I’ve been writing recently about the beauty of bringing someone a meal (here and here). It’s truly a wonderful and simple way to make someone’s day. I’ve been on the receiving and giving side of meals more times than I can begin to explain, so I’ve learned some helpful tidbits along the way. I figured why not compile all the nitty gritty details into one super helpful ultimate guide? So here it is!
The Ultimate Guide To Taking Someone A Meal- Etiquette 101: Hospitality Delivered
1. Make Contact and Schedule your delivery:
- Contact the recipients to find out if they would be interested in receiving a meal. Letting them know you would like to bring a meal is the first step.
- I know we aren’t always planning ahead, and sometimes bringing a meal is incredibly spontaneous, but it’s definitely polite to let the recipients know of your intentions.
Ask the recipients if they have any allergies, food sensitivities, likes or dislikes.
- Taking a moment to find out this vital information and following the recipients dietary needs & preferences is so greatly appreciated.
- Wouldn’t it be a bummer to prepare a meal centered on shell fish only to discover after the fact that the family is allergic or perhaps dislikes seafood or are Vegetarians? Awkward! That could easily be avoided by simply connecting ahead of time to find out that important information.
Find out if the recipients are in need of additional meals beyond the one you’ll be bringing.
- Life changing events like having a new baby, a death in the family, or even moving into a new home can create an extended need beyond one meal.
- Offer to set-up a meal calendar for coordinating multiple meal deliveries. (There are lots of online services to do this, but the one I like to use most these days is meal train.)
- This is a double whammy blessing- you get to bring a meal AND organize additional meals brought to that person! Totally takes the stress of tiny details off the recipient.
Find out what day and time works best for the recipient. It’s important that they will be home when you drop the food off, or at least be arriving home shortly after the meal is dropped off so the food doesn’t spoil.
- Some families appreciate having food delivered in the morning with the flexibility of heating it when hunger strikes, others may want the meal to be arriving after they get home from work; each family and each situation may be different, so asking ahead of time is a great idea.
- Being respectful of the delivery time the family requests is best, but if something comes up and you won’t be able to arrive promptly, DO try to contact them to let them know your new estimated time of arrival.
2. Make it effortless for the recipient: save them the hassle of washing and returning dishes.
If possible, deliver in reusable dishes they can keep or opt for disposable (silverware, plates, napkins, cups and servingware).
- It can be a bit tricky trying to remember who’s dishes belong to who and making sure all get’s returned to the right owners (especially during times when multiple people bring meals). So make things easy by using servers and platters that you won’t need returned.
- I am in love with the whole “Hospitality On The Go” collection from Mary & Martha. I’ve mentioned some other things I love from this company here too. (I’m not a consultant, but my friend Jamie is. You can shop with her here.)
3. Include a simple gift
This is an additional touch and not necessary, so it’s really up to you. If you decide to include a small gift, get creative and have fun thinking of an extra little something special to send with a meal.
I like to include a simple card with the food.
- It doesn’t have to be fancy or well-worded; just a simple, “Thinking of you.” or Enjoy!” will do.
Another idea would be flowers or a small plant.
A friend of mine from church (the same friend who mentioned hot dogs and unknowingly inspired this butternut squash Mac and cheese) has been known to send along a piece of handmade jewelry. 🙂
4. Stay an appropriate amount of time when delivering your meal.
Unless you are close friends and have been invited to stay and enjoy the meal with them, do not linger. You don’t have to doorbell ditch leaving their meal on their porch, but you also don’t want to stay too long.
If you pay attention, you’ll be able to sense the appropriate window of time for your visit. Be careful that it doesn’t reach the time that the recipients start to wonder if you are ever going to leave so they can eat.
The length of your delivery is really subject to change based on the circumstances. So be sensitive to the environment and situation and respect the recipient’s time. Brief visiting may be welcomed but do not impose on them by plopping onto their couch to have lengthy conversations.
- I typically think it’s safer to error on leaving too early as opposed to not leaving soon enough.
- Remember, they are probably smelling that yummy meal you delivered and may have worked up quite an appetite. 😉
5. Don’t get too hung up on the food itself & miss an opportunity to give.
You do not have to be a top chef to bring a well-appreciated meal.
- Truth: Believing I wasn’t a good enough cook kept me from bringing meals to those who needed it on more occasions than I care to recount. I would sense a need for a meal but hesitate because I just didn’t feel confident as a cook. “What if they don’t like what I make them?”
- Well, honestly, they may not like the food. And that is OK. Food communicates love. Just the act of bringing food, whether it becomes their new favorite meal or not, still communicates that you are thinking of them, that you are there for them, & that they are not alone in their grieving or celebrating.
How would following some of these lessons in etiquette make a difference for you as the recipient?
Care to add any suggestions I may have missed? Please share in the comments!