Hi again! Today I am going to talk about the gift of giving meals and show you how I do so. I don’t share this to say ‘Look at us! We’re so awesome’! This is solely meant to help you think of how you could package a meal for a loved one and give you some ideas for what you could actually take. So please take it that way. Maybe you home make a home cooked meal, or maybe you order them ubereats. Either way, at the end of the day, the goal is that the person would feel loved through your serving them in this way.
Let’s talk for a minute about if you don’t love to cook or don’t feel confident in the kitchen. First off, if you’ve got one meal you love and are great at, make it for everyone! No one will care (or even know) if you make it twice. In my opinion, the best meal to give someone is the meal they didn’t have to cook themselves. Haha! Seriously though. Even if you make it twice for the same person they likely won’t care. Especially if they have kids!
A few ideas if you are feeling overwhelmed:
- Have 2-3 seasonal meals you enjoy making that you simply rotate. This takes the decision making out of it and you’re making something you have made before.
- Maybe you love to bake. Instead of signing up for dinner, bake some muffins and provide fresh fruit. That could be an easy breakfast for the week.
- Think outside the box. If the family has kids, you could provide some premade PB&Js, sliced fruit, and a treat. People eat 3 meals a day, you do not have to make them an elaborate dinner. Maybe you just show up with iced coffee and a bag of snacks for their kids. Caffeine and snacks are life!
- There is nothing wrong with a gift card.
- A completely store bought meal is GREAT and warmly welcomed. A friend recently brought me this sweet Trader Joe’s meal basket with everything I need to make pasta. Plus a yummy snack. This does not have to take you hours to do, you can bless someone by just showing up!
Deciding what to bring:
When bringing a meal for a new mom, I like to bring something that’s healthy but filling, some side item, and dessert. I do not put the pressure on myself to homemake all of these elements. So maybe the casserole is homemade, the salad is a bagged mix, and the treat is brownies made from a box mix.
- First things first, check their meal train or text them to make sure there’s no food allergies.
- From there, check and see if you already have anything in your freezer pre-made you can send to someone. I take meals often that are from the freezer since I batch cook certain casseroles and soups. You can always ask if they prefer the meal frozen (if you’ve already got it in the freezer) or defrosted and ready for them to cook or reheat. In this case, ask them their preference, would they like the meal defrosted or frozen upon delivery?
- If not taking something from the freezer, see if there’s a meal you’re already cooking for your own family you could simply double.
- Once you decide what to bring, make a list of everything. Include every component so you do not forget!
Once I decide what to bring, I think through the sides the same way I would for my own family:
- What pairs well with the main dish?
- How many mouths am I feeding?
- Are the kids likely to eat this or would a nice hearty side be good if they hate it?
- Is there an easy bagged salad I could pair with this?
- What are the ages of the kids? Should I add some cut up fruit to make the meal easier for everyone to enjoy?
I am going to provide some specific tips and ideas to help you as you think through what you would like to bring your own loved ones. These are merely suggestions and ideas that have worked in the past for us. Truly, the world is your oyster! Make it your own and don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by it. Ultimately, you are doing something so generous and helpful that really anything will bless them. As I said earlier, it doesn’t have to be an elaborate meal, it can be snacks, a gift card, caffeine, or a baked good. If you are looking for specific meal ideas, here are some of my heavily rotated meals I like to give.
I include the leftover juice from the crock pot with the chicken and package it in a 8×8 or 13×9 foil pan. Send with brown or white rice, a mediterranean salad mix, and a container of store bought tzatziki, and pitas.
Crowd pleaser for any family because it’s gluten free and dairy free (simply leave off the cheese). And bonus, I usually have everything on hand. I usually provide a bag of Tostitos scoops chips with meal so they can scoop, avocado they can slice to go on top, cut up fruit, and a side avocado ranch bagged salad mix.
This is such a tasty and comforting pasta meal! Goes great with a loaf of bread, Italian salad mix, cut up fruit.
These have been such a hit lately! I love to send with a Southwest themed bagged salad, cut up fruit, fresh cilantro and lime for topping.
If the family has a picky eater, they can simply stick a piece of cheese in one of the Hawaiian rolls and viola, a cheese sandwich! If I am taking this meal at dinner time, I will go ahead and assemble the sandwiches according to the recipe, broil them, and stick them fully assembled in a 13×9 pan and cover it with foil. I will include a separate container with the au jus.
If delivering earlier in the day, I will send the meat in a container and not assemble the sandwiches so they don’t get soggy. I will include the Hawaiian rolls, provolone, and au jus on the side. (*I will say, the assembly could be labor intensive to a new mom so if I can, I try and save this one for taking at dinnertime, assembled and ready to go).
Thoughtful side options:
- Fresh fruit, prepared, already washed and chopped. Great for families with kids. Fruit/bread are also great on the side in case they have picky eaters, most kids will eat at least one of these two things.
- Sometimes I throw in a green smoothie if I have an extra pre prepped daily green.
- If the family has a lot of kids, I love sending banana bread (cookie and kate’s recipe) and often make them as muffins.
- For dessert, my favorite treat to include is a jar of candy/chocolate. I call it ‘Mama’s Treats’ jar. I typically include any chocolate candy I have on hand, and try to always have chocolate covered almonds, mini peanut butter cups, and m&ms in the house for this reason. There are so many great candy options at Trader Joe’s if you live near one.
Bagged Salad and Dressing Ideas
- If you’re packing a salad, the plastic box container it comes in is perfect!
- Best salad mix at Costco is the organic mediterranean crunch chopped salad kit. It’s divine!
- Mom’s Maple Mustard Vinaigrette is a good homemade salad dressing to include because they will have dressing for today’s salad but also for a while. I send in a glass jar or an old spice jar.
Packaging the meal:
I try to use all disposable containers if I can. The foil containers I like come from Walgreens or The Dollar Tree and are usually 3/$1 or you can get them on Amazon. They come in rectangle or circle size. In my laundry room, I keep tons of disposable pans and containers for times such as this. I also get reusable aluminum 13 x 9 pans from Costco that are deep and heavy duty. Here is an Amazon option. I basically don’t want them to have to do dishes. If the foil containers feel to flimsy when you put the meal in it, double up with a second. Better safe than sorry.
For soups/liquids and sometimes fruits, I will use these containers.
I also usually take the meal earlier in the day. This is a personal choice mostly because of the phase of life I’m in with 3 small children. I can’t take a meal at dinner time unless I bring my children which is usually more stressful for everyone (including the person I’m trying to bless) 😂
For the actual meal transport, a cardboard box is perfect and sturdy to hold the whole meal. With the firm bottom it’s perfect if you’re bringing a casserole.
*If you’re delivering it earlier in the day as I typically do, be sure to include the cooking/reheating instructions.
To recap, here are a couple key things I stick to when bringing a meal to someone:
- Make a list of everything you need to bring so you don’t forget anything. Always consult the list to make sure you remember everything.
- If it’s more convenient for you to deliver the meal earlier in the day as opposed to dinnertime, that’s ok! Just check with the family you are coordinating with.
- A bagged salad to go with the meal (easy way to give them some greens)
- Some sort of dessert. It’s typically a candy jar (for the mom), some sort of baked good made from a box, or store bought cookies.
- Don’t stress yourself out to make every part of the meal homemade. This is why I like a bagged salad and or candy jar.
- If applicable, include reheating instructions.
- DOUBLE CHECK THE LIST BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Hopefully you see this as an encouragement with some helpful tips to visualize a meal you can take to a family! At the end of the day, remember: the goal is that the person would feel loved through your serving them in this way. It’s less about what you bring and more about the fact you thought to bring something at all.