If your elderly parents live far away and you’re looking for a way to help them put hot food on the table, consider taking advantage of meal services. The following five options are great for seniors who can’t regularly cook for themselves or get to the grocery store. These services are available across the United States and can be tailored to meet specific needs (diets, cost, frequency of delivery, etc.). Some meals are shipped frozen, while others can be picked up hot from local senior centers.
1. Meals On Wheels
Meals On Wheels is the largest national provider of senior meal services. The umbrella organization is composed of 5,000 nutrition programs found in towns and cities across the country. In some counties, Meals On Wheels is the only service that distributes meals to the homebound, according to the organization.
Delivery: Some community programs distribute to local senior centers, while others deliver meals directly to the homes of seniors with limited mobility. Look for available services in your parents’ area through the Find a Meal tool on the organization’s website.
Cost considerations: Cost varies depending on the program branch, but if you’re unable to pay the full price, you may be eligible for financial assistance through individual Meals on Wheels programs.
2. Personal Chef to Go
Personal Chef to Go delivers lunches and dinners that follow the American Heart Association’s guidelines for healthy living. Meals designed for couples, singles or families also incorporate ethnic flavors such as Mediterranean, Asian or Latin American.
Delivery: You can sign up for weekly or biweekly shipments to your parents’ home.
Cost considerations: Meal plans start at $70 (plus shipping) for a five-meal sampler and go up to $175 (plus shipping) for a 16-meal plan. Most dietary restrictions can be accommodated without extra charges, says Blair Grossman, chef and co-owner of Personal Chef to Go.
MagicKitchen.com, based in Los Altos, California, prides itself on delivering handmade, homestyle main dishes, desserts, soups and sides. “We don’t do gourmet-style food. We make the kinds of things people would have had during Sunday dinner with family or friends at home when they were growing up,” says CEO Greg Miller. The frozen-meal service also can accommodate special dietary needs including low-sodium, diabetic, renal, dialysis and portion-controlled diets.
Delivery: You can place orders online, over the phone or via email—convenient for adult children who live long distances from their elderly parents.
Cost considerations: MagicKitchen.com provides a senior discount—$10 off every order over $80—as well as free delivery for customers who place orders at least once a month. Depending on customers’ preferences, they can order six months’ worth of meals at one time or order just a few servings.
4. Senior Centers
Some community senior centers provide hot meals for local residents or can recommend reputable meal services for the area. “Any average Joe can open up a service to make money off seniors, so it’s important to find businesses with good reputations,” says Liz Perrigue, a certified senior advisor with Visiting Angels, a non-medical home care agency in Pasadena, California. Churches also might offer in-person or takeout meals to local seniors. Check with the local municipality for businesses and locations.
Delivery: Meals typically are served in person or for carryout. This option is ideal for adult children who live close to their parents.
Cost considerations: The cost of meals varies by senior center, but senior center meals often are cheaper than delivery services.
5. Personal Chef
If you have the cash to splurge, consider hiring a personal chef to cook in your parents’ home several times a week, or prepare and freeze a number of meals at once to last throughout the week. Because personal chefs cook for individual clients, they can tailor meals to seniors’ unique dietary needs and preferences. Gather background information and references on the chef—they will come into the senior’s home, so it’s important to be safe.
Delivery: Meals are prepared and served in seniors’ homes.
Cost considerations: This generally is a pricier option. Some chefs can be hired for less than $100 per meal or $450 per week, but it depends on the chef’s experience and location.