8 Rules for Bringing Food to Friends

updated May 1, 2019
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Bringing food to friends is one of the joyous chores of adult relationships: you get to celebrate new babies, grieve with your best people, and share in nourishing your circle through food. There are some guidelines for bringing food to new parents or sick work friends, but there are also commandments to make the most of bring food to friends and keep you, the gifting cook, sane.

1. Your food gift doesn’t have to be homemade.

While a home-cooked meal is deeply appreciated, it really is the thought and effort that counts. Picking up a meal from your favorite restaurant or grocery store is just as welcome. One of my favorite food gifts after the birth of my son was from a friend who had dinner delivered via grocery delivery service because she wasn’t able to make it in person.

2. Stick to the classics.

Casseroles, soups, sandwiches, and lasagnas are all associated with food gifts for good reasons. These dishes are comforting, feed a crowd, and freeze and reheat well. Don’t debut a new recipe as a food gift for friends. Along those same lines, don’t make your friend’s signature dish for them.

3. Be sensitive to dietary needs.

Before cooking, call your friend and see if their diet has changed to meet the needs of their condition — some new mothers may avoid dairy while nursing or friends undergoing chemo might want to avoid certain foods. Be diligent about meeting their dietary needs, even if they seem arbitrary.

4. Don’t put it in a pan you want back.

Put whatever you’re cooking in a pan or container that doesn’t need to be returned. Either buy disposable aluminum baking pans or find used ones at your local thrift store. Make it clear to the recipient that they don’t need to return the pan.

5. Label it with love.

No, I don’t mean your casserole needs a cute sticker label — it needs a clear list of ingredients and cooking instructions. Attach these directly to the cover of the dish, so that they do not get lost and can go into the freezer with the dish, if needed.

6. Bring the food frozen or not frozen.

Package whatever food you bring to friends ready for the freezer. Speaking from experience, occasionally there’s a mixup and your recipient has too much food at once, and it is lovely to be able to pop a casserole into the freezer to rescue dinner time another day.

7. Solve a problem.

Does your friend need more breakfast items or nourishing snacks? Maybe she needs lunch items to pack for her kids. Not all food gifts need to fill the dinner casserole quota. Try to think about what your friends need, rather than just what you want to bring them.

8. Don’t cancel and don’t show up empty-handed.

Whatever you do, do not cancel on bringing meals to your friends and don’t show up empty-handed. Pick coffee or a loaf of bread and be there with your people. The importance of bringing food to your friends isn’t in what you bring them, but in making time to be present with them, to hold a hand, or smile at the joy of a new addition.