5 Tips for Giving the Gift of Food

posted by Andrea | 04/8/2014

giving the gift of food

Over the past 5 weeks, Dave and I have been BEYOND BLESSED with many, many gifts of food. If I counted correctly, I think we had 15 or 16 different meals delivered on various days. Plus we were overwhelmed with goodies, snacks, food for the freezer, gift baskets, and even a few Culver’s gift cards!

Add all of that to the stash of meals and snacks I already had in the freezer, plus the fact that we’ve been invited to both of our parents’ homes for dinner a couple times… and I’ve spent little to no time in the kitchen since Simon was born.

food gifts

Since I’ve shared my love of giving and receiving food gifts before (and since it really is such a fabulous clutter-free gift) I thought I’d do another post about little tips and tricks you might consider the next time you’re giving the gift of food — because I just don’t know anyone who wouldn’t appreciate the gift of food.

1. Use disposable containers.

I’ve been doing this for years already — and although it is a little more wasteful, I can’t tell you how wonderful it is not to have any kitchen clean-up after a meal (especially with a new baby and toddler around). Not to mention, then I don’t need to worry about breaking or ruining someone else’s dishes or figuring out how/when to get those dishes back to them.

I was actually surprised that almost all our delivered meals came is disposable containers — nothing fancy or photo-worthy, but oh so practical and appreciated!

2. Ask about food allergies or preferences.

This didn’t really apply to us as Dave and I will eat pretty much anything you put in front of us, but I assume that MANY other families could not say the same. I’d say at least half of the people who delivered meals to us called or emailed first to ask about allergies or food preferences… which was definitely super thoughtful.

Another idea — if you forget to ask — is to include the recipe (or at least the ingredients) with the food you deliver. This way, if anyone in the family is allergic to something, they’ll know what foods they need to stay away from.

3. Set a specific time and date to deliver the meal.

We did have a few people just casually stop by to drop off a freezer meal — and since they were freezer meals, it was totally fine. However, if you’re bringing a hot meal over to someone’s house, you’ll definitely want to at least try to coordinate with their “normal” dinner hour.

Pretty  much everyone who brought us a hot meal inquired about an appropriate day and time to bring it. This was SO nice because then I knew what nights to plan on food and I could be on the look out for the delivery and quickly open the door before they rang the doorbell and potentially woke up my kids!

4. Communicate about what you are bringing.

No, I don’t think you need to go over every single detail of the meal, but there were several times when people emailed or called and said, “I’m not bringing a full meal, but I am bringing ___________.” And often they would ask, “Do you want me to bring it cooked or do you want to cook it?”

We’re really easy-going when it comes to accepting free food :) So for us, it really didn’t matter if they were bringing a full meal or just the main dish — and as long as I knew ahead of time, I was fine cooking the food in my own oven if that’s what worked best.

The reason I say “communicate” is because when I knew we were not getting a full meal, I make sure to have some veggies, fruit, salad, rolls, or other side dishes ready to go along with the meal. And also, if I knew I would have to be cooking the food in my own oven, I made sure we were home on time and that they delivered the meal before 6:00pm.

5. Don’t be afraid to give non-traditional food gifts.

We seriously have great family and friends… because along with the more traditional “full meals” we got a variety of snack foods, homemade cinnamon rolls, yummy goodie baskets, sparkling juices (my favorite), and gift cards to some of our favorite restaurants.

None of these gifts were “traditional” but I can assure you, they were all VERY MUCH appreciated by our family!

We even got a note with one of the gift cards that said, “I don’t want to subject you to my cooking, so we’re giving a gift card instead!”

Maybe Dave and I get a little too excited over food gifts, but I think we both agree that food items rank pretty high up there on our list of favorite gifts (it’s a hypothetical list, we really don’t rank our gifts!)

If you know someone with a new baby, someone who is sick, someone who has experienced a tragedy, someone who is in a difficult situation, etc. please consider giving them the gift of food. You don’t need to be a fabulous chef and it doesn’t need to be a time-consuming gift (here are a few “out of the box” ideas for food gifts) but it can really make their day.

Even for someone like me who loves to meal plan and spend time in the kitchen, I can’t tell you how awesome it was to have several meals lined up… and one less thing to stress about these past 5 weeks!

What are your best tips for giving the gift of food?

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27 comments

  1. Michelle

    04/08/2014

    A number of years back, I did a blog post on using food as a way of ministering to families. You can find it here: http://www.northofthe49.com/blog/?p=212 but some of the points that I mentioned included non-traditional options, like dropping off breakfast items to make the mornings go a little bit smoother, lunch fixinings that could be assembled quickly, or even just bringing by napkins, disposable plates, cups, etc. (depending upon the situation) so that clean-up would not be an issue. Another thing that is very helpful is when people call before coming by with a meal and ask if there is anything you need from the grocery store that they can pick up for you. It is a huge blessing when you don’t have to load two kids in the car to run for a jug of milk when your supply is running low.

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  2. Sandy Hubbard

    04/08/2014

    Taking meals to new parents is one of my favorite ways to support them, in part because of how much I appreciated it when my now teenage children were born. If the mother is nursing, I include healthy prepackaged (homemade) snacks that can be consumed with one hand–clear plastic cups with a layer of ranch dressing on the bottom, then a variety of stick cut veggies so there is dip along with the veggies or cut up fruit with a toothpick or party fork attached and a few bottles of sparkling flavored water, with limes or lemons or oranges cut up and attached to add to the glass.

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  3. Kerrie

    04/08/2014

    I especially enjoyed getting breads, like banana bread, after having my baby. I would slice it and then freeze it. It was so nice to be able to go to the freezer and just grab a slice when I needed a quick snack. Food gifts are a huge blessing!

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  4. Chalyse Meiklejohn

    04/08/2014

    Have you heard of Meal Train? It’s a website that sets this all up for you! Someone creates a meal train for you, posts it on Facebook or emails it to people who may want to bring a meal, and they sign up for a date and time to bring something. You can list the time you’d like things delivered, food preferences, allergies, etc. so you don’t have to receive 100 phone calls of people asking what you want and when. ;) Check it out!

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    Andrea Reply:

    wow, I’ve never heard of the Meal Train — but that sounds awesome! Clearly a smart person thought of that idea :)

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  5. Laura

    04/08/2014

    I coordinate all the meals for new moms in our church. I use http://www.takethemameal.com. All I have to do , after I set up an account, is send out an email to our Sunday School class with the website, individuals last name and a password. They can then choose an available date and put what they are bringing. In the comment section, I include any food allergies and the time the meal needs to be delivered. They, and the person recieving the meal are both emailed the day before and on that day as a reminder. Makes sending meals soooo much easier!!!

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    Deb Reply:

    We use this and Perfect Potluck (the sister site) all the time. Normally there are at least 2 going in our church. I use it for small group every other week. GREAT way to keep it organized and not have 10 lasagnas! ;)

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    Amy Reply:

    TakeThemAMeal.com is very easy to use. I highly recommend it!

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  6. Brenda

    04/08/2014

    Even if you use a disposable pan, often they can be re-used. I always use my disposable foil pans more than once. But, it is nice to have the option if I don’t feel like scrubbing the baked on food off!

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  7. Terri

    04/08/2014

    We had several wonderful food gifts delivered to our home in the past. One neighbor made a HUGE batch of pasta with homemade sauce. We could heat a serving at a time, which was good with the hours of a newly grown family. Another friend dropped off a large container of homemade soup, which was so convenient for a quick bite.

    One friend provided a HUGE basket of ready to eat fruit. Her reasoning was that it could sit on the counter and I could grab a healthy snack throughout the day. (Had a c-section, hard to get into the produce drawer of the fridge.)

    Congratulations on becoming a family of four!!!

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  8. Deb

    04/08/2014

    I LOVE this post. I still remember some bread someone brought me when my second daughter was born and she is 19 now! Homemade meals that you don’t have to cook are such a HUGE blessing!

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  9. Sarah

    04/08/2014

    #5 is a great suggestion! After I had a baby, my aunt brought me a bunch of individually wrapped sandwiches, chips, apples, and a bag of m&ms. My husband’s lunches were taken care of for the week and I had easy food to grab during the day. The sandwiches also froze well. Definitely one of my most appreciated gifts! She told me someone did that same thing for her family when one of her parents died and it made for quick, simple, on-the-go food between visitations a preparing funeral arrangements.

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  10. Kristen

    04/08/2014

    We had a baby that was 7 weeks premature last year…which meant a stay in the NICU. So, between having a 3 y/o running around, making trips to the hospital to visit the baby and recovering from a c-section, life was insane. I can’t even describe how grateful we were for the gift of meals at that time. It still makes me emotional to think about their generosity! The group I belong to used Mealtrain, that way I knew what was coming and when. I had meals spread out for about 2-3 weeks (which got us through to about the time she came home). It’s amazing how much stress can be taken off of you when you know that dinner is taken care of….even a pizza being dropped off was a blessing! And I think that’s a great thing to keep in mind too, you don’t have to make what you take. It’s the thought that counts! :)

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    Andrea Reply:

    Definitely — I totally agree that it doesn’t have to be homemade. We got a pizza delivered (awesome) and Culver’s gift cards (even more awesome). Both were amazing gifts for our busy and sleepless days!

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  11. Jill

    04/08/2014

    Another helpful hint, if you’re bringing a meal to a nursing Mom, try to avoid making foods that could make the baby gassy! When I take a meal, I try to avoid any “red sauce”, broccoli, cabbage, garlic, onions and chocolate!!!

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  12. Julia K

    04/08/2014

    A very timely post – I am cooking for my son’s soccer coach and his family today as his wife has been in hospital this past week. One thing I always include is a little note explaining the menu and giving some “husband proof” instructions for reheating and serving. I will cook a double batch of everything this morning so all the prep / washing up will be done this morning and I won’t have to cook tonight either !
    It’s also good if one person coordinates a roster so that they can be the central point for communications re dietary requirements, deliveries etc.
    I remember a few years ago making a couple of meals for our GPs wife who had just had her third child. I rang her that afternoon and said I had something to drop into her ( I wanted it to be a surprise). When she answered the door – she almost burst into tears as it was the “arsenic hour” and she was so very very appreciative. The food I dropped in that day had been freshly made and was all suitable to be refrigerated for the next day (or frozen for another time) – so if she already had dinner planned – she had another night covered.

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  13. Julia K

    04/08/2014

    Oh – another tip – make the delivery visit short and sweet. Don’t linger or accept an invitation inside the home. The gift recipient is probably tired / stressed and you want your visit to be a blessing – not a burden.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, good tip Julia! I don’t mind when people chat for a couple minutes — but if I’m right in the middle of feeding the baby or if the kids are napping and I’m trying to get stuff done, I don’t want a “visitor” just the meal :)

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  14. rose

    04/08/2014

    Totally agree with everything! Food gifts are a huge blessing when you have a newborn or are ill, etc. I remember food from a restaurant was perfect when I was in the hospital with a baby in NICU.
    I know this post was about giving food, but I’d like to add that if you are the one receiving the food, please speak up about food sensitivities! I once took a meal to someone who could not eat half of what I made them. I had asked what they couldn’t have since I knew they had health problems, but they said, “anything is fine”. I felt bad, but also felt that it wasn’t my fault since they didn’t tell me.

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  15. Megan

    04/08/2014

    I love giving food gifts! Just did it last weekend, in fact.

    This wasn’t a new baby situation (though I’ve done that before and will be doing it again soon for a friend with a 3 week old). It was a friend who is struggling with some medical issues. I knew she wouldn’t be up for leaving the house, but I also suspected she could use some company (and wasn’t likely to ask if no one offered).

    I had been marinating a tenderloin all day and before I cooked it decided to text her: “I need to cook this tonight and there’s too much for one person. How about I bring it over and we eat dinner together?” She replied yes in mere seconds.

    I brought the meat over in a cooler and we caught up over wine while it cooked in her oven. I brought a veggie, too, and she had the fixings for a salad on hand. It was impromptu and not at all fancy, but a wonderful evening nonetheless. One minor location change for me made a huge difference for a friend in need. It doesn’t get better than that!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Wow — that’s AWESOME Megan! You are a great friend! And yes, I definitely don’t think food gifts should be restricted for new moms. I think I mentioned in the post that food gifts are a great gift for anyone with medical conditions, illness, or anyone who’s just super busy! Thanks for sharing your fun way of giving the gift of food!

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  16. Debbie

    04/08/2014

    One way we were blessed by those who brought meals were some close friends who made enough to stay and share the meal with us. We enjoyed the company since we hadn’t been out much since our baby was born AND not having to cook! Of course this was preplanned in advance…not just an impromptu thing. Sometimes the company is welcomed as much as the food.

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  17. Susan

    04/09/2014

    I agree about the Meal Train website! Wonderful tool. I also recommend care calendar.org as another option. I have participated in both. I also recommend them to my expectant parents in their prenatal classes.

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  18. Sue

    04/10/2014

    ” because I just don’t know anyone who wouldn’t appreciate the gift of food ” .

    Funny.. you shoudl say this.. cause I do.. ! we had a couple we were “friends ” with and I worked in a bakery.. she stopped speaking to me cause I used to bring them pies home when we had extra. She thought I was trying to steal her husband !.

    Please !!! LOL

    sue

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — I read your comment to Dave and we both got a good laugh. Seriously, trying to steal her husband with pies! Maybe she was a really bad cook and just very self-conscious about it :)

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    Sue Reply:

    I am not kidding… my husband teases me all the time.. I have this ability at attracting wacko… people …

    We just gave up.. Honestly.. I love when people bring food to the house..
    it makes a wonderful gift… I just do not bring pie to Lisa and Larry’s ! !

    sue

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  19. Notes from Betty Becca » Blog Archive » A Complete Guide to Sympathy Meals

    07/23/2014

    […] read some good tips out there for preparing this type of meal. Here is a great post about it. And another. I’ve gathered up the definition, the basics, a few extensions on those guidelines, and a few more […]

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