Sunday, April 6, 2014

Time for Dinner

My neighbor Facebook checked-in to this place a few weeks ago. I looked at their website and while not the most cost effective (for me), decided to check it out. I managed to sucker my friend Dee and my mom (with my sister as her chef) into going with me. :) 

Time for Dinner is where you can make your own freezer meals without the hassle of planning, shopping, chopping, portioning, and clean up. Each month they have a different menu with around a dozen different dishes and a dessert. The best deal is to choose 6 dishes to make for $125 (plus tax.) Each dish is 6-portions so you're getting 36 portions for around $3.50 a portion. I can cook cheaper by doing it all myself, but I also wouldn't branch out and make some of the meals they offer. It's nice to have other dishes besides Tater Tot Casseroles, Enchiladas, Stuffed Shells, Spaghetti Sauce, and red meat in the freezer. It also is a lot less time consuming, which is one of their main selling points. When I do my bulk cooking, I spend probably 4-5 hours doing 6 dishes from scratch. 

One of the moms we encountered on Saturday said her family wouldn't eat if it wasn't for this place. Time for Dinner has been open for 10 years! I was surprised since it was the first time I had been there, and only recently heard of it. They had this type of place in Richmond, Virginia that I never got a chance to check out. One of my Richmond friends said the place has since closed. 

It's really easy. You choose the date you want to attend, and then "order" the meals you plan to make. For April, I chose Crab Cakes, two Chicken Parmigiana, Jumbo Stuffed Shells, Pollo Queso Fundido, and Sunset Pork Tenderloin. I avoided choosing red meat dishes since I still have over 100 pounds of red meat in my freezer. I chose my order before making Stuffed Shells myself. For April they had a special where if you ordered 6 meals, you got a free half dish of Butterscotch Brownies. Which, you have to "cream" the butter and sugar by hand. I'm taking a hand mixer next time. May's special is you get $10 off. And they have a loyalty program - if you go 6 times/6 meals each, you get 20% off the 7th time. I was looking at their Facebook page and it looks like in June-July-August they run some of the best deals. Which makes sense because no one wants to fire up their oven in the summer months! 

When we showed up, we checked in and paid, and they gave us a quick tour. My sister and I started at the Crab Cake station. All the ingredients are laid out in front of you, and the instructions are printed (in large font) and easy to follow. They even include the obvious instructions like when to put on latex gloves or which utensil (spatula versus whisk) to use. Except for the meat, you can add extra veggies or leave out the cheese if you want. 

You make your dishes in two oblong aluminum pans, they are 12.5 inches by 6.5 inches. I like that they are already broke into two dishes, this makes it easier for one or two people to eat, instead of making a large dish. TFD has stickers to place on the pans, one in front for easy "freezer view", and another larger one on top with instructions. The sticker on front is an excellent idea - I need to do this in my own deep freeze! You can see below what my freezer looks like. I know the three large pans are stuffed shells, mostly because my two tater tot casseroles are in the other freezer. 

It took us around two hours to make our 6.5 dishes. My sister and I jumped on the Brownie station early because we figured most people would wait until last to make theirs. We were right, Dee had to wait a few extra minutes. We weren't the last to leave either, but I think one mom made around 20 dishes. I saw her making like 10 pretzel chickens. :) 

Some additional notes - 
Some of the spices are included in the dish, but don't be afraid to ask for more! I was making the Chicken Parmigiana and realized I was missing garlic and pepper. I asked and I received. 

One of my dishes was a pork tenderloin with a rub. You made the rub in a ziplock bag. I helped my sister with hers and the rub wasn't mixing well. Instead of making my rub "wet", I just wrote what I needed to add at home (water and hot sauce) to finish it out. I figure I could wisk it better than I could mix it in a ziplock bag. 

If you have kids that can help, bring them. A few moms did have their kids with them, some were helpful, some were bored. I think it's a helpful way for children to learn how to put a dish together. I know my mom started me young. I plan to start Liam young too, he needs to learn to cook! 

I look forward to doing this again. We are on a strict budget though and I need to figure out how to work it it, at least every two months or so.

I'm already thinking ahead to Florida vacation at the end of June and think I'll be taking a few frozen meals with us. That way I won't have to buy a ton of ingredients and worry about cooking a few nights. I know our Florida vacation is going to be very busy already.  

I took the time to make a list of our freezer stash to put on our upstairs fridge for meal planning purposes. Since sometimes I meal plan in bed, using my iPad, I'm including the list here for my laziness. 
5 cups of Chili 2 Mozzarella Cheese - 1 lb each
13 cups of Black Bean Soup 2 Eggos - 8 packs
3 Stuffed Shells 2 Butter Braids
2 Tater Tot Casseroles 1 Bertolli Chicken Florentine & Farfalle 
1 Lasagna 7 Hamburger Buns
1 Sloppy Joe 3 Hot Dog Buns
3 Chicken Huts 1 Pork Butt
4 Spaghetti Sauce 1 Loaf of banana/blueberry bread
14 Twice Baked Potatoes 15 Chicken Sausages 
4 Carmel Apple Tartlets 5 Hot Dogs
1 Garlic Bread (8 count) Toasted Ravioli
3 Small French Loafs Mozzarella Sticks
1 frozen DiGiorno pizza French Fries
1 lbs of Bacon Tater Tots 
1 loafs of Bread Meatballs
1 Tortellini
2lb & 5 oz package of Chicken Breasts
Time for Dinner Dishes
1 Butterscotch Brownies 2 Sunset Pork Tenderloin
4 Chicken Parmigiana 1 Pretzel Chicken
2 Crab Cakes 1 Carmel Apple French Toast
2 Jumbo Stuffed Shells 1 Venetian Mac & Cheese
2 Pollo Queso Fundido 1 Garlic & Herb Pasta - Side Dish
Red Meat
37 1-pound ground beef 5 Stew Meat - 1 lb each
15 Hamburger Patties 3 Sirloin Tip Steaks (2 packs)
3 Flat Iron Steak 2 Sirloin Steak
7 Rib Eye Steak (3-2-2 packs) 1 Beef Brisket
2 Porterhouse Steak (2 packs) 4 Chuck Steaks
5 T-Bone Steak (2-2-1 packs) 3 London Broil
1 Round Steak (3 packs) 3 Cube Steaks (3 packs)
1 Rump Roast

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