A meal kit from Sunbasket. (Photo: Sunbasket)" data-caption="A meal kit from Sunbasket. (Photo: Sunbasket)" data-rich-caption="A meal kit from Sunbasket. (Photo: Sunbasket)" data-credit="Sunbasket" data-credit-link-back="https://sun-basket-meal-delivery-purchase.sjv.io/c/2706071/453085/8078?subId1=mealkitsolder-griffinwynne-120821-&u=https%3A%2F%2Fsunbasket.com%2Fjoin%3Foffer%3DAFFGHNY35GIFT%26utm_source%3DImpact%26utm_medium%3DPaid%26utm_campaign%3DIMP-Generators-General-B-All-Text-35offfb-43585%26utm_term%3DAffiliate%26irgwc%3D1%26mclk%3DyKXyAKWJaxyOUrzwUx0Mo38QUkiysJQUETvsS80%26mrnd%3D3184571%26maid%3D453085%26mcid%3D8078%26mpid%3D468058%26maty%3DONLINE_TRACKING_LINK%26msid%3DEasyMealKitsAman6-18-20-5605359%26mpty%3Dmediapartner%26msb1%3D%26msb2%3D%26msb3%3D%26muts%3D1592925378266%23s-how-many-people-and-meals" />
My 90-something grandma is a badass boss who lives alone, takes care of herself and loves to cook. After working as a chef and nutritionist for close to 30 years, she could tell you how to make the perfect Cornish game hen like she’s giving directions to the local Dunkin’ Donuts.
Yet, as a party of one, she’s reluctant to buy bushels of herbs or large amounts of produce she knows she won’t use. That, coupled with COVID precautions keeping her away from the store, mean her menu has been looking a little bleak. So in the name of flavor and encouraging older folks to feel independent and strong, I’m gearing up to get her a meal delivery kit for the holidays. But with more options than there are Kardashians, it’s daunting to choose the perfect one.
According to Barbara Ruhs, a registered dietitian and founder of The Market RD, it’s imperative that older folks eat consistent, nutrient-dense meals. “As we age, some nutrients are not absorbed as well,” Ruhs told HuffPost. “Pre-made meals can make it easier for seniors to consume adequate nutrition.”
Retired physical therapist and home-health care specialist Cathy Ellis added that getting nutritious food delivered at home can help with recovery illness or injury. Rather than risking falling or being in public, older folks can have their pantry stocked from the inside of their own house.
Philly resident Shelby Guercio sends meal kit deliveries to her mom, who is 62, and grandmother, who is 100, in small-town Massachusetts. “My mom lives alone and works two jobs and is so busy that I worry about her being able to eat full, fresh meals after a long day of work or in between jobs,” Guercio said. “With meal kits just showing up at my mom’s door, she can either cook it quick and drop it off for my grandma, or easily bring the ingredients over and cook them at my gram’s house.”
Guercio said that sending over meal kits is easier than having her mom and grandmother drive a long way to the grocery store. Additionally, using meal kits means her mom and grandma are introduced to new foods they wouldn’t be able to get at their local store. “They live in an area where [meal] delivery takes an extra day, but still shows up fresh,” she said.
Chef Jake Minigiello says meal kits can be a low-stakes way to introduce older folks to different, but doable, ingredients and methods of cooking, especially because the pre-portioned ingredients allow you to try something new without committing to buying a whole container of it. “It’s good how they just send you the exact amount of ingredients you need for a recipe to cut that waste out,” Minigiello said.
Although meal kits may cut down on food waste, the packaging and shipping required has been the subject of criticism. And the costs of these kits can be a barrier for many shoppers. While delivery makes food more readily available, the high price points mean it’s only really available to those who can afford it. (It’s also import to note that Amazon Fresh, Top Box and Hungry Harvest, all listed below, accept EBT/SNAP.)
When exploring meal kit and food delivery options, you may also want to consider the work behind the scenes, and how those employees are treated. If worker’s rights are important to you as a consumer, find a brand that works for your kitchen and your ethics.
“Of course, a local, subsidized, sustainable alternative would be amazing, but let’s be real ― if that existed, it definitely wouldn’t exist [in rural areas] for all the old people,” Guercio said. “You can hardly even get Grubhub out there.”
If you’re looking to get a loved one started on a meal kit or trying to find the perfect one for yourself, we’ve rounded up the best meal kits for smaller portioned food and dietary restrictions.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.