The days of sharing the same old lasagna or chicken enchilada dish with friends and neighbors dealing with a death or illness, are over. Becky Low, with the Dairy Farmers of Utah, shares fresh, updated alternatives for you to try.
Sick friend, new baby, grieving family, or moving – are all situations when a nourishing meal is a welcome relief. Having been on the receiving and the giving end, here are my top ten tips to make the most of meals for others.
1. Buy a Bag of Groceries. Help stock the fridge with basic comfort foods – a gallon of milk, loaf of bread, butter and a dozen eggs. Make comfort foods convenient by selecting fresh cut up fruit, ready to eat veggies, sliced cheese, cold cuts and trimmings, condiment squeeze bottles, etc.
2. Bring in Take Out. Stop by their favorite restaurant or fast food; bring in take out – with all the trimmings.
3. Invite them In. Perhaps what the new family in the neighborhood needs most is reassurance they have a friend. Or when the care-giver just needs a temporary break, give relief. Invite them to your home for dinner and easy conversation – then, send them home with the leftovers.
4. Tell Them When. The biggest dinnertime stress relief may be to know a meal is on the way and when to expect it. Help the family keep some normalcy at home – deliver on their time schedule or make it flexible to heat at their convenience. Consider making all or part of the meal freezable for later use.
5. Plan for Picky Eaters. Young children are often picky eaters and may not understand the stress and demands placed on the family by the circumstances. To help ease parents stress consider enough variety and/or kid-friendly-foods to ensure the family will not need to prepare something else for impossible picky eaters. Consider balance with foods from each of the food groups – dairy, bread, protein, veggie or salad and fruit.
6. Easy on the Season. During times of stress stomachs are easily irritated and smells are often heightened. Save spicy foods, high acid foods, highly seasoned or salty foods for parties.
7. Special Diets and Food Aversions. Ask ahead if family members have any special diet needs (i.e. diabetic), food allergies (i.e. peanuts), or strong food aversions. For example, if they can’t stand onions and the dish you bring in is liver and onions, you will not have helped their day.
8. Be Container Savvy. To ease stress, use containers that do not need to be returned – but consider the circumstances. Sometimes the best way to extend a hand of friendship and get to know the recipient better is when they return your dishes (or when you pick up the dishes up, a friendly visit may be a welcome gift). If dishes are to be returned label them well; i.e. names etched in glass or written with permanent markers.
9. Think Out of the Box. Consider something other than dinner. For example: a large box of cold cereal, gallon of milk, disposable bowls and spoons for breakfast; or a grocery bag filled with paper towels, tissues, toilet paper, plastic silverware and napkins; or perhaps a cooked sliced roast. To avoid duplication, ask the family what they have had previously (spaghetti three times in the same week may not be welcome relief).
10. Include Directions. For their convenience and safety, include simple directions written on the package for heating, reheating and storing. Also include a use/freeze by date. Make the meal convenient and help avoid waste, consider all or part of it as a freezer meal for later use.
Last, but not least. For more information and tips consider the following online resources:
– “FoodtoYou.com” delivers food from your favorite restaurant to your door.
– “TakeThemAMeal.com” is a free online free planning tool to help organize taking meals into a family. It’s like the ‘sign-up list’ passed around church, only on-line.
– There are many companies who will prepare and ship meals. To populate an online list of businesses which will prepare and ship a meal, type the key words “sympathy meals” or “send a meal” in your internet search engine.