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.
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.