There are heaps of meal delivery services that rely on microwave-ready prepared meals, including YouFoodz, My Muscle Chef and Soulara to name just a few. Dinner Ladies is different though. They straddle the line between meal kits and prepared meals by sending pre-cooked meals that need re-heating / assembling at home.
Think of Dinner Ladies like cooking a big batch of food, freezing portions so you have an easy dinner over the following weeks. Dinner Ladies does all the hard work for you, leaving you just the need to re-heat!
Dinner Ladies Homecooked Meals Review
Perfect for families with kids, Dinner Ladies is a unique service providing homemade ready-to-heat dinners. Meals are healthy, tasty and can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Ordering - Website - 6/10
Food - Quality - 9/10
Ordering - Meal Choice - 9/10
Food - Taste - 8/10
Ordering - Delivery - 7/10
Value For Money - 6/10
- Genuine, simple home-cooked food
- Single-order instead of subscription.
- Good variety of options for special diets.
- Premium price point.
- Meals are sometimes out of stock.
- Need to add more food to make a full meal (e.g rice/pasta).
Dinner Ladies was started in 2007 by two mums, Sophie Gilliatt and Katherine Westwood. Starting small, they delivered fresh dinners to friends in Sydney who simply needed some support with cooking for a family.
Fast forward to today and they now employ over 40 people, sourcing food from free-range, sustainable sources across Australia. See what we thought by jumping into our Dinner Ladies review.
- 1 Getting started with Dinner Ladies
- 2 Meal variety and options
- 3 Delivery options
- 4 How much does Dinner Ladies cost?
- 5 My Dinner Ladies box
- 6 How’s the food?
- 7 Anything Else?
- 8 My Final Thoughts
Getting started with Dinner Ladies
The first thing you’ll notice about the Dinner Ladies website is the colourful, cursive design. It’s a unique visual assault that fully embraces the Dinner Ladies branding. It’s not my personal style, although it does have a certain endearing charm to it.
There are no gimmicks with the menu, it’s a straightforward list of delicious-sounding meals. You can filter down the menu into various dishes including:
- Beef & Veal
- Side Dishes
Selecting meals is as simple as adding them to your basket, often choosing between either a small or large size.
The menu also allows you to filter on categories including dinners for 3+, microwaveable, allergens and low carb. I really appreciate this level of filtering/customisation of the menu, although the filtering system isn’t too intuitive and I can’t add multiple filters at the same time.
Now is the perfect time to mention that all Dinner Ladies meals come frozen. They’re frozen immediately after cooking to give you the longest shelf-life possible (up to 6 months). The advantage of this is that you can stock up your freezer with meals and pull them out whenever you’re in a pinch.
Meal variety and options
The Dinner Ladies menu changes on a regular basis, with dishes rolling on / off. There are 24 favourites that are always available, with around 19-20 seasonal meals also available. This means you can order regularly from Dinner Ladies without getting bored of the menu.
Examples of some of the meals include:
- Classic Beef Lasagne
- Butter Chicken
- Classic Minestrone
- Super Loaded Vegie Rice
- Chilli Jam Chicken
I’ve found there’s generally a really good variety of different dishes available, although I would like to see more seafood dishes. Perhaps this is because it’s challenging to make a great fish meal after it’s been frozen.
As mentioned previously, each dish comes in either a small or large size. It’s a minor frustration that this makes it quite difficult to know how big the portions are going to be. As a general rule of thumb, the small dishes serve 2 portions (or 1 hungry person), whilst the large dishes serve 4 portions.
Each recipe comes with detailed information about the ingredients, allergens, nutritional information and recommended serving approach. For example, the duck ragu is recommended “with fresh pappardelle, polenta or gnocchi, grated Parmesan and a green salad”.
It’s important to realise that Dinner Ladies do not always provide full meals. You often have to add additional food such as rice/pasta or salad to build out a full main meal.
For those with a sweet tooth, you’ll also find the occasional cake finds its way onto the menu.
Special diets and food intolerance
Dinner Ladies provide meals that are free from all common allergens, including nuts, gluten, dairy, sesame and soy. However, they can not 100% guarantee there is no cross-contamination in their kitchen, so it’s not recommended if you have a severe allergy.
The Dinner Ladies kitchen is not free from allergens. While we take every precaution to make sure our labelling is accurate and to prevent cross-contamination between dishes, we cannot 100% guarantee that any finished dish will be free from a given allergen. For that reason, we are unable to label our food “gluten free”, “dairy free:, etc. We do not use LUPIN in our kitchen.Special Diets
There is always a reasonable selection of vegetarian dishes, with 15 different dishes available at the time of writing this review. The options get quite a bit more limited if you’re on a vegan diet, with just 7 dishes available. You might find our top plant-based meal delivery services of interest.
This is still enough choice to fill up your freezer every month so I would still recommend Dinner Ladies for anyone on a special diet, or who has a food intolerance.
Dinner Ladies deliver to the following Metro areas:
Delivery costs vary based on your postcode, between $10 – $15 for standard delivery. The delivery fee is waived for orders over a specific value, depending on where you live this is between $150 – $200. This means it’s definitely worthwhile stocking up with a larger order and storing meals in the freezer for future dinners.
There is a minimum order value of $75 – $100 depending on your location, which provides another reason to make sure you order at least $150 of food to get that free delivery.
You’ll be offered a range of delivery dates and times during checkout, with slots varying depending on your postcode. In Sydney, I could choose slots between 8am – 1pm or 5pm – 9pm. In Melbourne, for example, they also offer overnight delivery between 12am – 7am.
How much does Dinner Ladies cost?
Prices are highly variable for Dinner Ladies meals. There seems to be very little standard pricing, so they are clearly defining the price based on the cost of ingredients in each dish. Whilst this does mean there are some great bargains, there can also be some quite expensive dishes.
For a 2-person dinner, prices are generally between $12 – $22.
For a 4-person dinner, prices are generally between $24 – $36.
With such varied pricing, it’s hard to get a real sense of how Dinner Ladies stacks up against their competitors. Prices are definitely closer to a prepared meals service than a meal kit.
You must also consider that most dishes also require some additional ingredients such as pasta/rice/salad. When budgeting or planning your weekly meals, it’s important to also factor in the cost of these additional ingredients.
My Dinner Ladies box
The delivery box is branded just like the website, with roses and doves plastered across the front. Immediately, I noticed that they provide a recycled woollen liner instead of a foil insulator. This is far more environmentally friendly and something that more companies should adopt.
Everything in the box is 100% recyclable, although there are some things you need to be aware of:
- Soft Plastic Pouches – Need to be rinsed and recycled at the soft plastic bins found at most supermarkets.
- Black CPET Trays – These are made out of recycled materials and can be placed (clean) in home recycling bins.
- Aluminium Trays – Can be placed (clean) in home recycling bins.
- Cardboard Box – Recycle in normal recycling collection.
Dinner Ladies do not provide any guidance on the thermal liner or ice packs, although these can generally be recycled at local soft plastics recycling centres.
Check out my blog on the environmental impact of food boxes for more information.
You should also consider that all the fruit and vegetables come from local NSW farms, whilst a majority of the meat comes from grass-fed, free-range farms. All the seafood is also from Australia.
How’s the food?
Now we understand more about the Dinner Ladies service, the question remains around whether the food is any good.
In my opinion, every dish was enjoyable and tasted fresh even after their time in the freezer. None of the dishes I tried really blew me away with their flavour, it was more like enjoying a familiar dish that you’d normally eat at home.
The ingredients lists are all very basic and focus on the traditional ingredients you’d find in each dish. This is a huge advantage when cooking for picky/fussy eaters as you won’t find any strong or unusual flavours.
My biggest issue with the food was actually portion size, which felt small to me. Most dishes only filled me up for a single meal, when they should have lasted at least two.
If I was to continue getting Dinner Ladies meals, I would want to plan ahead so I had additional extras bought in to bulk out the portion sizes. This may not be an issue if you normally eat smaller portions, are feeding younger children, or are on a calorie-controlled diet.
Dinner Ladies vs Ready Meals
There are some huge advantages to getting Dinner Ladies meals instead of your standard microwave-ready meals:
- Customise Your Meal – As you’re only getting the core protein/sauce for the dish, you’re able to customise the extras to make it into a full meal. That means you can choose to have salad, pasta, rice, chips or any other ingredient depending on your personal preferences.
- Multi-Person Portions – One of the main problems with ready-meals is that they are mostly single portions. This means that if you want to feed a family, you’re limited to things like pizzas. Dinner Ladies is great because they provide multiple portions of prepared meals so you can feed the whole family.
- Improved Textures – Whenever you put anything in the microwave, it has a tendency to get a bit mushy and watery. This is pretty terrible for dishes like fried chicken which becomes quite unappetising. A major advantage of Dinner Ladies is that you get crispy coatings and oven-baked textures that make each dish much more appetising.
Whilst these meals aren’t as convenient to cook as a 2-minute blast in the microwave, it’s hardly too difficult to put a tray in the oven for 30 minutes. You just have to wait a little bit longer!
Cooking the prepared meals
Each meal requires a slightly different re-heating method, depending on how it’s been packaged.
Some dishes come in aluminium trays that require 20 – 40 minutes in the oven (from defrosted) or 40 – 60 minutes if cooking straight from frozen.
Other dishes, mainly sauces/soups, come in soft plastic pouches that need to be reheated over the hob for 15 – 20 minutes, after having been defrosted. Then there are some dishes such as the chicken schnitzel that get reheated in a frying pan to create the crispy coating.
This all means that it’s highly recommended to plan your meals ahead and defrost each meal for ~24 hours in the fridge before cooking.
Dishes I loved
- Beef Cannelloni
- Chicken Schnitzel
- Cottage Pie
Dishes I wouldn’t recommend
- Pulled Pork with BBQ Sauce (small portion).
One of the great things about Dinner Ladies is that there is no subscription offering. You’re not locked into any specific deadlines or delivery dates. Instead, you’re only limited by the space available in each delivery van. This means no accidental orders, or payments taken without you noticing.
My Final Thoughts
If you’re not already in the habit of cooking healthy, homemade dinners and keeping them in the freezer for those days you haven’t got time to cook, then Dinner Ladies is going to be the perfect service for you. Each dish feels home-made, rustic and is undoubtedly enjoyable for the whole family.
In particular, I would highly recommend the Dinner Ladies service for any families with kids. You get all the convenience of a prepared meal, with the healthiness of homecooked meals. The long freezer shelf dates mean they can be pulled out only when they’re needed.
I’d love to see Dinner Ladies expand into providing “full meal” kits including sides, although this runs the risk of becoming too expensive. Especially as the portion sizes tend to already be quite small. There’s no doubt Dinner Ladies meals are already priced on the premium side, which is why I would suggest it’s not economical to eat them every day.
Have you tried Dinner Ladies before? Let me know what you thought in the comments below.