by Valerie Riley
Author info: Valerie Riley is Senior Manager of Marketing Communications for Info Tech, Inc. She and her husband Brent are working parents to two school-age children.
With the school year here, the parenting time crunch is starting to set in. For Gainesville’s dual working parents, this means that those precious hours between the end of the work day and bedtime become a whirlwind of homework, activities, conversation and nighttime rituals. Getting a healthy meal on the table can be the hardest part of the equation.
I asked some parents around town to share their best tips for accomplishing dinner and I got a range of responses. Many were excellent planners, able to choose meals that are easy to prepare, purchase ingredients during a weekly shopping trip and then execute those meals each night. Some even tag-teamed where one parent cooked on one evening and another cooked the next to share the burden. Others preferred to grocery shop daily and prepare a meal on the fly – even though that meant a pretty late dinner seating.
For those that need outside help, though, there are a surprising number of choices around town for both prepared meal delivery and meal-preparation kits.
Jorgia McAfee is a busy mom of a 5-year old child juggling her job as VP of Development at Crime Prevention Security Systems and also working as an actress. Her husband Bobby McAfee also works at Crime Prevention Security Systems as Marketing Director. For about a year they have been clients of Eat the 80, described as “a healthy meal delivery service.” Eat the 80 was started right here in Gainesville, so the meals are prepared in a local kitchen and delivered to clients.
The McAfees get five meals per week delivered by Eat the 80, but it is mainly for the adults in the home.
“My son is a very picky eater, so he hasn’t eaten much of it yet,” Jorgia says.
Overall, it is a big hit with the adults due to the convenience.
“We love Eat the 80 because we are able to eat a healthy dinner every night without spending massive amounts of time preparing meals. We can focus our time in the evenings on playing with our son.”
The McAfees also find that the energy required to prepare meals had previously been draining.
“At the end of the workday, we are both exhausted,” Jorgia said. “[The prepared meals] inherently give us energy for the rest of the night. I remember when dinner made me extremely tired. But, with Eat the 80, I have sustainable energy to keep me engaged until bedtime.”
While the McAfees are receiving their meals already prepared, other local families use a service that provides ingredients to prepare a meal at home. The service, called Chef Ami, provides the ingredients for a meal and delivers the kit to your home. Meals typically take about 30 minutes to prepare and serve four people. Like Eat the 80, Chef Ami is also based in Gainesville.
The DeGroffs are clients of Chef Ami. Curt DeGroff is a physician UF Health, his wife Coleen is a Realtor for RE/MAX Professionals and they have two sons, ages 21 and 18.
The DeGroffs began using a meal ingredient delivery service when they found that both planning healthy meals and executing them became a struggle.
“As a result, we’d order out way more than we should, spending much more money than we wanted to and usually not making the best or most balanced food choices.”
The family has been using Chef Ami for more than a year.
“We really love the fact that Chef Ami locally sources their ingredients wherever possible — it’s nice to know we are supporting local farmers.”
The DeGroffs prepare a Chef Ami meal at least three times per week and have yet to have a meal they didn’t enjoy – and that includes the kids. The DeGroff boys even get in on the meal preparation. The whole family will use any leftovers for lunches.
Coleen enjoys knowing that everything the family needs for a meal is in the box. “You have time to put the meals together, you get to eat healthy, you don’t have to worry about shopping and forgetting stuff you need, or bringing home too much of produce items that end up going slimy in the refrigerator.”
The DeGroffs also feel that the service is economical. “Since we’ve started using Chef Ami we find that we are spending less money on our food bill and we aren’t throwing away a bunch of ingredients because we bought too much or forgot we had it in the fridge.”
In addition to these two services, there are other choices for dinner help in town. What’s For Dinner? is a local company that can deliver meals and even provide in-home chef services. Delicious Delivered is another local option providing pre-prepared meals. Nationally, options abound including Hello Fresh and Blue Apron, which deliver meal preparation kits all over the US, and Healthy Chef Creations which delivers pre-prepared meals nationwide.
For working parents, a family dinner is a great evening ritual to re-connect and share the day’s events. There are several choices in Gainesville beyond take-out menus and drive-thrus to put a quick and even healthy meal on the table.