed a whopping 19 grams of fat and nearly 500 calories.

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