Monday, October 6, 2014

Taking in food

Taking food in to a family in a tough situation is  one of those things some women are masters of.  Within half an hour of the posting of the newborn's pictures on Facebook, they are on somebody's door step with a covered dish, a pan of rolls, a homemade pineapple upside down cake and a smile.  I am not her.

Having lived more than 50% of my married life (ie my adult life!!!) abroad, this was never a ministry I was ever very involved in.  Basically when I lived in the States, one of the older ladies at church would call me and say, "Hey could you drop off some brownies at the building for so and so tomorrow?"  I'd say yes and that was that.

When I was abroad on the other hand taking in food was a very simple procedure.  Hearing my upstairs neighbors had the flu or were coming in with jetlag and no groceries, I made and delivered the go-to pot of chicken noodle soup.  Eat it hot today; enjoy the leftovers for the next week.  


However in recent days I've been a more integral part of the women who provide food for various problems and emergencies and I noticed one thing right away.  I had no idea what I was doing.

So I decided to poll a bunch of wise women, masters of the art for advice.   For your convenience we've organized their suggestions into categories like, "If you have more money than time", "Wait!  I don't cook!"  and "Gold Star for thoughtfulness!" (Later we'll have an entire frugality post for SAHMs and retired ladies with more time than money!)

Gold Star for thoughtfulness
  • Don't forget the kids.  Lots of kids don't eat casseroles or spicy foods.  Things like a pack of hot dogs and buns, frozen chicken nuggets or even lunchables may be greatly appreciated. 
  • Pay attention to special food needs.  Everyone we talked to mentioned this first.  Older folks may be on a salt-free diet or a special diet for diverticulitis.  Many families include one or more members with diabetes, allergies, or dairy/gluten sensitivities.  If you're taking food to a breastfeeding mom you also need to consider food that will not cause gas for her or the baby.
  • Don't forget breakfast and lunch.  One sister suggested that homemade biscuits and cooked sausage patties can be frozen separately and then put together to make a quickly warmed up breakfast.  Another mentioned that a loaf of bread and sandwich fixings can go a long way especially for the irregular schedule of a family with a very sick member or a new baby.
  • Bring 2!  Especially with a new baby the mom may not only need help the first week or even the first two weeks but will have long nights and difficult days for weeks to come.  So make a recipe that makes 2 casseroles.  Bring 1 casserole to eat now and another to go in the freezer for a bad day a month from now.
  • Bring something you can leave!  Cindy Colley is accredited with the idea of buying 2 or 3 dollar pyrex bowls/pans at the Goodwill Store and keeping them in the house to use when taking food in.  That way if you get it back, you can reuse it the next time you need to take food in.  If you don't get it back, well, that's what's its for.  If you are not fortunate enough to have a great Goodwill nearby, Wal-mart carries disposable pans
  • Be quick!  Although its easy to stand at the door and chat, or in the case of a new baby come in to hold the baby for an hour or two, its probably not in the best of interest of the family we are trying to bless. 
  • Think about what THEY like. My family doesn't eat "fat free" food or soda and we do eat stuff like kale and fish on a regular basis.  That means I need to think twice before I deliver food.  I have to remember that nobody else is going to think Spicy Indian Masala is comfort food and this is most definitely not the time to introduce them to the joys of DongBei style soup.  Stick to the basics!
  • Work in pairs. If you are skilled at bringing in food, consider pairing up with a willing but less experienced lady at church.  She'll feel more confident participating with your help.  This also goes a long way to share the cost and workload in a church. (On the other hand if you are like me less skilled, look around for a lady who might be willing to help show you how to go!)
More money than time
  • Order pizza for the family.  This can be effective not only for families with new babies, and for families anticipating a funeral, but it might even be made to work to feed a family waiting in an ICU lounge depending on the hospital's policies. 
  • Grab takeout from the "catering" menu of your local barbecue or Italian restaurant.
  • Work with a christian sister who has the opposite problem.  You provide the majority of the cash and she can provide the majority of the labor. 
  • Hit the local supermarket deli for sides and a rotisserie chicken!
  • Keep all the ingredients on hand (say in the freezer or pantry) for complete go-to meal so you don't have to run out for stuff at 10pm!
  • Keep it in the freezer.  Use one Saturday and cook with the kids to shop and prep all the stuff so that when that emergency meal needs prepared you can participate even though you have to work till 6:30 that night!
Wait!  I don't cook!
  • Volunteer to bring in dry goods.  Utensils, paper plates, cups and napkins are a must.  Also often overlooked especially when feeding a crowd is extra toilet paper and paper towels!
  • Provide drinks!  Not only will 2 liters of soda go a long way, but pitchers of tea, bags of ice, or a bag of coffee etc will be helpful.  Don't forget though that some people can't have caffeine or sugar or don't care for "diet" drinks.
  • Doughnuts. 'nuff said.
  • Volunteer to coordinate, gather and deliver the food!  This requires quite a bit of text messaging, phone calling, driving etc and no cooking skills whatsoever!

The 6 gifts of hospitality - Laurel Sewell - Two of the sisters I spoke to mentioned this book.  I haven't read it myself but I'm looking forward to finding a copy.  The basic package of this neat service is entirely free.  It not only allows you to create an online signup sheet but this lists lots of neat ways your church could use it, including of course to organize take in meals. Not only can you coordinate meals online at this neat site but if you are far away, out of time, or don't cook, you can ship a meal to feed 3-4 straight to them!  There is also a blog with recipes and tips. This fabulous tools comes complete with a tutorial and allows you to see what others are bringing, the families meal preferences, address and even a preferred drop off time. 

This post is brought to you with special thanks to the following wise women: Amanda Noyes Keys,Lynda Sander, Alana Forster, Shirley Laughary, Joanne Desmartin, Bonnie Mccaslin, Susan Alexander, Julie Biggers Sterchi, and Latina Brumfield.

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