Have a loved one who had a new baby or surgery or experienced a loss? Here are 30+ ways to deliver comfort and nourishment to family and friends in need.
Bringing a meal to friends in need sounds so nice. Until you promise to do it–and then the over-thinking begins!
What if they don’t like it? What if they’re allergic to it? What if you mess up the recipe? What if it spoils before they get a chance to eat it? What if it’s not enough food? What if it’s too much food? What if a stealth raccoon swipes it off their porch?!?
Deep, cleansing breaths.
Generosity is a wonderful thing. And those panicky voices telling you it was all a huge mistake to even offer to drop off food? They’re wrong! To help ease your mind and make sure your food delivery is as smoothly executed as it is genuinely helpful, here are seven things to consider when cooking for others in times of need:
1. Holding Time: Ideally, text ahead and let them know when you’re coming and what you’re bringing so they can prepare. Otherwise, take steps to ensure your meal can hold if the recipient isn’t home. Include clear instructions for assembly or how to finish cooking, as needed. If it can be frozen in part or whole for another time, include a note with freezing directions.
2. Allergies: It’s important to know whether your recipient is allergic to any foods, since reactions can be severe. Even if you don’t include a specific allergen in your recipe, you can accidentally transfer allergens by using cookware or utensils that have been in contact with it in your kitchen. Common severe allergens include: milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts, soy, shellfish, tree nuts, fish, and sesame.
3. Preferences: Do they avoid spicy foods, despise cilantro, or eat vegetarian or vegan? If possible, find out in advance (most online meal sign-ups will address this). When in doubt, support your friends with any meal you choose, and your kindness will likely outshine any food aversions.
4. Containers: Disposables or sturdy containers you don’t need back are best for drop-off meals. Can’t get around it? Tell your friends to just set the empty dish on their porch or doorstep, and you’ll pick it up.
5. Food Safety The danger zone for bacterial growth is between 140-40 degrees F for more than four hours (much less if the weather is warm or it’s in direct sun). If you’re not sure they’ll be ready to eat when you drop off your meal, deliver it cold in a cooler with cooking or reheating instructions–or in a thermal bag or layers of foil. (Again, tell them to simply leave your cooler or bag on their porch to retrieve later.)
6. Extras. Include condiments (like sour cream for baked potatoes), salad dressing, bread and butter, a sweet treat, a kind note, or drinks to make it effortless for your recipient and to help them feel even more special.
7. Your Own Dinner Plan. Make this a win-win by doubling the recipe so your own family is covered that night too.
Stumped for ideas about what to make?
Need more specific ideas and recipes for foods to bring to friends in need? Start with things you already know how to cook and enjoy (this isn’t the best time to try a new cuisine or unfamiliar recipe). Listed below are a few easy and supportive comfort foods for friends. They include my own recipes as well as some of my favorites from other bloggers.
Comforting Main Dishes: These recipes feel like a warm hug to eat–and work great as leftovers–so they’re perfect when cooking for friends in a difficult time. To go a little further, include a bagged salad plus dressing:
Breakfasts: Many families receive dinners in a time of need, but everyone needs breakfast, too! Consider bringing some breakfast foods that can lovingly support folks with disrupted sleep schedules or who may be in a phase when daily tasks are turned upside down.
Snacks: Snacks are incredibly helpful in hectic life situations when your loved one might be spending extra time in the car, away from their kitchen, up at odd hours, unable to use both hands to eat, or whatever else may be going on. These can lend major support to keep your loved ones going.
Sweets: Leaving treats on someone’s doorstep is the next-best feeling next to finding some on yours!
Miscellaneous Food Gestures
- Jarred salad: Make up a couple for easy lunches (place heaviest ingredients on bottom, greens at very top, package dressing separately.)
- Lunch containers (see this how-to)
- Loaf of homemade bread or a loaf from your favorite local bakery
- Smoothie packets plus a carton of dairy or non-dairy milk
- Homemade hot cocoa mix, special coffee, or assortment of teas
- Chai concentrate to enjoy hot or iced
- Care package of convenience food that make life easier. A friend dropped off a bag of heat-and-eat items from Trader Joe’s when I was sick, and it was lovely having a speedy, delicious meal.
Other ways to help friends in need
If you’re not sure what food to take when someone is in need (or if bringing food to a friend doesn’t feel right for your situation) there are so many other ways to help friends and neighbors. And remember: Whatever you choose to do, buy, or say in an effort to connect – it’s appreciated!
- Offer to drive them somewhere
- Do outdoor chores like mowing or shoveling snow (or household chores)
- Take care of some minor shopping or errands
- Walk their dogs
- Take their kids to the playground
- Set a reminder on your calendar to check in by text, email, or phone
- Send or leave a note of encouragement