Fresh Ideas

The Messages

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            Here’s a secret for you:  I meditate every day.  I pause, lay-down and thank the world for the opportunities I have.  I recognize that I have been gifted many things (today, for example) and that I’m very fortunate.  I often think about ‘the current hurdle’ and ask for clarity and guidance ‘that the answer becomes clear to me’, and that I have the courage to move forward with ‘the right thing to do’.  And then, often, I get so comfortable and relaxed, I fall asleep.

One day when our sales were plummeting (due to complications from COVID-19) I went and laid down, like I normally do.  I thought, ‘we’re so fortunate to have the kitchen, an established customer base, our health, our youth – what can we do to get through this?’  ‘I hope there is some way we can help our customers through this and that we all grow together, with minimal loss (of people).  And if we do experience loss, that we can be there for each other.’  I fell asleep and woke up with the idea of providing the meals at cost.  It’s seems like a ‘risky’ move, but what really, are we risking?  Our ‘profits’ are pretty low to start with and we owe people money, so it’s not really ‘profit’.  I wasn’t sure what to do, but that’s what I mean by a ‘message’ (message 1).  Something that I’m supposed to use for guidance.

I came into the kitchen reviewing this idea in my head as I went about our regularly scheduled business.  I was thinking ‘why am I going about our regularly scheduled business when business is not regular?.  This (our regularly scheduled program) is NOT what the customer wants or needs right now.’  That seemed pretty clear by our sales.

I turned on the podcast I follow the most (right now, AKIMBO) and what my brain-filter caught was: ‘These are not normal times.  This is where you find out what your customer needs and GIVE it to them.’  This man speaks with GREAT emphasis on some words.  Sometimes he uses cadence and volume to put great emphasis on some phrases.  It’s beautiful.  Continuing: ‘you’ve built a customer base and you’ve built trust.  They trust you.  These people have given you the privilege to serve them and THIS allows you to do your craft.  If you have the integrity you think you do, ‘Give it away’’.  I think (but I refuse to check) he said: ‘If you’re in the business of helping people, figure out what they need, for help, and make that your priority.  If you’re not in the business of helping people, close your doors and go volunteer for someone who is in the business of helping people.’  That was message number two from the world, or at least that’s how I processed it. 

I came out of the kitchen to the computer and started looking at the ‘free-restaurant’ models out there in the world.  There are ‘pay what you can’ restaurants, there are people donating their wages to stay open, there are people donating their wages to feed the less fortunate.  This is a time of mass giving.  There is GREAT generosity in the world and it’s not just monetary.  There has been great generosity going around for a long time, but it just became obvious to me: people are giving away time, entertainment, knowledge, comfort, and sometimes very rich people throw crumbs at the poor.  Money cannot fix a lot of things.  That was message number three, and the last part of the puzzle.

Here’s what the whole picture looked like to me at that moment: People have given us the privilege to serve them.  In doing so we’ve (quite unintentionally) become good at making packaged healthy foods.  We’re set up for it.  They now need us to provide healthy packaged foods for them and the people they care about.  It’s the least we can do.

Later that day the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) Coordinator showed up and said ‘the hospital is no longer making meals for our ‘Meals on Wheels’ program. What could you do? Do you have any interest?’ (Message number 4) – No Brainer!  Let’s do this!


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When the hospital-kitchen decided they would no-longer cook for ‘Meals on Wheels’ during this difficult time, the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) approached us to make inexpensive healthy meals for their clients in need.  We have catered a few meetings at their office and many of their nursing staff are customers of ours.  They know our food but were not sure of our capacity to cook, and hold, 25 meals at a time. 

            Our immediate response was: ‘Of Course’.  It aligned with our ‘year-3’ business plan, which was to expand into feeding seniors, professionally.  We’re not ‘exactly’ set up as we would like to be for this service at this time, but it was always a part of our plan.  When we looked at the age of the population in and around Amherst, we saw that there is a high population of elderly people in Cumberland County.  The elderly population is very high, and those are people who may need ‘a little help’ to eat well.  This is a population that has lived through hard times, worked hard, retired, and just wants to be happily retired.  We saw an upcoming need. 

To compound that upcoming ‘need’, we recognized that a high proportion of those people’s children (now working age), our age, have moved away seeking new opportunities.  I did, and then moved back.  I saw, then and moreso now, that my family would need ‘a little help’, support, maybe recognition or respect sometime soon.  If I came back while I was still in the tax-paying years of my career, I would be here to help.  In fact, at that time there was a government report circulating that what Nova Scotia needed was people in my age-group to move back here, with a couple of kids, and hey ‘while you’re at it bring a nurse’.  So, That’s what I did.  I wasn’t that manipulative.  I’m joking.

For now, we’ve started cooking for the VON.  We are selling the meals to them at our cost because: being a small company we still pay retail for our supplies (so our cost is quite high) and especially during this time of need, this is no time to profit from increased need for support.  It was a minor adjustment since we use the same packaging for our meal combos, and since our sales had decreased we have the packages here and ready.

The hospital used a heat-seal system and different packaging.  They are truly an INDUSTRIAL kitchen, with lots of space, walk-in coolers, lots of publicly funded machinery, and lots of publicly funded staff.  The machinery is a huge benefit, in some regards, as long as there is lots of staff to operate it, because it will speed up certain processes or do some parts of the work a little better, such as packaging.  Bulk-purchasing is the major advantage to the Hospital’s kitchen, since they can order in sufficient quantity to get a wholesale cost.

We’re working on it. We’re learning and using our packaging to do what we can.

Depression Food

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Depression Food

            Depression Food.  I typed these words into Google one time.  I was suffering from depression.  Someone told me eating well would help, among other things, of course.  I was happy to find this Youtube channel popped up in my search:

Meet Clara:  She’s 98 (in many of the videos) and she has ‘embraced frugality’.  I was fascinated.  How did people cook during The Great Depression?  I made a habit of finding the can of ‘random something’ in the back of the cupboard, and trying to figure out what I could make with it.  Maybe it’s something you’d like to try.  Send us a picture and tell us what you made?  How was it?

Facebook is Throttling out the Positive

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Even though we have over 2,800 ‘Followers’, only 60 people have been ‘reached’ by our morning post saying we were just in touch with VON.  We’re close to finding a way to be helpful to seniors.  Now, you’d think that would be a post that would be distributed to ALL of our followers.  We’re even adding web links to facilitate helping YOUR parents.  Well, that would be too positive.

            You know all that ‘valuable information’ you’re seeing about ‘this devastating virus’.  That’s what they want you to see.  Panic is a terrorism tool.  Facebook is screening your ‘news-feed’ to be sure to raise the panic, instead of showing the positive things happening in your community. 

We’ll never know what the true numbers are, but POSITIVE people are posting positive messages about great things going on in the midst of this virus outbreak.  It is real, and there are precaution to be taken, sure.  BUT there are millions of Artists rallying around us and giving us free entertainment, even using facebook.  There are free classes being offered. 

Very importantly, people are at home and connecting with their kids, and OFTEN not on Facebook!  I saw more people out walking yesterday than the typical July day.  I saw kids with parents out in the yard.  And, Five deer walked down the road in front of my house in the daylight for the first time since I’ve been here.  Even the deer are out for a walk!

The point of this message is to, again, thank you for your interest and for participating in our email subscription.  I wanted to write this, here, because the people who follow-us on facebook don’t get to see what we post, when we post it.  They get to see our stuff IF Facebook deems it important to them, AFTER they’ve been bombarded with pictures of ‘no toilet paper’ and ‘the liquor store’s closing’.  Sixty (60) people reached in five hours, out of 2800+.  Think about that.

‘The Media’

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‘The Media’

(Internet, television, newspaper, podcasts, and email are all forms of media) – what we’re seeing is inflammatory reporting,  Not Journalism or ‘media’ .  It’s a mis-use of the connectivity of the world through internets.

Thank god Artists and leaders are using th’internets to spread some good. We’ll have to see how long it is before Facebook, Instagram, youtube, and Zoom start to Gauge the people who are freely spreading their positive magic.


Peace. Leading the Kids

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…’And it’s a great opportunity to teach the kids how to learn. What do we do when we have ‘free time’?

We follow our dreams, and they will see that.

They are watching us for comfort and guidance.

It’s a Great time for the kids to learn how to make bread.

I was driving to deliver a food order yesterday and I saw: Less cars, more people walking, kids playing outside, adults working with kids on the spring yard clean-up… Good vibes when we look away from the reporting.  It’s a great time to write! All the stuff that goes through our heads (when we should be sleeping) are all book-chapters. It’s a great time for people to find your podcast, check their email, follow the things they’d like to ‘if they had time’.

Well played, world. Time to connect.

Made a video for my Friend’s son. He wanted to come up over March Break to do a ‘placement’ in the kitchen.

Maybe learn how to record and upload videos to youtube? Help look-up the thing that interests them? They don’t understand that the internet can be the most-powerful knowledge tool in human history. The world is at their fingertips. In the video I encourage Isaac to look up Jamie Oliver’s food revolution, ‘Knife-skills’, …etc because it teaches regular joes like me to just try. Ask for guidance, follow-it, and work hard. Wouldn’t that be nice to show as an example?

Our Precautions Regarding Coronavirus?

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We will continue to operate and respond as we can.  Things seem to be ‘escalating’ quickly.  As we wrote just the other day, we wash our hands about 100 times a day, all of our cooking tools go through dish ‘sanitizer’ after being washed and rinsed.  We have ‘stepped up’ use of rubbing-alcohol or sanitizer for cleaning things like the Keyboard/ Mouse,, the Debit Machine, door-knobs, light-switches…etc.  Falling short of that, I don’t see any other precautions we can take.  If any of our staff begin to have symptoms, they will be sent out of the kitchen in order to protect our customers.  We will continue to operate in this way until we are told otherwise by government.

The government, as of yesterday, seems to be sending messages that every precaution must be taken to limit the spread of the virus including cancelling sporting-events, closing schools, canceling meetings, and imposing travel bans.  My parents are in Florida.  Since a travel-ban was imposed, their insurance will not cover them 9 days from now.  They’re on their way home.  Can you imagine the flock of snow-birds that this applies to?  Thousands of people are on their way back from Florida.  I must look that up:  …’Estimated population of snow-birds in Florida.’

A few ‘adjustments’ have been proposed for our business:  Since we are a take-out, we’ll continue to be diligent about cleaning common items such as Debit pads, door handles, fridge faces.  We may encourage people to use our delivery services if they are self-isolating or quarantined.  Some people are deathly scared of the financial-impacts of the panic and loss of work.  Ironically, as a result, (and we don’t have any other suggestion) they are holding onto their disposable income, which further devastates small business, and then we don’t have any revenue to spend, and the machine stops.

We will have to adjust our spending to reduce loss.  We will be freezing a lot of our regular production since it seems fewer people want to go out, at all.  I can see us moving toward frozen soups and meats.  We have yet to decide, but we’re not sure we will continue to stock the ‘Grab and Go fridge’ with fresh salads if we don’t have customers due to panic and/or financial reasons, or potentially, sickness.  Just for context, as far as we know, there is all this panic and economic loss and there’s no-one diagnosed in Amherst, yet.

We will continue to make our smoked meats on our regular rotation.  We will take orders for meal-planning and salads, we may need to ask for some flexibility in ingredients since we won’t be stocked with everything, all the time.  There is a lot of uncertainty for us, too at this time.  I think it’s safe to say we will be offering a reduced selection of items that freeze well in order to reduce loss and try to stay open.  Your patience is very much appreciated at this time as we try to figure out how to continue to operate without losing our shirt on food-waste.

On a lighter note (phew!): Apparently it’s a good time to start watching ‘other’ sports on Youtube. I watched a wicked Sumo Match this morning!  The bleachers were empty but the big guy threw the other big guy out of the ring after lots of slapping and bumping into each other!   Gord suggested we offer delivery with a free roll of toilet paper with each order.  I suggested we’ve all just found a use for our spare-sock piles (please don’t flush your spare socks!).  How do you tell a 17 year old not to kiss his girlfriend when she gets back from Cuba?  How will we stop little, little kids from licking the bus windows?  We won’t!  This is going to play out however it’s going to.  We can use caution where possible but there are some things that we cannot control.  Take a deep breath, go for a walk in the woods, love the people you love, be there for your neighbour.  Support small business where you can.

Getting away from Facebook (Part 2)

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Getting away from Facebook

            Facebook was a great tool for catching up with people you don’t see in person.  It was tempting to ‘Facebook connect’ with people that we do see periodically in order to follow what each other are ‘up to’ or ‘share’ things of mutual interest.  Then we started businesses and business pages.  And then we started advertising through Facebook and having likes and shares as a popularity contest.  And then paid advertising and sponsored ads kicked in. ugh!

            So, what ended up happening is that Facebook developed an algorithm to ‘show you’ what you want to see.  They looked at your search history (Accepted Cookies), who your friends are, what your friends search and share, and about 5000 other things and then calculated ‘who you are, and what you want to see’.  Creepy.

            Just as a test for yourself, go on one of your 500 ‘friends’ pages that you haven’t been on in a while and look to see what they’ve been posting.  Did it come up on your page?  No?  That’s because you haven’t been on their page in a while, so you must not actually be that interested (says the algorithm).  Now that you’ve gone to said person’s page for the first time in 6 Months (or longer), their posts will start showing up in your feed again, because you’ve shown the algorithm you’re interested.

            In our case, we bought into the game of ‘How many *Followers*?’ – How many people ‘saw’ our note, our special, our ‘announcement’.  We thought that if someone was a ‘Follower’, that we were ‘spreading the word’ to them, effectively, when we posted on our page.  That’s simply not the case.  I found out that people ‘may’ see our posted announcements a day or two later, and in some cases weeks later.  They thought they were ‘following’ us, and so did we.

            The Facebook marketing experts say ‘make sure followers are *engaged* so that the algorithm knows they are interested in seeing your stuff’.  This is the ‘cheap’ way to keep followers.  Create posts that ‘make’ users click ‘like, share, comment’…etc.  OR PAY TO BE IN EVERYONE’S FEED.  The choices, in my opinion, are ‘spend time tricking people into clicking your work’ or PAY FACEBOOK TO SCREAM AT PEOPLE.  The more you pay, the more people see the article, right?  No.  Someone with more money is willing to pay for the spot.  I’m not playing that game.  It’s a losing game, and it’s ruined Facebook.

So this little link (above) was suggested by one of our customers.  I installed it on my computer.  It doesn’t allow you to install on a phone.  The link takes you to a web page that allows you to read about this program called ‘Fluff-Buster’.  It loads as an extension in your web browser.  It allows you to customize what you do and do not see in your Facebook stream.  

Take out sponsored ads, kitten videos, posts that contain specific words (like TRUMP, COVID19…etc). 

I dunno about you, but there are certain themes of posts that ‘I’ve just had enough of’.  The extension filters them out without me having to see them. 

Another kitten video from your great Aunt? Filtered.  Notification that your second cousin likes their neighbours’ post? Filtered.  It’s a gem.  I tried to post it in my Facebook feed and it was a ‘policy violation’. HM.  Thoughts?

So, that’s why we’re trying to get away from Facebook with this tool, (Subscribed email).  You can receive emails when we send them, choose to read our longer articles, or not, go to our website to pick up a deal, or not… you’re the driver.  We’re here to serve, nothing more.

Above Average Products for Above Average People

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Above Average Products for Above-Average People

            As I was making Ribs this morning (It’s a long process to slow-cook ribs in the smoker), I was listening to a business leader that I really Like (Seth Godin) and I want to be sure that we’re honest and clear with you.

            We make excellent products for a very specific group of people.  You’re one of them.  Here is our market:  People who like to Eat above-average quality food in (passing through, based out of, close to) Amherst Nova Scotia, who like variety and appreciate quality.

            We’re not for everyone.  We know that.  We don’t want to be everywhere.  We want to be here, for you and your friends.  That’s enough.  That is a sustainable business that will allow us to continue to do the thing that we like.  We don’t have to shout at people.  We don’t have to compete with MacDonalds.  We just work hard, for you.

            When we opened the business, we were tired of ‘the same old’ and un-healthy options, and being marketed AT.  By that I mean corporations yelling At us, someone trying to convince us to settle, we were told (by corporations) we were too demanding because we wanted ‘better’ (Better selection, Better quality, Better service).  We thought there might be other people who were in the same boat.

A note on Seth Godin:  His Podcast is called Akimbo, but if you google him or search for him on youtube, he’s easy to find.  His approach is to do impressive work for the people you want to impress.  If you’re successful, they will tell their friends.

Please, if you like our products and our service, tell your friends.

The Yellow-Beans Suck! – Getting Fruit and Vegetables Year-Round?

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The Yellow-Beans Suck!

We have string beans on our list of options for our meal plans.  Often, they are green and sometimes they are yellow.  Other than colour, is there a difference?  We’re not sure but we don’t discriminate.  A customer asked for yellow-beans in a meal combo order this week and we went out looking. 

We shop at any and all local stores, first.  Well, there wasn’t a decent yellow-bean to be found in Amherst.  If we look at the products on the shelf and don’t think the product is of sufficient quality for us, or you, we won’t buy it.  That customer was really smart and added alternates to their order, so we were in luck.  But, [rhetorical question:] What are they (the grocery stores) thinking?  String beans are expensive.  We don’t want to buy them at $5/bag and then throw half of them away. Here is an example of Green-Beans that 1/2 have gone rusty and woody:

A couple times this winter we didn’t want to bother buying ‘the tomatoes’, the zucchini, the plums, the carrots, the beets (even), the asparagus… they were gross.  We buy our produce at the same local stores as our customers.  Because we’re so small, there is no benefit to ordering from an industrial supplier.  We buy the same groceries as the general public. Same price and everything.

We’ve also received mediocre quality products from SYSCO and GFS because we can’t see or handle the product before buying.  For example: a 50lb bag of carrots is almost always comprised of giant, fairly woody vegetables.  Not the best for flavour or even texture.  It’s just ‘volume’.

The ‘50% off rack’ is often full of veg or fruits that show the character of being shipped thousands of kilometers to get here.  They are fully ripe or overly-ripe, have been beaten against boxes, stacked too high, sat too long, been picked over…etc.  In fact, in our own home we were able to use about 50% of the volume we bought for 50% off!  They aren’t doing us any favours by marking it down.  They’re just recovering loss, but who can blame them.  Consider, though, how much time it takes to ‘cut away the ‘bad parts’, and how much waste is generated.  It wasn’t worth it for us. 

We love the ‘naturally imperfect’ products and ‘Individual Quick Frozen (IQF)’ fruits and veg.  We feel that in many cases there is little sacrificed in quality and flavour.  In some cases there is a difference, but for many items, there is little difference between IQF and fresh.  In fact, we would prefer a frozen product over something wax-coated or sprayed with preservatives, if freezing has minimal effect on the item itself, for our purposes (e.g. IQF Blueberries for Barbecue Sauce).

That said, we expect all our favourite veg and fruit to be available, at all times!  Us Too! Nothing to feel bad about.  We’re accustomed to being able to get pretty fruits and veg year ‘round.  In the fall, we did a ‘roasted root veg’ special that was popular.  I can see that coming again soon.  We simply can’t expect all fruits and veg year ‘round without an added cost.  We, at D&E’s, don’t know much about how food is transported in order to get here ‘ripe, but not overly’, right on time.  We’re sure it’s a mixture of art and science, but not ours.

This is why we switch from ‘Summer Dream’ Salad (Blueberry/Strawberry and Coconut Garnish) to ‘Magic Salad’ (Roasted Beet/Walnut Garnish) for the winter.  The transportation of South American Strawberries and Blueberries is expensive and the tender skins don’t survive well.  So, we pay more, and the quality is low.  Not a great trade-off.  

We’re looking forward to being able to buy local too!