Giving the Gift of Food

I firmly believe that one of the kindest things you can do for someone going through a season of life transition is to provide a meal.  Whether it's moving into a new home, walking through illness, grieving the loss of a loved one or welcoming a new baby, nourishing people physically is such a tangible way to say "I'm here, I care, you matter."  I've been on the receiving end and the giving end of providing meals and both ends are equally as wonderful.  After the births of my children, it was such a gift to not have to think about what we were going to have for dinner in those first few weeks adjusting to the new normal of life with a newborn.  On the flip side, it's quite fulfilling to help organize and prepare meals for friends who are in transitional times.

I responded to a post from a friend on Facebook who was asking for ideas of what to make for a family who'd just welcomed a new baby.  I had a lot of fun reading through the responses and decided to do a little poll myself and asked fans on my Doula Jenna Facebook page for their suggestions of favorite meals brought to them or what they like to make for others.  I thought it would be fun to share some of them here... WARNING- if you are hungry right now, do yourself a favor and grab a snack.  This list is bound to make you salivate.

Soup & Salad
  • Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup, Bread Bowls & Salad
  • Bean Soup & Dill Bread
  • Chili
  • Tortilla Soup w/ all the Fixings (Sour Cream, Shredded Cheese, Green Onions, Avocado & Tortilla Chips)
  • Tomato Soup w/ Grilled Cheese & Ham Sandwiches
  • Tortellini soup
  • Spinach Salad w/ Roasted Chicken, Strawberries, and Veggies
  • Spaghetti w/ Meat or Marinara Sauce and a Salad  
  • Mac & Cheese.... the ultimate comfort food  
  • Lasagna  
  • Roasted Veggie Lasagna  
  • Spinach-stuffed Manicotti w/ Salad & Bread

    Variations of Chicken
    • Chicken Enchiladas
    • Swiss Stuffing Chicken and Rice w/ Vegetables 
    • Roasted Chicken w/ Grilled Vegetables & Potatoes
    • Homemade Chicken Pot-Pie
    • Garlic & Rosemary Chicken & Roasted Veggies
    • Grilled Chicken and Brown Rice or Couscous w/ a Salad
    • Shredded BBQ Chicken, Rolls, Baked Potatoes & Baked Beans 
    • Pork Tenderloin, Baked Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans & Rolls
    • Baked Ham & Scalloped Potatoes
    • Burritos w/ Ground Turkey or Beef (wrap individually in foil so they can be frozen and baked whenever)
    Meals w/ a Spin
    • Lettuce Wraps
    • Breakfast for Dinner: Quiche, Egg Dishes, Creme Brulee French Toast
    • Steak/Mushroom and Chicken/Veggie Kabobs with a Side of Brown Rice & a Fruit Salad
    • Lunch Groceries- Turkey, Wraps, Veggies, Hummus, Chips, etc. (especially great if they have a lot of leftovers from other meals)
    • Quiche (in multiples... great for dinner, breakfast or a 3am snack)
    • Butternut Squash Enchiladas
    Fun Extras
    • Bake a batch of brownies
    • Make some cookie dough and roll into balls, freeze, and bring so they can pop a few cookies at a time into the oven for fresh baked cookies
    • Bake muffins or a coffee cake and wrap them individually so that they can be frozen and thawed one by one
    • Ice cream w/ Hot Fudge or Caramel Sauce
    • Dark or Milk Chocolate
    • Bottle of wine and/or sparkling juice

    Coordinating Meals for Someone
    We're all busy, so the thought of organizing meals for someone may be daunting and not something you want to commit to... that's ok.  However, there are GREAT websites out there that make it so easy and with just a little time spent, you can give one of the best gifts to a friend through coordinating meals.  Below are three websites that I've used and found user-friendly.



    What's great about these websites is that you don't have to deal with "reply all" to a mass email that you send out and also don't have to be the one to remind people about the meal they signed up for.  These sites track the sign ups and send out reminder emails to individuals and to you as the coordinator.  They also make it easy for you to include any special dietary requirements, as well as the contact information for the person receiving the meals.  Here are a few tried and true steps in the process: 
    • Ask the person you're setting up meals for to provide you with a list of names and emails of people to email.  If you know the person well and have mutual friends, you might not even have to ask for this information.
    • Find out how often the family would like meals.  Some would like every night for a few weeks and others every other night and/ or only weekdays and not on weekends.  
    • Send out an email (be sure to bcc the email addresses).  It can read something like:

    Hello friends of...
    As you all know, little baby is here!  This email is regarding setting up dinners for the family.  There is no pressure of course, but if you would like to sign up to bring a meal, please visit the link below:  
    (Include link to online meal calendar and any password that might be required)

    All of the details are listed on their calendar as to what kinds of foods are ok and not ok.  If you have any questions, please feel free to email me.

    Please bring meals in containers that don't need to be returned to you.
    Thank you in advance for your help!

    Things to Remember when Bringing a Meal
    • Keep in mind any food allergies or special dietary needs.  
    • If you're not much of a cook or simply do not have time to prepare a meal, ordering takeout from a favorite restaurant is perfectly acceptable.
    • If you're not sure what to make, instead of asking the family "what sounds good," try to offer a few choices.  When people are going through life transition, making decisions, even about what to eat can be overwhelming.  There's a good chance they'll be thankful with anything you bring. 
    • Plan to drop off the meal and don't expect to stay.  If the family asks you in, keep the visit short. 
    • Bring the meal in a dish that does not need to be returned to you.
    • Include any baking or reheating instructions.
    • Meals that can be frozen are an excellent choice.  
    • If you're extra ambitious, bring a second meal that can be put right into their freezer for a later date.  Write the baking instructions on the lid.

    Things to Remember when Receiving a Meal

    • People love you and want to help.  Allow others to serve you.  Be grateful, but don't feel guilty.  
    • You will be the one to bring meals at another point in your life.
    • Don't feel like you have to entertain.  It's ok for you to let others know that you so appreciate the meal but can't visit right then. 
    • Say thank you.  Personally, I think that a phone call, text or email is acceptable. 

    Feel free to post in the comments any tips you have and/ or any favorite meals you've made or received.  Bon Appetit!

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