What’s for Dinner?

Maybe you’re swamped at work, juggling the needs of a busy family or just don’t want to fuss with cooking—or perhaps all three. But you don’t have to survive on cereal and pizza. Here are a few ways to get a balanced dinner on the table with minimal effort.

Dream Dinners

Assemble your meals, in advance, at Dream Dinners’ recipe station. photo: courtesy of Dream Dinners

How it works: Customers go online to select the 12 meals they want to make, such as chicken paella or flank steak, and register for a session. During a two-hour session, they work at recipe stations to assemble the meals—all the ingredients are already prepped, and the staff does the cleanup. The uncooked meals, which will serve four to six people, are frozen for later use.

Perfect for: Busy people who like cooking, but gladly will give up grocery shopping, food chopping and counter swabbing.

Not for: Vegetarians. Most entrées have meat.

Tip: Bring a cooler for the car ride home.

Cost: $275 to $300 per session.

Contact: Niu Valley Shopping Center, 549 Halema‘uma‘u St.; 373-1221.

Room Service in Paradise

How it works: Room Service in Paradise is a delivery service that works with about 50 restaurants. Food is picked up from a restaurant’s kitchen, stashed in Mylar bags to keep it hot and delivered to addresses in Honolulu, Waikiki, Kailua, Pearl City or ‘Aiea.

Perfect for: Expanding your takeout choices, or even a romantic evening at home.

Not for: The impatient; food takes about an hour to arrive.

Tip: They will deliver beer and wine, too.

Cost: Delivery fees are $4.99 to $6.50 and based on location. $10 minimum food order for dinner. Tip the “mobile waiter” 10 to 20 percent, if you wish.

Contact: 941-3463 (Honolulu and Pearl City/‘Aiea) or 261-3463 (Kailua). You can get menus faxed to you, or, order online, www.941dine.com.

A personal chef

How it works: Chef Mike O’Connor interviews his clients to create menus, then goes to their homes—some daily, others, as seldom as once every two months—to prep meals. He does all the shopping and cleanup, too. Popular dishes include lasagna, potpies and Thai shrimp. O’Connor worked for Down to Earth for several years and has an extensive repertoire of vegetarian and vegan entrées.

Perfect for: Professional couples.

Not for: It’s harder for seniors to get as much value, notes O’Connor, because they eat less and don’t tend to use leftovers for a work lunch.

Tip: He has a file on everyone and everything is personalized. “The husband might hate peppers and the wife loves them,” he says.

Cost: O’Connor has several plans, but the standard one is $325 and gives you five different entrées (four servings), each with a side dish. There’s a 10 percent discount if you book him monthly.

Contact: 232-4231 or chefmike@homechef.biz.