On Tuesday, the Carnival of Natural Parenting will go live for the month of March and the topic is Special Needs. We were instructed to write about a special need in our parenting: a child with a chronic illness, a premature baby, perhaps the parent’s own health struggles. I’ve written about my experiences as a child of a parent with a chronic illness in my post and it got me to thinking about ways to help a family in need. The opportunity presented itself this week for me to take a basket to a family and while I was putting it together, I thought I’d turn it into a post. We don’t live in a society that is very conscious of caring for other families like we used to. Perhaps it’s because we are so busy now or perhaps it’s because we just don’t know what to do. I know, better than most, what a blessing it can be to have someone show up in the midst of a family crisis to ease the burden.
I’ve been taking meals to families since I got out of college and moved home. Our church has a committee of women (I assume it’s all women, anyway) that take meals to people as needed due to a new baby, surgery, death in the family, illness, etc. Over the years, I’ve worked out the best recipes to take and figured out the best ways for me to help a family. In the instance of death or illness, I think it’s best to take comfort food. There’s a reason why it’s called comfort food: it fills you with warmth and eases the emotional pain. New baby necessitaties food that can be eaten with one hand or requires little effort to get on the table for the rest of the family. And in some cases, taking a meal that is already frozen and can be pulled out whenever the family needs it the most is the best thing to do.
If I have the time and the gumption, I do like to prepare a meal that is freezer-ready for future use and a meal that can be eaten right away. Meals like Greek Pasta Casserole and Chicken Stir Fry are perfect for this need. I usually keep a pan of the Greek casserole in my freezer to be pulled out in the event someone needs it. These meals pack well into foil pans and travel well. Just make sure you label the top with reheating instructions and identify the meal. If you know the meal is going to go in the freezer, you might want to add the date you prepared it. Breakfast crumb bars are a perfect dessert because they not only pack well, but they aren’t overly sweet.
Packing the meal is just as important as what you put in it. If at all possible, use containers that don’t have to be returned. Sadly, this often leads to gratuitous use of plastic in my case, but I suppose it goes to show you that I’m just as human as the next despite my desire to rid my home of plastic. The boxes that Ball canning jars come in are actually perfect for transporting a meal! I like to prep a salad and toppings for a meal that is going to be eaten right away. Grilled chicken, chopped vegetables, seeds/croutons/dried cranberries or cherries, cheese, dressing and greens. OR, a chicken cobb salad. OR roast beef, spinach, feta and vinaigrette. Keeping the elements of the salad separate is essential regardless of the type of salad you choose to make. Nothing gets wilty or bruised.
If these options don’t speak to you, breakfast is a great idea! A quiche, muffins and fruit is perfect! Homemade bagels are also a wonderful treat that pack well. For a new mom, having breakfast taken care of already is a wonderful relief. When Liam was born, a friend brought us a basket with granola bars, trail mix and other snacks that were easily eaten while I was nursing. And finally, even ordering supper from a place that offers home delivery is just as much of a blessing as spending time in the kitchen!
Whether it be a new baby or a surgery, families often run into times of need. Being part of a community offers you the unique ability to reach out and fill that need. Even if you don’t attend a church with a meal planning committee, or belong to a moms club, there are always opportunities to reach out to people around you and be a blessing; just look for the special needs in the lives of the families you know!