Making Dinner For Another Family – Showing Kindness With Food
There are a lot of reasons why you should consider making dinner for another family. The most important is that it’s a kind thing to do for someone else. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a sympathy meal you know that it’s about so much more than the food itself. Yes, it’s nice to have a home-cooked meal to put on the table when you’ve been too tired, too sick, or too sad to prepare anything yourself. More importantly though, we find comfort and solace in knowing that someone else cared enough to prepare those meals for us. It is a reminder that we are not alone. It is a reminder that someone else cares. It’s a reminder that things will get better and that we are supported in the meantime.
When Should I Offer To Make Dinner For Another Family?
Let’s start by quickly running through some of the most common reasons why you may want to offer to consider making dinner someone else. By the way, it doesn’t always have to be a whole family. It could just as well be the older couple across the street, or a single guy from work. Let’s use the term “family” in a broad way for the remainder of this article. Here are a few common reasons why you may choose to take food to someone’s home.
Taking A Meal To A New Mom
Bringing a newborn baby home is an exciting, but also exhausting time. Take a meal to a family with a new baby. They will appreciate not having to worry about dinner for the first few weeks. It will be nice to catch up on a little sleep instead of running to the grocery store and cooking. If you know other people will bring food as well, consider making a dish that can be refrigerated or frozen for later. This is particularly important when there is no well organized meal train.
Find out or call ahead and ask about who you will be cooking for. It helps to know if there are other young children in the household. Ask about food preferences and potential allergies while you’re at it. Sticking with simple meals that reheat well is often your best bet.
Taking A Meal To Someone Sick or Injured
It is hard to prepare a meal or go shopping for the ingredients when you are sick or injured. Think back on the last time you came down with the flu or had your leg in a cast. How grateful were you when someone brought you a meal?
Before taking a meal to someone sick or injured, find out what the illness or injury is and if there are any dietary restrictions. For example, the patient may welcome a big pot of chicken noodle soup when she’s suffering from a cold or flu, but may quickly tire of it if she’s recovering from a broken wrist that keeps her from cooking. If you’re not sure, call and find out.
Taking A Meal To A Grieving Family
Another common scenario when you may want to take a meal over to someone’s house is when they’ve suffered a loss. Grief can be debilitating and make it next to impossible to find the energy and will to cook something decent. Having someone care enough to bring you a meal can be just what you need to find that first little glimmer of hope.
It’s important that you pay attention to the cues the grieving person is giving you. Sometimes it’s best to simply drop of the meal and let them enjoy it in peace. Others will appreciate it if you take the time to share the meal with them and listen to the stories they want and need to share about the person they’ve lost. Pay attention when you stop by and watch for clues about what would help this person most to process their grief.
If you’re uncomfortable with making that decision, or simply aren’t sure how to best help and support a grieving family, go along with someone with a bit more experience with this. Your local church is often a great resource, as is anyone else in your circle of influence who always has a couple of “funeral casseroles” in the freezer. Ask around, you’ll quickly find out who that is.
Taking A Meal To Someone Moving or Renovating
Last but not least, it’s nice to take a meal to someone who isn’t in a position to cook for themselves, because their kitchen is out of order. This could be because a family just moved, because they are redoing their kitchen, or even just because you know their oven died and it will be a few days before the new one arrives. If you’ve been in this kind of situation, especially with kids in the house, you know what a god-sent a home-cooked meal can be. Especially if it’s delivered hot and ready to eat with a stack of disposable dishes to go along with it. Why not repay that kindness to someone in a similar situation.
Those are some of the most common times when you may want to offer to cook a meal for a family or an individual in your community. Pay attention to what’s going on around your family, your circle of friends, your church, and your neighborhood. You will start to hear about someone here and there who could use a “make and take” meal.
What Should I Offer To Make?
Now that you know in what cases you may want to take food to someone’s home, let’s look at what you may want to cook. Here are a few simple ideas about what you could make. These are just suggestions. Your best bet is often to make something that’s almost always a big hit. Think about what you take to a potluck or what you fix for the holiday family gathering.
Soups And Stews
The main reason I like to take soup and stews is because they are easy to reheat. A lot of them will actually taste better once they’ve been reheated and it’s easy to do so right on the stove, or even by the bowl in the microwave. Think about the soups and stews you make. Don’t forget about chili as well. I have plenty of recipes for you to try here on the blog. There are also two Kindle cookbooks you may want to check out. The first is my chili cookbook, the other is about soups, stews, and supper stretchers.
Of course a good beef stew, or a pot of homemade soup never goes amiss. Bake up a batch of biscuit. Or make a cornbread and you have a full meal to take to a family in need. If you make a double batch of everything, you’ll have dinner for your own family ready at the same time.
Casseroles And Similar Baked Dishes
There is a reason why casseroles are so popular as make and take meals. Bake up your favorite casserole. Cool it enough to make it safe to transport. Cover it in foil and take it to someone’s house. Bonus points for casseroles that freeze and reheat well. Bake the casserole in a disposable container to make cleanup easy.
I have quite a few recipes for you to try here on the Hillbilly Housewife blog. Take a moment to browse through the Casserole Recipe archive. You will find quite a few recipes like this in the Make and Take Cookbook. Another fun option is to send along a breakfast casserole.
Last but not least, don’t forget about other popular baked dishes. A pan of meatloaf is a great example. Think about what you make at home. Pick a baked this your family likes and make it for someone else.
Pasta dishes are always a big hit. They are quick and easy to make. Most of them are fairly inexpensive. They are family friendly. Most importantly, pasta is a great comfort food. Make a pot of spaghetti with sauce. Bake up a lasagna. Make a tray of baked ziti. Think of what you and your family like to eat and make that.
Slow Cooker Or Instant Pot Meals
Another great option are slow cooker or instant pot meals. They are often full meals mead in one pot. They have the added benefit that you don’t have to be there to stir the pot. You add the ingredients, set a timer, and are good to go. When the dish is hot and ready, transfer it to a different container and take it over to the family you are feeding.
When in doubt, stick with something simple. You’re not making food to impress the people you’re taking it to. You are cooking comfort food that will make them feel better. Of course throwing in a little something healthy isn’t a bad idea either.
When Should I Take The Food?
Another great question to ask is when to take the food over. There are no hard and fast rules, and often a home-cooked meal will be appreciated no matter when you drop it off. When possible, ask when it would be convenient and most helpful. If you think it will be most helpful to deliver the food hot and ready to eat, it’s best to deliver it as close to meal time as possible.
On the other hand, you don’t want to wake a baby or a patient who’s sleeping. When in doubt, ask. Make a quick call or send a text and ask when they would like the food delivered. It also helps to let the family know that you don’t plan on coming in, or hanging out. You’re there to make their life easier and drop off food. You’re not there to socialize. Unless that’s what’s needed. Use your best judgement.
If you know the family will store the food and reheat it later, agree on a time that’s convenient for everyone involved. Usually these meals are delivered in a time of crisis. Making sure your kindness is a blessing, not a burden is an important consideration.
A Few More Tips And Ideas Before Making Dinner For Another Family
Let’s wrap this section up with a few last minute tips you should keep in mind before making dinner for another family.
Use Single Use Containers
While I’m not usually a proponent of single use or disposable containers, this is the exception. The goal is to make the life of the person you’re bringing the food to as simple and easy as possible. Not having to worry about cleaning and returning a dish is part of that.
Pick up a stack of aluminum casserole dishes at the store and use them for most of the recipes in this guide. Food is easily reheated in the oven using this type of container. It also makes it easy to stack and freeze.
My favorite are aluminum containers with a plastic lid. I prepare the food in the container, add a layer of foil, then replacing the lid once the dish has cooled enough for transport. You can write directly on the plastic lid, or include a note between the lid and the aluminum foil with the name of the dish and any reheating instructions.
For anything else, look for inexpensive plastic containers. If possible, choose something that’s microwave safe and when you drop it off, let the recipient know that there’s no need to return it.
Label Your Meals
If you’ve been on the receiving end of home-cooked meals, particularly when quite a few of them show up at the same time, it can be near impossible to remember who brought what and what each dish is. That’s why it’s always helpful to have the meal you’re bringing clearly labeled. I also like to include the date when it was made. This way the dish can be stored in the fridge and used for a later meal with no worry or concern.
If you are using single use containers, grab a sharpie and write the name of the dish and the date right on the container itself. If you know, or suspect that there are food allergies, or certain preferences, you may also want to include that information (i.e. contains gluten, or mushrooms).
Include Reheating Instructions
Often you don’t know who will be in charge of reheating or meal prep in general. If mom usually does the cooking, but she’s sick, out of town, or catching a nap while the newborn is sleeping, someone else may prepare and serve food. That’s why it is often helpful to include detailed reheating instructions.
Add an index card with the instructions, or include them right on the container along with what it is and when it was made. Don’t just tell what it is, how to store it, and how to reheat when you drop of the food. Write it down and if possible tape the note to the container.
Many of the casserole dishes in this cookbook can easily be reheated in the oven. Indicate if they can be baked in the container you brought them in. That’s one of the reasons I like single use aluminum containers. They can go straight from the fridge to the oven.
Here are my basic casserole reheating instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Loosely cover the casserole with foil. Heat for 20 to 30 minutes.
Tweak them as needed depending on how dense the food is and how full or large the casserole you’re taking along.
Ready for some recipe ideas and additional tips to show kindness with food? Read my latest kindle cookbook before making dinner for another family.
There’s nothing more thoughtful than blessing someone with a home cooked meal – an elderly neighbor, your friend who just had her first child, your coworker who is recovering from surgery. There are so many reasons to bring someone a nice meal to take the burden off of them or for no reason at all. Just to show your appreciation for that person.
I’ve gathered some of my favorite make and take meals so you can brighten up a loved one’s day. But first we’ll take a closer look at why sharing kindness with food is more important now than ever, who may appreciate a home-cooked meal in your own community and circle of influence and what the etiquette is when it comes to taking a meal to someone. I also share my best practical tips and tricks to make this a snap and to make sure you are always prepared to make and take a meal.
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