Panora residents open meal preparation company
As the parents of seven kids, Adam and Sarah Bartlett are no strangers to cooking for a crowd.
Over the years as their family grew, the challenge was not keeping up with the increasing amount of people to cook for, or finding recipes everyone would like. Instead, it was finding time to actually cook every day while they both maintained jobs.
Eventually, to better fit their schedule, Sarah Bartlett started preparing frozen meals ahead of time, so they were ready to get cooked and served when needed. Inspired by the success their family had with the system, Adam and Sarah Bartlett recently opened a meal preparation business right out of their Panora home called Simply Sarah’s.
“With both of us working, that’s how it started, we needed something else available besides fast food,” Sarah Bartlett said of what sparked the idea for the new business. “For us, it was about the convenience of both of us working, and having the freezer meals ready to go. We started pursuing this a while ago, it’s just taken a lot time to get things figured out and get something put together.”
After years of planning, Simply Sarah’s officially opened in February, with the mission of delivering tasty homemade food right to customers’ doors. Every week, a new menu is released, and customers can choose what items they want and the portion sizes they want them in, and order them online. Every Tuesday, the containers of pre-made meals are shipped directly to customers anywhere in Iowa, and they can be used right away, or stored in the freezer for later. All of the items on the menu are completely prepared, but left uncooked. That way, they are only cooked once when the customer is ready to eat, instead of being precooked and reheated multiple times. Cooking instructions are printed right onto the packaging of every meal.
The meals are prepared in a second commercial kitchen in the Bartlett’s home, which they installed a few months ago and had certified by the state. Sarah Bartlett also took a food safety training course to learn the regulations about how to serve the meals safely.
“I think there’s a need for something like this just with everyone living a fast paced life in general,” Sarah Bartlett said. “People are always looking for more convenience in this day and age.”
Neither Sarah or Adam Bartlett are classically trained cooks. They never went to culinary school and have not worked in the restaurant industry. But the couple grew up learning the recipes used within their families, and now use them in their business. They described the style of food served through Simply Sarah’s as “home style comfort food for the average Joe.” The menu reflects Sarah Bartlett’s “meat-and-potatoes” style of simple food, and features meals like lasagna, chicken pot pie and meatloaf.
“All our meals are meals that we would eat ourselves, that we would serve for our family,” Sarah Bartlett said. “I guess I’m a hearty, farm girl meal kind of person. It’s just our family meals, it’s what we grew up with. I’ve cooked them since I was a teenager.”
Adam Bartlett especially likes baking homemade breads, and the couple hopes to add his creations to the menu in the future, as well as more sides and dessert items.
Despite only opening a month ago, Simply Sarah’s has already drawn a large customer base from across the state, from busy parents lacking time to cook for their families to people who simply don’t know how to. Two weeks ago the Bartletts served up 300 servings of their meals, and last week’s ordering cycle already had 19 customers placing orders by mid-week. Adam Bartlett is currently employed as a welder in Scranton, but the hope for the business is that it will take off enough for the couple to make it a full time job for both of them.
“I cook for my family in large amounts to begin with, there’s nine of us,” Sarah Bartlett said. “When you cook in big meals anyways, adding a few ingredients to make meals for extra people isn’t that much more. And it’s nice to be able to see it help somebody else out too by providing meals that make their lives easier.”