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Meal assembly kitchens

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ljmorgan

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Has anyone ever tried out these new "meal assembly kitchens?" Places like "Let''s Eat!" and "Girlfriends Kitchen." They are kitchens that have pre-set menus and you come in and assemble the ingredients, then take them home and freeze until you''re ready to cook them. I am a good cook, but several nights a week I am just too tired to do so, and I really don''t think the husband and I should be eating TV dinners (even if they ARE low-fat) and other garbage. I feel like these places might offer a healthier alternative to "fast" dinners since they''re made from fresh ingredients that you assembile. We typically spend $600 a month on groceries for the two of us (we''re foodies!) and 12 6-serving meals for us from this place would be $200. That''s almost like a dinner every other night, except with large servings we could have lunch at work too.

Has anyone ever tried these places, is it convenient, is the food quality good? I know I can cook more cheaply from scratch, but find we''re turning to tv dinners and fast foods when I don''t cook, and these meal prices per serving are less or the same as tv dinners.
 

JCJD

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Sep 8, 2004
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My SIL has used Girlfriend''s Kitchen, and the meal we had from there with them was really tasty. It''s very convenient for them with a new baby too. We had a mushroom pasta meal, and just supplemented the pasta with a salad and garlic bread, and it served 4 quite nicely.
 

Kaleigh

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I bought a frozen casserole from one of these places, and it was very tasty. But doubt I''d sign up to make the meals. Seems like a neat idea though....
 

KimberlyH

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An old co-worker of mine and her sister split meals from one of these places (Dream something or other). She loves it. They''ve been using the service for about 2 years.
 

Mara

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just go to trader joes and get their fresh pre-packed items...they have nutritional info on all of them and they have a huge range of things. it''s all fresh so it expires within about a week or less, and we have some favorites there that we eat almost weekly, aka their pizzas (you take home and bake), rosemary chicken and rice, their artichoke raviolis with a marinara sauce, they have sandwiches, burritos, sushi, about 20 diff salads etc. on the nights that i don''t cook, typically i have 2-3 things from tJ''s in the fridge that we can eat.
 

appletini

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Nov 29, 2004
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they showed Dream Dinners on the Food Network and those looked good. I haven''t gone b/c it would be a 30 minute drive without traffic so its just too far away. I''m the same way I''m a foodie too so no TV dinners for me.

Although for a quick dinner when I make meatsauce I freeze half of it so that I can easily make spaghetti (wheat) on another night.
 

Skippy123

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Nov 24, 2006
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I did it! It is good but some of them aren't too healthy. My hubby and I did it twice but they only have about a dozen items to pick from and the menu changes every month. Try it; you might like it. I just thought is was okay, but I think if I had kids I probably would do it more. They are quality ingredients.

I am with Mara; TJ's has lots of yummy items and that is what my freezer is stocked with.
 

neatfreak

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I third the Trader Joe''s recommendations! Reasonable prices and really yummy food.
 

Skippy123

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Just an FYI
Hopefully you have lots of freezer space or an extra freezer. We were always trying to make space for 6 big containers of meals.

The place we went through was called Super Suppers.
 

ljmorgan

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I wanted to thank everyone for all of the great advice. I just wanted to say that I had a session at Thyme Out today, and would really recommend it to anyone in the DC area.

I made 6 meals, which they allowed me to split into "half meals" -- so I got 12 meals of 2-3 servings each. I chose Thyme Out because it received the best reviews for its food, using really fresh ingredients instead of "garlic in a jar" like many meal assembly chains (thyme out only has one store.)

The six meals I made were:

Mi Amore Chicken -- I mixed together mozzarella cheese, asiago cheese, sundried tomatoes, olive oil, and some dried herbs, and stuffed the mix into six separate chicken breasts. Then I wrapped each breast in a slice of proscutto, and drizzled with olive oil & balsamic vinegar. The side for this dish is orzo pasta.

Club Med Mahi Mahi -- You get 6 fillets of mahi mahi that you coat in lemon juice, season with sea salt and pepper, and wrap up. Then you mix together a cup of couscous, roasted red pepper, fresh garlic, diced olives, and you zest one lemon over the mix. You serve the couscous over the mahi mahi when cooked.

Soda Pop BBQ Chicken -- You get an entire chicken and rub it down with a spicy/sweet spice mix. You mix your own BBQ sauce from cola syrup, ketchup, worsteshire, liquid smoke, garlic, and other spices. When you go to make this meal, you cook the chicken in the oven or on the grill sitting on a open can of soda or beer to "steam" the meat keeping it moist. Serve w/ the bbq sauce and sweet potato mashed potatoes

Praline Pork Chops -- mixed together maple syrup, dijon mustard, and brown sugar. Coated the pork chops, and then coated them with a pecan/bread crump mix.

Flank Steak Mon -- I mixed up red wine vinegar, sugar, tons of spices, and added the flank steak to the mix, served with green beans.

Crunchy Sweet Chicken Tenders -- chicken tenders coated in homemade mayonnaise, then tossed with bread crumbs and crushed frosted flakes. Served with a homemade honey mustard sauce.

I was really happy with the fresh ingredients and homemade sauces. Their website has all of the nutritional information, and I don't think a single entree I chose was over 450 calories. Almost everything was in the 300 calorie range, so when paired with a salad and fresh veggies will be good. We are making the whole chicken tonight.

I was also thrilled to find out that all 12 meals fit on ONE shelf in my side-by-side freezer. I was really worried the meals would take up half of my freezer -- they don't even take up 1/4. All in all I'm very happy, and had a good time putting together the meals. You can adjust the ingredients... so I used more garlic for me and hubby, and more spices that we really like (we like flavor!)
 

San Diego Bride

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Apr 9, 2006
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392
trader joe''s and whole foods are wonderful, but definitely not accessible to everyone. i previously lived on prepared meals and frozen foods from both of theses stores, but i now live 160 miles away from the nearest whole foods. trader joe''s is even further away. no fresh market or wild oats either.


it''s good to hear that there are some other options for premade meals. now if only they offered vegetarian options...
 

Mara

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lindsey it sounds like you had a good time!!!! curious, how much was the cost for the whole thing?

i don''t know if we have anything like that locally (we probably do)...but right now my freezer is PACKED with stuff from TJ''s etc..lol. greg is always like ''why do we have so much stuff in the freezer''...hehe. this week i decided we will eat out pretty much solely of the freezer, aka i have coconut crusted tilapia in there, an organic low-cal frozen pizza AG recommended in the WWT, tomato and mozz gnocchi from TJ''s, chili and lime chicken burgers from TJ, buns, etc. for sides i will do alexa frozen oven roasted potatoes and things like fresh cauliflower and veggies, brown and wild rice mixes etc. should be kinda fun at least!

anyway, let us know how things taste as well!
 

Kaleigh

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Nov 18, 2004
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Mara,
Your TJ''s must really be big. I went to our''s looking for the Rosemary Chicken and rice dish you had talked about, and came up empty. I asked one of the employeee''s and they said our''s is way smaller in selection than what you guys have in CA. Maybe one day, they will open up a big super store. We are definitely jipped in PA.


Lindsey,
What you made sounds delish!!!!
 

Mara

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Kaleigh, the TJ''s to me are tiny compared to regular stores. They are like 1/3 the size of Whole Foods. But they totally pack the stuff in there big time. It''s easy to miss things walking around...and they all are kind of organized differently. But yeah I guess some of the stuff is regional. DF mentioned in another thread that her local one said they were not putting the steel cut oatmeal out due to quality control issues and I asked our local guy and he was like Nope I haven''t heard anything about that and said that regional stores do things differently, aka maybe their local guy who makes the oatmeal (because TJ just rebrands it) is having issues etc. So it''s kind of like a regional chain thing I guess! Others have said that their TJ''s doesn''t carry the low-cal pizzas either.
 

eks6426

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Nov 19, 2004
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2,011
I have several friends who tried the meal assembly kitchens. They all liked them for the food, but the costs were high. One thing my friends and I have done is work as a group to prepare meals. We work out a menu for each day then we each cook 1 or 2 nights of food...but for everyone in the group then have a big trade. So, for example I will make enough chicken with apricot sauce for my family and all my friend''s families...etc. We all get good meals and only have to cook once per week. It''s not that much different to cook a larger batch then divide it up. I''ve also done it with soups. I eat homemade soup almost every day in the winter and my friends and I make big batches and swap so that we are each not eating the same soup for the entire week. It''s fun to see what others cook too.
 

appletini

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Nov 29, 2004
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Pampered Chef has some "power cooking" recipes that you can do at home. I put together 2 for this week just to try them. The ones I made are using frozen chicken breasts. I'll update later this week for how ours turned out but here you go...Also check out Robin Miller's quick fix meals on the Food Network.

For 2 (double to serve 4).

Mexican Chicken

2 frozen boneless skinless chicken breast halves
8 oz salsa
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced

--mix together salsa, onion, and garlic and pour into a freezer bag. Add chicken breasts, coat, and place in freezer.
--thaw chicken in the fridge starting the day before cooking and the salsa mixture will act as a marinade
--place contents in a baking dish and cook at 350 degrees for ~30 minutes

Caesar Chicken

2 frozen boneless skinless chicken breast halves
8 oz Caesar salad dressing
2 garlic cloves, minced

--mix together salad dressing and garic and pour into a freezer bag. Add the chicken breasts, coat, and place in freezer.
--thaw chicken in the fridge starting the day before cooking and the salsa mixture will act as a marinade
--place contents in a baking dish and cook at 350 degrees for ~30 minutes


For sides we usually just cook some frozen veggies in chicken broth and add lemon pepper.
 
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