A few weeks ago, I met up with some local bloggers (turned real-life friends) for a meal-making session at Time for Dinner. Have you all heard of this place? It's a local spot where you can choose entrees/desserts from a menu, then go in and prepare freezer meals for your family. With 4 out of the 6 bloggers present being pregnant and the other two with toddlers at home, having easy, delicious, healthy premade meals was something we were all interested in.
How it works: Each month Time for Dinner posts a new menu online. They usually have around 12-15 savory entree items and 1 amazing dessert option. The entrees are everything from burritos to casserole, quiches, soups, sandwiches, wraps, pastas and salads. They include fish, chicken, beef, pork and vegetarian meals. Most people choose to make between 6-12 dishes during their sessions. Each dish makes 6 servings (and is usually broken into two separate meals) and the cost of 6 dishes (or 12 meals) is $125.
At the beginning of your session, the staff will print out a list of the dishes you pre-ordered and assign you a shelf in the fridge where you can store your dishes once they're put made. At the end of the session, you take all your food home (preferably in a cooler if you didn't forget it, which of course I did) and put it directly in the freezer. Viola!
How you make the meals: Each available dish will have it's own station (or two), already set-up, organized and ready for you. The station has the "recipe" and instructions printed and laminated, so you know exactly what to do. All the ingredients you'll need are arranged (in order from left to right) on the table in front of you, with the correct measuring device already there.
All you have to do is wash your hands, grab your protein from the fridge and get started. All the recipes are made in big Ziplock bags or metal trays, with labels stating the name of the dish and giving cooking instructions, nutritional information and side dish suggestions. There's a separate date label to use so you know when the meal was prepared/frozen.
Making the meals at the stations is pretty easy. It does take a bit of concentration, but if you can read and follow directions, you can do this no problem. I've seen lots of parents bring in their kids and have them make the meals, which seems to be a great way to teach them skills regarding reading, following directions, measuring/math, etc.
Socializing: The stations are set-up in a way that encourages you to interact with the other meal-makers, making it a great place to go with friends. They even allow you to bring in snacks and wine/beverages to enjoy while you're making your meals.
Customizing: One of my favorite things about Time for Dinner is that they encourage you to make the recipe your own. They give you the basic recipe, but they also allow you to switch things up to your liking. If you don't like a particular spice/ingredient, leave it out. If you're a huge fan of spicy food, add a bit of extra spice for an additional kick.
Nutrition: Time for Dinner is also (what my Weight Watcher instructor mother-in-law calls) "Weight Watcher Friendly," in that they offer healthy choices, small portions and give all the nutritional information (and WW point values) on the labels. There are always healthy meal choices available and vegetarian options.
To Go Options: If you don't want to go in and make your own meals, they also have premade "freezer meals" and "To Go" menu items that you can pick up anytime. These include not only the entrees, but appetizers, dips, side dishes, soups, veggies, breads and desserts. These are slightly more expensive than making them yourself, but are perfect to get for dinner tonight or take to a new-mom friend.
My husband and I are big fans of the meals. Out of probably 40 different meals we've tried, I think there has only been one that we weren't crazy about. We have a big deep freeze in our basement and I'm currently trying to get it completely stocked with easy, healthy premade meals for when the baby arrives. These meals are so simple - most of the time they just require you to pull them out of the freezer the night before to thaw, then pop in the oven for 20-30 minutes. Paired with some veggies, a salad or rice and you've got a meal - perfect for new moms.
New Mom Program: If you're interested, they also have a program for new moms where you can pick up the premade freezer meals for the same price as making them yourself for the first three months after having the baby. I love making the food myself, but I fully intend to take advantage of this once Mim arrives this summer.
Chicken cordon bleu.
Liz: Ellie & Addie
Alyssa: My Husband's Watching TV
Liz: But...Will There Be Cake?
Dacy: Mindful Closet
If you're in STL, check out Time for Dinner in Brentwood.
Have you ever done anything like this where you make meals ahead of time?
*I was not compensated in any way for this post and paid full-price for all my meals. All opinions of (and love for) Time for Dinner are my own, based on my experience.