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Those Dinner Assembly-line Places

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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Those Dinner Assembly-line Places

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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Location: United States

After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Those Dinner Assembly-line Places

I recently saw an ad in our local paper. The ad went something like this:

Do you often end up grabbing fast food, or spending a lot of money going out to eat? Wish that your family sat down for homemade meals more often? Let us help bring dinner home.

Of course this did perk my interest. Even though I like to think of myself as the perfect housewife and mom....there are still things that get in the way of that. Since there was a coupon attached to the ad, I thought I would use it as an excuse to just try it out. I called a friend, and we quickly decided this would be a fun new thing to do together.

These dinner prep places typically require a reservation ahead of time and ask for about two hours of your time. You assemble anywhere from four to 12 meals, so be ready to work with your sleeves rolled up! Come prepared with a large cooler and some cash (or at least a credit card). When I showed up at my local place, I noticed the staff was very friendly and the place looked and smelled pretty clean.

I had picked my eight menu choices ahead of time, so I was handed an apron and disposable gloves and was ready to go. I was ushered from station to station to assemble my meals. All the ingredients were located at each station. Directions for assembly were also at each station. A monkey could follow the directions. The place provided the foil containers, lids, as well as labels and heating instructions. As you finish assembling each dish, you put it away in their big refrigerator until you are completely done and are ready to leave. This is why you need to bring a tote or cooler to carry it all home in.

All the dishes I had chosen were "freezer to oven" meals. They stacked nicely, and it was helpful to have the labels and heating instructions on top of each dish. I did have one dish where I had to tape a baggy of cheese on top, but for the most part, meals were compact and uniform. They stacked very nicely into my freezer. As a sidenote, be sure to eat and clear out the food currently in your freezer or you won't have room!

It was a fun experience, especially because I went with a friend and we joked and laughed as we went along. We were even supplied with a bit of wine and some appetizers. Would I do it again? Probably not on a regular basis, and here's why:

  • Yes, it was a novelty and fun event to do with my friend, but without the coupon, each serving would've cost $3, which is out of my budget; for most meals I make at home, I can beat that price a few times over (remember this is per serving and not per "how much your husband eats in one sitting")
  • Some of the veggies looked a bit tired, and I did wonder how fresh the meat was; they do say they shop every Monday...but still, it means you have no control over the freshness
  • I did see a lady sneeze near one of the foodstations, and the worker who assisted us did run around with one rag and one rag only, when she was cleaning up behind us at each station; so, the true cleanliness factor was a bit suspect to me
  • Even though five of my eight dishes had good flavor and my family liked them, I realized I could easily have made them myself; the key seems to be the sauce; the place seemed to have special sauces for chicken, fish and meat and teamed with fresh veggies, spices and fresh herbs, the sauce made the dish extra special
  • The meals that didn't have pasta mixed in or weren't all encompassing, I still had to come up with a carb to go with the meal (ie, I still had to some cooking) AND a veggie and salad if needed
Wondering what kind of dishes I assembled? See below. I was actually able to find very similar recipes online:

  • Chicken Enchiladas (they made the sauce ahead of time and used flour instead of corn tortillas)
Now I guess I can't mention the downsides without mentioning at least a few upsides, so here goes:

  • It is healthier than McDonalds and it sure beats the money shelled out at any sit down restaurant
  • The experience did give me a renewed energy to go home and go through my old recipes, say "I can do this too" and get motivated all over for cooking again; I frequently get in a rut, so this got me out of it; I would think for someone who doesn't cook or doesn't know how, this could give them the confidence to try it themselves at home
  • It was a nice time to get together with my friend; this could also be a fun event for a group of ladies should you need ideas for get togethers
  • It was nice to pull out a tray and pop it in the oven and just have to make a salad or sidedish rather than stress about what's for dinner and having to plan ahead
Have you tried any of these places? How did it go for you?



Blogger (army)Wife said...

I've heard about these types of places and I've always wondered what they were like. Since it's just me and the hub, I don't have to cook much as it is now, so I probably won't go to this type of place anytime soon. However, thanks for the recipes! I love trying new recipes. I'm not a creative cook, so without a recipe, its tomato soup and grilled cheese.

October 15, 2007 at 3:21 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife**** said...

Even if it's just the two of you, the places allow you to break up the meal into two smaller containers at no additional cost. So that is handy thing to know too.

October 16, 2007 at 1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are ~1500 of these places across the country. You can search by city or zip at

October 16, 2007 at 11:49 PM  
Blogger ABW said...

I've been thinking about doing this but the cost per serving was the main deterrent. Where did you find a coupon? I thought I would try it before he deployed and see if the kids would eat the meals. I think our local one says you have make 72 servings in any combination. Seems like a lot, but maybe I can find one that will let me try it with less. Thanks for the review!

October 17, 2007 at 1:42 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife**** said...

I happened to find a coupon in our very small local paper that comes every week. I would just call the place or stop by and ask if they have any coupons out currently! Sometimes they will tell you where and when. Also be to sure to ALWAYS ask for a military discount. You may be happily surprised! Be sure to read my article on military discounts too while you are here at the site. Thanks all for your input!

October 17, 2007 at 2:50 PM  

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