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Meal planning and make-ahead meal ideas for seniors

As individuals age, they may struggle with cooking or simply lose the motivation to prepare three healthy, balanced meals each day. Other seniors find their appetites dwindling over time and might make a piece of toast instead of a full lunch or dinner. While it’s okay if this happens occasionally, seniors need proper nutrition to stay healthy and maintain their energy. Stocking the fridge properly is key, and make-ahead meals are excellent if you’re doing the cooking for your loved one. Remember, you don’t need to do all of the work yourself—our PSWs are available to help with both cooking and reheating/serving meals as needed. When appropriate, our PSWs can also serve a meal and leave another in the fridge to be warmed up later.

Here are some ideas to inspire your next grocery list and make-ahead suggestions to help your loved ones enjoy healthy, hearty meals at home.

First, invest in some small glass storage containers

When you batch cook or prepare meals ahead of time, you need some great storage solutions. The ideal container will hold a single portion and is microwave and/or freezer safe. We recommend glass because it often meets this criteria while being environmentally-friendly and clear (which means you’ll never have to guess what mystery food is stored in the freezer). You can use glass storage containers for everything from soups, salads and sandwiches to servings or chili or a portion of chicken and vegetables. 

But don’t just use them for freezer meals. If you chop up fruit or vegetables or make a tasty chia pudding or yogurt parfait, your loved one will have an easy, healthy snack to grab whenever they’re feeling peckish. Mason jars are great for this purpose as well!

Consider their dietary needs and preferences

If you’re cooking for an aging family member or leaving instructions for one of our PSWs or another family caregiver, there are two main things to consider: what type of nutrition does your loved one need to thrive, and what do they enjoy eating?

Prepared meals are only useful if they get eaten, so both points are equally important. Here’s a list of diabetic-friendly soup recipes and some diabetic-friendly recipes that freeze well. Fortunately, there are plenty of cook books and recipe websites to browse as you’re finding the right dishes for your family.

Seniors often prefer comfort foods and traditional meals—think casseroles, stews, soups or meat and potatoes. That said, if you aren’t sure what they enjoy eating, just ask! You may be surprised to find out what their culinary likes and dislikes are.

Cook in batches and think about freezing

If you cook up a big batch of your loved one’s favourite meal, you can portion it out and pop it into the freezer until they feel like another helping. If you do this a few times, they’ll have several options to choose from as needed. Be sure to label everything clearly and record the date it was made! Here’s a great collection of recipes to get you started. Remember: soups, stews, chili, curries, quiches and casseroles tend to freeze and reheat well.

Make mealtime (and snacks) fast, easy and nutritious

Many seniors are happy with a simple sandwich at lunchtime, so consider making a batch of egg salad, chicken salad or a similar option like salmon salad or deviled ham. Keep it in one of those clear glass containers so it’s readily available and top of mind. If deli meats are preferred, keep those on hand throughout the week. If you make sure your loved one also has some bread and fresh lettuce available, they’ll be able to prepare an appealing and hearty lunch in minutes. Remember, our caregivers are able to prepare meals and would be happy to make a batch of egg salad or prepare sandwiches.

Consider keeping hummus and sliced vegetables on hand along with cheese, crackers and fruit. A senior (or their caregiver) can produce a quick and healthy lunch by putting together odds and ends from a carefully curated, nutrient-packed grocery list.

Homemade banana, carrot or bran muffins make an easy snack, as do bananas, nuts and trail mix, and full fat varieties of Greek yogurt. If you keep sliced berries in the fridge, they can be enjoyed as a snack or added to a bowl of yogurt, oatmeal or cereal. The secret is to find out what works best for your loved one and build food routines around that. The seniors in your life will be thankful (and feeling great).

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