Put Your Apron On: Using Meal Subscriptions After a Brain Injury

Painting by  Ilya Zomb

Painting by Ilya Zomb

Michael Cerreto, MS, CPCRT, CSC, LDR, Edu-K

Sarah always took pride in her cooking. She loved to challenge herself with new recipes and come up with her own creations. Her family and friends raved about her meals and she frequently described herself as a “foodie.” Cooking was a major part of her identity and life.

Then one summer she had a stroke and subsequent brain injury. Hospitals, friends, and family did all of the cooking for her. Her rehabilitation was slow physically and mentally. She couldn’t imagine cooking again or doing most things she once enjoyed. She was focused on her fragile health and recovery.

One Saturday afternoon, Sarah woke up from a nap on her couch. She heard her husband Tom on the deck and smelled steaks cooking. She walked outside to chat and watch him grill steaks, asparagus, corn, and onions and peppers. She enjoyed watching the rhythm of his movements grilling but had no interest in lending a hand because she felt so fatigued. She knew, however, that she was going to get back in the kitchen the next day and whip-up a tasty meal for her family. The grill’s smoke, smells, and heat sparked her desire to cook again.

Fantasy and reality collided the next day like the fists of a hungry crowd of senior citizens pounding against a dinning hall door that is one minute late opening for dinner. Sarah struggled finding her recipes. She got distracted easily. She forgot where she stored pots, seasonings, and utensils. She missed steps in the recipe and had to frequently back track. She found herself mumbling, “I don’t remember it being this hard. I’m so stupid.”  

She flopped herself onto a kitchen chair, put her face in her hands, and cried. She retreated to the couch and fell asleep from exhaustion, leaving the kitchen as messy as a teenager’s bedroom floor.

When Sarah lamented to Tom that night about the possibility of never being able to cook again, Tom suggested Blue Apron. It is a meal subscription program that delivers to your home the exact ingredients and instructions (comes with beautiful recipe cards) for you to cook a meal without measuring or shopping. Everything is fresh and makes cooking minimalistic, which is so helpful for brain injury survivors.

After one week of cooking Blue Apron meals, Sarah came to her next session with me and said that she got part of her life back. She said that “This is a perfect service for brain injury survivors because it makes cooking easier and it also requires you to follow directions, remember the step you are on, and use your hands.” 

Learn More About Meal Subscription Services

Graphic from  LifeHacker

Graphic from LifeHacker

In addition to Blue Apron, there are other meal subscription programs such as Plated and Hello Fresh. While they have similarities, there are some differences in quantity of meals and pricing. You can read a comparison of the three services HERE.

Services like Blue Apron, Plated, and Hello Fresh can provide brain injury survivors with conveniently delivered meals. It requires you to use cognitive skills that are important to daily living. When preparing the meals, you use the following skills:

  • Sequencing
  • Following directions
  • Organizing
  • Motor
  • Impulse control
  • Paying attention

Most of all, you feel a sense of accomplishment and mastery over your world. You also get to gather your family around the dinner table and enjoy a meal you prepared for them. It helps you expand your world after a brain injury.


Discloser: Michael Cerreto and A Talented Mind Clinic have no relationship with Blue Apron, Plated or Hello Fresh and derive no financial benefit from these companies.