“Food is comfort. When we think back, times that we have shared with our family generally involve meals or gatherings. Eating and laughing are memories that bring us comfort and when a death occurs, we want to provide comfort to someone who is hurting. It is the act of giving someone food that is the way we express that which we cannot put into words.” – Kay Rice, Director at Tharp Funeral Home
Food brings comfort to those who are recovering. And there are simple ways to be prepared for meal deliveries when families need it the most.
Choosing the right meal train recipes
There are many classic comfort foods that are easy to make, easy to freeze, and everyone will enjoy. You may remember some of the casseroles and dessert dishes that you have eaten at funerals or enjoyed after a hospital stay. Choosing your recipes ahead of time will save you the time and energy of going through cookbooks and making an extra grocery run when the time comes.
When choosing your go-to recipes, keep in mind that you will want to stick with simple, less complex recipes that are quick to put together – maybe it’s something you’ve been making for years and don’t even have to think about it. Also, make sure to consider the meal delivery: is it something you can make in a disposable casserole dish, or a glass jar you don’t need back? And of course, to avoid risk it is not recommended to test new recipes, but use the ones that you already know people will enjoy.
Here are 6 things to keep in mind when you are choosing your meal train recipes:
- Have allergy-friendly options available (no gluten, nuts, pork, etc)
- Choose freezable recipes. If the family is getting a lot of food deliveries, they might not want to eat it right away.
- Include reheating instructions
- More is better. Make enough so they have leftovers.
- Don’t forget dessert
- Use ingredient cards with space for a handwritten note that you can attach to the meal (like these meal train recipe cards).
23 Meal Train Food Ideas
There are some classic, go-to casserole recipes that are known for being well-liked by picky eaters, including the kids. From feeding families with kids to providing snacks and desserts, here are 25 great food ideas ready for gifting:
Chicken is always a safe choice and can be used in so many ways from chicken salad and cold chicken pasta to warm rice casseroles. Fried chicken is a southern favorite and can be eaten cold as well. Many chicken dishes also avoid common allergies like nuts and can be made without wheat or dairy.
- Chicken Salad with croissants, here are 40 to choose from
- One Pot Chicken and Rice, from Iowa Girl Eats
- Cheez-It Chicken (recipe card included)
- Chicken and Dumplings, from Taste of Home
- Chicken Pot Pie, from Betty Crocker
- “Day 3” Tea Room Pasta Salad (recipe card included)
Ham biscuits are considered the official funeral sandwich and come in plenty of varieties. Pork is not as safe for people with religious considerations but is an easy choice if you know the families’ preferences.
Ground beef can always be swapped out for ground turkey or chicken and can be used in a wide variety of casseroles, soups, and salads. Consider a simple Taco Salad package that can be made anytime and customized to an individual’s preference.
- Taco salad, from Creme de la Crumb
- Taco Soup (recipe card included)
- Baked Spaghetti (recipe card included)
- Pot Roast, from Food Network
Bagels are considered to be symbolic of the circle of life in some religious communities and are a food gifting favorite as they are easy to deliver and last for days. Don’t forget plenty of cream cheese and napkins.
- Pineapple Casserole, from Tastes of Lizzy T
- Fire and Ice Tomatoes, from Lanas Cooking
- Veggie or Fruit Tray
- Donuts or Bagels
- Trail Mix or Granola Bars
The job of the cake is to bring everyone together – because the cake is shared together through equal portions, it symbolizes unity and the breaking of boundaries.
- Perfectly Chocolate, Chocolate Cake, from Hershey’s
- Preacher Cake, from the Chunky Chef
- Watergate Salad, from Spend with Pennies
- Sandwich in a box: including everything you need to make sandwiches, meat and cheese from the deli, breads and spreads
- Drinks and Ice like sodas, beer or wine (if appropriate), water bottles, seltzer drinks, coffee and tea with creamers
- Paper goods like plates and napkins, utensils, paper towels and even toilet paper