Welcome to Tuesday Travels, a summertime series at Traveling with Baby. This season, my son and I are excited about sharing some local daytrips and field trip ideas for families with little ones. This weekly series will also feature travel tips for families with kids-in-tow and related product reviews and giveaways. I enjoy hearing about your traveling adventures, too. If you have an idea for Tuesday Travels, please e-mail me: drgarnecki[at]gmail[dot]com.
We just had a scrumptious dinner of chicken breasts with blackberry basalmic sauce and baby roasted potatoes. Dinner preparation took me a total of 15 minutes. Usually, the menu planning, grocery shopping, washing, dicing, and chopping alone can easily take up to 1-2 hours at a time. Tonight’s meal was pre-made on a weekend morning at Dream Dinners, the original fix-and-freeze meal preparation franchise.
I went on a Saturday morning to the location in Short Pump which is an hour away from my town. I pre-ordered the two meals I was going to prepare that morning: blackberry basalmic chicken and steak gorgonzola.
When I arrived, I washed my hands, donned an apron, and I was directed to the station for my meal preparation. The ingredients are already chopped, sliced, and diced in advance. I just needed to follow directions and add measured amounts to a re-sealable plastic bag. Some of the meals other customers prepared were saved in oven-ready aluminum pans.
My second meal was already ready to go as part of the “Fast Lane” menu. This was unlike any other fast food lane that I’d been through: prepackaged and frozen steaks, a separate bag for marinade, and a container with butter and gorgonzola cheese. All I needed was a cooler to keep my meals cool and frozen for the transport home.
While I was there, I met a woman who drove two hours from Norfolk, Virginia to prepare 20 meals to use over the course of the next two months. She had been using Dream Dinners for a couple of years and she loved the time-saving and economic benefit to her family. She said her husband loved the tasty meals from Dream Dinners, and they both liked the economical approach in that the meals prevented them from resorting to pizza or take-out throughout the week.
Dream Dinners preparation can take the first timer up to two hours, but veterans get faster at the routine and can whip up 12 dinners in about 30 minutes. When getting ready to eat, some meals require thaw time before marinading and then baking, sauteeing, or grilling. Others are ready to go straight from the freezer into the oven.
Each month’s meals are coded for grill, vegetarian options, and the Heart Healthy line which is recommended by the Hope Heart Institute. I love how their website features weight loss testimonials for customers who’ve used the Heart Healthy meals.
I’d love to continue the no-fuss meal preparation once a month in order to have 12 hand-crafted meals freezer-ready 3 nights a week. However, I see some very creative ways to make Dream Dinners a family life-saver:
- Moving Day: gotta clean out the old fridge and many things are perishable. Save a few Dream Dinners to use in your new home to break in the oven and take a break from unpacking.
- Post-vacation homecoming: the fridge is bare after a long trip. The last thing you want to think about besides tracking down your lost luggage is what you need to buy at the store to make a week’s worth of meals.
- Ill family member, especially if that member is the chief family chef: in the unfortunate event that someone has an extended hospital stay or is ill at home, it would be great to have the family’s eating plans covered without resorting to take-out.
- New baby: I can think of no better gift to a new mom than the blessing of prepared meals. If mom can do some prep work in advance at Dream Dinners, she can rest easy with baby while Dad handles the no sweat work of pre-heating the oven.
- Entertaining: usually the point of having company is enjoying conversation. Most of the time, I find myself fluttering about all day with meal preparation that I’m pretty worn out by the time our guests arrive. Next time we host a big shindig, I’m stocking up on Dream Dinners to make my life easier–and to keep food costs down to an affordable amount.
What’s in a Serving?
A minimum order for a Dream Dinners session is 36 servings. Meals can be prepared in quantities of 3 or 6 servings. A serving does not necessarily mean one person. A family of 4 that has one or two people with heartier appetites may do well with a 6-servings dinner. Where a couple and a small child may do fine with 3-servings per dinner.
My husband is an arborist, and he burns a lot of calories, so he also requires a lot of calories. He’s comfortable with two of the Dream Dinners servings where I am fine with just one. Our son has a very healthy appetite, and he can also eat an entire serving. A 6-servings dinner plus one or two side dishes is a great dinner for our family, and it provides leftovers for lunch or partial contribution to another evening’s dinner.
Nutrition at Your Fingertips
Each month’s menu also has a nutritional information chart available with calories, fat, cholesterol, carbs, fiber, sugars, protein, and sodium quantities per serving.
You can customize as needed. If some meals include mushrooms, and you have several family members with mushroom aversion, just void them from your meal preparation. The same goes for any particular ingredient if you’re concerned with special dietary restrictions.
Save time and cash in your wallet
The cost per serving varied from $3 – $6. Overall, Dream Dinners is less expensive than going to a restaurant or ordering take-out. Plus, you know exactly what ingredients go into each meal.
The time saved by preparing the meals in advance once a month is worth it to me to spend more time enjoying a meal with my family than having a fussy toddler tugging on my leg while I’m working in the kitchen for a homemade dinner made from scratch. If you add in saving gas money due to less frequent trips to the grocery store, we definitely come out ahead on the monthly food budget.
Visit Dream Dinners site to find a location near you. Check out their Father’s Day Feast (for 8 servings) for Dad’s special Day.
All new customers to Dream Dinners can receive $25 off their first order with coupon code DDNC12209. That savings is equivalent to two meals with 3 servings!