How To Do a Meal Train

Over the past few years, I’ve been blessed with having a number of wonderfully, awesome friends who have helped and provided food when my health got really complicated.

Those experiences gave me some insight into how to provide a meal for someone so that it’s as little stress as possible.

My sister-in-law is in labor today. I’m about to be an aunt again!

I recently coordinated with multiple family members (some out of state) to help provide some meals for the Meal Train calendar which was set up by one of my sister-in-law’s friends.

A week before the day I was to deliver the food, Meal Train sent me a reminder that I had selected a certain date and to be sure I remembered to bring things like a drink,  dessert, and disposable dishes.

The thought hadn’t occurred to me not to provide these things,  but I can see how it could be a surprise if you suddenly found out you needed to purchase more things than you had budget for.

Here’s what I had planned for the three meals that I (on behalf of multiple families) signed up for:

Subway gift card

Cowboy Casserole (1 batch, frozen for future use)

Sausage Rice Casserole (double batch)

To go with the cowboy casserole:

Sour cream


Tortilla chips


Paper plates

Paper cups

Plastic silverware


Snack food for the kids:

Gluten free crackers

Gluten free cookies

Fruits and veggies:


Salad mix

Chopped veggies

Things got complicated with car troubles, and I wasn’t able to bring everything I had planned.

Here’s some advice that might be useful. This is based on my experience on the receiving end of meal-giving.

1) Make sure you ask about allergies. Mealtrain had a place to list allergies, but on mobile devices it wasn’t easy to find.  If you don’t know how to cook for those allergies or if those allergies are severe, get a gift card for a restaurant where they can eat. It’s better to do it that way than to have someone end up getting very sick.


 2) Find out if they have paper plates. There’s nothing more frustrating than to have a bunch of food delivered, to be terribly sick, and then find out that there’s no dishes to eat off because no one’s been around to do the dishes. Disposable dishes are really cheap at a place like the Dollar Tree and can be a huge blessing to the person you’re bringing food to.

3) Think about bringing snack food for the kids –especially if there are young kids. Hungry little kids is no fun at all and definitely adds to the stress level of trying to recuperate from a surgery or a new baby. This is not required obviously, but if you’re feeling generous and have the funds, it would be appreciated I’m sure. Make sure you ask about the parent’s take on sugar before buying a ton of sweets for kids who may not be used to consuming sugar.  Remember the point is to help not create more problems like crazy children from having a ton of sugar they’re not used to having. This is why I didn’t bring a dessert: I know my brother’s family tries to avoid sugar.

4) Make sure you include condiments and toppings. I have received meals before that needed corn chips or sour cream or any number of things to go with them that we didn’t have on hand. If you think it should be served with something specific provide that.

5) Make a double batch if that would be helpful, so it can be reheated for breakfast or lunch. That’s fewer meals but the mom or dad have to try to make during a stressful time.  This is especially true if there are teenagers in the house. They seem to always be hungry. If they have a 2 year old and tons of meals coming in then a double batch might be overwhelming.

6) Serve it in a disposable pan, if possible. I currently have a crock pot and a bowl in my kitchen. I’ve had the bowl for over a year and the crockpot for about 6 months. I’m very appreciative of the food that was brought in them but feel like a horrible friend for taking so long to return stuff. Sometimes it’s not possible to bring it in disposables. But, if you can it’s extra convenient.

7) Find out their normal dinnertime. After my second son was born someone brought us food. We normally ate around 4:30pm when my husband got off work.  Since she wanted to deliver at 7pm I assumed that she’d bring the food hot and I could quickly feed the older child and put him to bed. She arrived just after 7pm with a casserole that baked for an hour and 20 minutes. I guess her family usually ate closer to 8:30pm. 7pm was my oldest child’s bedtime. I didn’t have a very happy family that evening. I probably should have planned better, asked more questions, and maybe had snack ready or something. Although, two days post-birth I was still barely walking from loss of blood and fluids so I didn’t have many options.

Communication really is vital.

I’ve had some really great meals provided for us and (only a few that haven’t been excellent). Of course, I was grateful for any help I was given.  Even if food was delivered that I couldn’t eat, that meant everyone else in my house could eat it and I only needed to cook for me. But it can be overwhelming so I’ve made an effort not to do that to others.  

I hope some of these ideas will help others.


Sarah Forbes



1 thought on “How To Do a Meal Train”

  1. Great article, Sarah! I always stress about taking meals because it takes 25+ minutes to get most places here with rush hour and I’m never sure how to get the food to them hot and without making a mess. *scratches head* One time though after I’d had surgery, a friend asked if I had a crockpot and if she could stop by earlier in the day. She used my crockpot and used a liner so cleanup was easy. It was a great!

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