Video: Trendy takeout

By Roger O’Neil Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/30/2006 7:52:07 PM ET 2006-03-31T00:52:07

Here's something you don't hear very often in today's busy American family:

"Come and get it!" says Robin Spence to her family as they sit down for dinner.

Like so many, Spence has no time to cook. But she can find time to assemble a dozen or more dinners all at one time, at one of the hottest new businesses in America — meal assembly: homemade meals in a bag, but not made at home.

At Kara Anderson's Super Suppers store in Jacksonville, Fla., customers are not just busy moms, but seniors, singles, even men.

"The food is good, it's inexpensive, it saves you time, and that's what it's about," says Anderson.

You'd think some marketing genius would come up with a better name than Meal Assembly Station, but all the ingredients are here. If you can find horseradish sauce, you can make a meal of marmalade glazed pork chops in about five minutes, for just $3 to $4 a serving.

Stephanie Allen came up with no-fuss meals because she felt guilty about not cooking for her family.

"We all know it's important to eat at the dinner table with your family," says Allen, "but what you serve, sometimes you're not as proud of it as you should be."

Her Dream Dinners is one of 255 different companies projected to make $270 million this year.

And it seems there's more to "home-cooked" than mom's special touch.

"Eating is just not any activity," according to Emory University anthropologist Dr. Bradd Shore. "It really defines the idea of what is the family."

"Super Suppers has allowed us to come back together as a family," says Robin Spence.

Maybe those corny TV shows from the 1960s, like "Leave it to Beaver," weren't so corny after all.

"Beave, I told you to eat those brussels sprouts!" chastises Beaver's mother, June, in one episode.

The best part? We didn't see any brussels sprouts in these new home-cooked meals.

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