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Community, Culinary, Feature Stories, Lifestyle

Many Hands Make Work Light!

Many Hands Make Work Light!

Cooking with a Crowd

Interview with Katie Pinilla,
Community Meal Prep
By Anne Marie Moro

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Katie Pinilla started ‘Community Meal Prep’ to create a kitchen community for working moms in the West Shore; something that was fun, affordable and—best of all—stressfree. No kids around. No pressure over what food to make, how to make it, or how long it will take. In just 3 hours, each group produces between 70 and 80 meals per session. Each person takes home up to 10 freezer dinners for their families.
How convenient is that!

Q: How did this idea of a community meal kitchen get started as a business?
A: [Initially], I didn’t think about doing any of this as a business. I happened to find a package online that made twenty freezer meals for $150. I bought it and invited a bunch of friends over. Only one showed up—and she didn’t want any of the meals! So, I ended up with all twenty meals for myself. I posted a food picture on Facebook and, when our pastor’s wife saw it, she said I should try out a meal prep group at the church. I asked my friend, Amy Pullen, to try one with me. We advertised it at church and it filled up right away! We did more groups in November and December—and even had people booking into the New Year. Soon, we were up to three groups a month.

Q: Did you hold meal prep groups here at your home?
A: No, the Colwood Pentecostal Church lets us use their kitchen. To start, our meals were just for the people in the church. As groups grew, I started leaving meals in their freezer to hand out to anyone in the community who needed one.

Q: So, your business was booming?
A: It was. But, at that point, we were just breaking even. Amy and I were both expecting babies at the end 2015, so we worked until the end of August, and then took a break. By 2017, I wanted us to start making money. Amy felt it would be too much for her to take on. I looked around for someone to help me; but, there wasn’t anyone interested. So, I had my husband build me a website and went full tilt on my own in April last year!

Q: What meal prep groups do you have going on now?
A: My groups at North Saanich Middle School accommodate seventeen people from the Sidney area. I also started a ‘kids meal prep’ for summer and spring breaks. I work private parties at various home locations every month, including a private group of retired women in Nanaimo every two months. I’ve also done a few baby showers. Instead of giving individual gifts, everybody contributes to a meal prep. The hostess picks the meals the mom-to-be would like, and again, I bring everything they need to prepare them for her.

Q: How about food preferences?
A: I can accommodate gluten-free, dairy-free and keto diets. Several people have asked me to do vegetarian and I will be experimenting with that in the fall. Vegetarian freezer meals are bit trickier though, because many don’t freeze as well.

Q: To what do you attribute your success?
A: I got off to a good start voluntarily working the business with Amy for a couple of years. We got a lot of great feedback from family and friends along the way. There was no pressure. We just worked away and slowly developed a solid foundation of what we wanted to do, how to do it and who would come. Amy was the organizer and systems girl, preparing checklists and recipes, taking photos for the website. She’s very detail oriented. I got a lot of feedback and support from my husband, too.

Q: What kinds of things have you learned?
A: When you’re cooking everything in gigantic quantities, there are lots of things to get used to. Like cracking thirty five eggs at a time, cutting up pounds and pounds of spinach, slicing thirty pounds of beef, or chopping eight bags of peppers. Stuff like that. And I still get amused reactions every time I go through a checkout!

If you​ ​like​ ​to​ ​cook​ ​but​ ​struggle​ ​to decide​ ​what​ ​to​ ​make​ ​after​ ​a​ ​long​ ​day, the Community Meal Prep is a great alternative. What are you waiting for? Go book a date!

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