Maggie Skarich Joos has always aspired to be the next Martha Stewart. And she’s one step closer to realizing her dream thanks to the launch The Real Good Life, 7227 W. North Ave., a meal delivery business that caters to busy people, particularly those with families.
"Both of my parents really assisted in building my love for food," she says. "As a child I remember watching PBS cooking shows with my mom while reading Martha Stewart Magazine. And I always loved baking chocolate chip cookies with my dad on weekends. Food was always special and there were always great memories attached."
As an adult, she took inspiration from personalities like Ina Garten and Rachel Ray, women who followed their passions and who – through a combination of hard work and serendipity – made names for themselves on a broad scale.
"They each have different ways that they really touch peoples’ lives," says Skarich Joos. "And their approaches aren’t stuffy. It’s more about food and sharing food with other people."
In kind, she says she’s always aspired to entrepreneurial pursuits. And, over the years, when she’d come up with a new idea for a business, she became known for musing: "When I have my Martha Stewart empire ..."
Better living without the hassle
The Real Good Life is a meal delivery service that specializes in family friendly meals that are hearty and homey, while also incorporating seasonal vegetables and healthful ingredients including select organic produce.
Weekly menus for dishes, which are available in one, two or four-serving portions, are posted on Wednesday and folks can place orders through 8 p.m. on Sunday evenings with a minimum order of $30. Food is then delivered to customers at their homes or workplaces the following Wednesday between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. (delivery is available in a 15-mile radius of The Real Good Life kitchen).
Skarich Joos says weekly menus always include a vegetarian option, as well as poultry and a dish featuring beef, pork or seafood. There are also soups, salads and side dishes, along with extras like desserts, breads and snacks.
Popular dishes include pecan crusted chicken fingers with homemade honey mustard sauce, broccoli and cheese rice casserole and vegetable chili con carne.
"I don’t cater to specialty diets, per se," she notes. "However, I always try to have something dairy, gluten and nut-free every week."
In search of The Real Good Life
"There’s real life. There’s the good life. And there’s the real good life," says Skarich Joos when I ask her if there’s a story behind the name of her business. "This isn’t an original thought. But when you look across social media, you see all of these perfect pictures. They’re pictures of unattainable things. And that’s not how real life is. My house is a mess, but my girls like me and I love them; and that’s what’s important. And that’s the real good life. It’s messy and imperfect. But it’s also really good."
She says her business is built around the idea of giving busy people a pass and making their lives a little bit easier.
"The more honest we can be about how real life truly is, the better," she says. "I think it gives people a sense of relief to know they don’t have to work so dang hard at everything."
Skarich Joos says that she’s spent years contemplating a business model that would encompass her passion and drive while truly helping others. As she searched for the right fit, she says she looked to her parents for inspiration.
"My mom was this amazing teacher who left her legacy of teaching in the inner city of Milwaukee," she says. "And my dad was this great guy; he was everyone’s best friend, and he always made people feel really comfortable. He was also a wood-worker, and I have a number of pieces of his work that will last far beyond my lifetime.
"Both of my parents passed away before I turned 32. Both of them were in their early 60s. And that’s a big wake-up call. Looking at my life and realizing I was potentially at my halfway point was sobering. I knew I wanted to enjoy how I spent my time; but I also knew that I wanted to serve a purpose and help other people."
"Once I had kids," she goes on, "It became increasingly obvious that the logistics of getting dinner on the table for a family was a real struggle," she says, noting that ultimately solving that problem for others was her goal.
Super heroes & do-gooders
Skarich Joos says that, in addition to offering nourishing meals, she also wants to "champion superheroes." It’s a goal that’s supported by the work she does, but also by occasional features showcasing hard-working individuals on her website.
"Whether it’s someone trying to launch a new product or business; a busy single who’s juggling a career, volunteer work and training for a marathon; or simply a mom who’s trying to bring balance to her day to day life, I want to bolster them," she says.
She also aspires to giving back, she says, so a percentage of all sales are donated to Hunger Task Force.
"So many of the people I serve don’t need to worry about where their next meal is coming from," she says. "But, that’s a reality for so many people, and it only makes sense to give back to an organization that really speaks to that need. It also takes another thing off of my customers plates; they can do good without having to make any extra effort."
Skarich Joos says having her own kitchen is only the first step on her journey as a business owner.
"In keeping with building my empire," Skarich Joos says with a smile, "I’m also always thinking about how to take this further? How can I make this more than just cooking dinner for people? Do I write a book? What do I want? For now, this is good. But I’m always dreaming."
The Real Good Life will host a grand opening celebration on Saturday, Feb. 10, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. During the open house event, there will be food sampling, door prizes and products available for purchase. For more information or to place an order, visit The Real Good Life. You can also follow it on Facebook and Instagram.
Lori Fredrich (Lo) is an eater, writer, wonderer, bon vivante, traveler, cook, gardener and girlwonder. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, she has tried to leave many times, but seems to be drawn to this quirky city that smells of beer and alewives.
Some might say that she is a little obsessed with food. Lo would say she is A LOT obsessed with food. After all, she has been cooking, eating and enjoying food for decades and has no plans to retire anytime soon.
Lo's recipes and writing have been featured in a variety of publications including GO: Airtran Inflight Magazine, Cheese Connoisseur, Cooking Light, Edible Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as on the blog Go Bold with Butter, the web site Wisconsin Cheese Talk, and in the quarterly online magazine Grate. Pair. Share.