The following is a guest blog post by local Chicago writer and illustrator, Emily Torem.
It's that time of year. Life gets - well, busy. And sometimes, even thought you might not like to admit it, our hectic lives (whether during the holidays or not) might get in the way of slowing down to enjoy a quality, healthy, fresh cooked, or even locally sourced meal. Meez Meals founder Jen Moore realized that working parents, busy people and practically everyone in between could relate to this struggle. Her idea, to found a company which delivers prepped and pre-measured ingredients to homes all over Chicago helps scores of busy folks slow down and sit down to a delicious dinner each night with friends and family. Moore's facility is one of the prized few in Chicago to be a Certified Green Restaurant Association location and her mission helps connect subscribers with their food, the people around them, and being present in a fast paced world - something that speaks to the very core of the Slow Food Chicago mission. Read on for our interview with Jen and to learn more about how Meez Meals is helping it's Chicago members reconnect with mealtime. As we close out the year, many of us had the pleasure of gathering with family and friends around a communal table to enjoy a meal together during the holiday season. With the help of companies like Jen's, this act of slowing down and enjoying your food can become habit the whole year through.
How did Meez Meals come about?
I was working in brand management at Unilever when my sister and I were talking about dinner, and what a challenge it is. We grew up with a mother who cooked dinner from scratch for us every night, and we both loved cooking. But as a working mom with a small child at home, my sister said that preparing dinner wasn't any fun anymore. She didn't want someone to cook for her, she just wanted someone to do all the prep work.
It was like a lightbulb went off - that was a business that should exist. So, I left my job in marketing to start Meez!
How do you come up with Meez Meals recipes?
Our recipes are all fun and creative, typically with a twist on a classic to make it healthier, faster or just a little unexpected. This means that cooking with us is always a culinary adventure, and dinner is more fun than just cooking up your same mental inventory of recipes.
To develop the recipes, I work closely with our chef, brainstorming twists on recipes I've discovered in my own cooking, favorites from his personal repertoire, requests from members, articles we've read, restaurant menus we've tasted. Basically, any place we can get ideas, we do!
How does your work with Meez Meals relate to the Slow Food objectives (good, clean, fair)?
Most people love the idea of cooking dinner from scratch. They know that there's something special about it, but it's just too hard for so many of us because of the realities of life. After long hours at work, helping the kids with homework, getting laundry in, dinner just seems to fall to the bottom of the priority list. I founded Meez to help make it possible for people to do what they've been wanting to: enjoy sitting down to a meal they cooked themselves.
So many people go to the grocery store each week with great intentions of cooking dinner and buy all the necessary ingredients, only to find that they don't actually feel like cooking, and much of their purchases end up spoiling before they get to them. Or, they have an entire head of cauliflower and the recipe only calls for half, and they let the other half go bad before they use it up.
As a certified Green Restaurant Association location, can you walk us through how you got this certification and some of the green aspects of your business?
We reached out to the Green Restaurant Association for our certification 2 years ago. In our first year, we were certified as a 2-star green restaurant. And then this year, we achieved the 3-star rating. (We're just 1 of 10 organizations in Chicagoland to meet this level, and we're proud of our achievement!)
Some of our "green" efforts include:
-Composting food waste - Meez Meals takes a proactive stance in reducing waste by composting kitchen waste and adhering to comprehensive recycling activities, including donations to local food banks.
-Reusing delivery containers - Meez Meals reuses its insulated cooler bags every week. Through its personalized delivery service, previously used coolers are collected each week to be cleaned and reused for future deliveries.
-Meatless meals - A large number of Meez Meals are meatless, which translates to lower carbon dioxide emissions and water usage, making it a smart choice for the Earth and personal health.
-Cage-free chicken and responsibly fished seafood : Our recipes which do include meat use only hormone-free, cage free chicken and responsibly fished seafood.
-Water and electrical efficiency : Meez Meals uses low-flow plumbing fixtures and energy-saving features in it's production facility.
-Local, routed deliveries : Meezl Meals delivers to a 1,000 square-mile area around Chicagoland in efficiently routed deliveries, minimizing the carbon footprint to deliver meals from it's facility.
-Sourcing local : We work with local suppliers, particularly for our produce. We stay in regular contact about the produce market, what's had a good crop, where we need to adjust our recipes, etc.
Obviously you appreciate the importance of sitting down to a meal and communing - two things that Slow Food is all about. Can you explain why this is important - so much that you created a business model around it?
Research abounds that families that sit down and eat together end up happier and healthier. Beyond those studies, though, we all know something special happens when families slow down and take time together. The challenge in this day and age is getting folks to slow down. We've found that when the house has been filled with wonderful smells of food cooking, when someone has taken some time to prepare the meal, people are just more likely to sit down together and talk. Dinner becomes about more than the food. It's an occasion and a time in your day to be savored, not rushed through.