Monday, July 12, 2010

Do's and Don'ts of Meal Giving: How to have glad food tidings

Whether you are helping out after the birth of a child or while someone is recovering from surgery/illness, there are times when we are asked to help bless another family with the gift of a meal.

And what a blessing it is to know that someone took time, money, and energy to prepare and deliver a meal for me and my family.

As with most things in life, there is a learning curve to develop the art of great meal giving.
Being a great hostess requires thought and effort.

Taking your hospitality "on the road" isn't difficult, but there are some helpful tips to ensure blessing and success for all involved.

If You Are The Meal Maker/Giver

  • DO Take the time to consider your schedule and your budget before you sign up to make sure that you will truly be able to give joyfully.  
  • DO Have a Plan B-- even best laid plans fail.  Children get sick, pipes burst, and migraines happen.  It is better to pick-up a pizza or Chinese take-out than to not bring an expected meal.
  • DO Make sure that you are aware of any food allergies, sensitivities, likes, and dislikes. And that you look at the label of each ingredient, including spices, sauces, etc...  It is amazing where wheat and/or soy (common allergens) shows up.
  • DO Bring the meal in containers that do not have to be washed and returned.  Trying to keep track of multiple plates, pans, and dishes after you've just had a baby or surgery requires extra energy and truth be told, you probably won't get your dish back soon... or ever.  Better to use foil pans, Ziploc bags, and plastic dollar store "platters."
  • DO Try to make simple, nutritious meals with fresh, whole food ingredients.  Most likely, the new mom is nursing and the post-op patient is healing.  Both need good quality food to give the proper fuel to their bodies.  Boxed dinners, like Hamburger Helper, and/or meals based of canned soups, should be an emergency back-up meal and not your normal meal of choice since they are loaded with chemicals.

  • DO Develop a few "signature" meals that are easy to transport, are healthy, and tasty ahead of time.  Generally speaking, meal giving isn't the time to try a new recipe or experiment.
  • DO Ask what they've had a lot of recently or if there is something they would love to eat.  It's not easy to eat lasagna, or other heavy pasta dishes, four days in a row.
  • DO Be on time for delivery... especially for families with small children that are used to a schedule.
  • DO Call if you are running late so the family isn't wondering if a meal is coming.
  • DO Be sensitive to visiting.  Some families want you to stay a little while and chat while others are focused on getting their families fed.  Plan to leave right after you've delivered the meal unless it's obvious that a short visit is okay.
  • DO Smile when you deliver your meal.  It's often hard to be on the receiving end and be the person in need.  It's even harder to receive a meal you know was a burden for the person that made/delivered it.  The idea is to bless another family and a genuine smile is a great way to bless the people around you.
  • DO Make a double batch of whatever you're bringing so that you already have dinner ready for you and your family.
  • DO Ask if they would prefer to have a meal that can be frozen and used at a later time.  Some good choices for frozen meals are : meatloaf, enchiladas, lasagna, soups, stir fry, etc... Side dishes, like mashed potatoes or frozen steamer veggies, can also be frozen.

    The best meal I received after one of my surgeries was such a simple meal but the giver typed up a little "menu" of what we were having and she brought little treats for our children.  I still remember that meal because it was evident how much she cared.

    • Don't flake out.  I had a friend who signed up for a meal and her day fell apart.  She called the new mommy and asked if Chinese take-out was okay.  She asked me if I would pick-up and deliver it after she phoned in the order and paid for it over the phone.  It wasn't the meal she planned on bringing but at least the waiting family had dinner and weren't left to fend for themselves.
    • Don't complain about the traffic, long lines at the grocery store, that you don't have dinner for your family, or your crazy, busy day.  It makes the recipient of your meal feel bad-- like they should help you instead.

    If You Are The Meal Recipient

    • DO Express gratitude not only to the people bringing your meals, but also to the organizer.  It can be quite the juggling act and a simple expression of thanks can go a long way.
    • DO Try to quickly return any "real" dishes that were brought.  Perhaps a close friend or family member can help do the returning while you are laid up.
    • DO Be considerate of your meal giver's time.  They may not be able to stay for a visit during the busy dinnertime hour. 
    • DO Be sensitive to the fact that not every meal bringer will want to 1) hold the baby, 2) see your scar, or 3) listen to a graphic description of your procedure.
    • DO Be communicative about your likes and dislikes.  People bringing a meal want to bless you and your family.  Being specific about likes and dislikes help give direction to your meal maker.
    •  DO Take advantage of email or Facebook to let your meal maker know you liked what they brought or you appreciate the effort.  I recently took a meal over to a family and it was a blessing when she asked for the recipe.  I was blessed to know they enjoyed their meal.
    • DO Secure any pets before your meal giver arrives.  
    • DO Make a clear path to your table or kitchen so your giver can navigate with full hands safely.
    One family was so sweet to their meal givers.  They had, by their door,  a little basket of candy with a sticker that said, "Thank you" on each bar so the meal givers could take a little treat for themselves or their family!

    If You Are The Meal Organizer

    • DO Stay in communication with all the folks involved.
    • DO Thank those that brought meals.

    Did I forget something?  Any other tips you can think of to include?

    Any interesting food delivery stories??

    How about simple, delicious recipes??


    ~Cyndi said...

    This is such a great post! I have a friend in Vegas who sent me countless e-mails and texts, all of which I was so happy to get and answer, because she is providing meals for a friend who is gluten-free. My friend is a vegetarian, but happily prepared meat dishes that were also gluten-free for this family. It took a little extra work to learn what was ok and what wasn't, but what a blessing she has been to them! People with food allergies are very leary of letting someone else cook for them, so if you can let them know that you will get educated and prepare only what they can have, it is a huge blessing.

    Andrea said... covered everything!!! As a meal coordinator, I try to ask specifics about what kind of meals the receiver likes/dislikes. I recently found that one important question to ask is, "Do you like casseroles and/or dinners made with canned soup." Many people cook with convenience foods, but if the meal recipient doesn't eat that kind of food then the meal may be more of a curse than a blessing. Your point about making fresh, healthy food is a good one!

    MarshaMarshaMarsha said...

    What a great list!

    When my friend had a broken ankle, I called and asked her if it was okay to bring chicken spaghetti. Since we're really good friends, she was comfortable enough to tell me that she had freshly made chicken spaghetti four nights in a row. :) so I brought a mexican casserole that they really enjoyed. It sure helps to call ahead and if possible, give them 2 choices. Like are you in the mood for mexican or bbq today?

    Looking for something??