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Online Meal Delivery Services: Gourmet Variety continued...

Some of these companies specialize in gourmet food or special-occasion meals, while others focus on special dietary needs or weight loss. Most of the food arrives frozen, but a few companies ship food fresh.

Prices generally start at about $10 a meal, not including delivery, and go up from there. Some offer senior discounts, or provide deeper discounts when you order in bulk. But, as with anything you purchase online, it’s important to learn as much as you can about the company and their products before you buy.

"Home-delivered meals are a great alternative to cooking," says Zelman. "But it’s important to make sure the menus offer good nutrition." She suggests checking the nutritional content of the food before you order.

Most companies post nutrition information for all of their meals right on their web site. And some companies offer several meal options geared especially to meet dietary guidelines for seniors. Many of the sites also offer options for a host of dietary and medical needs, such as low-sodium and low-carb meals, diabetic meals, gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian options.

Whatever company you use, you’ll want to make sure that you like the food. "Find out if you can try a meal or two before making a larger order," says Zelman. Although many of the companies sell meals in packs of seven or more, some will allow you to purchase individual meals. Try sampling the food from a few different companies to see which you like best.

Local Meal Delivery Options: Supermarkets and Restaurants

Another option is your local grocery store. "Many grocery stores offer home delivery service," says Zelman. "And some of these stores offer a selection of pre-cooked meals and foods," including roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, and fresh soups and salads.

Most stores require a minimum order for delivery, but some will waive the delivery charge when you spend a certain amount. There are also online grocery stores, which allow you to see prices and keep track of your purchases. Go online and search for "online grocery stores" in your town.

Many restaurants also offer home delivery. These services vary widely from place to place, but many deliver free of charge, though you’re usually expected to tip the delivery person. In some areas, a company provides home delivery for several different restaurants. These companies usually charge a small delivery fee on top of the cost of food. You can find restaurant delivery options in your area by checking on the Internet or looking in your local telephone book.

Personal Chefs: Personalized Meals at Home

If you'd like more personal service, you may consider hiring a personal chef. A personal chef can work with you to create meals that work with your taste and dietary needs. Most personal chefs come to your home and cook in your kitchen, but some work in their own kitchen and bring the finished meals to you.

You may be able to save money by sharing meals with a friend, neighbor, or family member. To find a personal chef in your area, check the listings at the American Personal & Private Chef Association (www.personalchef.com) or the United States Personal Chef Association (www.uspca.com).