Coordinating a Meal Train & Etiquette
Some of life's events require all of your time, like having a new baby! You're too busy changing diapers, feeding and getting no sleep to even make dinner, let alone think about what to make for dinner. That's where friends and family members can step in and lend a helping hand! Bringing meals over to those who have their hands full are a great way to show how much you care and are truly appreciated.
MEAL TRAIN WEBSITES:
So how do you bring a meal over to your friend while making sure she won't end up with 5 meatloafs all at once? Plan a Meal Train! You can do this easily with some free online services like the popular Meal Train, Lotsa Helping Hands or Caring Meals. These will send out email invites, send reminders to those who have signed up and provide a shareable link. Once you set this up it's pretty much hands-off and manages itself. The organizer should check in on the account frequently to make sure friends and family have signed up and follow through.
HOW TO ORGANIZE A MEAL TRAIN:
You can DIY a Meal Train by creating your own spreadsheet and manage it yourself. Be sure to ask the family if they have any allergies or food sensitivities, what their favorite foods or recipes are and what foods they dislike. You'll want to include how to deliver the meals to them and on what days or times of day are best for delivery.
OUT OF TOWN HELP:
If she has friends and family who mostly live far away, they can mail restaurant gift cards so the family can order their favorite meals and drop by to pick them up or have them delivered. If you share a meal train with those who are out of town, be sure to include a list of local restaurants close by to the family for easy pick up. And be sure to consult with the family so you include their favorite restaurants and make sure that gift cards or gift certificates can be purchased from that restaurant.
WHAT TO BRING:
Generally foods that are easy to assemble, heat and eat are best. Crockpot recipes, casseroles, one skillet meals or hearty soups are easy to prepare and deliver. Check Allrecipes for a great list of meal train recipes. You may want to consider freezing your meal so they can eat it at a later date that suits them better. Be sure to include some healthy foods like a side of fruit or salad (keep the dressing separate) and some comfort foods like cookies or brownies. You know them best or if you don't, just take a quick scroll through their latest social media to find out what kinds of foods they like.
GO THE EXTRA MILE:
If you're dropping food off early in the day, ask her if she'd like a coffee or tea and some snacks for her or any other little kids she may also have at home.
Ask in advance if she needs any toiletries, medications or baby items like more diapers or wipes, etc. that you can swing by the drug store and grab for her. Paying people back is easier than ever nowadays, especially since most people rarely carry cash anymore. She can pay you back through PayPal or the ever popular Venmo apps; Snapchat now has a payback feature using Snapcash; these are really easy to set up and pay people back for quick items.
Consider staying for a little while to lend a helping hand around the house. Whether it's doing the dishes, folding some laundry, playing with or feeding other little kids or the baby (if she'll let you - wash your hands first) so she can take a shower or a nap!
Use disposable containers so she doesn't have to worry about getting your containers back to you.
It's best not to bring any spicy foods due to new baby feeding sensitivities.
Meals don't have to be home-cooked or elaborate. I'm sure a pizza and salad would be welcomed or even gift cards for a quick restaurant pick-up.
Leave a note with reheating details or any other special instructions.
Choosing foods that can be reheated or frozen easily are good options.
Including drinks and a dessert to complete a meal are a nice touch.
Include some kid-friendly meals for any other kids at home.
Just plan a quick visit to drop off and say a quick hello, unless you confirm in advance to stay for a bit longer - be sure to lend a helping hand!