Guest post from Dianna Scofield
I don’t know about you, but I get a little stressed when I’m cooking for people outside my own family. Will they like it? What if something goes wrong?
I love being able to help out families with new babies, illness, or hard times, so I’ve persevered despite my apprehensions. Here are some tips for sharing meals I’ve picked up along the way.
Ten tips for sharing meals:
1. Use disposable containers. No one wants to have to wash and return your casserole dish, especially if they’re not feeling well. You can buy disposable aluminum pans cheap at the dollar store. For other items like salad or shredded cheese, I use plastic bags; for items that don’t quite fit into either, I save old sour cream containers. Not the prettiest, but definitely disposable! Be sure to tell them that those dishes are to go into the trash and that you don’t expect them back.
2. Transfer to their dishes. If you can’t use disposable dishes for your delivery (I’m still stumped by soup!), then carry your food inside and transfer it to their dishes. Carry your dishes back home, and they won’t have worry about washing and returning.
3. Don’t make anything weird. Kids probably won’t want to try strange foods right after Mom has had a new baby: they need comfort, not challenge. Bring old favorites that most people tend to like.
4. Dessert is optional. I love sharing dessert, but sometimes I just don’t have the time or energy. That’s okay.
5. Make the same for your family. You don’t need the trouble of making two separate meals! Just double what you’re making for your family.
6. Start early. I try to leave myself an extra 30–60 minutes to cook the extra food and get it packaged and delivered in time for my family to eat at their usual time.
7. Avoid common allergens and aversions. Don’t know what they’re allergic to? I always try to avoid peanuts and seafood if I don’t know. But I do try to ask before I bring dinner.
8. Call to arrange a delivery time. Call before you show up with dinner! When I had my first child, we felt a little overwhelmed with love (and food!) when we had multiple dinner deliveries on one night. I ask what time they eat, and tell them what time I plan to deliver, so they don’t get worried and start making dinner before I show up. Dinner is a great service, but the peace of mind they get knowing they don’t have to cook all day is possibly even better.
9. Don’t try a new recipe. Make an old, tried-and-true favorite. This is not the time to try a new recipe (and possibly fail!), when there are two families depending on you for dinner.
10. Develop a repertoire of meals to share. It’s okay if you take the same three meals to friends over and over. In fact, it’s okay if you take the same one meal. I’ve tried out several different meals to share, and lately I’ve been coming back to the same few that travel well and that people like.
Bonus: Three great meals to share
2. Tacos. Tacos are a fun and easy meal to share! I fill about half a 9×13″ disposable aluminum pan with Mexican rice (boxed Spanish rice is fine, or try this Mexican rice from scratch). I fill a quarter with taco meat, and a quarter with corn. I put the condiments in plastic zipper bags and old sour cream containers (and don’t forget the taco shells!), then I pile everything up on a big rimmed baking sheet (the disposable pan is so flimsy it needs the extra support), and unload it in their kitchen.
3. Soup and bread. Nothing is as comforting as a big pot of soup with fresh French bread on the side. I haven’t found a disposable container yet that’s practical for delivering soup, so I just dump my pot into one of theirs when I deliver. If you’re not into making yeast bread, you could always whip up a batch of your favorite muffins or pick up a loaf of fresh bread from the store.
Please add your tips for sharing meals in the comments. What are your favorite meals to share?
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