Cooking really doesn't take that long. It's the meal-planning and the meal-prepping that steals my minutes away. It's so tough to come up with 7 original dinner plans every single week...that are healthy and appealing to my whole family.
I am this close (really, really, really close) to heading out to a meal assembly kitchen in my area.
Ever heard of...
The Dinner A'Fare (AZ, CA, CO, DE, FL, GA, IN, MD, NC, NJ, PA, TN, UT, VA)
Super Suppers (30+ states)
Simply Dinners (AZ)
All three places are studio kitchens with meal prep stations complete with recipes, fresh ingredients, spices, measuring cups, and spoons.
Here's how it works: Essentially, the company pre-slices, dices, and chops everything you need. You stop in for about 2 hours, make 12 dishes, take the meals home, put them in the freezer, and then cook the dishes according to the provided directions at your leisure. At most of these type of places, the price breakdown works out to about $5-6/person. Not bad. Not bad at all for the amount of time saved - the thinking about what to cook, the grocery shopping, the dicing, the chopping, the prepping, etc.
YOUR TURN: Have you tried one of the above three kitchens or another one in your area? Share your "review"! Was the food tasty? Was the concept worth your while?
I used to go to Dinner A'Fare before Dream Dinners opened in my area. This is one thing I really miss about being a one-income family. Before I was laid off I used to go once a month in addition to grocery shopping. We really loved it.
I've done Simply Dinners twice. It was fun to go "prep" with girlfriends. I thought the food was wonderful. So much so, that I attempted to remember and write down the recipe so I could reproduce a few of my favorite meals. Looking at the portions I often thought they looked small, but once prepared we always had enough to eat...can anyone say "portion control!" haha
Personally, I can make meals for about half the price...but then again I never serve beef tenderloin.
I've done Simply dinners a few times now. It's a lot of fun actually going there and assembling the meals. And the thought of having all those meals ready to go in the freezer is always a plus. We've not been terribly impressed with the food though. The portions are quite small. And one thing that really bothers me is that they don't clean the chicken breasts (cut off the fat and clean them under running water).
All that said, it is a nice way to prepare for a baby or for a busy holiday season. Just don't set your expectations too high.
In my area, we have Dream Dinners which I have used many times in the last few years. You have the option of picking your meals when you RSVP- then you go and take two hours out of your day and prep each meal. We found the meals to be healthy, fresh and very easy to prepare. Most of the meals were equivalent to two meals for us (great for leftovers). I have nothing negative to say about it- when you add up how much time you spend planning, shopping, and prepping, the price is the same.
We got a gift certificate for Super Suppers after the arrival of our baby. Even though a couple of the chicken entrees were good, the salmon and beef entrees were bland. The servings were very small. You have to defrost them, then you cook the meat, heat up the sauce, and put everything together. I think I still prefer the old fashioned way when the neighbors drop off a casserole at your house.
Yes I actually tried out My Girlfriend's Kitchen (which is now a Dinner A'fare) before I had my daughter. My hubby doesn't cook and I didn't know how much energy I would have. I will definitely do it again before having my next child but it's probably not something I would do often due to the price. I can make things cheaper. But most of the food we liked and it was so nice to know I had those 12 meals in the freezer ready to go. I went with a girlfriend to assemble which also made it even more fun.
I've heard of Simply Dinners, and I've gone so far as to choose what I would go and prepare to bring home if I were to do it, but then I couldn't really justify it in my budget. I still think of doing it every so often, though. If you decide to go, let me know and maybe I'll head on out with you. We'll make it a dinner date. ;)