Saving Your Sunday Offers Meal Prep
Tim Graft runs his meal prep business out of Countrywide Catering, owned by friend and mentor, Peg Rasmussen.
The new food on demand economy has made it less risky for a chef to quit a solid corporate job and take on something more entrepreneurial—such as saving Sundays for families, instead of meal prep.
“I wanted to see what else was out there, but I’ve got a wife and kids,” Tim Graft say about leaving his corporate executive chef job. “That’s a big commitment.”
At the same time he was considering how to open a meal-prep business, Peg Rasmussen, owner of Countryside Catering, was looking for a new chef. In his younger days, Graft had worked for her when she owned Countryside Restaurant, and she was both a mentor and a godsend. Rasmussen not only gives him a steady paycheck, she lets him use her kitchen to launch Save Your Sunday.
The idea for the business came to him via a side job as a personal chef for one of his wife’s massage clients. The client’s sister told him she was tired of spending Sundays prepping meals for the week, and asked if she could pay him to make her meals when he made his family’s. After a few weeks of dropping meals off on Sunday afternoons, he started thinking there might be other mothers out there who would like the same freedom.
The meals are healthy and designed for family dinners and for kids’ or adults’ lunches. There are standards, along with a rotating menu for variety. And he’s open to suggestions, such as one he received recently for organic meats.
Tim Graft came up with the name Save Your Sunday when a client told him she was tired of spending her Sundays doing meal prep for the week instead of enjoying family time.
Graft has a marketing degree, but always liked being in the kitchen more than the conference room. His culinary education came via working in kitchens, but thanks to his employer at the time, Sodexo, he earned the ACF accreditation.
His game plan has a twist from the meal prep offers already out there. Unlike national brands, such as Blue Apron, his meals don’t come with an overabundance of packing materials. The pre-cooked meals are packed in reusable plastic containers for a $50 one-time fee. The containers are rinsed and returned when the next week’s food is picked up. Graft rewashes and reuses the containers. There is some assembly required for family meals, like turkey tacos with rice and beans, but he also packs individual meals.
His website is fairly homespun, but that’s both a choice and an economic necessity, Graft says. The cost savings from designing and maintaining his own website on GoDaddy allow him to keep the prices for entrées around $10. It also keeps the service from looking “corporate.”
He does all his own social media. “You have to work it to get a following,” he says, which means building time into cooking for taking pictures to post. And while it’s sometimes a pain: “Social media is free advertising.” His formula for posting is one-third content (food pictures); one-third of yourself; and one-third related to industry news. And whenever possible, clients tagging you builds credibility.
The number of customers is currently manageable—25 to 30—so customers pick up their meals at the catering site or at a prearranged time in a Cubs’ parking lot.
Ideally, the business will grow so that he can afford to hire employees, and the first hire will be a prep cook, not a delivery driver. “When you drive you’re not on your feet,” he says, smiling. Although he never gets tired of cooking, chopping does get a bit repetitive.
The longer he’s in this business, the more he tweaks his concept. For instance, he added a $10 delivery fee for orders under $150. “Which may incentivize them to spend more,” he adds. And he has extended his order time from just Sundays.
But perhaps his best endorsement is that one of his regular customers is his mother-in-law, who is quite the cook herself.