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Triangle Offers Quick Dinner Solutions for Healthy Family Meals


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"Mooom, I'm huuuungry," my 3-year-old wails at me at 6 p.m.  With a toddler and an infant, work, and a house to take care of, getting a healthy, hearty dinner on the table is usually not a high priority.  Until, of course, that little hunger rumble starts somewhere in the area below my tummy, or more specifically in the area rolling around on my kitchen floor.  As I rummage through the freezer looking for another Stouffer's meal I think, "There has to be a better way."  Turns out, there is.

Throughout the Triangle, local companies and chefs are willing to help families like yours and mine create healthy, well-rounded meals to use on the busiest of days.  Here's a detailed look some of the services offered by a few companies. See the listing below to contact them and to find more resources. And see Fast Meals for Busy Parents for more tips.

Personal Chef Services

You may think that bringing a personal chef to your home is too posh.  But believe it or not, having a personal chef doesn't mean you're an aspiring Hollywood A-lister. On the contrary, you're simply a smart parent taking advantage of the talents of a group of Triangle professionals who want to help you succeed in creating delicious, healthy meals as efficiently as possible.  Depending on your budget and what you need, these chefs will tailor a program just for you.  Want them to put together a list and grocery shop for you?  They'll do that.  Want them to prepare a week's worth of meals for your fridge?  Sure.  Want them to teach you how to do it yourself with hands-on lessons?  They'd love to.  Cary Dinner Fairy is operated by "fairy" chef Jenny who specializes in helping families with dietary restrictions.  Chef Joe at NC Chef for Me says his service provides you with more time to spend with your kids.  With both of these personal chefs, price is varies widely depending on what you request, what you need, meals prepared, and what services they provide.  Your best bet is to contact them directly.

An option that you may find cheaper ($100 for five made-from-scratch meals) but less customizable is the Family Dinner plan from Foster's Market. Both Foster's locations, in Durham and Chapel Hill, offer an order-ahead family meal plan for the week.  Get your request in on a Friday before 2 p.m., and the next Monday you can pick up a week's worth of delicious gourmet meals that just need to be heated and mixed according to the directions provided.

Meal Preparation

If you are more of a DIYer, you may like a meal prep option that lets you prepare healthy, delicious freezer meals for your family.  Dinner Savvy in Apex is a place where busy folks like us can take one night out to place precut ingredients into freezer-friendly storage according to instructions laid out on easy-to-follow recipe cards.   Entrees feed between four to six people and cost from $22 to $34 each, with a minimum of three meals required.  At the end of the night you leave with weeks' worth of freshly made frozen meals, and you didn't have to grocery shop, recipe hunt, or even chop!

Takeout Delights

If you are not the type of person who plans in advance or if your family feels the fierce calling of a particular craving some nights, you no longer need to pack up the kids in the car and fight boredom and "is my food ready yet" whining at a restaurant.  A number of Triangle companies can help you get what you want.  Thanks to Tar Heel Takeout, Durham Takeout and Raleigh Takeout, food from hot spots such as Shiki Sushi, Satisfaction, Mediterranean Deli,  Shaba Shabu, The Q Shack and more can show up at your door. Just call the appropriate takeout service for your area, pick your restaurant, and order.  With a minimum $10 food order and a $4.99 delivery fee, the staff will do all the restaurant waiting and get your food for you.   919Dine offers the same service for families in Garner, North Hills, Triangle Town, Downtown Raleigh, Brier Creek, Cary, Apex, Morrisville, and Durham.  The delivery fee for 919Dine varies anywhere between $3.99 and $6.99, dependent upon how many miles you live from the restaurant of choice.  However, not only will 919Dine bring you an order from Champas or The Big Easy but you can also get dessert from Cold Stone.  Get 919Dine's app on your phone to make it even easier.

Grab and Go

Of course, gourmet and specialty food stores throughout the Triangle offer cases of pre-made, delicious, and nutritious food for a quick stop to fit any budget.  Fresh Market serves up some remarkable and creative pasta, meats, casseroles, vegetables, and more goodies that you can buy in bulk.  Chapel Hill gourmet behemoth A Southern Season has a similar case filled with delectable eats. Whole Foods Market has a fabulous family dinner option in its refrigerated prepared foods section. Use it to pick a main entrée and side salad to feed a family of four for as little as $14.99. Just reheat and toss for a healthy, well-rounded meal. If you place the food in your own serving ware, no one has to know you didn't cook it yourself!

Whichever service works for you, remember that fresh, healthy meals are only a phone call or click away.  Treat your family, make things easier for yourself, and, above all, remember that you are worth more than frozen lasagna every night.

Personal Chef Services
Cary Dinner Fairy carydinnerfairy.com
Chef Joe at NC Chef for Me chefforme.com

Order-Ahead Family Meal Plan for a Week
Foster's Market fostersmarket.com

Meal Preparation
Dinner Savvy in Apex dinnersavvy.com

Take-Out Delights
Tar Heel Takeout tarheeltakeout.com
Durham Takeout durhamtakeout.com
Raleigh Takeout raleightakeout.com
919Dine 919dine.com)

Grab and Go
The Fresh Market thefreshmarket.com/
A Southern Season southernseason.com
Whole Foods Market wholefoodsmarket.com

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Calendar

February 2016

Enjoy extreme thrills, exotic animals and extraordinary performers. See website for showtimes and to purchase tickets.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

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Join preserve staff to search pools for salamanders. Ages 10-13. Registration required.

Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

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Enjoy extreme thrills, exotic animals and extraordinary performers. See website for showtimes and to purchase tickets.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Learn how salamanders are different from lizards. Ages 1-3 with adult. Meet at the Cypress Shelter. Registration required.

Cost: $2/child

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-4342
Website »

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Learn about butterflies through a story, game and craft. Ages 3-5 with adult. Meet at the Cypress Shelter. Registration required.

Cost: $4/child

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-4342
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Enjoy songs, stories and fun in Spanish. Infants-preschoolers.

Cost: Free

Where:
Spanish for fun! Cary
100 Endeavor Way
Cary, NC  27513
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Sponsor: Spanish for fun!
Telephone: 919-677-7114
Contact Name: Cynthia De Amat
Website »

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Children make treasured memories while increasing their knowledge of plants and animals. Ages 7-10. Registration required.

Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Enjoy songs, stories and fun in Spanish. Infants-preschoolers.

Cost: Free

Where:
Spanish for fun! Raleigh
8000 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh, NC  27612
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Sponsor: Spanish for fun!
Telephone: 919-881-1160
Contact Name: Carol Marin
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Kids ages 3-5 and caregiver make a craft together. Registration required.

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Holly Springs Cultural Center
300 W. Ballentine St.
Holly Springs, NC
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Telephone: 919-567-4000
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Enjoy storytime and a stuffed animal giveaway (one per child). Each family will be entered to into the weekly drawing among attendees for a gift bag. Event capped at 20 families to ensure a safe...

Cost: Free

Where:
Thrift 2 Gift
1402 E. Williams St.
Apex , NC  27502
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Website »

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Enjoy songs, stories and fun in Spanish. Infants-preschoolers.

Cost: Free

Where:
Spanish for fun! Wake Forest
222 Capcom Ave
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Sponsor: Spanish for fun!
Telephone: 919-883-2061
Contact Name: Karina Martinez
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Scott Ellsworth discusses his book, "The Secret Game." Coach John McLendon, basketball coach for the little-known North Carolina College for Negroes, invited the all-white team of former...

Cost: Free

Where:
Jones Theater, Ravenscroft School
7409 Falls of Neuse Road
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Ravenscroft School
Telephone: 919-847-0900
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Take a walk to count the variety of birds in the area. All ages. Meet at the picnic table at the New Hill Parking Area. Registration required.

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
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Telephone: 919-387-4342
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Go nutty for nature as children satisfy some of their curiosity about the world around them and parents share in the joy of discovery. Ages 3-5 with parent. Registration required.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

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Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Registration required.

Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

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Learn tips to identify birds and how to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. Hike along the shoreline to practice new skills and count birds. Meet at the Longleaf Shelter. Registration...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-4342
Website »

More information

Take a night hike to learn about owls and other birds that are active at night. Dress for the weather. Appropriate for ages 6 and older. Registration required.

Cost: $5/family

Where:
Crowder District Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

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Spend a night out in nature making memories and new friends. Ages 8-12. Registration required.

Cost: $18/resident, $23/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

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Enjoy an indoor presentation before going outdoors to view the moon, stars and more using the preserve's telescope. Ages 5 and older. Register online.

Cost: $2/person

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
11408 Raven Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-996-6764
Website »

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Learn about owls and take a hike to listen for them. Ages 5 and older. Registration required.

Cost: $5/family

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Telephone: 919-870-4330
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Enjoy doughnuts with a cup of hot chocolate before taking a leisurely walk with a park naturalist to identify and count birds. Take a mug for all family members. All ages. Registration required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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Learn to identify common winter birds by sight and sound. Visit the bird-feeding station for up-close encounters and make recycled feeders to take home. Ages 6-12 with adult.

Cost: $8/member, $10/nonmember

Where:
North Carolina Botanical Garden
100 Old Mason Farm Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
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Sponsor: North Carolina Botanical Garden
Telephone: 919-537-3770
Contact Name: Elisha Taylor
Website »

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Drumming and stories for ages 3 and up with parent. Drums to loan.

Cost: $10/family

Where:
Music Explorium
5314 Hwy. 55, Ste. 107
Durham, NC  27713
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Telephone: 919-219-2371
Website »

More information

Go nutty for nature as children satisfy some of their curiosity about the world around them and parents share in the joy of discovery. Ages 3-5 with parent. Registration required.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Learn tricks to attract and keep feathered friends happy all year long, from planting "bird friendly" plants to making sure they have the basics for a happy life in your yard....

Cost: Free

Where:
Garden Supply Company
1421 Old Apex Road
Cary, NC  27513
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Sponsor: Garden Supply Company
Telephone: 919-460-7747
Website »

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Take a wagon ride through the back roads of the park to view birds and record observations. All ages. Meet at the wagon on the playground. Registration required.

Cost: $4/person

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-4342
Website »

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Use natural objects to create birds found in the woods and build your own make-believe bird. Paint pictures using feathers and learn the importance of color in birds. All ages. Registration...

Cost: $4/child

Where:
Crowder District Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

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Read "Love Monster and the Last Chocolate" and enjoy fun activities.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Website »

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Stop by the manager's office to enjoy bird-related games, activities and crafts.

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Website »

More information

Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Registration required.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Join a park naturalist on a one-mile hike around the pond and help to identify and count the birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count. Learn how to identify backyard birds by sight, sound and other...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder District Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Look for tracks and signs of wolves, coyotes and foxes and make a plaster cast of a favorite wild dog's paw to take home. Ages 5-8. Register online.

Cost: $5/child

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
11408 Raven Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-996-6764
Website »

More information

Ages 4 and older enjoy a free art activity.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Southern Home Crafts
111 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Telephone: 919-233-1598

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Girls ages 10 and older learn how to set goals and stay  on a path to achieve them. Supplies provided; bring magazines. Refreshments provided. Purchase tickets online at...

Cost: $15

Where:
Clubhouse
3001 New Haven Dr
RTP, NC  27703
View map »


Sponsor: BOLT- Building Our Leaders Today
Telephone: 704-900-1878
Contact Name: Julese Dortch
Website »

More information

Learn about owls. Hike along the trails to search for them. All ages. Meet at the Longleaf Shelter. Registration required.

Cost: $5/family

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-4342
Website »

More information

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