Update September 27, 2013 – After three years and 45 comments, most of which are now calls to bring these meals back, I’m closing comments simply because ConAgra no longer seems to be paying attention anyway. Sorry folks, we did what we could. Your best bet would probably be the Fix-It and Forget-It Big Cookbook by Phyllis Pellman Good.
Update October 24, 2010 – I’ve received an answer from ConAgra Consumer Affairs about why these products can no longer be found. You can read their email about the end of these product lines by clicking here.
I lifted these pics from the Food Revolution blog. Hopefully they don’t mind. I was going to shoot pics of my own, but then the following thing happened …
I love cooking in a crock pot. I love it so much I’ve actually burnt out our best crock pot, possibly from overuse. (It had a cooking timing computer in it, and you know how persnickity computers can be.) In a pinch, I’ve had a habit of using one of the frozen crock pot meals from either Banquet or Marie Callender’s. When we bought that computerized crock pot there was actually a coupon with it for the Banquet meals. Still, we really like Chicken & Dumplings and had found the Marie Callender’s brand to be the best of the two.
At Mary’s job they have a group of folks they call their Lunch Bunch. The staff are assigned to individual “bunches” who eat lunch together every day in order to build staff relationships. Each Wednesday one of the staff members is scheduled to bring lunch in for everyone else. They try to rotate through the members, and each member tries not to cook what someone else has brought in for that group. Crock pots work well for this kind of thing, and it’s really alright if something starts out as frozen as long as it’s good.
Mary’s day to bring lunch in is tomorrow. Since I was already headed out today she asked if I would pick up a couple bags of the frozen crock pot meals. I decided on our fave, the Marie Callender Chicken & Dumplings.
Coming into Monroe County I headed to the Kroger in Dundee, Michigan, on M-50, picked up some strawberries and chocolate chips to melt for dipping, and headed to frozen foods.
After about 5 minutes of looking in every window I stopped and looked around. I must have missed them.
A little more slowly, I went through again. Nothing.
I asked a couple workers. One headed off to the bagged frozen foods section and the other told me to follow her. I did … and she couldn’t find them either.
A little pissed at Kroger (where I normally shop and had always bought the crock pot meals) I headed into Monroe. Heading north on Dixie Highway I stopped into Food Town where I thought the meals would be a quick purchase.
I was wrong. They weren’t there.
What the Hell?
I got back in the van and headed to Michigan-based Meijer. My oldest stepson Caleb (sitting across from me as I write this) works in frozen foods at the distribution warehouse. He wouldn’t let me down.
Standing in the middle of the frozen food aisles after making three trips around, I was dumbfounded.
With the advice from a worker on the floor I picked up the red phone and got Dennis, a grocery manager. I explained the dilemma and he said he’d be down. As I hung up the phone a gal (I didn’t catch her name) offered to help. We went back to the freezer cases where we met up with Dennis, and we all looked again.
Now there were two grocery managers scratching their heads too. And I was having a WTF afternoon.
I headed across the street to GFS Marketplace and solved the problem: I’ll cook off a 5-lb foodservice tray of Homestyle Chicken & Dumplings this evening. I can then dump this in the crock pot in the morning for Mary to take to work for her Lunch Bunch.
Now, check this out …
First off, I never knew both were owned by ConAgra.
At the moment, the paragraphs at the top of the Marie Callender’s page still shows “easy Crock-Pot® Meals”. However, there isn’t a single one in the list of 80 products. Go ahead. Search the page. They’re not there.
On the Banquet page both the Beef Pot Roast and Chicken & Dumplings are listed. However, try out the “Find Product At Store” link. For me, there are three stores within 25 miles for the Beef Pot Roast, and 5 stores within 25 miles for the Chicken & Dumplings … which aren’t as good as the Marie Callender’s, which is probably why they’re still out there for now. Still, it says they’re available at the Meijer on Alexis Rd. in north Toledo. I made the 7 mile drive and found nothing.
In this ConAgra news release from March 25, 2005 we find the following statements:
Sales for the new product Banquet Crock-Pot Classics, a complete frozen meal designed specifically for Crock Pots(TM), remain strong and are on track to approach $100 million of sales annually.
In another ConAgra press release from May 8, 2006 we find this:
Marie Callender’s(R) Crock-Pot Meals & Soups make the warmth and comfort of grandma’s slow cooking easy for everyday meals. Nearly half of all Americans (43 percent) list crock pots as a kitchen tool they rely on for simplifying meal preparation, as hearty, savory crock-pot meals remove the need for cooking time and give consumers time to enjoy themselves and their families …
Apparently there are no press releases regarding the products’ demise.
Ok, here’s a question for ConAgra …