Minnetonka resident Jennifer Alexander cooks up healthy, portable food.
Five years ago, Minnetonka resident Jennifer Alexander had some health issues. She was struggling and not sure what to do next, when she decided that she needed to make a drastic change in her diet—really, a change in her lifestyle. She was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, as the saying goes. Already a vegetarian, she stopped eating anything processed and quit eating dairy, gluten and any sort of preservatives.
“Any ingredient I couldn’t pronounce was automatically excluded from my diet,” she says.
It wasn’t a quick fix, though. “To say the first few months were hard is an understatement,” she says. But as she started to feel better physically, she also stopped focusing on what she’d given up and started thinking about all the good food she could still eat.
“I found that the foods I was creating from whole, unprocessed ingredients were even more flavorful than the foods I had been eating in the past,” she says.
But she still found it challenging to open the refrigerator and see all those healthy, uncooked vegetables when she was hungry and wanted a snack right that moment. So, she started making pesto and hummus for snacks and soup for meals in large amounts on the weekends. That way when she opened the refrigerator looking for a quick bite, something was waiting. She stored those made-ahead foods in jars because jars are easy to fill, reuse, wash and store.
When her journey eventually led her to start creating and marketing her nutritious, whole food recipes for sale, she naturally called her company Jen’s Jars.
“I really do love the jars,” she says with a laugh. “I use them for everything: storing dry ingredients, storing and freezing soups and spreads, and refrigerating juices.”
Having some soup and spreads in jars and ready to use makes getting a meal together much easier. “Meal prepping and planning are the key to this lifestyle,” she says.
She also has some creative ideas for using jars, beyond food storage, on her website. Jars are reusable, which makes them some of the most environmentally friendly packaging you can find. Every jar you return to Jen gets you a dollar off your next purchase. She’s licensed by the state of Minnesota to take the jars back, clean and reuse them safely.
She fills those much-loved jars with a wide range of products: several kinds of soups, hummus, pesto and a raw cacao dark chocolate spread (available only online). The list is evolving, and production increased last year when she was chosen by Lakewinds Co-op in Minnetonka to be part of their food business accelerator program. Being selected for that program gave her access to a commercial-sized cooking space and opened new possibilities. She also says she really benefitted from the business training the program gave her. But equally important to her is that, through the Lakewinds program, she met the farmers who supply her ingredients—a group of people who care just as much as she does about food.
“It may sound cheesy,” she says, “but I believe you can really taste the love in the food.”