Dream Dinners in Scottsdale
Not knowing what to expect, writer (and self-proclaimed bad cook) Anissa Stringer tries out a fresh spin on meal preparation.
By Anissa Stringer
I’m a bad cook. I really am. I tend to throw things together, often with very mixed results. I also work full time, do all the usual “mom” jobs, and write on the side. Cooking just isn’t a high priority for me. Plus, there’s the fact that I pretty much hate it.
Dream Dinners, with a number of locations Valley-wide, gave me a chance to step away from some of the kitchen duties I despise—and I’m pretty sure I’ve fallen in love with these guys! For those of you who still slave from supermarket to stove and haven’t heard of them, Dream Dinners is a sort of kitchen counselor that takes you by both hands (and the apron strings) and guides you through everything about preparing meals that you then take home with you. After signing up for an introductory offer that’s available online, I went to the store (which is basically a large, commercial kitchen) and received a short primer on the process I was about to try. “Okay,” I thought. “This seems simple enough.”
I moved from station to station, preparing the meals I’d chosen. Each raw ingredient was color coded and already chopped, diced, or shredded. There were no cans to open, no spices to find, and no bowls to clean. I simply threw ingredients into the provided bags according to the easy-to-follow instructions provided at each station. Other women were there making meals as well; at times, we shared a workstation and at other times, I had one all to myself.
Within 45 minutes, I’d prepared six meals (three servings each—perfect for my family of three, but you can also opt for larger meals). Each meal was nicely packaged in another bag with cooking instructions, and they all went home with me. All but one were unceremoniously tossed into the freezer; the remaining container went into my fridge for dinner that night.
That first meal was a recipe called Simmered Chinese Chicken with Jasmine Rice. I knew there was a good chance that Dream Dinners was going to become a regular part of my life when my daughter took a bite and said, “Wow! This is good. You never cook good food like this.” I probably would have had my feelings hurt except for the fact that she meant it as a compliment—and besides, it’s true!
Dream Dinners offers new recipes every month, and recipes have to receive high ratings in order to return to the menu. A good variety of chicken, pork, pasta, and beef recipes are available, and I had no problem finding ones I knew my family would love.
After giving Dream Dinners a try, I was curious about the math behind the concept—I might be a bad cook, but I’m also a penny pincher. The meals I chose for my family came out to less than $5 per serving, although that price will fluctuate based on meals that are selected. While $5 a serving is certainly more than it would cost me to make each meal on my own at home, it’s also far less than the cost of eating out. What’s more, I often end up throwing groceries away because they go bad before I get around to using them. There’s no risk of that with Dream Dinners. Add in the time I didn’t spend cleaning up after putting all the ingredients together, the gas I didn’t use in order to pick up that one missing ingredient, and the “yuck” factor of some of my culinary disasters, and you’ll see why Dream Dinners gets two thumbs up from me and my family!
Location: 8670 E. Shea Blvd., #102, Scottsdale
Contact Info: Visit dreamdinners.com to see this month’s menus
Cost: About $75 for the introductory offer that includes 18 servings; after that, you’re required to purchase a minimum of 36 servings at a time. You can also purchase side dishes and desserts if you want to further simplify your life.
Activity level: Mild—you’ll be standing and reaching, but there’s not much effort involved in that.
Suitable for: Busy people who want to serve their families healthy, tasty food with little effort. This would make a wonderful gift for a family with a new baby.
What to wear/bring: Bring a bag to transport your food home. If you’ve got long hair, you’ll need to pull it back while you work. An apron will be provided for you.
The least you should know: There are several ways to give Dream Dinners a try. Visit their website to learn about the Dream Taste program, the Bring a Friend option, or the Introductory Offer.
A few points—literally:
You’ll start earning points for your purchases immediately (you’ll earn some just for signing up for the introductory offer, too). To maximize the points, place your order for the following month while you’re still in the shop. And if you love the idea of doing Dream Dinners but are short on time, you can pay a $20 flat fee to have the Dream Dinners staff put your meals together for you!
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