Updated: Aug 31
Meal Kits and other prepared meals can be great shortcuts to save energy and stay healthy!
Cooking and meal prep takes a lot of time and energy. As an occupational therapist, I often teach people energy conservation techniques. There are three different types of energy: mental, physical, and emotional. Cooking and meal prep requires us to use all three types of energy.
Mental energy to plan our meals, assess the pantry to determine what you have and what you need and plan a grocery list.
Physical energy to go grocery shopping, unpack, cook, and clean up.
Emotional energy to tackle the job ahead of you. Many older adults tell me that they have cooked their whole life and they are rather tired of it. It can be stressful to plan and prepare your meals week after week which can make even deciding on what to cook taxing.
You might have heard of meal kits or prepared meal services, but are not sure if they are worth the money. Despite the effort involved in meal prep, eating healthy and nutritious meals helps us stay healthy and age well. There are several shortcuts that can make meal prep easier and help us stay healthy. See below for some options that I have used or my clients have used.
Tip #1 - Meal Kits
Meal kits can be a great option to simplify and automate your meal prep. Meal kits are boxes that are delivered to your doorstep with recipe cards and all of the ingredients you need to make those meals. When you order your meal kit you can choose what type of diet you follow (Diabetic, low salt, keto...) what types of foods you like, and how many meals a week you want. You are responsible for cooking the meals, but all of the ingredients and groceries are included in the box and are pre-measured to reduce waste.
All ingredients and groceries are included (fewer trips to the grocery store).
Ingredients are pre-measured (reduce food waste).
You can try new recipes
You don't have to decide what to cook
Meals are nutritionally balanced to meet your pre-selected dietary needs
Many of my clients report that servings are often big and can last two meals.
Most services offer a new client discount
You have to do the cooking
Cost can be expensive depending on what service you use (cost can range $9 -14 a meal)
Here are a few meal kit services that I have experienced. There is a wide variety of options online - this is a just a few that I have experienced.
Hello Fresh : When you sign up for this service you can select your preferences such as: vegetarian, quick and easy, fit and wholesome, meat and veggie. Then you select how many meals you would like a week. A box with recipes and ingredients is delivered. With this service you choose your preferences and meals are selected for you. Cost: approx $60 for 6 meals.
Home Chef : Home Chef is a box created by Rachel Ray and offers approx 30 meals a week to choose from. You are able to choose what meal/recipes you want to be delivered each week. This service offers meal options such as oven-ready (arrives in an oven-safe tin), express meals (can be prepared in 15 mins), fresh and fast (already prepared - just heat and eat), grill-ready, or culinary collection)
Martha Stewart and Marley Spoon: This meal kit was created by Martha Stewart and has a weekly menu online. Each week you choose what recipes/meals you want to be delivered. I have been told by previous clients that these meals are delicious and with big portions
Tip #2 - Prepared meals
Prepared meals are a great option if you want to reduce the amount of time you spend cooking and shopping, but want to still eat healthy meals. There are several options for prepared meals that are high quality and healthy. Below I have a list of companies that provide prepared meals in St. Louis.
Time for Dinner - Time for Dinner is a meal assembly service in St. Louis that has a rotating monthly menu of seasonal dishes. You can pick up curbside or opt. Delivery is available if you live in St.Louis for an additional fee. You can stop by any time and check out their freezer of pre-made frozen meals or you can view their freezer selection online. They are located at:
Time For Dinner 8506 Manchester Road St. Louis, MO 63144
Cook Unity - Cook Unity offers fresh - never frozen - meals that can be delivered to your door step. They have a weekly menu of seasonal offerings with new meals every week. Meals arrive fresh (not frozen) in compostable, recyclable, or reusable packaging, with expiration dates, heating instructions, and nutrition information
Pure Plates STL - Pure Plate offers pre-made meals that are customized to your dietary needs with options such as: Diabetic, Keto, 5 day revive, and fresh start 30. Order your meals online and pick up in the store or opt for delivery. They offer a free consultation with a wellness coach. Their convenient grab-and-go meals come in BPA-free microwave-safe containers, ensuring both quality and convenience.
Fit Flavors - Fit Flavors offers a wide variety of meals that fit several dietary needs and including breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and smoothies. They have five locations in St. Louis. You can stop by a store front or order online for delivery. Meals are vacuum sealed for freshness.
Tip #3 - Grocery Delivery
Grocery delivery is way to save time and energy as well as reduce impulse buying. Many grocery stores in the area offer grocery delivery or curbside pickup. This is a great option if you enjoy cooking but want to save the energy associated to grocery shopping. Below is a list of stores that offer delivery or curbside pickup. There are also options like Shipt or Instacart where you can order your groceries online using a variety of grocery stores.
Tip #4 - Personal Chef
If cooking and grocery shopping are not your thing, but you want to eat well and stay healthy you might consider a personal chef. St. Louis offers a few personal chef services that can be a great solution to your meal planning needs. Personal chef services complete the grocery shopping and prepare your meals in your home. I listed two personal chef services below.
My Chef STL - My Chef specializes in weekly in-home meal prep that accommodates a variety of nutritional needs. The cost runs approximately $44 an hour plus the cost of groceries.
Friends That Cook - Is an in-home personal chef service. They do all of the meal prep in your home. They charge a reasonable hourly rate of $53/hour (3-hour minimum) for the chef's time, and you provide shopping money for groceries. So, you are looking at approximately $150 a week to have your meals prepared plus the cost of groceries. This would be a good option if you want to have most, or all of your meals prepared.
“People who love to eat are always the best people” – Julia Child.
Tip #5 - Grocery/Meal Combo
Some services offer a combination of grocery and meal delivery. This is a great option if you want the convenience of meal planning, but to also order pantry staples and other groceries.
HungryRoot - HungryRoot is the all in one recipe and grocery service. You can take a quiz about your eating habits and dietary needs, and they will recommend recipes and groceries to fit your needs. They have a wide selection of healthy snacks and pantry staples.
Emeals - emeals offers a variety of weekly meals/recipes. You choose what meals you want and the groceries to make those meals are delivered from the grocery store of your choice. Emeals works with Walmart, Kroger, Instacart, AmazonFresh, Shipt and more.
There are several benefits of meal kits, prepared meals, and personal chef options.
Convenience: eliminate the need for grocery shopping, meal planning, and extensive food preparation. For older adults, who might find these tasks physically or mentally taxing, meal kits simplify the cooking process.
Portion Control: Meal kits provide pre-portioned ingredients, helping seniors maintain a healthy balance.
Variety: It is easy to become stuck in dietary routines, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Meal planning services offer diverse menus, allowing older adults to explore new cuisines and enjoy a balanced diet.
Nutritional Value: Most meal kit providers focus on nutrition, offering balanced meals with controlled sodium and saturated fats. This can be particularly important for older adults dealing with health conditions like hypertension or diabetes.
Reduced Food Waste: It can be challenging to use up perishable ingredients before they go bad. Meal kits reduce food waste by providing only the necessary portions.
Social Connection: Preparing a meal from a kit can be a fun and engaging activity for seniors, whether they are cooking alone, with a partner, or with the help of a caregiver.
Tailored Options for Health and Dietary Needs
One of the most significant advantages of meal kits for older adults is the ability to tailor options to specific health and dietary needs. Many meal kit services offer menus designed for:
Diabetic-Friendly: Specialized kits are available with low-carb and low-sugar options, ideal for those managing diabetes.
Low-Sodium: Seniors with high blood pressure or heart conditions can find meal kits that are low in sodium, helping them maintain a heart-healthy diet.
Vegetarian or Vegan: For older adults who follow plant-based diets, vegetarian and vegan meal kits provide delicious and nutritious alternatives.
Gluten-Free: Individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities can enjoy gluten-free meals.
Weight Management: Some services offer calorie-controlled meal kits for those looking to manage their weight.
Tips for Choosing Meal Kits
When considering meal services for older adults, it's important to keep a few factors in mind:
Nutritional Balance: Ensure the meal service you choose offer a well-rounded, balanced diet, with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
Allergies and Dietary Restrictions: Be vigilant about any allergies or dietary restrictions and select meal kits that accommodate these needs.
Delivery Schedule: Confirm that the meal kit delivery schedule aligns with the your preferences and routine.
Cost: Compare prices and subscription options to find a meal kit service that fits within your budget.
Reviews and Recommendations: Read reviews and seek recommendations from friends, family, or healthcare professionals who have experience with meal kit services.
Meal kits for older adults offer a convenient and healthy solution to the challenges of cooking and nutrition that can come with aging. By providing pre-portioned, nutritionally balanced ingredients, these services make it easier for older adults to maintain a well-rounded diet, explore new culinary experiences, and enjoy the many benefits of home-cooked meals without the stress of traditional meal preparation. Whether you're a senior looking to simplify your mealtime routine or a caregiver seeking to enhance the nutrition of a loved one, meal kits are a valuable resource in promoting health and wellness. I hope you check out one or more of these options! Any of these services would also make a great gift for family or friends! Thank you for reading.
Jenny Williams, OTD
Many people report feeling concerned about the carbon footprint of meal kits and delivery services. For more information check out this article from NPR about the positive carbon footprint to meal kits.