Sisters Jane DeLaney and Jenny Cochran are the brains behind eMeals, a meal-planning service meant to take the hassle out of planning dinnertime. Both Birmingham natives, Jane and Jenny grew up around the dinner table. It was the most important meal of the day for their large family of seven, and it was where some of their best family memories were formed. When Jane and Jenny became mothers, however, they noticed a decline in the cherished tradition among their own families and countless others. To combat this growing trend, they launched eMeals. Their goal is to take back dinnertime and give parents an easy and affordable outlet for planning healthy meals that the whole family will love.
We sat down with Jane and Jenny to learn more about their service and understand how mealtime positively impacts the family unit. They also distilled some timeless wisdom that all women should hear. These sisters are on a mission to reclaim family time, and their passion and joy for what they do is evident! We had a blast getting to know them and are so proud to have them featured as our FACES of Birmingham.
How did you come up with the idea for eMeals?
Jane: Necessity, really. The same need that every family has — the need to have dinner on the table, rain or shine. eMeals is a simple idea. Most moms can sit down and write out a meal plan, but it’s so hard to find the time to do it! Even though it’s a simple task, it’s another time-consuming task that gets put to the wayside. We grew up eating dinner together as a family, so when we became moms, that was something we wanted to continue with our own family.
Jenny: The timing was right, too. As the online world was progressing, it became a whole new marketplace. We knew the idea had huge growth potential, but we didn’t even really know if it would sell. We were kind of our own customer demographic. We were the profile of the people we were hoping to serve. If we felt like it was something we would be excited about, then we were like, alright, maybe someone else will, too.
What were family dinners like growing up, and how did that influence eMeals?
Jane: Besides us, we have five siblings in our family. We grew up here in Birmingham. Our dad was a pastor, so our house was buzzing with people, and the crux of our family bonding happened at the dinner table. Back then you didn’t go out to eat. It was all at home.
Dinnertime was when time stood still for our family. That’s just when everything came to a halt. It was more than just food. There was just no other time in the day when you would have each other eye to eye, face to face, and have a conversation. Our mom was great about making that happen, but she didn’t work outside the home. And, as you know, when our generation started raising families, women did a lot more as full-time moms to generate income, and so it just got difficult.
That difficulty, combined with the frustration of wanting to pull off dinner, was very real. We used to have Wednesday night suppers at church, and that was my favorite night because I didn’t have to cook! I didn’t have to think about it. eMeals offers that same principle of someone else doing the mental work for you. I’ve heard it a million times — people saying, ‘I just don’t want to have to think about what I’m going to cook!’ That seems to be the biggest pain point for people.
So that’s really what eMeals is. It’s the work of planning the menu for the week. And the recipes are short and doable. My husband can do them. My kids can even do them.
Jenny: The culture has shifted and changed so much with women working outside the home. We’ve seen the relevance of a service like eMeals continue to grow. As the culture has changed, eMeals has changed too some, but it’s still based in the same service. People still need it. Even if it’s just two or three times a week.
What’s it like running a business alongside your sister?
Jenny: It’s so fun! Jane is really the one who came up with the idea. It took a couple years of thinking it through, figuring out how you could meal-plan for people. And then we both ended up relocating to the South. So in thinking about someone to help her along, she called me. When you work with family, you just have a big premium of trust already.
Jane: We complement each other in our gifts. She loves to cook and is more of a foodie. I really can honestly say that I don’t just love to cook — I do it out of necessity. But I’m very practical. I’m not going to add “the fluff” to it, whereas she will really go the extra mile to make it tastier.
Jenny: I’m kind of the gadget queen. I was big into Pampered Chef back in the ’90s!
Jane: She would come over to my kitchen and say, “Where is the good knife? Where is the lemon zester?” We definitely complement each other, and I think that’s been a big asset to our business. We also share the same vision and the same heart and soul of what eMeals is all about. We probably wouldn’t be working together if we didn’t both have the same passion about dinnertime.
What’s something you’ve learned about yourself through launching eMeals?
Jenny: Just as women with families, it’s worth it to fight the good fight to juggle life in a way where you’re still present and available to your family. It’s worth it to embrace the seasons in your life. This started right when our babies went to school. So suddenly we had this little window of time from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. where the kids got on the bus, and then we went after it. We were just working until that 3 p.m. bell rang. It’s worth limiting yourself.
Jane: From the outside looking in, it would be a travesty to me for any woman to get the idea that “Oh, hey look, they have a family and they have a successful business, and they have it all.” That’s not how it was. We worked at home for years until we got into an office. Our offices were in our homes, and when the kids would come home from school, it was all about them. And then when they went to bed, we were back on the computer. Our number one goal was to always be present with them. There has to be that intentional time with your child. And that’s the message behind eMeals. It’s about emphasizing dinnertime with your kids and making them know that they’re important. They’re important enough to stop your day. It’s about that connection, that communication.
Jenny: If I had another life to live, and I don’t know, maybe I’ll do this in my 70s, but I’d love to talk to young people about having a vision for their lives and talking about these seasons. You can shift and change. There are so many seasons, and there are so many things to shoot for. And that tension is worth striving with and wrestling with — to do those important things, whatever that might be.
What’s your favorite motivational quote?
Jenny: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Jane: Psalm 100:5 — “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Describe your perfect weekend. Where would you go, what would you eat, who would you see?
Jane: I would be on the water with my family with what I call GFMs — good food moments. I want a good food moment on a daily basis. It’s all about those capsules of cherished time with my family, because my kids are all gone, so when we all get back together again, it is cherished. Being at the lake — during my favorite time of the day, drinking coffee together on a screened-in porch with the kids where there are no distractions. That’s my favorite.
Outside of working, what are your hobbies? What would you like to learn how to do?
Jenny: I love to read. I just read Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter, and that was fabulous! I’ve also recently gotten interested in the Enneagram. It’s based on ancient personality categorization that’s just so interesting. And the Enneagram underworld is booming. Millennials are all over it. It’s very interesting — it’s all about personal growth. I also love music. I play the piano, and I inherited a baby grand piano recently that’s collecting dust — I need to play it more often!
Jane: With an empty nest, you start to reevaluate the things you want to get back into. I’m kind of at that stage in my life where I have the opportunity to do that now. I love to read. My biggest hobby is just reading about health and wellness. I love it — especially reading about people who have completely reversed their diagnosis through health and wellness. I’m kind of a slow and easy person, I just like to organically live my life every day.
Jenny: She’s also a very talented artist and gardener.
Jane: I have a dream of revisiting some of those things. I’m warming up. I’m in the batter’s cage!
What’s your best piece of advice?
Jane: I would direct mine to women, and say to realize that you are God’s child and that He loves you and wants you to be at peace, and to not try to be another woman. There is a lot of freedom in that.
Jenny: I would piggyback on that and say, especially being Southern, beauty comes with a premium for us. And it’s not just our faces and our hair, it’s our surroundings — the whole experience. But our beauty as human beings is in our ability to love. And that’s what’s beautiful in life — your capacity to love. Letting that define your life, and not what you can attain, is the most important thing.
With the exception of faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Jenny: Coffee. Definitely coffee.
Jane: I would say coffee, too. It’s a part of my experience every morning.
Jenny: I also can’t live without my dogs.
Thank you, Jenny and Jane! To learn more about eMeals and to try out their innovative, life-changing meal planning, visit emeals.com.
Thank you to Charity Ponter of Charity Ponter Photography for today’s beautiful photography.