L-R: Casey Gray and Amanda DeWitt - Photos Andy Calvert
Amanda DeWitt and Casey Gray, owners and operators of Ideal Meals, want everyone to know that healthy eating can be convenient. This is the guiding principle behind their business, a prepared food service that offers healthy and affordable premade meals. “[Healthy eating] doesn’t mean that you have to do your own grocery shopping, prepare your own food,” Gray says. “That’s why we’re here, to try and replace fast food.” DeWitt adds, “Eating healthy can be affordable. That’s important to us too, to make our prices comparable to fast food.”
So how does it work? Every Sunday, DeWitt and Gray release a menu for the following week. The menu provides descriptions and nutritional information for each meal option, and DeWitt and Gray make an effort to include something for everyone. “We like to make sure there’s a good combination of proteins and… a wide variety of things,” DeWitt says. “There’s usually a meal on there that you could feed your kid, but it’s a healthier version. We try to make it so that it fits a wide variety of lifestyles.”
Orders must be placed by Friday at 5 p.m. for pick-up or delivery the following Sunday or Monday. Meals are individually portioned and cost $5-7 per serving. According to the Ideal Meals website, meals can be stored in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days or frozen for up to 30 days. All meals can be microwaved in their containers.
The idea for Ideal Meals grew from a conflict between DeWitt’s appreciation for healthy eating and her busy nursing school schedule. Because she saw a decline in her nutrition due to her lack of time, she decided to start meal prepping.
“I started doing it, and then people kind of approached me and asked ‘would you do this for me?’” DeWitt says. “I started thinking about it and put out a Facebook post asking who else would be interested in having their meals prepped. I got a pretty big response. It grew and grew.”
Gray became involved when she and DeWitt met at the gym. She was a stay-at-home mom and missed working, so she jumped at the chance to get involved. “I really love food, my whole family really loves food, so I saw it as a great opportunity to start working and start something from the ground up,” she says.
Since starting Ideal Meals in 2015, they have seen consistent growth in demand for the service. They started with a small building, outgrew it in a year, and have now expanded to a 3,000-square-foot facility and three locations.
“We have a central hub location where we cook everything so that we can control the quality of the product that we put out,” DeWitt says. “That’s our number one priority.” They currently ship meals to pick-up locations in Calhoun and Cartersville, and they are looking to expand to another hub store with more pick-up locations.
Both DeWitt and Gray believe that it’s important for people to focus on changing their relationship with food if they want to eat more healthily. “We don’t believe in diets,” DeWitt explains. “We believe that food and portion control, that’s what changes your relationship and eventually changes your lifestyle with food.
Portion control is the most important thing that you can teach yourself.” Gray adds, “We don’t want anybody to feel like they’re missing out or like they’re denying themselves anything while they’re eating healthy.”