Fast, Easy Home-Cooked Food with Meez Meals

By Anthony Todd in Food on Apr 5, 2011 4:00PM

"I'm passionate about home cooking," says Meez founder Jen Moore. "So if someone takes my recipe, that's good for me. I got someone who wouldn't cook dinner to cook at home." Meez Meals, named for "Mise en Place," the array of pre-chopped and prepped ingredients chefs have at their disposal, is trying to make home cooking faster and easier - and possibly inspire some cooks to try new things. Customers order from a weekly menu of delicious dishes, and all the ingredients, portioned and prepped, are delivered to their doorstep. If you're busy, but still love to cook interesting food, Meez Meals is a great service for you - and Chicagoist readers get a discount on their first order.

We were a bit skeptical about the idea of a pre-prepped meal. For us, running our knife through vegetables or measuring out spices is the best part of cooking. But after a few nights of observation, we realized just how much time all of that prep takes. Meez cuts out that entire step - all three meals we tried were on the table, cooked from scratch, in less than 30 minutes. Meez doesn't use any processed materials or frozen tricks - just pre-cut, pre-portioned ingredients to save you time. Plus, as Moore pointed out to us, the hardest thing for a home cook can be breaking out of a rut and trying new things. Even if you only use the pre-portioned version of the dish once, you're being exposed to new flavors and new ingredients, and you have the recipe to keep.

Everything Meez delivers is vegetarian. As veggie-friendly eaters ourselves, we appreciate this, but for our carnivorous friends, the instructions have suggestions for adding meat to each dish. The lack of meat also means the meals have a longer refrigerator shelf life. According to Moore, the vast majority of her members aren't vegetarians, though many of them have encountered "meatless mondays" or enjoyed vegetarian restaruants. But they are looking for interesting vegetarian recipes, and Meez provides them, along with a little extra help. Moore remembers a customer who told her: "I didn't think i liked kale, but now i'm ordering all the kale dishes you have!" "People have had ingredients prepared a certain way all their lives, and they are discovering things that are new."

When you order from Meez, the first thing you have to decide is how many meals you want and how many mouths you need to feed. The service isn't meant to replace cooking, or to feed you every night - the best pricing deal is based on an order of three meals in a week. If you order that package, the price is $65 for three meals for two people. That is a bit expensive, but keep in mind that the recipes give you everything except salt, pepper and oil. So, if the recipe calls for a speciality ingredient that costs $9 a jar, you don't have to go out and buy it - just use the pre-measured amount in the Meez package.

What sorts of food do they offer? Meez has a new menu every week, and members get an email announcing the week's dishes. This week, they are offering parmesan french toast with roasted tomatoes and chipotle-glazed tofu with mashed sweet potatoes, as well as 3 other dishes. You can check out the menus for previous weeks on the site. In each package, customers get a spiral-bound cookbook, with detailed instructions for each dish and suggestions to help you customize it. Each meal also has accurate timing guidelines, so you know exactly how much time the meal will take from refrigerator to table.

Moore compares Meez Meals to the milkman of old. All the packaging is recyclable, and much of it is reused by the company. Each week, Meez will pick up the old box, cooling packs, insulation, and bags and re-use them. Meez delivers anywhere in the city of Chicago, and to some surrounding areas - check the website for details. You don't need a doorman - the meals are safe in their cooled packaging for up to 12 hours . Customers are also free to order for a week and then take a break. Frankly, we can't see ourselves becoming every-week customers of Meez Meals (since we have time to cook) but when we look at our calendars and see a busy week coming up, Meez is going to be on our speed dial.

Chicagoist readers - get $5 off your first order with Meez. Just mention that you are a reader of the site, and Meez will refund part of your purchase. No minimum order - any size. Give them a try.