Since moving to Victoria from Lithuania 12 years ago, Igor Duda has gone from a sous chef at the Marriot to a business owner, curating his own meal plans and delivering to customers’ front doors each week.
For close to six years, Duda has run FreeBeets, a meal-prep delivery service offering healthy food options for people on the go. Now, FreeBeets has opened a storefront in a heritage home on Amelia street in downtown Victoria.
“You just drop in, pick up your favourite meals, and you don’t even have to wash your dishes—everything’s recyclable,” he said.
FreeBeets offers a weekly delivery subscription where you can choose your own meals, like a sweet potato curry or a beet poke bowl. Meal plans range from vegetarian to the Eat Clean Get Lean plan, which includes dishes such as a traditionally-Mexican beef barbacoa dish, among others.
As opposed to HelloFresh or Chef’s Plate, FreeBeets provides a meal plan for you, and you can choose which plan best suits your needs—or order at will. In fact, Duda worked with a nutritionist from Rugby Canada to make sure FreeBeets meal plans were consistent with a variety of dietary needs.
“We have vegetarian options. We have vegan options. We have balanced meals,” he said. “For somebody who wants to lead a healthy lifestyle, but has so much going on, we can help.”
With the newest storefront, now customers can drop in and purchase individual meals to-go. Duda said he’s made FreeBeets “even more convenient.”
“People [or] professionals can just swing by, grab the meal, go back to work,” Duda said. “And, you know, still have nice, good quality tasting food.”
In Lithuania, a farmer’s market is as common as a brunch place in Victoria. “Every village [in Lithuania] produces its own cheeses, and each farm has amazing quality meats,” Duda said. “And we have lots of villages.”
That’s why sourcing from local farmers was a no-brainer for Duda. “We work with a few farms here [on Vancouver Island],” he said. “It’s important to keep it local—coffee, vegetables, meat.”
While Free Beets doesn’t offer Lithuanian food specifically, Duda told Tasting Victoria that Lithuanian dishes typically include a lot of locally farmed produce, like potatoes, onions, and of course, beets.
One popular dish from Lithuania that Duda said his family made is cold borscht: a thick yogurt-based soup with grated and boiled beets, fresh cucumber, and green onions. When it’s plated, the soup has this delectably vibrant pink hue that dances wonderfully with sour cream and dill garnish.
To order from FreeBeets check out its website here, or pop into the new storefront at 1527 Amelia St.