What I learnt from starting a food business

Hi guys,

Today is a bit of a different post but something I felt would be interesting to share with you all. Its all about my experience of starting a food business, what I learnt from it and what the future looks like for me.

I think starting a food business can sound very romantic and everyone has visions of swimming in the sea like the Happy Pear at dawn and hanging around with hipster types photographing Instagram worthy acai bowls.

The below isn’t meant to be overly negative, positive or in between..its literally my experience and is something I would have been very interested in reading prior to starting out in a food business.

Myself and my husband started Meal Genie after we had been on holidays at Christmas time. For those who don’t know, Meal Genie was a recipe box delivery business. It would provide you with all the ingredients in the right quantities and a recipe card for you to prepare dinners. It was for me all about education as I do firmly believe cooking and knowing how to cook for yourself is one of the most important lessons we can learn in terms of being able to remain healthy.

Every afternoon on holidays we’d make coffee and watch the numerous ads that are on American tv and we saw an ad for Blue Apron….Blue Apron is pretty much the market leader in terms of recipe delivery boxes and we were literally bowled over by the idea.
If there was ever a sentence that was more spoken between us as a couple it was always “what’s for dinner” and this was the ultimate game changer in being able to solve this issue. We thought surely if this is a problem for us it must be for other people.

At the time I was working as an accountant and I had been for about a decade. I liked working as an accountant but I always had a bit of a want in me to possibly do something else and to test my boundaries. The thought of having one career for the whole of my life quite frankly terrified me.
I found myself looking around in workplaces I had worked over the years and looking to people I could imagine being like in 10 years times and I never really saw it.
I especially used to hate seeing professional women who were torn between being at home and seeing their children every day but also trying to fit into the confines of a 9-5. To me it felt like they were trying to achieve everything and really weren’t achieving anything at all to their best ability due to the demands of it all.
Jamie had always worked for himself and I also thought it wasn’t really possible for us to live life to our true potential if we both didn’t have the freedom of working for ourselves.
I think sometimes in life we can be looking for that one finite moment where we are like…right its now…and in truth that never came…it was more how lacklustre I felt about my current career and trajectory in life that spurred me into doing something else.

And here came lesson number one: Meal Genie wasn’t either myself or Jamies true passion. I had started studying Nutritional Therapy and would have always considered myself a real lover of food and nutrition however Meal Genie wasn’t mine or Jamie’s true passion if i’m being really honest with myself. It was more of a “lets try this” between myself and Jamie and our first foray into business as a married couple as well (which had a different set of issues!).
Jamie is an entrepreneur and had a couple of businesses of his own and saw Meal Genie as a great potential way of making money however wasn’t really passionate about food (apart from eating it!) or the idea of owning a food business.
People will tell you that in order to have a food business you need to be super passionate about it and that is the truth… It is without doubt one of the most difficult industries to be in for a number of different reasons which I will go into a bit more. I have literally nothing but the utmost respect for people who own food businesses.

So off we started on our journey to start a food business which brings me to lesson number two. I did commerce in UCD… but having your own business is literally nothing like anything you learn in college.
You sort of kid yourself that you should have a clue how to run a business but the theory and practicality of these two things could not be any more different.
Which brings me to the most basic fundamental mistake we made….market research. Does the market actually want what you are selling? I’m ashamed to say we did really little in terms of market research. Sometimes it can be so easy to say..oh this doesn’t exist…I think its an amazing idea…lets do this…but this is to be frank… really fucking stupid.

Market research is annoying because it can seem like it is really non value add. Once you want to start your own business you want to get stuck into actually starting it…you don’t want to do the boring stuff…you’ve already decided its an amazing idea! But literally you are one opinion…and don’t bother asking friends or family either…they won’t tell you the truth. They will either be super positive about it or super negative which will give you a skewed opinion.

Lesson number 3 : Pick who you go into business with very carefully. Myself and Jamie could not be anymore different (which business wise) in theory should work. I am super analytical and like to plan everything to the very nth degree. Jamie is more…fuck it..lets do it.
This didn’t work primarily because neither myself or Jamie were in charge but that was mostly to do with mistake number one.
Make sure whoever you go into business with there is one lead or shared leads that have a shared vision and/or at the very least there are separate areas that parties are responsible for. Know your strengths and lead in that area. Respect and acknowledge other peoples abilities and talents.

Lesson nunber 4: Whatever money you think you are going to need….multiply it by 4. Obviously this isn’t a formula…but genuinely you will need a lot more money that you think you will for a couple of different reasons. Yes I did do financial forecasts that I would have considered conservative but not conservative enough. Also financial forecasts mean absolutely nothing at the start before you’ve traded…you might as well stick a finger in the air to see what way the wind is blowing. You will not make money from a food business for a very long time unless you are possibly Fulfill or Strong Roots which are the exception to the rule especially if you are going into something which is an unproven completely new concept in the market which Meal Genie was.

Lesson number 5: Consider your values…This is something which is really difficult in the food industry especially. Health products are incredibly popular now… raw, organic, prebiotics, probiotics, vegan. As well as that, often people who start food businesses are very passionate about their product and it being a certain way and are not willing to compromise on these values. Chances are in order to actually earn money you are going to have to compromise somewhere along the way. Consider your values with regards to your product…the ones that are literally at the very core of your brand and the ones that are “good to have”. Personally I think you will need to have a little bit of give if you want to have a profitable food business.

Lesson number 6: Consider how you want to live your life. Sounds really obvious doesn’t it?? Starting a food business will involve working a huge amount of hours possibly earning no money at all for a number of years. This is why I said you will need a huge amount of passion to see you through. It will probably involve doing mostly everything yourself for a number of years from the production, distribution, marketing, tasting, delivery, negotiations and everything in between. It will involve doing the parts of the job you love along with a lot you don’t enjoy. It will probably involve not being able to take a holiday for a very long time. I’m not ashamed to say that this isn’t something I wanted to do. Life is short…you have to live it the way you want to.

Lesson number 7: If you are lucky enough to get investment don’t spend it until you get it. This one was a real eye opener. About this time last year we realised Meal Genie was going to require a huge amount of money primarily for marketing purposes. We had already invested a great deal of money into it ourselves and decided to look for investment.

We were actually pretty lucky in that we got introduced to someone who decided they were going to invest. Hands were shook and the deal was done. We went about putting the marketing plan into place, spending money on what needed to be done and all of a sudden everything went quiet. The investment fell through and we were left with the bills. DOn’t count your chickens until the money hits the bank account.

Lesson nunber 8: Retail sucks….if you can at all sell your product online…. its the easiest way to get your product to your customer. But you will need to make sure you have a base to be able to sell it to which means you’ll need to spend more money on marketing. Marketing isn’t as expensive as it used to be though with social media at play.
Retail is really difficult. A product that starts off at a €5 can end up costing €20 by the time it reaches the shelf. The real winners in the retail game are the distributors and the retailers as they are getting plus 25% just for getting your product to a shelf or putting it there.

Lesson number 9: Consider your product…the less shelf life your product has the more difficult it is going to be for a number of different reasons. As I said above you will be doing everything yourself. Consider the product…if your product has a really short shelf life you will need to get it to a supermarket on time and be constantly producing in order to keep it there..you will also have to manage waste etc.
If you are considering launching a food product maybe consider an ambient or frozen product instead. Brands like Strong Roots have really revolutionised the way people perceive frozen goods in paricular and the less you have to worry about something like shelf life the more time you will have to spend on other aspects of your business like marketing and sales. On a similar note consider your brand range from the start.
What products can you add to the range at some stage down the road that are going to increase your revenue? A really good example of that at the moment is Nobo. I think a lot of us are familiar with their ice-cream but in reality how often do people buy ice-cream (especially when its snowing outside!)…their new chocolate is a great complementary product which is ambient, is aligned with their values and can be much more easily distributed.

Lesson number 10: Don’t start if you are looking to be bought out…..if the end goal is to be bought out don’t start. The journey will be too long and honestly I think the only businesses that manage to stay passionate about what they are doing and love the journey are actually the businesses that get bought out as larger companies will sense your love and respect for your product and your business. Don’t go into a food business to make money..as it will probably disappoint you and I really do think there are easier ways to do this.

So I am sorry this has probably sounded very negative but I literally would not change it for the world. I have genuinely learnt more about myself, my husband, my relationship and what I want and need from the world in the last 2 years that I had in the last 10.
I’ve grown more confident and learnt a lot about my skills and my shortcomings. I’ve really struggled with the idea of failure and failing at my first business but I also see that it just wasnt meant to be. I’m proud of myself for starting and stopping and i’m proud that I’ve been brave enough to admit it just wasn’t what I wanted. Failure is something we should celebrate.

This to me is just a part of the journey now. I’m literally just about to qualify as a Nutritional Therapist AND I feel like the timing of the universe has been perfect. I’m about to embark on a whole new part of my career and my vision is very clear (something I never had with Meal Genie). I also don’t feel afraid to try out other things because I’ve learnt so much from this experience.

These are just my thoughts on starting a food business and there are lots of people who have had really positive experiences with their food businesses. I would have loved to have heard from someone prior to starting off on the journey but in truth I probably would have done whatever I was doing anyway!

I do believe everything happens for a reason. I am also really grateful to have met some really amazing people who have unbelievable businesses along the way also.

I hope this was of some help to you and I’d love to hear from you if you have any thoughts on the above or if you’d like to ask me anything.

Thanks for reading!


(aka The Nutritionist Foodie)


A New Years resolution you should keep: How to reduce food waste

Having grown up in a single parent household….food waste in our family was just not a thing….My South American mum was always very inventive when it came to food and lack of money meant she needed to be very resourceful. This is something I think most people from my generation can resonate with.

Unfortunately this just isn’t the case for most of us anymore. Lack of time dictates that convenience is king which means very few of us know or think about what the contents of our fridge are at the end of a long day.

According to Food Cloud Irish households throw away €700 of food a year. 1m tonnes of food is thrown away by Irish consumers and businesses every year yet 1 in 8 Irish people experience food poverty.

The price of food and the plethora of cheap deals to encourage us to buy more and more has escalated beyond belief and is causing us to buy more and more with no real need or understanding of the impact that this food waste is having on our environment (and our pocket) both for ourselves and for future generations.

With this in mind I’d like to give you some tips to help you reduce food waste in the home.

1. Plan – no one likes spending their well deserved weekend to plan their food for the week…but just taking a few minutes on the weekend to contemplate what the following week looks like could save you a lot of time and money. Take some time to look up some recipes you’ve been meaning to try out or save them as you see them and revisit them now. Add these to your shopping list. Get excited about cooking again rather than seeing it as a weekly chore.

2. Be realistic – Yes I know they are cheap but do you really need the multi deal on potatoes which means unless you’re a family of 10 you’ll be eating them for weeks? Consider how much you will actually use not just the cost.

3. Shop as needed – this is particularly useful if you aren’t sure of your plans for the week. So many were brought up with the weekly shop a regular feature of the week but does this really suit the modern day lifestyle? Shop as needed and only buy as much as you need.

4. Know your portion sizes – Knowing your portion sizes will really help you not to waste food. Think in terms of the plate. Ideally your plate should consist of a palm sized portion of protein or a quarter of your plate, a handful of starchy carbohydrates or a quarter of your plate and the rest should predominantly be made up of vegetables. Keeping this in mind will help you plan how much you should be cooking!

5. Be inventive – so you might not feel so creative after a hard days slog at work but cooking can be a wonderful way to relax. Get inventive and recreate your leftovers rather than throw them out. You never know you might discover your inner Gordon Ramsey!

6. Rethink your meals – we are programmed to think of certain foods as breakfast, lunch and dinner foods. Having leftover veggies for breakfast might seem odd at first but other cultures have been doing this for centuries and its a great way of testing your taste buds, upping your nutrient intake and helping food waste to boot. A win win all round.

And lastly be more aware of how much food you are throwing away. If you see you are constantly throwing away a certain thing question why and how you can stop/reduce the amount you are wasting.

What do you think? Is food waste a problem for you?

What do you do to reduce food waste?


Recipe – Shepherds pie

Hi guys,

Hope you are all having a lovely January! It seems the perfect time of year for some batch cooking. Its a great way to keep yourself on track and there is nothing more satisfying than getting home and knowing dinner is all ready for you.

This is a great option for a weekly dinner and will make you about 4-5 portions. Its packed full of veggies but you can easily add another portion of steamed vegetables to up the micronutrient content. The ingredients and method are below.

You can easily adapt this recipe aswell if you would prefer more white or sweet potato and it can easily be made vegan by substituting out the beef for all puy lentils, leaving out the butter and using a veggie stock cube. I used 400g of organic lean steak mince and bulked it out with some puy lentils which are a great source of protein and fibre.

Ingredients: (this makes about 5-6 portions)

– Potatoes – a mixture of white and sweet potato – I used 2 large white potatoes and 3 medium sized sweet potato. Total quantity in grams was just under a kilogram
– 1 medium sized onion
– 2 cloves of garlic
– 2 medium sized carrots
– Half a punnet of mushrooms
– 1 tsp of rosemary, 1 tsp of basil, 1 tsp of oregano, 1 tsp of thyme and 1 bay leaf. You can substitute for fresh herbs if you have them
– 2 tbsp of tomato puree
– 2 tbsp of worchestershire sauce
– 100g puy lentils
– 400g lean steak mince. Substitute for all puy lentils if making a vegan dish.
– 150g frozen petit pois which is about a third of the packet
– A beef or vegetable stock cube – my preferred brand is Kailo. Make about 100 – 150ml of stock.
– Butter or olive oil
– Salt & pepper


– Firstly wash the potatoes and put some water onto boil. Once water is boiling add the potatoes to the water and boil for 20-25 minutes depending on the size. You can leave the skins on. I find they are easier to take off if you leave them to cool afterwards.
– Chop all your vegetables including the onion, carrots, mushrooms and garlic. Get all of the rest of your ingredients ready including your dried herbs, tomato puree, worchestershire sauce, puy lentils, stock and frozen peas.
– Soften the diced onion and garlic on a pan.
– Once cooked down add the carrots, mushrooms and puy lentils
– Add all the dried herbs, tomato puree and worchestershire sauce
– Then add the beef mince, frozen peas and stock. Allow to cook for a few minutes.
– Season well with pepper and salt.
– Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.
– Once the potatoes are cooked and cooled down remove the skins. They should be relatively easy to remove at this stage. Mash the potatoes and add a tablespoon of butter or olive oil.
– Arrange in a casserole dish and put into the the oven until the top is golden and crispy – this should take about 20-25 minutes depending on how hot your oven is.

Enjoy on its own or with some greens for some added veggies…this is also a great lunchtime option as it can easily be heated up.

As always if you try this recipe please let me know..I would love to hear from you

Enjoy the rest of you weekend and have a great week


How to stay healthy on holidays

We’ve all been there….you’ve been looking forward to your two weeks of holidays something warm and exotic…you’ve packed the sun tan lotion, the new clothes and more shoes than you would ever possibly need…you land at your desired location and all of a sudden you’re hit with the sickness.

How dare your immune system betray you! Does it not know you’ve been living in 8 degrees celsius for the last 6 months!?

It happens all too often…we’ve been living at break neck speed most of the time and as soon as we start to relax our immune system senses it and all of a sudden we come down with every sniffle, cold and dodgy tummy under the sun.

But fear not…there are some measures you can take to prevent this from happening. These are some things I do when preparing for a break and during a break to make sure I stay well and don’t let that pesky sickness ruin my well deserved break whether it be at home or abroad.

  1. Stay hydrated. This is so important especially when travelling on a plane. That yucky air conditioning is sure to dehydrate you. Make sure to carry plenty of water with you and keep drinking at all times. If you are susceptible to a little dinner vino make sure to top up the water intake aswell…even better get some sparkling water and stick to a spritzer. If you are travelling somewhere warm make sure to keep drinking as you will be sure to be losing a lot more fluid. Keep a bottle with you at all times to make it easier on yourself.
  2. Pack a probiotic. Did you know that about 80% of your immune system actually lives in your gut? So a healthy gut is really the key to making sure you ward off any nasties while away. Different foods eaten abroad are all part of the experience of travel and are great for populating more diverse gut bacteria but we want to make sure our digestive system is well equipped to handle them. Taking a probiotic will ensure our digestive tract is pumped full of good bacteria to ward off any of those travel nasties we may pick up. If you are unfortunately enough to pick something up it will also also help you ward it off that little bit quicker.
  3. Pack snacks. Lets face it airplane food (for the most part) is notoriously bad. If you are just going a short skip and a jump consider packing some snacks with you for the journey. They’ll keep you satisfied and chances are they will be a lot more tasty than the food they will serve up on the plane. If you are feeling a little more organised you can always pack your own meal either. If you are going to opt for the plane food consider lighter options such as fish or chicken or preorder a veggie/vegan meal. They are in my experience a better bet.
  4. Try to exercise. It can be tempting to take the week off but research suggests that exercise is very effective in strengthening the immune system. This is still a holiday though so make exercise fun.  Find a yoga class on the beach, take a bike and explore tourist attractions or just take a hike to a local sightseeing spot.
  5. Resist the urge. It can be tempting to splurge on holidays but overeating and not exercising is really not going to make you feel better. By all means enjoy your holiday and all the diverse food that goes all with it but try not to overeat.  My best tip for doing this is to try out all the different foods you can only experience while abroad and skip the things that you can commonly get at home. That way you get the best food and holiday experience while skipping the bread basket.
  6. For the most part concentrate on protein and fat. This can be really useful if you are planning a week of sun lounging (no judgement here… I love a good sun lounge). If you are going to be pretty sedentary for the holiday concentrate on good quality protein and fat as you won’t really require too many carbohydrates for energy. I’m not saying limit carbohydrates by any stretch but just consider how much you will really require.
  7. Take a minute to eat mindfully. It can be really hard to take a minute to enjoy and savour the idea of eating your food at home as we are so often forced to eat really quickly and without really thinking about what we are eating. Take the time to really savour the thoughts of eating your food. The simple act of thinking about eating food will get your digestive enzymes working and will help you digest your food more effectively thus avoiding any holiday indigestion.
  8. Start the day off right. Oh how I love a breakfast buffet…Seriously it’s embarrassing I’m like a kid at Christmas. When I hit the breakfast buffet its like a military mission…but what I do is plan what I want to eat for the week for the most part. I’ll suss it out for the week and make sure I get to enjoy a little bit of what I fancy everyday and don’t miss out on anything that I want to enjoy. Ensuring you have good quality protein and fat in your breakfast everyday is really key to keeping those sugar cravings at bay for the day so an omelette with lots of veggies and a fruit salad is a perfect start to the day.
  9. Pack some rehydration salts. If you are unlucky enough to pick up a tummy bug try and drink as much water as possible along with some rehydration salts. These will help to rehydrate you which is really important especially if you are somewhere warm. If you’re lucky enough to be somewhere seriously exotic try get a freshly cut coconut straight from a tree.
  10. Relax and don’t stress too much. Our cortisol levels unfortunately can be through the roof as we live busy stressful lives so take the time to relax and enjoy yourself. Lots of good healthy food (along with some treats), rest and relaxation and a little bit of movement are sure to keep you feeling great and recharged and ready to take on life when you get back.

I hope you enjoy these tips and that they might help you. I’d love to know how you keep yourself healthy while you are away??

Happy holidaying


Recipe – Asian Salmon & veggie rice bowl

Hi guys,

Hope everyone is having a great week. I’m struggling through myself…it really doesnt seem like its another full two weeks to Christmas! But anyway I still have all my presents to get so its probably just as well 🙂

Today I’m sharing a quick and easy recipe that can easily be prepared after work. The below is a recipe for 2 so its also perfect for lunch the next day. If you are really short on time you can buy prepped rice aswell and simply heat it up in the microwave.

I’ve shared the ingredients and the method below and as always if you try this I’d love to see you share your thoughts with me.


  • 2 salmon fillets
  • Green beans – about 100g or one packet
  • Pak choi – 2 pak choi
  • 1 lime
  • 1 red chilli
  • A couple of spring onions
  • About 120g (uncooked) of brown rice or 1 packet of brown rice
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of mixed seeds
  • Pickled ginger to serve


  • If you are cooking your rice fill a medium saucepan with salted water, place over a high heat and bring to a boil
  • Add rice into saucepan and cook for 25/30 minutes according to the instructions
  • In a small bowl make your dressing. Mix your soy sauce, the juice from the lime, red chilli, rice vinegar and honey. If you like spicier food add the seeds from your chilli.
  • Trim the green beans and tear the leaves of the pak choi
  • Take a break if you are cooking the brown rice.  You don’t need to start cooking the salmon and vegetables until the brown rice is nearly ready. If microwaving the brown rice add it to the microwave now.
  • Put some oil on the frying pan. Very little oil is required as your fish is oily already
  • When the brown rice is nearly ready add the salmon, skin down, into the pan. Add the green beans after a few minutes (and some water if required).
  • After 5-6  minutes flip the salmon, add the pak choi at this stage and cook for another couple of minutes (pak choi requires very little cooking).
  • Serve rice, salmon and vegetables and top with the dressing. pickled ginger & mixed seeds.

Its that easy and such a nutrient dense week day dinner

Hope you enjoy it and enjoy the rest of your week