Having a busy family life does not mean you have to sacrifice family time around the dinner table. But when full schedules force recipe searching and grocery shopping to the bottom of your to-do list, dinnertime can devolve into a series of too many unhealthy take-out meals. Aleksandra (Aleks) Till launched Homegrown Foods five years ago because eating out and frequent trips to the grocery store isn’t an option for many families with little kids. “I have three young kids and I...believe that making cooking at home easier for people is super important,” Till says. “We are all so busy these days, and eating wholesome meals is important.”
Till has been cooking her whole life and when she became a mom, she noticed many other moms saying they went from “liking” to cook to “having” to cook. So when her brother-in-law was visiting from Sweden and talked about how meal kits are taking off there, Till thought somebody should do it here. Little did this trained graphic designer know at the time that she would become a successful business owner of a meal kit delivery service.
How it works:
Till started out doing everything herself, including designing the website. That worked when she was getting six orders each week. Now, with 75-100 orders per week, Till has two people helping her prepare the meal kits, although she still maintains the website and writes all of the site’s blog posts on topics like “How to clean a burned pan” or “How to make macrobiotic baby food.”
Till plans the website’s menus and customers set their preferences online or select specific meals. Till and her helpers shop, portion and pack the orders by 5 p.m. each Wednesday. “We have couriers deliver on Wednesdays because it ensures the freshest ingredients,” Till says. “If we delivered on Mondays, your packed meals would have been sitting around over the weekend.”
Till dissects each recipe into all the parts you would have to dig for in your kitchen pantry. Each spice mix and dressing is prepared from scratch. “We portion and label the ingredients and then pack it up." We've honed in on the process," she says, emphasizing people can order whatever they want. There is no strict menu. Her job is to be accurate and efficient.
Till also values fresh and local ingredients whenever possible. “In the summer, I shop at the farmers market to get as much local produce as I can..” says Till. “My customers can’t always get to a farmers market so they value that.”
Till says her approach is worth the work. She likes to create comfort foods from around the world–dishes that are familiar but interesting. She always incorporates vegetables. “I have little kids and understand the importance of sneaking in those veggies,” says Till.
Some recipes (there are over 400 on her website) have been tested up to five times. “I get frustrated when [a recipe] isn’t right. It stinks when you work hard and it doesn’t turn out,” she says. But because Till knows failure in the kitchen is why many people hate to cook, she won’t include a dish unless it’s right.
Till’s favorites include spinach ricotta cannelloni, chicken paprikash, green vegetable cashew stir-fry and lobster bisque. All of Till’s recipes are her own, not pilfered from the likes of Julia Child.
Till seems to have found the right balance of quality and convenience for her customers. “My meal kit service is something that many customers have said saves their marriage,” says Till. “They no longer argue about who’s cooking dinner and what they are making.” And although Till would love to expand, she doesn’t envy those national business models. Just like many neighborhood restaurants never become chains, Till says, “There’s nothing wrong with being a small company that serves the local community.”