This post is sponsored by Dream Dinners. All opinions are my own.
One little nagging question has become the bain of my existence ever since I got married and had children:
“What’s for dinner?”
You and I both know there’s a lot packed into that simple, innocent inquiry: What meals did you plan for this week? What ingredients did you buy at the grocery store in preparation for those meals? When are you going to start chopping, slicing, marinating, baking, grilling? What flavorful combination of foods will nourish our bodies and delight our senses tonight as we gather ’round the table for conversation as a family unit? Uhhhhh….
Attempting to come up with answers for the inevitable mealtime query usually exhausted and overwhelmed me (not to mention, left me wondering “Why does everyone assume this is up to me?!”) Over the years, I tried many different solutions: meal-planning apps, quick-and-easy recipe books, Excel spreadsheets, crock pot cooking, a dedicated grocery day, cooking in bulk, prep-and-freeze “parties,” gourmet online ordering services … the list goes on.
It turns out, there’s only one answer to the “What’s for dinner?” question that’s been a pretty perfect fit for me and my family: Dream Dinners.
How Dream Dinners works
I was first introduced to the innovative concept of Dream Dinners a few years ago, and experiencing it was like heavenly light beaming down on me through the parting clouds. Originally conceived by two working moms (of course!), the idea is to take all the time-consuming, stressful menu planning, shopping, prep-work, and cleanup off my plate, so to speak. How? By moving the meal assembly process out of my kitchen and into specially equipped stores.
Instead of scouring Pinterest or magazines for recipe ideas, I can preview a changing monthly menu online at dreamdinners.com and select our dinners from a menu featuring up to 17 items (depending on location) such as Steak Gorgonzola, Penne with Chicken and Peanut Sauce, and Firehouse Three Cheese Pasta with Meatballs.
I have a choice of assembling 3-serving or 6-serving dinners, in any combination that works best for us. With four of us, including one very picky little boy, I usually go with the 3-serving size. At least our 11-year-old thoroughly enjoys the variety and tastes of the meals we serve.
Once I’ve picked our meals for the month, I just register to attend a meal assembly session at my local Dream Dinners store location, and pay ahead online.
When it’s time for my session, I bring a couple of soft-sided coolers with me to the Dream Dinners store. The nicest, most helpful staff you’ll ever meet is there to greet me, guiding me through the in’s and out’s (their help is most important your first time around, less so as you get accustomed to how everything works). At the store, I pop around to various refrigerated recipe stations, scooping prepped ingredients into the provided baking pans or gallon-sized, zip-top bags. They even have labels with the appropriate cooking instructions all ready to slip into the bags.
After this one-hour assembly session, I take my 12+ uncooked dinners home in my coolers and freeze them. (You read that right: One hour, 12 or more meals. Let that sink in.) Whenever we want to have a Dream Dinners meal, one of us takes a bag from the freezer and thaws it in the refrigerator to cook in the next day or two.
What do I get out of Dream Dinners?
You know that immense feeling of satisfaction you get when, say, your house is sparkling and spotless from top to bottom? Or every member of your household has drawers and closets filled with clean, folded laundry? That’s how I feel every time I come home from Dream Dinners and immediately pack our freezer full of all those delicious, prepped-and-ready-to-cook meals. Knowing I don’t have to worry about planning, shopping, or prepping dinner for the rest of the month (more or less)? Truly priceless.
The benefits of Dream Dinners are many-splendored thing: I save hours of time (my most precious non-renewable resource). I save our hard-earned money, since Dream Dinners buys food in bulk and passes the savings on to me. As a family, we all eat healthier, because unlike those last-minute, fast-food drive-through choices, Dream Dinners uses low and no-fat options wherever possible, without compromising on taste. (And they do. Taste. So. Good.)
Finally, I feel good knowing I’m providing our kids with developmental benefits at dinnertime. Studies show that when mealtime is made a priority, children benefit. Results reported include greater academic achievement, healthier eating habits, and better conversation skills. I know I feel closer to my family when we regularly sit down together for a nice, hot meal.
Want to learn more about Dream Dinners?
Founded in 2002, Dream Dinners’ mission is to grow great kids by promoting the family dinner. Dream Dinners wants to strengthen American families by bringing the homemade meal back to the dinner table. Guests choose from seasonal, rotating monthly menus and prepare their dinners in-store without the hassle of planning, shopping, and chopping. Dream Dinners lays out the ingredients in an easy-to-follow format so guests can assemble a month’s worth of meals in about an hour. A pioneer and leader of the meal assembly industry, Dream Dinners brings Homemade, Made Easy to local communities through its 86 retail locations in 25 states. Visit their website to find a Dream Dinners location near you and see if they’re the right answer to your dinnertime conundrum.