Bringing a Meal: Eight Things to Consider
Special Video from Kendra on this Topic!
Bringing a meal to a family in need of one—because of a new baby, an illness, a death, or some other crisis—is an apostolate very near and dear to my heart. It’s something the Catholic community around me does very well, all year long, but I’m especially mindful of it in May, when we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation on May 31st.
See the video here:
The example of Mary, hurrying to the aid of her cousin Elizabeth, despite the distance and her own pregnancy, is a great reminder to me of how important it is to help those around me in a practical way, not just with my prayers!
But if, like me, you didn’t grow up in a community with a tradition of bringing meals to people, you might not be sure exactly how to go about making it happen.
Here are eight things I keep in mind when bringing a meal (or other practical assistance):
If I’m doing it on my own, I call or email or text to see when you can drop by with a meal and/or some other practical help. I DON’T say, “Let me know if I can ever bring you a dinner.” Or, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” I DO say, “I’ll be in your neighborhood next Tuesday, and I’d like to drop off dinner, would that work for your schedule?” Or, “I’ve got some time during the kids’ soccer practice tomorrow, can I come by and hold the baby while you take a shower?”
I’m sure to ask about food allergies or aversions and find out how many people will be eating. Sometimes extended family will be visiting and need to eat too.
I try to be aware of the particular circumstances of the recipient. If she’s getting daily meals delivered, it’s usually best to try to provide something that won’t have leftovers that will just sit in the fridge and go bad. If I’m the only one bringing something, they might appreciate a meal that will feed them for more than one day. If she’s on bedrest, or miscarrying, or recovering from surgery, I might try to include a few staples for breakfast and lunch for the family to prepare themselves.
When I’ve been on the receiving end of a meal, what I appreciate the most is something hot and ready to eat, delivered at dinnertime, that includes a main course, a salad or vegetable (so we don’t get scurvy), and a dessert (because whether it’s joy or sorrow or some of both, dessert helps), in disposable containers so I don’t have to keep track of dishes to return, and including paper plates and plasticware so I don’t have to worry about our dishes either. So, that’s how I try to provide dinner to others whenever possible.
When that’s not possible, a casserole that can go from freezer to oven to table, or a gift card for a local restaurant, can be a huge help right away, or on some evening in the future when meals are no longer being delivered. For freezer meals, I’m sure to write on the container what it is and how best to heat it up.
Other practical ways to help include creating and/or sharing the meal delivery website page, offering to collect and deliver freezer meals to an out-of-the-way family, bringing along some new books or simple activities to keep older kids occupied, offering to take older kids for the day, offering to pick up groceries, offering to hold the baby so mom can shower, or offering to run and fold some laundry so mom can hold the baby.
We can all agree that thank you notes are lovely, and very good manners, but giving a family in crisis mode a pass on thank you notes is a work of mercy in itself. So I always make a point of assuring the recipient of a meal that I consider myself thanked already!
Kendra Tierney is a wife and a mother of nine children from little to teenager. She's a homeschooler and a regular schooler, and an enthusiastic amateur experimenter in the domestic arts. She writes the award-winning Catholic mommy blog Catholic All Year, is a contributor to the Blessed Is She and Take Up and Read Ministries, and is the voice of liturgical living here at Endow. She is the author of A Little Book about Confession for Children, the Traditional Catholic Prayers for Awesome Catholic Kids series of prayer books, and the Catholic All Year Compendium: Liturgical Living for Real Life.