Cooking meant stress for Nicki Johnson.
The O’Fallon woman wanted to put healthy, well-balanced meals on the table for her husband and seven children, but she also was working as a real-estate agent and shuttling the kids to after-school activities. Her success was limited.
“We were eating out a lot,” she said.
Today, Nicki, 43, is happier and more relaxed, but not because her two oldest children have moved out of the house.
Owner Shannon Holdenried, 46, who lives on base, opened the storefront business in December, just outside the Shiloh gate. The goal is to help people eat well at home, even if they are crazy busy or dislike cooking.
“We’re out of time,” she said. “Technology has exploded, but you can’t use technology to feed yourself.”
All of Shannon’s meals feature an entree, vegetable, salad and fresh bread. Each day, there’s a choice of three entrees, six vegetables and five salads. One choice is gluten-free and dairy-free with no sugar added.
It’s just the two of us, and when we buy food, often we just waste it. We have leftover ingredients we don’t use, so we just throw them away.
Lucie Holloway on preparing meals at home
Shannon and her helpers whip up everything from meatloaf with mac and cheese to chicken potato casserole, breaded pork chops to lasagna, chili and rice to mushroom, spinach and zucchini Alfredo.
“We’re only open Monday through Friday,” she said. “I figure people may get tired of my cooking. I’m not going to make them eat it seven days a week.”
Customers must place orders by noon the day before. They pick up meals between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. or leave coolers outside their doors for delivery with ice packs.
The cost is $8.99 for small servings (enough for one adult), $12.99 for medium (one to two) or $21.99 for large (two to three). Those who place orders for $99 or more get a 10-percent discount. Delivery is free to Scott Air Force Base, Mascoutah, O’Fallon and Shiloh.
“We’re taking your grocery budget, and we’re just funneling it in a different place,” Shannon said. “It’s not really eating-out money. That’s entertainment.”
More veggies, less fast food
Nicki’s family gets meals delivered most weekdays, averaging $100 to $150 a week. There’s usually enough for her and her husband, T.J., a government contractor, to have leftovers for lunch.
The Johnsons maintain that the service actually saves money because they only eat out on weekends.
Nicki and T.J. also have lost a little weight. They think it’s because they have improved their diet, avoided fast-food restaurants and bought fewer snacks and processed frozen dinners.
“I notice that my kids are eating more vegetables,” Nicki said. “It’s there. It’s more accessible.”
Not all of Shannon’s customers are large families. Lucie and Kevin Holloway get meals for two delivered to their Scott Air Force Base home every evening that they don’t have plans.
They’d rather spend time together than cook, clean up the kitchen and shop for groceries.
“It’s just the two of us, and when we buy food, often we just waste it,” said Lucie, 32, a civil servant on base. “We have leftover ingredients we don’t use, so we just throw them away.”
The Holloways enjoy all of Shannon’s meals, but particularly spaghetti and meatballs and chicken enchiladas. Lucie loves her bread and rolls.
“They’re made fresh every day,” she said. “I’m from Europe (Czech Republic), and I’m used to having fresh bread every day. So to get fresh bread every day is like Christmas for me.”
Pizza Hut to personal chef
Shannon grew up in Detroit but moved to London at 15 when her father, a Ford engineer, was transferred.
“I was down in Brighton, England, on the seafront,” she said. “It was beautiful.”
In 1994, Shannon came to the St. Louis area to live with relatives, enrolled at St. Charles County Community College and met her husband, Stephen. He joined the Air Force while she worked as an Express Scripts account manager.
The couple lived in Germany for eight years then moved to Texas, where Shannon became an IBM trainer and stumbled into a part-time job as a personal chef for neighbors.
“He was a doctor, and she was a lawyer, and their daughter was in gymnastics, so they were strapped for time,” Shannon said. “And I was cooking for my family anyway. I just made more.”
Shannon still was working for IBM when Stephen got stationed at Scott Air Force Base two years ago. Her job involved traveling, and she found it nearly impossible to eat healthy on the road.
That experience, combined with her stint as a personal chef, gave her the idea for Shannon’s Kitchen Company.
She installed tables and initially served lunch at the storefront, but that proved impractical. In July, she began focusing entirely on meals for pick-up and delivery.
We’re taking your grocery budget, and we’re just funneling it in a different place. It’s not really eating-out money. That’s entertainment.
Shannon Holdenried on her catering service
Shannon emphasizes that it’s a daily service.
“(Weekly) isn’t fresh enough for me,” she said. “If it’s truly without preservatives, you want to eat it within three days. We include salads, and they would be brown by the end of the day.”
Today, Shannon fills about 25 orders a day in plastic to-go containers that are recyclable and microwavable.
The Holdenrieds have four children, Stephen III, 19, Daniel, 18, Annabelle, 14, and Mikayla, 12. Stephen III is a cook and Daniel is a prep cook and delivery driver for the business.
“It’s amazing,” Stephen III said. “The customers are wonderful people. If they’re grumpy or down, (Mom) usually talks to them and cheers them up, and they’re happy.”
“I like the food,” Daniel added. “We get leftovers. It’s a lot better than fast food.”
At a glance
- What: Shannon’s Kitchen Company
- Where: 817 Seibert Road, Scott Air Force Base
- Pick-ups and deliveries: 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday
- Order deadlines: Noon the day before
- Monthly menus: Visit www.shannonskitchencompany.com
- Information: Call 618-416-4958 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org