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Food that can stay at room temperature in, say, a hospital room?

My cousin was badly injured in a fire and will be in the hospital for a month. His wife and daughters are keeping constant vigil (a doctor friend loaned them his studio apartment across from the hospital, but they use it for storage and showering, preferring to sleep in the hospital room).

They've been eating like crap. I brought hot food tonight, and I will continue to do so, but I'd like to bring them something that they can eat in the room (there aren't restrictions on eating in the room, just on what my cousin can eat) so that they can have more than one square meal a day.

What can I bring that can stay in a hospital room for a day or two without becoming a festering pile of bacterial sludge? I have a (very) small cooler and enough blue ice to keep it cool for a day or two, but I'd like things that are grab-and-go, because the microwave is literally a quarter-mile hike from the room.

Healthier than fast-food would be the watchword here... they're so over Wendy's, In-N-Out and Zankou.

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  1. I am really sorry to hear about your cousin, I hope he gets better quick.

    how about kimbap? It's like sushi, but its not usually served with raw fish, instead it's made with carrots, omelette, spinach, maybe imitation crab or bulgogi, or spam. You could make it vegetarian style. I would definitely not eat it after a day though....even a day is pushing it. How about using a thermos and filling it up with some soup? My mother brought one to me when I was in the hospital and it stayed warm even after a few hours.

    sandwiches would also be good to w/fresh veggies. Although I would pack everything separately: vegetables, condiment, and bread.

    1. My first thought was Middle Eastern, since lots of it is served room temperature. Things like spanikopita, hummus (with crackers and carrot and celery sticks to dip into it), greek salad, stuff like that. I think that pasta with pesto and vegetables is great cold or room temp, you could toss in tomatoes, diced chicken, etc.

      1. In addition to the hot meal you'll be providing, how about hard salami, olives, tasty mustard, a basket with a few nice pieces of fruit and some tomatoes, cucumbers, whatever, that you'll replenish as needed. Crackers. Many cheeses will be alright in a cooler for a while.
        Bring a small, nice bread with you each day and they can put together something tasty anytime.
        Also, you could leave a small board or something to cut on and something to cut bread, cheese, fruit. One tiny "food station" (a box, basket...) stocked with essentials like a good knife will make a big difference. I've done a bit of hospital time, a month is a very long time to live like that.
        Oh, nutella? Good snack anytime and ought to make hospital coffee go down a bit easier.

        Really very sorry about your cousin. You're good to help out in this way. There is nothing like a home cooked meal to look forward to at a time like this. It will make a big difference to them.

        - back to add: veggies cut up and ready to eat will be alright in ziplocs in a cooler for a while. Hospitals aren't always so good in the fresh veg dept. so that'd be a nice thing to get.

        1. I would give them a gift of a cooler. Hospitals always have ice machines around so they can keep it filled. Then they can eat anything that is cold. Also, many hopsitals have a small family kitchen too in the units, usually a microwave is available. As long as there is ice in a cooler, the food is staying sufficiently cold. Then one can stock with cheese, yogurt, salads like cous cous, meat for sandwiches...

          I would absolutely advocate for cut up veggies. For instance, sliced bell peppers and hummus or good baba ganoush (mmmm). Some pita or even pita chips are great. Really fresh whole fruit is also great.

          Culprits of food poisoning are most often seafood, poultry, things that have been frozen then improperly thawed, previously cooked rice and pasta, and sometimes eggs, unless thoroughly cooked first.

          1. I agree with the above suggestions for a variety of cheese, crackers, fruit, praps hard salami, bag of crudites...
            It might also be worth investing in a plug-in kettle (if the hospital will allow it in the room) and buying some high-end instant soup and/or ramen packs to have on hand as well as various kinds of tea and maybe instant coffee if they don't mind it. It'll save money and trips.

            Best wishes for your cousin's speedy recovery.

            1. The plug in kettle is a great idea. If the hospital will allow it, I would also suggest a small crock pot. Maybe some hearty stews or soups that can be reheated. If the hospital doesn't allow anything to be plugged in, maybe freeze a few pre-cooked servings that could be quickly defrosted and cooked at the apartment when they go to change. For breakfasts, shelf stable soy or regular milk is very helpful. I've found small sizes at my local food coop that are enough for a couple of coffees and two servings of cereal. Include some extra raisins and some bananas. Peanut butter, trail mix, grape tomatos and crackers as well as fresh fruit are great snacks. If they like it, maybe some v-8 and tomato juice in small cans. If you freeze some single servings of stew and soups, they would be fine the next day if kept in a cooler where they would slowly defrost. Get the Ziploc plastic containers that aren't expensive so they can just toss them. I would do the same with some casserole type meals that freeze well.
              I hope your cousin's recovery goes well.

              1 Reply
              1. re: dfrostnh

                My dad could tell you from experience with one patient that they won't let you roast your own lamb in a hospital room.

              2. I would never consider doing any food prep in a hospital room. Think of all the germs coming in and out on the shoes/clothing of doctors, nurses, cleaners, and food-deliverers. They've all been in places with very sick, sometimes infectious, patients. Antibiotic-resistant staph infections are on the rise in hospitals across the country. This is just about the worst environment that I can think of in which to cook!

                I think you're doing the best you can, assuming they're using disposable plates, cups, and cutlery, as there is no way to clean anything adequately.

                Packaged food, sealed and kept in a cooler would be okay, but I wouldn't leave opened packages lying around the room.

                When my son was in the hospital for a month years ago, I subsisted on the hospital cafeteria food, choosing oatmeal and fruit everyday for breakfast, salad and crackers for lunch (I did have a stash of homemade vinaigrette), and whatever looked least repugnant at dinner. A couple of times a week, a friend or relative would bring me dinner.

                Really, food was the least of my worries. I had other things on my mind. Good luck to your relatives.

                1. Some suggestions:

                  *PB&J Sandwiches

                  *Chinese steamed baos (preferrably with non-meat, veggie fillings)

                  *Banh Mi

                  *Most types of savory tarts

                  *Grilled vegetable panini sandwiches

                  *Most chinese stir-fry dishes

                  1. From experience, my best advice would be to make friends at the nurses' station. They'll be your lifesaver(s). With the availability of their (hidden) microwave and refrigerator, you'll be able to keep food safely IF you treat the nurses kindly and share with them. Find one special one (each shift, if possible) who can act as your advocate/protector. Ask what he/she likes and provide it.

                    If there are food restrictions for your cousin, those are important to follow. Sometimes, they are "elastic", so it is best to check.

                    At odd hours, I found smoothies made on the spot from cafeteria-available yoghurt & fruit to work when all else failed, or when Atilla-the-Nurse was on duty. When serving food, some stealth may be required, especially among the families of other patients who'll want to know where theirs is.

                    Cookies placate the fierce so make certain there is a never-ending supply clearly identified as coming from the room/family of your cousin. Whatever you do, make certain there is enough to go around.

                    Good luck. This is likely to be a long haul.

                    1. When my sister and her husband had their daughter almost two years ago we visited them daily until they were released and always with a full meal in tow.
                      What we brought:
                      Warm homemade chicken soup, very simple but nourishing and comforting. With farro and cabbage and carrots and chicken, it is something they still remember for its comfort. Along with good Acme bread and some local cheese.

                      Dim Sum. This actually worked out well, and they were craving it so...it gets packed up in a pretty organized manner, so easy to share without a dining table, and the steamed items are good room temp. Don't forget the soy and vinegar, they can store it in the studio. -very nice favor of that nice Dr., by the way.

                      Burritos. A one hand, no plate needed meal. Everyone gets their own, easy and reheatable for a second meal.

                      Trying to think what else would work well, they weren't in the hospital that long, but a month, wow, we'll try to keep the ideas coming!
                      Good luck, I hope your cousin heals quickly!

                      1. As long as you keep the temperature in the cooler 40F or lower, it should be fine. If it gets any higher, the cooler becomes an incubator unless the food is salted, pickled, dry, or otherwise preserved.

                        Perhaps you could bring them a big lunch. They could cool the leftovers in the cooler and use them for dinner.

                        I hope your cousin gets better quickly. In which hospital is your cousin staying?