Tuesday, February 9

Dream Dinners - Camden - San Jose

The pre-made meal service seems to be a fast growing market. Many Silicon Valley families like mine are strapped for time and dinner seems to be the first priority to drop. With both spouses working and now with a baby to take care of, I'm finally admitting that I need help to get healthy meals prepared every week night.
First, we did the Blue Apron free trial. It was good but the portions were small and the delivery had more packaging than I'd like. This is not only bad for the environment but also takes up space in our recycling bin for the week. 

Now I'm reviewing Dream Dinners, a service in the Camden area of San Jose. Thanks to Dream Dinners for hosting a private blogger event and giving me these free meals to review.

HOW IT WORKS
-Create an account
-Choose your appointment time in their calendar
-Choose the meals you want
-Pay through their website
-At your appointment, assemble your meal per their directions
-Take home and store in your freezer to enjoy at your leisure

COST
The cost varies depending on what you order and how much of it. You can choose 3 servings or 6 servings of each meal. The 4 meals I got for free would have cost me $79.96.

Dream Dinners helps people prepare frozen meals for the month. They have all the ingredients and the recipe. All you do is place your order and assemble the meals in person. This allows customization for spice levels and seasonings.

When a customer comes in for their appointment, they get a dedicated fridge space. 

Stations with direction cards are set up for each meal. I just packaged my seasonings per the directions. Then I packaged the sides and meat separately then put everything together in one bag.

Extra side dishes can be purchased from this fridge.

For our blogger event, we sampled the chicken paella and pork carnitas wraps which were delicious!

Here are the four meals I sampled. Each meal should contain 3 servings. For our family, it was one large portion for my husband plus one female friendly portion for me.
Buffalo chicken cavatappi - this was quite a filling dish for us both. My husband liked the flavor. I thought it was good but not great as most of the flavor came from Frank's Buffalo Sauce.

Pork carnitas rolls - this was my favorite dish of the lot. The pork carnitas were already cooked by Dream Dinners, I just add the sauce. Everything was very tasty and filling.

Meatloaf and mashed potatoes - This was my least favorite. The meatloaf was a bit bland. It came as a package of ground meat, some sauce and seasonings. Then the mashed potatoes were pre-made and only needed to be heated. They taste suspiciously like the instant powdered mashed potatoes you can get from the store

Panko crusted pork chops with crispy potatoes - This one was easy to make and quite tasty. The pork chops were marinated in buttermilk and breaded with a seasoned panko crust. These potatoes were to die for. So crispy. The portion of this meal was just really small. There were three pork chops, my husband ate two plus 2/3 of the potatoes. My portion is pictured above and I was still hungry after. 

PROS
-You get to assemble your meals in person. It allows you to customize to a certain extent.
-Directions to assemble and to heat up at home are super EASY and QUICK. My husband and I had no issues and dinner was ready in 30 mins or less (except the meatloaf, it takes an hour).
-Some meals have a good portion size. 
-Some meals, typically ones with chicken, are very affordable.
-Most of the meat is all natural.

CONS
-You have to go in person to assemble your meals. This was also a pro depending on how you look at it. I don't live too close to Dream Dinners Camden but I wouldn't mind going once a month for an hour or less to assemble all my meals.
-Some meals take a long time to cook like the meatloaf. But I don't think this is a big deal because the assembly was very quick and then we just put it in the oven for 1 hour. It left time to do other things.
-Because it's frozen, there weren't as many fresh veggies. That's important to me and I can't live with just frozen sides.
-Some meals have small portions like the pork chops.
-Some meals can be pricey per portion, typically if it's a more expensive cut of meat. 
-You need to commit to a minimum of 36 portions per order. This was too much for me to commit to for a family of 2 (because our baby doesn't eat this food yet).

COMPARISON WITH BLUE APRON
-Blue Apron taste is better. Dream Dinners is tasty too but most items were not as flavorful as Blue Apron.
-Blue Apron has fresh produce.
-Blue Apron allows you to skip certain weeks. Dream Dinners requires a minimum of 36 portions.
-Blue Apron ships to your house.
-Dream Dinners portions are larger
-Dream Dinners uses less packaging because they don't ship to your house and don't require boxing and ice packs
-Dream Dinners cooking directions are easier and faster.
-Dream Dinners meals can store in your freezer for longer than Blue Apron stays in your fridge.

The February menu for Dream Dinners is up if you are interested in ordering, here's their site.

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