Healthy meal service options for seniors who dont cook

Published 4:53 pm Monday, November 29, 2010

Dear Savvy Senior

I would like to find some easy and healthy meal service options for my elderly parents who have a hard time getting around. My mom just had her hip replaced, which is keeping her from cooking, and dad is a disaster in the kitchen. What can you tell us?

Hungry and helpless

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Dear Hungry,

Depending on where your parents live, there are various meal service options for homebound seniors who cant, or dont cook anymore. Here are several to check into. &bsp;

Community meal programs

A good starting point is to find out if theres a home delivery meal program in your parents area. Meals on Wheels is the largest program that most people are familiar with, but many communities offer senior meal delivery programs sponsored by other organizations that go by different names.

Be sure you check into all possibilities. The Area Agency on Aging (call 800-677-1116 to get the number or visit near your parents can tell you whats available, or you can do a search at

Most home delivered meal programs across the U.S. deliver hot meals, daily or several times a week, usually around the lunch hour, to seniors over age 60 who have problems preparing meals for themselves, as well as those with disabilities. Weekend meals, usually frozen, may also be available, along with special diets (diabetic, low-sodium, kosher, etc.). Most of these programs typically charge a small fee (usually between $2 and $6) or request a donation, while some may be free to low-income seniors.

In addition to home delivered meals, you should also look into congregate meal programs. Many communities offer free or low-cost hot meals in a group setting that are often located in senior centers, schools, churches and housing projects for older adults. Some facilities even offer transportation to the sites.

Personal chef

Another popular option for non-cooking seniors with a bigger budget is to hire a personal chef from time to time. A personal chef can provide your parents with a do-it-all service that will help plan their meals according to their tastes and needs, do the grocery shopping and prepare them several weeks worth (or more) of tasty meals in their home, which they can freeze and eat when they please. Or, they can prepare it in their own kitchen and deliver it.

Chefs fees range between $200 and $300 plus groceries. To find a personal chef visit the American Personal & Private Chef Association website at (or call 800-644-8389) where you can do a search by state.

If that seems too pricey, a less expensive way to go is to hire an occasional homemaker or home-helper who will grocery shop and cook. This type of service typically costs around $10 to $15 per hour. The area aging agency, local churches, friends, newspaper ads or even are all good sources to help you find someone, or check the yellow pages under Home Care Services.

Meals on-line

Another convenient option is to purchase your parents prepared frozen meals on-line, and have them delivered to their house. While there are lots of companies that sell frozen meals, Magic Kitchen (, 877-516-2442) is a top option that caters to the dietary needs of seniors. They offer a wide variety of delicious and nutritious meals, with prices ranging between $8 and $12 per meal.

Schwans (, 888-724-9267), DineWise (, 800-749-1170) and FamilyChief (, 888-612-9264) also offer tasty home meal delivery services as well. &bsp;

Or, a cheaper alternative is to go to your local grocery store and pick up some Health Choice (, Kashi ( or Lean Cuisine ( dinners or low-sodium canned soups.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit

Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of The Savvy Senior book.