DOING A GOOD JOB BRINGING A SYMPATHY MEAL

February 28, 2019

There have been a few key meals people have brought me that taught me what can really bless someone when taking them dinner. I have learned a lot by observation of others. There was a time where I was in a rut and I sort of default fell into just trying to think of the easiest thing I could put together for somebody in order to cross taking the new mom food off the list of all the other things I have to do.

Then I made a mentality and strategy shift and I love bringing families meals. And I think they help people more too. I really want it to be nice for them.

I’ve shared a few methods I use and some sample menus below!

TIPS

Be creative about when you give a meal: Do when someone has a baby, that is hard work. Or a surgery. But consider other times too. Most churches and communities start a list for newborns or medical stuff, but you could try to be a person who has her eyes open for occasions that aren’t going to get picked up on the formal meal list radar like when someone is depressed, finances are tight, or there is a relational conflict taking a lot of their time. We want to help in times that aren’t only the worst disasters. That comes from just listening and trying to look for when a meal could help.

Give different courses: Think of snacks, treats, lots of sides, even some nice breakfast nibbles. It is pleasant for people.

Give A LOT of it!: Yes to different types of foods, but also yes to a good amount of each individual thing. People are hungry. Not feeling full and them having to scramble to find something else to eat would be disappointing, so go ahead and do a bunch and they may even get lunch the next day out of it too.

Think of their personality and family: Foodies, vegetarians, young kids, meat and potatoes people, etc. You probably have been made aware of any strong dislikes or allergies, but instead of just avoiding those, maybe try to find out what their favorites are. This depends on the nature of the situation you are taking a meal for, but if you think they have time to answer a text or you see them in person, you could ask them what their favorite style of food is. If not and you don’t know much about them, I don’t try to show off with epicurean but go for classic (but good) foods most eaters like.

Set aside time for it: I try to plan and be ready so I can make meals often. You can easily find someone that could use it every month, so you could plan to do it that often if able.

Set aside money for it: Takes away an obstacle for yourself.

Take the first slot: If a meal sign up is being used, this would often be the hardest one for someone to fill, so I try to choose it if I can.

Sign up right away: The feeling of there weren’t enough people willing to bring us a meal would be sad and discouraging for the recipients. Fill the spots! Fill them fast! That makes people feel good. When I get invited to a sign up, I make myself decide right then if I can do it and sign up at that time.

Communicate as early as possible: Regarding my drop off intentions, the whole point is to take away a stress for them, so I don’t want it to be 1:00 pm and they have to start wondering if I forgot or if this is still happening. And people in general like to know when they’re eating next! Also they like to know what they’ll be eating too!

All disposable pans: My inclination is, do not give them dishes to get back to you. If you give them a new thing to do – return the pan you gave them and have it hang over them until they do – you have to a degree whittled away some of the intended convenience you wanted to achieve for them with bringing a meal. I have seen gals use some really smart, non-expensive solutions. The big tubs that two pound yogurt comes in you just clean out and can store all kinds of things. I mostly reach for a combination of gallon ziploc bags and disposable 9 x 13 aluminum pans. Those two cover about anything. (You can get like thirty six of those pans, with lids, for about $13 at a GFS, sam’s club, or costco type place.)

Read their cues at drop off: Some people in a new or challenging time would love someone to talk to and some people understandably just want some food delivered by a drone and then have a lot of other things to do. Plan to be able to do either. Try to pick up their vibe and do what would most bless them right now.

Think about long term suffering: If you know someone that is having a long go of it and the nature of it isn’t going to necessarily get another meal sign up, keep it on your mind to bring them dinner multiple times.

SAMPLE MENUS

Freezable Casserole: A good casserole that’s a little different than the common red sauce pasta bakes that they will probably already have gotten at least one of. And has the option for them to freeze if they end up not needing it that night!

  1. Cheesy Chicken & Wild Rice Casserole
  2. Green salad: Put spring mix lettuce, grated cheese, blueberries, dried cranberries, and walnuts all in a gallon bag and bring it with a fresh bottle of a good dressing and whole avocado. (They can put the avocado on the salad, or mom can save it for toast at breakfast. Or any of the many other uses for a good avocado!)
  3. Fruit: Fill a gallon bag of different cut up fruits. If they have young kids, halve a bunch of grapes for them.
  4. Dessert: I typically make a pan of brownies or purchase a quality pie and bring a gallon of ice cream.
  5. Applesauce Oat Muffins: maybe a little breakfast the next day and just generally good for kids and snacks.
  6. A special candy or jar of nutella, just for a fun treat. It’s never hard to find a food vessel to put nutella on!

Grilled: Grilling is nice and kind of out of the ordinary. Most sympathy meals aren’t grilled food. And going out to grill is kind of an ordeal, so it’s something this person might not have time to do that feels fresher than more casseroles.

  1. Grilled brats and buns: maybe try some nice specialty brats from a local place.
  2. Corn on the cob: They probably don’t have time for shucking! Consider doing for them things that are yummy but have annoying prep (like this and the halving grapes for kids).
  3. Chips: Get some cool, nicer brand ones
  4. Green salad
  5. Fruit
  6. Dessert
  7. Applesauce Oat Muffins
  8. A special candy or jar of nutella

Each of those is about $40-$50. Could be hard if you have to impromptu carve that out of your family’s grocery budget. Maybe not as much a big deal if you were able to set it aside to be waiting. Let me emphasize that if it comes down to doing something simple when there’s a need or doing nothing, definitely still go for something simple rather than not doing it at all!

And I’ve definitely just paid for the good pizza in town to be delivered when that was all I could do. The hope of this post is to say that with a bit of a thought and some planning I found I could most of the time do a better job to put something nice together that hopefully comforted people.

Let’s be real. On the day you bring a big meal to someone, you’d likely work really hard to grind out preparing all this and making a normal dinner for your family too. But, it is good, worthy work to do because one of our most basic needs is that every day we get hungry again. We are all small little people, and our feeble frames feel helped when someone gives us a good plate of food for dinner.

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Comments

  • I love the idea you just shared. No one think about this thing and we do waste lot of meal on daily basis.

  • Great
    we love your skills,
    keep sharing!

  • Sarah

    You are very kind to spend time thinking about and acting on these ideas. You’ve given me some food for thought about future opportunities to help. I have fallen into some of the traps you’ve mentioned (mainly not signing up right away, and then not getting the chance to do so later). Thank you for these well thought out ideas.

    • Rachel Schultz

      That is great <3 you're welcome

  • Rebecca

    Rachel, a good reminder to take care of others. I never know what to do. I appreciate your guidelines. Very helpful!

    • Rachel Schultz

      Thanks rebecca! <3

  • Kate

    Yes, especially to how appreciated the extras are! I spent years as a meals-bringer before ever needing meals, and I got new perspective from being on the receiving end. One friend brought us a homemade meal and added a chilled rotisserie chicken for another time. It’s easy and inexpensive to pick up a chicken and it makes a difference (especially if the recipients get some lighter meals).
    A few other friends weren’t able to bring meals, but thought of us when they were at the farmers’ markets and would drop off wonderful snacking-friendly produce. I was pretty housebound between surgery and a newborn; the farmers’ market was too much for me to handle, so I savored every bite of those deliveries. Now I try to remember that even if I can’t sign up to bring a dinner, I might be able to spontaneously drop off some other kind of much-appreciated food.

  • […] It’s never easy but always appreciated: How to do a good job providing a sympathy meal.  […]

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