Food for thought: Meals for others

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about cooking for others and the meaning behind the action. I don’t mean carving up a roast chicken for dinner guests around your table (although that also has its qualities), but meals that are made with care and delivered to someone in need.

It could be someone…

~ in bereavement
~ going through a divorce
~ caring for a new baby
~ moving house
~ fighting in court
~ ill or caring for the ill
~ on bed rest
~ out of work
~ overworked
~ writing exams
~ getting married
~ caring for a special needs family member
~ fighting a long term illness
~ in financial crisis

Think about it. Do you know anyone who is struggling with one of these life situations right now? I know I do. In fact, there are dishes rattling around in my trunk frequently because I’m often making a drop-off.

They say actions speak louder than words.

Two weeks after Mateo was born, I was hit with a nasty post-op infection and ordered to be on bed-rest. Yeah right. I had a two and a half-year-old and a newborn to care for.

Dear friends and neighbors came by with boxes of food, kind wishes and prayers; that sustained us during a particularly rough patch. The fact that they eliminated the need to cook allowed to me spend more time obeying the doctors orders.

Here’s what I wrote about receiving an apple cake :

“After the hospital food (which I barely survived), the cake tasted like the best thing I had ever eaten. I’ll never forget standing in my kitchen with Danny, eating it straight from the pan. It was as though we knew everything was going to be okay now. We have this cake.”

We could have brought home newborn triplets, and I would have felt fully equipped.”

There’s a lot to be said for the benefits of good, home cooked food when you are emotionally and physically low on reserves.

Have you ever received a meal during a difficult time from a well-meaning friend? How did it make you feel?

Have you ever brought a meal to someone in need? Cookies? How was it received?

I’m curious to know if this happens regularly. Please chime in and leave your thoughts.

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. Our neighborhood bands together and creates these lovely meal chains in times of need. When Baby B was born, I received two full dinners a week for two months. Add in careful supplementing with vegetable sides and salads and I didn't have to worry about dinner for a whole season. Now I try to pay it forward and am currently scoping recipes for two friends!

  2. Like you, we experience the exchange of food quite a lot. We give my in-laws dinner delivery gift certificates for holidays (after 45 years I think my MIL deserves a break now and then), we make food for those we know who are sick, and I often exchange dinner duty with another friend who also works outside the home occasionally.

    Our little dinner co-op works like this: When her work is busy, I'll cook enough dinner foods for both of our families, and drop off half the meal to her house, so that when she comes home she just has to warm it up quickly. She'll do the same for me on a night, or week, that I'm equally as busy. It works great and now we just flip off an email saying "Want to co-op this week?". It means one less meal for me to make, but we still get to eat a homemade dinner.

  3. Such a necessary post… thank you for putting this out there. I could not agree more… now to just act on it! 🙂

  4. I will never forget it. In the midst of our new parent disarray, a friend brought over a box. In it were tulips, roasted broccoli, bbq'd steak a baguette, chocolate haagen dazs and a copy of Good Night Moon. It remains one of the best meals I've ever had.

  5. I have been fortunate enough to receive lovely meals from caring people during times of need in my life. There is just no other feeling like being wrapped in the warmth of a good meal made from the heart… other than making one and giving it to someone else that is. Now off to the kitchen.

  6. The first time I was the recipient of meals was when my babies were born, and most of them came thru my LaLeche Breastfeeding support group (1988 to 1992). Then when my wonderful Ex (& my kids daddy) passed away, people again brought food. I've recently been the recipient again in November when I broke my foot.

    I've always passed it on since then; it's so necessary, I think, and such a small kindness to give but a huge kindness to receive.

    Some people are automatically kind and thoughtful; others just need to be asked and they come to your rescue. And some others don't have the gift. Cultivation of food gifting is a great thing.

  7. I've been blessed to be on the receiving and giving end of meals. Both are amazing! We've got an awesome community of dinner-bringers in our church and it is such a joy to help a fellow family out, plus, it's fun to learn new recipes that way!

  8. Good point, Nicole. New recipes and dishes are always fun to learn.

  9. For my baby shower each person was asked to bring a meal for the freezer. We ate like kings because everyone gave us their best meal and we could eat when we wanted. I suggest it to anyone. Ohh and a small freezer for a gift if they don't have one.

  10. I love to take food to others, but often wait until a "crisis" moment to act on it. (Not that having a new baby is a crisis . . . but kind of . . .)

    I think it's a practice that is very common in the part of the country in which we live (Oklahoma), but I would love to start doing this more just because.

  11. Our church organizes meals after a family has a new baby. It's one of the best parts about giving birth!

  12. There is nothing kinder than the warmth of a homemade meal when your family needs one. I remember when we lived in a subdivision, we'd frequently come home to hot soup and cornbread at our doorstep from our lovely neighbor when we arrived home from work.

  13. It does, in fact, happen. Just a year after moving to a new neighborhood, my neighbors showed up with food at the door when our youngest was born. That same year I made a series of meals for a family where the wife was going through chemo treatment.

    Just two weeks ago my wonderful neighbors and I worked together to provide 12 meals for our friends (also neighbors) who just had their first baby.

    Monday, a group of food bloggers got together to provide an expecting mother with home-cooked meals for her freezer to help her stock up for the birth as a friendly and loving gesture, and because she's just amazing herself.

    Additionally, my church provided two months worth of meals and childcare for a family who had a very serious and life-threatening birth that directly impacted the mother's life and ability to care for her preemie and her 1-year-old. (Baby is home now and mom is doing much better day-to-day!)

    And finally, I've received weeks' worth of meals that came from bloggers, some I knew and some I didn't, when my son was in the PICU back in November. I was stunned and forever emotionally indebted to those lovely women.

    I think because food is such an important and necessary part of life that it carries such great meaning when it is given. Nothing says "I love you" like, "I will feed you," in my book.

  14. My local moms' group has a sub-group where we help out families with new babies, those who have fallen on hard times, and anyone who could just use some help. We set up a calendar and take turns bringing food, doing laundry, mowing the lawn, helping with older siblings, and just being there.

    I was a recipient when my son was born and it was so wonderful to feel the love from these women (who I had never met!) and of course to have food taken care of for us. I try to help out others whenever I can.

  15. when my first child was born, christmas day 1991, my mom brought over a turkey wild rice soup in a container and my husband and I ate a five or six person serving and scraped the edges with our fingers! It was delicious and every time I make it I remember that lovely time.

  16. what a fabulous post–it touched my heart!

  17. Fantastic comments, everyone. I'm so happy to hear of all the meal swapping!

  18. Of course, I shouldn't be surprised that you'd post something like this. We seem to be cut from the same cloth. My original book proposal was for a book called Recipe for Action, and it was a cookbook with a charity angle – all ideas for how families could help others with food, and the recipes with which to do it. Ultimately, the publishers thought it was "interesting but too risky, since it hadn't been done before by someone more famous." Lovely. But my new book has a few Recipe for Action side bars filled with ideas…and my split pea soup recipe post from this morning made a few suggestions on how to "do good" with the recipe 🙂
    Food is love. And that's that.
    Thanks for encouraging that as a lifestyle.

  19. What a great post! I love reading all the comments you've received & how many have been recipients or givers or both of food/meals.

    As part of a Mops group and a homeschool group, my family was blessed to be on the receiving end of a few weeks of meals (3x a week) after the delivery of baby #2 and baby #3. In the same Mops (mothers of preschoolers) group, I also make meals for new moms. We all sign up to bring a meal.

    I did not grow up knowing anything about this kind of giving of oneself. I really wish I had. I've had a lot to learn as an adult especially in the area of charity, giving, and serving. It has been wonderful.

    I am planning to take a meal this week for my sister in law (that she won't be expecting) when I drop something else by her house. I get excited thinking about it!! She's a working mom of 2 boys aged 3 and under.

    Denise @ Creative Kitchen

  20. Over the holidays, I fell and broke my arm. Upon my husband's return to work, we have been deluged by meals. The church we had just stopped attending arranged meals as did the church we just started attending. Both sets of parents brought meals and now my husband's co-workers are supplying some as well. Some of my friends have also dropped off meals.

    I cannot say what a blessing this has been. I had been in a season of despair even before I broke my arm. These meals have been a tangible(and delicious) reminder that I am loved and cared for. Strangely enough, breaking my arm has helped heal my broken heart. Meals were a big part of that.

    I love to cook and bake, especially when I can bless others with food. Besides just dropping off food, we've also started offering to bring a meal and company for those who just had a baby and are feeling a bit shut-in.

  21. In the blur that was the last few weeks of my father-in-law's life and the first few weeks after his death,something that touched me was how the kitchen was never empty.

    Someone was always coming, bringing a dish or two (or more) … at our house, at my mother-in-law's house … so many people, gathering to pray, to grieve, to share … and there was always enough food for everyone. Generous friends and family kept us fed – in so many ways – during that time.

    Nearly six years later, and I still get a little misty eyed when I think about that time and how kind everyone was, how well-fed we were, and how we didn't ever have to worry about that next bite because the kitchen were magically always full.

  22. Thanks so much for this post Aimee! I've also enjoyed reading the comments. Food is really something that unites us, regardless of faith, culture, or background, especially in time of need. Thanks 🙂

  23. Great post!

    I love to cook and bake for others, and often take food to our friends when they're having a rough week.

    I recently sent cookies to one of my husband's co-workers whose wife is fighting breast cancer. We live a few states away, so it seemed like a good way to cheer them up from afar. They loved the cookies and said that they put a smile on their kids' faces!

  24. Thank you for this. My women's church organization is doing an activity tonight focused on this topic. I hope you won't mind but I am going to share your thoughts because it puts to words what I've felt (and try to do for others) but haven't been able to express. This kind of thing happens a lot where I live, but it is generally organized by one person in our neighborhood. I think that our relationships would be stronger if we thought of what we could do for each other more.

  25. I love doing meals for friends in need – new baby is certainly the favorite occasion! My "mommy posse" brought us food twice a week for 2 months after Josh was born. It's only natural to do the same for anyone else I know could need it.

    There's a great website: that let's you coodinate meal delivery without everyone having to call and disrupt the family.

    I also like the idea of doing meals "just because" – it's sounds like such a concrete way to show care and love.

  26. I am a serial deliver-er of meals to people in need. Newborn in the house? Surgery? Nuclear flu? General life in freefall? I'll show up on the doorstep, pot-pies and casseroles in hand.

    Such gifts are always well (sometimes tearfully) received. It just makes my week to do something like that. I feel as though I've lifted a burden from someone's shoulders, if only for a little while.

  27. blissmamaof3 says

    thanks for the reminder, just called a friend who is caring for her cancer stricken father, going to be making dinner for her family on the days she is at the hospital!

  28. Good topic. I have made meals for new moms and for a friend's family after a medical recovery.

    I like to make something that is freezer friendly and provide instructions (both freezer storage and cooktime.) That way after I deliver it, they can decide to eat it now or save it for later.

  29. It's fantastic when it happens, but I don't think it happens often enough. Too often we are wrapped up in our own drama and stress to think about others, let alone do something so nice for them. It's sad, but true. At least in my neck of the woods.

    Hubby teases me because this is one of my missions in life, to get people to care about their neighbours more. And to not make it seem awkward when you do show up with a hot meal for someone. I don't expect anything in return, just that you think of someone else when their turn comes up.

  30. what a great post! i have a couple of questions. What type of dishes would you normally make and how do you transport them? I have a few people in mind who might need a pick me up and this would be a great thing for me to do. thanks!

  31. A beautiful, thought provoking post and thank you for sharing. In light of the recent horror in Arizona, we were reminded how thoughtful people are when others are struggling. Kind notes along with fresh from the oven baked goods are a sure uplifting experience for those in need. Let us always remember that as we serve others, our spirits soar!!!

  32. I'm not crafty or honestly very thoughtful…like I don't send cards very often and things, but I do make meals for people quite often. It's one thing I know I can do and I appreciate how wonderful the gesture is when someone brings me a meal.

  33. I love to bake, and only cook because it's needed, most of the time. And I'm not all that good at planning meals. I kinda feel that when someone needs a meal, they need a well balanced meal, and not a loaf of bread or cookies.

    Does anyone have any tips or suggestions for me? Most of the opportunities I have are through my church with someone coordinating everything.

  34. My cousin and his wife had a baby. She was so suprised when I showed up w/a casserole, salad, and cookies. We all know you still have to eat and feed the rest of the family. Her 8 yro still asks me to bring him more cookies!

  35. Love this post, esp just before Valentines Day! I have been the recipient but more often the bringer, which I thoroughly enjoy (I pray for them as I make the meal). I would do this more often, but while I love to prepare meals, it feels so time consuming.

    I'd love to hear suggestions for good main dishes (healthy, tasty, inexpensive and ideally, requires minimal prep for the cook & the recipient). I rarely make casseroles (need good recipes) and my old standby (lemon, garlic & oregano grilled chicken), while tasty even at room temp, doesn't work in winter when I can't grill.

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