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Make ahead meals for Elderly

Our Uncle is coming home from a short stay at an assisted living/rehab facility. Unfortunately, he’s not been eating well on his own and he has finally agreed to my preparing him meals to heat up for himself once he gets home.

Any suggestions for nutritionally rich meals, which can be prepared in advance, and heated in the microwave. (that’s about as much ‘cooking’ as he’s able to do)

I was thinking of, turkey meatloaf with beans & veggies hidden in it, veggie lasagna, salmon cakes with a fresh veg on the side, and some sort of chicken and dumpling or chicken and noodle creation w/ lots of veggies.
He’s a relatively ‘plain’ eater. Any other suggestions/ ideas are greatly appreciated!

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  1. cgarner, how about simple broths that any number of vegetables, rice or noodles could be added into, or hearty but not overly rich soups, beef stews come to mind as does casseroles of rice, potatoes or filled pastas prepared ahead to have on hand. Have nice whole grain bread in the freezer that he can toast by the slice. Also good for soup and sandwich (like grilled cheese or an open-faced turkey sandwich) combos.

    Best to him.

    1. Steel cut oats can be made a quart or so at a time and stored in a plastic container in the fridge. When he wants breakfast, he just spoons some into a bowl and nukes it and then adds milk, sugar or maple syrup.

      Hard boiled eggs can be made a dozen at a time and left in the fridge in the carton and snacked on whenever.

      I would make sure he had a supply of ensure and or energy bars too when he is just not interested in heating anything up.

      Rice casseroles, pilafs and risottos hold very well in the fridge.

      Noodle casseroles, spaghetti and hamburger helper-like dishes hold well too.

      The rice and noodle casseroles would freeze well in a zip lock or Foodsaver bag.

      Soups in a 1 quart container can be poured into a bowl and nuked. Premium canned soup and any kind of bread especially french bread is very comforting. Ham Hocks and beans or ham and bean soup to those north of the Mason-Dixon line stores well.

      Put some Marie callander's pot pies in his freezer. He can microwave those. If you would rather make individual pot pies, I'm sure that would work too.

      1. You don't say anything about freezing these meals, so I'm assuming you live close enough that you can make and take every few days. Also, I don't know how old your Uncle is.

        + 1 Everything you and HillJ said for hot meals. But now that it's getting warmer, don't forget cool things that will keep in the fridge a few days and don't even require a microwave.

        A couple of deviled eggs, chopped salad with tomatoes (peeled and seeded, if needed) and dressing in a jar that he can just take a handful and dress, potato or pasta salad with whatever veggies he'll eat (par-cooked carrot dice, cucumber, tomato), bean salad (3 or up to 8), shredded roasted chicken, cubed cheese.

        My experience with my elders is that they often don't want a sit-down meal but would prefer to graze over the length of a day. So have nutritionally-rich snack foods available so Uncle can grab a chunk of cheese, a strawberry, a whole-grain cracker, a shred of chicken.

        My elders do not like any flavors of Ensure but they like chocolate Boost. Maybe a chocolate Boost milkshake with his ice cream of choice while you're there with him visiting and filling his fridge, and put the leftover in the freezer for another time,

        3 Replies
        1. re: nemo

          Excellent point about seasonal/weather conditions, nemo. Love the milkshake, smoothie, pudding, cold cereal, prepared oats, crackers suggestions. Ice cream, sherbet, frozen fruit (grapes, watermelon).

          1. re: HillJ

            Jarred juice is better than no juice and juice and a banana and maybe a piece of toast make a pretty good breakfast.

            1. re: Hank Hanover

              If citrus is on sale, I'd squeeze fresh and leave it in the frig for Uncle for the week. Jarred juice, read the labels.
              Bananas every day!

        2. he's 81, and he does live close by.
          Our son passes right near his house on his way to work, so I figured I'd stock him with a couple days at a time worth of meals.
          He's an odd bird

          I mentioned him here in conversation before, he was eating the exact same thing for breakfast and lunch every.single.day, for YEARS (and was eating fairly healthfully too)

          Problem is, that he got it in his head that his sugar was high (we don’t know why he thought this) so he cut out eating certain things that he “thought” were not good for him

          And then left him self with eating
          Breakfast: Toast with butter
          Lunch: yogurt with blueberries
          Dinner: Grocery store made macaroni & Cheese
          this is what he'd been eating, every day for the last 6 months or so, and he refused meals from me, because he he decided he didn’t “like” the texture of chicken or beef anymore, and couldn’t be bothered with fish, because it made the microwave smell bad and certain vegetables were “too hard to digest”

          Before he went into the rehab, I made him chicken noodle soup, meatloaf and a portion of salmon… all with sides of fresh veggies, rice or mashed potatoes.

          He said the salmon was “terrible, like a board” but then I found out that he heated it for ten minutes!
          So instructions are going on everything I send over now
          I could do a beef stew, if I cooked the meat till falling apart tender, he’d eat it then

          I like the steel cut oats idea, very tasty (one of my faves) and good for you

          They tried to give him Ensure at the rehab, he didn’t like it
          I went thru this with my Grandmother, she hated the stuff too
          I’d was pretty good at smoothies and milkshakes for her with protein powder snuck in when she wasn’t looking

          Thanks for the ideas! My husband said “why can’t you just pack up our leftovers and send to him the next day?” which is another idea, but that’s not going to work 100% of the time, so I have to have some back ups, and breakfast and lunch ideas

          Also thinking wheat muffins w/ fruit, like apples, bananas, or blueberries and maybe some whole wheat waffles and pancakes he can heat up and eat.

          6 Replies
          1. re: cgarner

            Posted as you were posting this. You do have a set of challenges, don't you? Instructions are clearly the way to go. And if you do find some things he likes (very soft beef stew or whatever) you can make some extra portions to keep in your freezer and send over days when you are crunched for time. Good luck!

            1. re: cgarner

              Sounds like you are an angel!

              Sounds, too, like your dear uncle might have denture/tooth problems common to the elderly that make him shy away from anything too "textured" or chewy.

              My mother liked a lot of the microwavable Stouffers entrees in a pinch; might be good to have in the freezer?

              Nutrament supplements (strawberry, vanilla and chocolate) were faves of my aunts.

              1. re: cgarner

                cgarner - oh boy, he sounds EXACTLY like my father, especially the blood sugar idea and the elimination of foods. I begged my dad to listen to the doctors but he knew better.....

                My dad absolutely would not accept any meals from me but I did do pre-cooked meals for my grandmother after rounds of chemo treatments. She and my grandfather liked simple food.

                Some thoughts and ideas that they liked -

                Smaller portions (sort of a given but I had to learn just how small)

                unless there is a medical reason of keep the fats down, I would go for full-fat versions of things, lasagna with meat instead of veggie lasagna, to keep the calorie counts up.

                Watch the density of the food. They found it hard to micro really dense meals like lasagna, it just took too long. Frozen food was even worse. Things like pasta and small meat balls or chunks of sausage reheated much easier.

                pre-cut meat into bite sized pieces

                My grandmother likes little snack boxes, for lack of a better word. Think Lunchables for adults - a container of a few grapes, a few pieces of cheese, nuts (if he can handle them) and a few crackers.

                Would he pick at cold meats from the fridge? My grandparents likes sliced, roasted turkey for sandwiches. I would do them in the crock pot and pre-slice. You could also add the turkey to soups.

                I think rice freezes well enough. My grandfather "hated" rice until it started arriving via my meals. I didn't do anything special to it, just added it to the cooler for an extra carb.

                If he is rejecting your food, what about a trip to the grocery store to let him pick out frozen meals? A lot of us Chowers cringe at the idea but my father (would be 80 now) and grandparents never tired of the novelty of frozen dinners. The portions tend to be small and they are sort of fool-proof.

                Is he able to do basic cooking? My mom bought my grandparents one of those George Forman grills and they thought it was the best invention ever and were able to fish and chicken breasts on their own. The clean up was easy enough that they didn't feel overwhelmed

                1. re: cgarner

                  I feel your dilema, I too have the daunting task of preparing meals for an elderly gentleman that has "sugar" on the brain.
                  I always keep fresh fruit on hand so when the "sugar" attacks come he can grab one quick. I also do pancakes, ( multi-grain, fruit and nut, plain ) he loves them and the reheat great. Just for something different I served him chickend and rice quesidillas last night with just a little picodegallo, and low and behold he loved them. They weren't spice, but they were a little different then normal dinner. Sometimes we all like something different. Worse thing that could happen is they dump it in the trash and have a bowl of oatmeal.
                  Good luck with this, I know it is definately a challenge, but we all do what we can do!!!

                  1. re: othervoice

                    What's the "sugar" issue? If he's a diabetic then it helps to learn what foods increace his blood sugar, and avoid them. And don't follow the rest of this post, as if this is the issue I'm totally wrong.
                    If he loves sugar (with no immediate health concerns) IMHO; let him eat cake. As people age most lose some of their sense of taste and they want something that tastes strong and sugar is something they can taste. If in 5-10 years they "could" have a health concern from eating sugar - so what?
                    I feed my Dad (87) and frankly he eats what he wants, and he doesn't really want to eat anything. He's lost 35 lbs this year and any calories I can get into him, I do. I buy Peeps when I see them, he loves them. I buy pie, encourage him to snack on those horrible packaged cakes and chips. I also buy Boost and Ensure flavors he like and encourage him to take a multivitamin (he doesn't). He won't be here in 10 years...what's the harm?

                    1. re: breakfastfan

                      He doesn't really HAVE a sugar issue. He noted that his blood sugar went up two points in two years and decided himself that he has a blood sugar issue. My concern isn't even the sugar issue, it's making sure that he gets at least some semblance of proper nutrition... (if that makes sense)

                2. Partly it's a matter of what he likes to eat. All of your suggestions sound good although I might go meat rather than veggie lasagna (depending of course on his tastes). My oldster is pretty happy picking on a rotisserie chicken as long as I get it from the place where they are not too salty. And he loves rice so I got him a tiny rice cooker. Days when I am there, I put everything in so he can just flip the switch half an hour before he wants to eat that night. I have also had good luck with lamb shank stew (with a bunch of veggies in) which freezes and reheats beautifully, but then that has always been a favorite of his. He likes the frozen, nukable mashed potatoes quite a lot. Sometimes he likes spaghetti and is willing to cook it if there is a nice meat sauce to put on it that he can just nuke. As to the grazing, I think it depends -- my father spent his whole life thinking that eating between meals was BAD so now when he desperately needs the calories it never occurs to him, even when I leave out tempting little bowls of nuts or berries or things like that. Good luck, some of it will just be trail and error.