The Neighborly Thing To Do

I always thought the idea of sending meals to a neighbor after childbirth was really nice. It sounded like such a simple way to help out, until I was asked to cook one. Just the thought of providing a meal for a family of 6(!) made me freak out and volunteer to chip in $$ instead of preparing a meal.

I’m not usually the type of person that will just throw money at a problem and hope it goes away, like I did in this situation. I usually really want to help people, but I know my limitations. I don’t cook dinner for my own family, so how would I manage to make an entire meal for another (large) family? With working full-time, I don’t want to over-extend myself. My family is my first priority and if I spend so much time and energy on someone else’s meal, then my family will suffer.

I know that some of you are thinking- “what’s the big deal? A meal is so easy to prepare!” Well, let me tell you, that meals are not easy for everyone to prepare. Not all of us like to spend time in the kitchen when we could be relaxing and re-energizing for the next busy day. To me it’s not just the time spent in the kitchen preparing the meal. I also have to account for the time it takes to plan and shop for the meal. Then I also have to account for the time it takes to actually cook the meal. For example, if I’m making chicken, it takes time to plan, shop and prepare, but then I also have to stay awake while it cooks and then cools down. That can be another two hours! I didn’t even mention anything about cleaning up the whole mess I’d create while cooking!  And, obviously, since I’d be cooking late at night, there’s no way this meal will be fresh for the recipients. There is just.no.way.

That was my practical thought process. Then came the emotional part. What if I spend so much time preparing a meal and they don’t like it?  What if they already received 5 of the same meal?  I think the emotional part had to do more with the fact that I had never met the family before, not so much the actual food… guess I’m hoping that even if my friends don’t like my food, they’ll still be my friends. Not so sure about a new neighbor being my friend after serving them a bad meal.

All these thoughts got me completely overwhelmed when I was asked to cook the meal. I think it’s understandable, but doesn’t sound so nice. However, I also know that I would not voluntarily take such meals for myself since it’s too hard for me to reciprocate.

As I was typing this, I came up with a really great idea… well I think it’s great, but don’t know if everyone else will think it’s just plain lazy.  Instead of cooking an actual meal, I can just prepare a meal.  What do I mean? Well, you all know I’m really into freezer cooking and I read a lot of freezer cooking blogs, so what I can do is prepare a freezer meal that can be thrown into a crock-pot. It wouldn’t be too much for me to just throw some chicken cutlets, sauce, spices and veggies into a Ziploc bag. I could even prepare rice on the side. This way, the meal could be cooked fresh when the recipient wants to eat it.  It could even be frozen for a later date. Maybe in the future I’ll take this approach… what do you think?

Anyway, please don’t judge those of us that don’t jump at the opportunity to provide meals.  We’re not being mean or inconsiderate, we just have a lot of other things going on.

What types of meals do you provide your neighbors-in-need with? Do you fund extra meal preparation overwhelming like I do?

Until next time,
Shaindy

  • I would totally appreciate a crock pot meal in a bag.

    Also, what some people in my neighborhood do is send pizza one night. Its more expensive, but its easy!

    • I love the idea of pizza! So easy and you can even have it delivered! And who doesn’t like pizza?

  • Amanda

    We use a program in our kehila called “takethemameal.com” and everyone can see what others intend to bring. It also allows the meal coordinator to record the requirements and allergies so we are all informed. Lastly the email goes to the whole kehila and those that feel they can contribute on a certain day do. For example I work Sunday Monday Tuesday so I only participate on Thursday’s and just double what I am cooking for my family of 6.
    I love the crockpot in a bag meal idea. Could you post some recipes?

    • I don’t have any of my own recipes, but have found some promising ones online. I can try to put together a post of links to different recipes.

  • I totally hear you. We use carecalendar.com and sometimes, since it’s visible to whoever logs in, I feel bad if I don’t sign up and people think I don’t care, even if it’s for good friends of mine! But – you’re right, sometimes it’s just not feasible to cook an extra meal. In those cases, I either sign up and get takeout for the family or provide them with something else they would appreciate, like a box of diapers, hand-me-downs, or baby gear. When I had my last kiddo, we got a shabbos-style meal for EVERY meal – I can’t consume that much chicken in two weeks!! It was thoughtful, but too much. But I have to say – I absolutely LOVE the idea of a freezer-bag meal – I know I would have appreciated it. Think about it – once all those community-provided meals end, you’re staring at an empty fridge!! I think it’s an absolutely FAB idea!

  • It’s always healthy to know your limits. I love making meals for my neighbors…if they’re small-family families!

    A friend of mine just gave birth this week, and it’s her eighth. Instead of making a meal for them, I’ll be baking for the bris or shalom zachar — much more manageable for me.

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