By Sandra Massey Buckley
No Time 2 Cook
Karen Kurr of Oxford Is Bringing Families Back to the Dinner Table
“I cannot recall when I did not cook,” says Karen Kurr of Oxford. “One of my earliest memories is sitting on the counter next to the stove at age four scrambling eggs for breakfast. At age seven, I could bake cookies from scratch.”
Karen’s childhood love of cooking was fostered with her mother and sister in the kitchen together cooking and sharing conversation. “And every night, we sat down at the table for a home-cooked family meal,” she says, remembering the closeness that brought.
Early in life, her weekends were spent at the family farm. “It seemed that almost every weekend, Mama fed a table full of family and church friends,” she says. “I think it was these special gatherings around the old farm table that taught me the importance of sharing a meal with family and friends.”
After graduating from college, where she studied child development, Karen taught in Louisiana’s university system. She later married and started a family. “When my children were born, I knew from my own childhood experiences and my studies that family mealtime was a vital part of fostering healthy relationships with our children,” she explains. “But, I found it wasn’t as easy as my Mama had made it look, and I needed help if I was going to have a home-cooked meal on the table every night.”
Trying to stay a step ahead, Karen began collecting more recipes and stocking homemade meals in the freezer. “I’d freeze our family favorites,” she says, “like Red Beans and Rice, Mama’s Beef and Vegetable Soup, and Chicken and Dumplings to pull out on busy week nights.”
Realizing the challenges of balancing a family’s hectic schedule and how that could easily lend itself to the convenience of dining out or fast food is what planted the seed for Karen’s frozen entrée business, No Time 2 Cook.
In 2005, she began baking, cooking, and freezing meals—like Chicken and Dumplings and Crab and Mushroom Penne—to take and sell at local farmers’ markets. As both clientele and demand increased, Karen outgrew her home kitchen. She added a commercial kitchen, and then later built the USDA food plant that is now used to fulfill the demand for sourcing to more than 200 Krogers across the Southeast. In addition, she sells to other grocers and to individual customers through her popular online store where her Southern-inspired, cooked-from-scratch meals can ship frozen to anyone’s front door across the country.
Every recipe used for No Time 2 Cook is either passed down from her mother or is “Mama approved.” “Mama had a huge influence when it came to perfecting the final product,” adds Karen. “Chicken and Dressing, one of our most famous dishes, came directly from Mama. The dressing is the same recipe she made every Thanksgiving and Christmas. I just added chicken to make it an entrée. We use the same ingredients you would use in your own kitchen.”
Many entrees, which include three to four servings each, are microwaveable and ready in 20 minutes, while others are baked for around an hour. Karen suggests keeping a variety of the meals in the freezer, along with vegetables and salad fixings, so that a healthy meal can be easily pulled together in a matter of minutes.
Not only do these entrees add convenience to gathering the family around the table, research also shows that family mealtime strengthens children’s values, mental health, and school performance. And drawing from her own past, her family enjoys a tradition of blessing each shared meal. “A prayer of thanksgiving makes us all stop, take a deep breath, and acknowledge the true Provider of the meal,” she notes. “The blessing can set the tone for a calmer mealtime environment offering the perfect opportunity for rich conversation and reconnection at the end of our busy day.”
For Karen, the encouragement from Jeff, her husband of 30 years, has played a significant role in the success of No Time 2 Cook. “He has had my back from day one in every way possible—physically, financially, emotionally, and most importantly, spiritually,” she says.
“Jeff has hauled coolers to farmers’ markets, given out samples of products, and unloaded trailers with never a complaint,” she adds. “The most incredible part he has played, though, has been the part of prayer warrior. I always know that Jeff is praying fervently for our little company.”
“I don’t know the future,” Jeff says, “However, there are some things that I do know: God has given us the means to get this far; He continues to open doors and shut others; He guides us to discover solutions for problems that we didn’t foresee coming; and, God has blessed us by sending people our way who have had the skills to help us grow. We have prayed for solutions and received them not because we are wise or faithful, but because God is.”
In addition to describing Karen as a wonderful wife and mother, Jeff says she is also a problem-solver, multitasker, committed, and dedicated—all attributes beneficial to not only growing a family, but also a business venture. “It’s been tough at times on all of us, but I do believe there is great benefit from kids being a part of building a business from the ground up,” says Karen.
Her daughter, Annaleigh, now 21 and a student at Belhaven University, is dedicated to pursuing her own meaningful career path, having watched her mother work so hard for hers. “She never quits and reminds me that there is always a way, and anything is possible through a lot of work and sacrifice,” Annaleigh says of her mother.
Karen’s son Allen, who is 25, started in the family business when he was 12, washing dishes and helping at farmers’ markets. “He’s a natural born salesman,” says Karen. “And who could resist a cute 12-year-old giving out samples of Crawfish Etouffée and Milky Way Cake?”
Today, Allen’s role as vice president of the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation is benefited from his years of experience with No Time 2 Cook. “If you want to run a successful business it takes risk, sacrifice, and family buy in,” he says. “These lessons have helped me in my career as an economic developer, on both a personal level as well as being able to understand the perspective of the companies I work with daily.”
Annaleigh and Allen are also grateful for the example their parents set in building this business along the guidelines of their faith. “Faith and prayer have always been central components in the development of this business,” Allen shares. “Many prayers have been answered over the years, but not always in the way we hoped or expected. Due to this, we have grown in our understanding and relationship with God.
“Witnessing her hard work and dedication to No Time 2 Cook has been both an inspiration and a unique learning experience,” adds Allen. “I am tremendously proud of her, and I feel like the luckiest son alive to be able to call her mom.”
Karen’s passion for cooking and family mealtime is undoubtedly drawn from her mother’s influence. “Years before No Time 2 Cook, Mama and I began talking and planning for the business I hoped to start one day,” Karen says. “When the opportunity finally came along, Mama was right up in the middle of things, searching through recipe boxes, cooking, and taking meticulous notes. She was my biggest supporter, listening and discussing business ideas for hours on end. We lost Mama to cancer two years ago, and words will never describe how much I miss her.”
Even with her kids grown now, Karen’s mission for No Time 2 Cook remains the same. “Today, after 12 years in business, when asked if I still like to cook, my answer is, ‘I love to cook, but my passion is helping bring families back to the dinner table.’”
Visit www.notime2cook.com. for more information.
Sandra Buckley is marketing director for a statewide economic development organization and also a freelance writer who, between these two roles, loves to promote the inspiring people, places, and potential of Mississippi. She and her husband, Bryan, live in Madison and are members of Madison United Methodist Church.