How to Make Meals for Others (When the Thought is Totally Overwhelming)

A few months ago, I stood in my kitchen feeling totally overwhelmed.

I had offered to bring a meal to a friend, but couldn’t come up with a good dinner idea. All morning I’d stewed over what to make, and still hadn’t pinned down an idea.

Something needed to change.

That’s when I realized I was going about the whole thing wrong. Instead of focusing on the reason for making a meal in the first place (to bless a friend with dinner) I was stressed out because I just knew it wouldn’t be good enough.

Over the course of the afternoon, I realized that my heart needed to change.

  • I needed to STOP worrying that my friend might think I wasn’t a good cook.
  • I needed to STOP stressing over having it look like the meal from Pinterest.
  • I needed to START seeking to serve my friend in love.

If you have ever stood in the middle of your kitchen wishing you hadn’t signed up to bring that meal because the thought it totally overwhelming, here are a few things that helped me.

Embrace the WHY

Why did you sign up to bring that meal in the first place?

Jesus serves His church with food: by making food spring from the earth & giving us of His body at the Lord’s supper. Sharing food is one way we can serve others too.

This is why we bring one another meals: to serve, to love, and to support. When serving others as we’ve been served by Jesus is the focus, a lot of the stress melts away.

Select Go-To Meals

The hard part for me isn’t actually making the meal, its’s deciding what to make in the first place. Select a handful of meals that you like to prepare, get generally good reviews, and freeze well as your go-to meals. Think back on the meals that you’ve received. Which ones did your family love the most?

Since many of our friends prefer gluten-free, two of my options cater to that. These are my meal options:

  • Creamy Spinach & Chicken Alfredo
  • GF Southwestern Chicken & Black Beans (it’s one of my favorite meals ever. Recipe coming soon!)
  • GF Lentil Rice Casserole (this one was a favorite from our law school days. I like to dress it up now by cooking it in beef broth and adding shredded beef. My kids and I still love it as a vegetarian dish too though.)
  • Lasagna

Preparing breakfast is always a challenge for me when we’re sick or have a new baby, and the breakfast foods we’ve been given were such a huge blessing. When I can, I try to include a breakfast-y food, like hearty protein barswhole wheat pumpkin muffins, or a jar of homemade granola.

Work the Go-To Meals into your Menu

I use a revolving monthly menu. It has made life SO much easier for me. Each week’s menu includes one of my go-to meals that I can easily double to bring to a new mom or sick friend.

I highly recommend working out a revolving menu, but even if you don’t have one, you can still incorporate one of your go-to meals into what you have planned for your family to eat that week.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed after offering to make a meal for a friend? Here are a few simple ways to make it a blessing (to both of you!)

Let Go of Perfectionism

A perfect meal for a friend includes a delicious main course, healthy green side, homemade bread of some sort, and a tasty dessert, delivered with a darling Pinterest-inspired presentation. Right?

Sometimes.

And sometimes the “perfect” meal is a simple pasta dish thrown into a foil pan with the heating instructions scrawled on the top.

The point is serving a friend. Sometimes that might mean pouring your creativity into making it beautiful. Sometimes that might mean cheerfully welcoming a toddler’s help and smiling when your last egg cracks on the floor and all hope of dessert is lost.

Go Make Those Meals

As my heart has changed, making meals for others ceased to be a cause of stress and anxiety. Many of my friends are also young moms with lots of little ones in their homes. You know what I’ve realized? They’re not expecting perfection.

Making meals for each other is simply one more way of sharing this journey of life together. So stop stressing, make a plan,and serve your sisters.

What’s your favorite meal to share with a friend? Or that a friend has shared with you? 

 photo credit 

Ten Ways to Show Hospitality when Things are Tight

When we first moved into our 640-square-foot duplex for Josh to start law school, every single preconception I had about hospitality was shaken to the core. Our kitchen table barely seated three, the trim was cracked and peeling, and there were so many stains already on the carpet that I didn’t need to worry about adding more. You’d never notice.

But rent was cheap and we were trying to get through school without being saddled with a huge burden of debt, so it was worth it. Our grocery spending matched our rent spending. God was really gracious to give us a daughter (and then two more kiddos!) that begged for oatmeal, beans, vegetables, and rice. Kids who turned down fancy breakfasts for a bowl of oatmeal and preferred tomatoes to cookies. That was enormous blessing, but what about company?

At first I didn’t think that hospitality would even be possible. After all, who would want to come visit us? And if they did come, where would they sit?

Especially in this fast-paced online culture, taking time to show hospitality is so important, even when things are tight. Here are ten simple tips for practicing hospitality on a budget.

Answers to the all-important seating question here

Much to my surprise (and amusement) a steady stream of friends, neighbors, and acquaintances has passed through our little white house. I read somewhere that during the early 20th century, as houses started being made larger and larger, people looked back on the homes they grew up in and couldn’t believe how many people had managed to fit into such tight spaces to enjoy such frugal feasts…and had so much fun doing it.

I saw first-hand how true it was. You don’t need lots of space or lots of money to practice hospitality. You just need to share your life with those around you. “Share what you have,” as it says in Hebrews 13:6.

Especially in our fast-paced, online society, taking the time to open our homes and engage with people right around us is so important, even when things are is tight.

Hospitality isn't about impressing your friends or showcasing your home. It's about fellowship and friendship. If you have a limited budget, here are 10 frugal ways to practice hospitality when things are tight.

 photo credit

10 way to show hospitality when money is tight

  1. Create a welcoming environment using what you have. A scented candle, pretty music or jar of wildflowers add a warm touch and are inexpensive. Use items you have and remember that hospitality is not a Martha Stewart contest!
  2. Open your home, without serving food. If your food budget scarcely lets you feed your own family, you can show hospitality without serving a meal. Watch a friend or neighbor’s children to give them a break. Invite a friend over in the afternoon, just to chat.
If you want to serve food…
  1. Remember, you don’t have to host dinner. Invite a friend for lunch or breakfast or have college girls over for tea (or coffee!) One of my favorite times of fellowship was over brunch. Friends invited several couples over on a Saturday morning and made homemade waffles topped with strawberries and ice cream. It was delicious, simple and fit their tight budget. Hosting a simple tea party is another inexpensive option. It may not be quintessentially American, but it’s awfully fun anyway.
  2. Make homemade cookies or brownies. Whenever you make cookies, make a big batch and freeze the extra dough in wax paper to pull out for fresh hot cookies at a moment’s notice. Many cookie recipes freeze well. These almond crunch cookies were a favorite with the students I tutored. It’s amazing what a plate of cookies will do to open up conversations!
If you are hosting guests for dinner…
  1. Compile a simple rotating company menu. Think through the meals and desserts your family loves. Then make a list of meals that you can serve when company is coming. They don’t have to be expensive or gourmet. Soups, homemade pizza and this Savory Lentil Rice Casserole are delicious, yet budget-friendly.
  2. Keep ingredients for those meals stocked. This will save on gas money and impulse purchases… and relieve a whole lot of stress if you find out mid-afternoon that friends will be joining you for dinner!
  3.  Shop your cupboards and use what you have. Maybe unexpected company is coming and you’re almost out of groceries. Get creative. A missionary shared an inspiring story of a time she only had one onion, some cheese and spices in the house. Company unexpectedly dropped by. Instead of panicking, she turned the onion and cheese into a savory creation that her guest raved about!
  4. Make bread or biscuits to serve with your meal. Homemade baked goods are increasingly rare and enliven even the humblest meals.
  5. Serve water or make your own iced tea. Add sliced lemon to “make it fancy”. Homemade tea costs a fraction of store-bought. I buy a box of 100 tag-less tea bags at Walmart for $1. Using four per quart, that’s enough to make more than six gallons of tea. Better yet, grow your own mint!
  6. Share the load. Let your guest bring a side. If you are hosting a large group, plan a meal that all can contribute to, like tacos. Have each guest bring a filling or two. Or, host a potluck type event.

Practicing hospitality when money is tight

It took me a long time to get comfortable inviting friends over to our humble house and sharing our simple meals. When I finally loosened my grip on pride and realized that true friends came to visit us, not enjoy Pinterest perfection, I found myself nodding in agreement to what earlier Americans knew: it’s amazing the amount of joy you can have sharing “a morsel of bread” in love.

What about you? How do you practice hospitality on a budget? (And have you ever had to whip up dinner for a crowd at the last minute?)