When Little Pea was born I was blessed with the World’s Greatest Playgroup who stepped forward to bring me dinners for SIX WHOLE WEEKS. Yes, 6 entire weeks of post-baby bliss where I could focus solely on Little Pea and some health stresses that came with her delivery and not have to give a passing thought about what would be hitting the dinner table at night.
Little Pea turns 4 this May and still those 6 weeks’ worth of ladies stepping forward to show their love through casseroles and a friendly visit remains one of the most generous things I’ve ever experienced in my life.
I was more than pleased to participate in bringing meals to other ladies home with new babies but being on the receiving end of the deliveries was humbling and heartwarming in a way I’m unable to adequately describe.
While every single crumb of food was appreciated beyond words, I also learned a thing or two on how to make sure the meals I delivered to others were the best they could be. Today I’m sharing those lessons in this “30 Days of Mommy Meals” in hopes that it makes that task easier for you and tastier for the recipient.
Does your playgroup or church have a mommy meals program? What do you call it? Seems everyone has their own special name!
Do you have a favorite meal you like to bring? Leave a note in the comments and add to the resource!
P.S. This post is dedicated to each of my dear friends in playgroup. You know who you all are. And to the ladies of my Book Club who extended those 6 weeks with another week and half with the meals you brought.
And lastly to my friend Kristina, who knows way more about mommy meals than I ever wish she did. Thanks so much for your advice and help on this post.
Organizing the Meal Train
1. Which site to use: Step 1 in setting up a meal program for your playgroup or ladies club is figuring out how to organize the deliveries. We used Care Calendar but there are lots of free options out there:
2. Decide the frequency of deliveries: We used a Monday, Wednesday, Friday delivery system because most meals are plentiful enough to allow for a night of leftovers. This helped reduce waste and extended the duration of help. We also assumed that weekends would be spent with visiting family or just giving the family some space and privacy.
3. Ask about preferences: Have the organizer interview the family about dietary restrictions and preferences once and then label the meal calendar clearly so that everyone knows how to respect their wishes. Things like, “Not too spicy, no seafood, please avoid ranch flavoring” were common requests. Be sure the recipient is honest and open about what doesn’t go over well with the family. This saves everyone from guessing and ensures that the meals get used!
4. Set the standard for what makes a meal: Our playgroup established right off the bat that a Mommy Meal required 3 main parts. This allowed for the recipient to be completely covered and always knowing what to expect:
- main dish
- side dish: salad, veggie, or fruit
5. Volunteer your meal: Be sure everyone that signs up labels their day with the meal they will be bringing. This helps to avoid 2 lasagnas arriving in a row. It also allows you to be a little more creative if you see they’ve had too much of a certain meat or cuisine. Be thoughtful of the big picture when selecting your contribution.
The Menu: Think outside the casserole pan!
This is the area I had the most to learn about the whole concept of mommy meals. I used to be more concerned about food that would transport well and that would be easy on the recipient to get to the table. To me, the thing that fit that criteria best was ALWAYS a casserole.
Then my friends arrived bearing truly creative ideas. I realized how wonderful a wide variety of dinners can be after a few too many nights of pasta-themed dishes. The list below does feature some pasta and some casseroles, because that’s just tasty stuff! But look closely and you’ll find some great unique ideas for mixing in if you find your recipient’s calendar has too many noodles.
Nothing on this list requires more than a simple reheating, popping in the oven to bake, or a simple boiling of water for noodles. Just be sure to wash and prep/chop everything you possibly can. You want to deliver a meal that mostly just needs final assembly on a plate.
30 Days of Mommy Meals:
- Taco Bar: prepared meat filling, tortillas, homemade salsa, corn, and chopped/prepared veggie toppings
- Pulled pork, buns, crash hot potatoes (bake them yourself, let the recipient reheat in the oven to keep crisp) with baked potato dip, broccoli slaw
- Bolognese sauce with gnocchi
- Taco chili, Cornbread
- Baked enchiladas
- Chicken fried rice, egg rolls
- Sloppy joes, buns, baked potato wedges
- Lasagna roll ups, salad greens
- Old fashioned beef stew, french bread
- Mustard glazed salmon with arugula and oranges
- Tuscan chicken soup, fresh bread
- Gnocchi, lemon & dill soup, homemade scones
- Simple quiche with fresh fruit & salad greens
- Alfredo chicken and rice casserole
- Chicken gyros kit: include fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, pitas, homemade tzatziki sauce
- Asian chicken pasta salad
- Roasted sausages, apples, potatoes
- Sweet and sticky chicken with peanut noodles
- Shrimp with lemony orzo & roasted tomatoes
- Chicken tettrazini
- Lightened chicken pot pie
- Baked chicken spaghetti
- Teriyaki chicken, Roasted peppers & pineapple, jasmine rice
- Chinese pork noodles
- Spicy lemon and garlic shrimp, crusty bread
- Italian beef sandwiches, bbq chips, hot peppers, cottage cheese
- Stuffed peppers with turkey sausage & couscous
- Slow cooker jambalaya & rice, fruit
- Meatball sliders with hawaiian rolls, mozzarella cheese, salad greens
- Baked potato bar: includes cheese, crisped bacon, green onions, pulled pork or chicken topping, chopped veggies, etc.
Side dishes: Alternatives to a bag of salad mix
Side dishes are a perfect opportunity to make your meal shine. With just a tiny bit of extra effort, this dish gives you the chance to show you really cared enough about the details of the meal to make it tasty.
- Veggie tray with simple sour cream dip mixed with seasoning: this is great because it can be used for snacks the nextday as well
- Fruit platter with strawberry cheesecake dip: perfect for pickier eaters to eat as a side or a dessert and gives mom a break from the nightly veggie fight
- Strawberry mango salsa with cinnamon pita chips: great as a dessert or side dish if your main meal has tons of veggies in it
- frozen steamer bags of veggies: this lets the family store it for later if they already have too much salad they are trying to eat up
- any fresh fruit: already washed and prepped for eating (I remember nearly crying with joy over a bag of clean, cut strawberries)
- homemade salsa with chips: great for snacks the next day, too
- If you do make a salad, try to do a creative one with homemade dressing. Storing the prepped ingredients separately allows the picky eaters to toss and build their own unique mix.
Desserts: beyond chocolate chip cookies & brownies
Unless you are famous for your cookies or brownies, I really recommend surprising the family with something more unique. Bonus points for a dessert that can be frozen and enjoyed in the future if they have too much on hand now.
- root beer floats
- strawberry chocolate tart
- lemon bars: oh goodness gracious try this one, it rocks
- ice cream sandwiches, popsicles, or fudgesicles
- fruit crisps: apple crisp or cherry crisp
- poundcake sundaes: like this peach one or try a pineapple upside down sundae
The single most memorable thing one of my friends brought on top of her meal was homemade strawberry scones, raw and ready to be baked or stuck in the freezer for the future. Having something fresh and homemade out of my oven for breakfast with none of the kitchen mess was such a blessing. She also brought a jar of homemade strawberry freezer jam which was the trigger for my passion for making it myself every year since.
These extras are totally unnecessary but for a friend who needs just a little extra special something, consider adding:
- hard boiled eggs: great go-to snacks for the whole family the next day
- chex mix
- birthday cake popcorn
- homemade blueberry scones: assembled and frozen
Transportation: Getting the food to the table
Knowing I’d be making a steady stream of these Mommy Meals for my playgroup, I got into the habit of keeping these supplies on hand at all times:
- Aluminum casserole pans, bought in bulk at Costco: I use them for baking the casseroles and as a delivery system for meals with lots of pieces
- Disposable storage containers in various sizes
- Zip-top baggies
- A roll of masking tape: for marking food with baking instructions, storage tips, and the date so the recipient can figure out the expiration date
The most important tip is to deliver your meal in 100% disposable containers. The last thing you want to do is burden your recipient with worrying about returning a special dish to the proper giver.
If you know the family is going through an especially trying time, you might even consider delivering a pretty package of disposable plates and utensils to give them a night off from dishes.
If you’re looking for even more ideas and recipes, be sure to follow my Mommy Meal Train board on Pinterest. I’ll be adding new ideas to help mix things up! Have a great suggestion for me to add? Leave me a note in the comments!
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