Just over two weeks ago, a new prepared meal service opened its doors on downtown Calhoun’s West Line Street. Ideal Meals’ new location marks the first physical expansion of a business that began in Rome three years ago and has since won three consecutive Rome News-Tribune “Best of” awards for meal prep services.
The idea of turning meal prepping into a business was not something that seemed obvious to Ideal Meals co-owner Amanda DeWitt in the beginning. She prepared meals in advance for herself and her family, but it wasn’t until others began to notice and ask her to do the same for them that she realized it was something she could do professionally. She teamed up with co-owner Casey Gray, who also had an interest in healthy cooking and meal prepping, and the two got to work making menus and finding clients.
Gray said everything grew by word of mouth in the beginning and that she and DeWitt were surprised by how quickly they developed a strong base of clients both in Rome and in other places, like Gordon County. Ideal Meals became so successful that they purchased a refrigerated van and traveled multiple days a week to Calhoun, Cartersville, Summerville and Cedartown.
“We were coming here all the time. I mean, we had 100 people ordering here,” Gray said of Calhoun. “So, we decided that we should start looking for a space in this area.”
That’s how they found themselves moving into their new spot at 235 W. Line St., Suite 7.
“It really is perfect for what we need,” Gray said. “We wanted it to be somewhere easy to find, but we knew we’d only be here a few days out of the week, so it didn’t need to be on a main street or anything like that.”
Open just two days a week, Ideal Meals in Calhoun is what Gray called a “pick-up location.”
Before, when DeWitt and Gray were driving the van into town each week, clients had only an hour to meet up with them and get their food. There wasn’t a lot of flexibility for people who might be busy during that time window. Now, clients order their meals online through the Ideal Meals website, www.idealmealsrome.com, and can come to the store to pick up any time during store hours.
“People really seem to appreciate it,” Gray said. “We’re working moms, so we knew from the beginning that opening our hours would really help parents or people who work really strict hours find us.”
The process for ordering from Ideal Meals is simple. First, clients visit the website and take a look at the weekly menu options. They are prepared a week in advance so that customers can look them over and make decisions before orders are due. All orders must be in by Friday at 5 p.m. and can be completed on the website, under the ordering tab.
After ordering, all customers have to do is pick-up in store. Delivery is also available for those who can’t make it in. Deliveries require a four-item minimum.
When asked whether or not Ideal Meals would accommodate specialty diets like gluten free, Paleo, or Keto, Gray said the business does not make meals according to those guidelines. Instead, she said they focus on creating nutritional meals and options that fit into a typical healthy diet. Some examples include zucchini-banana bread, Greek chicken and quinoa salad, and stuffed sweet potatoes.
“There are so many fad diets out there that we’re not really able to accommodate every single one,” she said. “So, we will work with customers if, for example, they’re allergic to shrimp and we have that on the menu. We’ll make sure to keep their meals completely separate from that, but we don’t make specialty foods.”
Gray also said that while weight loss is something many Ideal Meals customers have experienced, it is not a diet program.
“We have had a few customers who have lost a lot of weight by joining. One lady who comes in from Calhoun actually lost 30 pounds just by switching eating out at lunch for our lunches,” she said. “But that’s not really what we’re about. We just want to help people save time and still eat food that is good for them.”
Ideal Meals in Calhoun is located at 235 W. Line Street, Suite 7. Store hours are Sundays from 4 to 8 p.m. and Mondays from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 to 6:30 p.m. For more information, call 706-936-0880. To access weekly menus, visit the Ideal Meals website or Facebook page. New weekly menus are posted every Sunday.