Want a grilled steak, salmon, or a turkey burger with roasted sweet potatoes but don’t have the time to cook? Not a problem. All it takes is a text, phone call or a few clicks on your computer.
It’s that simple, thanks to one of the hottest food trends: the prepared meal industry. Following the success of the meal-in-a-box concept, this latest wave of convenience takes care of the cooking for you. All you do is heat and eat.
Nationally, there are companies that churn out 50,000 prepared meals a month, all with an emphasis on healthy choices.
In the central San Joaquin Valley, there are at least six companies that prepare meals every week for thousands of customers from Visalia to Fresno.
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Most of the companies operate about the same: You chose from a menu of meals, or customize your own meal with the various options of lean proteins, vegetables or starches. There are also paleo options.
Most of the companies offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. You pay depending on how many meals you order. The price per meal varies from about $6 to $10. And there is no subscription or membership fee.
Meals are made mostly on Saturday using commercial kitchens and delivery or pickup is on Sunday or Monday.
Several of the company owners are trained chefs, while others have chefs on their staffs or consult with nutritionists. Total calories, fat content and other nutritional information is usually included, if not, ask.
Unlike previous meal services that focused on busy families, these new ventures are gaining a following among body builders, cross-fit enthusiasts and others into fitness and healthy eating.
It’s just what Jhoe and Sonia Ajayi were looking for when they started working with a fitness trainer about a year ago. Along with working out, the trainer also talked about portion control and eating the appropriate amount of protein, vegetables and starches.
The Ajayis tried preparing their new meal plan, but found it time consuming. Someone recommended EZ Fit Meals of Fresno and after trying a few of their meals, they became regular customers.
“It fit in perfectly with what we needed: a healthy meal in the right portions,” says Jhoe Ajayi of Dinuba. “You may pay a little more, but it is worth it to us. And the meals are really good.”
EZ Fit Meals founder Chris Garcia of Fresno is surprised at how quickly the industry has grown. A recent Fresno State graduate with a degree in marketing, Garcia started EZ Fit a year ago after the meals he was making for himself got noticed by friends and family. Soon, he was being offered money to make his meals for others.
“It started out slow with a few orders a week but pretty soon I was up to 150 meals a week,”Garcia says. “Then it got kind of crazy. For five months straight I was cooking 10 to 12 hours a day.”
That was a little more than a year ago. Today, EZ Fit Meals is cooking about 1,000 meals a week and has six employees. Garcia is also in growth mode. He will start home delivery soon and later this year will begin shipping meals nationwide. He also says a store is in the works.
Shayna Telesmanic of Young Chef’s Academy in Fresno has also begun offering families ready made meals. Telesmanic’s meals are geared for a family of four to five and cost between $25 to $30. Her meals include, chicken piccata, lasagna and beef teriyaki. A busy mom herself, Telesmanic has temporarily suspended the meal service as she takes some time off, but will resume in early July.
The rise of the meal company industry was good timing for Oscar Perez, a graduate of the culinary school at the Institute of Technology in Clovis. Perez founded Healthy Preps about seven months ago and continues to gain customers.
Perez says that his clientele runs the gamut from fitness fanatics to working mothers.
“What I have found is that people have become very busy and they really want to eat healthy,” Perez says. “So if they can’t make the meals themselves, than this becomes a real convenient option for them.”
Amir Sadaghiani, owner of Activmeals, says people are hungry for this type of service in Fresno. He says one of the biggest selling features is portion size.
“You don’t have to figure out how much to put on your plate,” he says. “We do that for you.”
Body Fuel owner Kevin Gallenkamp has crafted a niche among the cross-fit crowd. A cross-fit athlete himself, Gallenkamp says many of his customers are looking to eat as cleanly as possible. He offers a paleo option that is made with all organic ingredients, including free-range beef. Customers can also order in bulk. Some have asked for six pounds of chicken and eight cups of rice.
Although his company is only five months old, the cross-fit community has helped spread the word about his meals. He now ships meals to nine states.
“The cross-fit industry is a big market,” he says. “But I also have customers who sit at a desk all day, but who want to eat healthier.”
In Visalia, Nutritional Food Supply owner Frankie Velasco says lots of his customers are single men, with limited cooking skills.
“I hate to say it but there are a lot of guys out there who just don’t know how to cook,” Velasco says. “And this is super easy for them, just throw it in the microwave.”
Velasco started the company in January with the idea of also operating a store. He says the move has worked, and is picking up many new clients from walk-in foot traffic.
He averages about 2,000 meals a week. And has begun shipping meals.
“This is a new concept to a lot of people in the area,” Velasco says. “But it is really taking off.”
Easy meal providers
To find out more about the prepared meal companies contact them here:
- EZ Fit Meals, www.ezfitmeals.com, 844-883-9348, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Nutritional Food Supply, www.nutritionalfoodsupply.com, 625 W. Murray Ave. Visalia, (559) 429-4722
- Healthy Preps, www.instagram.com/perez247fitness/, (559) 975-9157
- Activmeals, www.activmeals.com, email@example.com, (559) 790-3545
- Body Fuel Meal Prep,http://bodyfuelmealprep.com/, firstname.lastname@example.org, (559) 347-8687
- Young Chef’s Academy, www.fresnoca.youngchefsacademy.com, email@example.com, (559) 433-6698