Solving the Daily Dinner Dilemma

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What’s for dinner? is a common question in most households, and for busy mothers, what to fix for the evening meal can be a source of stress. Read on to find out about three services that can help your family solve this daily dilemma.

It’s five o’clock and your family is asking you the same question you’ve been asking yourself: “What’s for dinner?” Fixing a meal that everyone likes, that you have the time and ingredients to prepare, and that is at least somewhat nutritious can be a real chore night after night. It’s no wonder we find ourselves eating in fast food restaurants and ordering take-out food more often than ever before.

Frazzled moms, take note: there is a solution! I’ve tested three services, whose only goal is to help us solve our daily dinner dilemmas. The services saved me time and money, as well as stress and worry. Below are descriptions of the services I tested and the main benefits of each.

Saving Dinner

Leanne Ely, a certified nutritionist, author of the Saving Dinner (www.savingdinner.com), knows about the stress that many moms experience at dinnertime each night. “Your family is relying on you to produce something, and you’re not prepared,” Ely says. “It’s a horrible feeling.” But that’s where Saving Dinner comes in to help.

Ely’s cookbooks include recipes, serving suggestions, and categorized shopping lists. The books are organized by week with six entrée menus in each. (Ely assumes that most families eat out or have other dinner plans one night each week.)

Ely also produces Menu Mailers, a weekly menu that is emailed to subscribers. Like her cookbooks, the mailers also include six entrée recipes, serving suggestions, and a categorized shopping list. There are several varieties of Menu Mailers, including vegetarian, low-carb, frugal, Crock Cooker, Southern Hemisphere, and even a version with kosher options. Each Menu Mailer subscription is $9.95 for three months.

Both the cookbooks and Menu Mailers use in-season vegetables, saving subscribers money at the grocery store. Ely says that having a planned menu also keeps impulse shopping at bay. But more than the money-saving aspects, Ely emphasizes the time and energy her subscribers save. “You don’t have to worry about what’s for dinner,” she says. “It frees up your brain for other things.”

I tested the regular version of the Menu Mailer and was very impressed with it. I tried Ely’s most popular recipe, the Garlic Lime Chicken, and it was wonderful. I also tested the Italian Turkey Meatloaf, and my children ate every bite!

Dream Dinners

Dream Dinners is a meal assembly service that allows customers to prepare their own nutritious family meals. At a Dream Dinners session, customers rotate through a series of stations to combine the ingredients for their meals and then freeze them when they get home. Each meal serves four to six people and comes with heating instructions and serving suggestions. I attended a Dream Dinners session near my home in Indianapolis where I assembled two meals: the Herb-Crusted Flank Steak and the Lemon Chicken Piccata. They were fun and easy to make, and both entrees were big hits in my house.

Several of the women at the session I attended were repeat customers. One busy mom said that she uses her Dream Dinners meals on the weekends when she and her husband leave their children with a babysitter. Since the meals just need to be heated, they are easy and convenient for anyone to prepare. Another mom said that her two young children have eaten—without complaint—every Dream Dinners entrée she has prepared. One woman said that she came to a session right before her baby was born, so she wouldn’t have to worry about dinner when she had a newborn to care for.

At a Dream Dinners session, customers may choose to make either six or 12 entrees. The price for six entrees is $115, and 12 entrees cost approximately $200. Although that may seem pricey, when you compare it to eating in a restaurant, it’s quite reasonable. Additionally, moms with smaller families or families with young children may choose to divide some of the dinners in half before freezing them, since some meals serve six people.

A 12-entrée Dream Dinners session takes just two hours. That’s 10 minutes per entrée—and you don’t have to clean up your mess! See www.dreamdinners.com for more information or to book a session.

Dine Without Whine

Dine Without Whine is a weekly meal planning service. Every Thursday, owner Christine Steendahl emails subscribers a complete menu for the following week. The menu includes recipes for a main dish for every night of the week, suggestions for side dishes, brunch ideas for the weekend, and a few dessert recipes. She also sends a grocery list—organized by aisle at the grocery store to save time—that includes all the items needed for the week’s recipes. Subscribers simply need to cross off any items they already have.

I tried the Dine Without Whine program and was pleased with the amount of time I saved, as well as the quality of the recipes. The Hot Taco Salad and the Parmesan Chicken are both excellent. Steendahl says that many of her subscribers have written to her saying that they have lost weight since joining the program because they are eating out less frequently.

On Steendahl’s website, www.dinewithoutwhine.com, she offers a weekly menu as a sample. If subscribers are pleased with the sample, they may purchase her weekly menus for $4.50 per month. She also offers a free newsletter that includes recipes and helpful time- and money-saving tips.

Putting a nutritious dinner on the table every night isn’t always easy, but it is important. A busy mom’s time is valuable—and now, help is out there for a small price. For some, that price is a bargain to solve the daily dinner dilemma!

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