Andy Hanacek

I’m a big, big fan of two things that, until now, appeared unrelated. First, I’m a fan of giving credit to those who truly deserve it. Second, I like to cook and do most of the cooking in our household.

The connection? Allow me to give big-time kudos to Jewel-Osco supermarkets for jumping on board a trend that many have prophesized would come to fruition: making meals easy for shoppers.

Jewel’s new promotion, it’s “4:15” program, in the words of the company’s Web site, offers “real dinner combinations your family will love — and for less than $15.” Every two weeks, Jewel features a new, complete meal that is “easy, quick and delicious.”

You might call me crazy (or maybe even lazy, and not just because it rhymes), but this is a tremendous breakthrough for someone like me. I wouldn’t call it laziness, per se, but how much easier is it for me to pick up the latest “4:15” combination than to rifle through oodles of recipes, write down all the pieces I need and then hunt for them throughout the store?

I’ve already taken advantage of two or three of these promotional meals. One or two of them have even led me to get creative, adding my own spices and additional ingredients to the dishes.

What’s the point? Well, this type of promotion is a long time coming. Since my days on our sister publication, Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery, talk of this type of strategy rustled through the industry, but I had never seen it put into motion. Previous attempts at assisting consumers at the retail level involved creating the dishes for them and selling them under heat lamps (think rotisserie chicken, for example) — leaving foodies and culinarians who enjoy working in the kitchen to feel dissatisfied, carrying a complete, hot meal home to family.

This brings the fun back to the kitchen in a convenient, simple fashion — it also has a catchy name and quite the promotional oomph behind it. Furthermore, the price is very attractive to me (even though I’m only serving a family of two adults currently).

I certainly hope more retailers adopt this strategy, and that Jewel-Osco expands it beyond meal staples. If so, you’ll find me at my nearby Jewel more frequently around 4:30 p.m., buying a 4:15 for dinner for that evening.