I Cooked Like a 1980s Mom for a Week. Here’s What Happened.

Like many of you, I was a child in the 1980s. Beyond the fashion, the '80s weren't so different from today!

The 1980s were a decade of quick and easy meals made with a hand from Hamburger Helper. With both parents working outside the home, a kitchen in the ’80s was more hectic than decades past! Typically, 1980s recipes had to help Mom get a meal on the table quickly or be easy enough for “latchkey kids” to cook.

I was a child in the 1980s and when I really think about it, 1980s recipes weren’t so different from today’s. To test my theory, I put on a Working Girl-inspired suit and cooked like an ’80s mom for a week. Here’s what I learned:

1. Crock-Pot Is the Busy Mom’s Best Friend

The original Crock-Pot was invented back in the 1940s, but slow cookers became increasingly popular in the ’80s. In fact, many 1980s recipes required a slow cooker. I made a pot roast in mine this week, something that I often had as a child. With the convenience of having a protein, vegetable and starch cooked while you’re at work, it’s a perfect family meal.

2. Mac and Cheese Is Sure to Please

Like the kids I knew in the 1980s, my daughter is a mac and cheese addict. When I was her age, I was all about the Kraft Mac & Cheese. Kraft introduced its boxed macaroni and cheese in 1937, but thanks to marketing and catchy ads, the blue box could be found in almost any pantry in the ’80s. (See how much a box of Kraft used to cost.) I made a box for my family this week—I forgot how delicious it is!

Buy Kraft Macaroni & Cheese for nostalgia’s sake.

3. Kids Love Microwave Meals

Though I leave frozen meals for my husband when I travel, frozen food isn’t something I typically do. But when talking to other kids of the ’80s, they all remembered coming home to watch the Afterschool Special (whatever happened to that?) and making a TV dinner in the microwave.

For dinner one night, I decided to shop in the freezer section for TV meals. Though I was less than pleased, my daughter LOVED her chicken nuggets, and they heated up very quickly. Next time I cook in the microwave, I hope it’s one of these recipes.

4. Moms Need to Make Quick Breakfasts

Like a family with two working parents in the ’80s, we’re usually in a hurry in the morning! Though I tend to favor bagels and casseroles for a quick breakfast, ’80s kids wanted cereal in the morning. (Here’s why.) I opted for oatmeal instead of the more sugary options. It’s quick, healthy and filling, too.

Like I thought, moms of the ’80s weren’t so different from moms today. We’re all hoping to put a healthy(ish) meal on the table that our family will eat, while juggling a million other things. Though we may favor Instant Pots over Crock-Pots and rely on more on takeout, we’re still making sure everyone is fed at the end of the day!

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Julia K. Porter
Dr. Julia Porter began her career as a high school English teacher in Brooklyn, NY and has taught college courses since 2008. Her personal interests include reading, writing, traveling and experiencing new cultures. She lives in Indiana with her husband, daughter and a rambunctious Australian Shepherd.