This subject is on my mind this week, because I (Laura) had hip surgery on Monday. Our church is really good at meals for people in need–we got meals when I had babies; people who’ve had a death in the family get meals; people who are undergoing cancer treatments get meals. And, I am thankful to report, people who have surgery get meals. Bringing a meal to a family who needs it is a ministry of love, and you all know that Barb and I are ALL about showing our love through feeding people.
I recently brought a meal to a neighbor lady who had had a baby, and she was amazed. She was not familiar at all with the custom of doing that. So maybe you don’t come from a corporate culture where bringing meals to people is really common, and maybe you don’t know exactly what to bring. (Or maybe you DO come from that kind of culture, but you’d still love new ideas.)
Here are a few thoughts for you as you consider what to bring a family in crisis:
First, it’s always important to find out if there are foods that the family can’t or won’t eat. (Note to those currently caring for me: I’m allergic to pineapple, and we simply won’t eat liver if you bring it to us. Other than that, we’re pretty easy. 😀 ) It’s also helpful to find out how much food to bring–when our two boys were tiny, you could basically bring enough dinner for my husband and me, and the boys would each have about 3 bites. Now, we need quite a bit more food, because we have boys who are growing through the roof, who are constantly eating!
Another thing that’s good to know is what the family’s normal meals look like: do they always have dessert? Do they need to have a salad? Do they usually have meat and 3 sides? Or do they have a plate of pasta with veggies and call it a day? It’s not that you need to completely cater to their every whim (and most families I’ve ever served in this way have been undemanding and very grateful,) but for the sake of keeping their home life normal, and not adding further stress, it’s good to try to fit your meal into their usual routine. When a friend of mine was in late stages of cancer, they had people bringing meals every single day, and they made very specific requests, because they’d been eating vegetarian/organic/no-sugar/no dairy for quite a while, and to have had lots of heavy meat dishes loaded with cheese would’ve completely whacked out everybody’s digestive system.
Once you’ve found out what their routine looks like, you can make your plan. I’ll suggest a few of the meals that have been hits for us, both giving and receiving, but understand that you may need to modify them for the needs of the family you’re blessing.
Some tried and true meals:
Chicken Pot-Pie (Barb has a fantastic method for this, and I know people rejoice when they see her walking up the walk with one of her legendary pot-pies in hand.)
Pozolé (this is Mexican home-cooking comfort food at its best, and is their version of chicken soup–very nourishing!)
Casseroles (ask first–some people think casseroles are dreadful–but you can certainly bring them to MY house!)
Breakfast for dinner: baked French toast, or egg bake.
Some other helpful hints: If you can at all manage it, bring the food in disposable containers or something you don’t need back. Imagine being a cancer patient trying to bring back 42 casserole dishes at church the next Sunday. 😛
Find out if they need salad dressing or other condiments to go with the meal. We had someone bring us a crockpot of chicken stew once, saying, “I didn’t put any salt in, because I like to let people decide their own amount of salt.” Trouble was, we’d just moved into our new house with a new baby, and couldn’t find salt anywhere. It was a bland meal.
Find out if utensils/plates/cups would be helpful. Right now, we are remodeling the kitchen, and it’s easier to serve meals off of paper goods. Also, find out if there are any cooking limitations–our oven isn’t plugged back in yet, so it’s helpful to receive meals in pans that can be microwaved. Someone else might not even own a microwave.
I’ll let Barb chime in here as well with other ideas. And I’ll say thank you to those who are blessing my family this week with your delicious meals–you are welcome in my kitchen any time!
Barb says, here are a few ideas that I like:
- I like to include a loaf of homemade bread with whatever dish I’m bringing. Homemade bread is almost always a treat.
- Many families appreciate extra fresh fruit to snack on.
- A tin of homemade cookies almost never goes awry.
- The age of the kids in the family should strongly guide for WHAT you bring. Years ago, I was pregnant and on bedrest when a thoughtful family brought over a whole Sams Club-sized box of corn dogs that my older two boys absolutely LOVED. Families with older kids usually really appreciate pizza–either homemade or store-bought.
- If you’re not inclined to cook much, don’t under-estimate the value of good takeout food! We rarely go out to eat and would consider takeout Chinese food to be a real treat. Nobody says no to pizza or barbecue.
“Bringing food” seems to be an automatic response when we hear of a family in crisis–whether it’s a good crisis like a new baby or a difficult crisis like illness or death. Feeding people is one of the most powerful ways we express our love for each other.
Barb and Laura
Quick P.S. Be sure to call ahead before you go to deliver the food, to be sure someone is ready to answer the door. And give them adequate time to get to the door before turning around and leaving. A good friend just left food on my back steps after waiting and concluding nobody was home. It just took me 5 minutes to get downstairs. 🙂