I know of six new babies in the last couple months, all girls, and one of the best gifts I got after brining home babies from the hospital was the gift of food. Andrea at Simple Organized Living did a great post on The Gift Of Food that has me inspired. (Ok, honestly, every thing on her site is inspiring.)
For being someone who loves to cook for her own family I generally feel COMPLETELY stuck when asked to cook for someone else’s family. We eat some pretty “out there” stuff and my kids don’t bat an eyelash … so I’m not always sure that our tried and true favorites are going to be a blessing to a new mom. Especially when there are other children at home, too.
I used to try extravagant meals for the new mom, thinking I was pampering her when really it was just a difficult meal to prepare from home, enjoy or accept as a gift.
I try to stay away from Chicken dishes, but not everyone loves red meat … or meat free meals for that matter. And in general, I end up making a last minute decision.
Here are a few good tips and guidelines for bringing families a meal (that I need to remind myself of!):
Keep it simple, first and foremost. The most a new mom should have to do is re-heat or stick a pan (throw away pans) in the oven for a specified amount of time.
One dish meals are ok! But easy sides or a non-dinner add on (muffins, quick bread, brownies etc) are always lovely to have on hand for visitors or mornings when the milk has gone bad and you have no eggs in the house.
Always include instructions, if needed. It should take only a few extra minutes to type up, print or hand write the recipe with instructions but if all you end up doing is scribbling down the temp, oven time and possible allergy-inducing foods (milk, nuts, even broccoli for new moms who breast-feed or spicy ingredients) that saves a WORLD of time when people are in and out of your house for a few weeks.
Mom brain lasts longer than pregnancy!
It’s always nice to ask the new mom if there are foods she knows bother the baby (if breast-feeding) or if she herself (or other family members) have sensitivities or allergies. For us, we try very hard to be a dairy free home because of allergies. Gluten is a culprit at times too – and knowing that before deciding to bring a family a meal is a great way of getting the awkward conversation over your dish out of the way before you’ve already prepared something to deliver.
Freezer foods are amazing!
Cheesy Garlic Bread – make a batch or two and before putting it in the oven, flash freeze for 10 minutes and then pack in ziplocs or plastic wrap. An easy, super yummy side dish that can be ready in minutes from the freezer.
Homemade pasta sauce stock their freezer with easy dinners, and gift them with a box or two of pasta for their pantry.
Granola bars perfect for the sleep deprived parents or those nursing hunger pangs. A homemade, delicious snack ready to eat.
More from my site:
Make a summer salad – salads are a great dinner for a busy family. Add meat on the side so the family can build their own plate at dinner time.
Curry and Rice Bring all the pre-cut fixing in baggies, some rice to re heat and a crock pot of the chicken curry gravy. Left overs are amazing.
Tuna Pasta Salad Cold salads with tuna, eggs or chicken are easy lunches when you’re busy. A great add on to any dinner or potluck as well.
Walking Tacos – For a family with older siblings this could be a super fun and hands on meal for them. Give more than the gift of food when you can prep for the older kids to get dinner on the table, Mom’s night off! Re-heat the taco meat and go!
Chicken Enchilada’s – There’s no photo but I assure you, if Chicken is the dish you want to bring … it should (at some point in time) be this one.
Spanish Rice short cuts for those of you who like a little spice in your dinner. **Double check with family on their tolerance of spicy food.
Ginger Chicken Stir-fry – a good hot meal. Bring this one ready to eat.
Desserts, Snacks and extra’s
Chocolate Chip Cookies! Having a dozen or two of these on hand … life savers.
Cold Press Coffee No longer need to restrict caffeine? Perhaps you haven’t slept in 4 days? GIVE THE GIFT OF ENERGY.
Garbanzo Bean Brownie A healthy chocolate treat. That is correct. Don’t even tell the kids … and frost them if you’d like. They will disappear.
No Bake Cliff Bars protein pack for nursing moms, mornings of running errands or kids who can’t make it from nap to dinner without a breakdown. **Contains nuts.
Chocolate Mararoons and Power Balls again, perfect snacks for nursing moms, new moms, old moms, kids, lunches, any time, before dinner, running errands … on and on. These are great.
6 Week Bran Muffins Bring the batter over with a gift of a muffin-tin (or make sure they have one) with the instructions attached. The gift of homemade, warm muffins every morning for up to 6 weeks. Yummy. (Batter keeps in fridge for 6 weeks.)
Peanut Butter Cup Bars … this just has to happen.
If you’re the one in charge of setting up meals for a family – Take Them a Meal is a great service for everyone involved. You can sign up and the family you’re bringing food can see what/who is coming that evening – has your contact information in case of changes and you no longer have to have 14 forwards going through your email with sign ups. It’s awesome.
If bringing a meal to a family isn’t an option for you – your work schedule gets in the way or you aren’t confident in the kitchen … there are still options for you to be a blessing to the prospective family.
Here are a couple of ideas:
Offer to take care of older children for a few hours a night or two. Whether or not the new parents get out of the house – some times peace and quiet or the option to catch up at home are priceless gifts.
Gift cards to their favorite take out. Been a long day and the freezer’s empty, no meals are being delivered, leftovers are moldly in the fridge. The baby spikes a temp and the toddler’s teething? CEREAL IT IS! This is a great time to have the option to pull out the stash of take out menus and have dinner paid for.
Gas Cards. For families whose babies are still in the hospital. Traveling back and forth can be trying on more than your emotions.
You can offer to pay for a couple months of a grocery/menu planning service like Oh! Dinner. My cousin just launched this (Hi Bonnie!) and I think it’s pretty cool. (I’m not being paid to tell you about it.) For a small monthly fee you get a weekly menu plan and a corresponding grocery list. Dinner, solved. I’d wait to offer this up until the new babe is at least a few months old – but letting the new mom/dad know about it so they can help you decide when a good time to begin is always a great idea.
I’m sure I missed something – leave your best tips and tricks (or go-to delivery dishes) in the comments!