Almost two years ago our church had an influx of babies. In three months, our nursery held five new babies and our sanctuary held five very tired mommies.
History is about to repeat itself, starting now.
While the new mommies fed, changed and cared for their babies, the rest of us ladies in the church rolled up our sleeves and got ready to work. We were preparing to bless these families with whatever we could.
Some ladies cleaned houses. Some ladies ran errands. Some ladies visited early in the morning so the new mommy could shower, dress – even do her hair and makeup! Some ladies cooked and delivered meals.
Care to guess which group I fell in? 😉
Blessing another family with a meal is not an opportunity to show off cooking skills nor try new recipes. In fact, it’s far from it. This is when the tried-and-true recipes get pulled out to nourish their tummies and souls.
We’re not cooking for a panel of restaurant entrepreneurs and professional chefs. We’re cooking for sleep-deprived moms. We’re cooking for tired and hard-working dads. We’re cooking for kids who have to now share the spotlight.
We’re cooking for people like you and me. Keeping this thought in mind is paramount if our efforts are going to be worth anything to this family.
- What type of food do they prefer to eat? Are they cutting back on red meat? Do they really like fish? Are they vegetarians?
- Are there any special considerations to make? Are there any food allergies? Does someone have a food texture issue that rules out mushy foods or ground meat? Are there little mouths that don’t have teeth to chew?
- What type of food is everyone else bringing? Seven nights of chicken broccoli casserole may be a bit much. Even if each night was a different casserole, my family would be in casserole overload after day five. Coordinate with others who are bringing food and try to look at the whole picture when choosing your dish.
- Would bringing a meal other than dinner be helpful? Dinner is nice, but bringing a few cold “to go” lunches will help the new dad who doesn’t have a microwave at work to reheat dinner leftovers (and free up mom from having to shop and prepare his lunch). Breakfasts can be just as helpful – everyone needs fuel before they start their day.
In most cases, we are delivering the meal to the family, so there are logistics involved too.
- Is the meal completely done, or does the family need to do anything to the meal? Sprinkle cheese, serve with rice, mix with bbq sauce, etc. Even if the detail is small, don’t leave it out. Be sure to include the additional cheese, rice or sauce (or whatever else is needed) with your delivery.
- Is the meal ready to serve now, or does it need to be reheated or cooked? Write down and include heating instructions, if any. Make sure to keep their “to-do” easy and at a minimum.
Finally, let’s make it even better.
- Use fridge-safe, oven-safe and disposable containers. If there is no time to cook, there’s no time to clean. Disposable containers rid the clean-up, plus they don’t have to deal with remembering who brought what tupperware dish. If the container is fridge and oven-safe, they can store leftovers in the same container and reheat again at their convenience. Check your local dollar store where you can buy several containers for $1-2.
- Bring disposable plates and cutlery for the meal. Bring enough to cover the meal, including serving utensils, to reduce having to wash dishes when they’re done eating.
Not sure where to begin? Here are a few steps along with my own course of action for round 2, new mommy #1.
1. Write down your top five dishes – both in what you’re good at making and what you like to eat.
sweet & sour
2. Of this list, eliminate items that conflict with their eating preferences. Then eliminate anything spicy and dishes with more than 3 components.
tacos (too many components)
spaghetti (too spicy)
tri-tip sandwiches (too many components)
sweet & sour
3. Of the items remaining, determine what can be made using what you already have in the house.
stir-fry (don’t have spare chicken or beef)
sweet & sour
4. If you still have more than two dishes on your list, which of the two can best be prepared based on you and your family’s schedule?
Sweet and sour is the last remaining dish on my list and since I have one pound of pork chops in the freezer, sweet and sour pork is the winner.
Can you do more than one meal? If you’re in a rare season where you have everything under control, consider making this a double blessing and making a second meal too. Choose a freezer meal so you can make it while you have the time and the family can enjoy it at theirs. Deliver it with your regularly scheduled meal and the new mom will have it in her freezer, ready when it’s most convenient for her.
Pancakes and Waffles – cook and freeze on a single layer on a cookie sheet, then move to a freezer-safe bag. Label the bag with type of pancake or waffle.
Muffins – pour batter into lined muffin tin and freeze overnight. Muffins can be stored in a freezer-safe bag. Label the bag with type of muffin and baking instructions.
Breads – bake breads and slice when cool. Wrap tightly to avoid freezer burn. Label the outside package.
Burritos – prepare burritos with desired ingredients, wrap individually in a paper towel, then in aluminum foil. Label each burrito with type of burrito and heating instructions.
Sandwiches – peanut butter and jelly can be frozen, but so can any combination of meat and cheese. Condiments should be placed between layers, not on the bread, or left off completely.
Wraps – a nice alternative from the sandwich, but still avoid condiments, lettuce & tomato as they’ll become soggy. Wrap individually in a paper towel, then in aluminum foil. Label each wrap with what’s inside.
Pasta – cook noodles al dente and store in individual containers. A baked pasta can be prepared, baked, cooled, sliced into portions while in the pan and then frozen as a whole overnight. Re-slice the portion and package individually in a dual-layer aluminum foil so it can double as an eating dish once reheated in a conventional or toaster oven.
With just a little bit of planning, we can turn an ordinary dinner into an extraordinary blessing that will help another family transition with their new plus-one!