With five births and several major surgeries, we’ve been the beneficiaries of many a home-cooked or store bought meal around these parts. 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 that experience, I’ve gleaned some pretty ingenious ideas from friends and family and decided I needed to share the cooking love. I mean, why keep all the good ideas to myself, right? The next time you offer to bring a meal, keep these ideas in the top of your cap. I’ve even included my go-to meal when I take some baked goodness to a family. Perhaps a future HDYDI will be some more of those “I want to take a meal, but have no idea what to cook!” recipes.
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! Think about setting up the calendar for just 3-4 meals a week (say Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday) and then spend the other days eating leftovers. The food accumulates faster than you might think.
2. Package the meals in dishes that the family can keep or throw away. Nothing says “awesome” like a sink without dirty dishes. One particularly awesome family even brought us plastic silverware, napkins and milk boxes for the kids. That rocked – so much so, that I now do it for every meal I deliver.
3. Believe it or not, it is breakfast that’s the hardest meal. Well, at least that’s been our experience. Bring breakfast foods that can be frozen and then thawed to eat – muffins, bread, pancakes, waffles, etc. Of all the “best practices,” this is the one that can have the greatest positive impact on a family in need of meals. 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 our youngest was born, we put these in the “dislike” category for one reason. We knew three big bags of salad a week 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. Bring a casserole. You can divide it in half, eating one half and freezing the other. As the family bringing the meal, you might consider dividing it before you bring the meal over.
6. For a change of pace, give gift cards or bring a meal from the family’s favorite restaurant. That can be fantastic. Aside from the “no dishes” it might also allow the family an occasional night out with the kids. For families who live out-of-state, you can always order pizza, pay for it (including the tip) and have it delivered. A sweet friend did that for us and I was honored to return the favor!
7. Hooray for the grocery run. Offer to swing by the store. But, even if you can’t do that, just bringing a gallon of milk, a bottle of juice, a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs or some fruit can be a big help. I typically bring a half gallon of organic milk in the carton (it lasts for weeks) or a bottle of wine (that doesn’t last quite as long).
8. Put a cooler on the front porch. That way, people can drop off dinner if the family isn’t home or is unable to get to the door.
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. Make it easy on them.
10. Bring along a snack for the kids. Hypothetically speaking that could be a total lifesaver when packing lunches the next day. I mean, not that it ever saved our hineys or anything. A juice box here, a box of goldfish there and somehow the world can be a little easier to handle.
MY GO-TO MEAL
First, get yourself this Southern Living cookbook. Go on, click over to Amazon and order it. I’ll wait.
I suppose I should’ve clarified. Just about every one of my go-to recipes is on a page of a Southern Living cookbook. I don’t know who mans those test kitchens, but y’all. You will never, ever go wrong. Ever.
Sausage-Stuffed French Loaf (I’d share the recipe, but I think the copyright police would hunt me down; it’s in the Easy Weeknight Favorite cookbook, though)
Fruit Salad (cut up whatever fruit you have on hand and put it in a bowl and let marinate for an hour or two; just make sure you have an acidic fruit, like oranges or pineapple, to serve as your fruit preserver)
Bag of chips
Plates, silverware, napkins
Half-gallon of organic milk
Two bottles of beer
This post is linked up to Top Ten Tuesday over at Many Little Blessings.