Well Fed Meals cooks up healthy options for time-crunched

Lexington, KY – In a world where consumers are asking more questions about what they eat, Rachel Crabtree and Cherlynn Stevenson, co-owners of Well Fed Meals, said made-from-scratch, ready-to-eat healthy meals have not been a hard sell.
Crabtree and Stevenson, who opened their business in January, have found a ready market for their wares because, as Crabtree explained, “people are asking ‘how do I eat healthier and quickly?’”
Well Fed Meals has already developed a loyal customer base of people who want to eat healthier, but who don’t know how to cook or don’t have the time. Working mothers who order meals for their families and single business people, both men and women, are the company’s most frequent customers.
Crabtree and Stevenson – so far the only employees – cook twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. Customers pre-order through the company’s website or by phone and pick up their food orders on those evenings or on the following mornings, at the store in Eastland Shopping Center.
Because they cook only as much food as is needed to fill their customers’ orders, “there’s no waste,” Crabtree explained. “That way, we can keep costs low.”
Five days of meals for a single person average about $15 per day. Delivery is also available for an extra charge.
“The meals last three days in the refrigerator,” Crabtree said. “While we don’t encourage people to freeze them, they can. With freezing, you lose some nutritional integrity and taste.”
The two cooks carefully select ingredients so that meals are balanced for protein, fat, vegetables and whole grains. They measure and weigh foods to offer meals of 350, 400, or 500 calories, and everything is labeled for nutritional content.
Crabtree and Stevenson also use as much fresh produce as possible and buy from the Lexington Farmers Market. The only beef they use is Walnut Hall Farm’s Grass Fed Beef.
While the concept of freshly prepared, healthy meals is new to Lexington, Crabtree has customers who have moved here from California and elsewhere who were customers of similar businesses there, and she and Stevenson eventually hope to franchise their business.
“I hope we have three more stores in Lexington, and we’re open all over the state in a year,” Crabtree added.
Crabtree knew the benefits of eating healthy from growing up on a farm in Casey County. She had worked in the fitness field and had been a personal trainer. Stevenson had worked as a corporate wellness director. When several of her friends who were young mothers developed cancer, Crabtree felt that she needed to do something to bring healthy eating to more people.
She and Stevenson enjoyed cooking. They were always the designated cooks for parties and showers within their circles of friends. They started preparing menus and soon realized that they were ready to go into business together.
Well Fed Meals offers 15 to 20 entrees, plus a la carte items. The menu changes every six weeks, rotating half of the entrees off. Best-selling entrees include ranch wraps (turkey and vegetables in ranch dressing) and teriyaki chicken.
“Our Mediterranean platter is a big hit,” Crabtree said.
The number one dessert is “Not Your Grandma’s Fruit Cake,” a gluten-free yellow cake with fresh strawberries and blueberries, that outsells even the brownies. Another popular snack or dessert item is the Morningside Muffin, with a cream cheese and honey icing.
“Customers call it our ‘million dollar muffin’ and say we could make a fortune off of it,” said Crabtree with a laugh.
Everything sold at Well Fed Meals is made from scratch, including breads, salad dressings, mayonnaise and salsas.
“Our customers are not getting preservatives with their food,” Crabtree said.
For her, the easiest part of running this new business is “working with a friend as a business partner. We work well together.” The hardest part is “just getting the word out, marketing and advertising, when we don’t have the money to spend.”
Word-of-mouth advertising from satisfied customers has been effective for Well Fed Meals. The business is also a sponsor for Get Healthy Lexington and Run the Bluegrass.
Crabtree said that Well Fed Meals differs in several ways from the frozen dinner businesses that have opened and closed in recent years. With those companies, “You had to go and put together your food, then later thaw it and cook it. We eliminate the (preparation) time element,” she said.
“Theirs was frozen, which is not as flavorful,” she said. “Health is a big issue, and those companies did not focus on health, just on easier meal preparation.”
Despite the long hours that go with starting a business, Crabtree feels a strong sense of satisfaction.
“I feel like I’m doing something to make a difference and giving people an option they wouldn’t otherwise have. My goal is to make people healthy all over the place.”
For more information, check the company’s website at www.wellfedmeals.com.

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