Thursday, September 11, 2008

What Will I Do?

My (latest) favorite make-a-meal place is closing down at the end of the month. This is the third one in the last year. Boohoo. A little history: I'd started patronizing a "meal-preparation-center" a couple of years ago. It's a place where you go and make dinners, and then keep them in the freezer until you're ready to eat them. This was such a lifesaver for me. I like to cook, but I HATE making dinner. I hate trying to think of what to make. I can't plan ahead to save my life. I never had the right ingredients on hand. I was annoyed when the girls complained about what I made. And so often I was away from home during the pre-dinner preparation window.

So this was truly a good solution for me. I'd stock up on 8-12 meals at a time, which would last us about a month. (We eat out a lot, and I don't really cook a full dinner when B is working and not home for dinner.) Most of the meals took about 30 minutes to prepare, but they were quick and easy and complete -- I didn't have to remember to buy tomato paste or cilantro or teriyaki sauce. And it worked out to be fairly reasonable - about $20-$25 a meal. It would cost me about the same to purchase the groceries to make those meals. (Sure, I could spend less on groceries, but not to make the variety and quality of food that we got.)

For a while, business seemed to be booming. Five of these meal preparation centers (MPCs) opened within months of each other. But now they've started dropping like flies. First, one changed to only pick-up, ready-to-eat meals. Each week they have 2 choices. Not what I'm looking for. Then the next one shut down their local store and consolidated with a store in another location, one that's too far and too inconvenient for me to do very often. Then the latest, my favorite, announced this week that they are shutting down. Boohoo.

There are still a couple of places left around town. But they are part of national chains and a lot of the food is pretty processed -- using already frozen ingredients or things I can't really identify. The places I'd patronized previously were independent, local places, using fresh ingredients and with a chef doing the prep work.

So, what will I do now? I might have to actually *cook* dinner every night! Eeek!


melissa said...

Have you ever tried something like spending a day cooking a bunch of meals and freezing them? I think there's a book (probably more than 1) about that. I always thought it would be okay to try but I don't see myself using it much. I like to eat a lot of fish and I just don't care for it when it's been frozen.

Pamela Fierro said...

I used to do that when the girls were little. I's called Once-a-Month Cooking. But it uses a lot of the same foods (for example, buy 5 lbs. of hamburger and make a bunch of casseroles). But I found it frankly exhausting - all the planning, shopping, prepping and cleaning up. And I found that the food didn't seem appetizing after all that work.

The nice thing about these places is that they do all the prep and cleaning up, and they make it fun for you to do the work while you're there.

Leeann said...

I'll give you a big hug. Other than that, I'm not really sure what to tell you.

Well, I take that back.

I know what to tell you, but it's nothing that you want to hear!


melissa said...

I make extras of easily doubled meals and either put some in the freezer for future use (like lasagna) or exchange with a friend in the neighborhood for something she makes. But you have to have similar tastes. And an agreement of how often to do it.

I tend to make things that I can prep 95% of in the morning. I don't like to have to make everything and clean it all up right before we eat. I even set the table right after I unload the dishwasher. So all that stuff is done early in the day. It helps a lot.