The “New” Fast Food
Fabulous meal kits and prepared dinners
Work days that run long. Busy school schedules. Families clamoring, “What’s for dinner?” If this sounds like your life, you are not alone. To ease the stress of these hectic days, more people are turning toward delivered meals as a way to make supper time easier. Whether the meals are provided as kits, or fully prepared, New Hampshire has lots of local options for delicious dinnertimes.
HomeGrown Eats of Rollinsford was among the first local meal providers on the scene. Twelve years ago, Ronald Sparks and his wife, Maria, committed to creating a self-sustaining homestead on the acre they owned. They planted vegetables, berries and fruit trees, and started raising chickens.
Before long, they had more food than they needed. Sparks, a former chef, always enjoyed cooking food for others. He sought a way to share their bounty, but he didn’t want a restaurant.
“A storefront brings a lot of challenges, such as parking, rent, maintenance,” he says. “I just wanted to provide good food.”
He and his wife opted to rent a commercial kitchen space in the Salmon Falls Mills where they could prepare meals and other products for purchase. They based their business model off of a community-supported kitchen on a California enterprise. Clients can sign up week to week, or become a member, which entitles them to four weeks of food at a discounted rate. All meals are delivered and include entrees, sides, salads, soups or appetizers, and dessert. Members also get a “Bread of the Week.” Menus change weekly and seasonally.
HomeGrown Eats delivers Wednesdays, as Sparks feels mid-week is when people feel the meal-time pinch.
“A lot of people cook on the weekend, so they are all set at the start of the week,” he says. “On the weekend, they are apt to go out or entertain. But by Wednesday they need food. With good, healthy, prepared meals, they don’t have to turn to fast food.”
Sparks attributes their success to using all local produce, either from his homestead or nearby farms. “We can tell our clients exactly where the food came from that is in their meals. Everything is fresh, and we cook based on what is in season. You don’t get meals that are tastier or healthier than this.”
Sparks is looking forward to fall, as fall and winter are the busiest times for prepared meals. He also loves the bounty of the season.
“The harvest around here yields incredibly diverse foods to work from,” he says. “And we are busy not only preparing great meals but also canning, making jams and jellies, sauces, applesauce and other goods for the pantry that will take us through the winter. Our customers love all the apple items on the fall menus, and they enjoy sitting down with a cozy meal on a fall evening.”
To learn more about HomeGrown Eats, visit nhhomegrowneats.com or call (603) 557-5297.
All Real Meal of Manchester started 10 years ago and now serves a broad section of the state as well as portions of Massachusetts and Kittery, Maine. The company creates healthy, fully prepared meals to serve a wide variety of tastes and needs, including gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and low carb.
Although the business has grown tremendously, founders and chefs Sonia Farris and Kasia Lojko still give every meal that personal touch.
The business started when Lojko, who is Polish, became frustrated by the lack of healthy, prepared meal options. In Poland, cooking with high-quality ingredients and making nutritious meals is a way of life. She felt there could be a market for such meals in the United States.
Farris, who has a marketing background, agreed. Both women grew up cooking with their mothers and grandmothers, and together, they created menus and stepped into the unknown.
“People responded in a big way,” Farris says. “Receiving a fully prepared meal was something they immediately embraced. They knew they were getting something tasty and nutritious. Plus, many people told us they didn’t have the 30 or 40 minutes it takes to use a kit. They wanted the ease of just putting dinner on the table.”
All Real Meal offers new menus every week as well as seasonal options. The company has its own home delivery team, and also offers pickup at their kitchen or their store in downtown Manchester.
According to Farris, customers have flocked to All Real Meal because of their hometown vibe. “All of our food comes from New Hampshire,” she says. “We know our vendors, and our kitchen is right in Manchester. Our employees are our families and friends. We collaborate with local businesses and have special add-ons from time to time from other providers. We’re very involved with the community, so people know us.”
All Real Meal is also known for its meal trains, which allow family and friends to sign up someone in need for free meals and food delivery. The recipient gets to pick the meals they want, but family and friends have prepaid for the service. The meal train wallet can be replenished at any time.
“The meal trains are so helpful for someone going through an illness or bereavement, or maybe a family with a new baby,” Farris says. “Now, dinner is taken care of, and it’s one less thing to stress about.”
Farris and Lojko are excited about fall, which is their busiest time and their favorite season.
“We bring out brand-new menu items in October, but we also retain customer favorites,” Farris says. “This fall, we are involving some local bakers and are excited to showcase their wares.”
Visit allrealmeal.com or call (603) 782-3014 for more information.
For people who want to be hands-on in the kitchen but welcome some help, Local Baskit’s meal kits are the perfect fit. Started in 2016, Local Baskit of Hopkinton offers a flexible weekly meal preparation service featuring foods from local farms and providers.
Each week, tantalizing new recipes appear, and clients can decide what they wish to eat; they order, and their kits are assembled for delivery or pickup. Local Baskit’s storefront, Barrel & Baskit, is located in an 1800s former general store, at 377 Main Street.
Barrel & Baskit features a lunch service plus other food items. Meal kits can be picked up here, along with soup kits and kits for the InstaPot without committing to the meal subscription plan.
Beth Richards is the founder and driving force behind Local Baskit. Growing up, she spent lots of time working in her family’s garden, giving her a lifelong appreciation of local food. After initial careers in the nonprofit and public health sectors, Richards became intrigued by the meal kit trend.
However, she wanted to do things much differently, so she created a company where ingredients were locally sourced from numerous New Hampshire farms and growers. “Clients tell us that they can taste the difference,” she says. “We personally know every vendor, from our blueberry farmers to our herb growers and everyone in between.”
Local Baskit creates 10 to 12 recipe options, so clients can select what they feel like. People place an order, and the ingredients for each meal are assembled for delivery or pickup. Most meals take 30 to 45 minutes to prepare. The company serves a wide section of the state, from the Seacoast to Concord to Manchester.
Richards says that outstanding customer service has contributed to Local Baskit’s growth.
“We know our customers, and we give them flexibility,” Richards says. “If the kids are home from college and you need extra meals, no problem. If you need an extra meal just for one week, we accommodate. Even though we have more than 500 regular clients, we know our customers and help meet their needs.”
Clients also like Local Baskit’s commitment to sustainability, which is seen in their reduced packaging, recycling programs and re-use efforts. Richards is committed to community involvement as well, hiring local students to work in the business and learn cooking skills of their own.
Come fall, the company offers new recipes (which Richards first tests with her own family), as well as turkeys, pies and Thanksgiving side dishes.
“We don’t want to go outside of New Hampshire,” she says. “We love the size we are and the fact that it’s still a family business. Our clients are part of our family. Cooking is love made visible, and this feels like cooking for family — we want to keep it that way.”
Feast & Fettle is based in East Providence, Rhode Island, but has developed a serious following in New Hampshire. The company was started in 2016 by Maggie Pearson, who was working as a personal chef. She learned firsthand that busy families often struggle to enjoy a good meal, so she set out to create a meal delivery service that was local, fully prepared and high quality. After three years of steady growth, the business boomed when the pandemic hit and has continued to grow.
Today, Feast & Fettle is in five states, but has stayed true to Pearson’s personalized vision. According to Sarah MacDougall, director of brands, professional chefs still cook all of the meals, including the sauces, marinades and dressings.
Meals are delivered fresh by their own delivery team and are never frozen. Each week, clients choose from eight entrees and 10 sides with mix-and-match options. There are options for all dietary needs, plus a kids’ section.
The company is also environmentally friendly. “There is minimal packaging, and we take back all our containers, bags and ice packs,” MacDougall says. “Sustainability is at the front of the decisions we make.”
Feast & Fettle is currently in Rockingham, Strafford, Merrimack and Hillsborough counties, and is expanding farther into the Granite State this fall.
Visit feastandfettle.com to learn more or call (401) 753-2572.