Cazey and I were invited to try out Dream Dinners by another local Richmond blogger, Sarah Cole. Dream Dinners is a national meal preparation service that makes home-cooked meals way easier than normal. Basically, you sign up for the meals you want, go in and measure and bag all your ingredients and then take it home to cook as you need them. I selected the BBQ chip chicken tenders, Canadian stuffed french bread and the buffalo chicken cavatappi. Cazey went with the buffalo chicken cavatappi, oven baked chicken chimichangas, and the BBQ chip chicken tenders.
When we showed up, we were greeted by the store owner who was very sweet and informative. We then mingled with the other guests before scrubbing up and getting started. The store is set up in mini-stations, complete with all the ingredients you need to fully prepare your three meals. As you make your meals, you can store them in the fridge with a special spot with your name on it until you are done with all of your meal prep.
The Pros of Dream Dinners
- Easy: I'm not much of a cook. The staff lays everything out for you so you don't have to measure. You just scoop the ingredients into the bags as instructed, and within 5-10 minutes your meal is prepped and you're onto the next one.
- Variety: Dream Dinners rotate their meals by the month, which means you won't be eating the same thing every night, which is basically the story of my current life. It's so difficult coming up with new recipes that don't involve a ton of new spices and ingredients you'll need to go out and buy.
- No measuring: Measuring shouldn't really be that big of a pro, but to me it is. Measuring is annoying because I only have one set of measuring spoons, so they get dirty and then you have to wash them over and over again. But at Dream Dinners, they have the exact size spoon you need for the recipe you're making.
- No clean-up: I hate cleaning, mainly because I am inherently messy. At Dream Dinners, you cook and mess up the space, but someone else gets to clean it for you.
- Type-A: I'm not a planner, so coming up with a week's worth of food is nearly impossible. Dream Dinners allow me to not have to think that much, but still have a plan.
- Cost-Effective: This actually really surprised me. They have an introductory price for 18 servings of food for $75, which makes eat dinner a little over $4. Even at full price, if you guesstimate it's $200, the 36-servings comes out to about $5. For a full meal, $4-5 isn't bad.
- Incredibly friendly staff: It's not often I leave a place in awe of everyone who I encountered, but that's what happened at Dream Dinners. Everyone who worked there went out of their way to help us. When I couldn't quite get my sandwich to fold, she came over to help me strategize. When we were leaving, not only did they bag our food for us, they carted it out to my trunk. Now that is service.
The Cons of Dream Dinners
- Location: Admittedly, I am probably not their target demographic, but being in the middle of Midlothian makes Dream Dinners a bit of a hike from our house. It's about a half an hour one-way to make the meals, then about an hour or two to prep the meals, then another half an hour home.
- Repetition: Again, I'm probably the exception here, but the meals come in 3-servings or 6-servings. Since I am a family of one, that's 3 or 6 servings of the same food for myself, which is what drives me nuts about my current meal planning.
- Commitment: There is a definite commitment for Dream Dinners, but with good reason. As the owner explained well, it doesn't save you any money if you come in every now and then to make a meal, so you need to go big. You need to get multiple meals to reap the savings that come from Dream Dinners. I wasn't ready to commit to 18 or 36 meals before seeing how my three meals went.
- Lifestyle: While part of this style of meal prep fits perfectly into my busy life, it almost doesn't. They budget the 36 meals as three meals a week, but since I'd be eating all the servings, it's 36 meals. Considering my lifestyle where I like to eat out several times a week as a social event, 36 meals goes from convenient to a burden really quickly.
Dream Dinners Final Review
The first meal we made at home was the buffalo chicken cavatappi. It took about ten years for my water to boil (or so it felt like because I was hungry and excited), but once the water boiled, finishing the meal was easy. All I had to do was make the pasta, warm the sauce, and then throw in the chicken. I was surprised by the outcome, because it was a lot more like mac and cheese than I was expecting. My pro tip here would be to throw in more hot sauce, or maybe that's just me because I love hot sauce.
Overall, the meal quality was good without much effort. I would seriously consider using Dream Dinners if it wasn't for the long drive out there, which I would presumably have to do after a day of work and if it wasn't so much food. However, if you have roommates, subscribing to a Dream Dinner meal plan would be an extremely cost-effective way of making easy meals for your whole house.