How to Find Meal Delivery Services for Every Budget

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What to expect

The cost of meal delivery services varies widely, depending on the location, the recipient's income, and the type of food and how often it's needed. Many urban areas, for example, might have choices ranging from subsidized programs for free to made-to-order specialty meals for several hundred dollars a week -- with lots of possibilities in between. Less populated spots may offer fewer but less expensive alternatives.

In terms of cost, the possible options can be grouped into a few categories:

Free services A number of programs offer free meals to older adults in need. While local requirements differ, recipients must generally have few valuable assets and meet fairly strict income guidelines -- usually meaning they must qualify for Medicaid. Learn more.

Low-cost services Many nonprofit organizations and state agencies offer meal delivery services to those in need at little or no cost. These include Meals on Wheels, the Salvation Army, religious groups, and community service groups. Learn more.

Medium-priced to expensive services A growing number of restaurants and other commercial providers offer prepared meals that can be ordered by phone or online. Many feature selections that are delivered to the door warm or are easy to heat and eat, specially portioned and balanced for the nutritional needs of older adults. Learn more.

Other meal options

Those who are able and willing to get out and about, on their own or perhaps with some assistance, may enjoy the camaraderie that can come from having an occasional or regular meal with others at a senior center, community center, daycare center, or a place of worship.

Older adults who are able and willing to cook for themselves but are unable to get to a grocery store or to shop on their own may benefit from services that transport them to and from the store or do the shopping for them.

Others who are homebound but enjoy eating particular foods that they aren't able or willing to cook themselves may do best by hiring individuals -- either privately or through an in-home care agency -- usually by the hour, to prepare meals to order. Learn more.

How to get started

One good way to find out what's available in a particular area is to call your local Area Agency on Aging. While the services offered differ according to locale, most Area Agencies on Aging provide referrals to local meal delivery services. They may also be able to provide time-saving "inside knowledge," such as the geographic area each organization serves, or whether there's a waiting list for clients.

Barbara Kate Repa

Barbara Kate Repa, a lawyer and journalist, has devoted her career to editing and writing about legal issues for consumers. See full bio

about 4 years, said...

In my area, near San Francisco CA, the suggested donation for Meals on Wheels is $3.20. They deliver 1 meal a day. If my Father ends up moving in with me, which I hope will happen, I plan on having them deliver his lunch. He'll have 24 hour caregivers, and I'll be at work during the day. This way I only need to plan for Breakfast and Dinner. He can well afford the cost of Meals on Wheels, and I may actually have him pay extra, since he can afford it. I love the fact that we have the service in our area!

about 6 years, said...

Have you checked into the Senior Center in your area? Where we live the meals are healthy and are only $2.50 per person. They serve lunch only. Then there is Meals on wheels. I think that is about $80 a month. They deliver 2 meals a day during the week and not on weekends.

about 6 years, said...

I am forgetting more often and would love to get some meals delivered to me from time to time. It's a lot harder to cook and remember to turn off the burners; I burn thgs more and it is just lonesome doing it all by myself and not having anyone to share food with. Having them delivered to me would be a wonderful gift and altho I'm poor, it is good to know that it is possible to have meals prepared and bro't to me from time to time. Thanks a bunch! :-)

over 6 years, said...

I use Angel Food Ministeries to supplement meals for dad when I am not feeling well enough to prepare a meal for dinner. I purchase only 10 meals per month and it works out just fine. Each meal is different and there is a wide variety. Every month is a different menu. The meals are around $3 per. Dad likes them also for the taste and variety.

almost 7 years, said...

Thanks again......Donna

almost 7 years, said...

Any advice for a senior to maintain their self care is invaluable....Thank you.

about 7 years, said...

There is a service called " Angel Food Ministeries". They usually have prepared meals that can be picked up at various locations. The food is good and the price is right. Their website gives a lot of info and may be helpful for some.