Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Time for Dinner

This is how dinner works at my house. Every once in a while, I sit down with a cookbook. I have a bookshelf dedicated to these and don't like to reuse the same books too frequently, so they're in constant rotation.

I make a list of several meals that sound good to me, copying ingredients onto my shopping list (which is divided by section of the grocery store). I shop. I prepare dinner. We all eat together when Paul gets home from work.

This system works for us.

Our goal is to eat out one counter service/take-away and one table service meal per week, though we sometimes exceed our budget on food. Food, for those who don't know us well, is where our family likes to spend money. We all loooooove to eat; it's our favorite hobby. But this summer we've been trying to do more of our over-eating at home, rather than from restaurants. (Thank you, unexpected second car payment.)

I do solicit requests for dinners, and Paul cooks when he's home (and the vast majority of all breakfasts) but I get bored, trying to decide on new recipes to try that we'll all like. And I get bored with grocery shopping. And I get bored with dinner prep that lasts longer than about 30 minutes.


Some girlfriends and I went to Time for Dinner tonight, and I think I'll be going back! Friends of mine have been before, but I never thought I'd enjoy the experience. I did.

Here's how it works. Every month, there's a new menu. You go online and choose which dishes sound interesting to you, and you schedule a time to go cook. (It can increase your pleasure to go with a few friends, and maybe bring along a bottle of wine.)

At the appointed time, you show up bearing a cooler or laundry basket for transporting food home. You pay and are handed a sheet listing each dish you've chosen to make. You wander through the dedicated food prep stations, creating each of your meals with the pre-prepped ingredients helpfully laid out for you. Then you wander away, leaving clean-up to someone else!

Each dish goes into a plastic bag, then into the freezer, but not until you've labeled it with the prep instructions. They have thought of everything!

Our meals for the next few weeks include:
Apple Butter BBQ Pork
Asian Chicken Stir Fry
Beef and Andouille Burgers
Beef Kabobs
Caribbean Salsa Chicken
Chicken with Artichoke, Lemon and Goat Cheese
Corn Casserole
Honey Ginger Salmon
Pork Tenderloin with Confetti Corn
Roasted Red Pepper and Spinach Quiche (tomorrow night)
Venetian Mac and Cheese
Triple Chocolate Brownies

Since I chose to prepare more dishes than time allowed, they even helped me! (And would have done it all for me, if I'd ponied up an extra $35.) Everything looks delicious. And I made it (some of it) myself! And the cost is comparable to what I would have spent on all those fancy groceries.

I'll have to let you know if it feels lame to eat food from plastic bags every night. I'm thinking maybe not, but that might be because I'm trying to do all this mom stuff and writing stuff and class stuff and summer stuff and visiting family stuff and I'm loving short cuts right now!

Also, check out the new poll (right).


Rob Monroe said...

Nadia does this often and we are often the lucky ones that get to help them eat it. :o) We ended up using the theory but doing it all at our own house last spring right before Abby arrived. It was incredibly easy on both sides - prep was done in an afternoon for a dozen meals. Can't beat that.

As far as eating in versus eating dinner out... We have gotten lazy about this and it's showing in our bank account. We've had lots of conversation since getting home from our trip, and the next conversation is about how much we bring food in.

What has helped us stick to cooking at home in recent months is using the meal planning lists. We, too, have more cookbooks than most libraries, so that helps a lot. We've gotten to the point of letting others borrow our books and hardly miss individual ones most of the time!

sarah said...

Please keep us updated on how the meals are for you. I did a similar meal prep (from a competitor) but wasn't happy with all of it. Found the pork and chicken always dry, though the beef was usually good. I love the concept so if you are happy with Time for Dinner I would try them.

Jessica said...

"But this summer we've been trying to do more of our over-eating at home" - Sarahlynn, you crack me up.

Beach/Vic said...

I love the concept but there's only 1 of this type of service in my area and I don't like what's on their menu. Let us know how it works for you!

Sarahlynn said...

Rob, I like the theory, but doing it myself at home just never seems to happen. And I loved not having to do the pre-prep or clean up!

As far as eating out goes, well, our family and yours could be dangerously bad influences on each other. We'll have to watch our for that!

Sarah, the meat I handled last night seemed fresh and tender (raw) but I haven't eaten any of it yet. We had the roasted red pepper quiche tonight and it was delicious! So far, so good.

Thanks, Jessica. Just keepin' in read, heh.

Beach, I feel like a more sophisticated and creative and energetic and talented me made the menu list for this place. There's been almost nothing I wouldn't eat on the menu for the last 3 months! I feel very, very lucky.