Momma Knows: Meal Assembly Services (Pass Your Plate)
If you have been wondering, like I had, whether or not a meal assembly service (particularly Pass Your Plate) is all it's cracked up to be, all I can say is YES! One of the first rules of writing is to steer clear of cliché, but the best way to describe this revolutionary service is that it's the best thing since sliced bread. I literally know how women must have felt when their loaves came pre-sliced.
Meal assembly services are the greatest new technology since the grocery list!
At a meal assembly service they have all the prep work done for you. There are stations where you simply follow the printed recipe and assemble however many meals you choose. What's so great about that? Let me tell you!
When you use a meal assembly service, they go to all the trouble of coming up with nice meals. There's no poring over cookbooks trying to figure out what to cook. Also, they buy their spices in bulk, and use them that way too. So while you may have the same jar of marjoram that you shelled out four dollars for six years ago and it's no good anymore, these people go through the stuff like nuts so you know it's going to be fresh. Plus, you haven't wasted all that money on some weird spice that you'll never use again.
Not only does the meal assembly service do all the prep work for you, they clean up too! You walk into this immaculate kitchen space, make a huge mess, and walk away. While I was assembling my meals, a friendly woman came behind me and whisked away all my trash and used utensils. And speaking of supplies, everything is all laid out for you on racks and the recipes even tell you what to pick up before you begin. Instead of ending up with a sink and dishwasher full, your kitchen at home stays spick-and-span while you're dirtying up a new bowl and spatula every ten minutes for someone else to clean.
Whether you don't like to cook or you do, a meal assembly service is a great option. If you don't like cooking, you get it all over with at once. I made 14 entrees in under three hours. And at many places you can split the meals to use on evenings when not everyone is at home. For families with a traveling spouse, this is ideal. I ended up with 22 containers, some full orders, some half. If you really hate to cook you can have the staff assemble the meals for you for an extra charge.
If you like to cook it's also great because you go there and you cook. That's it. No cleaning, no searching around the pantry for that twine you bought just for this recipe. (And I can tell you I would never, ever make a recipe that involved twine if not for this service.) They play nice music and you mindlessly follow the instructions and relax. Some places do parties where you can get together with friends and they even serve appetizers and wine. How nice is that?
The best thing is that I have great stuff on hand that my kids will eat. If you're worried your kids won't like the food, just check out the menu at your local store. I made chicken manicotti and penne with meat sauce. What kid wouldn't love that? There's a Mexican meatloaf I can't wait to try and my kids went nuts over smoked gouda bacon burgers! Try it and report back here with your results!
How Good and How Much?
I was concerned about both the flavor and the cost. Pass Your Plate has freezer meals, which you can pick up pre-assembled. Ours also has a handy BOGO for first timers. I took advantage of that deal to make sure the food was decent. And when you assemble the meals yourself, you have control over how much spice or other ingredients to include. I doubled up on the garlic on almost all my recipes!
As far as cost goes, I ended up with 22 foil trays of food for $209, so just under $10 per entrée. Some of those are full, some are half, and three were ‘holiday sides' which were large enough to feed everyone at a large holiday dinner. It can seem pricey depending on how you look at it. I had to wait until I had an extra $200 lying around, but it'll be interesting to see how much lower my weekly grocery bill turns out to be. I figure since I have all this wonderful gourmet food on hand, I can supplement with crock pot chili and scrambled eggs to bring down my average meal cost!
These places are a great to take kids to cook because all the dangerous stuff is done! It would also be super fun to have a kids' party there and make dinners to take home!
Tip: Increase your kitchen power even more by learning how to plan meals and shopping with a list with my article: How to Grocery Shop With a List: Weekly Meal Planning.
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