This interview with small business owner, Erin Baumgartner, is one you won’t want to miss! Erin is a Topsfield native, who along with her husband Tim, is on a mission to improve the complex problem of food systems. She’s combined her background at MIT with a love for local farms. The result: Family Dinner, a weekly subscription service that delivers New England’s best local ingredients fresh to your door. Keep reading to learn more about the food share options at Family Dinner, Erin’s favorite foodie spots on the North Shore and more!
Where are you from originally and what town do you live in now?
I am originally from Topsfield, I went to Masco and recently moved to Boxford after living in Somerville for almost 20 years!
What’s your favorite activity on the North Shore?
Although it’s part of my work, I love visiting farms on the North Shore. Our little corner of the world is so beautiful up here and it’s amazing to see the bounty that we can produce. I also love to pack a little basket of snacks and sit at Crane for a few hours, followed by fried clams and a cold beer.
Where’s your favorite place to eat and/or shop on the North Shore?
I love to eat. Whether it’s clams at CK Pearl in Essex, drinks at Tuscan Sea Grill and Bar in Newburyport, a Burger at Frank in Beverly or chowder at the Choate Bridge Pub in Ipswich, I let my appetite guide me around. Oh and meatballs at Daniella’s in Danvers. To. Die. For.
You just celebrated 4 years in business. Congratulations! Tell us a little bit about your background and how you started Family Dinner.
Thanks! We started Family Dinner in 2017, with just 7 (very kind, very patient) friends as customers. They were willing to join us in this crazy idea and allowed us to beta test the idea, work out processes and eventually grow to doing over 600 deliveries a week. We made 1,000 mistakes and were incredibly inefficient at the beginning as we were learning. We wouldn’t be where we are without those 7 saintly friends.
Before Family Dinner I spent 11 years at MIT, most recently at the Senseable City Lab. The Lab focuses on using data to understand and improve on complex urban problems; like trash, transportation and pollution. We started to think about how those same techniques could be used to better understand and improve the complex problem of the food system. We’re nerds.
One of your guiding principles at Family Dinner is Zero Waste. Can you tell us how you work to achieve this?
Between 30- 40% of the food that is produced in this country is wasted every year. That number is shocking and it’s also terribly sad.
At Family Dinner, we order each week to meet exact demand. That means we don’t keep inventory, and we don’t throw anything away. We are also trying to use as little packaging as possible. We pack shares in reusable fabric bags, that we recollect and wash and sanitize each week. We use compostable bags and paper whenever we can. We don’t want food delivery to mean you end up with a pile of items that aren’t taken back and can’t be re-used.
And we’re also trying to talk to our members about how to use all of the products. How to use all of your vegetables and then reuse leftovers in simple, fridge-emptying recipes like fried rice or frittata. My husband wants to write a cookbook called: “ Don’t throw that away I’ll eat it”. We get pretty creative over here.
What types of food shares do you offer?
We offer Omnivore, Pescatarian, Vegetarian, Paleo and Veggie Only shares in three sizes. Folks can also build a share, if they only want meat or only want veggies. We can accommodate allergies, aversions and dietary restrictions. We also have a big add-on section where you can get fresh pasta, cheeses, flowers, and pastries delivered each week.
Does your selection of food change from week to week?
Yes! Each week we are trying to vary what’s in the share and hoping to curate each delivery so that items marry well together for meal prep. We work with around 80 different growers and makers so there is always plenty of deliciousness to choose from.
Do you offer products from any North Shore farms or businesses on your menu?
Yes, we love A&J King in Salem for breads, pizza dough, cookies and pastries. (Jackie, the “J” in A&J, and I were best friends in high school. It’s been amazing to connect as businesswomen). Iron Ox in Topsfield grows beautiful produce, as does Marshview Farm. The Mozzarella House in Peabody makes the best burrata I’ve had and I could eat it by the gallon.
What is the weekly cut-off for ordering?
Family Dinner is a subscription service. Orders process weekly on Monday. Customers can skip any weeks they like online before Monday morning.
Which North Shore towns do you deliver to?
We deliver anywhere in the 495 belt. So, all of them! It’s been really fun getting to discover beautiful neighborhoods and towns by doing deliveries on the North Shore.
Have you discovered any new favorite foods from running Family Dinner?
The Kouign Amann from A&J King is a pure delight. I can neither spell nor pronounce it but it is a flaky buttery slice of heaven. I never share them as a rule.
You just expanded to Maine. So exciting! Do you have further expansion plans?
We are really excited about delivering into New Hampshire and Maine. This will allow us to expand the mission of Family Dinner to support the work of small local growers and makers in these states.
We would love to continue to grow Family Dinner into other geographies. The suite of technology, software and systems that we have created are pretty transferable so there may be further expansion in the future!
As a busy small business owner, what’s your favorite thing to do when you need some “me” time?
We have an old, toothless, lady dog named Frank. She’s 14 but loves a walk in the woods. She gets so goofy and excited. I love leaving my phone at home and traipsing through the woods with Frank to fill up my tank.
Find more information on Family DInner at sharefamilydinner.com and follow along with Erin on Instagram @sharefamilydinner and Facebook at @sharefamilydinner. ***And as a special treat, North Shore Moms can save 50% off on their first share with code NSMOMS at sharefamilydinner.com.
This post is sponsored by Family Dinner.