How to Prep Holiday Meals for Elderly Loved Ones

The holidays can be lonely for those who can’t make it to family meals. Here's how to ensure that your elderly loved ones are included.

Published Nov. 23, 2021.

For those who are elderly or can’t leave the house, the holidays can be a lonely time. My family loves to get together for large holiday meals and celebrate. Over time, it’s become more difficult for my grandparents to attend dinners due to my grandfather’s limited mobility. Even though all of us being together for holiday meals is more of a memory than a reality, we still found a way to make sure that my grandparents are eating well too. Here are a few tips to make sure that your meal prep for your elderly family members runs as smoothly as possible.

1. Make a list of their dietary restrictions

Before you make your way to the grocery store, ask about any food allergies or sensitivities. Some older folks may have difficulty eating harder foods, so recipes that are delicious and easy to eat (such as soups) are always a good bet. Make a list of recipes that you’ll plan to make before you go to the grocery store. Butternut squash soup and sweet potato soup are both delicious and seasonal options. 

2. Make a list and check it twice

This sounds like an obvious idea, but make a list. You might even want to consider organizing your list by location inside the supermarket (produce, canned goods, fresh meats, bakery, etc.). Don’t be afraid to buy in bulk, especially if you’re using similar ingredients for your own meals. If you’re buying in advance, portion their food and keep it fresh by vacuum sealing or freezing.

3. Be considerate of kitchen space

People living in small apartments or assisted living facilities usually have limited kitchen space. Giant casseroles are great for large gatherings, but for people who are not having a crowd over for a feast, they can be too big to fit into a small fridge or can be wasteful. If you are cooking for only a couple of people, or just one, scale down your portions. Also, dishes that quickly reheat in an oven or a microwave are always the way to go.

4. Avoid heavy dishes

Transporting meals can sometimes be more stressful than cooking. Furthermore, picking up large hot dishes is not an option for folks with various disabilities or limited mobility. Consolidate individual portioned meals in an insulated food carrier

Sign up for the Well-Equipped Cook newsletter

Shop smarter with our ATK Reviews team's expert guides and recommendations.

Photo: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc, Getty Images

Want to be a smarter shopper and become a better cook? Start a free trial to access all of our rigorous, unbiased product reviews.

This is a members' feature.