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'Easy Meal Preparation' Concept


jamiemaw
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I've been pondering this article since I read it over the weekend. The aspect of that was upsetting to me is that I wonder if the food is any healthier when the products is supplied by Sysco and the likes. My question is, just how processed are the ingredients? If the kitchens are offering processed foods, how much of an advantage is this over take out?

This depends on the particular facility. In any case, I'm sure the ingredient quality is better than fast food and junk foof, at least as good as most restautrants, and far better than most people in this Country and the World subsist on!

In your background research, is there any evidence that people graduate to doing it themselves? Doesn't that harm the business to encourage people to cook on their own?

I don't know about the existing businesses, but I'd expect and encourage this, and then expand my offerings to include more elaborate techniques and meals.

And I totally agree that anything that has people eating dinner together is a good thing. But does food in baggy portions necessarily encourage that?

Compared to the alternatives, I'd say "yes."

And one last question: when did people start getting intimidated by their kitchens?

About the same time they started watching Food Network?

SB :wink:

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Dream Dinners et al seems like a swell idea for lazy people, no sarcasm intended.

The thing I dislike about the NYT article and about the marketing that surrounds meal shortcuts in general is all the collective whining about how hard it is to cook. Yeah, it's easier for me because I like to do it, but I don't swoon on the sofa about how exhausting my life is because I have to do the laundry or pay bills or do some housework (all things I hate, BTW.) And really, cooking isn't hard, or at least, any harder than any other domestic activity.

I have an undeserved (I think) reputation amongst my friends for being this fabulous gourmet cook because I cook. The thing is, the big deal birthday cake they all swoon over is a doctored cake mix, the celebrated pasta dish involves little more than peeling some garlic and opening a can, and the coconut curry that's so interesting and exotic took 20 minutes to make. It's all stuff anyone can do, I'm just the one that gets in the kitchen and does it.

So why do people get all frazzled at the prospect of cooking? (Conversely, why don't more people complain in a national public forum about how yard work or car maintenance is time-consuming and boring?)

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I think people are intimidated by cooking.

I dont use the service under discussion, but it has a certain appeal. I can get a sitter to watch the munchkin for a couple hours and prep a weeks worth of food, or I can try to manage the shopping, the munchkin and do the prep at home. Guess which one would go more smoothly?

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I've spoken to several people today about the concept and it's almost universally acclaimed by both those who've used it and attractive to those who haven't. (and I live 80 miles away from the closest location.)

Several women who I know are good cooks like the idea because of the time saving factor alone. Planning, shopping and prep work with small children in tow is apparently quite a daunting task? They would rather wait to cook more elaborate and exotic meals when they have time to enjoy the process.

I also heard about a group who travel 200 miles to the Twin Cities to stock up on these meals! Of course, it helps that around here the trunk of a car can function as a chest freezer half the year. :wink:

I'm planning a trip next week to visit the local franchise I mentioned earlier:

www.mixitupmeals.com

SB (I'll keep you posted)

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Looking at a 3-week old mountain of dirty laundry is totally intimidating.  And it would go a lot smoother if I dropped it off at a laundry service!

Oddly, I can do the laundry with the munchkin underfoot, in 5 min bursts if necessary. Cutting up onions or garlic in 5 min bursts over the course of a full day is really no fun at all.And no one judges the laundry when its done. No threads about the worst laundry you've seen at other people's houses. No one pushing the laundry around, trying to make it look worn so they can go out and get something else to wear. I think the rise of the Food Network (suggested above) probably does correlate to folk's intimidation.

Tell ya what - bring over your laundry, and bring dinner. I'll have the laundry washed, dried and folded for you by the time we all finish eating dessert. :wink:

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I have a better cheaper idea. Start or join a community kitchen. My spouse's employer decided to start a community kitchen in the unused kitchen at one of their facilities. Here is the blog associated with this kitchen. clicky. Sure, its more time consuming, but its a lot cheaper!! We cooked 5 meals and the total for each of us was $6.50 for one serving each.

We made

Burmese chicken curry

white bean and sausage soup( over of last months bon appetite)

Southwestern bean burgers with chipoltle mayo

Normandy style meat loaf

Breakfast burritos.

Because the kitchen is open to all residents( the target group is people with disabilities, but so far we havent had a response) the local grocery store donated all the food. We got a grant from a healthy heart program in the county and we used that to purchase equipment.

I'm joined because I like sharing my knowlege with others and because the thought of making a bunch of food and freezing it was appealing because no matter how much I love to cook, sometimes I just dont feel like it.

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This isn't for me. I'm glad it works for some but it seems hard to me in some ways. Mainly, it's the having to schlepp to the place and haul it all home, and unpack. I am Ms. Online D. Livery for groceries, and I usually order one prepared meal for the night I'm totally beat. The chopping/prep thing I totally get. That's why I buy frozen chopped onions and fresh peeled garlic. (Those are far and away the things I prep most.)

I don't think cooking, per se, is the obstacle. It's the mental energy it takes to be organized. And it makes me wonder if this isn't the result of people watching so many cooking shows where the host has their station all ready. Cause that's what these places are -- mise en place distribution centers!

My fantasy? Easy -- the Simpsons versus the Flanders on Hell's Kitchen.

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I discussed my experience upthread (and linked to the section of my blog that discusses it ad infinitum), but to reiterate:

I like the concept. It's nice to have homemade meals waiting for me in the freezer. And, I enjoyed the night out with friends.

But, the franchise I visited (Dream Dinners) featured processed, poor quality food. The recipes were not terrific, the spices were stale-tasting and many of the dishes required quite a bit of time to prepare (36 hours to defrost, marinating, mixing, over an hour in the oven, etc.). With that much time and my own, better ingedients, I'm much better off doing it myself.

When I finally get moved and have some more time to myself, I plan to have a night at my house to do this with friends. I think it would be fun.

Danielle Altshuler Wiley

a.k.a. Foodmomiac

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I like the overall concept. An experienced cook can probably emulate a lot of what these places do with good planning once a week or month (with a day of doing prep cook work, then freezing or fridging the ingredients), but think of it as training wheels: Once these people get comfortable with the experience, they'll start to realize that they're actually cooking, and maybe they'll start trying out recipes on their own.

(I really like the Community Kitchen idea, though, that CaliPoutine mentioned upthread. Knowing people around you who know how to cook is immsensely powerful, and probably even better at getting people to start cooking on their own.)

- Johndan

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NBC Nightly News will overview this concept tonight at 6pm; 6:30 in Newfoundland.

Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Tell ya what - bring over your laundry, and bring dinner. I'll have the laundry washed, dried and folded for you by the time we all finish eating dessert.  :wink:

If ONLY. You know, with a little development, I think we might have a successful business plan here.

Works for me. Of course, I forgot to mention you get to schlep the toddler too..... :giggles insanely at the thought of two hours of freedom from the best job in the world: :rolleyes:

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Steak Salsa Verde. Interesting components. Added more garlic and green onion during prep.

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Unbagged. Cute little "steaks" at 3 oz. portions. Cut unknown.

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Note both plates: DH has 2 steaks, moi has one. Baked potato with Plugra (unsalted) Kneuskys (sp) Applewood Smoked bacon shards and onion slivers in green beans. Dessert was not an option for me.

Rating: 3 out of 5 for taste, 2 out of 5 for texture, and 1 out of 5 for portion. TOO SMALL says hubby.

Here in the South, Sysco rules. NOT an endorsement, just an observation on commercial food sources. We do not have Price Club, Costco, or even a decent size Sams' Club. A 3 hour trip to Atlanta is not an option for us. The fresh ingredients such as carrots, celery, onions, etc., the basic mise en place are all fresher (and prepped) than I can get at the local Krogers.

BTW, it's Masters Week-we can't even get to the fast food joints let alone the grocery stores.

Here is the set-up I have for kitchen and storage. Time is the main thing I'm buying by using the meal-prep system for the bulk of our dinners. While I use them 24 meals out of 40 (I am on a 5-6 week prep schedule) it still saves me a lot of money in grocery stops on my way home, additional gas (now at $2.55!) With the average at $220.00 I am now seeing about $50 a week on savings on the additional trips.

Garage freezer-in need of the next fill-up on the 15th of April.

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Garage fridge, mainly for "beverages" and ice cream.

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I'm blessed with an open kitchen, outdated appliances, and a wish list only a lottery win could fulfill. But, I do like my tools and toys. The Euro-Pro is the biggest blessing for meal prep as it's large enough for a 9X13 pan which would be the largest size I would use. Bonus-the electric bill has come down 20% with not using the main oven!

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You might be saving time( as you say), but it seems like you're sacraficing taste and texture( and portion size).

How long do you spend at the center preparing your meals? How long did it take you to prepare the meal at home?

From what Danielle has said, they seem very time consuming.

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You might be saving time( as you say), but it seems like you're sacraficing taste and texture( and portion size). 

Taste and texture is strictly up to preparer. Each recipe can be adjusted to increase or decrease ingredients according to individual likes. The only non-variable is the main ingredient as it's already portioned to feed 6. I split all entrees anyway.

How long do you spend at the center preparing your meals?  How long did it take you to prepare the meal at home? 

Each session of 12 (split=24) takes about 2 hours as you move from station to station. I take 2 large Coleman coolers. When I pull into the garage, I unload the cooles directly from the back of the van. Meal prep takes anywhere from 15 min. to an hour, depending on the entree and sides.

From what Danielle has said, they seem very time consuming.

Only if you make it complicated. It's not perfect nor do I reply totally on this concept. It's far better than fast food, cheaper than a restaurant, and I get to choose which wine to have with dinner.

:biggrin:

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Taste and texture is strictly up to preparer. Each recipe can be adjusted to increase or decrease ingredients according to individual likes. The only non-variable is the main ingredient as it's already portioned to feed 6. I split all entrees anyway.

From what Danielle has said, they seem very time consuming.

Only if you make it complicated. It's not perfect nor do I reply totally on this concept. It's far better than fast food, cheaper than a restaurant, and I get to choose which wine to have with dinner.

Me again. :cool:

I think I said it before, but from what I've read, quality of the ingredients varies from franchise to franchise. That said, there were tastes and textures that could not have been strictly up to me. The main sauce ingredient of three of my entrees was a condensed cream soup. I don't care for the taste OR texture of this, but it would have been impossible to change it. Also, I had a problem with the texture of the chicken breasts - something I could not have done anything to fix or avoid. Something I COULD have changed was the inclusion of dried herbs. The quality of the ones I have at home are much better.

And, I don't think I complicated things any (making the final prep more time consuming). Because I looked upon this as a bit of an experiment, I did all final cooking to the letter of the instructions on the sticker.

Danielle Altshuler Wiley

a.k.a. Foodmomiac

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Been hearing about the Dream Dinners concept where you make your own dinners at a central location, package them and cook the stuff at home later. I have not yet been to one of these places but it seams like a great idea for a busy family. does anyone have expereince using them, if so what do you think?

Moo, Cluck, Oink.....they all taste good!

The Hungry Detective

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Been hearing about the Dream Dinners concept where you make your own dinners at a central location, package them and cook the stuff at home later. I have not yet been to one of these places but it seams like a great idea for a busy family. does anyone have expereince using them, if so what do you think?

Please check upthread for comments posted by a couple of Dream Dinners participants. One in OH, the other in GA. The lady in OH attended a single session, the other in GA has continued for several months. Any other users or dinner preps companies for comparison?

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I've attended a couple of sessions at Supper Thyme, which is the local version of Dream Dinners, I guess. Several co-workers told me about it, so I thought I'd give it a try. We don't go through the dinners very quickly, mostly because I view these as a back-up of sorts. I plan our meals weekly, and of course, those plans don't always work out. So we fill in the gaps with those meals.

What seems to be different about my experience is that all of the meals offered are either thaw & bake in the oven or combine and stick in the crockpot. The only one I had to do any kind of work on was a quiche. It seems that others have had to do more to get their meals on the table.

I think the food is pretty good, but then I'm not very picky. I don't mind the cream soup base, which a lot of the casseroles seem to be. My husband is not quite as fond of them as I am, though (which is the other reason we don't go through them very quickly).

My mother wants to try doing these freezer meals at home, but I like going to Supper Thyme because I don't have to chop or clean up. :biggrin:

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I would love to check one of these places out but there are not any close by, heck maybe I should open one up....it sounds like it might be a sound investment!

Chris~

I was thinking the same thing and would LOVE to hear input from anyone who is in th eknow about the financial aspects of the business. It'd be nice to have one with some serious foodie input............

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One of these recently opened up by me (Durham, NC) and is hiring sales associates and prep staff. I haven't been to check out the physical store yet, but the website seemed pretty accessible, if not all that exciting.

The concept for this kind of thing is admirable for the upper-middle class family who wants "homecooked meals" but may not have the time to prepare them themselves or the resources to hire a private chef.

I'm toying with the idea of starting something like this semi-underground and on a much smaller scale, obviously with an emphasis on quality and creativity. This concept is really just a form of catering, except the dishes that might be finished on-site at an event are instead finished at home.

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