As someone who's often on the receiving end of other people's generosity, nothing makes me happier than to be able to be return the favor.
Nine times out of 10, I'm going to do it by cooking.
I like to pack my old-timey picnic basket (regardless of the season) with goodies for new neighbors. When friends or family come to visit, I typically go pretty overboard planning out daily menus. Shoot, I even kinda love cooking on my birthday. Thanks for indulging me on my 37th, Dows and Arturis!
So when a friend has a new baby, or when an acquaintance is having a rough time medically, I'm gonna bring you a meal. It's best to just give in.
That's why setting up MealTrains is among my favorite things to do. Cuz if I can't make all the meals, I want to make sure the meals are coming!
MealTrain makes this so easy.
(I'm sure there are other such services out there. I'm partial to MealTrain because it functions so well that I've never needed to search for an alternative.)
MealTrain, in case you're unfamiliar, is an online platform that enables you to create a group-edited meal calendar and schedule for someone in need of meals - for several months, or in some cases longer. Here's a screen grab of a sample page:
When you start a MealTrain, you're building a webpage, more or less, but it's not at all intimidating. It's really just a fill-in-the-blank process. All you really need to know: How can I best meet my friend or family member's needs?
There's only one answer. Ask.
Once my friends green-light the idea, I jumpstart the process by sending them 11 questions. With these answers, I can set up a MealTrain in the same amount of time it takes me to half-watch an episode of The Americans.
Here are 11 Questions to Jumpstart a MealTrain:
- What date would you like the MealTrain to start, and when would you like it to end?
- What days of the week would be best for you to receive meals (M, Th, Su)?
- How many people will your friends be cooking for (2 adults, 2 kids)?
- What is your ideal food delivery timeframe (5 to 6 p.m.)?
- How would you like to arrange day-of delivery specifics (via text, via email)?
- Do you have any food allergies or restrictions?
- What are your food preferences (Italian, Thai, comfort food)?
- What are your favorite local restaurants for takeout?
- Would you like to provide a brief message to your family and friends?
- Can you provide email addresses for those whom you'd like to receive the invite?
- Can you text or email me a photo that I can use on the MealTrain page?
Just copy and paste this into an email to your friend. If this seems too impersonal to you, or if it feels like you're pushing a bunch of work into your friend's lap, perhaps you're right.
But, I think - and hope I'm not off base - it's actually going to be more-than-OK by your friend. He or she probably needs meals but isn't going to ask for them. As the organizer, you're simply helping to facilitate a schedule, and you're giving your friend the opportunity to shape it in a way that works for them.
In my experience, MealTrain schedules fill up fast. That's because when you want to love on someone, food is an act of service that almost everyone can get behind.
PS: You cannot go wrong when bringing these items (Not all of them at once, of course. Although I have received this volume before #peopleareamazing):
- Banana bread
- Rotisserie chicken
- Caesar salad
- French bread
- Bottle of vino
- And for the win... Your family's weeknight favorite, cooked with love xo