Meal Ideas When Bringing Food For A Family

by Texas Homesteader ~  

Whether mourning a death in the family, dealing with illness or even just feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities of a new baby, those going through hardships are often comforted when others bring food.

I’m sharing a list of meal ideas to consider when taking food to a family, whether for illness, grieving families or ‘just because’.

The Gift Of Food: Meal Ideas When Bringing Food To Families #TexasHomesteader

Bringing Food To A Family Going Through Hardship

There’s just something about someone caring enough to bring a meal for your family, ya know??

A meal you won’t have to worry about planning or cooking. It not only offers nutrition during a very trying time, but it’s like a warm hug from those around you.

But I’m always in a quandary when knowing what meal to bring to another family. You too?

When deciding what to bring I’ll often mix & match from the categories below. Entrée – side dish – bread – dessert.

Entrée Meal Ideas

I’ll start by choosing one of the entrées below. I’ve included with each entrée examples of what accompaniments might go well with it.

I don’t try to make an entrée that’s fancy. It’s best to stick to a simple, delicious meal that uses only basic ingredients. A heartfelt gift need not be expensive nor extravagant.

You can see all my Entrée Posts Here, or check the specific entrée, sides suggestions and notes about other items to add below:

Instant Pot Goulash

Instant Pot goulash makes a lot. It's a perfect meal to take to a family suffering illness or grief. #TexasHomesteaderInstant Pot Goulash is a quick, delicious meal. And after the meat is cooked it only requires a 4-minute stint in a pressure cooker, so it’s fast too! It makes a lot and it’s hugely popular with families who have kids.

  • I’ll often pair it with homemade bread (ideas below) or a box of crackers.

Instant Pot Regular Flavored or Taco Spaghetti

Taco Spaghetti is a delicious Tex-Mex twist on the traditional spaghetti recipe. #TexasHomesteaderThe Instant Pot makes Spaghetti fast & easy. Whether you decide on regular Instant Pot Spaghetti & Meat Sauce or decide to add a Tex-Mex Flair and make Instant Pot Taco Spaghetti, this easy meal comes together quickly.

  • Add a bagged salad mix and some garlic bread to round out the meal.

Simple Chicken Fried Rice

Chicken Fried Rice comes together quickly and makes good use of leftovers. #TexasHomesteaderI often Batch Cook Rice in my Instant Pot with plans to make this Chicken Fried Rice. It requires cooked, cold leftover rice, but it makes a lot and comes together quickly. If you have leftover cooked chicken it comes together even quicker! 

  • Swing by the store & pick up some frozen eggrolls to go with this dish.

Instant Pot Roast

Instant Pot roast is comfort food made fast. #TexasHomesteader

Pot roast is definitely a comfort food, and Instant Pot Roast is made quickly. And this recipe makes lots of brown gravy too!

  • If you’re bringing a whole meal, some sort of potato to go with the gravy is a good idea. And green beans or steamed carrots are brightly-colored for lots of eye appeal and always a hit for a side. 

Pan of Enchiladas

Leftover Pulled-Pork Enchiladas. #TexasHomesteader

 These Pulled Pork Enchiladas are made with leftover pot roast. So it comes together quickly.

The cheesy goodness is a hit for families with kids, but I’ll reserve the more spicy seasoning for situations that don’t involve an illness.

Taco-Stuffed Peppers

Taco stuffed red bell peppers on white square plate, cilantro garnish, garlic, jalapeno and tomato. #TexasHomesteaderThese Taco-Stuffed Peppers are a fun Tex-Mex spin on regular Meat-Stuffed Peppers. But these taco-stuffed peppers have taco-seasoned ground meat, mild Rotel tomatoes and shredded cheddar.

Beef & Bean Chili

Cowboy Beef-Beer-&-Bean Chili is a comfort food. #TexasHomesteader

 My Cowboy Beef, Beer & Bean Chili makes a lot and is a great option for colder days.

  • I always pair it with a pan of homemade cornbread – no jalapenos if there will be kids eating it too.
  • Other pairing options are a box of crackers, or a bag of corn chips or tortilla chips.

Easy Taco Soup

Taco Soup - an easy meal. #TexasHomesteader

 Now this Easy Taco Soup is a true quick meal. As in – brown the meat and then start opening cans & dumping the contents into the soup kinda easy!

  • I may pair with homemade bread (recipes below) or a box of crackers, corn chips or tortilla chips.

Chicken & Dumplings

Homemade chicken & dumplings are comfort food. #TexasHomesteader

RancherMan LOVES my Chicken & Dumplings.

And it’s another true comfort food and works well for families with or without children.

  • I’ll sometimes pair it  with a box of crackers.

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken pot pie comes together quickly with leftover chicken & canned vegetables. #TexasHomesteader

This Chicken Pot Pie comes together quickly because it utilizes leftover cooked chicken and cans of mixed vegetables. 

  • I’ll sometimes pair it with bagged salad mix and a box of crackers.

Slow Cooker Sticky Chicken

Slow Cooker spicy sticky chicken #TexasHomesteader

We love this Spicy Whole Chicken that’s typically cooked in a slow cooker.

Although we love the spiciness, I’ll tone down spices if I’m making it for another family. I might opt for spices such as thyme and oregano instead of chili powder and cayenne. 

  •   I often pair it with Rosemary Rice or other flavored-rice dish.
  • For a covered dish affair I usually bring an entrée, a side dish OR a dessert. But not all three. But if I’m taking a complete meal to a family, once I decide on the entrée I choose an appropriate side dish.

Ideas For Sides:

Meal ideas when bringing food for families - Cilantro Lime Rice #TexasHomesteader

If I’m bringing a full meal to a family I want to present more than just an entrée. These sides, like the entrees above, are quick and easy to make and use only standard pantry ingredients.

I always have rice in my kitchen so it’s my usual go-to side. And I can change up the seasonings to match the entrée I’ve chosen.

It’s easy, fast and delicious. (But I’ve included a delicious pinto bean recipe too if something other than rice is needed.)

Rice Flavors: 

Flavors For Beans: 

Bread Options:

Meal ideas when bringing food to families - bread choices #TexasHomesteader

If I’m bringing a full meal for a family, oftentimes I’ll add bread. I mean, bread’s a comfort food, right?

I lean toward quicker bread recipes that are easy to mix & bake. If I can time it right, I love to deliver the meal while the bread is still warm out of the oven. Just a little extra hug, in my opinion.

Dessert ideas:

Meal ideas when bringing food to families - dessert choices #TexasHomesteader

Although not entirely necessary, dessert is often a nice touch if I’m delivering a family meal.

Something to consider though, if very many people are bringing food to this one family, they could easily get overwhelmed with too many whole pies, cakes and desserts.

So I always consider how big the family is, and whether there are children in the family. Kids love desserts!

If there are 4-6 members in the family I’ll whip up a chocolate crazy cake. But if I’m providing for only one or two family members I’ll opt for a more singular dessert.

I’ve made single-serving apple pies in canning jars, single-serving chocolate pudding and more.

So consider the family makeup and number of family members when deciding on dessert. Here are some of my faves…

Container Considerations When Taking Food To Others:

It’s a thoughtful gesture to tell the food recipients there’s no need to return your container. Sometimes that’s not an option though. A few things for consideration:

  1. Disposable Plastic Dishes – Although I’m not a fan of disposable plasticware, this is a good time for it. If you don’t want them to worry about the container, don’t forget to add a note telling them to keep it if they want.

When food was being delivered to me, any container that didn’t include such a note I tried hard to keep track of.

It was a challenge though, by the time the food was eaten and the container washed, which belonged to whom??

Some were surprised that I’d bothered to return their container, they hadn’t expected it.

But there was no note indicating otherwise so I felt it was important to return their kindness by returning their container. I didn’t want to assume. So don’t skip that note if you want them not to worry about returning the container.

2)  Your Slow Cooker – If you’re taking something you’ve cooked in a slow cooker, and you know the family well, perhaps you can take the food in your slow-cooker’s removable covered crock. Maybe even in your actual slow cooker so they can more easily keep the food warm until it’s needed.

I often take my slow cooker to covered-dish meals served to families at funerals held at our church. That way they can keep it warm during the service and it’ll be hot & ready to eat when it’s time.

To keep them from having to keep track of it, I put a tape ‘tail’ on the power cord of my slow cooker with our name written on it. No more wondering by the kitchen helpers how to find out which slow cooker goes to whom.

3) Pretty Dishes To Keep – A friend of mine goes to garage sales, estate sales and thrift stores to find beautiful sometimes vintage platters for pennies on the dollar. She uses those pretty platters to deliver food, with a note to fill it again sometime in the future and pass it on to someone else needing food. I love this idea and have incorporated it many times for platter-served foods.

FB follower Kathy advises:  I use the aluminum take out pans. Sometimes they come back, but it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t. Or use extra jars for soups. I’m always saving jars, so it is ok if they don’t come back.

Other Considerations:

  • Identify The Food

When asked to bring a dish where several different families will be eating such as a covered-dish affair or a funeral, I’ll often include a note identifying the dish and its contents.

I mean, think about it, there are several people gathered in a house and they’re looking at all of these containers of food. But what is it? Chicken? Tuna? Something else? Does it include an ingredient I don’t care for, or something I’m allergic to?

So I include a note that says what the dish is, and what ingredients are included. That way anyone with allergies to any of the ingredients will know before they even spoon it onto their plates.

If I’m present at the covered-dish affair this note is folded into a triangled stand-up sign to place next to my dish. I’ve heard time & time again how appreciated it is to know what diners are serving themselves.

Meal ideas - identify food being brought for allergy purposes #TexasHomesteader

In the note above you can see I’ve included our tradition of An Angel On My Shoulder. I’d written a personalized note to the grieving son and included this angel pin in hopes it would comfort him in the coming days.

  • Other Useful Items When Bringing Food To A Family:

If you’re taking food where many people will gather in the same household such as a funeral, there are often other things you can include with your food that will offer comfort or add convenience for the grieving family.

Now’s not the time for them to have to worry about cleaning. So in addition to your food it would be thoughtful to include:

      • Paper towels,
      • Disposable paper plates,
      • paper napkins,
      • plastic forks,
      • a jug of tea or 6-pack of soft drinks

I hope you enjoyed reading about meal ideas to consider when taking food to a family. 

Hopefully you’ve come away with some ideas for those times that have you scratching your head wondering what to bring.

But we can learn from each other too. What’s your go-to meal ideas to take to other families? What container do you take it in? Do you include dessert? Bread? Something else?


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