As a stay at home mom, it has been difficult to “get out there” and serve people because I have two little people in my home that need constant attention and care! One way that I’ve been able to continue to take care of and serve those around me (besides my own family) is by taking meals to people in need of them! “People in need” could really include anyone, because, honestly, most days if someone showed up at my door with a hot & ready to eat, meal or a freezer meal, I might just kiss them, and I’d definitely eat the food! Most of the people I know are so grateful to have a break from cooking dinner for the night!
My most common opportunity for meal-taking is for new moms because as a young mom I know a lot of other young & new moms. However, I’ve also had the opportunity to take meals to those who are grieving the loss of a family member, taking care of a family member in the hospital, or recovering from an injury or illness that is debilitating. I think that cooking for others and feeding their family is such a simple but loving way to share Christ’s love with others. Isaiah 58:10 says “Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.” Wow! Something this simple gives you the opportunity to minister to the tired, recovering, grieving, and hurting people around you, and definitely shines a light in their life. I hope you consider taking a meal to someone around you!
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Here are my 10 Tips for Taking a Meal!
1. Check if there is already a meal schedule set up for them
This is something that a lot of families, churches and women’s ministries or groups will do, so check with the person’s church or family and see if they have already started one! If no one has started one for them and you know them fairly well, you could take that extra step and set it up for them! (I would only recommend this if you know at least 5-10 of the same families as them. Otherwise, it is easier to just do it on your own, or ask a couple of friends if they would be willing to take some meals also to bless this family.) My favorite free website for meal scheduling is, takethemameal.com . You just register for a free account, create a meal schedule, and then you add information about the person’s situation (always ask what you can share!) then you can include their address, or for privacy just include their phone number and the people that sign up can text or call them for their address. You can then email the schedule or share it on social media with the people that you want to encourage to sign up as well! When people sign up they include their name, number, email, & what they’re bringing. The website will actually email you to remind you that you’re taking a meal that day which is nice!
2. Use disposable containers
Walmart has the cheapest ones that I’ve found, but most grocery stores should have 9×13 aluminum pans that the person doesn’t have to worry about washing & returning! If you like to shop in bulk online, you can get them on Amazon for like $1 a pan which is a good deal because a lot of times they’re at least $2 each or more in the store. (I realize this is not the most eco-friendly, so if you know the person well feel free to use your own dishes, or you could even ask to borrow their dish and cook their meal in it!) I only recommend disposable because you’re not giving them extra dishes to wash & return!
3. Take something “fresh”
I like to include either a container of washed & cut strawberries or a salad kit. A lot of times people in difficult situations will receive several meals, and it can be refreshing to have something a little more fresh thrown in with the casseroles. 🙂 Other things I’ve taken have included cuties oranges, fruit salad, southwest chopped salad kit, etc.
4. Ask about food allergies
You don’t want to take someone a meal that they can’t eat! The most common things I’ve had people mention are gluten & nut allergies, but I’ve also taken people meals who were allergic to onions, tomatoes, fish, etc. you can never be too careful! (If you’re setting up a meal schedule make sure to ask the family about this and include it in your description!)
5. Make it kid-friendly/picky adult friendly 🙂
You may be able to make a beautiful spinach-stuffed salmon (is that a thing?) but if their kids won’t even try it, they’re still stuck making something for dinner. Obviously, some people’s kids (and some people) are pickier than others and you can’t always accommodate this, but I try to make it something that I know my kids would at least try, and that doesn’t have a lot of unknown or out of the ordinary ingredients. (If you have a picky eater in YOUR family, check out my post 10 Meal-Time Rules for the Picky Eater and let me know what you think!)
6. Contact them ahead of time about drop-off & type of meal
Some people might eat dinner at 5 if a spouse or family member does night shift work, so you don’t want to show up with dinner at 6:30 when they’re leaving. Some people might not eat until 6:30 when a spouse or family member gets home so it’d be better to show up with hot food around 6:15 than at 5:00. Again, these are all preferences but I’ve found that they matter to people and it makes them feel even better-taken care of by you. <3 By type of meal I mean to ask if they want the meal ready to freeze or ready to eat. Again, people that are in need of meals might be getting them from other people also and might appreciate having a meal that they can throw in the freezer and use in a week when they run out of fresh meals that people have brought them.
7. Make a little more than you think they will eat
The times that I’ve thought (its just two people, I’ll make an 8×8 pan instead of 9×13) are the times that they’ve said “Oh my sister and her family are eating with us,” or “my mom is here for dinner too”! Luckily I always just went with the bigger size so it wasn’t an issue, but if I would’ve done the smaller size they wouldn’t have had enough! Even if they don’t have extra people there, it is always nice to have leftovers because then you actually made them two meals! If I know it is just two people eating, sometimes I will make two 8×8 pans instead of one 9×13 in case they want to throw one in the freezer and eat the other one that night.
8. Include dessert, a drink, and/or a quick breakfast
This is really just a personal preference because I love dessert, but it is again just that extra nice touch showing them you’re thinking of them and are even taking care of their sweet tooth. 🙂 I always include a 9×13 pan of my favorite Lazy Cake Cookies! (Find that recipe link in this post: My Favorite Meal to take to a Friend)I also like to send a drink because again, it is just something extra! My family drinks water or milk with every meal, so having lemonade to drink would be a special treat. I like to send either lemonade or wine with my meals depending on the family. (If you’re not sure whether or not they drink alcohol, then don’t send it!) Finally, you can always send something for breakfast too! I like to toss in a container of cinnamon rolls for the next morning! People don’t bring breakfast that often, so it is another nice “extra”.
9. Be bold enough to take meals to people you don’t know very well
I’ve actually gotten to know several women better just because I reached out and took them a meal during a difficult time in their life. People remember when you take care of them, and this can provide an awesome opportunity to make new friends! If you are part of a church and the other person isn’t this can also be a great opportunity to invite them so that they can experience what it is like to be a part of a community that takes care of each other and shares Christ’s love. The women of my church have willingly helped me bless several families with multiple meals (some families as many as 15-20 meals) when they didn’t even know those people at all! <3
10. Make it as easy as possible on yourself
Okay, this one doesn’t sound very nice, BUT when you are making 4 meals a month for other people, it is a good idea to keep things simple for yourself so that you don’t get burnt out! In order to make things easier on myself, I take the same basic meal to everyone. I describe that meal in this post: My Favorite Meal to Take to a Friend. Doing this allows me to easily add the necessary groceries to my list because I have them memorized at this point! I also don’t need to look at recipes when I’m cooking, and I have my cooking rhythm down to get it made as quickly as possible! Again, I know this sounds bad to make being nice easy, but keeping things simple makes it so that you are willing and able to keep doing it long-term!
The other thing I recently started doing is using Instacart to shop at Aldi! That way I get my groceries delivered straight to my door! What?!?! Yup. It’s crazy and super convenient. You can pay for year-long free delivery for around $150, or you can pay per time and I think it is around $5-6 per order. You can also tip your driver on top of that. For me, with two little kids at home, it is worth an extra $10 to not have to go to the store with my kids, plus I stick to my grocery list and my budget and don’t overspend by grabbing random things off of the shelves! If you’re interested in trying out Instacart (and seeing if they deliver in your area-they do other stores besides Aldi too) then click my link, and you get free delivery on your first time! You can also sign up for a 14 day free trial of free delivery, but make sure you cancel it before the end of the two weeks or you will automatically get charged $150 for free delivery all year. (Which really at $12.50 a month isn’t bad, but would be a shock on your bank statement if you weren’t expecting it!)
Here is my Instacart link for Free Delivery & $10 Off Your First Order if you want to check it out!
Bonus Tip: Don’t leave too quickly or stay too long!
Okay, I like to talk, so I usually throw something extra in here, but my bonus tip is to not drop the food and run without checking in with them, but also don’t stay too long if they don’t feel like talking or letting you see their house! Just read the situation well at drop-off & see what else they might need. Especially if you are delivering a meal to a new mom, look around and see how she is doing. If you know her and she trusts you, you could even offer to help with a couple of other things while there or to hold the baby while she takes a shower. Again – read the situation. Some new moms might just want you to leave the meal at the door and go! And that is just fine! Don’t be offended if the person you are taking a meal to does not want to talk for very long, depending on their situation they may be exhausted, sad, etc. If they seem lonely and like they want to talk, then stay a bit, but always ask.
You could say something like “You look really great, but you seem like you’re feeling ______ do you want to talk about it?” or IF YOU KNOW THEM WELL & THEY TRUST YOU (can’t stress that enough) 🙂 “You look really great, but you seem really tired, would you want me to hold the baby for 5 minutes so you can shower?” (Notice I always start off by telling new moms that they look really great. <3)
Honestly being a new mom is SO HARD. Losing a loved one is SO HARD. Recovering from a debilitating illness or injury is SO HARD. Just keep in mind that the person you are taking food to may be hurting, and they may need a little extra care. My point is to just take that extra second to check in with them and make sure they are ok. If they don’t want to talk that is fine, just make sure you take the time to care! Since I struggled with post-partum anxiety & depression, I always ask new moms how they are feeling. I mention something like “Gosh, I was so anxious after my daughter was born, it was overwhelming” and a lot of times they will share how they’re feeling and you can offer encouragement, advice (if they want it), and/or pray with them. So in summary, stay long enough to be of help, but not so long that you cause more work or make the person use up extra energy! (For example, if the baby is sleeping, get out of there!) 🙂
Okay, those are my tips! Let me know in the comments if you have any other ideas or things that have worked for you!
If you love the idea of taking someone a meal but aren’t sure where to start, don’t forget to check out My Favorite Meal to Take to a Friend in Need!
Have fun caring for and serving those around you!