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Need Meal to Take to Grieving Family

2 adults and two school age children. No allergies, fairly sophisticated tastes. Several of their friends have gotten together, each taking a different night for the next few weeks so I'm not looking for something that will serve them on multiple nights, just one.

The meal must be able to be prepared the night before and refrigerated until late afternoon the next day.

TIA for your suggestions.

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  1. There have been several threads on this subject, so you might want to do a search. It's a really lovely gesture, regardless of what you bring, I'm sure it will be appreciated.

    1. Lasagna. It is easy, they can pop it in the oven if they are hungry or keep it in the fridge for a couple of days if they just don't feel like it or even the freezer when they get around to eating it. It re-heats well if they eat leftovers. Put a salad and some nice french bread on the side.

      1 Reply
      1. re: amy_rc

        ditto this, I always bring lasagne and it's always much appreciated. If you make a big tray of it they can eat off it for like 3 days.

      2. Very thoughtful post...

        As (VERY unfortunately) a recipient of the generosity of people like you twice this year, I can attest to the fact that eating is not a high priority...so anything you can make that is DIFFERENT from what they've been eating would be so, so appreciated, and very necessary.

        I remember a literal ton of casseroles and one-pot meals...please skip these! We also ran out of refrigerator/freezer space quickly, and so much food went to waste -- food that people spent so much time, money and energy preparing, and it just made us feel worse! The most fabulous food donations we received and the ones we appreciated the most (and remember the most fondly) were the ones we could eat a little at a time, finger-type foods...fun stuff. Especially for my four school-aged kids -- they really devoured a meal we received that was really just a bunch of appetizers, a nice green salad, and some ginger ale -- the ginger ale was GREAT for both kids and adults. It was our first happy meal -- fun because it was informal, delicious, a surprise, and a little silly, all at the same time!

        You could try small, individual size pizzas, built on rounds of cut out pita bread or tortillas (which store beautifully and can be reheated easily...Martha Stewart's website has a lot of great gourmet appetizer pizza ideas) to start...then fill in with maybe one more hot appetizer and one or two additional cold appetizers. Dim sum-type appetizers work beautifully here. Round it out with a large green salad, and they'll adore the ease and surprise of such a different meal. Then package the appetizers in separate containers, if you can...Chinese take-out boxes or disposable Glad or Ziploc plastic containers are perfect. It made opening them up SO much fun for the kids, at a time when they needed some fun.

        My kids and I found our appetizer/finger food meal to be a very enjoyable and interactive experience...no silverware to worry about (oh! Whatever you decide, be sure to include paper plates and disposable dishes you don't need returned, and clear reheating instructions too...it made things so easy for us!), a lot of sharing and giggling ("Oh my! I wonder what is in THIS container?!"), and great food besides...we weren't yet used to large meals (it's easy to forget to eat when you're grieving) so an appetizer/dim sum type meal was just perfect for us.

        Whatever you decide, I wish you well. More than anything though, they'll appreciate and remember the time and effort you're putting into whatever you decide to bring.

        1. White chicken chili and cornbread could certainly be prepared the night before. It's not too heavy but still filling.

          1. The thing I appreciated when my family was the recipient was having no dishes to return...no platters, no tupperware (unless you leave it off with a note saying please keep the container). I remember being depressed at all these various dishes I had no idea who to return to.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sfbecky

              Absolutely. The burden of washing a dish that may have crusty bits, etc is so draining. Disposable containers are a must. Telling them not to bother washing it does not work.

            2. As the recipient of some of these well-meaning meals, I fondly remember the ones that did NOT include a chicken-rice-mushroom soup casserole, and (as another poster pointed out) serving dishes to be returned.

              Fried chicken - can be eaten hot or cold, at any time by anyone.
              Ham - suitable for breakfast, lunch or dinner
              Grilled beef tenderloin - because no one ever thinks of this
              Bunches of grapes - easily eaten by anyone at any time
              Cookies - ditto
              Really good bread/rolls - ditto
              Include some wine, for the grownups, and drinks for the kids -- something they wouldn't ordinarily have. Actaully, a case of wine or beer would be a great addition so the family has something to offer to others.
              Snack or finger foods are great!

              Forget the pre-made salads -- this is not the time for tubs o'slaw/potato salad/macaroni salad. Now, a really good grilled veg-pasta salad is a different story, but nothing wildly flavored or crazy.

              If someone in your kind group made a list of what has been donated, it would help you not duplicate. NOTE: it is also a lovely gesture to offer assistance in other areas such as errands, etc. My favorite was from a lady who volunteered to "come clean my bathrooms and do the laundry". Greater love hath no .......

              Food is balm to the soul but will not relieve the grief of losing a beloved one. The best you can hope for is to help make their time more comfortable. Bless you for taking the time and effort to do a good thing.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Sherri

                When my mom was dying, a close friend send over what we thought was fried chicken cutlett and mashed potatoes. We devoured it like we hadn't eaten in days, saying things like, "this is the best chicken we ever had". Turns out it was pork, that's how out of it we were. My point is comfort foods are really best at this time of life when your stomach isn't quite up to something complex, and you may be eating not from food hunger but from a deeper emotional hunger. I'd go with some kind of simple protein, chicken or pork, simply prepared that can even be eaten cold, with a simple side dish like mashed potatoes or even baked potatoes with lots of toppings. Easy to heat up and easy to eat one meal serving. It's really not the time to be inventive and impressive with your cooking. Mac and cheese, sauce with meatballs, soups with great bread, hot dogs and beans. We also ate a huge lunch meat platter for DAYS and appreciated every bite.

              2. Like some of the others said, something to eat in small amounts. A platter of cold cuts with different meats, pickles, olives, cole slaw potatoe salad, etc would be much appreciated, with either some good deli bread or small rolls. They can make sandwiches whenever they want, and has more variety. Also buy some little, cookies, rugleach, mini cupcakes, that they can snack on or cut up fresh fruit. This way they have for themselves, if someone stops buy theres some to offer others.

                1. It is so supportive to the family for friends to reach out and provide dinners. I usually take a tri tip roast/roast of your choice(easy to make the night before and be heated),roasted vegetables with herbs,smashed potatos with garlic,and a green salad. Although I know you asked about dinner, I would just suggest that a basket full of breakfast items was probably the most unexpected thoughtful gift we received when going through a grieving period. A very kind friend brought over a basket with fancy jellies,jams,cream cheese, bakery goods, and bagels,nut butters, juices. It really was a nice start to the day.

                  1. I did this for a family who neighbors my mom's property--fried chicken, cornbread, green beans, cream cheese brownies. I think it depends on the family, and your mention doesn't sound like my meal would suit. I think I might make something they could bake up fresh for breakfast, maybe cinnamon rolls you'd let do a long cold rise in the refrigerator until you deliver them? Include some cut fruit, maybe fruit salad, and already cooked bacon they can reheat quickly. You've had some nice suggestions for dinner already. I don't think I could improve on any of them. Bless you for being such a considerate person.

                    1. Thanks for all of your input. I think that I will go with the chicken chili and cornbread suggestion. There is a great one in the Barefoot Contessa Parties cookbook. Probably also round it out with a green salad.

                      1. I always remeber the man who dropped off five cases of soda on our doorstep. No problem with storage and very useful for a constant stream of guests.

                        1. I;ve posted this before, but I will say that when my beloved Daddy-O died earlier this year ANYTHING we got was so very appreciated... there were, however, things that were "better" than others.

                          Anything that can be kept and shared.. you get a lot of people dropping in when you're bereaved, so things that can be given to well-meaning guests are great.

                          Fruit platters for those who canna face a whole meal and just want to snack.

                          The most wonderful thing I got, was to come home from the horrible meeting with the funeral director and find my besties had come by and cleaned my house... stripped and re-made beds... done the shower.. mowed the lawns... all the stuff that gets pushed into the background at a time like this.

                          But in the end, ANYTHING wil be appreciated, because it's a gesture of love and solidarity, as it comes from the heart.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: purple goddess

                            My favorite has always been to send a still warm (hot) roasted chicken dinner complete with mashed potatoes and gravy (even some stovetop stuffing can be added). I include a salad, and at least one veggie with it. I bring it (and have been receipient of) in those tacky aluminum pans and toss away glad containers so there is no need for the family to worry about getting items back to me. It has always been greatly appreciated by the family.