SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — Stacy Cimino and Helen Allard believe eating fresh, unprocessed food is key to a healthy lifestyle.
They also know that most people don’t have time to cook those types of meals every day.
Enter WHOLEmade Meal Shares – homemade meal bundles made by the women and distributed for customer pick-up at the beginning of each week.
“We’re cooking for you,” Cimino said. “We’re taking over the food world and reclaiming people’s health. And we’re making it easy for them.”
Cimino, of Cape Elizabeth, and Allard, who drives up three days a week from her home in Massachusetts, make four meals a week for about 35 customers. They started with a pilot program last summer and officially launched the business in September.
The pair said the number of customers is growing each week, and they expect to be serving more than 100 customers by Christmas.
The women, who are both certified nutritional therapy practitioners, make every meal from scratch using local ingredients. They spend Fridays sourcing food, Saturdays going to farmers markets, and Mondays doing the cooking in the kitchen at the First Congregational Church on Cottage Road.
Between work and family, they said most people don’t have that much time to dedicate to meal preparation.
“The cost isn’t the problem,” Allard said. “It’s finding the time to do it. People are time poor. This really solves that problem.”
Because most people often throw together quick meals after work, the women said, they tend to pick unhealthy options. None of the ingredients used in WHOLEmade meals are processed, refined, or have chemical additives.
“What comes out of our kitchen is what would have come out of your great-grandma’s kitchen,” Allard said.
Recent meals have included lemon herb baked haddock, chicken fajitas, shepherd’s pie, Asian pork balls, wild salmon glazed with mustard and miso, and grass-fed beef stew. Each meal bundle also comes with enough salad greens and their homemade dressing to make a salad each night.
“The whole point is for them to have beautiful, delicious food that is nutrient dense, that they can digest easily,” Cimino said.
The women work with chef Frank Giglio, of Thorndike, to prepare the meals each week. They make sure each meal is nutritionally balanced with at least one protein source, and usually offer one quick-cooked meat entree, one slow-cooked meat, and a fish entree in each week’s bundle. They also try to include ethnic cuisines.
The ready-to-reheat meals are also free of gluten, wheat, soy and dairy. The women said the paleo-based diet they provide is a return to simpler times.
“It starts with food,” Cimino said. “It’s the foundation of our health and well-being.”
Allard said clean eating is part of a lifestyle where people spend more time focused on their health and “putting (their) body back in balance.”
“People crave that and it’s so hard to find,” she said. “Our world is not set up to spend that much time on food in our usual work week.”
Allard said eating unprocessed meals can help reduce weight and high cholesterol.
“Once you start eating a clean diet, those problems go away,” she said. “People don’t realize how easy that is.”
Most of the meal bundles are going to people in the Portland area; the most northern customer is in Freeport, and the southernmost client is in Saco. The women said eventually they’d like to expand the business to all of New England, but for now, Portland is a good place to get started.
“Portland has so many food options,” Allard said. “People are so discerning with what they eat. That’s why this is so successful here.”
Weekly menus go online Wednesday morning, and orders must be placed by Thursday night. Customers can pick up food on Monday evenings or Tuesdays. The three pick-up locations are Cia Cafe in South Portland, Urban Farm Fermentory in Portland, and Cimino’s home.
The cost per week is $75. Allard said the meals are portioned to feed “one hungry adult male,” but can easily satisfy two people with smaller appetites.
The women also deliver to companies whose employees are customers. WHOLEmade meals is part of Ancestral Path, a nutritional consulting business the women run for businesses.
“Our main focus is companies,” Allard said. “At the end of the day, companies bear the weight of people being sick.”
Allard said they work with people and “teach how to get off processed foods and reclaim your health.”
Cimino added that their company is all about helping people evolve their lifestyle and be well. The women said they know it takes some adjusting, but the changes are worth the benefits.
“This is new to the world,” Allard said. “Well, what’s old is new.”