June Ask the Expert 

My mom, who used to pride herself on her cooking, doesn’t want to cook anymore. My dad is complaining about spending so much money eating out, and we’re worried about their health. All this packaged and pre-made food isn’t healthy. Still, I feel like my mom spent her life cooking and shouldn’t have to keep doing it if she’s tired. What other options do you suggest? 

The experience of food can change over our lifetime. Many of us go through periods where we just don’t feel up to cooking. Has your mom indicated why she doesn’t want to cook anymore? Is it just the cooking, or the process of grocery shopping as well? She is certainly entitled to a break, but it might help to identify the root cause of her change in pattern. If she simply is tired of cooking, there are other options. Cooking for two can be very different than the days of cooking for a family; sometimes you just run out of ideas, or it becomes a mundane task. Other times something else is going on, like difficulty remembering the steps, trouble standing or concentrating for long periods of time, or a change in mood or appetite that might signal an underlying cause that should be addressed.  

Eating out can become costly and requires nighttime driving, which may become an issue at some point and you’re right, pre-packaged food might not be the healthiest option. Here are some options that you might consider: 

  1. Come up with a list of likes and dislikes for both of your parents. Note any food allergies or tolerance issues. Determine weekly staples for shopping trips. This will help whoever may be helping with meals in the future.  
  1. Identify when they eat the largest meal of the day, how many meals they eat each day and when they prefer a hot meal. This will help determine a routine and how to best support that with supplemental services.  
  1. Offer to help her with grocery shopping and meal prep. If you can do this once a week, that would provide for some homecooked options for a portion of the week. They could simply reheat or do the final prep work and it may not seem so overwhelming.  Make sure to label and date everything, to avoid any confusion. 
  1. Consider setting up an online shopping service. There are several options for this, depending on which store they prefer. You can help set this up and assist in weekly shopping, over the phone. You can set up the order on your end, coordinate with them, and set up the order for pick up or delivery.  
  1. Meal delivery services are also an option. Several companies who offer catering, also offer meal plans that can be delivered to the home each week. Some restaurants offer this as well. A quick internet search and a few calls can help you identify options in their area. 
  1. If your mom has no interest in cooking, and you are not in the area to assist, consider hiring a companion or caregiver to come in a few times a week to assist with grocery shopping and cooking.  
  1. If you are going to go with pre-prepped foods, look for restaurants or markets that offer healthier options with packaged to go meals. Many health foods stores that have lunch counters, offer premade foods. These would be a step up from just purchasing frozen meals.  
  1. Look for congregate meal sites or lunch/dinner clubs. The local senior center or area churches may have monthly options that would provide a hot meal and socialization.  

It may be a process to establish a new routine and meal options that are appealing to them. The great thing is that we do have many resources they can potentially tap into. Through family, friends, services and possibly hiring a companion to help at home, you can hopefully ease her burden and keep the budget in line for your dad, minimizing the number of times they eat out each week.  

June Ask the Expert  was last modified: July 27th, 2023 by Sprout Media Lab Testing