Getting food on the table–every. single. day. multiple. times. a day–has got to be one of every moms’ single hardest responsibilities. If you don’t love to cook or are just super busy and barely surviving, feeding your family can be such a daunting task.
This difficulty is compounded ten times over if you’re in any kind of abnormal or otherwise stressful season that throws you off your normal routine such as bringing home a new baby, recovering from an illness or injury, or walking through a death or other major tragedy in the family.
There is nothing that helps a family in these situations more than the extremely practical and tangible gesture of providing a meal during this time. To take one of the biggest brain space occupiers off of a family’s plate allows them more capacity to handle the situation at hand and still keep their family fed and taken care of.
The best news is that helping to feed a family during a tough season is a task that can be spread among several different people who know or are connected to the family such as co-workers, friends, teammates, neighbors, or some other mutual group members.
Enter: the Meal Train
If you’ve never heard of it before, Meal Train is an extremely easy-to-use and FREE website that allows you to create a sign up for people to volunteer to provide meals to a family on scheduled days and times.
Participants can sign up for a day and the website will email them a reminder one week and one day before their volunteered day. Then, participants simply bring a meal (usually dinner) to the recipient family on their designated day.
It takes approximately 10 minutes to set up a Meal Train on their intuitive, self-explanatory website, and then it does almost all of the work for you after that from keeping the schedule, sending out reminders, and providing a way for the recipient family to contact participants in case anything changes.
How to coordinate a meal train for someone
My MOPS group has been using Meal Train to help families with newborns since forever and we’ve really gotten the process down to a science. Here’s how we do it.
In order to create the Meal Train, you need some logistical and preferential information from the recipient family.
Here is the text we always send out; feel free to copy and paste to use when setting up a Meal Train for your community and adjust the wording according to your purposes.
- Home Address
- Days you wants meals and when you want the Meal Train to start
- Note: Our typical schedule provides meals on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for 4 weeks. We’ve learned that most people graciously provide enough food each night for leftovers and it can be overwhelming to manage so much food every night. But let us know what’s best for you! Also, if you’ll have family helping/staying with you at all immediately after baby is born, we can wait a week or so before people start bringing meals. Or we can start Day 1 when you’re home from the hospital, whatever is best!
- Number of people we’re feeding- please include all adults (including possible visiting family members) plus older kids eating solids in the household
- Any food allergies or preferences
- Any foods you specifically don’t like or can’t eat
- Favorite restaurants, meals, or types of foods so people know what you’ll like
- Time you’d like meals delivered (usually anytime in the afternoon until 5 is good)
- Phone number for people to call/text to coordinate drop off
- Email address so people can send meal delivery gift cards
Once you’ve gathered this information, simply follow the user-friendly set up instructions on the Meal Train website. It will then generate a URL for you to send out to anyone who may be willing to help the family. Copy, paste, share, and make a difference!
It really is so easy to get started, and it blesses the recipient family more than you’ll realize!
We’ve previously rounded up some great tips for bringing meals to families in need, but here’s a few other ideas to help out:
- Collect money on Venmo or PayPal to purchase restaurant or meal delivery gift cards so that families have options on days that no one is bringing dinner
- Consider bringing some extra “dump and go” freezer meals (i.e. from your stash of Citrus Pear meals already prepped) or a frozen breakfast casserole for the family to keep on hand, as well
- If you don’t want to cook, look into family meals or small catering orders from the family’s favorite restaurant. Here’s our favorites:
- The Family Box from Mesquite Fresh Tex Mex that offers a pound of meat + all the taco fixin’s (starts at $36)
- The Family Meal from Pita Jungle allows customers can choose from a specialized menu, one item from the starters, a side or salad, a pita or bowl, choice of protein, greens, choice of sauce, and a dessert (starts at $55)
- If there’s someone in your group that particularly loves to cook or wants to cook extra, ask to chip in some funds for that person to make double or triple their dinner to feed the family over several nights
- A sweet treat like fancy cookies or homemade brownies never goes unappreciated! 🙂