Healthful Eating Gets Jarring

Markeshia Ricks PhotoThe Mason Jar ExchangeMarissa Vaspasiano wants to make it easier for you and your family to enjoy healthful fresh meals. Her secret weapon? A mason jar.

Vaspasiano owns a meal prep and delivery service called The Mason Jar Exchange. She started the business after her co-workers at Sensitive Care in Milford saw her bringing her lunch of yummy looking soups and salads in the classic containers best known for their use in canning and preservation.

“I was doing mason jar meal prep for myself,” she said during a recent sit-down at the CitySeed Kitchen on New Haven’s Grand Avenue, where she preps food for her clients. “The girls all started inquiring about it and wanting me to do it for them.”

She said the mason jars allow for food like salad greens and other fresh veggies, which can go soggy after a few hours or a day in a typical storage container, to stay crisp and snappy longer.

“I put together a lot of salads and soups and an array of meals and they stay fresh for a good week,” she said. “It really keeps it crisp and fresh, and it’s so convenient to grab and go.”

The Mason Jar Exchange grew out of Vaspasiano providing the service for her co-workers, who in turn started telling people outside the office about their meals and where they were getting them.

All of that started last September. Now, she fills about 60 orders a week. And she’s shopping for food, cooking and filling mason jars when she’s not at her day job, and after her son goes to bed.

How does she balance it all?

“Very carefully,” she said with a chuckle.

The 34-year-old Vaspasiano lives with her husband and son in New Haven’s Annex neighborhood. Her husband helps her make deliveries. She’s also getting encouragement and business tips from the Collab and the Women’s Business Development Council. She credited a “Level Up” class with Collab for connecting her with other “side-hustlers” who are building small businesses while working full time. It’s also through those connections that she got hooked up with the CitySeed Kitchen.

Collab’s Margaret Lee said Vaspasiano came in for help at the point where there was “huge demand for her meals among friends and coworkers” and her business was “bursting at the seams of her kitchen.”

“It was clear there was something to her idea and her drive was so evident,” Lee recalled in an email. “We worked with her to outline some next steps and provided connections to organizations like the Women’s Business Development Council.”

Those connections are paying off, Vaspasiano said.

“It’s been a challenge, but all the positivity helps me keep going,” she said. “I was at the point of getting really tired, but it was uplifting to be in a room full of people on the same journey of working full time and pursuing their dream as well.”

With her business catching on so quickly, Vaspasiano needed space to cook her meals and pack her jars. She creates a menu of a couple of soups, a build-your-own salad option along with a chicken caesar salad, and one entree. People place their order for the coming week by Friday; their food is delivered in mason jars by Sunday. She’s hoping to offer delivery options that include deliveries on Monday and direct to offices too.

The prices range from $7 for personal sizes to $13 for larger jars. The ingredients are mostly organic and locally sourced. The food comes in a mason jar. When you finish your food and place another order, you hand over your empty jars, and Vaspasiano gives you a set with more food. That contributes to the environment-friendly nature of her business, she said.

“Every week I design a new menu,” she said. “It’s limited for now because I’m working full time and I have a limited amount of time. The menu changes ... but a couple of things repeat because customers like it. I’d love to expand it to do more family-style meals and a bigger selection of options.”

The Old Lyme native, who moved to the Elm City in 2002, said she also would like to grow her business to the point where she has her own kitchen possibly even a food truck. But for right now, she’s happy to have access to a kitchen at CitySeed.

“I’d like to have people work for me, maybe family and friends, anybody with a passion for cooking,” she said. “I would love to grow to be something more.”

Vaspasiano has been able to grow her business on the strength of word of mouth. She’s already looking at how she might scale up as she launches a website and starts advertising her business at the city’s farmers markets. She said putting herself out there is a little scary but also exciting.

“It’s been great just to get into a workspace more conducive to doing this,” she said. “The space has been great.”

For more information on The Mason Jar Exchange, click on this Facebook page.

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on March 14, 2019  9:12am

I wonder does carry hipster mason jars.She will make a lot of Money.

Hipsters place tremendous amount of importance on the appearance of authenticity and ennui.  In a mark of irony that hipsters would appreciate if they were able to recognize it, they work very hard to appear as if they don’t care, while still marking themselves in ways that announce that they are untouched by capitalistic mandates about fashion and entertainment, have superior taste in music, and interact with the world in a way that is somehow truer than the rest of us.  The mason jar is one such accessory that announces how much better than you the hipster is.Carrying around a drink in a mason jar says, “I’m better than you because my drink doesn’t have a label on it.the hipster wants you to understand that he’s superior, but doesn’t want to have to say it Rather than holding a mug or a travel cup that wouldn’t draw much attention, the hipster chooses the mason jar that looks just out of place enough to call attention to how cool, clever, and savvy the hipster actually is.

JW Thompson

Hipsters: PS - Mason Jars

posted by: jules on March 14, 2019  9:43am

THREEFIFTHS - uhhh, okay man, i mostly just use mason jars for this stuff because they don’t leak.

posted by: Pat from Westville on March 14, 2019  10:16am

The world according to THREEFIFTHS:
—in politics, Judas Goat Leaders
—in real estate, gentrification vampires
—in just about everything else, hipsters

So predictable.

posted by: EarlyBird on March 14, 2019  11:25am

Pat from Westville - predictable, yes. And unfailingly negative. I learned a long time ago that tearing people down says more about me than whatever cause/ business venture/ hobby they happen to be into, whatever my opinion of it may be.

posted by: NewHaven18 on March 14, 2019  12:38pm

NHI Comment Policy—“If you’re trying to hijack a comments thread to link with ads for your personal business, invective aimed at a person or a group against whom you have a personal vendetta, or long rants about unrelated issues or crusades — we’re going to zap them.
Helpful hint: If it reads like a late-night TV commercial, a passage from a lawsuit you’re filing, or an excerpt from a KKK website, don’t bother.”

Seems that NHI picks favorites when it comes to who is allowed to comment. Unfortunately, I don’t have a link to a 2015 Youtube video with ~200 views to use as evidence to prove this point.

posted by: William Kurtz on March 14, 2019  2:32pm

Don’t listen to these complainers, Paul, and whatever you do—don’t start censoring THREEFIFTHS. My bingo card is almost full.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on March 14, 2019  5:41pm

I have just read the Comment Policy.So let us look at this one.

Wail away at public figures’ policies and records and article subjects’ and other commenters’ quotations. Ixnay on the personal attacks.

Let us look at what is a Judas Goat A Judas goat is a trained goat used in general animal herding. The Judas goat is trained to associate with sheep or cattle, leading them to a specific destination. So when I say Judas Goat Leaders.I do not use names.I just say Judas Goat Leaders.

Gentrification Vampires. f you look up the word Gentrification Vampires you will not find it. Also again when I use the term Gentrification Vampires I use no names.

So I think I am within the guidelines of the Comment Policy

Now.All I said was. I wonder does she carry hipster mason jars.She will make a lot of Money.

So how is that being unfailingly negative?

what are Hipsters Hipsters are person who follows the latest trends and fashions, especially those regarded as being outside the cultural mainstream. Also again when I use the term Hipsters I use no names.

posted by: 1644 on March 14, 2019  8:24pm

3/5’s:  You certainly try to hijack every thread for your personal crusade against “gentrification vampires” and attack the group you call “hipsters”.  At this point, it’s just amusing.
  By your definition, my grandmother was the mother of all hipsters as she always canned her garden surplus, a behavior she learnt as a Prairie farm girl.

New Haven 18:  The comment policy is pretty meaningless.  BevHills rarely, if ever, adds anything of substance, but her attack-the-messenger comments get through since they are directed at more right-wing commentators. Often the comments here are informative, but they more and more resemble the old NHR comments:  meaningless, personal invective.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on March 14, 2019  11:44pm

posted by: 1644 on March 14, 2019 8:24pm

3/5’s:  You certainly try to hijack every thread for your personal crusade against “gentrification vampires” and attack the group you call “hipsters”.  At this point, it’s just amusing.By your definition, my grandmother was the mother of all hipsters as she always canned her garden surplus, a behavior she learnt as a Prairie farm girl.

Amusing to some.The truth for others.You forgot to put in my personal crusade against Judas Goats and Union Haters. and the crooked two party system and the one you have a personal crusade against. when I talk about it.Proportional representation..

posted by: westville man on March 15, 2019  8:53am

1644.  The real issue isn’t NHI comment policy or how it administers it.  The problem is that some folks comment on every article and that means opinions,  not facts or knowledge.  You are one of many whom I read due to your often insightful analysis.  I look to Noteworthy for budget issues,  Robn for zoning and data info, Rev Ross-Lee for political and racial analysis, 3/5ths for historical, racial and political insight, teachergal for education and many others (HewNaven, Anonymous) for other areas. 
Without naming “names”, some of these folks write in about areas outside their expertise.  They may opine on everything but they are wrong many of those areas (opinion isn’t knowledge). Intelligent people reading NHI regularly know when facts are being discussed and when flippant opinions are being thrown about.  (And I know you do)

posted by: 1644 on March 15, 2019  12:09pm

Westville:  Thanks for the compliments, although my commenting in this string is exhibit “A” in my inability to restrain myself.  I would like to think I bring a broad perspective to what is too often a cramped echo-chamber.
My canning grandmother’s earliest memory was age two, looking for nails.  The proper house her father had put all his savings into had burnt to ashes.  There was no fire insurance on the frontier.  So, my grandmother and her family shifted through the warm ashes for nails to start rebuilding. She was a fan of Kipling (and Tennyson).

“If you can ... watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn out tools ....”

One of the best poems ever.

posted by: westville man on March 15, 2019  1:50pm

Wow- quite the story!  Yes, one of my all time favorites that I committed to memory.

posted by: 1644 on March 15, 2019  5:59pm

Memorized it, eh?  You’re a better man than I am, Westville Man.

posted by: westville man on March 15, 2019  8:21pm

I admit struggling with the 3rd stanza. Thinking that one was omitted in my studies. Can’t be my failing memory.  :)

posted by: 1644 on March 15, 2019  11:57pm

WM: You are still a better man than I am.  The best I can muster without prompting are vague notions of keeping my head about me, treating Triumph and Disaster equally, and being able to dine on cabbages with Kings without acquiring on unpleasant odor from either one :)

posted by: NewHaven145 on March 17, 2019  9:42pm

Marissa is amazing!
I’ve had the opportunity to order a few times already.  The food is fresh and delicious. 
Highly recommended!!!