Review: Social Suppers

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Recently, I had the opportunity to do a complimentary session at Social Suppers, a company with locations in Missouri and Kansas that offers meal assembly options for the busy family. I’ve always wanted to try out one of these stores and so I jumped on the opportunity to do a review in exchange for two weeks’ worth of meals in my freezer.

I very much enjoyed my experience and was impressed overall with the concept of this business idea. While I am not convinced it would save a number of us (myself included) money, I definitely saw how it could be a great option for those of you who are extremely busy and have more money than time right now. It might also be something to consider splurging on for stressful and chaotic seasons of life (such as before or after a move, during pregnancy, or right after having a baby).

PROS

–The convenience is incredible. Walking in and having all of
the recipes picked out for you, the groceries shopped for, the portions
divided up, the chopping done, and everything ready to go is, well, quite
an amazing thing. You just make your meals, package them up,
and leave the dishes for someone else to wash! We made the equivalent
of two weeks’ worth of meals in about an hour and a half total. When
else will that ever happen?

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Social Suppers is very child-friendly. The day I was scheduled for my session, I called and asked if my daughter could come with me. I fully expected that a place dealing with meal-prep and assembly would not be thrilled with me bringing along my three-year-old, even if I promised she’d behave. Contrary to what I expected, I was enthusiastically encouraged to bring my daughter with me.

The staff at Social Suppers was very helpful and inclusive of Kathrynne. They went out of their way to make sure she enjoyed herself and was able to participate in the meal assembly. Kathrynne and I made a very special memory during our mother-daughter meal preparation session and she’s enjoyed eating the food more knowing that she helped to prepare it.

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–Social Suppers offers a wide variety of fairly nutritional meals. I noticed very few meals with ingredients containing MSGs, corn syrup, or food coloring. Many of the meals had vegetables as part of the dish and the beef they use is higher quality. Another great thing about making up the meals yourself is that you can choose to omit ingredients according to your family’s health needs and preferences. 

CONS

–The prices are rather high. While they claim to have meals which cost only $2.50 per serving, from my calculations, many of them are more like $4-$6/serving and that price does not include side dishes. Since I try to have our entire dinner be $2/person or less, the prices at Social Suppers are definitely higher than I am used to paying and seemed quite exorbitant to me. Granted, it is less expensive than eating out, but it’s quite a bit more than I would normally feel comfortable paying.

–The menus are not out-of-this-world.
We’ve now eaten the majority of the meals we made and while most of them were fairly good, we thought some of the dinners were rather bland and the servings were on the small side. Maybe it’s because we eat a lot and maybe it’s because I am forever tweaking recipes in order to get them "just right"? No matter the case, we weren’t incredibly impressed with the taste factor for most of the meals.

Note: If any of you are interested in trying out Social Suppers, you can get free assembly on your meals from now through August 31, 2008 by using promo code MSM08. You can call ahead with your requests and then just stop by and pick them up.

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Comments

  1. says

    I agree with your assessment. I tried it a year or two ago, and while it was definitely convenient, it was more than my normal grocery bill and did not include sides. I probably would have done it again, but my husband thought the portion sizes were too small (and we are three people eating the four person meals).

  2. Sally says

    I think you said it, but I agree it is not the cheapest but it is nice for convience. My boss gave us 2 weeks worth of meals when my son was born. It was so nice to have a complete meal every night and not have to prepare it. We have a place called My Girlfriend’s kitchen. They list sides to add with the main dishes, so one more thing you don’t have to think about.

  3. Liz says

    I tried a similar place right before I had surgery. It was nice to not have to worry about food for about one week after my surgery. I did find the price to be higher than my normal grocery budget. In addition, I found that it had a more “processed” taste than what I usually cook.

  4. froogrl says

    We have a place like that near us. They offer tastings the first Saturday of every month. I’ve been gone with my daughter (who can be a picky eater) so she can try out the choices before we make it. Last month, my husband and son came as well.

    We generally make two entrees, one to eat that week and one to have on hand in the freezer.

    I don’t think it saves any money, esp. if all you’re basically doing is making a marinade, which does happen since I tend to let the kids steer at least one meal choice.

    I think the labor-intensive meals make it more worthwhile. No cleanup, no prep, etc. Plus, kids are involved and thus more likely to eat it.

    I also look at it as coming from the entertainment/family activity budget rather than the grocery budget.

    Having an “emergency meal” in the freezer for a night when things don’t go as planned and would otherwise be a takeout night also justifies the cost.

  5. says

    We have a place similar to this called Super Suppers- I used them for a while and loved them. The food was awesome (they had a great Mexican ravioli dish that was so yummy) and esp. if you eat out a lot, the price was good.

    Sure is more than cooking at home- but not everyone has the time, if they are working.

    I can’t use them now due to budget and extreme dietary restrictions- but I still would highly recommend them to busy families who want convenience but want to cut down on eating out.

    Oh ya- and their stuffed breads were fab, too!!

  6. Betsy says

    I live in a DC suburb where similar businesses are quite sucessful. You hit the nail on the head: the concept is great for families with more money than time. My well-heeled friends who use these kitchens say the quality of recipes varies with each chain. I’ve noticed some local moms sending these frozen meals to friends in need(after surgery or the birth of a child)in lieu of a home-cooked meal.

  7. says

    This is a great review! While we don’t have this particular company in our area, we have tried this concept. It’s not cheap, but I found it perfect for those tough weeks right after DD was born. My in laws were kind enough to buy us 2 weeks of meals for this purpose. Since DH is unwilling to cook (don’t get me started), it was nice for me to only have a small amount of meal prep. We’ll probably do it again when we have another baby, but on a regular basis? Too expensive!

  8. says

    I have done Social Suppers quite a bit in the past. I would make 1 maybe 2 meals for a month. And while it definitely is pricier than doing it at home, it can be nice for a “I want something nice and specialish but don’t want to eat out and need it to be fast” meal.

    I’ve found many of their meals to incredible mixed with several so-so. Most offer special days where you can get discounted prices or coupons for future meals. That was what actually drew me into doing it more often as it did make their meals affordable “out to eat sort of” ideas.

    Also, if you ever do try this. Get their macaroni and cheese – out of this world amazing!

    I always went with four girlfriends of mine and that was another incentive for going – something we could all do together and yet be productive!

  9. says

    Have you ever checked out Leanne Ely at SavingDinner.com ? She has menus you can “buy” for a low price and they come with shopping lists… and she has SO MANY versions and types…and puts instructions in most on how to make ahead and freeze the meals… very much like Social Suppers… but much less expensive!

    Check her out.. http://www.savingdinner.com ..

  10. Elizabeth says

    I also have used the Super-Suppers near us. I have about the exact same review as others. Great time saver but the protions are not big enough and it is too pricey for everyday. I think it would be great if you could pack them up with a bit of dry ice for a vacation. Where we go we have an oven so it would work. I also, like one other commentor, LOVED the braided bread meals.
    I have to say; what about a post where everyone shared ideas on how to make your own of these? Not quite once a month cooking but a little like these places. With the assembly line and the great ideas. I don’t know but I would love to put these together at home. ( wow what if you did this with a group of women) HMM just thinking and typing here :)

  11. says

    I went to a place similar to that because they were graciously part of a fundraiser for or local Pregnancy Center. They donated a % of the proceeds to the center. I agree with your comments. I can’t afford to buy from there, but if I could I would do the meals for when we go on vacation. It would be nice to have the dinners made and then just pull one out of the freezer each night. But now that I am thinking of it, I think I will do that with my own recipes!! It will be a lot cheaper!
    We will be staying where there is a decent size freezer.
    Carla

  12. says

    I’ve always thought that these places were pricey. I’d love to do it for free though, lol!

    I wanted to let you know that I’ve tagged you on my blog. The rules are there if you’d like to participate!

  13. Julie says

    Elizabeth, I do exactly what you are thinking about with a group of friends. However, we don’t make the meals together. We make them at home, freeze them, and then get together to trade and decide what to make for next time. I absolutely love it! A couple of good websites to check out are cookingamongfriends.com and 30daygourmet.com. I also would love to see a post where everyone shared ideas or recipes!

  14. Pamela says

    I have found one added benefit to trying a service like this that’s worth mentioning. Prepping meals like this taught me how to do it myself at home. It gave me the confidence and know-how, as well as showed me what kinds of things freeze well and how easy it really is. We are expecting our second baby and I spent a morning making 17 meals, now safely tucked in the freezer to get us through the crazy newborn no-one-is-sleeping, but everyone needs to eat time. I’d be happy to share more if anyone is interested. I think a separate post on this topic is worth doing!

  15. Heather says

    I own an independent “meal assembly kitchen” and find everyone’s comments really interesting. There are many of these around the country and you can find good and bad reviews for pretty much all of them. The biggest challenge we owners face is justifying the cost. The main benefit that most everyone misses is the TIME savings. Yes, of course, you are paying for the meals, but you will never, ever be able to do it at home in the same amount of time like some have suggested. You can make a lasagna in 10 minutes at my store that would take you 90 minutes just in prep time at home since it’s a homemade sauce. So, you have to decide how much that 90 minutes is worth to you…. Obviously, that’s an extreme example – not every meal entails that much prep, but you see my point. It’s the time savings, convenience and meal variety. I couldn’t live without it, but I’m biased. :o)

  16. says

    I make my own freezer meals with a couple of friends. We spend one day a month and make all the recipes. We usually focus on the meat that is on sale, or we wait till chicken is on sale to buy a lot and save. we figure each meal is less than $1 per person. it is fun and I love having meals ready to go.

  17. says

    I make my own freezer meals with a couple of friends. We spend one day a month and make all the recipes. We usually focus on the meat that is on sale, or we wait till chicken is on sale to buy a lot and save. we figure each meal is less than $1 per person. it is fun and I love having meals ready to go.

  18. Mara says

    This is so funny – I just came home from a meal assembly place (Let’s Dish)! I have been going for almost two years, and I am addicted. Like a previous commenter said, I live in the DC area where there are four or five different chains that are all very popular. I started going with my friend’s mommy group – they go once a month as a “mom’s night out” party. Our chain offers all sorts of incentives to host a party, and with a certain number of people, they will shut the place down for you. Yes, you can feed your family for less. But with incentives (and the idea that it’s an evening out with friends) it’s a pretty good deal. I also figure that I just spent 1 1/2 hours with my friends, and I am saving HOURS and HOURS of time in the future. (because it’s just me and my husband, I split my meals, so I made 17 dinners) Since I am a freelance writer, those hours saved are hours I can work – that makes it so I come out way ahead.

    My chain also has nutritional info for every dish – most are very healthy. If you are in the DC area and would like a referral (with a $10 coupon), drop me an email.

  19. Kelly says

    My sister worked for a business like this in Kentucky . It was a very good job for a homeschooling , “stay at home ” mom !!! I think this would be a great idea for church groups . Most churches already have kitchens that meet health requirements , so you could possibly bring the food to the church. This would be a great fundraising/fellowship activity . It would also be a nice way to stock the church freezer for “care ” food .

  20. Amy says

    While I have never tried a place like this, I came across a great cookbook called “Don’t Panic, Dinner’s in the Freezer”. Loaded with recipes that you can easily multiply by 3, 9 or even 12! The book lays it all out for you. Friends and I each pick a couple recipes and then swap them!

    Amy

  21. Mary says

    I have done dinner by design many times and while yes, our homemade meals are a lot cheaper, having these meals as back up on busy nights saves us from eating out! With a family of 7 this is a lOT more pricey than the meals. That being said here are my tips: Dont make any pasta meals, too easy & cheap to do at home (okay maybe not lasagna :)) dont “try” anything, you may hate it. No sandwiches or pizza, too easy. I also dont do bone in chicken b/c it grosses me out and doesnt yield enough meat for my crew!

  22. Juliet says

    Thanks for the good review. I love how kid friendly they came across. I’ve used these services before- several different ones in fact. Some we like the food, some we don’t. I’ve found looking for the right store is like finding a favorite restaurant. I don’t not eat out because I didn’t like the food at one store-I kept shopping around. So many folks here are comparing these stores to doing it yourself at home. For us, these meals are a step above anything I would ever prepare at home. Either the ingredients or complexity. I think the proper perspective is comparing the pricing to eating out, not doing it yourself. Now that my son is older we can’t get through the McDonald’s drive thru for less than $6 or $7 a person. And while that may include a drink, it also includes more fat grams in a serving than most people should eat in a day. There was just a study out recently that talked about how bad fast food kids meals were- even when you went with healthier options. Want to read something that’ll keep you awake at night? Try checking out the nutritional content for your favorite restaurant. Yikes. It is sometimes tough to persuade my son to eat the meals that are a little more “exotic” than we would normally make (can you say lemon pepper chicken) but it’s been useful to expose him to a diet that is more varied than most. Even if he ends up with the standby PB&J.