Ensuring older people have access to nutritious, healthy, comforting meals every day is so important, but several factors can make daily cooking difficult. If you are looking into meal delivery services for yourself or an older relative, we are taking a look at what these services offer, why they can be incredibly useful, what the pros and cons are, how much they cost, and which are the very best services to use in the UK.
At Home Instead, our aim is to help people age positively and in place by bringing expert care to their home. For nearly 20 years, we have been providing the highest standard of care, and creating industry-leading training programmes for our Care Professionals that are accredited by nursing and medical professionals. Today, we are the world’s largest global home care network, supporting over 100,000 older adults with personalised, tailored care at home. So whatever questions you have about home care, we can help.
As we get older, accessing healthy meals can become more of a challenge, and there are a number of reasons this could be the case for you. For example:
As well as the above, an older individual may experience a general lack of motivation, inspiration or desire to cook in their later years, and this is perfectly understandable. In any case, there are many fantastic meal delivery services available that could save time and energy by outsourcing the task of cooking, while ensuring you or your loved one receives healthful and tasty meals every day.
You may have heard it called Meals on Wheels in the past, but the concept has developed a lot in recent years now that recipe delivery services are popular. These services can often provide:
Older people will find there are many benefits to organising a meal delivery service. You may wish to organise this for yourself or ask a loved one to help you set this up. The benefits of meal deliveries include:
For families, meal delivery may also be a helpful option if you have been cooking for an older loved one and cannot continue doing this due to other commitments.
Meal deliveries can be incredibly helpful and can take a lot of pressure off older people who are no longer able to, or no longer want to cook. However, as with any service, there are downsides to consider such as:
If you enjoy whipping up dinner based on whatever your preferences are that day, then using a meal delivery service might restrict you in this area. There are options such as frozen meals which will allow you to cook whichever portion of food you decide on from the week or two weeks’ worth of options you have had delivered. However, if you would like total freedom in your choice of dinner, meal delivery services may not offer what you need.
If you feel isolated, a meal delivery service may not be the best option for you. Although it means you can avoid cooking, you may feel you need to stay in your home alone to eat what has been delivered rather than meet family or friends for social dinners.
If you are particularly sensitive to the temperature of food and you organise meal delivery services from an organisation that delivers hot food, this may not always arrive piping hot the way you like it; instead, it could arrive lukewarm or even cold. The company should try their best not to let this happen, but sometimes it is unavoidable and you will need to be OK with reheating your meal in the microwave.
You will usually need to be in your home to receive your delivery and be prepared to put items away in the fridge or freezer if applicable. You may be able to choose which delivery day you have, but not always.
This can be off-putting for some people as meal deliveries can end up becoming more expensive than a typical weekly food shop that you cook yourself. Although there are a number of price points (which you will see in some of the options we have included below), if keeping your costs low is a priority for you then meal deliveries may feel too expensive.
When tasks are taken out of your hands before you have lost the physical ability to do them, this can affect your sense of independence. If you are looking into starting a meal delivery service for yourself or a loved one, it can be beneficial to wait until you/they definitely need help with cooking, rather than organising it simply to make life easier.
It is entirely up to you whether you would prefer hot, fresh or frozen meals. To clarify, hot meals will come warmed up and ready to eat, fresh meals will come cold but ready to reheat in the microwave or oven whenever you are ready, and frozen meals come frozen but can be defrosted and cooked whenever you are ready.
The benefits of hot meals are that there is no delay between delivery and eating, and you do not need to do anything at all to start enjoying your meal. The downside of this is that you may not always be ready to eat when your delivery comes, and if there are any delays with the delivery you could become hungry while waiting.
The benefits of fresh meals are that the ingredients are all fresh, but you can still put them in the fridge and cook them when you feel hungry. On the other hand, fresh meals will have a shorter shelf life than frozen meals so they must be eaten within a few days of delivery.
The benefits of frozen meals are that they can be put in the freezer and have a long shelf life (often many months, check the packaging) so they can be eaten when you are hungry, helping to avoid food waste. There are few downsides to frozen meals, other than the freezer space they take up – this means less can be stored in a small freezer.
If you are having hot meals delivered you may not need anything to eat these, however fresh or frozen meal deliveries usually need a microwave and/or an oven to cook, and a fridge or freezer to store meals.
For all meal deliveries, it is helpful to have a comfortable chair at a table set with the crockery and cutlery you need, or you may prefer to eat in a chair while watching television or listening to music, in which case a lap tray can be very helpful as a flat surface to eat on.
There are several meal delivery services out there, some aimed at older individuals who do not want to or cannot cook anymore, others aimed at the general population who want to save time and energy on cooking. Here are a few of the best meal delivery services, with some useful information about each:
Choosing a meal delivery service will require a little research into each company to ensure they will provide the type of food you enjoy, the dietary requirements you need, and are not over your budget. Many meal delivery services offer a trial period for less money, so it is advisable to try a few out to see if you like the food and get on with the delivery schedule. After a few weeks or months, you can decide on the one that suits you best.
It can also help to consider how much effort you can still put into preparation and cooking.
You can organise a meal delivery service for yourself or a loved one by either signing up online or reaching out to some of the above services to find out about their trial period offers and browse some of the meals they have available.
If you are struggling with setting up which meals you want delivered and your delivery schedule, don’t be afraid to ask a loved one to help you or to contact the company for assistance.
Alternatively, you may be eligible for meal delivery via your council or another local organisation. Your council can provide meals delivered straight to your home, if you are eligible. The eligibility criteria usually include:
Yes, our Care Professionals at Home Instead can help to accept meal deliveries when they arrive, put them away in the relevant place, and heat and serve up meals if you need help with this. They can also provide encouragement and reminders to eat, get involved in meal planning and preparation if you have specific dietary needs, and companionship during mealtimes.
We’re an award-winning home care provider and part of a worldwide organisation devoted to providing the highest quality relationship-led care for older people in their own homes. Arranging care for yourself or your loved one shouldn’t be stressful, so whatever questions you would like answered, feel free to reach out to the Home Instead team to discuss your needs.