A GLORIOUS thing happened this morning. Preschool started. I dropped off my super excited, adorable 4 year old to play, learn, and TALK with SOMEONE ELSE. Just for a couple hours. I will be so ready to have her bubbly little personality back this afternoon, but for now, I sit and blog while Isaac sleeps, with a Starbucks in one hand and Law & Order re-runs on the TV. Bliss, my friends. Bliss.
If you’ve known me for very long, you know one of my favorite things to do is to feed people. So much so, that I somehow signed up for two separate meal calendars for the same day this week. And while I was up to my ears in ground beef and homemade hamburger buns, I started to think about what I might say to someone who is new to the practice of feeding other families. I realize that the word “art” might be a stretch. Ok, its completely wrong, as it’s really rather simple to take meals to other people. Here’s the MOST IMPORTANT thing you need to know about taking a meal to someone:
ANYTHING you take, will make their day. Short of actual dog food. Unless they have a dog and then that may be helpful. When I had Isaac, people would tell me they were so nervous to bring me dinner because I cook/bake so much, they worried it wouldn’t measure up. This made me giggle because the the alternative dinner option at the time in my house was doritos. And maybe a couple oreos as a “side”. If you know me well, you know that our pediatrician at the time had me convinced that my GIANT infant would soon waste away to nothing while we were both getting the hang of nursing. She had me pumping after EVERY meal and nursing every 2 hours around the clock. Which meant that AFTER Isaac nursed for 30-40 minutes, I spent an additional 20 minutes pumping. It was literally my full time job to produce milk. I felt like a human vending machine. So when 5:00 rolled around each day and I realized someone had MADE MY FAMILY DINNER, I got so excited I almost forgot that I was permanently attached to my pump like a dairy cow. Here are a couple of my favorite things people brought us:
- Take-out pizza and salad
- Chicken and pasta alfredo from Costco
- BBQ chicken and baked beans
- Chicken pot pie
So, please. The next time someone posts a meal calendar for someone who has had a baby, adopted a child, been given a new foster placement, come home from the hospital, lost a loved one, is suffering from a flare up of a chronic condition, or any other life event that makes it emotionally and practically challenging to get food on the table before 10 pm, don’t hesitate to sign up. You can get dinner to people without breaking the bank, without having to be a gourmet chef, and without having the spend the whole day in the kitchen. Below are some tips and tricks I use when feeding other families.
Whatever you’re already planning to feed your family, just double it. Or triple it in my case. You’re already cooking, save yourself time and money and just make extra. For instance, it’s cheaper to buy beef in 5 lbs. than 1 lb. so it was cheaper to simply make enough sloppy joes for everyone rather than make one meal for my family and something else for the other two families. Plus, sloppy joes freeze well, are kid friendly, and warm up for great leftovers.
Label things so you can drop it and run and it will be clear what’s in each container. Some people will be up for visiting and some will not. Newborns aren’t super understanding about a delay in their dinner and whipping out the ladies in front of a neighbor you don’t know well is rather awkward for everyone. So unless you’re taking dinner to a dear friend, be prepared to drop dinner and run.
Save money by putting together kits yourself. I’ve been eating lots of spinach lately (which means I’ve had 2 salads this week), so instead of buying salad kits for 3-4 bucks a pop, I made my own in gallon sized ziploc bags with spinach, craisins, sliced almonds, swiss cheese, and poppyseed dressing.
Deliver in disposable containers. I always thought it was “old fashioned” and unnecessary when our grandparents saved empty sour cream containers and deli containers, now I get it. It’s easier for me and easier for whoever you’re feeding if you deliver food in containers you don’t need back. Ever. And honestly, if you bring me food in tupperware, you’ll never get it back. It goes to tupperware hell. Just ask all my neighbors. Sorry Mallory.
Save your cardboard boxes and old shopping bags/gift bags. One more way to cheaply and conveniently deliver food. We are HUGE amazon prime consumers, we get deliveries all the time. I’ve started saving the boxes for meals like this. The pans above were HOT HOT HOT and it was hard to carry everything at once. Using the cardboard box meant no one’s hands got burned and my car seats were saved when some of the sloppy joe sauce leaked out the side of the container.
Finally, unless you love to knead bread and enjoy spending hours in the kitchen, don’t feel the need to make it all from scratch. Or any of it for that matter. If you want to do some of it, make the expensive stuff from scratch and buy the cheap stuff. A more sane woman would have purchased hamburger buns for the sloppy joes, they are $1 for a package of 12. And everyone would have enjoyed the sandwiches just as much. The sloppy joes were really quick and easy to put together, three batches of hamburger buns took a big part of my day. I’m just kind of nuts though, and instead of yoga or crafting or some other fabulous hobby, I bake.
Finally, don’t feel like you have to sign up for EVERY meal calendar you see posted. You’ll get burned out and lose the joy of feeding other people. My friends and neighbors see meal calendars every week. However, I typically post a meal calendar for two meals a week for 6 weeks for a family with a new baby. That’s only 12 meals. So if neighbors only signed up for every OTHER meal calendar in my neighborhood, we would still feed and bless each family that needed it without even needing every neighbor to participate. If you have the time and budget and notice that a meal calendar isn’t filling up, sign up for more than one slot. It all evens out.