We’ve been the beneficiaries of many a home-cooked or store bought meal in the last few months. Certainly, we’ve had a week or two of meals from friends after our babies were born, but nothing long-term like we’ve had with Luke. We are incredibly thankful for that generosity. I know how hard it is to cook dinner every night for my brood, so the fact that someone else cooks for us while whipping up something for their family, too, makes me that much more grateful. There were many a day that I would look on the calendar and do a happy dance knowing that I didn’t have to cook. With all the stuff we had going on, it made life much betta.
In the last several months there have been some pretty ingenious things that friends and family have done that made it just a bit easier and I wanted to pass them along. I mean, why keep all the good ideas to myself, right? The next time you offer to bring a meal, keep these awesome ideas in the top of your cap.
TOP TEN: “HELPING A FRIEND OUT” MEAL TIPS
1. If you’re the one coordinating the meals, use a care calendar or electronic form that folks can just sign up instead of trying to keep track via email. The programs allow the family to enter allergies/dislikes, directions to their home and normal eating time – all information that is much more efficient to get online than emailing the family directly. Plus, when it comes time to do thank-you notes, it’s nice to have one place to go to remember who brought you what! We also just had 3-4 meals a week (say Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday) and then spent the other days eating leftovers. The food accumulates faster than you might think 🙂
2. Meals were that much easier when they were packaged in dishes that we could keep or throw away. Nothing says “awesome” like a sink without dirty dishes. We even had one mom who brought us plastic silverware, napkins and milk boxes for the kids. That rocked.
3. Believe it or not, it’s breakfast that’s the hardest meal. Or, at least that was the case with us. Several families brought us breakfast foods that could be frozen and then thawed to eat – muffins, bread, pancakes, waffles, etc. That was a tremendous help and one that I underestimated in the beginning. I mean, really. Your kids can only eat so many bowls of Cheerios before the complaining starts.
4. Steer clear of salads. I love them, as do my children, but when we set up our meal calendar right after Luke was born, we put these in the “dislike” category for one reason. We knew getting three big bags of salad a week that too much would go to waste. Granted, this may not be a big deal if folks are bringing you meals for a week or two, but long-term, we much preferred bags of frozen veggies that could be thawed and eaten in smaller portions.
5. Several families brought us casseroles – yea! And for a fair amount of them, we divided them in half, eating one half and freezing the other. You might consider dividing them before you bring them over.
6. For a change of pace, we had some friends that gave us gift cards or brought us a meal from a favorite restaurant. That was fantastic. And, it allowed us to get an occasional night out with the kids.
7. Hooray for the grocery run. One sweet friend did grocery shopping for us a couple of times. Even if you can’t do that, bringing a gallon of milk, a bottle of juice, a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs or some fruit can be a big help.
8. One family suggested we put out a cooler on a front porch, that way if someone came by to drop off dinner and we weren’t home or just couldn’t get to the door, they had a place to stash the meal. That came in SO, so handy.
9. If you have the time, include the recipe. We’ve had so many meals that were absolutely delish, but now I can’t remember who brought them and who to hound for the recipe!
10. A few school friends brought along a snack for the kids, which ended up being a total lifesaver when we went to pack lunches the next day. A juice box here, a box of goldfish there and somehow the world seemed a little easier to handle.