Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What I've learned: sick meals edition

So, someone around you is ill. Maybe they just had surgery. Or chemo. Or a baby. Or [insert meal-worthy malady here]. It seems like second nature to want to provide a meal to that person. It's the thing you do. Or, at least, it's the thing I do. I LOVE cooking for other people. My heart is filled with someone's tummy is filled.

And then one day, I was the recipient of said meals. I'd gotten meals from my sunday school class on one other occasion for a brief amount of time and that was a huge help, BUT, when Isaac came along, we were inundated with meals. It was amazing. We had so much food, we had to freeze several of the meals and sadly, we even ended up throwing away some of the leftovers because we just couldn't eat it all fast enough.

Which brings me back to the beginning: someone around you is ill and you want to bless them with a home cooked meal.  Here are a few things I've learned about bringing sick meals (from being a recipient!):

     1. Get Organized. Chances are good you aren't the only person who's thinking about this sick meal thing. Get with others and come up with a schedule. There are tons of websites that help you invite more people and keep track of who's bringing on what day, i.e:
Not only should you have a schedule lined up, but organize all the other details ahead of time too. One meal every other day is usually plenty. Fix enough for the entire family. Definitely Definitely Definitely figure out food allergies and aversions, because while you may have a killer spaghetti recipe, what you don't know is that your intended recipient is a vegetarian. Whoops. Also, be courteous and call before coming. Figure out all these little details ahead of time, because the LAST thing you want to do is inconvenience the sickie you intend to bless.

     2. Don't expect to visit. This is true in all cases: sickness, surgery, chemo, baby... you can't come with the expectation that you'll get a visit in exchange for a meal. Bringing meals to friends-in-need is a selfless gift which helps to lift the burden of cooking off of tired shoulders. Recovery is a strange animal and it has no bearing on time or convenience. Keep in mind that your intended recipient might be dealing with pretty intense post-surgical pain, or oppressive post-baby exhaustion. While their heart might yearn for a long chat over coffee, their body simply won't allow it. (Which is why you're bringing a meal in the first place, right?) Sure, there's a chance you'll be invited to stick around and see battle scars or kiss on a newborn baby, but still remember you're not there to be entertained, so don't overstay your welcome. Oh, and if it feels awkward to read this, just think how awkward your friend will feel having to ask you to leave. Be understanding. Be courteous.

     3. Think OUTside the box. It is entirely possible to receive 8 pans of spaghetti and 8 bags of salad in a single week. Lasagna, enchiladas, and spaghetti seem to be "go-to" meals when you're delivering to a family, and sure-- they're great for freezing and tasty (well, until you're on pan #8 of spaghetti). Some of the scheduling websites will allow you to reply with your meal plan, which ideally prevents duplicate meals, but what if you're not using a website? Then it's time to think outside the box. Here are a few "nonconventional" but easy sick meal ideas:

Pork Chops. Corn & Tomato Salad. Enchilada Puffs.
Slow Cooker Sticky Drumsticks. Loaded Baked Potato. Crockpot Beef Brisket.
Chicken & Dumplings. Autumn Chopped Salad. Crockpot Chicken Cordon Bleu.
One of the greatest "out of the box" meals we received? Breakfast!! It's still a meal, right? I can't tell you how awesome it was to get a basket of muffins and container of fresh fruit salad, because then we didn't have to think about breakfast for days. Many sleepless nights lead to lots of frustrated and tired mornings, so what better way to ease a burden than bringing over some easy breakfast foods??

Pecan Coffee Cake. Fruit Salad. Blueberry Muffins.
Doughnut Muffins. Breakfast Casserole. Breakfast Tacos.
     4. Bring Disposables. Ok, so this is really trivial, and it's mostly for me. My house is like a black hole. Seriously. Chances are good that if you've ever loaned anything to us, it's still here somewhere. I loved getting meals in throwaway containers, because then I didn't have to worry about returning tupperware to the right family. I hate to admit that it took me weeks to return some of our dishes. I also still have most of my borrowed maternity clothes. But nothing tops the drink dispenser that I've had sitting around for over a year. I'm totally ashamed. My own issues aside, it simply makes things easier: No dishes to wash, nothing to return. Everyone wins. 

I hope these tips and tricks are helpful the next time you want to bring a meal to a family in need. 


Erika said...

This is great!! I always struggle with figuring out what to take. And the LOGISTICS of taking a meal always overwhelm me: We get home from work at 5:30. Cooking whatever will prob take an hour. Now it's 6:30. Did I cook something for us to eat, too? Then we prob need to go on and eat. Never mind, we'll pick something up on the way to take them their meal. Now we have a 30-45 minute drive to whoever's house. Will their food still be hot by the time we get there? Will they be so starving that they'll have already eaten?

Screw this, next time we'll call in and order them a pizza.

Rachel said...

totally pinning this post :)

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liz | carpe season said...

Great post ideas :) Thanks for featuring our brisket!

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