Before Hannah was born, I had some friends offer to set up a calendar for people to bring meals for the first few weeks. I told them that since I wasn’t actually giving birth, I thought I’d really be fine and I didn’t want to impose on anyone. Luckily, they convinced me to let them set up the calendar for a couple meals per week. And wow, were they right! I may not have been physically recovering from giving birth, but with the sleep deprivation, the lifestyle changes and the stream of visitors (which we were also very thankful for), it was such a blessing to not have to plan and cook a meal every night.
Having been the grateful recipient of meals showing up on my doorstep, I make a sincere effort to “pay it forward” and to sign up to take meals to others. Our church uses the CareCalendar website (if you are not familiar with it, it’s amazing). I sign up on an open day, and it sends me email reminders.
Then there’s always the question – what do I take? On the CareCalendar, I look at the meals around my day to see what others are planning. If the person two days before me is taking chicken spaghetti, I don’t want to take chicken spaghetti. I would probably even choose something with beef to have some variety.
There are some people at the church who are faithful in delivering meals, and they have a signature dish – Brenda apparently has some amazing roast chicken. I like to mix it up depending on the other meals, so I don’t think I’ve actually taken the same meal twice. Some meals in the past:
- homemade macaroni and cheese with ham and broccoli
- baked spaghetti – sides of salad and garlic bread with muffins for the next morning
- rotisserie chicken ($5 from Costco) – with homemade sides of mac and cheese, zucchini gratin and apple cake
- stuffed shells with meat sauce – with salad and garlic bread, also cookie dough for whenever
- breakfast for dinner – hashbrown casserole (that’s a breakfast item here in Texas), sausage, pumpkin muffins and fruit
- enchiladas – sides of spanish rice and bean and corn salad
- taco night – with chips, spanish rice, black beans and cookie dough
Most recently, I went with a dish I was introduced to here in Texas – King Ranch Chicken Casserole. I found a “healthified” version online that is easy to make and is quite tasty. I did the chicken breasts in the slow cooker then just mixed the ingredients and baked it.
One of my other meal-taking tricks – if there are two different families in need of meals in the same month, I sign up for the same day or one day apart. That way I can make the same meal times three and we all get to eat with one meal’s worth of work. So there was a lot of King Ranch Casserole going on.
I’m looking forward to winter when I can do some soups because of their easy packability. One of our favorite meals that was delivered to us was the Chicken Verde Soup.
I think it’s good to have several options of go-to to-go meals because of the variety of dietary needs. Someone doesn’t like onions, someone doesn’t like spicy food, some family doesn’t eat beef, one family is totally vegetarian, another is gluten-free. Bring it on! My kitchen has seen a lot of different meals, and I’m sure I’ve got one to fit.
Now that I’m fairly confident in planning meals to take, I should take the extra step and have meals in the freezer ready for a need. I have several meals for our family in the freezer, but they are un-glamorously stashed in gallon bags with Sharpie scrawls across the front indicating the contents (or not, sometimes it’s a mystery). It wouldn’t be hard to have at least one meal in a decent, take-able form for instant hospitality to-go.
So I don’t have it perfected yet, but I hope these ideas may encourage you to help out a family who needs a cooking break. It’s not difficult and it will be immensely appreciated.
I could always use more ideas – what are your favorite portable meals?