Tiffin meals a recipe for success for both homemakers and workers

More and more homemakers across the country are setting up small businesses supplying home-cooked packed lunches to their neighbours and friends.

Badar Salman prepares an order of home-cooked dishes including dal, haleem and rice in her kitchen in Umm Al Quwain. Sarah Dea / The National
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DUBAI // South Asian women are bringing the culture of tiffin meals to an ever-growing number of people in this country.

The practice, in which they prepare traditional home-cooked meals to be delivered as packed lunches and dinners, is becoming a way for homemakers to earn some extra income.

One of these is Rebbeca Borde, a 29-year-old Indian who lives in Dubai.

“There are many expatriates from South Asia who do not have time to cook, and eating out is not a great option all the time. Plus they are used to their native food and want traditional food at home,” she said.

Ms Borde supplies lunch and dinner tiffin boxes to more than two dozen families, mainly Indians and Pakistanis.

They comprise a few different vegetables, some meat, bread and rice and the service costs about Dh350 a month.

“My day starts at 5am and by 8am my lunchboxes are ready to be delivered by my husband. Similarly, in the afternoon I start cooking dinner, and by 7pm they are ready to deliver,” Ms Borde said.

Two years ago, she was pursuing a career with a multinational company in Dubai. But after she had a baby, she found it impossible to continue her full-time job.

During her pregnancy, she often ordered food from restaurants.

“Very soon I realised that eating out was not a great option. I felt sick. But I had no other help who could make food for me, exactly the way I wanted.”

This led her to launch her own business.

“I am also a health-freak person, hence I thought instead of sitting idle at home I must cook for those who need fresh food and have no time to do so,” she said.

Ms Borde started cooking as a favour to friends but then they offered her money for it.

“I am not earning great amounts, but this money is helping me to cover the kitchen expenses, which is eventually a great support,” she said.

“The whole idea is to provide right food to the people as if it is made by their own loved ones.”

Her husband, Jackson Augustine, 31, who works for a private company, helps by delivering lunch and dinner boxes before and after work.

“It is certainly an extra responsibility on my shoulders but I feel good when our friends are delighted to receive hot, homemade food on their doorsteps,” he said.

Badar Salman, 35, a Pakistani homemaker, started supplying home-cooked food to her neighbours in Umm Al Quwain three years ago.

“My family and friends always appreciate my cooking and encouraged me to start my own biryani centre. But it was too big for me to dream. So I decided to start supplying home-cooked food to friends and neighbours who are too busy to spend time in the kitchen,” she said.

Ms Salman said she earns pocket money through her cooking but sometimes this does not cover her costs.

“People have strange attitudes. They are ready to pay more for not-so-healthy and tasty food in the restaurants, but always argue with women like us who cook according to their demands,” she said.

“There have been times I have not been able to cover the grocery cost from the payments.”

Jagadish Nayak, 29, an Indian mechanical engineer in Dubai, orders lunch and dinner boxes from Ms Borde.

“I always prefer homemade food. I cannot cook by myself as I have no time. So such homemade food is a blessing.

“ They are not only better in taste but healthier when compared to any restaurant,” he said.

Mr Nayak said he heard about Ms Borde’s food from his roommate and gym instructor.

“I feel Dubai needs more such services. Eating from restaurants every day not only damages your health but is also expensive,” he said.