12 food delivery options for seniors — from prepared meals to groceries

Aug. 19, 2020

Hot, delicious, nutrient-rich food should be available to everyone — including aging family members and neighbors who may not be up for a trip to the grocery store or elaborate meal prep. Sure, some seniors might want to peruse the aisles of their local grocer before heading home to cook a beloved meal, but unfortunately, it’s not always the smartest idea. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising older adults to limit their interaction with people since the risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age. And additionally, the older people get, the riskier cooking gets in general due to physical, visual, hearing or mental impairments that come with age. 

“As adults age, it’s important to keep an eye out for warning signs related to the use of the stove and other kitchen items,” says Misty Taylor, registered nurse and senior vice president of clinical quality at BrightStar Care, who holds a Master of Science in nursing. “If an older adult’s eyesight is failing and they have a gas stove, it can lead to difficulty in seeing if there is a spill that could ignite a fire in the home. Similarly, if an older adult experiences tremors, it’s best for them to avoid using knives, as they could accidentally injure themselves.”

Looking to take mealtime pressure off the senior in your life or want some help preparing meals or shopping for groceries for an aging loved one? You might consider a senior meal delivery service, grocery delivery or meal kit option — many of which suit a variety of budgets, dietary needs and culinary preferences. Easy, yummy meals without the hassle? Talk about a win-win.

Prepared meal delivery

For seniors who are no longer grocery shopping or cooking and simply need already-prepared sustenance, stick to meals that are already ready-to-eat or just need to be heated up in the microwave. Dr. Daniel Devine, a dual-board certified internist and geriatrician and co-founder of Devine Concierge Medicine, explains, “If a loved one gets lost driving home or consistently misplaces personal items,you need to worry about them potentially forgetting they turned on the oven. That said, there needs to be a balance between preserving independence and dignity and preventing unintentional self-harm.” That’s when these senior meal delivery services can be beneficial — as well as a big timesaver for families or loved ones.

Magic Kitchen

Offering a variety of diet-specific options, including diabetic, low-carb and vegetarian, Magic Kitchen is great for seniors since the meals are nutritious, super easy to prepare (they just need to be heated up) and relatively inexpensive (most meals are between $10-15 with no delivery fee). For seniors who don’t want to commit, Magic Kitchen offers a single order option, and for those who want something more regular, a delivery schedule can be arranged.  

Cost: Meals cost between $82-$90 per week for 1 full meal per day (breakfast, lunch or dinner). 

Silver Cuisine

Created for seniors, Silver Cuisine offers doctor-designed, chef-prepared meals for people who need easy meal options. With a menu of over 150 meals, Silver Cuisine offers breakfast, lunch and dinner options that simply need to be heated up upon arrival. Like Magic Kitchen, they cater to a variety of dietary needs, including low-sodium, diabetic and heart healthy.

Cost: Meals can be ordered a la carte (prices vary), and there’s no minimum required. However, there is a shipping fee. Recurring meal options are available, as well.  

Top Chef Meals

Offering a wide variety of meals, Top Chef Meals cooks, flash-freezes and delivers meals that can be heated up within three minutes. In addition to their main menu, Top Chef Meals also has options that are tailored for the needs of senior citizens, including foods that are for people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes. 

Cost: Meals — an entree and two sides — can be ordered a la carte (prices vary). A number of packages are available, as well. Seniors get a 15% discount. 

Grocery delivery

For seniors who are still confident making meals in the kitchen but don’t feel comfortable going to the store, or for family members who want to help out with a loved one’s grocery shopping but are too far away to drop off food themselves, a grocery delivery service can be a nice middle ground. (Tech-savvy seniors can also do the ordering themselves from their phone or computer.) Just remember, though, while mom or dad may have favorite meals they want to keep in their rotation, the older people get, the more important certain vitamins and nutrients become — so make sure their virtual grocery has a wide range of produce.

“Generally speaking, older adults should follow a diverse diet rich in fruits and vegetables,” notes Devine. “A condition known as sarcopenia, or an increased tendency for muscle to atrophy and shrink, affects many older adults. It is important older adults consume enough protein in their diet to maintain adequate muscle tone and strength.” 

Instacart

Instacart is popular for a reason: It’s wildly convenient. Available in most cities and surrounding areas, Instacart lets people shop online at their favorite grocery stores — including Costco, Kroger and Publix — and a personal shopper then picks up the items and delivers them. So long as there’s an Instacart shopper available, deliveries can be same day or scheduled for another time. (There’s also a Senior Support line, which offers help to older people who want to do the ordering themselves!) 

Cost: Delivery fees vary but start at $4. If you’re an Instacart Express member, deliveries are free for orders over $35. 

Amazon Fresh

Another nationwide grocery delivery service that has same-day or scheduled delivery is Amazon Fresh. Unlike Instacart, which has a variety of stores to choose from, Amazon Fresh offers products from their own line, as well as Whole Foods (which they own) and other name brands. Customers also have the option of having food handed directly to them or left outside in temperature-controlled bags. 

Cost: In order to use Amazon Fresh, you need to be a Prime member, which costs $119 for the year or $12.99 per month, and there are discounts for qualifying students or customers with an EBT or Medicaid card. There are no delivery fees. 

Shipt

Similar to Instacart, Shipt, which is available in 200 cities, allows people to shop at their favorite local grocery stores — without leaving their house. (They also deliver from more specialty stores, such as Target and Petco.) In order to get free delivery, you need to spend $35, but for a $7 fee, smaller orders can be placed. The best part? So long as a store is open, you can place an order (even in the middle of the night!). Same-day delivery — including delivery within an hour — is also available. 

Cost: You need to be a member to use Shipt. Once you have a membership — a one-year subscription costs $99 — then every delivery over $35 is free. 

Meal kit delivery

For seniors who want a little less fuss with their meals — but who still want to have a hand in cooking — a meal kit delivery service can be ideal. These services, many of which are geared towards senior citizens, deliver ingredients, along with recipes, for easy, tasty meals.

What a Crock

What a Crock delivers ingredients for — you guessed it — slow cooker meals. (And if you don’t have a slow cooker, they’ll deliver that, too!) Simply choose from a variety of recipes (including a list of dietary-restrictive recipes) available on their website or app, wait for ingredients to be delivered, and then toss them in the slow cooker for a home cooked meal. 

Cost: Meals can be ordered a la carte (prices vary) or a number of meal plans are available. For one person who’s getting three meals delivered a week, it comes out to $9.16 a serving. Shipping rates apply, but vary.

Sun Basket

Offering meals that are healthy, in-season and easy to prepare (most dinners take about 30 minutes), Sun Basket allows older folks to whip up a meal without the hassle of shopping or measuring out ingredients. Meals are dietician-approved, with about 500-800 calories per serving, and customers can choose how frequently they want their meals delivered (including breakfast, lunch and dinner options), as well as how many servings they’d like for each meal. The downside? At nearly $12 per each 2-person serving meal — and a $7 delivery charge — Sun Basket isn’t cheap. 

Cost: Sun Basket is subscription based and plans vary. Two, two-serving recipes per week is $51.96.

Martha & Marley Spoon

A meal kit that’s a little more affordable? Martha & Marley Spoon, Martha Stewart’s meal delivery service. While Martha & Marley Spoon only offers dinner options, the recipes are good without being overly complicated and ingredients are fresh (what else would you expect from Martha Stewart?). Prices and plans vary, but typically, servings are between $8.70-$9.50, plus shipping.

Cost: Price depends on the meal plan you order but comes out to about $6.39-$10.25 per serving. There’s also a $9 shipping fee. 

Free or low-cost meal options

For seniors who are on a budget and who want very little to do with meal prep (but still want to eat well!), there are a number of free or low-cost meal delivery options — and the delivery may brighten their day, too!

“Years ago, when I wasn’t able to make it over to my mother’s house, my siblings and I arranged for a local delivery service to bring dinner to her a few times a week,” says Debbie Jordan of Winfield, Illinois. “We were nervous that she would feel uncomfortable, but she loved the little social interaction she got out of it, and we all felt good, knowing she was safe and had a hot meal.”

Meals on Wheels

One of the oldest meal services for seniors in America, Meals on Wheels, delivers hot meals to elderly folks who can’t — or prefer not to — leave their house. Available everywhere in the country, Meals on Wheels is volunteer-run by more than 5,000 independently-run local programs. Prices are based on a sliding scale, ranging from very low-cost to free. 

Cost: For most Meals on Wheels affiliates, there’s no cost, but recipients are encouraged to donate what they can. 

Mom’s Meals

Started by adults looking to help their own moms, Mom’s Meals offers easy-to-heat meals that are tailored to a senior’s specific health needs — and the meals are affordable, too. For Medicaid or Medicare recipients, home-delivered meal benefits may be available that will cover the cost. 

Cost: Each meal is $7, and for seniors who have difficulty chewing, they offer pureed meals for $8. There’s also a shipping fee of $15. 

Homestyle Direct

Available to seniors in over 20 states, Homestyle Direct offers a wide variety of precooked meals that are either covered by Medicare or available for a direct-pay option. All meals are approved by a dietician and there are a number of diet-specific options available, as well. 

Cost: Meals cost $6.95 each plus shipping.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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