Preparing meals for others

Last Updated: 25 May 2020 1:49pm

In these unusual times, more of us are preparing and delivering meals to family and friends. It’s important to do this safely.

Note: This information is for people preparing food for family and friends, not for people preparing food to be sold or as part of a service.

Key points

  • Only prepare food for others if you are well.
  • Ask about food allergies and other special dietary needs.
  • Be ‘food safe’ when preparing food.
  • Be ‘food safe’ when storing and transporting food.
  • Maintain physical distancing when delivering meals – keep 1.5 metres away from other people and leave the food on the doorstep. Read about how to apply physical distancing rules.

Be food safe

Being food safe is especially important if you are preparing food for older people or someone who is pregnant or has lowered immunity. They are more likely to get sick from unsafe food.

  • Check the date marks on ingredients and products before you use it. Do not eat or use food or ingredients past their 'use by' date. It’s OK to use/eat ingredients and products after their 'best before' date but they may be lower quality.
  • Clean food preparation areas thoroughly before starting.
  • Wash your hands before handling food and after touching raw food, including eggs and meat.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables under running water before using them.
  • Keep raw foods, like meat and uncooked eggs, away from fresh produce like salad vegetables and cooked foods.
  • Cook meat and poultry well (so the inside reaches at least 75ºC).
  • Cook eggs well, don’t eat them ‘runny’.
  • Put hot food in the fridge or freezer as soon as it stops steaming – don't let it cool to room temperature on the bench.
  • If cooked food is left out of the fridge for more than for more than 2 hours, do not store it. If cooked food is left out for more than 4 hours, do not eat it. Put it in the rubbish or compost.

Store food safely

  • Use clean containers to store food.
  • Label containers with the contents and date made, especially for food that will be frozen or stored in the fridge ‘for later’.
  • If the food is likely to be frozen, divide it into meal-size portions to make it easy to defrost.
  • For more information, see Public Health Services food safety advice.

Preparing healthy meals

  • Consider any dietary needs or allergies of the person you are preparing a meal for.
  • Try to include two to three of the five food groups in your meal (grains; vegetables and legumes; lean meat and meat alternatives; fruit; and milk products and alternatives). For more information on healthy eating and food groups, visit the Eat for Health website.
  • Use healthy fats, like olive oil, to cook with.
  • If you prepare a main meal, include vegetables or suggest they are served as a side.
  • Let the person know if the food can be frozen.

Meal delivery

  • If transporting food any distance:
    • keep cold food cold;
    • keep hot food hot;
    • keep hot and cold food separate; use separate insulated containers;
    • as a general rule, for ready-to-eat meals, make sure they are transported, delivered and eaten or stored in the fridge (or freezer) immediately; and
    • if you’re transporting multiple meals (eg bulk meals to a single household), make sure they are kept cold; freezing meals before transporting them may make this easier.
  • Maintain physical distancing and keep 1.5 metres away from other people. Phone ahead to let people know you are coming and arrange a time. Leave food on the doorstep and greet at a safe distance.