Monday, August 10, 2009

Meal Preparation Stores

okay.. here goes. I have a confession. This is NOT something I would normally condone as "saving" money. I know that if I set my mind to it, got organized and cooked these meals at home myself that I would probably be able to do it for less than half the cost.... here goes.

I'm addicted to a meal preparation service.

It started quite innocent actually. My sister works 12 hour shifts and wanted to make sure her kids were eating healthy when she wasn't home early enough to cook for them. She wanted something that she could take out the day before to thaw and that her older son could make for his little brother without burning down the house. She then found meal preparation services!! Since then she has changed the company she goes to, however, the idea is the same and she walks out with 12 family sized meals each with 6 portions.. so 72 meals in all. Each serving comes out roughly to 2.78, I know we super couponers can get most of the ingredients to make these type meals for less.. I am sure of it.

As you may have noticed I haven't been posting my hounds recently. I just don't have the time or energy to hound much and when I do, I have no time to blog them. Instead I've sorta changed my blog.

anyhooo.. last week I finally broke down (after deciding to have the same meal I've cooked 4 times already this month) and checked out the website for the store my sister goes to. After reviewing their site and a few sites for other stores in my area, I found that this store has the best deal. One set price AND they give you sides for free. They are included. Other places they were not.
SIMPLY HOMEMADE My husband decided to go with me at the last minute and it was actually like a date! It was really cool. Since we went together, the 2 hour window in which it normally takes to make all 12 meals took only 45 minutes. It was so much fun. Each of our 12 meals is actually 6 portions so really we got 72 meals put together in under 45 minutes. No chopping, no cutting, no dirty dishes. Everything in Ziplock bags and in my freezer in an hour.

Here is how it basically works (at this store anyway). You walk in, wash your hands, put your hair up, get a drink if you would like, get an apron then go from station to station building your meals. Each station has a full letter size recipe cards that have dummy proof instructions such as: open lower refrigerator and get small ziplock bag of grapes. Umm yeah I can do this. Any seasoning or ingredient has the correct measuring cup/spoon already sitting IN IT, ready waiting for you. All you have to do is follow the directions!! The best part is you can choose how much onion or pepper to put in your meal. Great recipes too.

Since I went I've been researching other stores in my area, I've found MINDFUL MEALS that even allows you to upgrade to Organic meats. I really like this store because you can order as little as 6 meals but everything is individually priced. Also the prices are a little higher per meal than Simply Homemade and it's a farther drive from my house. On the flip side, on their home page they advertise "Grab and Go"meals that are lower priced. That would be great when you are on your way home from work and just don't feel like cooking. Instead of pizza, it would be a healthy meal.

I think DINNER BY DESIGN is the most popular in our area, it was the only one I had heard before I went myself. They offer coupons in the Entertainment book and are located in other areas/states other than the greater Chicagoland area. I did meet a lady at Simply Homemade who was preparing her meals at a station next to me. She told me she started going to Dinner by Design years ago, but she had switched simply because Simply Homemade gives the sides for free. Less to think about and more food for the same price. Makes sense to me.

This store GOURMET IN A DAY only has 1 store in the Chicago area, however, they are offering free preparation this month. Meaning you can stop in and pick up your meals already prepared. I really like preparing mine, but hey.. to each their own summer is a busy time of year.

Some of these stores offer free desserts, delivery, free extras if you host a party there.. a party? yeah a party.. almost like a tupperware party or a tastefully simple party only your guests sign up for their meals and pay before the party. You show up with drinks and music and prepare meals together. Sounds fun to me.

Check out a few of the stores in your area HERE

Okay so as I said, I don't think this is super cost effective versus when I am hounding and eating out of my stockpile for super cheap and free... BUT my husband and I went out for dinner a few weekends ago and got burritos. Our bill? $52 for 2 people!! yes, between drinks, dessert, and tip we spent $52. Total insanity. So paying $204 for 72 meals is cheap in comparison. In telling other people about this they figure that I will save on time with grocery shopping and dishes, money on wasted food I'll never eat, and peace of mind that we are eating healthier.

Let me know what you think, have you tried one of these stores in your area? Any tips?


Anonymous said...

We dont have any of these services in our small area but it seems like a good deal if you end up eating out a lot normally. Its probably not something I would do monthly but sounds nice when you are tired of eating the same recipes over and over again and are tempted to buy other items which are more expensive anyways.
204 divided by 72 meals is less then 3.00 a meal and for 2 people that a month of food. So not bad at all

Gourmet Goddess said...

Most people think that this type of service is only for the rich but it's not when you factor in:
1- the cost of groceries,
2 - the meal planning (minimum 1 hour unless you want to eat the same thing every week)
3 - the time it takes to do the shopping (let's assume 1 hour at $10 plus driving time plus loading and unloading of vehicle)
4 - then the washing all the vegetables and chopping, (another hour)
5 - then the actual assembling and cooking time (1-2 more hours and maybe more depending on how many dishes you are making)
So that's already $60 a week in valuable time so really it is worth to leave someone else to organize it for you.

I have started a meal delivery service in Winnipeg, Canada along the same lines. We actually do all the shopping, chopping and dropping it off! This is a great stress-free way to fill your freezer and always have something to eat. Check us out at

Annie's Antics :-) said...

Hmm, I think this sounds like a good idea because we're a family of two (myself and a Kindergartener). I'll be going back to work soon and I'm sure I'll be too tired (and/or lazy!) to prepare a meal every night. This would fit into the budget very well considering it'd feed us for a month and I can use my hounding stuff for breakfast, lunch, and snacks :) Thanks for the idea!!

Anonymous said...

Hey I saw this while surfing for deals...and thought it might be something that you might like to get involved in!

Keep up the great work, I love your posts!!


Deb said...

Thanks for the info. I actually live within 10 minutes of one of these and didn't know it was there. We also have Dream Dinners and Victoria's Kitchen nearby. I have thought about doing it but most of the menus that I have seen didn't have enough variety of foods that we would eat. I will definately check that out because as a family of two we could make it last more than for 12 meals.

Deb said...

Oh yea, and another advantage would be that my husband should be able to figure out how to stick cook these pretty easily! :) He rarely cooks except for reheating things.

Renee said...

The meal preparation stores in my area went out of business, so I replicate this at my home. I buy foil pans and lids, plastic bags and use recipes from Kraft Food and Family and cookbooks. I prepare the meals once every two weeks and freeze the meals for the second week. When my local grocery stores have sales on meat and chicken, I buy it and freeze it for future meals. My cost savings has been significant - I spend about half of what I used to at the meal preparation sites. My family helps me prepare and it takes us about 1 hour every two weeks. For us, it's the way to go.

Renee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I used Super Suppers for quite a while until they went out of business. I was so excited to find that they changed their name and are still preparing meals, now called prep chefs. I had my first set of meals delivered just the other day. So glad to be back to using them. It removes so much stress from me. Love it!