One of the biggest challenges faced by many seniors is the task of daily meal preparation. It is not uncommon to find a senior who has resorted to eating breakfast cereal or some other very basic food at every meal. Planning, shopping for, storing and preparing a balanced meal can be a complicated task, even for seniors who are physically up to the job. Sometimes, this seems so troublesome that seniors simply give up and skip regular meals.

If you or a senior loved one has difficulty getting “three squares” a day, a meal delivery service may be a solution. Senior meal delivery or food delivery services may help to fill in gaps in nutrition and save preparation time, making it possible for a senior to remain at home. If you are thinking about this possibility for yourself or a loved one, here are some things to keep in mind:

Think about the budget. The costs of these services vary from basically free programs offered by not-for-profit organizations to expensive gourmet-like catering services. This may require some research on your part.

Are there any diet restrictions? Many seniors are on some type of diet restriction or requirement. Not all providers can meet this need. This is especially true of people who have conditions like diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Can you or your loved one prepare some meals? Many people, including seniors, find working in the kitchen to be a pleasant diversion. They do not find cooking two or three meals a week to be taxing. However, issues like balance, mobility or memory loss can make the kitchen a dangerous place. In such cases, meal preparation at home may be out of the question.

How many meals are needed in a typical week? If a senior is still able and willing to fix some meals on their own, this may help to keep the costs down and even provide diversion and recreation. Strategies, like fixing two dinners at one time and freezing or setting one aside, can work for many situations. If you are thinking about meal delivery or grocery delivery options, factor in “home-cooked” capacity before you start ordering.  Sometimes, this can be hard to get right at first, but most people will fall into a rhythm in a few weeks.

Consider some “half-way” options. Services like Door Dash, Blue Apron and Instacart have made it easy to get home delivery of everything from groceries to meal kits to fully prepared restaurant meals. Many seniors began using delivery services like Instacart during the pandemic. If going to the store is too much of a task, but working in the kitchen is still OK, this can be a workable alternative. Meal kits like those from Blue Apron provide all the ingredients needed to prepare one or more meals. They are home-delivered and can include refrigerated items. You may have to experiment with these services to find just the right number and types of meals.

Most urban areas will have several for-profit meal delivery services. The Google query, “Senior meal delivery,” returns numerous options in most areas. These range from specialty providers like “Tiny Organics” and “Fit Food” to plain old favorites like Schwan’s Home Delivery.

The best-known name in senior home nutrition is the “Meals on Wheels” program. The Meals on Wheels Association of America is a nationwide organization of local programs. Each local organization operates independently, providing senior nutrition programs and other services.

Most Meals on Wheels programs provide ready-to-eat portions, but frozen or microwavable options may also be available. Many Meals on Wheels clients are seniors, but others may be eligible for assistance if they are unable to shop or prepare food for themselves. In addition to simply providing meals, this program also serves as a safety check for many homebound seniors.