In my previous post, I talked about food delivery services. These are powerful tools and having food delivered works well in many situations. There are also many different meal delivery services to choose from – many of which are perfect for seniors.
Yet, if you want prepared meals for seniors, these aren’t the only options. Instead, there are some other services that work just as well, if not better. After all, needs can vary dramatically and no single approach will work for everyone.
In this post, we’re looking at the advantages of meal delivery services and alternatives for when they’re not a good fit.
Why Have Meals Delivered?
Meal delivery services are powerful and they offer a range of benefits for seniors and for caregivers. These include the following:
- Delivered meals tend to be healthy and nutritious. This is much better than processed and packaged food from the grocery store, which often becomes the go-to for seniors who can’t cook anymore (or don’t want to).
- Low Stress. Having meals delivered is simple and less stressful than needing to cook. This also means seniors don’t have to plan their meals or shop for ingredients.
- Social contact. Most home delivery services involve some social contact, even if it’s just for a few minutes. In many cases, the people delivering will make conversation with the senior as well. This is valuable, especially for homebound seniors.
- Dietary needs are met. Many services offer diet-specific plans, including low salt and diabetic options. This helps make sure seniors stick to a diet that helps them, without having to plan it for themselves.
- If you prepare meals for your family member, then having food delivered is a natural time-saver. This can mean one (or more) meals that you don’t have to make each day.
- Peace of Mind. When your family member is getting food delivered, you don’t have to worry about accidents. You can also be sure they’re getting the nutrition they need, even if you’re not visiting them every day.
But, there are some limitations too.
For one thing, many services only provide one meal per day. This is enough to make life easier. But, for seniors who can’t cook safely, it isn’t a complete solution.
Additionally, the food provided won’t always match what the senior wants. For example, some Meals on Wheels providers tend to offer fairly bland food, partly because the meals are low in salt. The food also has to be prepared in bulk, which limits what may be served too.
Don’t get me wrong… Some home delivery services offer amazing food and there are some good chefs involved. But, that won’t always be the case.
And, even if the food is good, it won’t be tailored to the senior in question. That’s a problem if they have specific needs or are simply a picky eater.
Delivered food also just provides brief social contact and can encourage seniors to be recluses. After all, if they don’t need to leave the house to eat or shop, what incentive is there? Isolation is a serious problem for seniors as-is and poses significant health risks.
Thankfully, there are some other options you can consider.
Alternatives to Meal Delivery Services
Senior centers often have nutrition programs of some form, which might include delivered meals. But, some will also on-site programs, where seniors can enjoy a cooked meal at the center.
For example, some senior centers will offer a lunch every day, along with special meals for some occasions (like Christmas). Costs vary but you’re often just paying a donation, rather than a large fee.
This style offers more social contact and offers the chance to get out of the house. Some centers may even pick the senior up and drop them off.
This is a very location-specific option, so you’ll need to see what your local area offers. Even so, it’s a useful alternative and is often inexpensive.
Hiring a Personal Chef (or Chef Service)
A different option is to hire a personal cook or chef. This person will cook in the home, offering higher-quality and more personalized meals than most delivery services.
How this works depends on the service and your decisions.
For example, the chef might come once a week and cook enough food to last until their next visit. This could include some meals to be eaten soon and others that go in the freezer. Alternatively, they may come every few days and cook less food each time.
You don’t need to hire a chef either. You could just look for someone with decent cooking skills. But, make sure you vet any candidates closely. After all, this person will be in the house with your family member, so you need to make sure they’re reliable and not a threat.
Some services aim to make this process easier. One is Chefs for Seniors, which is a franchise that operates like the name suggests. You can see their promo video below.
Costs vary depending on who you hire and your arrangements. But, on average, this is a more expensive option than most other alternatives. It may still be worth it, as the style offers a number of key advantages. These include:
- Companionship. The senior has the chance to spend at least an hour with the chef as they cook. This can often be a time for conversation and connection. That type of one-on-one connection is incredibly valuable – and you can focus on choosing a chef your family member gets along with.
- The senior can help. Many chefs will be open to having the senior help in the kitchen. This can make your family member feel effective and means someone there to make sure no accidents happen.
- Tailored meals. With this approach, the meals prepared are tailored to the senior. This gives them the chance to request specific dishes and to help organize the meal plan. Some chefs will be more flexible than others, so it’s important to make your expectations clear from the beginning.
- Better food. On average, food prepared like this will be higher quality and tastier. If nothing else, the meals are prepared individually, not in bulk. Plus, programs like Meals on Wheels often focus on cost-saving (by necessity), which can impact food quality.
Grocery Stores and Restaurants
You can also look for unconventional meal delivery options. For example, many restaurants will do delivery and grocery stores offer this service too. With grocery stores, you can easily focus on ready-to-eat food, such as roasted chicken and salads from the deli department.
These options are better for specific situations, rather than daily solutions. Still, they are another direction to consider.
Meal Kits and Cooking Classes
If the senior can safely cook but chooses not to, you can also promote cooking in various ways.
One option is cooking classes. There are many aimed at seniors. Some teach the basics while others focus on more advanced skills and senior-specific nutrition requirements. Such classes can also be fun, giving seniors the chance to interact with others.
If you’re interested in this idea, some senior centers will offer courses. Even if they don’t, they may know of places that do.
Another approach is meal kits. These are similar to meal delivery services but you’re not getting premade meals. Instead, the services provide the various ingredients, along with instructions and the like.
This can be a great way to inspire seniors about cooking and get them trying out new dishes. Because the ingredients are delivered, the approach is very convenient and cuts down grocery shopping needs.
A prominent example is Blue Apron, which is incredibly popular.
The meals here aren’t designed with seniors in mind but they can work well for that audience. The cost comes to roughly $10 per serving. That’s more expensive than some delivered meals but it can still be worthwhile.
Caregivers might also order the boxes and cook themselves – using them as a timesaving tool.
Another couple of companies in the field are Hello Fresh and Chef’d. The patterns are similar, although Chef’d offers multiple types of meals. There are other options as well, including some that are better suited for seniors than others.
The style is also perfect for seniors with mobility issues that still love cooking. It gives them the chance to be independent and make their own food