Why not assemble meals and save valuable time in someone else’s kitchen? With the booming trend of meal assembly that’s blossomed in our community, you can do just that. You’ve probably driven by one or more of these shops in our area and wondered what they are like. I decided to explore the benefits of the experience by visiting four locations in the Geist and Fishers areas.
If you have not heard of the meal assembly concept, it’s simple. You come to the store’s kitchen, spend roughly an hour on six complete meals, two hours for twelve meals, or in some kitchens time for as little as one meal. They have meal stations already prepared and stocked with everything you will need for that meal, along with the steps of what to do. You prepare each the meal as directed at the various stations and place them in provided containers, such as a foil pan or baggies. When you are finished, you tote the meals home. All of the kitchens provide copies of monthly menus and menus are posted on their websites.
Typically, you can make meals as you see fit, choosing to leave out ingredients or split meals in half if you are a couple without kids. You make your meals and arrive home with everything you need. It is that easy.
I met with Dawn and Brian Boyer the owners of Dinner by Design and absolutely loved their slogan, “Bringing Families Back To The Dinner Table With Healthy, Nutritious Dinners.” With society as a whole so much busier these days, they found themselves asking their children where they wanted to eat, and the kids would answer “at home.” That got Dawn and Brian thinking…how to eat at home, but make it easier. At their store, you can assemble your own meals or call ahead and pick up a completely cooked meal. You can also stop by their store and pick up a few already assembled meals in their fridge.
While I was talking with Dawn, one of her regular clients called to ask for a few meals for later in the day. She was a client, but more importantly, she was a new mom who had just had a baby. She wanted her meals already prepared, and Dawn made suggestions on spices within the meals because she had learned that her client was nursing. What a great idea to make meals ahead of time when expecting, or as a gift to someone who has just had a baby.
Another great program that Dinner by Design has to offer is a line of mini-meals. The mini meals are targeted toward singles or kids. This makes it easy to provide a nutritious meal for less than the cost of a Happy Meal.
Next I visited My Girlfriends Kitchen, which truly felt like being in a friend’s kitchen, with the energetic and colorful walls, aprons and personalities. I met with one of the owners, Rob Hruskoci, and discussed the things that he and his wife Amy pride their business on. They use fresh meats and vegetables, and often cut them onsite. I toured their freezer, refrigerator and meal preparation stations and can tell you that only the freshest ingredients are indeed being used. They will even sauté vegetables if a meal calls for it. Their meals are prepared by and for the grill, crock pot, skillet or oven. They also make their own sauces, such as My Girlfriend’s tomato sauce. Also, for those on structured nutrition programs, they provide the Weight Watchers points for their menu items.
My Girlfriend’s Kitchen allows you to bring in wine or beer while you are preparing your meals, which has enabled them to host girlfriend’s nights, baby showers, wedding showers and book clubs at their store. They have had couples come in and do wedding showers, so the newly wedded have several meals to come home to after the honeymoon.
Also, Rob shared with me a story of a client who is very money conscious and raved about how much money she saved by coming and preparing meals at My Girlfriends Kitchen, and how her husband had been so pleased at her savings!
I also got the chance to meet with Super Supper owner Cindy Hutchins. Her slogan is, “We are the answer to the question ‘What is for dinner’?” She loves the meal concept because she says it empowers women to make the best choices for the family and save time and money. She was a practicing nurse for 26 years, which of course gives her all the experience she needs on nutrition.
Her number one concern is obesity in children; she says with proper eating and exercise we can teach our children how to take care of themselves properly through our own examples. She gets concerned when clients tell her how much they eat out, and she is very concentrated on providing homemade meals with portions control and healthy food. She believes in her food and showed me her freezer full of fresh meats and fish. She said that it has been proven that using the meal concept idea will save one 25-30 hours a month by cutting out the shopping and prep time at home or the time it takes to eat out. Cindy prides herself on getting families together through activities and sitting down around the table, which promotes moral values.
Super Suppers is a national chain of meal concept stores that has decided to have walk-in Wednesdays and walk-in Saturdays. Cindy has taken that a step further in her own store to say walk-ins are welcome anytime. Her store is open Mondays thru Thursdays 11-7, Friday and Saturday 11-5. How convenient for the person who has a lunch hour or who has time to stop by before picking up the kids.
Cindy has grab n’ go meals available in her refrigerator daily. Another thing I loved was the fact that you can even do a half meal if you would like. Her store is also different because you can stop by and make however many meals you would like. Her meals serve 6, not 4-6 like most. Her shop is kid-friendly; however, according to the health department kids have to be 8 years old to prepare a meal themselves.
The first store to invent the meal concept is Dream Dinners. It was founded by two ladies with a flair for healthy and convenient food. I met with Kent Hiller, who owns Dream Dinners with his wife Stacey and Amy Work. Dream Dinners focuses on everyday meals that everyone will like. They have a great location off of 96th Street behind Bob Evans that Kent says brings in customers from all over.
Kent told me that the average family spends $2,000.00 per year on eating out and 10% of that is at McDonald’s. And for roughly $200, you can prepare 12 meals to enjoy at home which are much healthier. Kent says the explosion of the meal concept just shows the validity of the business. It is a Midwest market at the moment; however, they are working on introducing stores in bigger cities.
Did you know that sitting together as a family at least a couple times a week can actually lead to higher IQ’s, test scores, behavior and overall health? Kent and I talked about the scientific aspect of why this concept is so strong, and in his view it’s a way to reconnect with the family and decompress in the sanctity of your home. We also talked about the cost effectiveness of the meal concept, “Instead of buying a whole onion or jar of paprika, you are only paying for that cup of onion or sprinkle of paprika,” Kent explained.
Also, Dream Dinners has designed “dream dollars,” which is a kid’s based fundraiser where they will actually donate money back to the school or organization. Dream Dinners realizes that “food is at the heart of everything we do.” Why not make it nutritious, easy and cost effective too.
Each of these kitchens is doing a great job with providing nutritious meals options that taste good and are a snap to prepare. They each have found their own little niche within the industry. Overall it is easy, cost effective and fun. Why not try them out, and feel good about the quality of food you are serving your family and the savings of time you will experience.
Dinner by Design
7035 E. 96th Street, Suite N
Indianapolis, IN 46250596-9384
Owners: Brian and Dawn Boyer
9520 Uptown Drive, Suite H
Indianapolis, IN 46256842-1130
Owners: Amy Work & Stacey Hiller
My Girlfriend’s Kitchen
8235 E. 116th Street, Suite 235
Fishers, IN 46038579-0900
Owners: Amy and Rob Hruskoci