Updated on 07.17.07

A Visit To Super Suppers: Is It Worth My Simple Dollar?

Trent Hamm

foodBeing fans of the once-a-month cooking concept, my wife and I have been eager to at least take a look at Super Suppers, which is basically a shop devoted to that concept. Basically, you go there, prepare a ton of meals at once, then take them home and put them in the freezer until meal time.

How does it work? The store basically consists of several small kitchen-like workstations. You pay a fee and are able to prepare a certain number of dinner entrees – each of the workstations is set up with the ingredients for one of the entrees on the menu. They rotate the menu monthly. You can also pay a bit more to have them prepare your meals for you.

It took me about nine minutes per meal on average to prepare them using their setup – I had never done it before, but I am also reasonably adept in the kitchen.

Is it worth the money? Basically, what you’re buying here isn’t food, but time. Super Suppers allows you to prepare a meal yourself by giving you the assist of having all of the ingredients all ready for you and also cleaning up afterwards. By going there and preparing most of a month’s worth of dinners in about two hours, you’re not having to prepare them at home, saving a huge amount of time. The food itself is good – I might have made a few other choices for some of the recipes, but almost all of them seemed reasonable.

I made twelve full entrees, which serve four to six, in about two hours. Since my family consists of me, my wife, and a toddler, I actually split each entree into two separate packages, each serving two to three, which actually makes twenty-four entrees for us. The cost was $216, which makes the cost per meal exactly $9, or $3 per head at the dinner table.

That price is a bit high, but not incredibly so. I typically figure a home-prepared main course is a success if I can get it under $2 per serving, so I’m basically paying an extra dollar per serving for the convenience of having it all set out for me. I was able to assemble these twenty four entrees on my way home from work, whereas preparing all of those meals at home would have taken over the kitchen for a solid day. I would estimate that I saved roughly eight hours of effort by doing it this way, but it cost me about $72.

To me, an hour’s worth of a weekend day is worth $9, even if the meals were slightly constrained by Super Supper’s monthly menu. Unless we find the food to be bad (and the samples I tried were quite tasty, though I will probably modify them a bit with extra spicing), I can see us potentially using the service again.

Having said that, we won’t be using these for every meal. I enjoy cooking too much for that. Basically, I view it as being much like the “once-a-month” cooking philosophy, except you just go somewhere else to do it more quickly and pay for the ingredient organization and the cleanup.

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  1. Julie says:

    You may want to check out the library for the Super Suppers cookbook. I received a copy for Christmas and really like it. Not everything in the book is “frozen meals”, but at least it contained food I would actually eat (no processed cheese or cream of whatever soups in this book).

  2. margo says:

    I have done a similar program, Dinner A’Fare, several times. Its slightly more expensive, potentially because I’m in a large city (pricier market) but also, my friend and I chose Dinner A’Fare over Super Suppers and other competitors because its menus are more “grown-up.” Neither of us have kids at home yet.

    Dinner A’Fare dishes turn out to be about $4 per serving, and usually a 2-3 serving meal turns out to more than amply feed myself and my boyfriend. Sometimes he eats the third serving and sometimes we have a leftover lunch for the next day, but I’ve always been pleased with the quality, quantity, and variety of dishes available there. Most of the “recipes” are geared towards the mild palate, so when I go to Dinner A’Fare to assemble, I usual take a freer hand with the cayenne, etc. than their instructions dictate.

    The reason why this is almost always a cost-saver for us is that we drag these meals out of the freezer and cook them quickly on nights when I’ve worked 12+ hours or need to come home from work and go straight to studying– i.e. on nights when we’d otherwise be picking up takeout. Since I don’t eat fast food, any night of takeout would cost more than $12. And, Dinner A’Fare posts nutritionals so I know I’m eating healthier when we have one of their meals than when we eat takeout.

    That said, I’ve laid off a little this summer, and have been relying more on salads and grilled chicken and fish for quick meals. These kind of freeze-ahead meals are, almost by definition, better suited to colder seasons.

  3. Joy says:

    It’s funny you chose to post about this now, as I’ve just had my first experience with this type of meal prep franchise this last week, a place called Let’s Dish. I also found the servings to be close to $3, after receiving a discount for signing up in the store. We haven’t even eaten any of the meals yet, but we are mostly planning to use them on evenings when it’s tough to get home in time to cook and eat at a decent hour. Some can go straight from frozen to cooking, some need to be thawed first.

    Plus this can go right along with your other post on deep freezers. We just got a free one (pretty old, so we hope it holds up), and it’s nice to have the extra space to store the extra meals.

  4. MillionDollarJourney.com says:

    I’m not quite sure where the savings comes into play. How is this any different than buying everything and making things at home? Do they clean up your “station” for you?

  5. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    The station has all of the ingredients for each dish sitting there ready to go when you walk in the door. For me, the attendant helped me clean up my station – I don’t know whether that’s true if the place is busy or not.

  6. My enjoyment of cooking at home would keep me away from a place like this as well.

  7. samantha says:

    I just signed up to do this for the first time. My reasoning is that it will save me time and money in the long run. I do not enjoy cooking and my nanny cooks my kids dinner during the week. However her idea of cooking is chicken nuggets and fries or mac and cheese. So I am willing to spend the money on a nutrious meal for my family. Especially since I wouldn’t make it otherwise. It also will allow my husband and I to eat leftovers the next day. So that will also save us money on lunches. And no clean up!! Thanks for a great article.

  8. Tordr says:

    You forgot to factor in the use of the car to get there and back. This slightly increases the costs, and adds significantly to the time used.

  9. Amanda says:

    I used to work for the web design company that did the Super Suppers website. I’ve read the recipes. What you’re buying isn’t food. They get everything in pre-packaged convenience packs from Sysco. It’s the worst, most overprocessed crap you can imagine. After reading what actually goes into the recipes you make at the store I would never in a million years eat there. It’s far healthier and quicker to poach a chicken breast and steam some veggies at home.

  10. Joy says:

    Oh, and most places clean up for you, as far as I know…at least they cleaned up the whole bottle of basalmic vinegar that I spilled!

  11. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Amanda: that’s actually true, but if you follow that logic, you basically shouldn’t buy anything for sale in a grocery store, especially the produce. Even most things that you would view as “raw ingredients” has unbelievable things in them.

    I myself have worked for a local vegetable producer. I’ve seen some of the unbelievable things applied to supposedly fresh vegetables sold in stores.

    As for Sysco, many large chain restaurants (and many standalones, too) get their food in the exact same fashion. If you refuse to eat from there because of Sysco products (or their highly similar competitors, like US Foodservice), you basically should never eat any food not grown on your land, period. Almost every restaurant in America gets their food in some way from a food processing giant.

    I’m not saying Sysco and their corporate brethren are healthy, I’m merely saying that if you actually choose to boycott Super Suppers because of Sysco’s food preparation policies, you’d better start up a family farm because unless you’re hypocritical about the boycott, you’ve signed up to boycott almost every non-local food source in the United States.

  12. icup says:

    how do you get the food home? in a big cooler?

  13. sc says:

    The savings comes in the form of time. Trent estimated that it would save him about 8 hours byusing the service.

    Also, not mentioned in the article, is the cost saved by not buying an ingredient used only for specific recipe. Like needing to buy, say, a whole bottle of vinegar so you can use 1/4 cup. This isn’t always the case, obviously, but another thing to consider.

    The cost and time of using a car to drive there and back is trumped the time it takes to go to the store and indivually pick out all of the ingredients. Unless you live very far (like, an hour+) from the place (and close to a store).

    That being said, I’ve not actually gone to either of these franchises available in my area (Dinner’s Ready and Dream Dinners). My reasons being:
    1. The meals really don’t sound that appetizing, and most of them don’t meet my requirements for a “healthy meal”.
    2. I don’t have the freezer space.
    3. For the drop in quality, it’s not worth the extra cost. Even if it does save me some time.

    I’m sticking with my crock pot :).

  14. Amber says:

    My husband and I just went to Super Suppers last week for the first time. We weren’t sure if we’d like it, so we just made 2 meals. They were really gross :(
    Shortly after arriving, we realized that most of the ingredients came from a can or were general convenience foods. I decided that it’s a good place to go if you don’t have any time to cook because it’s more frugal (and has approximately the same health factor) than going out to eat. However, since my husband and I enjoy cooking and really really enjoy fresh ingredients, we definitely won’t be returning. If we decide to seriously try once a month cooking, I think we’ll just make heavy use of the food processor so we can have better quality food.

  15. mamacita says:

    Trent — I went last night for the first time, too, and I enjoyed it. I went to a “party” there with other people. The staff prepped half of our meals in advance so we would have time to chat, etc. They also served us appetizers and sangria. The party organizer got a lot of food for free. We’re thinking of making it a monthly event and passing around the hostess honors so we can all score some free food from time to time.

    Also, I was worried about freezer space, too, but the dinners were packaged in gallon-size freezer bags. If you spread the food out you can flatten the bag and store a fair number of them in a regular freezer.

  16. Brad says:

    Could they have worse hours? Doesn’t anyone work during the day?

    The ones I looked at all quit by 6 or 7 pm. I don’t usually get home until then….


  17. Brad says:

    That said, I think they have convinced me to try to drag my wife to one of their demos Saturday…. :)


  18. mamacita says:

    Brad — I think they have the parties in the evenings. They have a lot of food that is already prepped for you (at no additional cost, I think) in some refrigerators in the front of the store. You could try one or two of these dinners to see if you like them before you go in and make some for yourself.

  19. pam says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Amber. I bought several meals to try it out, and only one, a slow cooker meal, was palatable even though it was too sweet for my taste. The rest were soggy, tasteless disgusting masses.

    That said, I love cooking and creating delicious meals for my husband and children. If I don’t have time, then hubby cooks one of his “bachelor” meals, which are quick and (usually) tasty, if not the healthiest.

    I won’t go back to Super Suppers. At a higher cost than the groceries I buy on sale and the sacrifice in taste, I would rather buy fast food if we aen’t cooking our own dinner.

    If you are really short on time, check out restaurant.com. You can usually search online for a coupon code to buy a $25 certificate for $4.

  20. Cathy says:

    Please let us know what you think about the food. I tried Dream Dinners a couple of times last year and concluded that though there were some hits, the food was too often a miss and therefore not worth our money.

  21. Stephen says:

    Just curious how healthy the food is if anyone knows. My wife and I are calorie counters and we watch how much stuff we eat and I was wondering as far as diet goes how good some of the food/meals are that you can make at these places?

    I would be all for it we knew that info. I do not mind cooking dinner at home, I even enjoy it, but we both HATE thinking of what to make!

  22. Amelia says:

    Stephen, check out the website for whatever chain you’re thinking of using. They have nutritional info on there.

  23. Brad says:

    Trent, can you comment on the “mushy” charge? My wife and I (and my daughter) are not great cooks. I would rather live with Stouffers (with all its flaws) than eat expensive mush. :)

    We did sign up for a “free” demo on Saturday where they say they will give us a single entre at no charge.

    It is probably worth the $110 to try 6 of them (split in half) for 12 meals though.


  24. Kari says:

    I’ve used my local Super Suppers, and think it’s great. A lot of the ingredients are what you’d use at home. Some ingredients are fresh and some are not.

    If you’re someone who loves to cook and has time for it, this probably isn’t for you. But if you’re too busy to cook, don’t know how to cook, or just don’t want to cook, Super Suppers is great.

    My local store has a tasting night every month so I can try things in advance and see what fits my family’s taste. Not everything does, but enough does that it’s a good fit for us. Some months I’ll assemble my own meals, other months I have them do it for me.

    For me, it saves me money (vs eating out), saves me time (about 20 hours of cooking time a month that I now have time for the family), and I make sure I pick meals that have good nutrition, so we are eating better.

    My meals definitely weren’t “mush”. For this month, my favorites were the Pecan Mozzarella Chicken and the Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce (although, I think the menu is sometimes different at different stores). Good Luck and have fun at the demo.


  25. Barbara says:

    I love Super Suppers. It has made dinner time so much easier on those nights when I just do not have the energy to cook at home but want to serve my family something better than take-out.

    I find the meals to be generally of good to excellent quality. The Parmesean Chicken with Creamy Sage Sauce is a family favorite, luckily my local Super Suppers always carries it as a customer favorite.

    I have tried all of the different kitchens in my area and found Super Suppers to be the most consistent as far as taste goes. The entrees are generally easy to prepare and are of tastes that the whole family likes. There is another kitchen in the area that touts itself as gourmet (I’m sorry but no meal assembly dinner is gourmet in my book, but that doesn’t mean they are not tasty.) When I want gourmet I will break out my cutting boards and mixing bowls and do it myself. If you are expecting gourmet, you will never be satisfied.

    The real value in companies like Super Suppers is that they give me time back. Time to spend with my kids, time to spend with my Husband, Time to spend reading a book.

    When it comes right down to it, Super Suppers for me is a nice option. I can still cook my family favorites when I want to , My husband still has to take me out to resturants, I admit I still do take out once in awhile (Nothing like a good cheeseburger once in awhile!) and I have ready made meals when I want them.

  26. Amy says:

    I recently tried Super Suppers. I was a little bit concerned due to some of the comments posted here. I actually asked if I could see the “kitchen” area in the back of the store so I could check out the ingredients for myself. They didn’t hesitate to bring my in the back area. First of all, it was immaculately clean (huge plus for me). Yes, they had can goods stocked, but regular stuff that I too would use in my kitchen, like canned diced tomatoes. All the produce was chopped fresh. In fact, there was an employee hand chopping green peppers and cilantro when I was there. We’ve enjoyed the meals so far. Nothing that we’ve had was mushy. We had a wonderful pork tenderloin. The person giving me the tour (owner, maybe?) also let me know that the pork chops are cut fresh daily, which also tasted great. I love to cook, but this seems to be a great alternative for the nights when the kids have to run off in different directions (spots, etc). It was nice to put together dinner without going to the grocery store or ending up with fresh ingredients that go to waste. We will go back and do it again.

  27. Jan says:

    I manage a Super Suppers and resent the comments that our food comes from a can, is mushy etc. We pride ouselves in fresh or flash frozen vegetables and meats. How dare you malign us and lie at the same time. Occasionally, we’ll use a canned sauce or gravy – certainly not in every recipe. The ones we purchase are the finest. Our recipes are developed in a culinary college by experienced chefs and even this month, the chef’s from Martha Stewart’s Every Day Living magazine. They are produced to ease the burden of preparing our entrees at home, to freeze well and to appeal to most tastes. Also, to inform the above ignorant, our franchise corporation allows us a lot of leeway in what we choose for entrees of the month, ingredients, packaging, etc. One last note. The person above who worked for our old web design company is full of sour grapes. We now have a new web design company – what does that tell you?

  28. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    I will add that I’ve been very happy with the food from Super Suppers so far.

  29. Brad says:

    We visited there Saturday and it seemed nice. We made some pork wrap things that we will cook later which we got for free. (It is worth doing one of the 101 demos – you get an entre for free.)

    We also purchased a couple of prepared things to try and my wife and daughter signed up to come in next month and make 6 items. We will split these in half and make 12 “meals” out of them.

    Very cheery lady and a nice clean place. You could probably make it cheaper yourself at home, but we never seem to make it, so this should be a decent alternative.


  30. Trinity says:

    I went to the Dinner A’fare a couple of weeks ago for my mom. It was a very plesant experiance for me. The lady that was there to restock the recipe stations and answer questions was very helpful. She checked on me throughout the time I was there and was very sweet. the recipes were east to follow and it took me less than the two hour provided. We have only had two of the meals that I made there by my mom says we will definately be going back. They were delicious and full of flavor (unlike some dishes made at home because of lack of proper spices). Everything there was easy, smooth, and looked good even though it wasn’t cooked. The only problem we are having is remember to take the meals out of the freezer in time to have them for dinner! It seems to be cheaper in the area I am in by $5 – $15 than anywhere else. But it is very reasonably priced.

  31. Lorinda says:

    I love super supers. I sign up and receive 12 meals and 2 sides for 144.00 a month. What a deal. I work out of my home and so I am very busy. I have two children and they love the food as well, They are not picky eaters at all.
    We love the greek feta wraps, all the chicken recipes, we love the king ranch and our favorite is the poppy seed chicken. We usually have a side salad and fuit and I think it is very healthy because the portions are the right size and noone over eats. You can’t go wrong with the franchise super suppers. I have both of their cook books and love using them also.
    I’ve gotten to know the staff and enjoy chatting with them about life as I pick out my selections every week. Super claps to super suppers. My huspand and my children love you!!!!!! Thank you for coming to Montgomery AL I hope you never leave.

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