Hey, my friends. Welcome back to Let’s Encourage One Another.
Imagine with me, if you will… you get that email from church letting you know that so-and-so’s family needs meals for the next three weeks as they adjust to having a new baby at home. You click the link and sign up for a couple of the days. You love to serve others in this way, providing a meal so they can get the rest they need, as well as time just to be with baby.
But then you begin to wonder… how can you make it truly special for them? More than just a meal?
There are a lot of people today who need a bit of extra care and encouragement, from families with new babies, to those who have lost a loved one, to those who recently got laid off at work, to those lonely and depressed or chronically ill.
And homemade meals have become a practical, tangible way to come alongside someone who needs a little extra support. Through meal trains, in particular, we can schedule who is bringing the meal each day and ensure that every day is covered and that the load is shared among caring friends.
And while you can, indeed, simply make a meal and drop it off, I’ve learned there are some things you can do to show the family you care by paying attention to a few specific details.
Today’s episode is going to be super practical in that I am going to give you specific ideas you can try the next time you sign up for a meal train. Are you ready?
First, follow directions. I know it sounds basic, but think about how frustrating it is when you mention specific needs you have and they get overlooked.
A lot of times, meal trains will list directions to follow in regard to when to drop it off, where to drop it off at, what to use as far as dishes, and allergies the family members may have.
Take the time to read through the guidelines and then follow them.
You might want to make your amazing chicken dish recipe, but if it’s high in sodium and someone in the family can’t have high sodium foods, then don’t make it.
If they want you to drop the meal off on the front porch without ringing the doorbell, then resist the urge to knock anyway and see how they are doing. They might very well be getting some much-needed rest before everyone else gets home.
Following the directions you were given shows that you cared enough to read them in the first place. Plus, it demonstrates that you want to help them in a way that is truly helpful and not just in a way that works for you. Trust the system and guidelines they have in place. They are there for a reason.
Provide Everything They’ll Need
Second, provide everything they’ll need. Think about any condiments or extras that complete the meal—jelly, jams, salad dressings, dipping sauces—and package them in small containers with enough for the family to enjoy without having a ton of extras to fill up their fridge.
Have you ever eaten a salad without your favorite dressing? If people are stuck at home, they may not have the condiments that make your meal especially tasty. So go the extra mile to find out what their favorite salad dressings and toppings are, and then include them in your delivery. It will help the family (especially any picky eaters) to fully enjoy the meal.
And maybe even pack the salad ingredients separately so that picky eaters can put their own salad together in a way that sounds good to them.
The same could go for homemade pizza toppings, soups, etc. Just consider the family members and package the meal in a way that is best for them.
Make a Favorite Family Recipe
Third, if possible, ask the person receiving the meal train (or the one setting it up) if the family has any favorite meals. Go the extra mile and see if you can get their specific recipe, or even the dish they usually make it in.
By making a meal that is familiar and homey, you provide an extra touch of comfort they are probably missing by receiving a bunch of meals from other people. Especially for any kiddos who are picky eaters or missing their regular family meals.
Include a Hand-written Note
You can also include a hand-written note with your meal. You may not get the chance to visit with your friend due to their illness or restrictions, but you can still let them know you care by writing them a letter. Share what has been going on in your life and let them know you’ve been praying for them.
You can even write out a prayer for them. I bet they would save that and tuck it inside their Bible. If you’re not sure what to write, just be real. Authentic. Loving. Kind. Let them know they are not alone. That you are cheering them on. That you love them.
Another thing you could do is provide extras. Are there open days after you bring your meal? Is your meal a particular family favorite? Make an extra-large batch so they’ve got enough for leftovers. This helps provide for those meal gaps, as well as for other meals that may not be covered on the meal train, like breakfast and lunch.
Provide a small container or two they can use to refrigerate any extras so they don’t have to go searching for one of their own. By keeping it small, you ensure your leftovers won’t take up a lot of room in their fridge, but will be able to be tucked in wherever there is space.
Similarly, you can also include things like muffins, fresh fruit, crackers, and cereal to help with breakfast and snacks.
And If You Don’t Like to Cook…
And if you don’t like to cook, there are plenty of other ways to support a family. If you still want to sign up for the meal train, you can send a restaurant gift card or have their favorite pizza delivered to them. (Be sure to cover the delivery tip so they don’t have to.)
Or, if you’re open to serving them in another way, see if you can watch their kids for an hour or two, drive them to a doctor’s appointment, or mow their yard. Not everyone is gifted in cooking, nor does their schedule always allow them to drop a meal off in the evenings. It’s okay to pass on the meal train and do something else instead. There is no guilt here.
Whatever you choose, be sure to think about the family in need and what is best for them.
So what do you think? Is there a family who could use a homemade meal from you? Whether there is a meal train or not, this can be a special ministry for those of you who love to cook. Many of us, even if we’re not going through a particularly heavy circumstance, still appreciate a homecooked meal from someone else so we don’t have to worry about meal prep.
I’d love to hear some of your favorite meal train tips or even see some of your recipes. Would you mind sharing them with me? You can email it to me at email@example.com (remember, my name is spelled K-A-R-I).
Okay, that’s all for today. Until next time…
ARE YOU READY TO C.A.R.E. COURAGEOUSLY?
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Friend, I’d love to encourage you as you encourage others. Here are two ways to get started:
1. ENCOURAGEMENT + SYMPATHY GIFTS
These are prayerfully-crafted gifts you can share with those you love as tangible expressions of care. Let your friend know she is not alone.
2. SPIRITUAL DIRECTION
Interested in spiritual direction? Fill out this interest form where we can start to talk about what’s weighing on your heart and identify next steps you can take to discern God’s direction.