Here's a great reason to to heat and eat tonight. Today (September 10) is National TV Dinner Day. It's not entirely clear who actually can claim credit for inventing TV dinners, but it was a 1954 advertising campaign that made them popular.

The classic Swanson's commercial reminds us of the the days before microwave ovens when TV dinners came in foil containers and had to be cooked in a conventional oven.

Some may credit Clarence Birdseye with inventing frozen meals. He developed a system of packing and flash-freezing fresh food back in 1923. By 1949, Albert and Meyer Bernstein were selling frozen dinners on compartmentalized aluminum trays in the Pittsburgh area. But it was Swanson's massive 1954 advertising campaign that sealed the deal on TV dinners for consumers.

Swanson's development of the TV dinner was born more out of necessity than anything. The food company had over 200 tons of turkey left over after Thanksgiving and needed a way to get consumers to buy it.

The company copied the food trays used by Pan American Airlines and filled them with turkey, cornbread stuffing, sweet potatoes and peas.

Swanson then went on a huge television advertising blitz to sell consumers on the idea of a convenient prepackaged meal. The advertising worked and they sold 25 million TV dinners the first year.

The TV dinner has come a long way since 1954, helped by the proliferation of microwave ovens which makes preparing convenience foods like TV dinners even faster and easier.

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