My husband and I are both sick with sinus infections, so I haven’t seen my 89-year old mom since Monday morning and I know I am not going there today and also it may snow here so who knows on which day I’ll see her???? In the meantime, we are always on the phone…I ask her my usual questions about her aches and pains, taking her meds, is she drinking enough water, etc. She also knows, that if she needed us, we’d be there within 5 minutes! My mom wants her Caretaker(s) to get better.
The One Real Life Act that Comforts Me As I Nurse this Sinus infection is knowing there is enough food in mom’s home, cooked and readily available. So Here Are My…
Real Life Tips and Easy Meal Ideas to Help Keep Our Elderly Parents Nourished the Right Way
“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” -George Bernard Shaw
Mom always loved good food and as an elderly woman who is widowed and living alone (but nearby), food has taken on a special importance in her life. She looks forward to her meals; they are a source of happiness and satisfaction for her. With that in mind and with her dietary needs a consideration, I try to make sure mom always has the food she likes in her pantry, fridge and freezer.
“A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.”-Elsa Schiaparelli
For mom, I am that “sorceress” who “dispenses happiness” through the homemade meals that I prepare and place in her freezer.
You know what your parents like. For example, I know to always have Parmalat 1% Milk in mom’s pantry so if she runs out of milk or loses electricity, it’s readily available. There is always 1% milk in her fridge as well as Fat-Free Coffee Mate; farmer cheese; Philadelphia Cream Cheese; lettuce, cuke, tomato, 2 or 3 potatoes, 2 apples, a dozen eggs, maybe a 1/4lb of American Cheese, a bag of freshly ground coffee. In her pantry she has her cereal snack bars (ones with the least amount of grams of sugar); applesauce snack pack; a box of matzo; no sugar-added bags of Russel Stover candy; olive oil, red wine vinegar, tuna, a can of sardines, box of cold cereal such as Special K, etc. In her freezer might be a container of no sugar added ice cream; cheese blintzes; sliced bagels; a sliced artisanal bread; food that I have prepared and maybe a steak, 2 hamburger patties or a package of lamb chops and the meals and vegetables that I have prepared.
What I use for storage: I buy the store-brand or GLAD brand of plastic containers for the freezer. I also use GLAD 1 Gallon Storage Bags that you need a Twist-tie to secure, NOT a Ziploc baggy. Mom has difficulty reclosing those. Know what your parents are capable of doing and not doing. I label all baggies.
Food Prep for Vegetables:
-To freeze most vegetables after I’ve blanched (minus salt) them, I scatter them onto a cookie pan and freeze slightly and then pour into a baggy. This way the veggies are separated and pour right out of the bag when ready to use and they do not clump together. If there’s slight clumping, a finger massage on the outside of the bag will separate them. I do this with stringbeans and brussel sprouts, mom’s favorite vegetables.
-Root vegetables: I buy large carrots (not in a bag), parsnips, turnips, onions. Oven is set at 400 degrees. I peel all vegetables; quarter the onion; slice the carrots, parsnips and turnips. Drizzle with 1Tbs of Olive Oil and roast 45min-1 hr.
-I make individual packets of assorted root veggies, wrap them in plastic wrap and put in a large baggy.
-*Sometimes, I’ll add asparagus, greenbeans/brussel sprouts to the pan, but later on since they take less time.
Chicken Soup: Mom loves when I use Murray’s or Bell and Evans cut up chicken wings; they’re range-free and have no antibiotics or hormones in them. Since she’s on a low-sodium eating lifestyle, I do not add salt to any food I prepare OR I add just a little bit of salt, it depends on what I’m preparing.
Anyway, back to the soup. After I’ve washed the wings, I throw them into a pot with:
• Celery stalks to remove later
• Chopped: celery and onion
• Sliced: carrots, parsnips
• Diced turnip, 1 white potato
• 1/2tsp black pepper
Cover with water. Everything boils until chicken is done and veggies are tender. Cool. Place in the freezer containers. Place a few containers into each baggy. Optional: This all depends on your parent’s palates. Of course add some fresh dill and/or parsley. Sometimes I add Goya low-sodium cannellini beans and/or Goya frozen mixed vegetables, a handful.
Other foods I cook and freeze for mom may include: meatballs in sauce (no-salt petite diced tomatoes and/or tomato sauce that I’ve seasoned with crushed garlic and black pepper); chicken cutlets francaise (minus the butter sauce!); thin veal francaise; breaded veal cutlet cut up into several meal portions; roast chicken cut up into 8ths; etc. My husband does all of the francaises and veal for mom, he’s the pro at that.
My dinner left-overs: Whenever we have salmon for dinner, mom always has it the next day for her dinner. My husband purposely does not use salt on our meals when he knows it’s going to mom the next day. In addition, even though there is cooked food in mom’s freezer, I will always bring her our night before left-overs for her dinner the next day since I know she will really enjoy them. Once in a while it could be a real treat like colossal fried shrimp or a beautiful slice of egg frittata made in our cast-iron pan that has spinach, sliced potato, chopped pepper/onions/mushrooms and some freshly grated cheddar cheese. My husband also specializes in those dishes and his egg frittata looks like a beautiful pizza. I stick to the basics.
Take-Out Food: That is very rare since it is so high in sodium and sugar. Since my husband and I are sick, we brought in Chinese food after the doctor yesterday. Today, I will make portion size containers and I’ll freeze them and when I go to mom’s, I’ll place them in her freezer. She loves Chinese food!
I am very happy that my mom still has a zest for life and enjoys tasty food.