Reviewing Let’s Dish: Is it Worth It?

So, the latest and greatest in my “Is it Worth it” series is the meal assembly store, Let’s Dish. The store has been around for a little while and there are a couple different companies that do the same type of thing – you pick your meals according to the monthly menu, visit the store to make the meals and then bring them home to stock your freezer.

I visited Let’s Dish for the first time a few years ago and got hooked. I go pretty regularly at about 4 – 6 times each year, even though I now live about 40 minutes away from the closest store. According to my session card at this past weekend’s visit, I’ve been there EIGHTEEN times – so it’s pretty weird that I’ve never written about my experiences there even though I’ve gotten lots of questions in real life.

lets dish worth it

So, is it worth it? Obviously I think so, since I’m a repeat offender… but to truly answer the question, it is best to divide it into a few mini questions:

1. Why don’t I just get off my lazy butt and get a cookbook to make new meals?
Good question Joules, even if you are being a little snarky. Why don’t I just find new recipes somewhere and make them? I mean, there are tons of cookbooks out there and even a bazillion websites that I could use for free?

Well, the thing that I like about Let’s Dish is that I not only get the chance to try a new recipe, I can try it without buying a crapload of a spice that I may never need again. I find it a bit intimidating to have to purchase a bunch of random ingredients which could be expensive, when I don’t even really know if I’m going to like the finished creation. By doing it at the store, they have everything there for me to try with no fuss or extra cost. Oh and bonus points because you don’t even have to clean up after yourself!

2. How many meals do you make at a time and how many people do they each feed?
You can make anywhere from one meal to 12 and each dish has six servings. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, since we have a family of three (two that eat actual food at the moment), I split each meal in half while I’m making it. I also tend to get four meals at a time… so for every four meals I purchase, it’s actually divided into 8 meals. Which works out great because we have an extra serving for a guest, or for a leftovers lunch the next day.

3. What kind of food do you get?
There are ALL kinds of food offered on the monthly menu and it changes each month to different choices so that you won’t get bored. When I went this past weekend, I made:

  • Four-Star BBQ Pork Tenderloins
  • Honey Glazed Pork Chops
  • New England-Style Shrimp Rolls
  • Santa Fe Tilapia

Each of these meals is totally unlike the typical dinners I’d usually make if I go to the store and buy the ingredients myself. Sometimes by trying out various meals and finding out the proper cooking times, it helps me replicate them on my own. For example, I made a pretty delicious pork chop meal there a few years ago which used garlic and had roasted apples on top. After a few tries, I was able to start making that meal at home all by myself like a big girl.

Sometimes the menus look awesome to me, sometimes I don’t like more than one meal offered. That’s why I don’t go every month. Well, that and the fact that it actually takes us awhile to get through all the meals.

4. Isn’t it super expensive?
It can be; however there are lots of promotions and coupons out there for you to use.

Let’s pretend you don’t know of any promotions at the time to give you a cost comparison. For the 4 dishes session, the cost (at the Columbia, MD store) is $105.00. So that’s $26.25 per meal. Because we are a smaller family, I divide the meals in half when making them – so each meal for us is actually $13.12. As I mentioned before, this takes care of dinner, as well as leftovers for someone’s lunch the next day. Some meals come with sides already, but I typically will add in an extra veggie for a couple bucks. So let’s round to about $15.00 for a homemade meal (with leftovers). When is the last time you paid that at a restaurant for two adults to eat (McDonalds doesn’t count)?

Lots of times, there are promotions to be found. Let’s Dish will run them directly from their website (or by emailing you if you sign up on their list). Other services, such as Groupon and Plum District have also run deals. In fact, I used a Plum District deal for this past weekend’s meals: $84.00 for 4 meals (which divide into 8), one side item, one dessert and one package of their famous scones. Pretty awesome, right!?

So, with all that in mind – is it worth it?

For our family, YES.

If we had a larger family, it might not be as good of a deal once you determine the cost of making food from scratch. However, for our little family it works out pretty much perfectly. We get to try different meals (which we don’t always love, but it’s nice to have variety), the cost is reasonable and it’s usually pretty easy to finish putting the meal together and cook it after a long day of work.

In addition to the ease and yumminess of having the meals ready to cook at home, the actual Let’s Dish process is pretty fun. It’s a great excuse to meet up with a friend and chat while throwing a bunch of meals together. The store also makes up lots of samples of their recipes for you to munch on in between stations. Each time my friend and I go, we make it a point to camp out by the food and meticulously try each of the samples. Sometimes more than once.  In the case of the freshly baked scones, maybe even more than twice…

Here’s my typical disclosure: I was not rewarded by Let’s Dish for reviewing their meal assembly service on my blog. I pay for my own sessions and have never received any of my 18 sessions for free or a discount for giving them a favorable review.

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Is Citrus Lane Worth It: The June “Little Artists” Box Review

After a LONG Saturday of working in DC in the morning, a quick trip the mall and  then meeting a friend at Let’s Dish (blog post coming), I came home to an awesome surprise…. my June Citrus Lane delivery!

Oh Happy Day — the June Citrus Lane “Little Artists” box has arrived!

I say surprise, because even though I was expecting it, the box usually doesn’t arrive to my house until the week after the 15th (since it ships from California), but I got mine on the 16th this month. YAY!

I knew that this month’s theme was “The Little Artist” and I was curious how they’d keep to the theme considering that Jack is only 4 months old. I was imaging some finger paint and maybe some super huge crayons, but the reality was so much better.

As I picked up the box to open it, I was already intrigued by the jingle jangle coming from it. Such a good sign!

It seems that the folks at Citrus Lane are really reading and listening to their reviews, because the boxes keep getting better. Last month I said that the box “rocked my socks off” and I’d have to say that I’m even MORE impressed with the June box. So let’s say it “square-danced off my shirt” for comparison sake.

Jack is totally exhausted from the coolness that is the Wee Gallery Art cards
    So, what was in the box that made me do a little jig?
  • Wee Gallery Art Cards ($12.95 value, 10% off weegallery.com purchase). Super snazzy little black and white flashcards made out of thick cardboard paper. The high contrast design is prefect for my wee little artist.
  • Putumayo 2012 Playground Sampler CD ($5.00 value). Okay, I’m not really a fan of kiddie music CD’s in general. I don’t understand why your child simply can’t just rock along to LMFAO along with you in the car (even if they’re not “sexy” they can totally “wiggle and wiggle” along).

I did receive a couple of Jewel’s kids CD downloads from a friend of mine, which I do enjoy and we regularly rock out to some Disney movie songs (and when I say “we” I might actually mean “me” on my drive into work). Anyways, I didn’t really have high hopes for this CD sampler, but I was pleasantly surprised. My current fav is “Animal Crackers” by Wee Hairy Beasties – it’s got almost an Elvis-like feel to it, with really cute lyrics. I’m also digging the Brazilian music… I mean WE. We’re digging it. Yeah. Oh and listening to “boogie” pronounced in French totally cracks me up.

The little owl adds fun to the corner of our bathroom. I wonder how long it will take my husband to notice…?
  • BabyGanics Stain Eraser On-The Go ($3.99 value).This little bottle of spray is supposed to be a miracle worker in mysterious food stains, artist splats and spots, and more. Since we’re starting food next month, this might come in super handy!
  •   Pop & Lolli Decal ($67.00 for set of 16, 15% off popandlolli.com). Out of the whole box, this is my take-it-or-leave-it item. It is a super cute little owl decal, but Jack’s room has already been decorated. I did find a spot for it in my bathroom, but I wouldn’t bother to pay that much money to purchase any more decals.
  • Hohner Kids Musical Instruments ($12.00 value). WE love, love, LOVE these instruments – and I do mean WE this time. I put one instrument in each of Jack’s hands and he boogied for a good 10 minutes shaking them about. The jingle of the instruments (we received a cage bell and a musical shape) are fun without being too loud or annoying.
We LOVE this month’s musical instruments!

The colors are great and the construction seems to be very good as well. This is an example of something that I would not have necessarily bought for Jack, but now that he has them will be a total favorite in our house.

  • Minted Offer ($35.00 gift card). Originally I was super excited about this offer; I mean $35 is a lot of money! But then I went to the website and I realized that the smallest of the prints that I like is $50.00, so I still need to shell out $15 to make my purchase. I’m going to go ahead and do it though, because I totally fell in love with their You are my Sunshine print and I like that a portion of every sale goes towards the Every Mother Counts charity.

So, my monthly question – was it worth it?

Absolutely YES

In fact, if they continue delivering such awesome boxes each month, I will stay a member of Citrus Lane until my son reaches 3 years old (their oldest kid box). I fully enjoy the surprise box each month and many of the items are used in our house on a regular basis.

Some of our ongoing favorites:

  • The Itsy Ritzy Bib, Burp and Bath Cloth from the March 2012 box.
  • The bath towel and flannel wash clothes from the April 2012 box.
  • The hat, teething toy AND book from the May 2012 box.
  • And bonus points: I get a ton of compliments on the bracelets I purchased from joyus.com (using the gift card from the May box)

Here’s my typical disclosure: I was not rewarded by Citrus Lane for reviewing their box on my blog. I review the boxes, because I feel like other mom’s would be interested in seeing what they’ll get if they sign up for the monthly service.

HOWEVER, if you decide that you would like to sign up for your own subscription and use my link, I will receive credits on my account. As an added bonus to my fabulous readers, you can get 10% off the cost of any subscription (normal cost $25 each month). You’ll save $7.50 on three months, $12.50 on six months, or $25 on twelve months. To redeem the deal, click on my link and enter the word SPRINGFUN when checking out.

Check out my other Citrus Lane box reviews:

March 2012: Dining Out

May 2012: Fun in the Sun

Oh, and to all the daddies out there — Happy Father’s Day!

Action shot while jamming!
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Reviewing Citrus Lane: The May “Fun in the Sun” Box

I reviewed my first Citrus Lane box in March and I really liked it, but couldn’t say that I totally loved it. It had some cool things in there, but the only two things that I’m still using a couple months later are the Itsy Ritzy Bib, Burp and Bath Cloth (I use this ALL the time) and the Mommy’s Bliss Gripe Water. The gripe water came in so handy for my gassy baby that we used the entire bottle and I went out and bought more. So super winner there!

When my April box came, I was a bit disappointed and actually didn’t even bother to write a review. My first instinct was that the box wasn’t really very fun – it pretty much included just a bath towel, some flannel wash clothes and a bunch of promo codes. I had a bath towel and baby washcloths already… and the ones they sent me weren’t even cute! However, it’s a month later and I use that plush bath towel and super soft washcloths every single time I give Jack a bath – so I’m pretty glad I didn’t complain about them when I got that box!

My cornucopia of awesome — the May “Fun in the Sun” box

Since I had one good box and one okay box, I was waiting to get my May “Fun in the Sun” box before deciding whether to cancel my subscription.

And I’m so glad I did because the May box ROCKED MY SOCKS OFF!

Reading the insert that they sent along with the box o’ awesome, it seems like they may have gotten some feedback similar to mine where the newborn mommies wanted more FUN in their boxes. It’s a sign of a great company when they actually listen to the feedback and deliver!

So enough with the jibber jabber, here’s what was included in this month’s box:

iPlay Sun Protection Hat ($15.00 value, also a 20% promo code)– Since the company knows that I have a boy, they sent me one in a cute blue sailboat pattern. It is absolutely adorable and has a handy under-chin tie to keep it on Jack’s head. Even better, the hat is rated 50+SPF with a wide brim and ear flaps.

Green Toys Twist Teether ($10.99) – FINALLY a toy in our box! We were starting to feel a little left out, because the only “toy” we had previously gotten was a clear teething thing in March. This was worth the wait though – it’s made in the USA, doesn’t contain any yucky stuff, is super easy for baby hands to grab AND makes a fabulous clinky noise when  you shake it around. Jack is just starting to figure out how to grab things and I predict that this will be one of his favorites.

His outfit says “Girls Dig Me’ and it’s especially true when he’s showing off his mad multitasking skillz!

“In My Ocean” book ($8.99, also a 20% promo code) – YAY A BOOK! Okay, you all know that I’m a huge book dork which means that I’m counting the days until my son joins me in my dorkery. I received a bunch of awesome books at my baby shower to start Jack’s collection and a couple more this past weekend at his baptism. So, you can imagine my excitement when I opened this month’s box and found that they included a nicely illustrated book with a cool dolphin finger puppet. This is perfect for us to add to Jack’s bedtime reading ritual. The colors are bright and the dolphin perfect for slobbering on!

FULL SIZED — do you SEE! That’s 8 oz of lotion… heck yeah!

Episencial Better Body Butter Lotion ($10.00) – Do you see the size off this body butter lotion?! It’s FULL SIZED, not some little tiny sample thingie. Another item made in the USA (yay Citrus Lane for keeping it American), the bottle describes it as “silky soft” and it really is. I put some on and it’s got a nice, light scent and rubs right in to your skin without leaving you feeling greasy. It’s organic and free of nasty additives, so it’s good for me to use on myself or my baby. NOW we’re talking!

Episencial Sunny Sunscreen Travel Size ($9.00) – Okay, I was impressed at the full sized lotion and then we come to this tiny (.75 oz) tube of sunscreen. But instead of being annoyed at its itsy bitsy-ness, I actually like that it’s little and easy to throw in a diaper bag. According to their pamphlet, dermatologists recommend that babies under 6 months only use sunscreen on small areas of their body – so this little tube is actually the perfect size for my little monster. Also, I can try it out and see if we like it before we commit to a larger size. That’s what I consider a win, win!

Joyus $15 Gift Card ($15.00) – I had never heard of Joyus before and really wasn’t sure what to expect with a website that has in-depth videos for each product. I figured I’d just toss this card like I had so many other coupon code/gift cards from Citrus Lane in the past. However, hold your horses because I just checked out the site and I actually LIKE it! Even better, I found what they call “The Perfect Bracelet”which is a set of three gold plated and leather bracelets. Or you could go with the silver plated and leather option. The set of three is $38, so after I use my gift card I can get them for only $23 WITH free shipping… SOLD! Now the only question is which set do I get?

Wow, this book is fascinating!

Now when I added up the value of the March box, it was over $90 worth of goodies. This total for this month’s box came to just under $70. However, if you take note of the number of exclamation points I used when describing the contents of this month’s box, it’s easy to see that it’s a winner. Instead of just liking one or two of the items in the box, I’m actually super excited about EVERY SINGLE thing in there. If this was the first box I’d received, I would have been shouting from the rooftops how great Citrus Lane is for new mommies.

Now that my socks have been knocked off with this month’s box, I have high hopes for the June box. I don’t know what that theme will be, but hopefully it will be just as great as this one!

Now time for my full disclosures:  I was not rewarded in any way for mentioning Citrus Lane on my blog. They didn’t send me a free box to review; I paid for it myself because I feel like as a new mom I DESERVE a monthly gift. However, if you choose to sign up for your own subscription and use my link I will receive credits on my account.

The hat serves double-duty for stealthy naps.

This doesn’t mean that I’m going to give them (or any company) a good review just to get you guys to sign up! This is MY blog, I only write about whatever I feel like writing about – if they suck, they suck. But they didn’t suck… they were awesome. So I feel comfortable recommending them to you.

As an added bonus to my fabulous readers, you can get 10% off the cost of any subscription (normal cost $25 each month). You’ll save $7.50 on three months, $12.50 on six months, or $25 on twelve months. To redeem the deal, click on my link and enter the word SPRINGFUN when checking out.

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