Review of Dream Dinners, a Meal Assembly Store

Photo by Ashley Mattison.

The Bottom Line

Dream Dinners is an excellent choice for time-starved moms who dislike cooking or devising their own recipes. You spend an hour and a half preparing a week's worth of dinners, for less than $5 per person. You avoid grocery shopping, cutting ingredients, and clean up. Still, do-it-yourselfers can achieve the same results by spending a weekend afternoon cooking for the upcoming week.

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Pros

  • Spend two hours preparing one or two weeks’ worth of tasty dinners from fresh ingredients.
  • No need to assemble or cut ingredients yourself, or to clean up.
  • No grocery shopping, no waste of leftover, unused ingredients.
  • Easy directions, both in meal assembly and cooking from frozen.
  • With 200 locations in 34 states, you’re likely to find a franchise near you.

Cons

  • More expensive than cooking from your own groceries, for some recipes.
  • Chatting with friends while cooking may lead to double helpings of chili powder.
  • Few choices for vegetarians.
  • You still have to supply side dishes or buy them from Dream Dinners.
  • You pay in advance, so last-minute cancellations may incur charges.

Description

  • Customers assemble a selection of 3- or 6-serving dinners to be frozen for cooking and eating at home.
  • The minimum order is 36 servings, for about $150. Share a session with a friend to save money or space in your freezer.
  • You choose the recipes you prefer, and use the workstations that correspond to those dishes.
  • Workstations hold pre-cut ingredients and spices, which you scoop into bags and containers as the simple recipes direct.
  • You can tweak the recipes to fit your family’s preferences or allergies.
  • Dream Dinners employees help with questions or finding the right ingredients or utensils. They do all the clean up.
  • Sign up for a session by phone or via the Website, which also gives nutrition information.
  • If you don’t have time to assemble meals yourself, you can pay extra to have dinners made for you.
  • You can also buy side dishes or desserts.
  • The menu changes monthly. Dream Dinners features popular recipes in ``Best of the Best’’ each month.

Guide Review - Review of Dream Dinners, a Meal Assembly Store

Last night I felt unusually proficient in the kitchen. I heated up 2 T of oil in the wok, tossed in some cut vegetables, and then some chicken strips and sauce. I served the whole thing over rice, with a side of fruit salad for the kiddies. I wasn’t sure whether to be pleased or embarrassed by my husband’s gratitude for a hot, home-cooked meal on a work night.

What’s my secret? Dream Dinners. A friend and I went to the meal assembly store the previous weekend and assembled six dinners each. The stir-fried chicken it would’ve taken me an hour to prep and cook was ready just 15 minutes after I returned from work.

Here’s how it works. You sign up online (or by phone) for a session, and select and pay for the dinners. The Website displays cooking time and nutritional information for each recipe.

When you arrive at the store, each workstation is stocked with the needed ingredients for each recipe.

Directions are idiot proof down to which cup or bowl to use. The measuring spoons do get a bit gloopy with ingredients, but it still beats dirtying your own kitchen.

Dream Dinners asks you to wear an apron they provide, and to wash your hands before starting. We enjoyed complimentary desserts and coffee, and the company encourages customers to book private parties. I don’t quite see how that would work -- you do need to focus on the recipe to avoid doubling an ingredient or spice.

My friend and I each put together six dinners in about an hour and a half, at the Dream Dinners location in Silver Spring, Md. We chatted some while we cooked, and on the ride to and from the store.

In the end, the stir-fried chicken didn’t go over that well with my husband. He found the chow mein noodles old-fashioned and the chicken salty.

But I enjoyed it and have high hopes that one of the next five entrees will even tempt our preschoolers to indulge.

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