Like many, when I don't feel like cooking, I will get take-out because it's fast and easy. Rarely do I get pre-packaged meals like frozen dinners or the packaged meals at Trader Joe's because well even though I like the convenience especially to bring food to work, most of these pre-packaged meals taste like crapola. Yeah, harsh, but I feel like I'm eating phood instead of food.
The game has now changed. Tomorrow, June 13, Fresh and Easy launches 150 new meals into their markets in California, Arizona, and Nevada as they transition from your typical grocery store to a "meal store."
What is a meal store you ask? Well, before I get to that, enjoy some Chicken Al Pastor and Beef Colorado mini street tacos.
A meal store is a wonderful place where you can get pre-made dishes inspired by chefs cooked with fresh ingredients from California farms with zero to minimal preservatives. In fact, here are the chefs. They are friendly real people not made up marketing figures.
All the meals are cooked and packaged in a new kitchen facility in Southern California and come cold like salads or are heatable like the Eggplant Napoli in a microwave or stove, so you get instant gratification. All meals go from the kitchen facility to the store shelf within 24 hours to maximize freshness.
The meal store is like having four restaurants under one roof: American, Italian, Asian, and Mexican. Healthier meal options will also be featured with Fresh and Easy's existing Eat Well line, but new dishes won't be out for a few more weeks.
With the meal store, Fresh and Easy will offer appetizers, sides, entrees, and family size dishes ranging from $1.99 to $9.99. That's some great pricing, and cheaper than getting take-out from a restaurant.
Fresh and Easy is taking pre-made foods to a new level. If you thought the pre-made dishes at Trader Joe's were good, you'll be blown away by the Fresh and Easy meals. I was!
My favorite of the samplings we got to taste at their preview event was this Garlic Shrimp and Caprese Salad on Arugula. I could eat a whole pound of that shrimp, which can be eaten cold or heated. I'd throw that garlic shrimp on top of some linguine for a dinner meal.
I was impressed that Fresh and Easy pushed some culinary boundaries like with this Texan Blueberry Pork.
And here, for Asian fare, we have some Eggplant Stir Fry, and a Kung Pao Chicken that is packed with Pow! (heat) Pre-made foods tend to stay mild to medium in spicy heat. Not this dish. For those who like hot, you'll dig this Kung Pao Chicken.
And there you have a quick sneak peak into the 150 new meals that Fresh and Easy will start offering tomorrow. For a company that is only 5 years old, I am impressed with what Fresh and Easy is doing with this meal store concept. Not all the dishes are great or will wow but that's okay, these folks are off to a great start with good intentions. They are incredibly open to feedback to make the meals better.
On a final note, the Fresh and Easy folks also shared that all of their store interiors will be redone to something more lively like this...
I was happy to hear that news because I never understood the cold warehouse feeling of the stores with the cheap looking steel shelving because it was off from their gorgeous product packaging and corporate look and feel. Well, that's all going to change too.
Head to Fresh and Easy, and try some of their new meal store meals, and let us know what you think!
Note: I took all the food photos on my iPhone 4 on one of the white table cloth covered tables in the large conference room at Fresh and Easy HQ where their preview event was held. It's amazing what the iPhone can do!