Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pret a Manger

Ready to eat? Yes, please!

My sister Alanna, and I took advantage of a recent Groupon by setting an appointment for a Dream Dinners session. First things first - what's Groupon? A daily email featuring a healthy percentage off one service, restaurant, activity and more in the Chicago area. I've gotten 40% off an Art Institute membership, 60% or more off multiple restaurants and even a discounted trip to a Driving Range to improve the golf game. Groupon and the like exist in many cities - I definitely encourage you to check out what may be offered for you!

Back to the Groupon at hand: Dream Dinners. For $55 we could create a menu worth up to $110. The menu changes monthly, so my sister and I decided to book a session in April based on the offerings we saw. You can pick 3 or 6 serving sizes for most items and choose from ready made meals and sides/desserts as well prior to the session. This is a franchise company and I have seen similar dinner creation experiences out there, but have never tried it myself before today.

Bringing a cooler and a few extra bags to carry the loot home, we walked in not quite knowing how interactive the menu building would be. Would we literally just load up our cooler with ready made freezer bags and head out? Or would we be taking care of the whole dish from scratch?

The organization queen in me loved the personalized nametags on each bin and shelf in the cooler so you always knew where your items were. Slapping on some gloves and an apron, we got started with our personalized menus at the first station.

Using color coded measuring cups and directions alongside labeled ingredients, the prep was the perfect amount of do it yourself and "really hard to mess up." 

Alanna started things off with a creamy chicken risotto. We were very curious how many ziplock bags this company goes through in a month - the ingredients are typically split up this way for easy travel - ie. a sauce in one bag, the chicken in another and both in a gallon size bag to throw in the freezer in one fell swoop.
For each meal, there is an instruction sheet with how to finish cooking once at home. Alanna shows off a completed meal before putting it in the cooler for the rest of the session.
Yum. . .Sizzling Chicken Tortilla Bake for 6 - when's the dinner party scheduled for??
Not just main dishes for suppertime, I couldn't pass up the Peach Pecan French Toast. Looking forward to having people over for brunch sometime soon!
All in all, we both left with about seven 3-6 serving meals and a couple side dishes (I got sweet potato fries, Alanna picked out the gorgonzola mashed potatoes). Not bad for $55 and change. The compact ziplock bags make it so you can fit quite a bit in the freezer, even a skinny side freezer like we have.

I also felt inspired to take a weekend this summer and devote it to cooking for future meals: lasagna, soups and chili are some of my favorite things to freeze in individual portions and grab when needed. 

Does anyone else take advantage of prepared freezer meals that don't come in a Lean Cuisine box? We did not sign up for a May session, but may try to fit another one in for June. Until then, it feels nice to have some of our meals planned out for the rest of April! 


  1. nicely done! If you're looking for a good set of make-ahead recipes, check out the one from Cooks Illustrated. I have this and it's yielded some great recipes already, plus it has tons of good information for what's good to store in the freezer, how long, etc.

    Happy cooking!


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