I take meals to people very frequently–probably on the average of two to three times per month. I’ve been taking meals to families for decades, so I’ve learned a few things that you may find helpful if you want to take a meal to someone. Some of my most frequent opportunities to minister to other families is by bringing them food. Most of my ministry is conducted through families in our local church that we are in contact with who could use a meal.
There are lots of reasons why you may consider bringing a meal to friends, family, neighbors or even strangers. I usually bring food to people who’ve just had babies. Even if their family is coming in to help it’s nice to have a meal brought in so the grandparents and family can spend time with the newborn rather than cooking over a hot stove.
I also try to bring meals to folks who are moving–whether from our church or new neighbors moving into our neighborhood. The last thing you want to do when moving into a new home or apartment is cook dinner! But a hot home-cooked meal is usually greatly appreciated.
Preparing meals for people who are sick, families who have a relative in hospice care, or bringing meals to families who are providing round-the-clock care for loved ones in hospitals are other opportunities to help and minister to other families. Eating at the hospital can really add up if you are there with someone in the hospital for weeks on end.
Taking meals to funeral meals or to families who’ve just lost relatives also can prove very helpful. These are the primary ways I usually end up making meals for others.
Do you want to bring a meal to someone who has just had a baby? who has just gotten out of the hospital? for a friend who’s been sick? or for someone who’s just lost a loved one? Then check out these ideas and see if any of these help you when you prepare meals for others in the future.
When I initially posted this recipe in August 2012 my pictures were taken with an iPhone 3 so they weren’t particularly good. I recently made 5 meals for different families in about 10 days time (April 2018). I took lots of different pictures to capture the process so you can make it easy on yourself and those you send food to.
My best recommendation is to take everything in foil pans or plastic containers that you don’t need back. That way the families don’t have to try to remember which pot or casserole dish belonged to whom. Also, it’s just so much easier for the family not having to track people down to return items that food came in.
These pictures reflect some of the food items I made for the four families I took five meals to in the past ten days (April 2018).
Using foil pans, reusing plastic salad and fruit containers, wrapping things in foil or plastic wrap are great ways to transport meals to others. It’s so much easier and you don’t have to worry about getting back your pots, pans or favorite dishes.
Here are some tips that will help you in preparing and transporting food to others in a time of need.
TIPS FOR TRANSPORTING MEALS
This photo shows my Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies. I layer the cookies in plastic containers with wax paper between each layer.
Now the cookies are packed and ready to go. I also freeze cookies and then pull them out a few hours before delivery.
I made Baked Pineapple several times for these different families. But this version was made for our Friday night care group. Note it’s in a casserole dish rather than baked in a foil pan.
1) Use foil pans and plastic containers to prepare and take your meals in.
I made Baked Pineapple in several different containers including a round 8″ foil cake pan. If the aluminum pan seems flimsy, set it on top of a small cookie sheet (like pictured above) so it doesn’t spill or cave in the middle when you’re carrying it.
Amish Chicken and Noodles is absolutely one of the easiest recipes to make for meals for others. It only has about 6 ingredients. You can make it ahead and then reheat it if necessary. It transports easily in foil pans or plastic containers.
I recycle the plastic containers for salad mix and lettuce. They are great to save for cookies, brownies, breads, fruit, or your own home made salads. In this salad container from Olive Garden, I recycled it for Amish Chicken and Noodles.
Fried Green Beans is also one of those recipes that’s super easy to make. After cooking, you can transfer to a foil pan. I packed the beans in tall plastic containers like for Cool Whip or Greek yogurt.
I wash out the containers rather than discarding them. I store them in my pantry until I’m ready to recycle them by using them for some salad, fruit, cookies or miniature bread loaves.
This Favorite Fruit Salad is another recipe that can be made earlier in the day. It’s easily transported in plastic containers like what spring mix or spinach come in.
I also use inexpensive plastic containers. This one contains Favorite Fruit Salad.
I made this Strawberry Crumb Coffee Cake for our next door neighbor after he had neck surgery. Because I knew we could easily get the skillet back from them, I didn’t transfer the coffee cake to a plastic container. I just gave it to them in the cast iron skillet. But that’s not my regular practice.
This picture shows a meal I prepared for a family who just had a baby. From the top left: Healthy Gluten Free Mango Muffins, Fried Green Beans, Amish Chicken and Noodles, Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies, Rapid Rise Italian Herb Bread and Favorite Fruit Salad.
Instead of using my own pans, I used plastic containers and foil pans. This way you can drop everything off and not worry about getting anything back.
This picture of Strawberry Rhubarb Dump Cake Cobbler is obviously not dairy free with the ice cream on top! But this cobbler is very easy to throw together with only about 5 ingredients. It’s incredibly easy to bake in foil pans. Just be careful to carry them from the bottom so the foil pan doesn’t collapse on you.
This foil pan is holding a dairy free version of Strawberry Rhubarb Dump Cake Cobbler. I made this for a family with a daughter who couldn’t do butter, cheese or milk.
2) Keep an eye out for close-out sales for all kinds and shapes of foil pans. I use the lasagna depth 9×13″ pans the most and usually they are sturdier than some of the other 9×13″ cake pans. A lot of times you can pick these up cheap at places like Big Lots, Dollar General, and even Wal-Mart closes them out after the holidays when you can find good selections very economically.
3) By using foil instead of your own pans the recipient of your food doesn’t have to track you down later to return your dishes. This is especially helpful if you are providing meals during a time of bereavement or new babies and their are multiple families bringing meals. Sometimes it’s hard to remember who gave what. It will add a little bit to your budget, but you won’t have to worry about being without your favorite pan or casserole dish for a meal you want to make.
This is a dairy free meal that I made for friends who recently gained custody of a baby. Their daughter couldn’t have milk, butter or cheese. I made Slow Cooker Onion-Mushroom Pot Roast (without the mushrooms), Dairy Free Garlic Herb Bread, and a Strawberry Rhubarb Dump Cake Cobbler.
4) Another option is to buy a cheap roasting pan or casserole dishes at a thrift shop or yard sale and use them specifically for providing meals. I have a large roaster pan with lid that has made the rounds many times. I buy inexpensive plates for 10-15 cents a piece and use them to put cookies, brownies, bundt cakes, round cakes, and sliced sweet breads on. They are sturdier than Styrofoam plates and you won’t be worried about getting back your good china.
5) I save the plastic containers pre-washed salad mix comes in. They are great to put fresh salads, fruit, cookies and brownies, banana bread, muffins, and other baked items in. I store them in my pantry so I always have a plentiful supply. Even small yogurt containers and other small sour cream containers are great for sending home leftovers with friends.
6) Large plastic meat or cheese platters, the round bowls for pre-mixed soups (H-E-B sells these), and Olive Garden take-out salad containers are excellent items to save if you plan on providing meals for others on a recurring basis. I have used these kinds of containers many times whether bringing food to a Vacation Bible School luncheon, a potluck, or meals to private homes. You never have to worry about retrieving your containers this way.
The meal above was for a family that could do butter but no milk or cheese. I made them Amish Chicken and Noodles, Fried Green Beans, Baked Pineapple, Dairy Free White Bread, Healthy Gluten Free Strawberry Banana Muffins and a Caramel Apple Dump Cake Cobbler.
I pulled these muffins out of the freezer and they were still defrosting when I took this picture. I made sure to label the muffins as having dairy so the guy in the family who’s allergic to milk and cheese wouldn’t eat them.
8) Make a plan. Determine what recipes you want to make (be realistic – if you don’t have a lot of time, make really simple dishes). Assess what you have in your pantry, freezer and refrigerator. Make out a grocery shopping list (don’t forget to include foil pans or plastic containers if you need them). When possible, purchase everything at least a day ahead.
Homemade Bread like this Dairy Free Garlic Herb Bread is something everyone enjoys when I make it. There’s just something about a loaf of homemade bread that’s comforting and everyone wants to dig into. 🙂
9) Salads (without dressing), desserts, and breadmaker breads can usually be made up ahead of time like the night before. I like to slice the bread down and put it in zip lock bags.
Some meats like a whole chicken where you are going to use the meat for a casserole, pork roasts, and other roasts can be cooked in a crockpot during the night so they are ready when you get up in the morning to use as needed. I made this Amish Chicken and Noodles the night before on one occasion and refrigerated it.
10) If you’re not used to doing cooking on a large scale, make it easier on yourself by making things ahead like those listed above. You can also assemble casseroles and then refrigerate them until they are ready to pop into the oven. I would try not to leave them uncooked in the refrigerator more than about 12 hours.
11) You may have to bake and transport some of your dishes on cookie sheets to prevent spillage (in the oven and in the car) and to give you enough support to carry the item. You can see the cookie sheet underneath the Pot Roast with Gravy. I wrapped it very tightly with foil and then placed an old towel in my trunk to catch drips. Good thing I did, because even with those precautions, there were still drips.
12) Put hot pads in the car to take with you!
Homemade bread can also be wrapped in foil. But if you’re taking it to a family that’s moving, I would pre-slice the bread in case they can’t find their knives or don’t have them unpacked yet.
Here the bread is wrapped.
13) Try to wedge food close together so the dishes and pans don’t rattle around in your trunk when you’re driving. Needless to say you will have to take turns a little slower than usual to avoid tipping or spilling. Place hot foods next to hot foods and cold foods separated a little.
14) Always ask the people you are preparing the meal for if there is anything they are allergic to or don’t like to eat. I guess I have a pretty good memory about such stuff. I will usually remember years later if someone has told me they are allergic to something or they won’t eat something. For those who may not remember, it may be helpful to keep a log of family’s names where you provide food, what they are allergic to, what they don’t like to eat, any other special preferences and what you actually took them to eat.
15) It is more difficult preparing meals for gluten or dairy intolerant people–but not impossible. Get online and check out recipes for this. But because I made two meals for folks with dairy or lactose intolerance it’s always helpful to have some meals in your back pocket to make for them. Slow Cooker Onion-Mushroom Pot Roast (with or without the mushrooms), Dairy Free White Bread and Strawberry Rhubarb Dump Cake Cobbler were all dairy free.
Another example, my Roast Chicken with Rosemary main dish can be given to those with gluten intolerance. (It is a complete meal by itself). If the person you want to bring a meal to is dairy intolerant, then substitute olive oil for the butter in the recipe.
16) Call ahead and find out a good time to bring the meal by. Make it convenient for them (more than your family) if at all possible.
17) Mark your calendars, put a calendar or task reminder on your computer and on your phone for the day ahead and the day you are scheduled to bring a meal. Someone may be depending on you. If you are forgetful by nature, ask someone to remind you, or use post it notes, or whatever it takes to remember. And don’t just mark the day you are scheduled to bring something. Mark the day ahead so you have everything ready and purchased from the store ahead of time.
18) If you are organizing meals for others, keep a list and send them a reminder so they don’t forget to bring a meal on their scheduled day. It also helps to find out the main dishes people are going to bring so the family doesn’t end up receiving lasagna three days in a row. Yikes!
Here’s a picture of my Caramel Apple Dump Cake Cobbler that I made as a dessert for someone who had just had a baby.
The Caramel Apple Dump Cake Cobbler is prepared in an easy 9×13″ foil pan rather than in one of my good baking dishes.
19) Probably the most important thing about doing hospitality as a ministry is to pray! Pray for God’s strength and help in meal preparation (so food doesn’t scorch, get spilled on the floor, dropped, and everything bakes on time without taking excessively longer than the recipe states, etc.).
In this way we “put no confidence in the flesh” as the apostle Paul told the Philippians in chapter 3, verse 3. If we are to bear fruit that remains (John 15:16) we need to pray before we serve–whether in hospitality ministry, hospital visitation, teaching, helping in children’s choirs, mentoring or discipling others, or anything in the Christian life.
Pray for God’s blessing on the food so there is no contamination and no one gets sick from anything you provide. Ask God to make the meal a blessing to the family who receives it and anyone they share the meal with. If you are short on finances ask God to stretch what you have to be a blessing to others.