New Meal Delivery Service, Vegetable + Butcher, takes over DC!
Enjoy Your Weekend, Leave the Meal Prep to V+B
Vegetable and Butcher is a subscription-based meal service that caters to the health-conscious (or simply the busy folk of DC). They’re based locally in DC and cook all of their food out of Union Kitchen in Ivy City.
The base of their menu is vegan and gluten free, but there is the option of animal protein such as grass-fed beef, wild caught fish, and lamb. The menu is chef-designed and dietitian-approved, and it’s also prepared and packaged with sustainability in mind. V+B tries to source local as much as possible and all of the packaging is compostable!
Because V+B does not have a storefront or restaurant, all of their meals are delivered to the customer’s door by 7am. I found this extremely unique and beneficial because I could actually eat one of the meals that very day for breakfast, and get the rest of the food in the fridge before I left for work. The meals are already prepared, so all you have to do is heat up the hot options in the microwave, and dig in! The directions on the compostable packaging describe exactly what is in the meal, and how best to prepare it – whether it should be heated, or eaten chilled.
Founders Turner Hoff and Ariane Valle started the meal service upon realizing they spent half of their weekends preparing food for the week. With active and health-conscious lifestyles, they struggled to find a solution to their problem – so they created one themselves! I caught up with Turner and Airane to dive a little deeper into what makes Vegetable and Butcher so special. You can read the interview below.
I also got to try a week’s worth of meals and I cannot express to you all how incredible they were. My boyfriend and I found ourselves fighting over the meals because they were so quick, easy, nutritious, and DELICIOUS. Even our cats couldn’t stay away!
Where do you deliver?
We currently deliver to most of DC and parts of Arlington, specifically Pentagon City and Crystal City. In June, however, we’ll be expanding to cover all of DC and more of Arlington, including parts of North Arlington. Woo!
Can you tell me a little bit more about your partners? Do you partner with local farms in the area? Where do you source ingredients from exactly?
Of course :-). We do work with lots of local folks. All our meat and poultry comes from Lancaster Farm Fresh in the Lancaster area of Pennsylvania and we source most of our produce locally/regionally, as well. Our distributor has partnered with farms all over the NE US and allows for an easy ordering process when sourcing locally, regionally and organically. We even work with urban farmers such as Little Wild Things and Up Top Acres (still in progress with Up Top). We get everything we can locally/regionally, but we do have certain ingredients on our menu that you just can’t source locally (e.g. avocados, lemons, limes, etc.). The goal is to find an appropriate balance here while doing as much as we can to support our local community.
How long did it take from idea to subscriptions to get the business off the ground?
The very initial conversations took place about two years ago, although at the time, neither Ariane nor I actually expected to ultimately launch a business. We really only talked about the idea as a way to solve our own problem – losing our entire Sundays to meal prep. Our Sunday routine was: wake up, coffee, farmers market + grocery store, prep, cook, pack and clean. We literally spent 50% of every weekend preparing our food for the upcoming week. We just got burned out. Since Ariane is vegan and I’m not, we would create dishes that were vegan as a base and then add an animal protein for me, which ultimately became the basis for the menu structure of V+B. We officially began working on V+B in April/May of 2016. We spent about six months developing our brand (thanks Composite Co!), creating and testing recipes for our core menu, building and testing the functionality of our website, and hiring a small team. We soft launched in September of 2016 to test website functionality and delivery/logistics before officially launching in October.
Have you found that you really do have more time for your active lifestyles, or are you now more busy with V+B? At least you get to do it together, right?! <3
Ha! This is the question, isn’t it?! Quite astute. We have actually joked that starting a health food business might be the least healthy decision we’ve ever made. Of course, that’s generally not the case, but it gets the point across that we work A LOT. Despite working seven days a week, we try to prioritize our health. We exercise regularly, make sure we get good quality sleep and we do our best to manage stress (this is the toughest one). We both subscribe to V+B six days/week, so at least our food is covered :-). And we actually find that we spend less on food now than we did before between grocery shopping and eating out. Plus, we get more variety and tastier food than we ever did on our own. Perhaps we’re onto something with this whole V+B thing :-)..!
And yes, we do get to spend A LOT of time together. Ariane does quit every other day, though (joke, of course). Our working relationship has strengthened our personal relationship. Our skill sets are completely different, so we stay out of each other’s hair for the most part.
Where do you get your recipe inspiration?
Searching for new recipe ideas has almost become part of our subconscious. Everywhere we go, everything we do or read or see becomes an opportunity for a new V+B dish. Our Executive Chef, Christina Brown, shares a similar mindset. Even after a long day of work, she’s scouring recipes books and Pinterest for inspiration.
How far in advance do you make the meals?
We make everything the afternoon/evening before delivery and nothing is ever frozen. After we cook, pack and bag all the meals, we store the food overnight in a big walk-in refrigerator. Our delivery drivers arrive early the following morning to get meals at our customers’ doorsteps by 7:00 AM (sometimes earlier if the customer needs an earlier delivery).
How many subscriptions do you currently have?
We’re currently doing a little more than 600 meals each week and continuing to grow. Aside from holiday weeks, which are generally shorter weeks for us, our meal count has grown every week.
Are you planning to scale up? Or will you cap subscriptions at a certain number?
Definitely still growing. We pick up several new customers each week. And our retention is outstanding. We’ve heard anecdotally from customers that they subscribed because their doctor recommended us or their personal trainer suggested V+B, which is incredibly flattering. We don’t have a plan to cap subscriptions, but we are also trying to be thoughtful about our growth. Our goal isn’t to become the Blue Apron or Plated of the prepared food space. We like the local focus and the sustainable supply chain and delivery/logistics platform, and we love that we can establish such personal relationships with so many of our customers. We don’t define success by how big we are, but by how many lives we’re changing. We want our customers to have more time to do what they enjoy most, while hopefully saving money and eating healthier, tastier food.
Do you have any advice for small business owners and how to get started?
Find mentors and immerse yourself as much as possible in whatever community you ultimately want to be a part of. And as simple as it sounds, the only way to start is to start.
What are each of your go-to snacks/foods when you’re hangry?
Does coffee count?! Coffee and espresso flavored dark chocolate are my go-to snacks. Ariane usually goes for a spoonful or two of a coconut cashew butter/spread (or coffee, of course). Ariane also has a bit of a sweet tooth, so if you get her started on a vegan cookie or two, it’s hard to stop her.
What ingredient do each of you hate? (for me it’s Uni…no matter how many times I try it – it tastes like I cut my mouth on a tuna can)
Ha! Yeah, Uni is definitely a strange taste. I’ve had it a couple of times, but have only once enjoyed it (shout outs to Sushi Capitol). Perhaps it was a quality thing.
Ariane isn’t crazy about eggplant or okra and she has a texture issue with food that’s overly slimy. For me, I think it might be truffles/truffle oil, but I’d be willing to try it again in different contexts. We’re both almost always game to try new foods.
I am thrilled I got to try out Vegetable + Butcher’s meal delivery service, and am ecstatic to share it with you all. Since they have now expanded to all of DC and parts of VA, I highly suggest that you check it out as soon as possible! The quality of the food and the passion for creating local, seasonal, nutritious prepared meals is something unique and hard to find in DC.