I remember standing in the kitchen with my parents as we made TV dinners for my elderly grandfather. He was not able to cook on his own, and this was before microwaves were invented. So, we created an assembly line with food from the Kosher caterer and put together compete meals in little aluminum foil containers. All he had to do was reheat them in the toaster oven. Despite our best efforts to create balanced meals and watch his sodium content, he would eat all the corned beef and leave all of the chicken.

Times have changed, but the concept has not. My friends and I all are pressed for time and often do not cook good meals for ourselves. So, we have tried something new and it works great for feeding our elderly relatives too. First, go to one of those big warehouse stores, and buy a few big packages of meat (some of the prepared stuff you cook yourself is really good), a big thing of rice, potatoes or other starch, and either frozen vegetables or relatively indestructible ones that can be frozen. Then, buy all the comfort food you can find. Then, go to the dollar store and invest in lots of the plastic round divided containers with lids. They are about two inches deep. I am being specific about the containers because I have gone through much trial and error. The less expensive, disposable kind have lids that shatter when they are dropped out of the freezer—a common occurrence if the senior has balance issues. The other kinds of containers tend to leave the food mixed in a clump and are hard to reheat in the microwave. These plate-like ones not only survive the drop-on-the-floor test, but also have high enough edges that people can eat right out of the container, even if they have mobility issues.

Okay. So, now you have food and containers. Go home and cook. Cook the things you and your elderly relatives like to eat. Cook lots of it. You are going to want to stock up. If you hate to cook, buy the prepared stuff and divide it into single portion servings. Divide up the comfort food into easy to manage portions. I am a big fan of the multi-packs of single-serve cookies, crackers and nuts. The bigger ones always seem to go stale before I finish them. Or worse yet, I decide that since it’s one bag it must be one serving and eat an entire big bag by myself!

Why are you doing this? Because you are going to assemble tasty, easy to microwave dinners. Then, you are going to stock your freezer and your family member’s freezer and pantry. This means if you or they cannot get out to do grocery shopping, it will not be a crisis. It also means you know they have the opportunity to eat well. Anything you make will have less sodium than most of the frozen dinners we are all tempted to buy. Besides, I am sure your food tastes better. Finally, it buys you some time. All of us have had those days when we are so tired, we eat dry cereal (the milk went bad and we did not have time to get more), crackers, or ice cream for dinner. When you have an elderly relative who needs help, your time becomes even more valuable. So, save it where you can.