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What healthy, room-temperature dinners can I mail?

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I want to mail some healthy dinners to a young widow. I would like the foods to be ready-to-heat or simple in that they just require adding one or two ingredients like water or milk. Even adding a cooked chicken breast would be okay if everything else was in a mix and required no work. She is having a hard time getting herself to cook, let alone cook something healthy. She was trying to stick to a "heart healthy" diet due to a family history of cardiac disease before her husband passed away.

What are some options for room-temperature-stable dinners that can withstand 2-day shipping in hot weather? Some things I thought of: dry pasta, Hamburger Helper, and ramen noodle bowls, but these are not healthy. There's Tasty Bite Indian dinners which are entirely sealed and just require boiling, but I really would like to do the preparation myself. She can go grocery shopping herself, so I don't want to mail basic things like canned vegetables or soups.

Please note that I would like to prepare the dinners/ dinner mixes myself and I cannot afford a meal delivery service. Thanks!

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  1. as much as I admire your sentiment, I don't think there's anything out there other than things like breads that can be safely shipped at room temperature after cooking. Why not make her a healthy bread (maybe with dried fruit, or a savoury one with olives or sundried tomatoes) that she could enjoy without risk of illness?

    Nothing says love like home cooking...but you don't want to set up a special delivery of botulism, either.

    1. Do you ever do any canning? Things like pasta sauce and some soups can be canned and shipped, as well as fruits or preserves, either boiling water bath or under pressure (depending on what's being canned, of course).

      Also, I wonder if you could freeze meals and ship them with dry ice, and rather than 2-day mail, go with overnight delivery. I overnighted some freshly-picked, pitted and frozen fruit to my mother-in-law several years ago (in July!), and she said they were still frozen when they arrived.

      1. have you thought of over-nighting frozen meals?

        baked goods canned foods or something like granola can be shipped safely at ambient temps, but not much else.

        1. Thanks for the replies so far! I had thought of overnighting frozen food, but I am a bit concerned because it is going to Phoenix (where it is over 100 degrees already).

          A friend mentioned that he could loan me a food dehydrator, so another thought I had is perhaps dehydrating fresh fruit, which would probably be a healthier snack than the sugar-filled dried fruit that you can buy, or dehydrating a bunch of vegetables for a soup. I haven't done this before, but it seemed like a possibility.

          I also thought about making "dinner mixes" like sending a ziplock of seasonings for chili with a can of beans and tomato sauce, or making something like a Zatarain's rice mix. I was also trying to think of what people would bring if they went camping. I haven't done any canning of my own unfortunately.

          4 Replies
          1. re: redlady

            Honestly, this sounds like quite a bit more trouble than it's worth. Why don't you send her some healthy homemade snack food/dessert and a gift certificate to a reasonably health-conscious restaurant nearby?

            1. re: redlady

              You might want to check if there are any area cooks/chefs who made food for home delivery. Here in D.C. we have a cook named "Soupergirl" who delivers soup on a weekly basis to people. It's not too expensive.

              There's also the possibility of buying her a one-time farmer's market/CSA box share, which promises to be fresh and healthy. Sorry, wasn't trying to discourage you in my previous post, I just think there are more effective ways to accomplish sending someone a whole, healthy meal then making something that needs to be dried/packed in dry ice, etc.

              1. re: redlady

                I've had my kids make those meals in a jar where you add meat/tomatoes/etc. to it but honestly are more trouble than they're worth. First, I didn't have the type of dried food they call for (dehydrated onions, garlic) and it cost a lot to buy them all, and because you only need a small amount, I ended up w/ jars of things I don't use. It was fairly expensive, overall and the most expensive part was the meat and things that the recipient added in the end. We did things like this:

                http://stlawrenceleague.blogspot.com/...
                http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/friends...
                http://chefmichele.blogspot.com/2005/...

                We did a complete meal with soup, dinner, dessert, hot chocolate. I don't know if anyone ever used any of them.

                I think the dried fruit would be a good snack and you could make it into a trail mix; or baked goods. I know you don't want to buy off the shelf food but maybe you could pick up some that she might not know about, like falafel mix or vegetarian chili that she could then buy for herself if she liked it?

                1. re: redlady

                  Not sure why you'd see a well-packed frozen meal as problematic but feel that room-temp food exposed to the same 100-degree weather could be okay. People understand that their expectations need to be lowered when camping so any food tastes good in that context (and very often weight is the driving factor).

                2. There is really very little can make on your own that will be stable enough to be shipped without refrigeration and require very little cooking. If you are just shipping store-bought products, it would probably end up cheaper to order them from Amazon and have them shipped to her directly (yes, Amazon has food).

                  Another idea: Many areas have grocery delivery services where you can order online. It may the the store itself that delivers, or a third-party service that shops the grocery list and delivers for a reasonable fee. Google for grocery delivery and her area.