Tuesday, May 20, 2014

the logistics of caring

One of the many reasons I love blogging and this community of blog friends is the ready accessibility of advice when I need it. Of nonjudgmental opinions. Of help. So don't let me down today, folks. I'm going to confess to being a terrible person and then make a bunch of excuses about why I'm that way. But at the end of the day, I want to be better and I need help figuring out how. So let's focus on the positive desire for change and sort of ignore the part about where I'm basically kind of a jerk, okay? Ha. Thanks!

So here's the thing. I want to be more generous. I want to actively care for the people in my life better. To be honest, and Matt can confirm this-- my New Year's Resolution this year was exactly that: to be more generous. I even BUDGETED for it-- to be sure that I always had a little extra cash to be generous with. So this isn't just something I woke up and realized today. I know that actively helping and caring for friends and folks in my community is important. I just suck at actually doing it. The main issue (and this may seem silly to you, but this one 'act of caring' has seriously been a mental hangup for me for YEARS now) is taking meals to people.

I don't know if it's common where you live, although based on what I see on your blogs that represent a vast array of cities and cultures, it seems like a widespread practice, but 'round here, when something good/bad/hard/exciting happens, people take meals. You have a baby? People bring you meals. You lose a baby? People bring you meals. Your whole family has the flu? We show up with meals. And (in theory) I love this. What a loving and practical way to fill a need, right? Take care of the thing that highly stressed/tired/bereaved people really need but may not be able to currently take care of on their own. It makes sense and it's perfect.

Only...I suck at it. And then I kinda just quit doing it. When I was first a 'grown up,' I had a few good years. The first couple (dozen) friends/church families that had babies? They got a meal from me. It was probably even good. And hot. But somewhere along the way, I quit doing it. I know why I quit at first- it had nothing to do with the logistics of taking people food and everything to do with the emotional difficulty of being around families with newborn babies. And I'll give myself a pass for that. Whatever. It's fine. But then somewhere along the way, I just quit doing it for anything. New babies, fine, pass...but that shouldn't have given me an excuse to opt out of taking a meal to the family dealing with chemotherapy, or the friends dealing with the untimely and tragic death of a parent. But after a few years of being in the habit of not taking meals...now I can't figure out how to get back on board. It's the logistics. Let me give you my laundry list of reasons why it's too hard for me (so that you can dismantle them later and tell me to stop being a jerk and get over it).

1. We get off work at 5. It takes at least a half hour to get home. So- best case scenario, we get home from work and can begin preparing a meal at 5:30.

2. I can't even fathom a meal that would take less than 30 minutes to cook, so let's just ballpark that it takes 40 minutes to whip something up. We'll pretend that I was uber-prepared for this and set all the ingredients out in the morning so that I could jump right in when I got home. Alright. It's 6:10.

3. NOW the issue is that we live way the heck out in the boonies. A reasonable estimate is that it'll take us 30 minutes to get to the house we're delivering to. Depending on what part or suburb of Athens they live in, that could easily be 45 minutes. There are a few rare folks who live a little closer, so it may only take 20 minutes to drive, but really...let's just ballpark 30 minutes.

**DURING THIS SUPER LONG DELIVERY PROCESS, THE FOOD IS GETTING COLD. This is one of my super huge main hangups. Who wants cold food? Not me. The main kind of thing that would NOT be getting super cold during this drive would be a casserole that I could put in my little Pyrex cover thing...but a casserole would have required a much longer cooking time in the oven, meaning that Step 2 would be more like an hour or so.**

4. So, depending on the cook times/drive time, maybe we'd be lucky to get to your house at 6:50 or 7:00. That may work for many people. But some people have really particular dinner times and schedules. My church usually uses Take Them A Meal to coordinate meals, and that means that the meal recipients can list their preferred time to eat. Now I understand that most people would probably just be thankful for food no matter what time it comes, but what if you're the family with a couple toddlers that REALLY EAT AT 6:00 and anything later than 6:07 throws off their whole night? So...does that family have to feed the kids at 6 and then pretend to be thankful when I show up with (cold) food at 7:00?? I don't know. But the thought of this stresses me out.

5. The actual food hand-off. AWKWARD. Do you stick around? Just hand it over and run? Watch them eat? Eat with them? Ugh. 

6. In the meantime, and related to Step 5...when do I get to eat?!?!? I'm a hungry girl. I'm usually ready for dinner at approximately 3:00 p.m. So if we're pushing 7:00 and I haven't eaten AND I don't even know what or when I'm going to eat, I'm probably hangry. I'm probably NOT in the mood to coo over your freakin newborn. I'd probably rather grill her and eat her. (Gross, not really.) So like...do I have to go back home and cook AGAIN? Do we stop for fast food on the way home? Because fast food is really going to be sucky compared to whatever I just spent 40 minutes cooking earlier. This is another major roadblock in my quest to take a meal. Deep in my soul, I'm a selfish, hungry person. I'm worried that if I take a meal, I may actually starve to death myself or something.

We interrupt this wall of text to share a random and unrelated selfie that includes the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC. This is the face of someone that wants to take people meals but has too many psychological issues to pull it off. Help!
Okay. That's basically the narrative that goes through my mind when thinking about taking a meal to someone. I didn't even touch on the stress that comes with figuring out what to FIX. We'll just assume that an angel visited me in my sleep and revealed the perfect dish that circumvents all of the other family's allergies and preferences, while also taking only 40 minutes to prepare and consisting of affordable, easily purchased ingredients.

A great solution would be to do something in the Crock Pot. Sadly, that basically doesn't work for us because we're gone from home for too long. We leave at 7:30 a.m. and can't get home til 5:30...that's 10 hours. Most recipes max out at 7 or 8 hours on low in the Crock Pot. Another solution would be doing (home made) frozen meals...you know, delivering them frozen. We do this a lot at church. This definitely would fix most of the issues relating to delivery and the post-work crunch...I could make it on a weekend and deliver it whenever and then they could warm it up whenever they needed it. This is honestly probably the best method for me except that I get PARALYZED WITH FEAR when trying to figure out what kind of meal would freeze well and at what point in the recipe you actually do the freezing. But this is probably a good place to start easing myself back into the meal delivering game.

I probably could have gone on for the rest of my life without ever getting back in the meal delivery game except for I experienced for myself how meaningful and helpful it actually is. When we lost Ellison, we were on the receiving end of the meals for several weeks. Even though we actually weren't busier than ever with a sweet little baby, we were too much of a mess to even brush our teeth in the morning, much less figure out what to eat, go to the store to buy the ingredients, and then cook it. The fact that so many families overcame all of the obstacles (hello-- the SAME ONES THAT I FACE! We live as far away from them as they live from us!) and came all the way out to our house hauling soups and casseroles and toddlers now horribly off of their schedules...and came to not see a cute new baby, but a crying and miserable couple...and they hugged us and told us they were praying, and they filled a physical need in our lives? I will never, ever forget that. They couldn't have known how much that meant to us. That they weren't too scared to come when we were at our worst. That they sacrificed their schedules, their preferred personal eating times, and their gas money. It blessed me beyond measure. 

And so that's why I'm determined to move past my millions of excuses for not helping. My reasons are all pretty valid, but so what. I need to get over it. And right now there are THREE families in my life that I really want to take a meal, so it's time to get going. 

If you can offer any help for any of my roadblocks, I'm all ears (or...eyes, as the case may be). Recipes for yummy and freezable meals? A testimony that you got meals and you really didn't care if they came at 7:00 and lukewarm? Help me help my friends, people!


  1. You can do it! You could do a meal that doesn't have to be hot (like my chicken salad). It makes a ton and has fruit, veggies, chicken, and pasta so you don't need to have any sides. You can make it the night before and put it in the fridge at work (with a do not touch sign) and deliver it on the way home. Gift cards or even pizza delivery work too. Like you said, people don't care what you bring or when you bring it, they're just thankful for a meal.

  2. Girl, you've got this! Making/taking meals to people is one of my most favorite ways of giving...I just wish I did it more often. You've inspired me to stop being so lazy and actually make a meal for a friend who recently had a baby. Now it's just deciding what to make for them... I'll tell you my biggest fear about cooking for other people--what if I add an ingredient that they absolutely hate?? Some people are picky, so how do you decide if a recipe is a safe bet? That's my struggle. But if you're really worried about the logistics of delivering a warm meal or an easily frozen dinner, pick up a pre-made casserole at the store. Not necessarily a frozen Stouffer's dinner, but some sort of fresh meal from the deli/bakery section of the grocery store. Get some chicken fingers and sides from Publix, or a family meal from Boston Market. It doesn't HAVE to come from your kitchen; a warm dinner will be appreciated regardless of where it comes from! That being said, though, I have PLENTY of recipes (especially of the casserole variety) because after all, we do live in the South and casseroles are just what we do!

  3. Most of what you just said sounds soooooo familiar. Especially the part about how the heck do I freeze a meal. You know what my cop-out has been? Well besides not doing anything? A card with a pizza gift certificate. You can order for delivery or go out. I know its lame, but it has made me feel better than nothing. Someday I will figure out a meal others will love that also freezes well. Until then... pizza.

  4. Mail them a gift card to a take out place, or pick up some random groceries (fruit, veggies, bagels, muffins, lunch meat, etc) and drop them off on your way home from work. Supper meals are wonderful, obviously, but sometimes snacks and breakfasts are just as appreciated! Especially because they are so outside the box of thought as everyone is delivering suppers. When I do things like that I don't sign up on the Take Them a Meal thing because then they're not expecting a meal, and then I can take it whenever I want. Laziness at it's best.

  5. I have MANY of the same issues you do...but I LOVE to bring meals. Here are some of my solutions.

    -Make a meal in the crockpot overnight....put it in a foil pan (I buy them at Sam's in bulk so I have them to hand out), take it to work, keep it in the fridge, and run it by their house on my way home. Most people don't mind having to heat it up.

    - Pick up takeout from somewhere after work and run it by on my way home. I usually don't stay long (unless there is a new baby to hold so I can let mama do something she needs to do).

    -Order a pizza and have it delivered to their house. Most places will take a card over the phone (or you can order online). I've had some people be SO grateful for pizza because they didn't have to cook/worry about dinner. I do this even when I know some friends are in a stressfull season (one friend's kids were sick, husband was out of town, and mom was in the hospital)...I sent her a couple pizzas. She was SO thankful.

    -Sometimes I will cook the meal after work, and take it over late (like 8 pm) and it's dinner for the NEXT night. So I get to hang for a few minutes, take a meal, but I get to do it after I get home and do what I need to do.

  6. I was thinking similar to what Amanda said. Maybe pick up something from somewhere and drop it off. Most gorcery stores have a deli with chicken/potato salad/rolls or a pre-made casserole they just pop in the oven. If not the grocery store, you can stop by a drive through and pick up a family sized meal for them. The other option is like you are saying make something ahead of time. Even if it's not freezing it, maybe something you could make Sunday evening and pop it in the fridge til Monday when you can drop it off after work or something and they can just heat it up. Sadly, we haven't done this as often as we should but this was some of the ways we handled it.

  7. My go-to recipe to take to families is enchiladas from Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. You cook the chicken ahead of time, so the only thing you're doing by putting it in the oven is melting the cheese. Good for gluten-free, but not dairy free. I also grab salsa and chips and it's a full meal. http://sarahbessey.com/in-which-we-invite-you-to-a-dinner-party-for-bread-wine/ It's nice because you can take it whenever and they can eat it whenever. Also, you should just make them because they are delicious!

    Also, I remember Elizabeth from E, Myself, and I recommending a big salad with all of the fixins on the side. (I'll ignore how much waste this produces.) But she said it was nice to eat something healthy after so many heavy casseroles.

  8. I don't think you need to bring the meals at meal time. If it's something like a soup or casserole that can be reheated you can bring it whenever! That's definitely what I do...

  9. I always make meals that can hang out in the fridge for a day or two and then be cooked. You don't have to worry about freezing them and all the family has to do is take it out of the fridge and stick it in the oven. You don't need to worry about getting it to them that evening and they can choose when to eat. So basically, casseroles.

    Also, our church does Meals For Encouragement where basically you get three frozen meals (which are hanging out in a freezer at church) and then you just thaw them and heat them up. We got lasagna, soup, and ribs with the fixin's. I made stroganoff (all you have to "cook" is a package of (already provided) noodles), shepherd's pie, beef stew, and lots of soups to freeze when both Sam and Rachel were born. I will send you recipes.

    I have faith you CAN do this Erika!!! Weekends are your friends. Also, double the recipe and you have supper for yourself for the next night. Win-win!!!

    1. Could you take your slow cooker to work with everything in it??? It could cook at work all day and then you could drop it off on the way home?

      PS. Can you tell we really want you to succeed? :)

      PPS. Your paragraph about people bringing you meals after Ellison's adoption failed made me cry.

  10. 1) Baked Ziti (that you make ahead at freeze) in an aluminum pan... pair with fresh bread, bottle of wine, and one of those "bags of Cesar" salad that you can buy at the super market... this is my GO TO and one of my favs.

    2) Rotisserie Chicken - pick up on the way home and drop off. You could do a cold make ahead potato or pasta salad as a side

    3) Edible Arrangements - someone gave this us after we had a baby and I thought it was very thoughtful

  11. Past couple of times we've received or given meals it has been due to deaths in the family. We tired of fried chicken and casseroles very quickly but happily accepted when a friend offered to drop off pizza. I've also taken Zaxby's and McDonald's. Granted these were pricier than a home cooked meal, the change of flavors was great.

    Also, BBQ. You can let the pork shoulder cook overnight, pull it in the morning, rest while you're at work and be ready to eat when you deliver it. I love BBQ.

  12. Recently at school we all signed up for different days to take a meal to our counselor. Once grade level just put money together and got a gift card to the grocery store in town. I think that's a great idea. Often so many people bring meals that need eaten right away, then you have left overs, but someone already brought you more food for the next day than you could eat in a week! It takes stress away for later! None of my friends are really in the needing meals part of life yet, and none of my close friends live close so I've kind of gotten off easy on this one, but I love to bake things and mail them! It's a great surprise for people! My go to is banana bread, but it's crazy expensive to mail since it is so dense!

  13. I haven't read the other comments (because I'm too lazy), so you have probably already gotten all of these tips in some form or another, but here is my feedback:

    1. People usually have a variety of days during the week to choose from when they have a calendar set up; I usually try to pick a Sunday night or a Monday so I can prepare it on Sunday when I know I won't be too busy with "work" (children).

    2. I regularly make the meal a day or several hours in advance and bring it to them refrigerated with heating/cooking instructions written on the meal (on the foil, not on the actual food, obvi).

    3. I pretty much find one go-to meal and make that for everyone who needs a meal. I hate choosing meals to prepare for my own family each week, let alone choosing one for another family, so this takes the stress out.

    4. I don't do this, but a lot of people I know just double a recipe and take half to the family while keeping the other half to eat themselves.

    5. If cooking is just too darn complicated, get inexpensive take-out, or just buy the already made frozen meals at the grocery store! When I am in need of meals, I DO NOT CARE where it comes from or if the person made it themselves, so I like to think most other people are the same way. Food is food, and as long as I don't prepare it, I'm happy to receive it.

    Just keep reminding yourself what a big help it has been to you in the past, and use that to motivate yourself to make it work :)

  14. Idea one--make chicken/tuna/or egg salad, and bring it with good bread, some fruit, etc. Thinking "picnic like with substance" and bonus points for even bringing paper goods alone.

    Freezer friendly; I get really freaked out about freezing food too. In my experience chili and most soups freeze (and unfreeze) well.

  15. First of all, I just have to say, you looked BEAUTIFUL this past weekend. I was momentarily sent off track by your photo... refocusing, meals.

    I have LOTS of recipes for crock pot and freezer proof meals... This is often how Sam and I eat anyway as I am 1-lazy, 2- not a cook, and 3- Sam gets home 6:30-7, so I'm happy tho share. My personal issue is that I don't cook and can't imagine "blessing" some sweet person with my food. I'm the most un-Southern, un-domestic woman you'll ever meet when it comes to meals... not my love language at all. Which is ironic because gifts are my love language. But I'm with you, the idea of fixing food for a family with picky eaters/allergies/food preferences is OVERWHELMING! My gift giving of choice tends to be more of the gift card, flowers, gift variety. But if you want to tackle food giving, more power to you!

    P.S. I think it shows how VERY caring you are that you even plan/think/budget for this. Kudos.

  16. We do the meal thing up here, but I feel like it might be a little more of a southern thing. Although I could be saying that only because I've never brought a meal to someone and have never received a meal from someone either! So here's my thought.... Does your mode of helping HAVE to be in the form of brining meals to people? I find that words... Cards... Sent snail mail... Means SO much. I normally do that. Just a thought :)

  17. Families that are overwhelmed for any reason-- new baby, death in the family, illness- don't just need dinners. I've dropped off a grocery bag "care package" with snacks (cut up fruit, hummus and chips, granola bars, trail mix) to friends with a new baby or after a death or illness, and they've been very well received. It's not just hot dinners that help!

    When I do bring dinners, I bring lasagna or turkey chili in small trays-- ready to heat or freeze, whichever they prefer.

    1. I have a good friend who is dealing with the illness of a parent right now and I've been chopping up watermelons and doing Costco trips for them which they've found really helpful. You are right in that it's not just meals which are supportive during times of stress. However, then you need to know the family fairly well so you can personalize the help. Not everyone needs a chopped up watermelon :)

  18. I am really enjoying the comments here--what an inspiration!

    I tend to think outside the box a bit in situations like these--though I absolutely love the idea of showing up/having someone show up with a warm meal and think you've already gotten great suggestions there. So here are my thoughts:

    1. To simplify things on your end, could you prepare something to take on a weekend? If the act of taking a warm meal at an appropriate time is what your heart wants to do, that might make it more possible than when you are juggling work, preparation, etc.

    2. Instead of a meal, what about a gift card for a treat? Dairy Queen or something? Pick up a package of Dilly Bars, or a favorite drink from Starbucks. (If you showed up at my house with an iced caramel macchiato, I might not let you leave.)

    3. Is there a non-food alternative that you would enjoy? For example, you obviously grow beautiful flowers, so, maybe a flower arrangement or a potted plant? When we moved, our neighbors across the street brought over a potted gerber daisy and a simple note, and I've never forgotten the sweet gesture that welcomed us to our neighborhood.

    4. One last thing. Sometimes I think it's nice to remember someone after the "regular" generosity has stopped. The meals provide an immediate need, and it's important. But being generous with your love doesn't have to be tied to a date on the calendar. A pan of brownies, a Starbucks gift card, a thoughtful note in the mail sent weeks after the initial giving, I think, would mean so much because it shows that the love didn't stop exactly when the immediate need did. And it might appeal to your love of surprises, too :)

    I love that you started this conversation!

  19. Wow, it looks as though you have a great supply of friends who are willing to give you a few pointers. Around here people do the same thing. And being on the recieving end of meals recently for my 3rd miscarriage here is what I loved:

    Papa Muphy's Pizza,
    crock pot meals
    anything that can go in the freezer and be cooked/eaten later or now

    I loved these options because people just came in the house either saw food out and threw theirs in the frigde, or left it on the table to be eaten up by us or whomever was at our house. It was wonderful for me because I never once had to think about what to make, what to eat. And, almost everything was microwaveable!

    My husband and I have a similar schedule and it can be incredibly difficuly getting meals to and from and then getting dishes back... Etc.This is why freezer meals and crock pot meals were my favorite to recieve and to give. Easy to make, easy to hand off, and easy for the recievers to determine whether they want to eat it now, or save it for later. When it comes to dropping off meals for those with new babies I let my husband drop it off himself unless I feel particularly comfortable with going as well! As far as the hand off we have usually just passed it over, and said have a good night and either keep the dish/tupperware we gave it to you in, or bring the glass dish to church... For us, it's never been awkward. My most favorite meal to provide was having hot pizza delivered to their home all paid for and tip paid for :) I didn't even have to consider seeing a new baby!

    I hope you get some good insight and are inspired to keep giving generously! :) XO

  20. I spent most of my life in New Jersey, and we do the meal thing there, but now that I live in NYC, it seems like no one does it and I think that sucks. Anyway, I have been on the receiving end, both when my mom died and when my dad was diagnosed with cancer and I was taking care of him. The latter time especially - the meals meant more to me than I could say because I was so overwhelmed between working full time and managing his care (and meals). SO, what one person did might be up your alley. My friend's mom went to Boston Market, picked up dinner for us, and delivered it to our house. It's like you said - lots of people will turn away when things are at there scariest, and bringing a meal shows you're not turning away from people who need help. But if you really want to make food, I think the simple way to get around all your other concerns is to just make something that reheats well. That's what I always do - my go-to is a chili, and then I bring some shredded cheese (or whatever other toppings you want), some lettuce for a salad, and a loaf of bread. You could even drop it off in the morning on the way to work, or at lunch hour. And as for worrying about whether they expect you to stay and watch them eat - I never did, but if you're worried, just have an excuse at the ready.

  21. Most of this has been said already, but my go to is a freezer meal with frozen bread and either a bagged salad or steamer veggie. This pasta dish is actually my go to one now. (http://www.lifeatitsfinest.com/2014/03/pinterest-hits.html) It's super easy and makes a lot. So when I'm making it for us, I do a 9x9 pan for us to eat then freeze a 9x9 pan for someone else. I've also taken a bag of frozen chicken breasts or pork chops so that they can make them in a crock pot as needed. I do think it's the thought that counts and people don't mind "cooking" an easy meal that you've provided for them.

    I also second that gift cards are a great choice too. I know some people don't think it's personal, but if people are in a season where they're getting a lot of homemade meals (thus eating lots of left overs too) sometimes you just want to go out to eat! I think people will remember that you cared more than they remember what your brought (unless it was really bad ;)

  22. I often include a pack of paper plates, napkins and disposable cups because nobody wants to be doing dishes!! And I recently had a friend with an unexpected, but relatively minor, medical situation, and I did a grocery store run for her. Picked up a loaf of bread, some fruit, some sandwich meat, and a few random snack items that her older children and spouse could manage on their own. There are lots of meals delivered around our little corner of the state, but I would definitely ditto the comments on checking about dropping stuff off at a non-meal time or weekend that fits. Or if its a family you are close to, calling them and saying, I want to do something do you want ________ or ____________ or ______________ and when? Or is there something I am going to the grocery store, what can pick up at the store for you? So they have the option to say, oh we don't eat tomatoes or pork or whatever it may be.

  23. After we lost Jackson there were some people who wanted to bring food to us and honestly I hated it. I didn't want to see anyone or talk to anyone. They ended up taking the food to my parents who then came over to our house. The best thing I think you can do is send a gift card. We honestly loved them. I will forever be sending gift cards now instead of taking food. It was so much easier for us and allowed us to eat when we wanted to eat. We did a lot of curbside pick up and that was great. Don't be too hard on yourself. I know being in the south it can be hard because everyone does it, but just figure out what works best for you!

  24. If you don't have time to cook, I would just pick up something! If you have a central market or whole foods or any grocery, most of them all have delicious salads! Or you could just ask them what their favorite place is and could do a panera or corner bakery meal :)

  25. Bring a meal on the weekends. :) This is the best solution if you''re gone during the day. As far as the food going cold, don't worry about it. If we have to drive a long way I just make sure the food is in a dish that can be heated up in the oven.
    We usually go out to eat after dropping off a meal because there is no way I'm going to cook twice. Also, please don't stay and eat. When our daughter was born I was exhausted, my boobs were leaking, the baby was crying, and a couple that (very generously) brought us a meal plopped down at our table and stayed for almost 2 hours. It was awful!

    1. Also, if the family is dealing with a tragedy or loss I ask if I can drop a meal off at their door step, then text once I've left so they don't have to deal with seeing anyone if they're not ready.

  26. I have a few suggestions that have worked well for me (and the people on the receiving in). Offer to have food (mainly pizza) delivered to the house. Not the most healthy but sometimes you just need a comfort meal. I've done this a few times for my friends who are moms. You can order everything online (or call) and even include a tip. Another thing is to get either a gift card to their favorite resturant or run by and pick it up for them. Again, not entirely the healthiest of meals but I'm sure that it would hit the spot.

  27. Chilli! You can crockpot it while you're at work, and if you make a big batch then you'll have some for you to eat (which I recommend eating first or on the way) and then when you drop it off, if they ask you to stay, just say "Oh no, I already ate but thank you. This is for you and your family to enjoy." Done and done.

  28. I have a similar dilemma as I work 30-40 minutes from home, and it could easily take 45 mins plus to get to someone's house from ours. For newborns visits I always just bring diapers and wipes. They are always needed and appreciated. Sometimes I even spring for grocery store flowers for the mama. I have also done "snack packs" of fruit, prepped veggies, homemade ranch, homemade granola (made on the weekend) and other little things that are quick snacks. They can all be made and prepped ahead of time, and if you have a fridge at work or go with all non perishable food you can just bring it to work with you and go straight to drop off! You could also do a dessert, like cookies, that are made ahead of time. A friend of mine made me some delish homemade chicken noodle soup before I had surgery last year also. She brought it cold and I was just able to heat it up quickly when I wanted some for a few day period. It's really awesome that you are making an effort to do this to help out friends in a stressful time. I know you will find your own way to help and I am sure whatever it is will be appreciated.

  29. Someone may have already said this (I confess that I didn't read all of the comments), but get to work early with the stuff for the crock pot meal (and your crock pot) and prepare it in the church kitchen. Then you can just let it cook there, keep an eye on it, and deliver it right after work while you're still in Athens. Maybe make a little extra so you can set it aside for you and Mattie to eat when you get home. You can do it! It is a very kind thing to do. :)

  30. I would love to have a more full time meal ministry. I love to cook and I love to bless people with food. I also have some of the obstacles you do.
    Lately I have just been making muffins for people instead of a meal. It is not a full meal but for a busy family it might help for the morning rush or for a nursing mom it might be a late night snack.
    This is something I really want to do more of and I'm trying think of how else I can bless people rather than meal.
    Remember it's the thought that counts!

  31. Well, clearly I need to move to the South, because we totally don't do this around here, and I'm super jealous! Can we talk about how I'm already too lazy/tired/in pain to cook and my husband is just plain lazy, so most nights we just sit there looking at each other like, "What now?" Just tonight I was saying to him, "If it's this bad now, what the heck are we gonna do in a month?" CLEARLY the answer is, "MOVE to a place where people bring meals!"

    Skimming through the comments, I have to say I like the idea of pizza, of course, or even some prepared supermarket casseroles. It's not really about going gourmet... I think it's just a hassle to have to plan meals/shop for meals, so people will appreciate you taking care of that part. If someone showed up with something for me to pop in the oven for 30 minutes, that I didn't have to think about at all, I'd be eternally grateful. And as someone who just tonight gave up on life and had a bowl of cereal for dinner... yeah, any of the suggestions in the comments sounds good. Not just in times of need, either - any time, really.

  32. San Giorgio Ziti has a recipe right on the back for baked ziti. It also gives you freezing instructions right on the box!

  33. 35 comments later, I have a feeling everyone has already made any suggestions I would have made. But I will say this- I usually err on the side of dropping it off and going. People will usually be nice and offer for you to stay, but if they're really in a situation that necessitates meals, they probably want you to leave them alone to eat in peace!

    Takeout is always a good option, as are pieced together meals that you can pick up at the store (i.e.: rotisserie chicken, salad mix, bread, fruit salad, etc.).

    So there's my input!

  34. One of the greatest baby meals I ever received was BREAKFAST. Seriously. One morning when Isaac was like a wee 10 days old, a friend brought over muffins and fresh fruit and juice. It was so awesome. We had accumulated so many freezer meals, we were already starting to throw away uneaten food.... but when you've been up nearly all night, seeing the sun can be a little daunting. Having breakfast already made and waiting was such a relief. Easy to fix the night before and drop off on the way to work!

    Also, I've ordered a pizza to be delivered to families twice in the past. It's always worked really well and takes all the pressure off of you to be a courteous guest and the mom to be a gracious host.

  35. All such great ideas. Some I was thinking too, so I won't mention again, but seriously lots of great ideas here. I find personally that serving others can be SO hard once I am out of the habit, ya know?? You will get back into a groove in no time!

    Another idea I will mention - Calling the family and letting them know that you will be shopping for them (not asking, just telling!!) Something like "Please email me your grocery list. I am driving to your area Sat morning and will shop and deliver your list. No questions!!" - or something like that. Some people might not give you their entire list out of fear it will cost too much, and that is ok, you can fill in the gaps with some fun extras. Also ask that they have their dry cleaning (or whatever) ready and you can drop it off for them on your way home. I will never forget when someone did this for us!!

  36. Google Engine 2 Meatless Meatloaf. Super easy, you can't screw it up. My husband and I are die-hard meat eaters but we LOVE this meal. Do you have trader joe's? I buy the cooked lentils and the tofu and then add a bunch of veggies to the mix, like mushrooms, carrots, and some worchestire sauce and soy sauce for flavor. Then I put in the loaf pan and I FREEZE one of the loaf pans so that I have enough for another meal another night. If you take the frozen food straight from work, they get their meal and then you can go home and you get your meal! Also--I work from 7:30 am to 5 pm. I still use the crockpot. Things won't burn if you leave it in past the 8 hours cooking time. The crockpot automatically switches to WARM and it just keeps the food warm. SO don't worry about it and crockpot away. It is seriously a LIFE saver! I have been working on a post called "5 Easy Meals for the Working Couple" and it lists my favorite easy meals to make during the week When I finally get around to publishing it, I'll email it to you

  37. Between having a baby and losing my sister-in-law suddenly the last few months, I've been on the receiving end of a lot of food gifts lately, and here are my thoughts:

    1) Bring the food in a receptacle you don't need back. It's a pain in the ass to remember whose crockpot/soup pot/etc. belongs to who.
    2) Bring something that freezes well. Unless you're on a meal train schedule, you can end up with too much food at some points, and it's nice to be able to pull it out of the freezer a week later when you are actually needing the food.
    3) Unless you're super close with the person (and sometimes not even then), keep your drop off to 5 minutes or less. Leave the car running as an excuse to leave or whatever. Making conversation when you're exhausted with a newborn / grieving is HARD.
    4) Pat yourself on the back for thinking of doing this. It really is SO appreciated by people who are going through hard times!

  38. I got lots and LOTS of meals when I was recovering from surgery. Here were my takeaways for best practices:

    1. Bring something over the day before for dinner the next night. Write down the reheating or cooking instructions, especially if the person is on drugs )

    2. Sides! I loved when people brought salads to go with the meal. It was nice to have fresh produce when I hadn't been able to go to the store in a while.

    3. Think of the kids! Mine are picky and one nice touch that a few people did was give a kid option, like a package of frozen chicken nuggets and pre-cut strawberries.

    4. Disposable containers are awesome.

    Really, when people bring you food, it's just such a nice gesture.

    Oh, and a bonus tip: don't bring soup to someone who had back surgery. They can't lean forward to eat it and it's humiliating for them to wear a bib. :)


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