We all know the scene well. One of the kids has after-school activities like soccer, karate or swimming. The other child wants to go to the mall with their friends. With constant coming and going, the only avenues of communication are cell phones and notes left on the refrigerator. That doesn't take into consideration work and social projects you and your spouse are involved in. Basically everyone is going every which way and you too never seem to have enough time.
That's where the concept for Dream Dinners, a new business that simplifies meal preparation, fits in. They enable families to continue the tradition of family dinner time in spite of our hectic schedules. They do the planning and the preparation so you can spend less time cooking, and more time catching up with family members over the dinner table.
Keeping the Family Connected
Keeping your busy family connected is no easy task. Making a difference in your children's lives requires face time, and there is no better way to do it than having dinner together a couple of times a week. Several organizations have published studies on the benefits of family meals. Here are just a few of the documented benefits from regular family meals:
- One study in 2004 with 4,746 children ages 11 to 18, published in The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, found that frequent family meals were associated with a lower risk of smoking, drinking and using marijuana; with a lower incidence of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts; and with better grades.
- A 2006 survey of 12 to 17 year olds, by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), found that teenagers who reported eating two or fewer dinners a week with family members were more than one and a half times as likely to smoke, drink or use illegal substances than teenagers who had five to seven family dinners.
- A study from the University of Minnesota found that adolescent girls who reported having more frequent family meals and a positive atmosphere during those meals were less likely to have eating disorders.
Help with Meal Planning & Preparation
I know what you're thinking, “These are great facts, but how am I supposed to pull together dinner with the little time I have?” Some families resort to take out, but that can get expensive and is generally not the healthiest. Other families make easy to prepare meals, like macaroni and cheese or other pasta, but these aren't very nutritious. So what can you do?
A new and emerging option is the meal assembly industry. Some call it “Assemble and Freeze”, others call it “Make and Take”, but whatever it is called it all works on the same principal. Here's how it works according to Tina Gleisner, local handyman business owner in Hampton, NH.
- At a time that fits your busy schedule, you go online to plan next months dinner menus. You have 14 main dishes to pick from – chicken, beef, pork, pasta and fish … my husband is thrilled that we can now eat fish at home. You also pick the most convenient time to get your meals, including evenings and Saturdays.
- When you arrive at the store … all the shopping and prep-work has been done for you. You are given recipe cards based on what you ordered, and all you have to do is assemble your meals according to your family's taste (omitting onions for my husband). It is fun going to each meal station – the ingredients and correct measuring utensils are waiting for you, along with the zip lock bags you use to take the meals home and freeze them until cooking time.
- The last step in your meal preparation is applying the instructions (printed on sticky labels) to one of the food bags and putting all bags for one meal into one large bag for safe storing.
- You can assemble a months worth of meals in about an hour for 2 people; under 2 hours for a family of 4 to 6). I love not having to clean anything up. When you finish your last meal, a Dream Dinner team member helps you load all your meals into a cooler for transporting home.
- The hardest part is remembering to take a dinner out of the freezer in the morning (defrosting just takes more time). The first person home can easily follow the cooking instruction label that is right inside the bag. Best of all, it's a nutritious meal that you have made yourself!
The 14-meal menu changes monthly, so you can provide your family with a variety of great meals. They give you great tips on what to serve with the main dish plus the nutritional content of each meal. What does it cost? The price of each meal varies, but is generally between $3 and $4 per serving, which is a bargain compared to eating out.
This article was contributed by the team at Dream Dinners in southern NH. Dinners are a breeze because they do all the planning and food preparation. You simply visit your local store and pack up your meals, take them home and they're ready to cook — it's that easy, and compared to buying more food than you need at the grocery store, you might save money too.