Home delivered meals have been around for quite some time, but with the pandemic and other large-scale emergencies, companies and services have expanded across the country.
The most challenging aspect of senior delivery services is how to choose from all of the options available. Seniors and/or their families are turning to meal delivery services as a result of someone no longer able to drive or refusing in-home help to prepare meals.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What to Look for in a Senior Meal Delivery Service
- Popular Free Senior Meal Delivery Services
- Popular Paid Senior Meal Delivery Services
Two of the most significant challenges related to meal delivery services are cost and location. If you or your loved one lives in a more rural area, options will be limited. If your budget is tight, that too will guide your choices.
Unfortunately, there are very few free senior delivery services, and those services do not have much flexibility. However, with enough ingenuity, you can put together a meal plan that suits your needs and pocketbook.
What to Look for in a Senior Meal Delivery Service
Even though you may not know what is available to start with, you will want to list all of your criteria first. Once you know what you want and prioritize what you need, you can move on from there.
Prioritizing will save you time and money in the end. If you can get everything you want, great! If not, decide what is most important and make a choice based on that criteria.
Meal service delivery companies can be expensive. The cost adds up the more meals you add per day or week. If you have a set budget, start with that. When we get into the details of the options to consider, you may gravitate to more affordable choices like grocery store delivery.
Many of the companies we will talk about will have restricted coverage areas so they won’t be an option anyway. It does take some time to determine this because you may have to put in your location to each and every delivery company to see if they serve your area. As these businesses grow in popularity, they are always expanding their delivery service area.
Other defining criteria are special diets. Most companies see the value in accommodating special diets, but you will want to make sure. Special diets include diabetic, gluten-free, kosher, low sodium, vegan and vegetarian.
A delivery company may have vegan options but look closely at those specific choices. Often the variety of vegan meals can be minimal. You may not want to feel like you are recycling meals each week.
Variety is more important to some people than others. If a diverse range of options is important to you, examine the menu. You might like foods from different cultures or more gourmet meals. As exciting as new meals can be, they can get old if the menu options aren’t changed consistently.
Cook vs. no-cook
Some seniors can still cook and enjoy cooking from time to time. If this is you, there are meal delivery services that provide the ingredients, recipe and you do the cooking. Some seniors like to match and mix cook and no-cook services throughout the week.
Popular Free Senior Meal Delivery Services
Unfortunately, there are not many free senior meal delivery services in the U.S. There are some state-specific free meal delivery services in Colorado and California, and it is worth exploring to see if there is one in your state. There are some seniors without money or family and can’t afford many of the delivery services listed. We will cover the three primary senior meal services that offer low-cost or free senior meal delivery.
1. Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels is a joint federal, state, city, and county-administered meal program for seniors age 60 and over. Each community will have different qualifying criteria, but generally, anyone who cannot get out to a congregate meal setting like a senior center and is unable to shop and prepare food is eligible.
The program asks for donations, but they are not turned away if an older adult is unable to pay. Volunteers perform meal delivery, and there are other benefits to the program in addition to the meals.
For many homebound seniors, the meals on wheels driver is the only person they see. Also, Meals on Wheels volunteers can alert authorities if they see any safety risks or changes in medical conditions.
Since each community administers the Meals on Wheels program, some will provide special meals, and others may not. Depending on demand, some programs might have a waiting list.
2. Mom’s Meals
Mom’s Meals is a national company that works with clients who have Medicare Advantage plans, Medicaid plans, or Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) programs. Individuals who aren’t covered under these programs can pay privately for Mom’s Meals.
Their website states they deliver to any address in the United States. Mom’s Meals also accommodates special gluten-free, puréed, and other medically necessary diets for an additional fee.
3. Homestyle Direct
Homestyle Direct offers two options for getting fresh meals delivered to your door. One is through Medicaid Waiver services. If you are a Medicaid recipient, Homestyle Direct’s website states that they are meals delivered and reimbursed through the Medicaid waiver program. Potential customers with Medicaid must contact Medicaid and fill out a form to be considered eligible for the delivery program.
If you are not a Medicaid recipient, you have the option to pay for meals. The cost is relatively low, with a flat delivery fee for a minimum of 12 meals and a price of about $6.95 per meal. The website is easy to navigate, and there are a variety of meals to choose from.
Popular Paid Senior Meal Delivery Services
There are three main categories of meal delivery service. One is ready-made meals from your local grocery store. The other is meal service from local restaurants. The third are meals prepared at a remote kitchen location and delivered to your door.
Meals might be fresh or frozen, and some are gourmet and can accommodate a variety of preferred or medically ordered diets. You might have to experiment a bit to find what you like and can afford, and you might even decide to rotate between options.
Freshly offers chef-prepared meals that only require heating to eat. They can keep in the fridge or be frozen for later use. Freshly does have a wide variety of special dietary options, including vegetarian, gluten-free, diabetic, low sodium, dairy-free, and low sugar. Meals start at about $8.49 not including shipping, but you save by pre-ordering several meals at a time.
5. Snap Kitchen
Snap Kitchen is unique because all of its meals are gluten-free and free of hormones, antibiotics, and artificial sweeteners. Snap Kitchen is similar to Freshly in that their meals come ready to heat and serve. Snap’s meals are a bit more expensive ranging between about $10 and $12 per meal.
6. Magic Kitchen
Magic Kitchen offers frozen meals and an à la carte menu to mix and match dishes. As with some of the other options, Magic Kitchen includes low carb, low sodium, diabetes, and dialysis-friendly, vegetarian, and renal diets. Dietitians review all meals to ensure that they’re nutritionally complete.
7. Silver Cuisine
Silver Cuisine is another company that caters to seniors and their specific dietary needs. Their meals include dairy and gluten-free, diabetic, low sodium, Mediterranean, and post-menopausal. They claim to have 150 meals to choose from. Make sure you verify any medical claims related to special diets.
8. Real Eats
Real Eats is not senior-specific but many older adults prefer the type of service Real Eats offers. For one thing, they source organic ingredients when possible. By ordering several meals a week, you can get free shipping. Meals run between $8.25 to $11.25 per meal, however, Real Eats is not available in all states.
Freshology is another chef-prepared meal company that focuses more on portion-controlled, low-calorie meals. Freshology does offer Keto diet and vegetarian options, but not vegan. The service follows a 5-week meal rotation system so that the same meal will not be repeated another 5 weeks to prevent boredom with meals. The cost depends on the meals you order.
10. Your local grocery
Larger grocery store chains now have or can prepare meals for delivery to your door. Choices will be limited, but grocery stores will prepare an entire meal for you and your family, particularly for holiday meals. It is worth checking your grocery to see what options they have available for meal preparation and delivery.
Grubhub is a restaurant delivery service that has proliferated (along with the others) during the pandemic as restaurants have closed to in-person dining. For a house-bound senior who has a favorite cuisine or restaurant, Grubhub is a great option.
You can search areas and restaurants that cater to your specific dietary constraints. There are delivery fees added to the meal cost, which vary according to the restaurant and what you order.
Doordash is the other big restaurant delivery service like Grubhub and UberEats. It is a war out there between these companies to get your restaurant delivery service dollars. Each service may have a bigger reach depending on what city you live in.
Delivery times with each of the mentioned restaurant delivery services will vary depending on distance and time of day and day of the week.
13. Whole Foods
If you have ever been inside Whole Foods (owned by Amazon), you know they have quite a selection of prepared meals from their deli, pizza, appetizers, salads, and sandwich kitchen. You can also order off their catering and meal menu, including fully prepared holiday meals and appetizers.
Senior Meal Delivery Services
There are many options for senior delivery meal services, and these are just a few. It will take some time to find the best fit, but you can rest assured that your loved one will get nutritious meals delivered to their doorstep once you do. As a precaution, you might want to ensure that your family member likes the meals, can prepare the meals, and is eating them.