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How to get food to your parents in times of coronavirus

Meals for older people

This article has now been superseded by the latest advice on food and essentials shopping announced on 23 June 2020. You may still find some of the ideas here helpful, although many delivery services set up during lockdown of essential foods and cooked meals may be wound down now.


With instructions to stay in to protect yourself and family from the COVID-19 virus, how can we make sure our parents are getting the food they need?

Here are some thoughts that apply today, but with the rate of change it will be a good idea to check latest status when you want to place orders or if your parents are thinking of venturing out to shops for essential supplies. I will be updating the article as frequently as possible.

Those who are clinically highly vulnerable should have received a letter to confirm they will receive support. You can also register online.


If your parents can get out to shop for themselves, the supermarkets are offering specific times of day when older and more vulnerable people can visit in relative peace.

As days pass supermarkets are changing how they approach who can shop when, so it’s best to check with the stores themselves via their websites, or possibly by phone. These were the details we could find as at 8 April.


Retailer Priority shopping times for elderly and vulnerable
Aldi Opening 30 mins early Mon-Sat for browsing only in England and Wales. Purchases can be made at any time in Scotland.
Asda No obvious priority shopping
Coop Dedicated hour at 8-9 Mon-Sat, and 10-11 Sun
Iceland Nothing on the website
Lidl None
Marks & Spencer 1st hour Mon/Thurs – check local store for opening times
Morrisons None instore
Sainsbury’s 8-9am Mon/Wed/Fri
Tesco 9-10 Mon/Wed/Fri (not Tesco Express)
Waitrose First hour of opening for all stores

If a friend or neighbour offers to shop for your parent, they willl probably have to shop in normal hours, but it looks like the supermarkets have on the whole calmed down and are re-stocking well. Stores are lifting restrictions on the number of products that can be bought at one time, which will help those shopping for several people. Asda, Marks and Spencer, and Sainsburys are talking about launching a ‘volunteers shopping card’ to help those shopping for others.

Online deliveries

The supermarkets are recruiting as fast as they can to ramp up home deliveries. There are fewer reports of deliveries being cancelled at the last minute, so calm is slowly returning. .


On 8 April, Sainsburys said that it had already offered 480,000 elderly and vulnerable customers priority booking for online deliveries, with a plan to contact 120,000 more. That’s in England and the company is awaiting databases from the government of people who have registered online in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Tesco announced on 7 April that having received an initial list of 110,000 clinically vulnerable and isolated people from the government, Tesco has been able to match 75,000 existing customers and have let them know the company is making home delivery slots available to them immediately. Elsewhere it’s been reported that Tesco wants as many people to shop instore as possible, as home delivery service is unable to meet demand.

Anecdotal reports are that it is still difficult to get through to book deliveries but that the problem is easing off.

Prioritising older and vulnerable people for deliveries is a great idea, but becomes more complicated if you are placing an order on their behalf. It’s also pretty difficult to get through to helplines at the moment. There are no perfect answers yet.

Update 29 March: Waitrose is setting aside a quarter of its delivery slots for older and vulnerable customers.

If your parent already has milk delivered, they may well be able to procure other foodstuffs. I use milkandmore, and while fruit and veg have been out of stock for a while now, I can order bread and dairy products. However, that does require ordering online, and milkandmore is not accepting new customers.

Update: Morrisons now offers a next-day delivery essentials box for £35 (including £5) delivery. Slots fill fast but worth a look.

The good news is that many restaurants, coffee shops and pubs have adapted their services to deliver meals or sell fresh produce from their premises, as have butchers, bakers and greengrocers. Search locally to find them. Andwholesalers are also creating online shops to sell their stock.

Corner shops

Many local shops are said to be carrying good stocks of most vital goods. There are a few that are said to be profiteering, so if you parent suggests they’ve had to pay ridiculous prices for goods, you can report the shop to trading standards.

Call 020 3738 6000 or email [email protected]

Commercial meal delivery services

There are of course the companies that have been delivering meals to older people for many years, such as Wiltshire Farm Foods and Oakhouse Foods.

The good news is that many restaurants, coffee shops and pubs have adapted their services to deliver meals or sell fresh produce from their premises, as have butchers, bakers and greengrocers. Search locally to find them. And wholesalers are also creating online shops to sell their stock.

Voluntary meal delivery services

The Royal Voluntary Service provides meals on wheels services in normal times in many parts of the country and is still committed to delivering essential food and medication.

If your parent has been using local community centres for a hot meal, they may still be able to access delivery services. Visit their local authority website for more information.

Community groups

There are a great many people offering their individual services to help get supplies to people who can’t get out. Many of them can be found in local community Facebook groups. There are some safeguarding issues here. For example, if people ask for money for shopping up front, it might be best to turn down the offer. While many are genuine, there are also scammers at large.

Restaurants, pubs and takeaways

With restaurants now closed, some have converted to local home delivery, and takeaways remain open. It’s probably not an everyday solution, but could be handy if your parent needs a meal but can’t cook on a particular day.

Update 2 April: It looks like pubs are reopening as click and collect grocery outlets. This could at least ease the pressure on the supermarkets who are trying very hard to instigate social distancing rules.

Cooking food for the freezer

If you can visit your parent from time to time, then bringing frozen meals is a useful option. While the supermarkets may be short on ready meals, you could make meals yourself. Homemade soup is very easy to make if you have the ingredients. Finding fresh veg is a little difficult at the moment, but that’s likely to return to normal. You can buy freezer bags to hold liquids from ebay and similar. There are many websites with simple recipes. I find the allotment gardening site very reliable.

Government parcels

The first food parcels for the most at risk are now being delivered by the Government. The service is targetting those who have no supporting family or others to help them shop, and those who can expect parcels will receive a letter to that effect.

Image by Security from Pixabay

You can find more articles about supporting your parent during the Coronavirus pandemic here.

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