This post was previously published at Vignettes, where Kristin invited me to be a guest-poster back in the summer. I thought I'd republish it here in case any of you missed it!
If you've ever had someone prepare food for you when you were sick, you know what a blessing the "ministry of food" can be! I love being able to bless people in need with meals, whether they are (or one of their family members is) sick, grieving, moving, or welcoming a new baby.
I thought I'd share with you today some tips for successfully bringing meals to others!
This might seem kind of unnecessary, but it is important to talk with the family first and find out if a meal would be a blessing. Ninety-nine percent of the time they'll say yes, but this also gives you a chance to find out if they have any food preferences (i.e., vegetarian), intolerances, or allergies and what day/time they would appreciate the meal.
It is better to take a bagged salad, store-bought bread, and a simple main dish than to completely stress yourself out over making something elaborate. I find that it is easiest if I just double what I'm making so that I can feed my family and theirs with one swoop! Plan a menu that you can complete part of a day ahead or at least the morning of so you are not as rushed at dinner time.
-Stick with what you know.
Don't try out a recipe you have never tried before. You'll just be wondering if it turned out okay, and be horrified if you find out later that it did not. The only exception to this rule is if you 1) know your way around the kitchen really well, 2) have a backup plan, and 3) are able to taste the dish before sending it over. I recently tried a new recipe (fried rice) when taking a meal to some friends, but I had white rice for backup and I tried it before I packaged up their portion!
-Avoid polarizing foods.
In addition to avoiding foods that the family is allergic to, try to stay away from making main dishes that include polarizing (love 'em or hate 'em) foods, such as seafood, mushrooms, etc. Consider packaging salad toppings such as tomatoes and dressings separately so that the recipient can use them (or not) according to their preferences.
Disposable containers are VERY much appreciated when you are delivering a meal. That way, the family does not have to worry about washing and returning your dishes. I find great disposable pans with lids at the Dollar Tree (usually two or three for $1). Consider including some disposable plates and napkins too, especially if the family is moving (their dishes may already be packed!). Make sure you also package things well for transport in the car. You don't want sloppy Joes all over the baseboard of your car! I like to wrap things in a big towel to keep them warm, then put them inside a cardboard box to prevent spills.
-Give yourself a window.
Maybe this tip is just helpful to me. :) Don't promise that you'll arrive at 5:00 sharp... instead say you'll be there between 5:00 and 5:15. Shoot for 5:00, but if you're running a teeny bit behind schedule, you'll still be there within the window you gave them.
-Don't forget dessert.
Even if it's just store-bought ice cream or pound cake, try to include a little something sweet for the end of the meal (unless of course you know for sure they would not appreciate it).
-Give a little extra
I like to include little extras sometimes, like a pretty menu or decorative labels for the food. Flowers from your garden would be lovely to include if appropriate for the occasion. A hand-written note to the individual or family would mean so much, and a small gift for an older child would be a blessing to a new mom! I love to include homemade bread when possible. Another fun thing to do is take a few breakfast items for them to enjoy the next day!
-Enlist a crew.
If you are the meal coordinator, put the phone away and instead click over to Take Them a Meal, a website which simplifies coordinating meals. I recently used this site and it only took me 5 minutes to set up a schedule and post the details to facebook. Everyone can then just sign up directly on the site, avoiding the need for you to spend time on the phone or try to avoid duplicate meals!
Finally, here are just a few meal ideas to tuck away for the next time you are taking someone a meal:
-takeout from their favorite restaurant
-pulled pork/beef sandwiches
-chicken pot pie
I hope these tips have been helpful to you and enable you to bless others through cooking for them in their time of need!
What was the best meal someone ever brought you and your family?