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.
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 Cream Cheese Brownies packed to be taken to a VBS worker’s snack time.
1) Use foil pans and plastic containers to prepare and take your meals in. 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.
I wash out the containers rather than discarding them. I store them in my garage until I’m ready to recycle them by using them for some salad, fruit, cookies or miniature bread loaves.
This was a round plastic container that a soup kit came in. It’s great to recycle and use for fruit, salad, or soup in for transporting somewhere.
This picture shows a meal I prepared for a family from the top left: Parmesan Chicken Bake, Carrot Souffle, Peach Dump Cake Cobbler, 15 Bean Soup, Caraway Rye Bread, Spring Mix with Berries, Glazed Pecans, and Feta Cheese, Heather’s Chocolate Chip Banana-Nut Bread, Ken’s Steakhouse Lite Poppy Seed Dressing, Watermelon, and Mary’s Potatoes.
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.
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.
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 garage so I always have a plentiful supply (see pictures above).
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.
7) Having a supply of ziplock containers in all sizes is also helpful. Some of those larger containers are great for a pot of soup or fruit salad.
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.
9) Salads (without dressing), desserts, and breads can usually be made up ahead of time like the night before. 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.
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.
12) Put hot pads in the car to take with you!
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 too or don’t like to eat. I guess I have a pretty good memory about such stuff because 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 on line and check out recipes for this. As an example, my Roast Chicken with Rosemary main dish (above) 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!
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.
Here’s a picture of my Oreo Cookie Mud Pie that I made as a dessert for someone who had just had a baby. It is prepared in an easy 9×13″ foil pan rather than in one of my good baking dishes.
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