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Monday, October 30, 2006

The Dream Dinners Experience

As I mentioned previously, I wanted to check out Dream Dinners to see if their frozen dinners are any good. So my brother-in-law, Eric, and I went to pre-paid our session this past weekend and each put together three meals.

The set-up is fairly simple. You are given labels for your meals, so you know what you are preparing. You then find the station for each meal you’ve selected and follow the directions at each station for assembling the meal. Eric and I selected different meals, which meant that we were at separate stations assembling our dinners. If you’re hoping to chit-chat with someone while you’re there, I recommend selecting the same meals so you can work at the same station at the same time. I also found that meals that are stored in zip-top bags were much faster to put together than meals that are stored in baking pans.

Our session was at 1:00 p.m., but since I hadn’t eaten lunch, I was disappointed that there were no appetizers out as the notice I had received after registering had stated there would be. The only refreshments offered were water and coffee. I suspect they might be more generous with the appetizers at their evening sessions.

It took me almost an hour to assemble three meals, or 18 servings, although I had been informed that it usually takes an hour to assemble 36 meals and two hours to assemble 72 meals. I suspect I took longer than the estimate because it was my first time and also because I selected the calzones and enchiladas, both of which seemed to take longer to assemble than most of the other meals.

As I stated in my earlier post, the introductory cost for 18 servings was $49.50, or $2.75 per meal. Future sessions will cost $4 to $6 per meal ($4 to $5 if ordering 72 or more servings and $5 to $6 if ordering less than 72 servings; there is a minimum requirement of 36 servings). That is more in line with how much it costs me to cook from scratch, so future savings would be more about time than money. There is also the question of quality, since I prefer to use organic produce, hormone and antibiotic-free meat and dairy products, and whole-grain products whenever possible. Many of the products that went into each meal at Dream Dinners were unlabeled, but based on appearance, I would say they were of decent restaurant quality but not of the same quality I would have in my own kitchen.

We plan to have one or two of the meals I brought home for dinner this week, so I’ll report back soon on the most important thing of all - taste. And I’ll have a final verdict as to whether I think a second, full-price session is worth the convenience.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Dream Dinners Preview

It's been over a year since I first heard about Dream Dinners, a company that provides all the components of a main dish that you assemble at their site, take home and freeze. At a later time, you prepare the dish according to the directions provided, add a side dish, and voilá, dinner is served.

I was intrigued but skeptical of the quality of the food. My interest was heightened a few months later when I saw a story about the founders and the creation of Dream Dinners on the Food Network show, Recipe for Success. I thought the founders came across as likeable and committed to providing a quality product, but I finally decided I would be willing to give Dream Dinners a try after reading the October issue of Health magazine. The magazine's food editor tried out Super Suppers, a company similar to Dream Dinners, but her comments left me with the impression that Dream Dinners offered higher quality meals.

Finally, my brother-in-law expressed interest in Dream Dinners so we registered for a session at the end of this month. There was an introductory offer of 18 meals (3 different meals, each serving 6) for $49.50, which works out to $2.75 per meal. That's actually cheaper than a lot of the meals I make from scratch, although I use antibiotic and hormone-free meat and dairy products and organic produce whenever possible. If Marc and I decide we like the food, we will probably buy a full session (36 meals) before the baby is born, since frozen meals will be super handy in the first few months of caring for a newborn, and I really don't have the time to prepare too many freezer meals from scratch anymore. I'll let you know the verdict after we've tried the meals I'll be bringing home in a couple of weeks.

A few notes about Dream Dinners:

  • According to their website, the meals will keep 3 to 5 months in the freezer.
  • You cannot bring children under the age of 12 with you.
  • A 36-meal session will take about one hour to assemble.
  • The menu changes each month and appears to be seasonal with a decent variety of choices.

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Adventures In (Not) Sleeping

I haven't been able to post much since Alex decided last weekend that he'd had enough of his crib and learned to climb out. It came as a shock since he's just 18 months old and didn't seem like he could get his leg over the side - but he definitely can! Based on books I had read, particularly The Baby Whisperer, we had intended to wait until Alex was at least two years old to make the transition to a bed, but the fear of him hurting himself as he climbed out of his crib compelled us to convert his crib to a daybed (or youth bed, as the manufacturer calls it). I even posted in the past about using a "Big Kid Diploma" to ease the transition to a bed, but alas, Alex is too young to understand the concept.

Alex's age has made the transition a tough one. He has been getting up in the middle of the night and staying awake for one to two hours, during which either Marc or I have also been up to keep him in his bed and encourage him to go back to sleep. Most of the articles I've found seem geared toward children older than Alex with better comprehension skills. We definitely considered the idea of putting up a gate at the door to his room but finally decided against the inevitability of him standing there, crying at the top of his lungs until he throws up - or quite possibly simply climbing over the gate.

I can only hope that by the time our second baby is born, Alex will be sleeping through the night again. And count my blessings that at least this happened while we still have some time to make the adjustment, rather than right before the baby was born.

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