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Organize a Month of Meals for a New Family: Here’s How

Posted Jul 22 2009 11:42pm

Baking Bread for a New Mom I can barely feed myself in the best of times, so both the times that I found myself lazing around the house, a newborn in arms, dazed and shell-shocked, and also STARVING, I was about as capable of fixing myself a nutritious meal as the baby would have been.

Hallelujah for the friends who brought over meals for us for the first month after our babes were born. It was a relief beyond words to have a delicious, nutritious, prepared dinner at hand during those times, because learning to live with a newborn? It’s CRAZY!

As the recipient of two rounds of meal donations (some of which went well, and some of which didn’t), and as the organizer of a month of meals for my own mom friend, I have figured out exactly how to do this right:

1. A new mom needs nutritious food, and a lot of it. Nursing moms are hungry, birthing moms are recovering their strength, and every member of the new family is flummoxed and exhausted. The last thing a new family needs to do is eat fast food for every meal out of desperation. Nutritious, lovingly prepared, delicious dinners are one of the best ways to nurture a new family and give a new baby its best start in the world.

2. Enable self-regulation. One of the easiest ways to organize a meal plan is to set up a secure online calendar, using a free service like KeepandShare. You must invite people to join your shared calendar, but once they’ve done so, they all have access to the same calendar, and can post and edit. Therefore, each person can sign up for their own day to bring a meal (and deal with it on their own if their chosen day is already taken), and for bonus points each person can also note the meal that they’re bringing, although who WOULDN’T want to eat lasagna six meals in a row? Another bonus is that the new family can also post, noting on the calendar, for instance, dates when they’d prefer not to have a meal.

3. Make the rules very clear. Send an email to all participants, and post it on your shared calendar, exactly how you want the meals and meal delivery handled. Most people will welcome your guidelines. Suggestions for rules to include are:

4. Ask participants to bring the family’s meal in a container that they can either keep or recycle (I got this idea from All Buttoned Up, and it’s brilliant). The new family does not want to worry about accidentally breaking or having to keep track of twenty different serving dishes.

5. Enforce a strict doorbell drop system. Make it very clear to your participants that they are not donating a meal in order to get to hold the baby or hear the birth story first-hand. They are to put their meal on the front porch or next to the front door, ring the doorbell or knock, and then scram. If you’re using the calendar system, the new family will know exactly who’s coming on any given day, and they can feel free to contact them privately if they’d like to invite them to stay for a while. Put a phone number up on the shared calendar for those participants to use if they’re bringing a meal that simply can’t wait outside.

6. Delivery is okay. A nice veggie pizza on a whole-grain crust, or some tofu and brown rice delivered from a local restaurant is a perfectly acceptable meal, and is a way for even out-of-town friends and family to participate. Don’t forget to include the new family’s phone number on the shared calendar so that the restaurant can tell them that they’re coming.

7. Consider creative alternates to dinner. Tell participants to also consider bringing by, instead of a dinner, a bag or two of grocery staples, a meal intended for a nice breakfast or lunch, a selection of sandwich fixings or items intended for snacks, or even some fiber-filled baked goods for a bit of a treat.

8. Schedule wisely. Rarely will a family want to receive more than a couple of consecutive dinners. Set aside plenty of nights for the family to work through leftovers.

9. Is the new family’s freezer clean? Sometimes a new family would like a couple of meals specifically intended to be put into the freezer and eaten in a few weeks, and sometimes they would not. Ask, and share this info with your participants.

10. Send the thank-yous yourself. Under no circumstances does anybody with a new baby in the house have any business writing out thank-you cards. Acknowledge the participants yourself, mention how much the family said they loved your meal, solicit a recipe or two–you know how to be polite.

Meal donations by friends and family shouldn’t be confined solely to new births, of course–illnesses, bereavements, the absence of a caregiver–use them anytime a family needs some extra nurturing from their community.

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