are wonderful time-savers and they help new and experienced chefs learn new kitchen skills and recipes. But you still have to do the cooking. If that's not something you're interested in -- or you just need a break every once in a while -- a healthy prepared meal service might be a better pick. Ready-to-eat meal subscriptions are hitting the market in a big way: You can think of them as TV dinners except the food is generally much better, prepared fresh without all the preservatives and sent to you immediately to be popped in the freezer or eaten right away. , , and are just a few I've tried -- and liked -- and all of them deliver fully prepared lunches and dinners at a frequency of your choosing to save for days when cooking from scratch is implausible, unthinkable or, put simply, just not going to happen.
, which occasionally self-brands as Factor75 or sometimes Factor_ (yes, with the underscore) for reasons that still remain unclear, is a newer prepared-meal service that's gaining in popularity. The premise is healthy, tasty and freshly cooked meals that show up weekly to save you time and help you keep any health, diet and nutrition goals you may have set for the year.
While each of the prepared meal services I've looked into has sought to carve out a niche in the growing category, Factor emphasizes healthy, high-protein meals that would fit into any number of low-carb or low-calorie diets, perfect for athletes in training, the fitness-minded or folks like me who are simply trying to eat less pasta in quarantine. With a number of other delivery services looking to capture a similar audience, I wanted to see how Factor's healthy meals stacked up in a taste test, and so I ate my way through a week's worth of prepared lunches and dinners. Here's what I found out.
- Interesting menu items with good flavor and seasoning.
- Some of the best prepared meals I've tried.
- Tons of meal options per week to fit any diet.
- Meals were inconsistent at times.
- Some meats were tough and not tender.
How Factor works
Factor is a prepared meal subscription service -- meaning, no cooking -- that sends boxes of freshly made meals (breakfast, lunches and dinners) to your door every week. You can choose four, six, eight, 12 or 18 meals per week, and the price per meal drops significantly the more you order. As with just about every meal kit or meal delivery service, you can pause or cancel your Factor subscription at any time so you won't be trapped by a long-term commitment.
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Once you pick a plan, you can either select your own meals from a rotating menu of about 20 meal options per week or let Factor pick the meals for you and be surprised. There are also smaller add-on meals and snacks categorized in the Factor Plus section, including desserts, soups, shakes and cold-pressed juices, which you can tack on to any order at an additional cost.
Factor meals are cooked by actual humans in a kitchen, according to the brand's website. They're also packaged and delivered fresh rather than frozen as with some services, though it's recommended to stick any meals in the freezer if it'll be more than a few days before eating them.
What are Factor meals like?
With just a quick scan of Factor's website and menu, it is quite clear the company is targeting the health, fitness and diet crowds. You won't find any splurge meals with mashed potatoes or pasta, but rather lots of lean proteins like chicken and salmon along with greens, cauliflower, grains, beans and other high-protein, low-calorie foods.
Most meals are somewhere in the range of 500 to 800 calories, and there are plenty of meals that are keto- and paleo-friendly, with about six or seven vegetarian meals per week. You can use filters to search for meals that fit your taste, nutrition and diet preferences, with categories like keto, low-calorie, high-protein, dairy-free and spicy.
Some of Factor's meals are simple and straightforward, such as grilled chicken breast over cauliflower mash with a side of Brussels sprout or green beans, while others are a little more exciting with bold sauces, seasonings and sides. Each meal from the regular menu is intended to be one serving, and they are adequate but not abundant so don't expect leftovers.
How much do Factor meals cost?
For the maximum number of meals per week (18) the cost breaks down to $11 per meal. If you order the smallest number of meals (four) it'll be $15 per meal, and all the meal plans in between are prorated accordingly.
How my Factor meals stacked up
I ordered a week's worth of Factor meals and allowed Factor to choose for me. I found most to be generally tasty with a few duds, as well as a few that really exceeded my expectations. Here is what I had and how I liked each one.
Keto cheesecake with pistachios and raspberry sauce: This was incredibly delicious and maybe one of the best low-sugar, keto-friendly desserts I've ever had. It was a Factor Plus add-on (not a normal meal), so it came as a full tray of cheesecake and probably enough for six people. I served it at an intimate dinner with my pandemic pod and it was devoured with gusto. I never even let on that it was low-sugar (monk fruit sweetener in place of sugar) and I suspect they had no idea.
Keto burger with mushroom gravy and parmesan cauliflower mash: The burger had good flavor but was a bit tough, even when reheated gently in a frying pan. The mushroom gravy and cauliflower mash were really tasty, and I'd guess both had a fair amount of butter.
Pulled pork with broccoli rabe and cauliflower mash: This was the most disappointing meal I tried. The pulled pork was very tough and borderline inedible.
Pesto salmon over creamy spinach with green beans: A very solid meal with tender salmon that tasted fresh. The pesto was a welcome burst of flavor without overpowering the dish.
Keto chorizo chili: Another dish I liked a lot with good flavor and spice. An excellent meal to freeze if you're not ready to eat it right away.
Peanut buddha bowl with sweet potato: This meal wasn't terribly exciting, but the peanut sauce was good and the sweet potato was cooked to the proper doneness.
The final verdict on Factor meal delivery
Factor had some of the best meals I've tried in my testing of prepared meal services, like the blissful keto cheesecake and zesty pesto salmon. On the flip side, I found Factor to be a little more inconsistent than some other services I've tried --and to name two. The highs were high but the lows proved fairly low, so this meal delivery service might involve some growing pains as you figure out what it does well and what it doesn't.
That said, Factor has a big focus on healthy meals with lots of low-carb options, so if you're willing to withstand a few duds while learning what you like and what you don't, this could be a great prepared meal service for both your 2021 nutrition and time-saving goals. With all the keto and paleo meal options, it is certainly a solid choice for people keeping to either of those plans.
In terms of cost, any of these services will be more expensive than cooking at home from scratch, but at around $12 per serving when you order in bulk, Factor proves one of the more affordable options among the prepared-meal delivery set. I'd say give it a shot if you're considering Factor since you can easily cancel anytime if you're not pleased.
One big heating hack to leave you with
This reheating trick of mine applies to every prepared meal service I've tried, not just Factor. Try not to heat any of the meals in the microwave if you can help it, with perhaps the exception of certain sides like mashed cauliflower or rice. For chicken and veggie bowls as well as stir-fries, simply toss the dish in a nonstick skillet for a few minutes, covered over low heat along with the sauce before serving. (Yes, you'll have a single pan to rinse -- but I promise it's worth it.)
For larger pieces of chicken, steak, salmon and pork loins you can also use the low-and-slow skillet method, but add a splash of water or chicken broth to bring some of that life and moisture back. Or cover them in foil and reheat them in your convection oven (also on low -- no more than 300 degrees Fahrenheit) or a. You can thank me later.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.