Starting a Meal Train
What do you really want when you are sick, had a baby, a death in the family, or are healing from surgery or an injury? You want comfort food! For each person, comfort food is a little bit different. My personal comfort food is Mashed Potatoes. And they are homemade of course. And they are filled with creamy, buttery, yummy-ness.
Comfort food often has something to do with what your Mom or Grandma made for you when you were sick. My Grandma always thought a bowl full of hot mashed potatoes, with ample butter would cure almost anything. My Mom believed that a “goodie”, such as a brownie, a hostess, or anything chocolate would be the perfect healing touch. In fact, if you eat dinner at my home, it will not be long before my Mother brings out a package of York Peppermint Patties. She believes that they have medicinal qualities.
My First Experience with a Meal Train
I am the type of person who likes to make a meal for someone when they are sick or recovering from surgery. I think it somehow makes people feel better. Truthfully, it makes me feel better to care for someone in that way. Even if it is someone I don’t really know. I remember back when I was a young teen, my Mother had a series of surgeries. Ladies from the church we attended would show up every night with dinner for our family. It was such a huge blessing. It made us all feel so loved and took away the stress of trying to keep the house running, and cook while my mother recovered.
Looking around, I have noticed there are not a lot of meal trains anymore. Recently, I made a meal for a family in our church as the wife had undergone a serious surgery. I felt so blessed to be able to spend time cooking for a family that needed it. Extra love and care went into the dinner I prepared for the family. Another week, I made an extra batch of roasted chicken and potatoes to give to an elderly couple that I know. The lady asked me what it was for, and I said, “Just because I love you”. She smiled, took it home, and enjoyed the meal. Again, I think I am the one who was blessed. I hope you are seeing the trend, that when we do for others, we are the ones who often feel blessed.
A Few Easy Recipes to Help You Get Started
So, if you want to organize a meal train for a family facing difficulty, or just need a few good recipes, following are my best meal train recipes:
Easy Hamburger Stroganoff
Ground Beef Stroganoff
This quick and easy Ground Beef Stroganoff is super comforting! When I make this recipe for a Meal Train, I double it so that I can serve it to my family that night, and share the spare. I think it is best served over homemade mashed potatoes, but is also good on butter noodles or rice.
- 1 LB Ground Beef
- 2 Cans Cream of Mushroom Soup I use Health Valley Gluten Free, but Campbells works well too!
- 1/2 Cup Sour Cream
- 1/2 TBS Dried or Fresh Dill
- 1/2 Cup Ketchup
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Over Medium heat cook, crumble, and drain the ground beef. Then in the same pan add the cream of mushroom soup, dill, and ketchup. Bring do simmer. Add the sour cream and any salt and pepper to taste. Bring back up to simmer. Serve over Mashed Potatoes, Butter Noodles, or Rice.
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Grandma’s Simple Chicken Noodle Soup – This recipe was created by my sister Mary. Here is the link to her blog and the recipe.
Breakfast Casserole (Breakfast for Dinner)
I love this easy breakfast casserole on breakfast for dinner night. I pair it with chocolate chip muffins and a little OJ. All of the food groups are met, and hungry teens are satisfied.
- 1 LB Slab Ham or Leftover Ham cut into chunks You can also use Ground Sausage or Crumbles of Bacon
- 1 Large Tomato- Cut into Chunks
- 3 TBS Butter- Cut into small pieces
- 3 Cups Frozen Shoestring Hashbrowns
- 1 Cup Grated Cheddar Cheese or Cheddar Jack Mix
- 1 Cup Milk
- 1/4 tsp Pepper (more or less to taste) I do not add salt as the Ham typically adds enough
- 6 Eggs
- 1/2 Cup Bisquick
Place Ham, Tomato, Butter, Hash browns, and Cheese into 9x13 baking dish. In a medium bowl whisk Milk, Pepper, Eggs, and Bisquick together until combined. Pour over ingredients in baking dish. Gently fold and stir ingredients in backing dish until well laid out and all ingredients are covered with batter. Bake in 375 degree oven for 35-40 minutes. When finished, top should be lightly browned and center should be slightly firm. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator, and reheat in the microwave for 1.5 minutes per single serving.
Everyone calls them something different; I think it depends on where you grew up. Where I grew up it was just, “The church ladies bringing dinner over”. Not a very exciting name, but it got the job done. Some places they are Meal Ministries, Meal Trains, Or Kitchen Takeovers. Regardless of the name, the meaning behind it is the most important. You are taking a dinner to a family who needs it.
Planning your Meal Train
If you are planning to start a meal train for someone who is recovering or in need, talk to them first. Find out if they are okay with the meal train and what days or times the meals would mean the most and be convenient for them. Ask if there is anyone in the family that has dietary restrictions such as allergies. Because some of the participants who will be preparing the meals might not know about dietary restrictions, but be sure, if there are restrictions, they are handled carefully. Finally, find out if there is a type of food or recipe that really means comfort to the family. I love to make breakfast for dinner for people in need. It always seems so comforting to me. However, not everyone thinks breakfast for dinner is comforting.
You will want to get the names, phone numbers, email addresses, and mailing addresses of everyone on the meal train. Write out a calendar of meals to be delivered, any specific delivery requirements, and email it to the group. You will also want to include any dietary restrictions, preferences, directions to the home, and instructions to label any dishes that they will want returned.
Once the meal train is complete, turn the list of meals, dates, and participant names and addresses over to the recipient family so that a thank you note or email can be sent. This is not a requirement, but often people are overwhelmed with gratitude and want to thank those who have blessed them.
The Modern Meal Train
There are quite a few websites that help bring this process into the modern age. Takethemameal.com offers help in setting up a meal as well as tips, and recipes. Mealtrain.com offers set up, social media features, as well as alerts to remind the cooks to make the meals. Mealbaby.com also offers set up, email reminders, and a scheduler to add new participants.
When all is said and done, the most important thing is that we are helping each other out in a time of need. Life is often difficult, more so for some than others. Committing to give your Time, Talents, and Money to make the world a better place is not always easy. But it is always rewarding. I love the look on someone’s face when relief floods over them and they know that in the face of difficult circumstances, they don’t have to make dinner.
This just in…
This just in!!!! I must share that as I was writing this post, a friend from church phoned to say she had made dinner and a “Spare to Share”. If I could drop by, she had prepared Green Enchiladas, Rice, Beans, and my favorite pecan wedding cookies. I of course dropped everything, raced to her home, thanked her profusely, and drove away with my lips covered in the powered sugar goodness that covers pecan wedding cookies. Yes, I ate one the minute I got in the car.
Overall, I felt so blessed that on a day when I had deadlines and responsibilities heavy on my mind, I didn’t have to cook dinner because a friend blessed my family with dinner. Although I started this post in the interest of giving ideas to help those facing the most difficult of circumstances, everyday circumstances welcome the gift of a “Spare to Share” as well! I am so thankful and excited looking at the next opportunity to help a friend in need myself.
I hope that this post inspires you to start a meal train, participate in a meal train, or help a friend in need of a cooking break! Please share in the comments your best meal train tips, favorite recipes that pack and travel well, or any questions below.