I took a meal to my friend Sarah and her family last Friday. She had just returned home from the hospital after an eleven-day stay. You can't imagine how happy they were to have their entire family under one roof again.
I'm sure that at one time or another, most of us have taken a meal to a friend or family member or have been on the receiving end. It's something we all have in common. I thought I would share a few ideas to consider when taking a meal to another family.
1. Be sure to adhere to any dietary restrictions that the family might have.
Make sure you find out if any member of the family has any food allergies (dairy, shellfish, wheat, nuts...) and the plan your meal accordingly. When you take the time to prepare a meal for a friend the last thing you want to do is to make someone sick or worse, have them wind up in the hospital because you didn't know about a food allergy.
Also take into consideration any likes/dislikes or food preferences. If they have children, find out what types of food they like to eat as well. My friend Sarah is a vegetarian (although they do eat cheese and eggs), so I was especially careful to adhere to their dietary wishes.
2. Use disposable containers.
For the most part, we only take meals to friends during stressful times. Births, deaths and illnesses come to mind. Let's face it, while our friends are always thankful for the help, the last thing they want to do is to have to return bowls or casserole dishes to their rightful owners.
Do your friends a favor and use disposable containers. You can buy all different shapes/sizes of baking pans and food storage containers at the store. It gives people one less thing to worry about during an often difficult time.
Go on ahead and label each container too. Sometimes the person that you deliver the food to isn't the one who will actually be eating it. A clearly labeled container makes it easy for everyone to know what's inside.
3. Inquire about their freezer or cabinet space.
In addition to the meal that you are bringing, consider taking a little something extra for later on. This could be as simple as a casserole that they can put into their freezer. I like to take some homemade soup that I've canned using my pressure canner. The nice thing is that it doesn't take up any freezer space and has a very long shelf life.
4. Think about making something for breakfast.
In my friend's case, I knew that her husband would have to go back to work and that in the near-term, they would have people coming in to help care for Sarah and the boys. Mornings with two little kids can be stressful enough under the best circumstances let alone when the mom is trying to recover from brain surgery.
I decided that I would make some breakfast foods to alleviate some of the morning stress. Here are a few suggestions: Breakfast casserole, quiche, homemade granola, fresh fruit salad, banana or pumpkin bread/muffins, a jar of homemade jam or even pancakes or waffles. The possibilities are endless.
Here's a quick tip: For easy storage of the waffles/pancakes, store them in a ziplock bag. Take plastic wrap or waxed paper and lay it between the layers of waffles to prevent them from sticking together. The waffles can then be stored in the freezer and reheated in the toaster as desired. It's just like an Eggo waffle, only better because you made it from scratch.
5. It's snack time.
One other thing that you might not have thought of before is taking something to snack on. This would be especially nice for someone with children or new moms who need a little something while they nurse.
Again, talk to the family to see if they have any specific requests. A few possibilities: hummus and pita, homemade salsa and tortilla chips, fresh fruit salad, muffins, popcorn, even a box of their favorite crackers or granola bars... Just about anything will do.
I hope that you will utilize some of these suggestions the next time you take a meal to a friend. Not only will they appreciate it, but you will feel wonderful knowing that you were able to help out.
This post is part of Works For Me Wednesday over at We Are THAT Family. Pop by for some more handy tips.