By Carey Smith
Meal delivery systems were growing in popularity even before the pandemic, and with many more people eating primarily at home, this business niche is flourishing. National names such as Blue Apron or HelloFresh may have entered our local consciousness, but Springfield has been home to meal preparation and delivery systems for at least a decade.
Whether it’s the convenience of picking up freshly made nutritious meals with realistic portions or having them delivered to a home or place of business, meal preparation services provide an alternative to restaurant foods as well as decrease the number of trips to the grocery store, a bonus in times of a pandemic.
Celeste and Brennan Malham of Springfield started FED Kitchen in April 2019. The couple prepares ready-to-eat meals in a commercial kitchen and distributes them through two partnering Springfield businesses: Supplement Superstore, 2302 Wabash Ave., and Custom Cup Coffee, 319 E. Monroe.
The Malhams were personal trainers, and the impetus to start FED Kitchen arrived when Celeste became a stay-at-home mom. Having seen the frustration firsthand of people who worked out regularly but failed to attain their weight goals due to a lack of nutritional knowledge, she said, “I thought this was something that was needed and would work well with the stay-at-home-mom lifestyle.”
The Malhams focus on providing meals with healthy macronutrients and a ton of flavor to ensure sustainable meal plan success. No subscription is required, and there are no minimum orders. Celeste suggests, “Order a couple and try them out.”
One long-standing meal preparation service in Springfield is Just Right Eating. Dominic Podeschi and Stephanie Johnson began Just Right Eating, 3047 Hedley Rd., about a decade ago, back when meal delivery systems were still a novelty.
Just Right Eating delivers meals twice weekly, using two refrigerated vans. Patrons sign up for a meal plan ranging from a minimum of five meals and a maximum of 28, choosing from 75 menu items, or going with a default menu that changes weekly. Meals are fully cooked and can be reheated as needed.
Podeschi states, “We have a wide variety of demographics of people who use our service. Some are athletes or are into healthy eating while others, such as the elderly, are interested in the convenience. Others are looking for healthy eating due to medical conditions like diabetes.” More recently, the business expanded with the addition of Just Right Eatery, offering sit down, pick up or drive-thru options.
A meal delivery service that caters to local businesses is GÜDGut.life, which began in July 2018. “We saw employees making poor decisions with their lunches, often defaulting to fast food because it’s quick,” says Jesse Brock, an entrepreneur with a passion for fermented foods. The collective brainchild of Brock, former Sangamo Club chef David Radwine and retired Ace Sign Company owner Dennis Bringuet, GÜDGut.life has since adapted to the pandemic by providing home delivery service.
Five meals per week with a minimum commitment of four weeks are required to begin service. Clients can choose their menu items or default to a regular rotation. GÜDGut.life has also added family-sized portions, serving two to three people.
“Eighty percent of our meals are plant-based,” says Brock. “Every plate has an item that is fermented to ensure good gut bacteria.” He noted that there are no preservatives in their meals and all ingredients are pronounceable. Meals are prepared by chef Shaun Moore in the commercial kitchen at the Hoogland Center for the Arts and delivered once a week.
While Let’s Make Dinner’s focus isn’t primarily on health, but rather convenience, owner Tami Frye says that their menu does provide for several health-conscious options, especially the seafood dishes. “We focus on real food, just like you make at home” says Frye, who opened her location at 2943 W. White Oaks Dr. eight years ago with husband John. Frye is able to accommodate many food preferences and allergy requests, including wheat-free diets. There’s no minimum order or commitment required, and customers pick up frozen meals as needed on site.
Whether you are trying to lose unwanted pounds, avoid the grocery store or prefer the convenience of healthy and correctly portioned food delivered to your door, meal preparation services are a wonderful complement to Springfield’s plethora of eating choices.