Preparing meals for others

Preparing meals for others

Cooking or preparing a meal for a neighbour or loved one is something that a lot of people are doing now. It is a way to show that you care and is a chance to drop in for a social chat (at a distance). It is a good idea to consider nutrition needs and basic food safety advice when you prepare food to give to family and friends aged over 65 years.

Preparing a healthy meal

  • Consider any dietary needs or allergies of the person you are preparing a meal for.
  • Try to include two to three of the five food groups in the meal; vegetables, lean meat and alternatives (such as legumes), grains, fruit, and dairy products and alternatives.
  • Use healthy fats to cook with like olive oil.
  • If providing a main meal include vegetables or serve some on the side.

Be food safe

  • Only prepare food for others if you are well.
  • Basic tips for food preparation:
    • Thoroughly clean food preparation areas before starting.
    • Wash hands before handling food and after touching raw food, such as eggs and meat.
    • Wash fruits and vegetables under running water before using.
    • Keep raw foods like meat and uncooked eggs away from fresh produce like salad vegetables and cooked foods.
    • Thoroughly cook meat and poultry, until the inside reaches at least 75ºC.
    • Be sure to cook eggs until they are no longer runny.

Basic food storage tips

  • Label the container with contents and date it was made. This is most important if a person is going to freeze it or store in the fridge for a later time.
  • Divide the food into meal size portions to help make it easier to defrost.
  • Put hot food in the fridge or freezer as soon as it stops steaming – don't let it cool to room temperature on the bench.

Delivery of meals

  • Follow social distancing advice. Ring ahead to let the person know when you are coming and arrange a time. Leave food outside and greet them at the door at a safe distance.
    • If transporting food any distance:
    • Keep cold-food cold.
    • Keep hot-foods hot.
    • Keep hot and cold foods separate. Use two separate insulated containers if needed.
    • A general rule: for ready to eat meals, make sure it is transported, delivered and eaten, within a couple of hours.
    • If it’s not going to be eaten straight away, make sure it gets into the fridge (or freezer) within 2 hours.
    • If you’re transporting multiple meals (e.g. bulk meals to a single household), make sure they are kept cold. Freezing the meals first may make this easier.
  • Let the person receiving the meal know if the food is suitable to freeze.

For more information about preparing meals for others visit the Eating Well page.