Since Max’s arrival, one of the most dramatic shifts in our daily schedule has been to our meal planning approach. The casual decision over what to eat has given way to whatever is easiest and most efficient. Needless to say, we enjoy a fair bit of take-out. While we’ve tried subscription meal services such as Plated, Hello Fresh and Blue Apron, their recipes were not our idea of “quick and easy”. So when our neighbor (hi Lindsay!) told us about a new meal delivery service, Eat Smart Now, that just involved 2 minutes in the microwave, we were eager to try it!
Eat Smart Now is a local (to Richmond) meal delivery service offering healthy meal solutions for busy professionals. We’ve only been subscribing for a few weeks, but the service has already become an essential part of our meal planning routine. The idea of having fresh, home-cooked meals delivered to our doorstep is so convenient. Not only does it eliminate the need to figure out what we are going to have for dinner, but the meals we receive are delicious and only take 2 minutes to heat up. We have tried several dishes and so far the Lemon Chicken is our favorite. It is flavorful and something we wouldn’t normally make on our own.
The recipe options are unique and delicious, the quality is consistently high and the convenience is simply unmatched. But the best part is, our very picky 13 month son old loves the food!
Meet Abbie Toner - Founder of Eat Smart Now Abbie has a BA and a MPA from Syracuse University. She worked in NYC for a couple of years after college before going back to get her MPA. She worked in a nonprofit in NYC and then the federal government in DC before moving to Richmond in 2007.
Starting a business isn’t something I ever expected to do! I won’t say it just happened because a LOT of people put a lot of time and effort into getting it started, but the idea happened organically.
I reached out to Abbie to get a little insight into her company and why she started it. Here’s what she said.
On how she started her business
A couple of years ago a few friends and I were all trying to lose weight through Weight Watchers. At the time I was living by myself, and although I like to cook, I won’t cook just for myself very often. So I started making lunches for a few friends and bringing them into the co-working space I worked out of - 804RVA. We called them Work Wife Lunches.
Fast forward a few months, and I was bringing in lunches for more and more people and we were just splitting grocery costs. I was doing contract work at the time, and my biggest contract ended, and my friends kept insisting this could be a business. I sort of just went for it. Which is to say - several of my friends pitched in to help get me off the ground - building my website, helping me figure out what I needed to do to get kitchen space, get a health inspection, etc.
On creating a meal planning schedule and picking recipes
This is something I am actually thinking about changing. Small businesses go through so many iterations before they figure things out! So much of it has been trial and error. I am thinking of moving to sending out menus on Sunday and getting orders in on Wednesday because that would make the weekends a little easier, but right now, it pretty much looks like this:
I usually have the bulk of the orders in by Friday morning, so I sit down and make a list of all of the ingredients in each recipe. Then I check my inventory and head to pick up what I need on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. Saturday we do a ton of prep and then Sunday we cook. My fiancé and I cook together on Sundays (he has been working in kitchens much longer than me and he is super talented). It hasn’t been terrible because until the last two weeks we were on a subscription basis, so even if I didn’t know exactly what people would order, I had a good idea of the total number of meals, so it wasn’t too hard to know about how much of everything I needed. Now that we have moved most customers over to pay-as-you-go, the numbers will fluctuate more.
Picking recipes happens a bunch of different ways. In the beginning I started with a lot of my favorite recipes of my mom’s, like the lemon chicken. It is just a lighter version of her chicken piccata. Same with stuffed peppers and the marinara sauce that goes into a bunch of different recipes. I love comfort food, but it doesn’t have to be heavy to be comforting.
I get ideas from customers sometimes - which I LOVE. It makes me so happy to get a request for something someone really likes. And my mom and younger brother send me recipes, which is great. They are both wonderful cooks.
Every week I keep an eye on my favorite food blogs to get new ideas, and I also research, especially things I am not as familiar with - like the paleo recipes people have been requesting or new vegetarian recipes.
I test recipes about once a month. There is a monthly meeting at the co-working space (where the leadership sits down to talk about things going on there) that I provide lunch for and I usually bring new things for them to try. They always give good feedback on what they like and don’t like. Sometimes I think a recipe is going to be SO GOOD but for one reason or another it doesn’t really work.
On her favorite recipe
I have a few favorites, but the one I never get tired of is the taco salad. It is so simple, but it is really good and I eat it every time we make it.
On her favorite local eats
I really, really love Shoryuken Ramen and my friend Sarah is one of the owners, so going there feels like going to a friend’s house. She is so lovely, and the food is amazing.
Stella’s - I have loved everything I’ve eaten there, every time I have gone. It is so hard to get a reservation!
Perly’s - whitefish salad. I have been a bunch of times and I can never bring myself to order anything else. You just can’t find it many places.
Galley - the breakfast salad! The Cuban sandwich! The Turkey & Brie! I can never decide what to order without serious angst.
Pizza Tonight - the mussels. OMG the mussels.
I am sure I am leaving tons of things out, but, let’s face it - Richmond is kind of an embarrassment of riches right now.
On adding dessert options
Wow. I literally had not even thought about it. We recently expanded to include snacks and breakfast, but I can see where you are coming from. Do you or your readers have any suggestions?
Cover photo and photo of Abbie by Big Spoon Agency.