home meal replacement
n. A full, cooked meal purchased at a grocery store or other food outlet.
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In a feverish economy, more New Yorkers are working longer hours than ever, and their numbers include a growing population of mothers who used to stay home and tend the stove. Combine that with the soaring incomes, minuscule kitchens and a passion for all things quick and convenient that are distinctively New York, and it's easy to see why so many residents, especially in Manhattan, are addicted to home meal replacements, or H.M.R.'s, as they're called in the food service industry.
—David Kirby, “The Unlit Stove,” The New York Times, November 29, 2000
1993 (earliest)
'The trend includes an increase in chicken consumption, time constraints on the family because both spouses work and a market we call home meal replacement,' said Stephens. In short, it's easier to buy a roasted chicken on the way home from work than to cook it from scratch.
—-David Young, “Rotisserie Fare In Fine Feather,” Chicago Tribune, November 15, 1993
Anatomy of a fad: The usage statistics for the phrase home meal replacement (or home-meal replacement) show an interesting trend in the Nexis database of newspapers and magazines. Here are the numbers:

1993 - 1 citation
1994 - 33
1995 - 157
1996 - 654
1997 - 1,498
1998 - 1,373
1999 - 901
2000 - 504

After peaking quickly in 1997, the numbers have fallen off rather dramatically. This tells us that the press is less interested in home-meal replacements, but it doesn't necessarily mean that these meals are no longer popular. In fact, I read one report that predicted a U.S.$170 billion market for HMRs by 2005. My guess is that the home meal replacement is now such an integral part of peoples' lives that there's no point talking about it anymore. (Now if we could only somehow convince the press to stop talking about "Survivor"…)
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