How to Gift Friends with Meals

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I love this post by my dear friend Katherine full of wonderful tips for bringing the gift of food to friends in need of a home-cooked meal. Enjoy! – Haley
I’ve been on the receiving end thrice recently: of a lasagna brought by a friend when I was laid low with morning sickness; of a half-dozen hearty Southern meals at my grandfather-in-law’s funeral; of a fill-the-freezer campaign by my parents on their last visit, in preparation for my large and unwieldy autumn.

And it means a lot, I can tell you. The lasagna sustained me through days when I was too sick to my stomach thinking about lunch on my way out the door to work, and gave us a reprieve from Trader Joe’s pre-prepared meals. The community’s generosity at my husband’s grandfather’s funeral gave the family more time to watch old home movies, catch up with one another, and mourn. And my parents’ stockpile, crammed with grilled chicken breasts and meatloaf, reminds me there is never an excuse to eat ice cream for dinner this pregnancy.

Of course, we’ve done the same, mostly for members of our growth group, who produce almost exclusively blond cherubic babies at top speed. Along the way, I’ve experimented and developed some guidelines for gifting friends with meals.

My favorite go-to recipe for these kinds of meals is Love and Olive Oil’s Vegan Refried Bean Soup. Because it’s vegan, it already heads off a lot of eating restrictions, and has served us well with vegetarian families and for kids who can’t have dairy. If the family in question is adventurous, dress it up with whatever vegetables you have in the garden and up the spices (don’t go too overboard on spicy, though, as breastmilk sometimes carries that hotness). Include jars or baggies of fixins. You could even add a little ground sausage or some chicken to up the protein for the new mama. If the timing of delivery is an issue, you can freeze the whole batch of soup before drop-off.

Side dishes can be as easy as a store-bought loaf of bread or a quick batch of cornbread. Also be sure to include some fresh fruits and vegetables, delivery permitting. Once, I even enclosed a beer for the dad and an Izzy soda for the mom, which did not go unappreciated.

Finally, I’m a young cook, and I kind of want to show off; you might, too. After all, people are going to eat your cooking without you being there to defend it or explain your choices, so why not cook something sure to impress? I’d recommend you don’t. A few pointers:

  • Stick with simple recipes you know will turn out well and that people will like.
  • Flexibility in serving is important. In addition to soup and chili, lasagna is an eternal favorite, since it can easily be frozen, portioned, reheated, etc.
  • Emphasize ease-of-disposal in your packaging. I don’t use plastic often to keep my food at home, but when I pack a meal for others, I try to go with recyclable Tupperware, plastic bags and small jars that don’t have to be returned. It’s one less thing for the new parents to have to keep track of in the overwhelming first days with baby.

Other resources:

  • The New Baby Taco Box on the Kitchn (and browse around for many other helpful discussions on the site).
  • MealBaby, a free tool for organizing meal deliveries in one location. Log-in required, but then you can use the same account to manage meals for every pregnant mama and sick or grieving family in your community.

Katherine Bowers blogs about her adventures with an outdoorsy husband and bouncy dog at shouting hallelujah and as a librarian-type at The Cardigan Librarian.

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  1. Elizabeth Joy says

    I love this!

    I have also been on the receiving end and have been so blessed by it!

    I usually bring one of two meals: a rotisserie chicken, vegetable, and salad OR (and more commonly) beef/vegetable soup. I found myself really wanting vegetables adn protein and few carbs. These are both dairy/gluten free which is good for allergies. The soup, i send in +/-2 cup portions which is about the size of a bowl/serving. i often use mason jars, which freeze really well. I give about 6 of these so they can be enjoyed that day and a couple other times. And I emphasize that i don’t need them returned.

    • Haley says

      I love your meal idea (and I think I benefited from it after Lucy was born!). Increasingly, I’m going to meals that are gluten and dairy free when I cook for others just to avoid the allergy issues that so many people have.

      And I love your idea of doing single serving packaging.

      P.S. I need to send a meal in thanksgiving for your new (not so little!) niece 🙂

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