Progressive Grocer

JAN 2017

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lives, to spending more time with their families in the kitchen and at the dinner table. For the Gebien family of four, the Prepared Foods Challenge was an opportunity to eat healthier and break out of their dinner- time rut with new recipes, new flavors and new experiences. "We are trying to get the kids to eat healthier," said mom Mary- ellen Gebien. "We have heart disease on both sides of the family, and we really try not to eat fast foods that often." The first three days of the Challenge left parents and children from all families unimpressed at best, disgusted at worst. "We started off the week with high hopes. We were all really excited, and it just went south fast," said June Keeley, a wife and mother of a recent high school graduate and a high school fresh- man. "We thought we could get whatever we wanted. We were going to have this amazing meal, and we came home and it was just really garbage. It was terrible." The other three families had strikingly similar experiences. They gravitated toward the traditional rotisserie chickens groceries have long offered their customers, along with premade side dish- es such as potato and macaroni salads. Other selections included a hodgepodge of random foods, from meat loaf, breaded onion rings, potato wedges and mushrooms, to pizza, tamales, ribs and wings. Overall, the meals lacked planning and any real variety. While the Keeleys were craving a more cohesive meal by day two, dad Bob Keeley observed that good main entrée options besides the traditional and lemon pepper rotisserie chickens were hard to come by. "It was like I knew we wanted to get the rotisserie chicken and then we'd add whatever. And at the end of the day, those meals tasted like a main course and whatever," he said. "Obviously we had food here, but not necessarily a sit-down meal. Every- thing seemed thrown together." On day three the Keeleys chose steaks at the supermarket where they had them cooked on site. But between parking, choosing meal selections, waiting for their steaks and packing up the car, the whole experience lasted about 50 minutes— much longer than they expected from a meal comprised entirely of prepared foods. "That's kind of a long time when you want to get something to go quickly and not have to think about it," Bob Keeley said. "If you're going to do this, it's because time is of the essence and I think that's why so many people hit the drive thru or make a phone call." Adding to the four families' frustrations, the prepared foods they brought home didn't look or taste particularly good either. Ebony Ramirez, a mother of five, described the super- market prepared foods as "dried out and burnt…like they had been sitting there all day. "We were lost for the first couple days," she added. "We really didn't know how to put the prepared food together … if the whole week was going to be like day three we would probably have starved because we'd be scared to eat the food." Scott Schnurr, a father of three, agreed, noting that his initial perceptions about the quality and freshness of prepared foods were quickly dispelled. "I think the biggest disappointment was that the food wasn't as good as we all expected it to be," he said. "I honestly thought from the way it looked that I would get something like I get in a restaurant—something that's freshly prepared and something that's satisfying both visually and taste wise, and it was not. It was the opposite." Help on the Way After three days of handling the shopping and meal planning on their own—and achieving little satisfaction along the way, the Keeley, Ramirez, Schnurr and Gebien families were joined by Chef Charlie Baggs, executive chef and president of Charlie Baggs Culinary Innovations, for some guidance on days four, five and six. What the families discovered was that a little ed- ucation and inspiration about the prepared foods experience goes a long way. Stay tuned for a report on days four, five and six of the Tyson Foods' Prepared Foods Challenge in the February issue of Progres- sive Grocer. The Keeley family makes the most of a mishmash of prepared foods. Lisa Schnurr and her daughters Alyse and Amanda explore the prepared foods depar tment. "We started off the week with high hopes. We were all really excited, and it just went south fast." — June Keeley T Y SO N F OO DS ' P R E PA R E D F OO DS C H A L L E N G E PA RT O N E

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