The food of love – top tips for winter warmers for our elderly

winter wonderland

Charlie Hodson, the chef behind Charlie’s Food Heroes and patron of social enterprise Norwich LEAP and The Feed, believes that the time between Remembrance Sunday and Christmas is the perfect opportunity to think about the elderly, and keeping both loneliness and hunger, at bay

As I prepare to ‘sleep out’ for the Benjamin Foundation in Norwich, on Remembrance Day, November 11, I’ve been thinking about not only the issue of homelessness in the older generation but also those about to face another winter home alone.

When it comes to loneliness, appearances can be deceptive. I remember working on a property development in a nice part of London and this immaculately dressed woman would walk past and say hello every single day at 8am and then 3pm with her little dog, including on Christmas Eve.  We were all back on site on January 2, and I remember saying to her: ‘Good morning, have you had a nice Christmas?’ She replied: ‘Yes, thank you, although I must say you’re the first person I’ve spoken to since Christmas Eve.’

So if ever there’s a time of year to be a good neighbour this has to be it. As soon as it gets icy the elderly might not feel able to go out for fear of falling over. If you’ve got an elderly neighbour and can see ice on the road and milk still on the doorstep, why not go and do a friendly check so see if they’ve got enough food in?

Better still, if you’ve got an elderly neighbour who you know is going to be on their own on Christmas Day, why not invite them over for the big meal?

As a consultant chef, I know how important it is know that an elderly relative is eating healthy, warming food. Soups are amazing as they can be made cheaply on the hob and stored in the fridge. So if you’re stocking up for an elderly relative ready for the winter, anything that can be stored for a relatively long time in the fridge would be good, especially if they don’t have a freezer.

If they do have a freezer, then a top tip from me would be to do what my mum used to do after my dad passed away. Prior to Christmas and winter really kicking in, she would make as much food as possible and freeze them in those little takeaway containers. In fact, she would fill her freezer up with 30 to 40 meals, if she could. If she knew she wouldn’t be able to get to the shops – for example if she was snowed in, she knew, at least, that she had food in the freezer: casseroles, cottage pies, and even a full roast dinner – in other words she would make her own ready meal.

So instead of making just one portion of spaghetti Bolognese make enough for six in a big tray then freeze the other five. And remember to freeze leftover vegetables: Brussels and carrots freeze really easily, for example.

By doing this you can help make sure that an elderly neighbour or relative is eating properly and that can go a long way to keeping them well through the winter.

There is more information, including how to make a donation, about The Benjamin Foundation’s Sleep Out in Norwich on their website.