Thursday, April 30, 2009

Time Management

The week seemed to fly by and I have not taken the time to write. It's been a nice week of cooking which is good, but my desk time has not been as organized as I would like. I think this will change in May as we're making some changes in daycare schedules and I hope this will give me the time I need to devote to starting the business. I've got an extensive To Do list both with the business and other household management duties and my execution of them has been sub-par. I think it is time for me to breakdown the hours in the day and schedule tasks that way. I have not wanted to operate at that level of control freakiness, but it's become apparent to me that I need this sort of structure for myself or I will end up running around starting and stopping all sorts of things and never completing anything. It's funny because I watch the clock so much throughout the day but still run out of time. And yet come dinner time, I watch the clock and manage how each element of the meal will come together and timing it all perfectly. I have to apply that same sense of management to the other parts of my life.

This week I sent out some recipes to friends who are willing to test them for me. It's important that when I begin creating the weekly meal plans for that I am offering recipes that have been tested and given favorable reviews. Sometimes I will use my own personal creations but mostly I have been doing a lot of research to find recipes from other sources. Something I noticed in my research for my potential competition is they mostly provide all their own recipes. I don't think I need to be yet another recipe website. I'd much rather rely on tried and true recipes from well known sources (like Martha Stewart, Food TV and and with those try them myself or have someone I know try them. My site will be a portal to all of the quality cooking and grocery shopping resources already out on the web.
I have also launched my market research survey and it's been great to see the results. I think some people might have taken it as fishing for customers and I actually had not even considered that. I really want to know if the assumptions I'm making about the profile for my target market is correct and I wanted feedback on pricing so that I structure my pricing to be reasonable. I'm happy to see that I am on the right track as well as learn some more about people's perceptions and expectations. It also confirmed that I have a lot of foodie control freak friends (like myself) who have no use for my services. But I knew that, and appreciate that in spite of that they still have positive encouragement and still think it's a good idea.

In cooking news- This week I tried several recipes and I liked them all.
Orange beef stir fry- I added zucchini and snap peas from my produce delivery and used the organic oranges and their juice too.

Grilled chicken w/balsamic glaze- I did manage to clean up the grill and add new lava rocks to it and it's ready to use. So I made a glaze of honey and balsamic vinegar to to baste the chicken.

Slow Cooker Sausage Lasagna- This is a very quick way to have lasagna on a week night. It's not the same as the real deal, with ricotta but it was quick and easy and very tasty and liked by everyone in the house.

Tomorrow I will do my major shopping for May, so I'm finalizing my lists and doing a little coupon research. I will report back on how that goes.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Heat Wave

So we're having a heat wave...Yesterday morning, when dropping off my daughters at school, it had the feel like it was the end of the school year and then suddenly realized it was just April. 90 degree heat in April, totally wacky.

I'd like to take a moment to gush about a new favorite thing. I should start by saying I am an ice cream person. I love super premium ice cream, although I'm not snobby about it, I'll eat regular supermarket ice cream just the same. But I have always felt like soft serve (except Foster's Freeze) and frozen yogurt are sub-par. They are pretend ice cream. However, I recently tried Red Mango frozen yogurt and I am in love. I can't stop thinking about it. Tart, creamy, and full of healthy stuff - I had the original w/ strawberries and coconut on top. I also tried a sample of the green tea flavor, which was great and will order that sometime soon. YUM!
So I love ice cream and now I love Red Mango's yogurt as well.

Back to the heat. I actually welcome it, although I still reserve the right to complain about it. But when it's hot, I tend to change how or what I cook. Soups, stews, meatloaf and casseroles are gone. It's now time for grilling and salads and things that are quick and don't have you standing in front of the stove for awhile. Except why do we love to stand outside in front of the hot grill on a hot day? I don't know, but I do it and so we'll just make that exception. My big issue right now is my grill has seen better days. I can't recall how old it is, I think maybe just 3 years but it looks much older. I'm debating about a new one, although I think I should look at cleaning out around the heating element and scrubbing the grill racks. The poor thing has just been used so much. Most of the year, except when it's rainy, I use the grill. Well, I do go a long spell during the winter without using it. I think it's the sitting unused that contributes to it's worn out looks. But grilled meats and veggies are a staple in our house throughout the summer and fall. Plus I seem to have 2 or 3 parties a year where I'll grill tons of food. The point is, my grill gets heavy use and so I am trying to justify a need for a new one. But, to be resourceful (and more financially responsible) I should see what can be done to get more life out of it.
I will leave you with this recipe that I happened to submit to All Recipes quite a few years ago and was excited to have it accepted. I also just noticed that it's been reviewed a lot more recently.
Easy Grilled Tri Tip

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What is

I have become so anxious to get rolling with the business, but I am trying to reign it in and not get ahead of myself. It's important to take things one step at a time and roll out the business properly. I've been writing a business plan, a market research survey and doing research on advertising options. But I thought I would share some details regarding the concept and basic services. It's important that I start getting the word out and I'm interested in finding a few guinea pigs to try out the services. :-)

Here is the basic description- is a full service weekly meal/menu planning service. Primarily web-based, offering three service plan options. The mission of is to become the premier website for meal and menu planning as well as an information portal to all the quality cooking and recipe resources on the web. The three service options. The first level is a low-cost weekly e-mail subscription newsletter that will include a list of meals complete with recipes and shopping list. There will be more than 7 meals so that the subscriber can have some choice and from there create their upcoming week's meals based on their schedule and what recipes look good to them. The newsletter will be informative with tips and resource information. The second level service will cost a little more but it will be a customized weekly meal plan based on personal consultations to discuss factors like schedule, food likes/dislikes, allergies, cooking ability, etc. It will also include constant contact to ensure the meal plans are working out. The third level of service will mostly work within my local area as it will be the weekly custom meal plans plus a monthly in-home visit to cook together. This would include helping to organize the kitchen and create several make-ahead meals for the month.
I don’t plan to create a whole new recipe website. There are many quality recipe websites already. I want to make weekly meal planning easy for those who don’t care to do it themselves. This may also include shopping research such as sales and where to find the best prices for items. Plus, the web has grown so large that even though you can Google a topic, you then have to wade through the results to find what you want. I want to lighten the load of the busy person who wants to save money and time.
I have been working on tracking my own family’s grocery and food spending habits so that I have a baseline figure for a family of four. April seems pretty good, except it turned out to not be typical since we had spring break and we ended up taking a trip. I will have to subtract that from the spending and see if it still seems reasonable or look to use May as a better gauge. It's important that I my services can provide value to someone. I don't want to be a luxury item that is solely just for convenience.

The website is going to take more time to plan and build out, but I will have something temporary up soon.

I read this article in a recent issue of Time Magazine and it made me feel good about taking this leap of faith. The New Internet Start Up Boom: Get Rich Slow

Monday, April 6, 2009

Joined a CSA

Today I joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) delivery service and will receive organic produce every other week. I'm really excited for this. I've wanted to do this for awhile but never took the time to really look into a service but when a friend told me about the one she uses and sent me the link I read their info and signed up! Farm Fresh To You may be familiar to you if you have visited the San Francisco Ferry Buiding in recent years as they operate a fresh produce store there. I like that you can customize your order by creating a list of items to exclude. This way anytime any of your exclued items happen to be on the menu for the coming week, they will just substitute that with more of something else. My fear with a CSA had been that we would be wasting money receiving fruits or vegetables that we would not care to eat. I also started our service with just recieving an order every other week, this way I can get an idea of how much it will be (although their website gives you the count or weight for each item for the upcoming week) and determine if we can consume it all in enough time or if it's actually not enough for us. I chose the regular mixed (meaning fruits and vegetables) shipment. For $31.50 two times a month I find that to be pretty resonable for organic produce.

Tomorrow I will have my first conversation with the company I am working with to create the website. I've got a basic idea for the layout I want and the needs I have for the site, so this will be just an initial conversation to give them the overview of what I want.
I have been writing a marketing survey and I need to get that finished. I would like send that out soon so I can obtain feedback on my service options and pricing.

I have also been scouring my cookbooks, magazines and the web to create my arsenal of recipes for the menus. What I plan to do is try them out and also enlist some friends to try and rate recipes for me. I try to do all this in between trying to run the household, parent a VERY precocious 3 year old and keep up with a busy 10 year old who plays every sport there is.

I am equal parts excited and terrified to be starting a business. Excited because after a year of floundering about what to do with my life, I finally have a plan and it feels like a good one. Plus every person I talk with has positive feedback and great suggestions. But terrified because what if everyone else outside of my inner circle doesn't like the idea and no one buys my service? It's definitely a leap of faith.
Here's to cliff diving!

Friday, April 3, 2009

First Post

My very first post. A blank slate. What to say...well, I am sure this blog will evolve over time, but I thought it would be nice to journal my adventure in starting my own web-based business and then later be a supplement to the business. It's my foray into becoming a dot com mogul. Today I have purchased and I will soon move ahead to become my own brand. Rachel Ray look out! Notice I didn't choose Martha. As much as I admire Martha Stewart for the empire she has created, I'm not really cut from the same cloth as her. I am not a big Rachel Ray fan, but I get why people love her and I see myself as a regular gal, like many others who has some ideas to share and along the way...take over the world. :-)

So who am I? I'm Erika, mother of 2, a stay at home mom made possible by the downturn in the economy. It's fitting that I begin blogging now as this week marks one year since my last day of employment. To be quite honest, I have thought about my old job every day since then. I mourned it's loss for quite awhile. Sure, I searched for a new one and I had some interviews for positions that seemed interesting. It's a big blow to the ego when you are not hired. Especially if you get the second interview. I always found myself wondering, "why would you not want ME?" To go from feeling very valued, a person of credibility, a rock star (if I say so myself) within you field, to being no longer needed is HARD. I do give myself props for not shedding too many actual tears and getting up and out of bed each day. I guess I mourned the loss in a wistful way. As the saying goes, "all good things must come to an end."

So after a year of sporatic job hunting, settling into a stay-at-home routine and soul searching, I was struck by an idea. An idea that came from a friend's Facebook status update. She was complaining about what to fix for dinner and wished someone would do it for her. Many people hate to figure out what to fix for dinner. They hate the grocery store, they're always short on time and they can't seem to ever figure out what to make. Well, I love all that! I always did it when I worked and I do it now. So I'm taking what I know and what I do for my family, plus my experience as a web marketer and content manager, to create a website and a service for weekly meal planning--

Stay tuned...