Busy people in charge of feeding themselves, which is most of them, generally seek to maximize nutrition and enjoyment while keeping down the cost and hassle. Primealete Nutrition, a new meal-prep service on South University, is quickly catching on as a grab-and-go option that touches all four bases. According to owner Lina Alyaqoobi, it’s selling between 700 and 1,000 meals per day, mostly to convenience-minded students and moms.

Entrepreneur and future dentist Lina Alyaqoobi says Primealete is already selling between 700 and 1,000 prepared meals per day, mostly to
convenience-minded students and moms.

“Someone else is cooking for you, and it’s healthy, convenient; it’s portions where you don’t overeat,” says Alyaqoobi of Primealete’s appeal. Ten to fifteen dishes are cooked fresh daily at the company’s Dearborn kitchen and dispatched to nine metro Detroit locations for on-the-spot selection and reheating.

Top choices so far are dishes featuring chicken meatballs (no dark meat). Everything’s halal and low in sodium; however, vegetarian entrées didn’t sell well and so are not currently offered. A minute or so in the microwave, on site or elsewhere, and they’re ready to eat.

Single meals are $6 apiece, but Alyaqoobi says many “come back about a week later to purchase a big plan” that reduces the average price to below $4. Subscriptions range from five to twenty meals, while prepaid plans run all the way from fifty ($190) to 420 meals ($1,381), which can be claimed at any Primealete location.

It’s a service she wishes had been available back in 2018, when she lived across the street in the Landmark Apartments as a U-M undergrad. “I used to [do] meal prep on Sundays, and it was very awkward with my roommates, because they needed to use the kitchen and—I don’t know if you’ve tried meal prepping—it’s a lot of work. You’re cooking for the whole week.”

Alyaqoobi, thirty-one, knows a bit about adapting to challenges: She survived two wars in her native Iraq. She was a fine student who aspired to dentistry, but then an older cousin “was kidnapped from his aunt on his way to college,” she recalls. “So [my family], they’re like, no more college, you can’t go to college.”

She made her way to the states in 2012 to assist a pregnant sister who had emigrated with her husband, an Iraqi-American soldier in the U.S. Army. She fell in love with an American, Haydir Alabbasi, and they married a year later.

Alabassi was on board with her professional ambitions, but it was another two years until she was permitted to work or study here. She used the time to take free ESL classes at Fair Haven Assembly of God in Dearborn Heights and soon was volunteering to tutor fellow immigrants in English. Even when her green card finally came through, she says, the U-M wouldn’t consider an application based on her high school education in Iraq; she proved herself by excelling at Henry Ford College.

On a date night to Ann Arbor, the couple ate at a S. Main St. restaurant resembling her first name, the now-closed Lena, and she sensed this city was in her future. “I’d never seen an American college that you see in the movies back in Iraq!” she marvels in retrospect. “I told him, ‘Haydir, this is the only school I’m gonna apply to. I’m not applying to Wayne State, nothing else. I either get into the school, or I’m gonna reapply every year.’

“I got in with a full scholarship. I was so happy. And then I applied again to dental school, and I got accepted. So [making healthy food for U-M students] is the least I can do.”

Meanwhile, Alyaqoobi’s meal-prepping passion became a profession through a friendship with Primealete founder Amine Zreik, and she’s partnering with him through its growth. This is the second Primealete location she and Alabbasi manage, following success in Canton Twp.

“So the plan is to do ten across Michigan, but the thing is, I’m very picky about the location,” she conveys. The choice for their first Washtenaw County site was strategic from several angles. Word-of-mouth among both students and medical campus professionals has led to sign-ups, and parking on South U for a quick pickup is a bit easier east of Forest Ave.

The couple are raising two young children, so with two more years of grad school ahead of Alyaqoobi, they recently moved to an apartment above the store—just a six-minute walk from the dental school. The move “was the best thing ever,” she enthuses. “I go to school, and then I finish my classes, and then I hang out with the kids, and I help here.

“It’s the Michigan difference, right? You have to go all in, one hundred percent efficiency!”

Primealete Nutrition, 1307 South University. (734) 431–3045. Daily 11 a.m.–7 p.m. primealeteannarbor.com