When TV dinners appeared in the 1950s, they were popular among families and singles who didn’t want to cook for themselves. Loaded with salt, poor-quality ingredients and processed foods, they were far from healthy. Today’s prepared meals are even more convenient as they are delivered, with a focus now on healthy meals. They are made with fresh ingredients and packaged to be reheated in the microwave in three minutes. It’s the perfect option for busy people who want portion control or meals that follow a specific diet plan.
These pre-cooked meals are distinguished from “meal kits” like those from Hello Fresh or Blue Apron. Meal kits deliver all the pre-measured ingredients that you still have to cut and cook. There are more options available than just the three I tried, but the other services were cost-prohibitive, running upwards of $200 to $300 per week.
The first delivery I received was Freshly. The website advertises that meals are low sugar, nutrient-dense and use fewer processed foods. In other words, it is real food that is healthier than the average frozen meal. Meals are gluten-free. Subscribers can choose from meal plans that include: Better Bowls, Everyday Dishes, Freshly Faves, Seasonal Meals, Nutritionist Picks or Chef Curated.
The name Freshly made me hopeful that I would get tasty fresh meals, but that was not the case. Low sodium meals could have been offset with other herbs and spices to add flavor, but the Freshly meals were bland. The Parmesan Chicken was simply a tomato sauce on chicken with no Italian spices. The Turkey and Mushroom Meatloaf showed no indications of mushrooms unless it had been added to a food processor and mixed in with the Turkey.
What’s more, the vegetables in most meals were over-cooked. Mushy gray broccoli accompanied the chicken meal and the creamy cashew coconut veggies; the Turkey Meatloaf had frozen peas.
On the flip side, most of the meats were moist. The Mahi-Mahi was juicy and did not taste too fishy. The cauliflower mash with the meatloaf tasted close to mashed potatoes.
Still, when I asked a couple of friends who’ve tried Freshly about it, their sour faces said it all. Freshly offers an initial discount for the first two weeks of delivery. After that, four meals run $50 per week, six meals are $60, nine meals are $90, and twelve meals are $108. Contact: freshly.com.
Factor Factor (formerly Factor 75) offers high-quality, 100% natural ingredients. All produce is fresh and organic. Meats and eggs are pasture-raised and grass-fed, and fish is either wild-caught or BAP (Best Aquaculture Practices) certified and sustainable.
The names of the meals were already more promising than those from Freshly. Garlic Tomato Shrimp, Lemon Rosemary Chicken Breast, Smoky Pecan Salmon all suggested flavorful meals. Indeed they were. The Garlic Shrimp was delicious, with jumbo, juicy shrimp with no fishy flavor. Within the first few bites, my son and I knew that we couldn’t wait to have this again. The shrimp came with steamed broccoli. It had been perfectly blanched, bright green and firm. Likewise, the Smokey Pecan Salmon was juicy and delicious (and low in sodium) on a bed of quinoa. The accompanying young carrots were perfectly cooked with a hint of ginger.
Factor allows you to rate your meals. I didn’t love the Rosemary Chicken and indicated it in the ratings. Factor’s customer service sent me an email letting me know that my next order would be credited to make up for the unsatisfactory meal.
Factor places a strong emphasis on diet and nutrition. You can choose from several meal plans, including Keto, Paleo, High Protein, Low Calorie, Low Carb, Dairy-Free, and Spicy. Each subscription includes a free 20-minute consultation with a certified nutritionist.
During the call, the nutritionist will ask about your goals and make dietary suggestions for a whole eating plan. Note that the nutritionists are available via email to answer questions for every Factor customer.
Prices for the meals are a bit higher: $60 for four meals per week, $77 for six, and $200 for a full 18 meal plan. Factor also offers packages that include nutritional counseling where you can speak to a nutritionist twice a month. While that is steep, introductory discounts bring the cost down below the standard price of food, plus it includes the nutritionist. Contact: try.factor75.com.
Trifecta also emphasizes nutritional meals for dieters and performance athletes. You can pick from vegan, clean, paleo, classic, vegetarian, or a la carte ingredients suitable for families. The food is organic, and Trifecta claims to be the “largest all-organic meal delivery service.” Meals include high-quality, grass-fed meats and wild-caught fish with no additives.
I chose the Clean meals plan—well rounded minimally processed meals with the most variety. The meals are vacuum packed, and while the names of the dishes sounded tasty and there were spices listed among the ingredients, the flavor fell short of the promise. The Pasta Primavera with ground beef was OK though dry and tasted better when I added garlic.
As with Factor, there is a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Customer service refunded the price of meals that I couldn’t eat because I’m allergic to green peppers. Contact: trifectanutrition.com.
If you are busy or don’t want to figure out what meals fit into your diet, these services are convenient. All offer deals to get started and have satisfaction guarantees.