Saturday, October 06, 2007

Off to a Good Start

To the weekend, that is.

Last night, The Husband and I had an appointment with Dream Dinners. Ever hear of them? Or other companies like them? I know there are several national chains. This is the one closest to us. The deal is that you pay them money, they let you put together a bunch of dinners with ingredients they already have prepared and set up for you, you take them home and freeze them all. Then, when you have a two-week old infant and can't stay awake long enough to preheat an oven, never mind prepare a whole meal...well, I guess you still have to preheat the oven to cook the food. But all the shopping, preparation, and 90% of the assembly is done.

I was first told about these miraculous places over a year ago at a coworkers baby shower. Several of the moms there swore by these lifesavers to get you through rough patches: like a new baby, an illness in the family, a parent being out-of-town for a lengthy trip, etc. The interesting part was, although those women told me "it's a little more expensive than doing it yourself, but not as much more as you'd think," the Dream Dinners people made a big point (and understandably so, as it's a good one) of letting us know that they price out all the meals at a local grocery store (and a cheap one, actually) each month and that they've come out below cost for the last six months running. Which means it's actually cheaper (according to them) for me to get our dinners this way than cook them myself...

Two major problems I have with the system are these: (1) You have no control over the ingredients. So I can't make sure the produce is organic. I can't substitute non-fat for low-fat. I can't get Tilamook cheese. I can't make decisions like, generic canned beans, but gourmet parmesan. However, on this point I will say that I noticed they always did use low-fat or non-fat options with dishes calling for sour cream. But you can bet your booties it wasn't organic. (2) The Husband and I wash and reuse our Ziploc bags, but most people do not. For these dinners, you generally dump all the ingredients into 1-3 Ziplocs, then put all parts into another Ziploc to keep them together in your freezer. Logical. But wasteful.

On the upside, it was way fun putting these things together! We made 36 servings of around 8 different meals in about an hour. And it was fun! There was a different station for each recipe that you rotated through. There were probably about 10 other people there. Everything went smoothly with no traffic jams. The recipes are hung at eye level. The ingredients are directly in front of you, each with their own measuring apparatus. It was the kind of teamwork The Husband and I are great at (which does not include all types of teamwork): no decision-making, just follow the steps, get into a rhythm, and trust your partner. It really was great fun. And we were convinced enough of the worth of the thing to sign up to do it again in another month. Now, I'll have to report back once we've actually tasted the food--a rather important element of such a venture. But the recipes looked good to me.

This morning was full of even more fun! I talked The Husband into accompanying me to a "Stork Sale" organized by a local hospital. A parking lot full of used baby gear, baby clothes, maternity clothes, and baby furniture. I have so been bitten by the bargain hunter bug. There is a part of me that feels like I wish I could return all the new baby stuff we have and see how inexpensively I could outfit an entire nursery with nothing but borrowed and used paraphernalia (not a big enough part to actually do it, but it's so much fun to find a great deal!). There's another part of me that is so happy to see people out there taking advantage of such community events. Partly because I'm so glad that people who can't buy this stuff new have an outlet where they can get really good-quality items for good prices. There are always yard sales and thrift stores, but this really was a huge gathering of everything baby that you could possibly need, all in one place, all at one time. It also makes me happy to see these things being reused that still have so much life left in them rather than seeing them end up in a landfill with replacements being endlessly manufactured. Anyway, we got a few good buys there, and a few more at some yard sales on the way home.

The only downside: my back is killing me so now I'm stuck in bed for a while, but a recent trip to the library has supplied me with new books. So, I'll live.


Anonymous said...

We use to have showers for mom's with 2nd baby's, everyone brought a dish for dinner to freeze, nice to see how someone has turned it into a viable business. I want to see how it tastes. That baby fair sounds wonderful, I would not mind raiding sue rech (dr. in p-burgh)stuff she got for her 2 boys !!! SO go lay down and enjoy your books, what are you reading. Love Marilyn

Strongmama said...

I've done Dream Dinners and two local businesses like them around here. They're pretty good. I'd say they were may favorite out of the three. I've found with most of the dishes that you need to double the spices and things like lemon juice and onions, though. We were so happy to have them in the freezer and all we had to do was thaw one the night before and make a side. We also liked that there is automatic portion control because you only have so many pieces of meat in your bag, etc. Too bad you don't like fish; those have always been my favorites!

die Frau said...

Yes, feel better! Looks as though Dream Dinners is nowhere near my area (apparently only NYC and surrounding areas have need for this service) but I'll have to scout around. It sounds heavenly.

Another suggestion: Am-Vets or the like for toys. My friend swears by this; she has a three year-old boy and has found terrific used stuff.

they call me Grace said...

Dream Dinners sounds like such a great thing! I book-marked it...
How great to find that wonderful baby sale. There is a place here called Mama Goose that sells gently used baby gear and clothes. Kind of the same thing, just a store. We are there all of the time. And, as she gets older, and messier, I don't feel so bad if she gets sloppy in a cute outfit. Doesn't it feel good to be a part of something like that?
Take care of yourself and keep up the great bargain shopping.
Smiles, V