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Meals/snacks for a grieving family

My neighbours lost their 13 year old Granddaughter Sunday night....

Please bear with me...I know there are probably threads on this subject already but I'm still reeling from the news and can't find what I'm looking for.

I'd like to bring over food.... not casseroles because I'm sure they'll get enough of those. Ideas so far: Soup - maybe butternut squash?
Snacks that are easily eaten out of hand & can freeze if necessary: spanakopita, empanadas...
Cinnamon buns - somewhere in one of the Christmas food gifts threads someone explained how they gift them frozen -- the recipe I use makes 7 pans, if someone could point me to the direction on how/when to freeze them?

Any other soups/snacks/meal ideas would be very much appreciated.

Thanks all,
M

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  1. That is very sad, indeed. My condolences to all of you...

    Usually my bring-to dish for something like this is chicken soup with just a little rice instead of noodles. Somehow the rice makes it more homey to me. I bring a large loaf of fresh country or Italian bread as well.
    Also, a large pan of roasted chicken parts, very simply seasoned: Salt/pepper/olive oil, a sprinkle of sweet paprika. Can be eaten hot or cold.
    A basket of navel oranges, or any other fruit you know they like.

    Many people send sweet things in abundance but I think simple food that is filling and nourishing is better, especially when those in mourning have no desire to eat.

    1. A batch of high-calorie, high-protein snack of granola might fit the bill. Decadent foods might be eschewed and appetites might be greatly lessened, which is why I'm suggesting a grazing type food.
      I also have to say casseroles are so homey and comforting that I do like that idea.
      Hand foods are perfect too in that you can prep them in individual servings if need be.

      1. When my mother passed several years ago, we were kindly gifted many baskets of food, much of which got thrown away as the days passed. Since you live close by, maybe wait a couple of weeks to bring something over when the first wave of food is gone? If you want to do something immediately to acknowledge the loss, you can mow the lawn or help with the garden or something that they won't have time to do themselves but wish they could do since they are having visitors. You are a kind and thoughtful neighbor. We should all be so fortunate!

        1 Reply
        1. re: chococat

          I agree with chococat. It was sad the amount of food we threw out when my mother died.

        2. If you really want to make the cinnamon rolls, I've had good luck freezing them once they've been rolled, cut and nestled in a baking pan. Wrap well with plastic and foil, and write the baking info on top.
          Defrost, unwrapped, and bake. I just did this with some cr's I was trying to use up and I was surprised how nicely they baked up, two months later.

          It might be nice to bring them some baked, with a small pan for their freezer, so they are not too overwhelmed.

          Best wishes to all of you, so sad to lose someone so very young.

          1. I'm so sorry to hear that.

            I feel like folks really need foods that require zero preparation, and things they can easily offer to all the folks who come by. Nuts, fruit, etc.

            Also, in my experience, it is really helpful to bring over things like coffee, paper coffee cups, napkins, paper towels, toilet paper, and stuff that you just can't bring yourself to worry about when you're feeling that raw.

            The main thing is that you're concerned. They'll so appreciate that.

            1. When I've been on the receiving end of such generosity, things like oatmeal cookies (not overly sweet) are pretty wonderful. A cookie is not a huge task to eat and if you make/bring a lot they can be stored in the freezer. They are also very easy/handy to have around for well meaning visitors. I have found it's even better if the giver does the storing and just brings smallish amounts over. Sometimes the generosity of friends can be almost as overwhelming as the grief. (And this said as a savory girl... in such difficult times, easy trumps my tastebud preferences.)

              btw, depending on how close you are to your neighbors, it's also a very big help to have someone go through the fridge and toss the well-meaning but overwhelming things that have gone bad.

              Hugs to you all.

              1. We lost my brother in Afghanistan last year, which brought with it a lot of official functions, media appearances, charity events, etc., so that normal life was nearly impossible for my parents for a while*. This on top of the loss.

                People were kind enough to keep them fed for several weeks. My mom observed that the best thing was to get complete meals rather than huge amounts of one thing. Also, waiting a couple weeks might be a great idea, especially if you can keep your finger on the pulse of what's going on with your neighbors. In my family's case, it was great to have the food keep coming for a long time. Other people might return to their normal patterns sooner.

                As others have said, your kindness will mean a lot.

                *All of it was very well-intentioned and helped to distract us from the grief.

                1. This sounds crass, but if/when they get "casselroled out", they might appreciate a gift certificate/gift card to a local pizza place/family restaurant. One of the things that got our family through a recent loss was a generous donation of, believe it or not, a well-charged Starbucks card and Dunkin Donuts card.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: pinehurst

                    Not crass at all and very good thinking. Even a few McDonald's GC's would make for a quick breakfast. Starbucks of course are everywhere too.

                    1. re: pinehurst

                      This is a wonderful idea! A single dad in my neighborhood lost his 8 year old daughter last year. Some people made snacks for grazing on and a lot of us decided to get gift cards/certificates for all the places neaby that deliver. Pizza, Chinese, sandwich shops.
                      Afterwords, he said how much he appreciated it. Especially the gift cards, because once his appetite gradually returned it was nice to just have the hot meal of your choosing show up at your door whenever you want it.
                      Just something to consider instead of a full meal type thing. They probably cannot stomach the idea of a big meal. Another thing that might help that was mentioned before is a box with some tp, paper towels, hand soap, juices or gatorade, and maybe some tylenol or aspirin.

                      I wish them the best, what a kind neighbor you are!

                    2. Oh no! I am so very sorry. That is devastating news indeed. My condolences to you and to her family.

                      I can't personally vouch for these, but I've sort of been collecting empanada-freezer recipes lately, although I haven't gotten around to trying them. I like the ones that can go from freezer to oven (including toaster oven!) without needing to be defrosted. Be sure to provide the instructions for re-heating.

                      Empanadas:

                      http://www.marthastewart.com/337617/e...

                      Broccoli calzones:

                      http://www.marthastewart.com/313608/b...

                      Irish-beef hand pies:

                      http://www.marthastewart.com/317055/i...

                      Here's a butternut squash bisque recipe, since you mentioned one: http://www.marthastewart.com/312603/b...

                      Here's a freezer-friendly breakfast burrito recipe (just warm it up in the microwave) I've tried and had good success with (as long as you don't use tortillas from Target!). The recipe only makes about 14 if you don't add any of the "optional" ingredients in: http://www.food.com/recipe/breakfast-...

                      Quiche freezes well. http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/quiche/d...

                      I really like this wild rice salad from when Gourmet Today was COTM. It's hearty and healthful and can be served at room temp. It's vegetarian, too. It also freezes pretty well, if you want to go that route.

                      http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                      Don't forget to mark the underside of any dishes you bring with your name on masking tape. Even disposable pans, though you can mark them "okay to toss this platter" or something. I've found people are afraid to toss even disposables for fear of offending someone, and you don't want them to have to stress about trying to remember who brought what and how to return or dispose of it.

                      Take care. And, again, I am so very sorry.

                      ~TDQ

                      1. My condolences on such a tragic loss. It is true that much food will get wasted and soups are a good idea for many that can't eat. Strombolis are good to put out and eaten at room temperature for grazing and you can make or get them with different stuffings; refrigerate leftovers overnight to reheat next day. Trays of manicotti which we make with the crepes (crespelle) freeze very well and go straight into the oven for more of a meal. I recommend baking the cinnamon rolls ahead of time and packaging the icing so that they can freeze the rolls to eat when desired. I've successfully made for myself and given them out frozen in round disposable trays but lately I've had a problem baking the frozen dough and haven't figured out what's causing a problem, so prefer Rabaja's idea of baking first. Fresh homemade bread is always a good idea too if you make your own.

                        1. A neighbour of mine had a terrible tragedy last month, followed by the birth of a son six days later.

                          Like you, I wanted to bring food that would be helpful and not make things more complicated for the family.

                          I can recommend this cookbook - http://www.cooksillustrated.com/books...

                          I checked it out of the library. The difference in this cookbook is that every recipe comes with instructions on how to reheat the food from a refrigerated or frozen state. I stuck instructions on an index card and attached it to each dish. There was a steady stream of things coming in from friends and family. I felt better knowing they could pull out my stuff when needed. The recipes are good quality and I made big batches so I could freeze some for my family too. Everything I tried turned out well.

                          Another thing I did that was easy was pulled pork, fresh rolls, coleslaw, fruit and brownies. As someone else commented, full dinners seemed to make more sense to me and so did items that could be refrigerated or frozen for later.

                          They also seemed grateful for small snacky thing (muffins, grapes, etc.) that the older kids (4 and 8) could have for breakfast without too much prep.

                          Mostly, they will appreciate the gesture.

                          1. When I bring food to people, for grief or new babies or whatever reason, I bring quart-size containers of different healthy freezable soups. When I was on the receiving end of such generosity, I appreciated what I got but wished there were some healthier, vegetable-based dishes. So I usually do tomato soup, carrot soup, mushroom barley, etc.

                            1. What I observed the last few times I've been around people who have lost loved ones: people brought desserts much more than anything else, especially cakes and brownies. When my aunt died recently, the ratio of sweets to savory was probably 5 to 1. (Maybe that is a southern thing?) What got devoured was the vat of gumbo another aunt made and the platters of finger sandwiches and deviled eggs. My cousins were left with lots of sweets that they ended up giving away. As I often bring cakes and cookies myself, I made a mental note to bring more savory foods in the future.

                              I think soups and casseroles are a good idea, as are the kinds of hand-held foods you mention. My friend, who lost her husband suddenly last year, said it was helpful to have food--like chicken salad, baked ham, bread, and other sandwich makings-- that people who stayed with her or visited could easily fix for themselves. She also appreciated the casseroles that didn't get completely eaten and got divvied up into smaller portions, labeled, and put into her freezer by thoughtful people while she was numb as she was able to have those in the ensuing weeks. So anything one can freeze is probably helpful.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                I think the ratio of sweets to savory is a pretty universal thing, as I've experienced that, too. The problem is, people who are grieving are usually running on empty. Emotionally, of course, but also are swamped with visitors and dealing with funeral arrangements, etc. They often don't feel like or have time for eating and, when they do, they need something nourishing that will sustain them until they get a chance to eat again. Sweets are comforting and wonderful, but too many of those will send everyone on a blood sugar rollercoaster. Also, since they are often entertaining visitors, or in the case of grandparents, might have people congregating at their house, they need something they can put out for visitors.

                                I love the vat of gumbo idea. You can even bring some disposable spoons and bowls, and some of those GLAD freezer containers and a sharpie so someone can pack it up if need be.

                                I think ham is a fantastic idea. Again, bring some of those disposable GLAD containers and a Sharpie so someone can pack it up.

                                Nuts or trail mix are a good snack, though, unless you're roasting or candying your own nuts, that doesn't really give you anything to "do", if that's the OP's goal, which I suspect it is.

                                And maybe some beverages and paper cups wouldn't be a bad idea, either.

                                ~TDQ

                              2. When our son passed away four years ago one of the most appreciated gifts was a basket of breakfast foods - a variety of bagels, cream cheese, fruit and a large bottle of orange juice. I have copied this several times with my homemade granola, a nice honey or vanilla yogurt and berries and a loaf of quickbread. I also like the idea of the Starbucks card.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: libstewart

                                  I am very lucky to not have had such a tragedy in my life, but my grandfather passed away in January, drawing a large number of family members. I like the idea of the gift cards - while its not an immediate item they can eat, there will likely be a large number of people around asking what they can do, or younger family members who don't know what to do. The family could say "yes, please pick up x, y, z" and use this gift card, or tell a younger family member to go pick up family for the rest of the group. I know my cousins would have appreciated having a "task" to do but weren't really old enough to have the money to buy coffee for 10.

                                2. I like to bring salads that can stand up for the entire day with bright flavors. Sometimes people can lose appetite (I personally did, and wanted nothing but something bright and light). Beet salad, chinese chicken salad, or even cucumber chunks. I know it's not practical, but there are so many sweets/casseroles, that I always notice it as the first thing to be finished. Alternatively, you can make it in small portions for the family or put it in a container that they can leave in the fridge and keep cool and fresh.

                                  1. I'm sorry for the loss of this young person. You're a kind neighbor and your concern is a gift just by itself. I'll vote for the baked chicken -- you can have cold, hot, keeps for a while. When my mother died I had some friends come by with just that chicken, a pan of wonderful cheesey grits (we're not Southern, we're in Michigan, but a big hit) , a big fruit salad and the mixing for "lime frost" -- essentially a very concentrated fresh limeade that you'd pour club soda into. The mix was ideal -- lunch, dinner, breakfast -- any meal would work. And one of the most touching gifts was one of these same friends offering to come over and clean parts of the house-- too distracted to do so. Small, everyday things mean so much during this time.

                                    1. These are all wonderful ideas. I want to emphasize that disposable containers must be used. The last thing you want to do is burden someone with the task of organizing, washing and returning serving dishes, etc.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: beanodc

                                        What I typically do is buy a new tupperware or better yet, one of those pyrex dishes with the plastic lid, and give it as a gift along with the food. They're generally very inexpensive and so useful.

                                        1. re: biondanonima

                                          One can never have enough pyrex! Even in this case (where you intend the container to be part of the gift), be sure to mark the underside of the container with masking tape saying something along the lines of "No need to return this container." I've seen people re-wash and return even those Glad disposables because they were unsure whether they were expected to be returned or not.

                                          ~TDQ

                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            YES! My aunt has this sad and embarrassing story of when an older lady from the church showed up at my grandmother's house to get her "dish" back after my grandfarther died. It had been a plastic thing that my aunt mistook for disposable, and pitched. That story breaks my heart for both the kind, impoverished old lady and my totally mortified aunt. A note like that would ease the mind of the recipient.

                                            1. re: danna

                                              Oh, that is really sad all around.

                                              ~TDQ

                                      2. When my grandfather died several years ago, I made my grandmother a nice batch of crunchy Ginger Snaps. She is a big tea drinker and they are so good with tea. I know this is not a nourishing idea, but I think little treats are appreciated as well. You could do a batch of cookies along with a few boxes of good bagged tea and/or good coffee and then in a few weeks return with a few more substantial meals.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: saintp

                                          Even though I lean towards savory, I love this idea, too. Ginger is settling on the stomach, actually, and tea and cookies just seems so civilized, calming and comforting.

                                          I was looking for the recipe for Alice Medrich's screaming (triple) ginger cookies to recommend to the OP and ran across this recipe, which also sounds very good: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7499...

                                          Here's the Medrich recipe: http://www.scribd.com/doc/41758996/Gi...

                                          Along those lines, ginger ale, the real deal, or ginger tea might be nice, too.

                                          ~TDQ

                                        2. When a friend of ours lost his daughter, we had to quickly get something together for later that very evening. With so little prep time, and I might get pooh-poohed for this, but we picked up a honey-baked ham, one of their little sliced turkey breasts, rye bread, mustard, mayo, Swiss cheese and lettuce along with potato salad and macaroni salad. Paper plates, napkins, and plastic cutlery too. By late afternoon, so many family members and others were coming by - it worked out nicely because everyone could make themselves a sandwich as desired. Others brought cookies, crudités, stuffed eggs, chicken, fruit platters and so forth.

                                          Condolences - it is somehow so extra hard to lose someone so young.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Mothership

                                            No poo-pooing here! I think a honey baked ham is a great idea. I think that works very well for a group. It can be eaten hot or at room temp, warmed up for breakfast the next morning... etc. My only other (broken-record) suggestion would be to bring disposable Glad-ware type storage containers or ziplock baggies so someone can pack up the leftovers for the family at the end of the day.

                                            ~TDQ

                                          2. I am dealing with this right now. I sent over a tray of vegan stuffed tomatoes, ready to warm and in a disposable container. They can also be eaten at room temperature. Sometimes even warming food is too much.

                                            I think the spanakopita idea is fabulous.

                                            The other thing I am doing is having an open house brunch the day after the service so family members who have travelled don't have to eat breakfast in a restaurant and have one more moment of being together.

                                            My thoughts go out to you and your neighbors. A very hard time indeed.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: smtucker

                                              I think hosting an open house either the evening of the service or the next morning is an excellent idea and a big help to the family. We had a cousin who passed away, and the casual gathering at a neighbor's house the evening after the service was a big help to the family.

                                              1. re: smtucker

                                                My condolences to you, too, smtucker. I, too, think the open house idea is lovely.

                                                ~TDQ

                                              2. There are really two different issues: bringing food so that they can feed the many guests who will be in their home over the next few days, or bringing food for their own needs over the next few weeks.

                                                For the first, think simple and help-yourself kind of food. The last death in the family we had, my cousins received four (!!) baked hams. Surprisingly, most of the ham was eaten over the short term, but we have a very large family. I made chicken, veg & rice soup and sausage & peppers, foods that could be heated up without any instructions necessary, by anyone who walked in the house. I made them in a large quantity so that at mealtime, the entire batch could be used as part of a meal. I also brought a few dozen rolls. As others have said, disposable plates, utensils, cups, napkins, paper towels, garbage bags, cans of soda, case of beer are all things needed in quantity in the first few days, and it's so helpful for the family if they don't have to think of these things. I also made a huge tossed salad in a disposable lidded foil container, to offset all of the heavy or sweet foods that are inevitably received. Simple roasted chicken has also been welcome in these settings, as it can be used as part of a meal or the meat removed and made into sandwiches.

                                                For the second, I would second what others have said about freezable foods, complete meals, disposable containers. At a time like this, think not about what you want to make but what the family might like. Tailor the food to their tastes, but most of all, don't overcomplicate things. Simple, homemade food is what will be most soothing. Perhaps you can make them an offer to cook them a complete meal in a week, when everyone is gone. You can then bring it over freshly cooked.

                                                1. We had a friend who brought a bag of Subway sandwiches and chips to our house. And some bagels with little cream cheese packets. Cases of soda. Because the food was there and ready to eat, we did manage to eat something.Later we were given some cold salads. If it had been up to any of us to care about eating enough to heat food and put it in a plate, we wouldn't have bothered.I don't know about everyone else just how my family was. We wouldn't have put the trouble into heating food to eat it. You're having to force yourself to gag something down so you can keep going. And if the food is there and easy to eat, that's good. If you have to think about it and mess with it, I would forget it.

                                                  1. Thank you everyone for your kind words and suggestions. I decided to wait on making/bringing anything since there have been a steady stream of people bringing whole meals to the point that they're almost overloaded. I've been helping out where I can (with non-food related things)

                                                    Thanks again,
                                                    M

                                                    1. It's no doubt far too late to help in this situation, but I just remembered the web site Take Them a Meal http://takethemameal.com/ -- it makes it super easy to coordinate meal delivery. Hope this helps someone else in the future.