As you’ve probably surmised, I collect old food. Old food packaging, and actual old food. I don’t know how this became my thing, but that’s the hand I was dealt, and tonight, I’m gonna play it.
So behold! Old junk food from my personal collection! You’ve seen a few of these things in previous articles both here and on X-E, but, well, what can I say? When you have an empty box of Oatmeal Swirlers, ya gotta brag.
From 1990, here’s one of the crown jewels of my collection. Even people who never ate Oatmeal Swirlers remember it fondly, thanks to its awesome TV commercials, which alternated between the use of a catchy jingle and the use of a goddamned anthropomorphic strawberry stickman.
If you’re too young to remember this stuff, I call bullshit, because there’s no way you could stomach me without the constant notions of “I did/saw/ate that too!” But, for the sake of argument, I’ll explain.
Oatmeal Swirlers was oatmeal with a gimmick. In addition to the everyday packets of everyday oatmeal, kids were provided with smaller packets of… uh… what can I call them? LIQUID FRUIT ROLL-UPS. Yes, liquid Fruit Roll-Ups! With those, you could literally draw on your bowls of oatmeal with a variety of fruit-flavored slimes.
If there was anything that could make oatmeal even more exciting than little dinosaur eggs that hatched into little candy dinosaurs, Oatmeal Swirlers was it. The packets of fruity goo didn’t allow for quite the same level of artistic finesse as promised by the commercials, but so long as you stuck with simple shapes, you’d finish breakfast feeling like da Vinci.
(And hey, even if your pictures came out messy, you could at least feel like Wassily Kandinsky.)
Next we have Betty Crocker’s Space Adventure Hamburger Helper mix, again from 1990. I grew up with a strong aversion to anything that turned hamburger into Not Hamburger, and it wasn’t until reading a Calvin & Hobbes strip that tackled this very subject that I saw the error of my ways.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t read that strip by 1990, so this alien pasta was willfully ignored. I’m mostly surprised that it debuted so late, because macaroni shaped like spaceships and martians seems so much more like an ‘80s event.
I’m completely in love with the box, what with its blazing blues and its Star Wars fonts and its highly editorialized renditions of Saturn. It’s exactly what I would pitch if some major food conglomerate came to me for ideas on how to sell casserole.
Betty Crocker released this in four different flavors. I have the Spaghetti Sauce version of the box, but there was also Pizza, Cheese and Beef, each with its own cover art. (I wouldn’t trade Flamingo Saturn for anything, but the Beef version’s purple space robot is a close second.)
Okay, so I don’t know exactly when this is from, but given the 40 cent price sticker, it’s at least 200 years old. To stay conservative, let’s say it’s from 1988.
Jell-O 1-2-3 has a substantial cult following online, and it’s easy to see why. Surely you’ve read recipes that promised incredible gelatin desserts with perfectly horizontal layers of toppings. They were the collective white whale of the snack kingdom, because in practice, nobody could actually do that. At least, not until Jell-O 1-2-3.
This let anyone easily create Jell-O desserts with three clearly defined layers. I’m not sure what those extra layers tasted like, but they sure looked pretty. If Instagram existed in 1988, every other photo would’ve been of this Jell-O.
Also: This box is STILL FULL. Working under the assumption that gelatin ages like wine, I’m absolutely going to make this someday. Just need to wait for the right moment. I won’t know the signs until I see them, but I imagine they might look like God’s hands surrounded by a golden glow.
I’ve written about Garfield and Friends Fruit Snacks plenty of times before, but I’m not sure any amount of times is too many times. A strong contender for Best Fruit Snacks Ever, they came in multiple flavors, and even two different types. Seen here is the “Roll-Up” style, but there were also traditional bite-sized snacks, vaguely character-shaped.
This full box is from 1989, when the Garfield and Friends cartoon pretty much ruled the Saturday morning lineup. (Here’s the thing about Garfield and Friends. Nobody ever said that it was their favorite cartoon… but it was everyone’s favorite cartoon. If you claim otherwise, that just means you haven’t seen the segment with the singing picnic ants.)
The transition from cartoon to fruit snack was utterly seamless. The boxes looked like the show, with the right shade of blue and the right kind of #BreakTheInternet cat eyes. Better still, they were freakin’ DELICIOUS.
Last and weirdest, a never-used package of Sip-a-Pop popsicle molds. Similar versions were (and still are) made by countless companies, but this marked one of the few times it was branded in a way kids would notice.
And noticing it was important, my friends. If you’ve never had a frozen Kool-Aid popsicle, HOLY GOD ARE THEY GOOD. Every kid knew that, and every kid flipped out whenever opportunity to eat one presented itself. The thing was, if your family didn’t have popsicle molds, it’s not like you were gonna remember them without outside influence. Enter SIP-A-POP — sold in supermarkets nationwide, and in can’t-miss packaging!
In the early ‘90s, Sip-a-Pop teamed with Kool-Aid directly, taping envelopes of the mixes right onto their packages. I know it’s weird to see food from another company randomly taped on a package and never once actively mentioned, but I have several Sip-a-Pop sets, and most of them have the Kool-Aid. This was no homebrew experiment.
And wow, bonus! This set came with packet of Purplesaurus Rex! Sure, it means a little less since Kraft re-released the flavor, but I still call this a big win.
Thank you for reading about old junk food! (Again!)