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Suffolk mum launches children’s ready meals in East Anglian supermarkets

PUBLISHED: 14:49 02 November 2020 | UPDATED: 14:49 02 November 2020

Jess Mackenzie of Jess Cooks, which makes healthy ready meals for children  Picture: Jess Cooks

Jess Mackenzie of Jess Cooks, which makes healthy ready meals for children Picture: Jess Cooks

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The Jess Cooks range is now available at selected East of England Co-op stores in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex.

Spaghetti bolognese from Jess Cooks, available at East of England Co-op stores  Picture: Jess CooksSpaghetti bolognese from Jess Cooks, available at East of England Co-op stores Picture: Jess Cooks

Food entrepreneur Jess Mackenzie says she is literally jumping for joy, as her range of handmade, healthy ready meals for children launch in East of England Co-op stores across the region.

Mendlesham-based Jess, who enjoyed a career in TV and as a business coach before creating Jess Cooks in 2019, debuted the dishes (which serve two young children or one older child per pack) at last year’s Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival, where they went down a treat with busy parents looking to put something more nutritious on the table.

“For most parents,” Jess says, “putting a healthy meal together from scratch after a long day at work can be a real slog. As a mum I felt frustrated that the only option I had to fall back on when I was short of time was frozen junk.”

Prior to launching her current venture, Jess ran a children’s cookery business and spent eight years cooking all kinds of food with kids of all ages and abilities. The experience gave her a unique insight into what kids wants to eat. “They’re generally much more adventurous than we give them credit for. All children are different. We always tend to avoid flavour with them. We assume what they will eat is very beige and bland and that’s reflected in what you can get at supermarkets. Chicken nuggets and pizza. If you want something quick from the freezer for your kids between swimming and homework and bed, it’s those options you have to fall back on.” Jess’s own children (seven and nine) have been her eager taste-testers. “My daughter is a real foodie and has personally approved every dish!”

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The range includes beef bolognese, pork ragu, mild chicken tikka, and Moroccan lamb meatballs, all made using meat from her local butcher.

“From the start my ethos was always not to put anything in these I wouldn’t use at home. It’s exactly the same values as for when I cook for my own family. So I use local and higher welfare meat - the best I can afford. That includes St George’s chickens and lamb, beef and pork mince from Palfrey and Hall in Debenham who I shop with.”

The meals come in recyclable trays and sleeves, with sustainability being close to Jess’s heart. All you need to do is add pasta, rice or potatoes on the side to complete the meals - which are rated low salt, are packed with vegetables, gluten and dairy-free and have no added sugar.

“We’re all so busy nowadays, coping with work, the school run and other activities, and my friends often describe how guilty they feel about not having enough time,” Jess adds. “I really hope Jess Cooks will make life a bit easier for busy parents and enable them to feed their kids great quality, healthy meals, even when time is short. I’m absolutely delighted to be stocked by the East of England Co-op, and I hope that the business will continue to grow, and that Jess Cooks will be available nationwide in the not too distant future.”


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