Many older women reduce the amount of cooking and food preparation they do in later life. While cooking may be seen as traditionally associated with women's family roles, little is known about the impact of such reduced engagement with food on their lives. This paper presents the findings from a one-year qualitative study (Changes Around Food Experience, CAFE) of the impact of reduced contact with preparing and cooking meals from scratch for 40 women, aged 65–95 years, living in Norfolk, United Kingdom. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews, focus groups and observations. Women's reasons for reducing food-related activities included changes in health, loss of a partner or a caring role, and new patterns of socialising. Disengagement from cooking and shopping was not found to entail predominantly negative feelings, passive acceptance or searching for forms of support to re-enable more cooking from scratch. Accounts evidenced the dynamic adaptability of older women in actively managing changed relationships with food. In exploring new meal options, older women were not simply disengaging from their environments. CAFE findings linked women's engagement with their environments to how they were using formal services and, even more, to the value they placed on social engagement and being out and about. Through the connections they fostered with friends, family and community, older women actively enabled their continued involvement in their social, public and family spheres. Reduced contact with preparing and cooking meals from scratch, therefore, did not induce or imply passivity or debility in the CAFE cohort. By contrast, it involved their exploring new means of retaining what was important to them about food in the context of their lived situation and social connections with friends, family, the community and public spheres.