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Are you a “feeder” in times of need?

Posted by on May 26, 2011 in Blog Posts | 12 comments

My impulse in crisis is to feed. Someone sick? Let me bring over some pulled-pork, whole-wheat buns, cut-up fruit and tender green beans simmered in soothing butter and broth…

I think my post-C-section semi-starvation makes me jump to food. We were SO not prepared for the complications, and most of all the breast-feeding hell that was every 15-30 minutes attempting to latch a screaming-hungry baby. I literally did not let my husband leave the house (actually the ground floor) for 48 hours. I remember eating granola bars with water. Seems like stocking the freezer got left off our baby-prep to-do list…

My first meal was amazing. Nancy brought it over. Chicken with a balsamic reduction, green beans and tossed salad all from Whole Foods. It tasted better than anything! I think I cried again! So now my impulse when others are in need is food…

Here are some tips:

• Find out about any food allergies (sites like mealtrain.com or www.lotsahelpinghands.com are amazing for coordinating more than a few days worth of meals.)
• Find a few tried-and-trues that you can cook a whole mess of. Cook for your own family at the same time.
• Plan on a few sides to give even picky eaters some options. Store-bought cut-up fruit is a great side, or do it yourself.
• Consider a basic bread, a veggie a fruit, or a casserole with it all mixed together with fruit and rolls.
• My staples are pulled pork (I cook a 5-7 pound one in the slow-cooker so I can feed our family too. I cook it in mild broth so that even the little ones can partake,  and allow families to add BBQ sauce, or maybe ketchup.) It can also be frozen. My other staple is lasagna. I make two pans, as it freezes well also. Be sure to include thawing time on any instructions.
• Consider including sauces, or extra spices/herbs in small baby food jars or Tupperware. I usually include BBQ sauce, but assume most folks have ketchup.  I also often make our Thai Turkey Curry and put the fresh cilantro in a separate container. Maybe a home-made vinaigrette with the store-bought mixed salad…
• Cover dishes that need cooking in tin foil and write any cooking instructions in permanent marker on the foil.
• Include a menu card and repeat the cooking instructions on the card. List general items in case there are any allergies you missed.
• Have a small stock of disposable containers on hand (lasagna pans or bread loaf pans with plastic top for sides…) for when the need arises
• Deliver it all at an agreed on time, in a cool bag if frozen, and if hot, in a brown paper bag
• Consider asking in advance if they want a visit with the meal. Many are happy to just take the food and grateful for the help. A social call may not be restorative, or it might! Doesn’t hurt to ask…
• If you have kids, take them with you sometimes. Show them how we take care of each other. Depending though, you may want to leave the little one in the car for the hand-off  (M used to wait in the car while I dropped meals off for a neighbor going through chemo. Lots of interesting talks on those days…)
• Be extra careful about hand-washing and hygiene. Someone post-surgery or on chemo has a weakened immune system, so having little helpers might not be  a great idea.
• Consider keeping a tray of lasagna in the freezer, you can always eat it if you don’t need to make a delivery.
What am I missing? What are your favorite meals to take to others?
On a side note, I learned to ask for help after my C-section, so I accepted a few offers for meals this week as I recover from my appendectomy. Thank you friends, I am grateful, my family is grateful. It’s such a tangible way to show people you care. Love it!
FYI, the above photo was from a tiny piece of red cabbage from the other night. I spotted it on the chopping block and thought-how perfect! Food is love sometimes!
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12 Comments

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  1. The WellRounded Mama

    All great suggestions! Especially labeling ingredients….for allergy purposes, or just what kids like and don’t purposes. And having disposable containers….it’s too hard to remember who brought what container in these circumstances.

    I’m not a feeder in these kinds of situations, unless it’s a new mom (I like to do quiches for new moms). Most people are drowning in food after a death in the family and it can be a big burden to try and figure out what to do with all that food. But I think sides are great to take; people usually bring the main dishes and things, but what may be most needed is a good salad, fresh fruit, or some bread and butter. Snacky or finger foods can be really helpful instead of big heavy dishes. Bringing food several weeks later is often really helpful too instead of when everyone else does it.

    I’m so sorry you had such a hard start to being a mommy. People don’t understand sometimes how hard some c-sections are to recover from, and then add in nursing issues too….! I had a similar experience with my first. Not fun, and I really wasn’t up for non-family company at that point. My heart goes out to you.

    May you recover quickly from your appendectomy! Ouch.

    • katja

      thanks for your kind words! I like the suggestion of feeding maybe weeks after a birth or death… Often help arrives in a big flurry and then seems to disappear…

  2. fatfairy

    This is a difficult issue for me. Obviously, bringing food to someone who actually needs it is a very kind and helpful thing to do. But, I have had (rarely) someone bring food without asking if I needed it, when something else would have been more helpful, and also when I was sick and my body was telling me not to eat. I also some mental health issues around food and being pushed to stuff myself when I don’t want to is not good for me.

    • katja

      This is really valuable information. By no means should ANYONE be pushed to eat, that clearly crosses a line. A few thoughts if I may… If someone brings food unasked, perhaps, like me that is their way of showing they care. If you don’t need it, but they come anyway, can you say, “thank you for this, but we’re actually all set for food, I’ll put this in my freezer for now. It was very thoughtful. You know, what I really need is someone to mow the lawn, or pick up a prescription, or take my daughter to karate on wednesday…” If they really want to help and can, that gives them some opportunities to help and sends a message. Or just “thanks! This is really appreciated,” if they push you to actually eat it, you are allowed to be your own advocate, “I’m really not feeling up to it,” or, “I just ate” whatever works. If they are close, or you feel comfortable, you can say, “I have some issues around food, can you please bring a gallon of milk and some dog food for Fido, we’re running low. I really appreciate it.” What do you think? It is hard to ask, and to be specific, but I do think people appreciate it. Most would, anyway, and if someone gets upset or insulted, that can’t be helped. (Easier said than done :)

  3. Twistie

    I find I don’t remember a single meal from the week after my mother died, but I do remember the friends who came by with food, stayed to wash dishes afterwards, and held our hands through that dark time. I was too dazed and shocky to even think about food (which is one way to tell I’m in REALLY bad shape, since food is one of my favorite subjects in the world!), but they just stayed on the edges, taking care of stuff that needed to be done. They guided me to the table and put hot food in front of me. A couple times they even managed to make me laugh. I couldn’t and can’t thank them enough for everything they did.

    I guess I don’t really have anything practical to add except the thought that when people are at their lowest points, they appreciate help more than they may be able to express.

    • katja

      beautiful words. My lovely friend Hydee brought me food, and she actually thanked me for letting her help. I know we always want to help, be there for our friends, and I thought this post and all your great comments would be a way to help people navigate that. Thanks for your story!

  4. erylin

    when my grandpa died we had ham for weeks. literally. we found that people tend to bring in the same things….sandwiches…lasgna….ham….cakes and sweets. I suggest something with veggies or sides. FRUIT…holy cow did i need something that was sweet but not dessert sweet. another good idea for helping with food…get some disposable plates…or simply do the dishes when you drop off the food…a new mom or greivieng family often gets stuck entertaining and well being dazed. that sort of work is often not thought of. Drinks too is a good one….my mom ended up in the hospital because the only thing people brought to drink was alcohol.

    • katja

      what? Only alcohol! More great suggestions. I brought juices, 2 liters when a family friend died. Another great long-distance tip are those edible arrangements. I TOTES agree (hehe, just wrote totes…) that fresh is needed. Loved the edible arrangements, all fresh fruit. I love the idea of offering to do dishes when you drop food off!

  5. Bobbini

    Not too long ago, my father passed away. Family and friends came out of the woodwork to support my mother the rest of the family, most often with food. (One particularly savvy cousin brought a large pack of toilet paper, too. It helped a lot when a household that usually has two occupants ballooned to dozens of people over several days!)

    I will say that my mom especially liked having things she could freeze for later; with a large outpouring of food, being able put some away meant that none of it went to waste and she’d have something to rely on when the crowds died down. The other lesson that I learned is that breakfast-friendly foods were very appreciated. Waking up in the morning and not having to think about what to cook is a real blessing. Even frozen pre-made biscuits and sandwiches were welcome.

    • katja

      Bobbini, Great points! I knew you guys would have some great ideas! Frozen foods are awesome, though some folks don’t have a chest-freezer, so maybe checking in advance is helpful. Frozen muffins or other breakfast foods-great ideas! I love the TP idea too…

  6. Dawn

    I remember when Madison had been home for about a week (I think — Brett was back to work so maybe it was two weeks?) and I was so overwhelmed and exhausted and still sad from Pennie’s surrender in the hospital. My friends were great about bringing over food but there is one meal that really fortified me. My friend Lis brought me Ethiopian food for lunch and there was something about how it was so flavorful and spicy and hot that after I ate I felt filled back in for the first time since Madison had arrived. That meal made such a difference!!!!!

    • katja

      We had Ethiopian this week too! It was amazing, such comfort food. I had the mild lentils with that gorgeous Njera… MMM. Isn’t it amazing how much food means to us? It’s so primal. I can think of few other things that are such tangible, edible signs of nurturing. Thanks for sharing. Do you think folks at SFSN would find this helpful info to share with friends?

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