Menu Planning in Aged Care

We all plan our menus, whether we realise it or not –  even if it just deciding what’s for tea when arriving at the supermarket car park!

Of course, when we are catering for residents in the care home menu planning does become more complicated. There are many different aspects to consider, such as:

Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition! – If you provide three meals a day, your residents depend on you to meet their total nutritional requirements. This can seem like an intimidating. Don’t do it all on your own. Our team of Dietitians are here to help you! Remember that your menu needs to be audited by a Dietitian at least every second year. Besides looking at the paper menu, we ask to see shopping receipts to work out portion sizes. We also visit your facility to see what the meals actually look like.  An important benefit of the menu audit is that you will get lots of useful feedback, to help improve your food service. Need more info about the Menu Audit? See out blog: 5 good reasons to get your aged care menu audited by a dietitian.

Finances – Even Michelin Star chefs have a budget. Start with knowing the dollar value per person and work backwards. Calculate how much your average meal needs to cost and use this as a guide. Time spent getting things right here will save you money down the line and stop you from blowing the budget.


The Cycle Menu: Most facilities have a cycle menu which rotates every 4-6 weeks. Initially setting up the cycle menu can seem daunting; but once your underway you’ll see that a good menu is worth its weight in gold, and save a lot of time and money down the line. If you are not sure where to start contact us for a menu planning template.


Choice – Your residents will appreciate some choice at meal times. Increasing choice empowers residents, they are more engaged and more likely to eat what is on their plate. Think of your resident profile and what sort of choices they would prefer. Obviously, providing increased choice can be challenging when catering to large groups of people. Some simple ways to increase choice are to offer:

  • a selection of different sauces / gravies at meal times,
  • different flavours of ice cream,
  • different dessert toppings (ice cream, custard, cream),
  • a variety of biscuits or cakes,
  • two types of soup at dinner (e.g. a broth or a cream soup),
  • making the vegetarian option available to all residents.

Texture Modified Diets: Don’t forget the residents on texture modified diets when planning your menu! It’s not good enough to just blend together the food from the main menu – soft, minced and puree options should be specified on the menu. You need ensure your texture modified menu offers a variety of flavours and colours to avoid menu fatigue.

Is it appropriate for your resident group? – You may pride yourself on your Pad Thai, but is this the kind of food your residents want to eat? On the other hand, don’t assume that your residents just want meat and three veg everyday. Think about what kind or meals your residents are used to eating and then just how far you can push their taste buds. If you’re not sure about their preferences, then brainstorm at your residents meeting, or ask family members.

Equipment – It’s great to be ambitious about your menu, but make sure you have the tools and space to make the dish in the first place!

Time – Same as Yes, homemade marmalade would be nice, but do you have time to pick the oranges?

Don’t re-invent the wheel – Unless you’re opening a new aged care facility, it’s likely that there is already some kind of menu in place. Use this as a guide for your new and improved menu. Pull out what was good about the last one and scrap the dishes that always went into the scraps!

Will your menu sell? – It’s not uncommon for potential residents to ask to see the menu while they tour your facility. So your menu may be the difference between a new client or one that takes their business elsewhere. Maybe this is something you remind your manager of before your budget is finalised!

‘If it ain’t working, fix it!’ – You probably won’t get it exactly right the first time and that’s OK. Let your customers guide you as to what needs to stay and what needs more work.

Get some extra help – Have a look at the resources on this site so that you are best set up to menu plan. Contact us, our dietitians have expertise in Menu Planning for Aged Care

Happy planning!


Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *