I recently sat down with the creator of Meez Meals, Jen Moore, to learn about her Chicago-based meal delivery service which takes the guess work and prep work out of meal planning, but still allows for meals to be cooked at home. Stay tuned because tomorrow I will be posting about my experience using Meez Meals at home!
Why did you create Meez Meals?
I am passionate about all the wonderful things that happen when you cook from scratch. The appreciation you have for food when you see it come together from raw ingredients. The health benefits of knowing exactly what’s in your food. The community that happens when the family gathers in the kitchen when dinner’s cooking. It all adds up to something much more than food.
The reality, though, is that it’s a challenge to cook from scratch on top of our busy schedules, and I created Meez to make it possible for everyone to get the benefits of home cooking, even when busy schedules seem to make it impossible.
The idea for Meez Meals itself came when my sister, Holly, complained that cooking wasn’t fun anymore. Instead of being a source of pleasure, it had become just another chore to add to her already busy schedule as a working mother. Holly said she just wanted someone to cut up the ingredients for her to make cooking faster and easier.
I was a marketing executive at the time with brand management experiences from Unilever and Barilla and knew a good idea when I heard it, so I jumped on it. In 2010, Meez Meals was born.
Where did the name come from? What does it mean?
The name was inspired by the French phrase “mise en place,” which means having the prep work taken care of before it’s time to cook. I went with the phonetic “Meez” to make it more fun. At the heart of Meez Meals rests the idea that preparing a delicious home-cooked meal without the hassle of buying and chopping ingredients returns cooking to a place of gratifying satisfaction.
How are the weekly menu offerings developed?
I work closely with our chef to brainstorm ideas. These ideas come from ingredients we want to use more of, recipes we’ve seen on food blogs; flavor combinations from a favorite restaurant; suggestions from members; just about anywhere we can take inspiration.
Then we test the recipes in our test kitchen. Our chef provides a culinary take on the dish. I provide the view of the home cook and mom, and our process director ensures the meals can be scaled up for production. It’s a fun, exhausting session where we play with recipes over and over again until we have recipes we all love.
Then, we develop menus that feature a variety of ingredients, ethnicities, cook times, and flavors so that our members have a great selection to choose from each week.
Do you work with dieticians, chefs, or other culinary experts to create the dishes and to ensure that they are healthy?
Our meals are based on the type of cooking I like to do at home, which is led by a specific vegetable or vegetables. I then let the other ingredients complete the picture. We use tons of veggies compared to traditional recipes (or restaurant meals) and cook with whole grains whenever we can.
Then, we do a nutritional analysis on the recipes to ensure they are offer balanced nutrition. While our meals are naturally healthy, we also include “lighten up” tips for cooking every serving in under 500 calories, so that no matter someone’s diet, they can enjoy cooking with Meez.
Who are your target customers?
Anyone that enjoys a home cooked meal! This can range from the busy working parent who doesn’t have time to create a weeklong meal plan for the family; the single professional who’s tired after work but wants to have something delicious and healthy for dinner; just about anyone who appreciates the magic of cooking and wants to find the time to do it while still being able to enjoy the rest of their night. The people who cook with us love the idea of cooking from scratch, but find that too often life gets in the way.
Are the menu offerings adaptable to food allergies, dietary restrictions, and personal preferences?
Absolutely. Meals are created based on each person’s preferences, with plenty of options for those eating gluten-free, dairy-free or with specific ingredient preferences. We invite customers to share their personal allergies and dietary restrictions when ordering meals, and we customize meals for them. Whether it’s substituting mozzarella for blue cheese, holding the onions or sending gluten-free pasta, we love to make meals just right for each family.
Do you personally use Meez Meals? If so, what has been your favorite meal so far?
I love cooking with Meez, and it’s so hard to choose my favorites because I love them all. However, if pressed, I’d say our Chile Relleno Burrito, Toasted Gnocchi with Mint Basil Pesto & Butternut Squash and Triple Mushroom Flatbread with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce.
What sets Meez Meals apart from other food delivery services?
Lots of things! Chicago-based Meez Meals stands out from the local and national competition because we are the only major serve to prep the ingredients. People tell us again and again that the challenge is taking ingredients from their fridge and getting it to the stove. We take care of that hard part, so they can do the important part – the cooking.
In addition, we are proud to be the country’s only DIY meal kit to earn a Green Restaurant Association certification.
We’re also Chicago based and work with local partners, whether it’s bread from Bennison’s Bakery, tortillas from Tortillico or tofu from Phoenix Bean, we work with hometown suppliers. And because we’re local, that means meals are delivered from our local kitchen, not drop shipped overnight from New York or some other distant kitchen, keeping ingredients fresh and our environmental footprint green.
For your reference, here’s a chart that compares Meez Meals to our main competitors:
|Meez Meals||Blue Apron||Plated|
|New meals each week||✔||✔||✔|
|Delivery to your door||✔||✔||✔|
|Green Restaurant Association certified||✔|
|Reusable delivery containers||✔|
|Local partners and local messengers||✔|
Where are the components of each meal prepared?
We have a commercial kitchen in Evanston where all of our meals are prepared by Meez Meals Executive Chef Max Barajas and our team. The kitchen receives regular inspection visits from the Health Department and has all the essential Illinois Food Sanitation Licenses.
Is there a cost savings in using Meez Meals versus buying the ingredients at a grocery store?
Our customers tell us again and again they save money when they cook with Meez. Most people go to the store with great plans for cooking, then exhaustion sets in and they order emergency takeout and let those ingredients go to waste.
And, of course, buying ingredients for a recipe is not an exact science. You often need to buy a whole jar of something when you just need a few tablespoons. The rest of the container sits in the fridge until it needs to be tossed.
In fact, a recent study shows that an average family of four could save from $1,365 to $2,275 per month by cutting waste [source]. Meez Meals delivers measured servings to ensure there is no waste.
Additionally, grocery shopping takes an average of 41 minutes, which, when paired with the 30-60 minutes of meal preparation and cooking, ends up cutting out a significant chunk of time. Meez Meals is an affordable and convenient option that cuts your meal preparation time in half, offering you enough time to enjoy the rest of your night.
Here’s an infographic that summarizes the above:
Tell me about your partnership with Common Threads? What is Common Threads, why did you partner with them, and what do you do in conjunction with them?
We were thrilled to begin the Meals for Good program last November. The yearlong chef partnership offers consumers the opportunity to cook chef-inspired meals at home by delivering fully prepped ingredients and step-by-step instructions. All proceeds derived from the program support Common Threads, an after-school program that is meant to teach children and adults about nutrition and smart cooking.
Their mission is the same as ours – to make home cooking an everyday part of more people’s lives. It was a natural choice to partner with them on the great work they do.
What else would you like for the readers of Chritiques to know about Meez Meals?
One of the best parts of Meez is the notes we get from members telling us about what a difference we’ve made in their lives. Whether it’s getting home from a hard day and having a home cooked meal on the table, having kids who turn into adventurous eaters because they helped cook the meal, or that they’ve started turning off the TV and setting the table for dinner, members tell us we make their lives a little easier and dinnertime a little more special.
Stayed tuned for my Chritique of Meez Meals on the blog later this week!