After there is a death or birth in the family, we always want to help in some practical way. Or if somebody just moved. Food is a great way to bless a family. But only when it’s done in the right way. Learn how to bring dinner to a family so it will be a blessing to them and not a burden.
I remember coming home from the hospital with my new baby and feeling so overwhelmed about becoming a mom. Thankfully, my church and family and friends came around our family and blessed us with so many meals and gift cards that I didn’t have to worry about meals for a long time.
I could just focus on me and baby.
The best part? I didn’t have to ask or or organize anything. People just showed up at my door, passed food into my hands and left.
If you’d like to stay for a little visit and catch up a bit, check out Marcie’s resources for hospitality in different life situations.
I was grateful that people took initiative and just brought dinner to my family.
A family in need is usually not going to come to you and ask you for help. As Americans, we pride ourselves on independence and “doing it all.” You must call them up and pin them down. Yes, like you are approaching for the attack! Take initiative!
The worst thing you can say is the vague, “Call me if you need anything.”
Call or text the family with a definite plan that still leaves room for them to make a decision or two.
Before calling, have in place: dates, times, 2 food options, and mode of delivery.
Ask one question at a time so they don’t feel overwhelmed but you are still giving them a few options.
For example: “Hey! Congratulations on your new baby! I’d love to bring your family dinner next week. Would Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday work best?
“Great! Tuesday it is. Would your family prefer chicken noodle soup or lasagne for dinner? [Neither is an answer, too. In that case ask if they’d like a different meal or prefer carry out from their favorite restaurant. Don’t overwhelm them with a million other recipe options.]
“Sounds good. Is there anything you don’t like in your lasagne?
“Okay! I’ll drop off a lasagne dinner for your family on Tuesday at 3pm so you have time to bake it.
Keep the conversation simple and you make the big decisions while giving the receiving family options within your plan.
Here are some great tips for cooking and baking for the freezer if you’d rather bring a freezer meal to a family. But check to see if they have freezer room first!
For more great recipes that are made from real ingredients and full of nutrients, check out Mary’s page for lots of easy meals like her Sourdough Sausage Balls.
A Note for How to Bring Dinner to a Family Who Just Moved In
If you don’t know the family at all, but they are new to the neighborhood, don’t make them anything.
You don’t know them, they don’t know you so chances are they’ll just throw your food out. Yes, I’m being pessimistic here, but it’s the truth.
Offer a stranger family a gift card to a local store or a restaurant. Make sure to include the address and clear driving instructions for how to get there.
For a more personal touch, give the new family a welcome basket with items from local artisans. Soaps, fudge, tea, hot chocolate, jam, honey or maple syrup are great things to include. Anything pre-packaged. That way if they can’t or won’t use it, they can give it away rather than just tossing it.
Read here for more unique gift ideas.
After you get to know the family and they have a little bit of trust in you, go ahead and offer a meal.
Cinnamon rolls are my go-to for a family who just moved in. After I get to know them a bit, I drop off a pan. It’s simple with no baking or refrigeration needed and is a delicious snack any time (provided the family can eat gluten.)
Practical Guidelines for How to Bring Dinner to a Family
1. Don’t give a pan or container that you want back. The last thing on a busy or grieving family’s mind is who’s dish is who’s. Use things like aluminum pans, zipper baggies and jars.
If you don’t want to lose your beautiful canning jars, save spaghetti sauce jars, pickle jars and applesauce jars. Keep them on hand to throw some soup, gravy, syrup, jelly or whatever for bringing dinner to a family.
See what else I reuse disposable jars for.
2. Include all the paper ware, too. Throw in a stack of paper plates and/or bowls, napkins, plastic ware and cups. The less dishes the family has to wash up, the better. Better yet, include drinks that don’t need cups: juice boxes, bottled water and bottled milk are great options.
3. Keep it basic. Unless you know the family super well and know that everyone will eat the meal you provide with onions, peppers and eggplant – skip it. As much as it may pain you, keep it plain and simple with no fancy ingredients.
A great way to include beautiful and more healthy foods is on a fruit platter or veggie platter as a side. Knock your socks off there.
4. Don’t forget the instructions! A beautiful lasagne can be more of a burden if the family doesn’t know how to bake it. Write directly on the foil cover whether to bake from frozen or defrosted, what temperature and for how long.
5. Throw in a loaf of bread. One family I’ve made meals for has two kids that are suuuuper picky eaters so I don’t even know what they will eat. Except bread. I know they will always eat bread. No matter what meal I take to them, I always include a loaf of white bread or a pack of white dinner rolls.
6. Remember dessert. Okay, so I know it’s not necessary, but it will be a special treat for the receiving family. Make something simple like cookies or bars. For a more health conscious treat, make dessert a basket of whole fruit.
I caution against things like ice cream, puddings and pies that may require refrigeration. You don’t know how many other meals the family has received or if they have much fridge or freezer space. Making a dessert that is shelf stable for a couple days will be easier on the family.
7. Include ingredients list. So many people struggle with allergies. Include an ingredient list for each dish you take to a family for dinner. Text them or include an envelope with all your recipes and brand names of each premade ingredient so they can look up the brand name online if needed.
If you want to take dinner to a family but you know they have very strict eating and allergy needs, skip making them a meal. I know, this is heart-breaking because part of the joy is preparing and anticipating the family who will get the product of your hands.
No, don’t try to make something ‘gluten free’ for them or ‘anything-else-free’. If you don’t know how severe their allergy is, even the presence of gluten in your house will be too risky. Just skip it.
Give them a gift card to a grocery store or a carry out place that you know they frequent. Better yet, call them up and ask what night next week you can have such-and-such delivered to them for supper.