Bringing Meals to People in Crisis

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:


Beef Stew

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.)

Chicken noodle soup

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.

Submarine sandwiches

Meatball Soup

Home baked mac-n-cheese

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.  🙂

8 thoughts on “Bringing Meals to People in Crisis

  1. Having been on the receiving end of meals a few times, I have to say we got really tired of barbeque. We had pounds of it, day…after day…same went for fried chicken, chicken casserole, or lasagna. Recently we took some Thai take-out to some friends and they expressed gratitude for something that WASN’T ANOTHER SUB SANDWICH. It’s not that we weren’t grateful on our twelfth pound of barbecue, but when someone brought us anything different, we got pretty excited! I think the pozole and meatball soup are great suggestions…unlikely to be repeated by other kind friends!

  2. While homemade is better, Costco sells a good chicken pot pie. When I was recovering, a church friend brought it over and I asked her for her recipe because my husband raved about it. After I saw the pie at Costco, I realized why she had never given me her recipe;-)

  3. Amen to ALL of the above. I have been blessed Many, many times with delicious meals, brought by wonderful caring, people, that my family generally enjoyed. ( My apologies to the kind people that brought a tomato aspic. My kids turned up their noses at the sight of it. And frankly I couldn’t force myself to eat it.)
    A few times good friends brought meals for us and we loved that they sat and ate WITH us, then stayed and cleaned up the ENTIRE kitchen. WOW! Now that’s a servants attitude, and GREAT friends. It helped make a very difficult time a little easier.

    Hip Surgery, Laura? Ouch! What happened?

  4. Just want to wish you a good recovery with your hip surgery. I had hip replacement surgery five years ago and one key is to WALK, WALK, WALK as much as you can tolerate daily. It really helps in the recovery process! I am trying your sourdough starter so I can begin to make bread (hopefully enough to share). Again, wishing you a speedy recover!

  5. I’m glad you brought this up… even though I am tardy in joining the conversation. I have learned something over 2 decades as a pastor’s wife that I think every loving layperson should tuck into their back pocket for times of crisis. I wish I had realized it sooner.

    Many years ago one of my dear friends lost her 15 year old daughter to cancer. At the time our church surrounded her family with love and care… and of course casseroles. Months later as we were reflecting on the trail, she mentioned in passing that in her pain she way unable to eat any of that food. Broth was the only thing she could tolerate for over a week.

    I’ve seen this a few times since in extreme situations involving the loss of a child or spouse. If you are cooking for grieving families… consider bringing a soup. It may be the only sustenance a grieving soul can tolerate for awhile.

    Blessings to all of you who love with words, hugs and food!

    • Loretta, this is really insightful. Thanks for sharing this. I wouldn’t have even thought of the possibility that some people might not even be ABLE to choke down food during a really horrible crisis.

  6. Congrats on new marriage and another female added to your family. Also thanks for the wonderful time with you last summer and the delicious Mexican fare (one of my fav meals )
    This info is so timely on taking food to friend in crisis.
    A member of my Early a.m. BS just finished her 3rd cancer surgery and starts chemo soon. I want to take meals as do others in study, and this is very helpful and good info to consider.
    bLESSINGS & Love to you all

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