Elevate Dining: Rethinking Your Nursing Home's Meal Strategy

Long-term care facilities are often challenged with designing a meal plan strategy that caters to the diverse dietary needs, preferences, and cultural backgrounds of residents. Balancing nutritional needs with the constraints of budget, staffing, and varying health conditions further complicates the endeavor.

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Elevate Dining: Rethinking Your Nursing Home's Meal Strategy
4 Min Read September 28th, 2023

Operating a nursing home or other long-term care facility typically means trying to do a lot with a little. While the cost of care services is high for the consumer, the high overhead of running such a business can mean that corners are cut repeatedly. This isn't fair to your residents. They deserve a safe, fun place to live in and within their budget. They also need to eat and eat well. 

While self-catering is always an option, those who are catered should be able to eat nutritious and delicious foods. It can be difficult to design a menu that caters to everyone's advanced food requirements, but it is far from impossible. Meal prep, working with the right suppliers, and adjusting your rental prices can all help you offer better meals that win over prospective residents and delight your current ones all at once. 

Importance of Offering Options 

The first thing you need to do is offer price options. This way, it is fair and allows you to accommodate the higher prices associated with certain meals over others. For example, you can offer a vegetarian meal plan for less than the meal plan that includes meat and fish. Vegan meal plans can be difficult since more specialty ingredients are involved, so you'll need to be careful when determining the average cost per plate and then adjust the meal plan subscription from there. 

You can even offer a flex plan option. For example, if someone chooses the vegetarian option because of the lower price point, you can offer on-the-day dish upgrades so they can treat themselves to a meal with beef or fish once a week.  

Offering flexibility like this can help you cover your meal costs better, and also allows those living at your facility the ability to better budget for their needs. You don't need to offer an extreme amount of choice, but generally, offering foods or meals that cater to the main types of diets will be essential. 

Remember that your categories will need to reflect your residents and current community. If a majority of your residents need to eat halal, for example, offering all meals as halal as standard is important. Those who don't need to eat halal won't notice a difference (with the exception of the missing pork), and those who do follow that diet will be far happier knowing their diet is safely being followed. 

How to Buy Better in Bulk 

One of the best ways to save when preparing food for a large group of people is to buy food in bulk. The secret to offering delicious meals for your residents again and again is, quite simply, to understand how much in bulk and how often. For example, you may want to order a fruit and veg order in bulk at the start of the week. Spices, on the other hand, can last for months. 

The secret to maintaining quality when buying in bulk is knowing how to properly store everything. Fruit, in particular, must be stored with the right set of items. Bananas, for example, must typically be isolated from others since they release a gas that causes other fruits near them to ripen quickly, to the point where they may spoil sooner than you expect. 

Don't expect all of your staff to know these facts, either. Sometimes, there are just too many rules to keep up. To avoid this, label everything. Put a label where each type of fruit and veg is supposed to be. Label all containers containing your dry ingredients so that you can safely store everything to preserve what you have best. 

This is how you'll keep food tasting great and how you can avoid food waste

Work With a Global Range of Chefs 

There are so many delicious food and recipe options out there. On top of working with a nutritionist, you should also get meal plans and recipes from a global range of chefs. Oftentimes, the only thing you need to adapt a dish from another country is the spices. You can buy many of these bulk organic spices online

By going above and beyond to shop for organic products only, you can offer your residents the best possible ingredients at the best possible prices. Keep these spices in air-tight containers and meal plan around them so that they get used up quickly. Include one spiced dish in each meal to give residents an opportunity to try diverse cuisines. As communities become more diverse, offering dishes from various global cuisines can better cater to the evolving preferences of future residents.

It's also a great way to add excitement and nutrition to your residents' diets. 

How to Use Those Leftovers 

Have leftovers? There are ways that you can actually reuse them. Package them into picnic meals for your residents and plan excursions to parks or other key areas of interest. You can even donate what's left to other at-need communities. You can even organize volunteering opportunities for your residents if they feel up to it so that they can get out there and feel like they are making a positive impact. 

This reduces food waste in just a few ways. You can reuse many ingredients in new dishes the next day. For example, a plate of roasted vegetables can be used in a stew. Being able to work with the leftovers (especially if the leftovers never left the kitchen) can help you stretch your food budget and continue to give your residents incredible dishes that are nutritious and delicious. 

Partner with Local Producers 

Forget the big bulk suppliers that try to give you everything in one go. The best way to serve the best food is to start with the best ingredients. Partner with local farms and producers to get at least fruit and veg fresh. You can then focus your dishes on what's locally grown and in-season for maximum impact and nutrition. 

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About the Author

Maggie Hammond is a proud mama to two little people and has one too many furry friends. She's passionate about alternative medicine, education, the great outdoors, and animal welfare.

LTC News Contributor Maggie Hammond

Maggie Hammond

Contributor since June 8th, 2023

Editor's Note

The cost of providing long-term care continues to rise, influenced by several key factors that affect care providers' operational expenses.

  • Labor: As the primary expense for most long-term care facilities, wages and benefits for staff members consistently increase. Additionally, with the growing demand for trained professionals in the field, competitive salaries and comprehensive benefits packages are essential to attract and retain quality caregivers.
  • Food: The cost of food is another significant expense for care facilities. Nutritious and diverse meal options are vital for residents' well-being. As global food prices fluctuate, facilities must adjust their budgets to ensure that they can provide balanced meals daily.
  • Utilities: Energy costs, whether for heating, cooling, or general electricity use, continually rise. As facilities aim to provide comfortable environments for residents, the associated energy bills can escalate.
  • Regulatory Compliance and Training: Staying compliant with ever-changing regulations in the healthcare sector often means investing in continuous training and updates to facility infrastructure, which can be costly.
  • Quality of Care: Facilities striving for excellence in care often invest in state-of-the-art equipment, comprehensive staff training, and enhanced resident amenities. This emphasis on quality, while essential, often comes with a higher price tag.

As these costs continue to escalate, the financial burden of long-term care is passed on to residents and their families. Moreover, beyond the financial implications, the emotional and physical toll on loved ones can be overwhelming, especially if they're unprepared. 

For these reasons, planning for potential long-term care needs before retirement becomes crucial. Integrating Long-Term Care Insurance into retirement planning ensures that individuals have a dedicated fund to cater to these needs, protecting family assets and offering peace of mind. It also reduces the stress and burden on family members, knowing that quality care options are accessible and affordable.

Most people get coverage in their 40s or 50s to ensure the most options and the lowest premiums. 

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Navigating the intricate world of Long-Term Care Insurance can be daunting. By turning to an experienced, qualified, independent LTC Insurance specialist, potential policyholders can ensure they're making the most informed choices. 

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Long-Term Care Insurance premiums can be very affordable, but premiums vary dramatically between insurance companies.

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