a peek inside the fishbowl

22 Jul, 2014

The deal with dinners*

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Giveaways and product reviews|parenting|Recipes and Food

Although I post a lot of recipes here at the Fishbowl, I am far from being a kitchen whiz or super supper planner. Sometimes I feel like I’m really on top of my game; cruising around the grocery store with a purposeful spring in my step, meal planning and budgeting like a demon, and cooking like Someone Who Knows What She is Doing. But then there’s all those other times. The times when I can’t pull it together to hit up the grocery store, park a mile away and waste my time waiting in the checkout line… gritting my teeth because I have a million other things to do. This is when we end up having breakfast for dinner or I raid the freezer. (Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it can get tiresome.)

Some people are very organized. They sift through the weekly flyers and plan their weekly dinners accordingly. They batch cook on Sundays and fill their freezers with meals their whole family will enjoy. I have to face facts and admit that I’m not one of these people and I may never be.

Enter Supperworks. It’s basically a large kitchen – or many small ones depending on how you look at it – that gives ordinary folks the chance to come in and do some meal prep. A few months ago they offered me the opportunity to try it out, and I’m so glad I did. I was really impressed with the whole process.

You order your meals online ahead of time, pick a date, and show up. The kitchen is also very organized. Imagine a large warehouse-ish type place with smaller meal prep stations scattered around. Each meal has its own station, with a clearly printed recipe, pre-chopped ingredients, and sets of measuring spoons assigned to it. So if you’re making Crockpot Chicken Curry you just head over to the counter that’s labelled as such.

Here’s a look at one of the stations:

Supperworks

It’s refrigerated, so cold stuff stays cold. Everything is clearly labelled and the proper measuring cups are already in each of the little containers. It is VERY hard to mess anything up.

When there’s no slicing or dicing or chopping or cleanup to do, so the process goes very quickly. In the space of just over an hour I made six dishes (SIX!), and I was SLOW. As a Supperworks newbie I spent a lot of time looking around and double checking the instructions. A lady next to me was zipping through her meals. I couldn’t believe how fast she was. (We got to chatting and she told me that she and her friend make a monthly outing out of their dinner prep time. They make a date, fix their meals together, catching up all the while. I thought that was pretty neat.)

The menu changes monthly, and provides a surprising variety of seasonally-appropriate choices. Vegetarian ones too. I made the following dishes on my visit. Honestly, I can’t pick a favourite as they were all very good, home cooked meals:

  • Basa with Thai Chili Sauce
  • Chili-Crusted Tri Tip
  • Cranberry Chicken with Apples
  • Parmesan Chicken Fingers
  • Pasta with Lobster Sauce and Shrimp
  • Roast Pork Tenderloin with Pomegranate Sauce (this one we brought to my inlaws to share for Sunday dinner)

You can look at the current Supperworks menu calendar right here.

Here’s an unexpected surprise: the Family size entrées generously fed four. In fact, in each case we had enough for a couple of lunches the next day. (BONUS.)

The cost of any six full size entrées is $198.00, which is $5.50 per serving based on six servings per entrée. It’s cheaper than the drive-thru for sure. It took us over a month for us to get through all of six, but that is neither here nor there. 

Sidebar: I have a feeling my mom is rolling her eyes here – TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS – but I think it’s fair to point out that my time is worth something. How much time does it take me to shop and chop and clean up? Answer: MANY MANY HOURS. What’s the additional cost to my family if I don’t have anything prepared and we decide to go out for dinner instead? Answer: it’s been known to blow our budget. And while it’s true that I can cook up meals for less (especially if I’m scouring the flyers and hitting up multiple stores and making big batches of chili on rice) I have to ask myself, what’s my time worth, exactly?

Second sidebar: I read a really interesting article online the other day about delegating lower paying jobs to other people and focusing on higher paying ones yourself. For example, spending an extra hour making sales calls instead of cleaning the house, which is a minimum wage job. If your hourly wage equates to more, you should, in theory, be spending more time on your work rather than house cleaning. So why can’t the occasional meal be one of those things that’s farmed out in a way that doesn’t include (a) the drive-thru (b) a restaurant (b) the frozen dinner aisle at the grocery store. It’s food for thought anyway. (Ha. See what I did there?)

I think my favourite part of the whole Supperworks experience, aside from the fact that I saved myself a LOT of time and effort required to shop, cook, and clean up after six entrées, was the fact that we tried some totally new recipes that I probably wouldn’t have made otherwise. The Cranberry Chicken had a hint of curry; it was “beginner Indian.” The roast pork had a hint of cinnamon, which made it slightly Moroccan. I’d never tried basa fish. Or tri tip. It was an education for all of us.

And  it was positively THRILLING to stuff all of these meals into the freezer…

A freezer full of Supperworks dinners

… and when I drew a blank on Tuesday in regards to what to make before Thursday’s soccer practice I just pulled one out and put it on the shelf in the fridge. Ta da! Dinner is done. No worries. No rushing.

There’s so much potential here: you can host a group “cooking party” to make a batch of meals a friend’s baby shower or housewarming. You can fill up the freezer for a sick co-worker or make 1/2 size dishes for an elderly couple you know. You can go with a friend, or bring of your kids (COOKING CLASS 1o1!), or your husband (seriously, I’ve been told it happens).

Tell me Fishies, would you try this out if we planned ahead for a wee date just for Fishbowl readers? Let me know what you think.

 

* Transparency alert! Supperworks gave me a 6-meal session to try for myself, but opinions, as always, remain my own.

 


6 Responses to "The deal with dinners*"

1 | TD

July 22nd, 2014 at 9:12 am

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This is something I have been considering, so a group outing would be great.

2 | Colleen

July 22nd, 2014 at 6:09 pm

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It does sound fun, but a bit steep for my family.

3 | Javamom

July 23rd, 2014 at 9:46 am

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I guess one of the things we find hard to accept sometimes is that occasionally, time is more valuable than money. I get it, although I have not tried Supperworks. But I do get it…as much as I enjoy the almost daily cooking part, it’s all the rest of it that gets tiresome to me: shopping, prepping, and cleanup after. And now that we have older kids in various activities, I sometimes feel like a hotel service or short-order cook. People coming and going at different times all day four to five times a week…sigh. It truly gives meaning to the ‘it never ends’ thing.

Did you make a long term commitment or is it a ‘go when I know next month is busy’ kind of thing?

4 | Natalie

July 23rd, 2014 at 12:41 pm

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My two cents. We have tried Supperworks, in fact we were regulars until recently. We were never disappointed. Their entrées for four fed our family of 5 generously. The quality of the ingredients, the flavourful dishes, the convenience and the liberating a busy mom’s mind space to deal with other pressing family matters – I have only good things to say about Supperworks! Although I truly enjoy cooking up a storm for my family on a Sunday afternoon, on a busy weeknight these meals have saved my butt more than once.

5 | Misty Pratt

July 23rd, 2014 at 2:01 pm

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Except for the fact that someone has to do those minimum wage jobs, and it’s usually new immigrants and low-income people with families to feed. So then I just feel guilty that I’m living off the backs of others who don’t have the opportunities to make sales calls and whatnot (totally not writing this as a jab against you or Supperworks…just my own guilty feelings that come to play whenever I hire someone to do these types of things!)

6 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Gifts for people who have everything part 4: DINNER. - a peek inside the fishbowl

December 5th, 2017 at 3:30 pm

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[…] back I was invited to attend a blogger’s evening at Supperworks.* I’ve written about Supperworks before, and you can read about the experience in my archives. To summarize: Supperworks is an easy meal-making service and there are three locations in Ottawa: […]

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our two daughters Emma (18) and Sarah (16). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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