Family Dinners to the Rescue

The absolute best baby gift we received was a gift certificate for a week’s worth of family dinners from a local favorite, Foster’s Market. (Those of you who don’t live around here may be familiar with Sara Foster’s cookbooks.) Everyone who has a newborn knows that early evening is their fussiest time, and so it’s really difficult to cook, eat and clean up dinner. Give new parents easy-to-prep meals instead of baby clothes, and they’ll be forever grateful — trust me!

Foster’s offers a week’s worth of healthy and tasty family dinners, nicely packaged and ready to heat up and serve. The entrees come with bread, salad and dessert for the week. I have to say, the meals are delicious and generously portioned. This week, we’ve eaten cheese tortellini casserole, barbecued chicken and pasta with salmon, snow peas and mint (my personal favorite), plus spinach salad, strawberry shortcake and extremely tasty cornbread muffins.

What are the drawbacks? Well, at $10 per person per meal, they are pretty pricey. (However, my friend who eats out all the time and doesn’t cook thinks the cost is a bargain.) You have to get a week’s worth of meals at a time and there’s no flexibility on the menu, so it can be tough to find a week with meals we both want to eat, since I don’t eat beef or pork and hubby is allergic to shrimp.

Considering all that, I think we’d watch the menus and order again. All the meals are freezeable, so you don’t have to eat them all in one week. And having ready-made, healthy meals for this whole week has greatly reduced my stress levels, especially since the baby has been very cranky each evening (we think he’s hitting his 6-week growth spurt). I would love to have a few of these on hand as an alternative to standard grocery-store frozen meals for high-stress times or if we were having houseguests.

But home cooks can take a lesson from Foster’s and prepare our own family dinners ahead of time, such as on the weekends. Just look for recipes that can be made ahead and then reheated quickly at dinnertime. Based on Foster’s menus, some ideas are casseroles, pasta dishes that can be quickly sauteed, tacos, soups and stews, and baked or roasted chicken. Assembling a salad for the week (keeping the dressing separate until serving, of course) is another great time saver. Still, when the weekends are as chaotic as weeknights, a service like this is a handy once-in-a-while alternative.

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