Looking for ways to make dinner a quicker process this summer? Guest contributor Tamara Hickman of St. Charles tells us about a unique program for freezer or “batch” cooking at the Hy-Vee in Sycamore, as well as provides suggestions for how you can create a similar program for yourself.
Ever wonder what it would be like if someone would do your grocery shopping and clean up your mess after you cook? Well such a place exists!
Hy-Vee is an employee-owned grocery store that offers a program called “DISH” – Dinner Is Solved at Hy-Vee. Basically you prep freezer meals. I had read about this in the grocer’s Seasons magazine and immediately contacted the Sycamore store to see if they offered this program, and they did.
Sycamore is just 30 minutes west of the Tri-Cities, and it was totally worth the trip. Don’t worry if you don’t live in this area, I do have some other similar alternatives for you at the end of this article.
DISH is somewhat new at the Sycamore location, and I went to a few of their drop-in sessions to make meals. I loved it so much that I decided to start my own group. My group right now just consists of me and a friend, but we’re hoping that other friends will join in. Your group can meet at Hy-Vee to prep freezer meals weekly, bi-monthly, monthly or how often you like.
Now you might be thinking that it costs a lot of money, but it doesn’t. For example, your group chooses five main dishes that you could like to make. Staff at Hy-Vee do all the grocery shopping for you. They buy all store brands unless something else is on sale for less. In the end, all you pay for are the groceries.
Once your group meets in the store’s “Club Room,” everything is laid out for you, along with the recipes. The Club Room has many prepping tables and a full working kitchen. If you forgot your apron at home, don’t worry they provide you with one. A staff member will also be present to answer any questions.
When my group went, I looked at the sales ad to see what meat was on sale that week and that’s how I decided what we were going to make. In the end, our register receipt totaled $145.99, and we made 15 meals. That averaged out to under $10 a meal for a family of four.
DISH has more than 400 recipes to choose from and you can also incorporate your own. We made Marinated Pork Loin, Apricot Glazed Chicken, Sweet & Sour Meatballs, Italian Beef and Chicken Santa Fe; my family has loved everything I’ve brought home so far. One dish was a little salty for our taste, though, so I just made a note to cut down on the salt next time I prepare it.
At the end of the meal prepping, you will have non-perishable items left over such as garlic powder. Hy-Vee assigns you a pantry with your name on it so next time your group goes, this item will be there for you to use. This saves your group money for future recipes. Any perishable items such as eggs will be sent home with you. Nothing goes to waste.
Aside from the simplicity of being able to prep some freezer meals to put an easy dinner on the table, you can have fun doing it with your friends. When I drove home that day and put my meals in the freezer, I felt like I was putting money in the bank!
For more information or to set up your own group at the Hy-Vee store in Sycamore, please contact Kristin Benz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to mention you heard about the program on Go West Young Mom!
For those that do not live near a Hy-Vee or do not want to make the drive:
- Once a Month Mom is a website that offers a variety of menus suittable for freezer cooking, or batch cooking. Another Go West contributor, Catrina McCulley Wagner, wrote about how she and her friends save money even by buying organic using this approach.
- Pinterest has lots of freezer meal options.
- Wildtree is a party plan company and their products consist of natural herbs and spices. Some representatives offer freezer meal workshops.
- Rachel Ray has a Week in a Day program. Basically you pick out five meals, cook them all in the day and store in refrigerator until you are ready to eat.
Tamara Hickman and her husband live in St. Charles with their two preschoolers. The girls keep mommy busy with arts and crafts and daddy busy playing tag. The family loves to “park hop,” checking out parks in neighboring communities.