How to Start a Meal Train for New Parents: Meal Train Tips and Ideas
When you’re a new parent, the last thing you want to do is worry about cooking and meal planning.
While takeout is always an option, that gets old and expensive quickly. This is why meal trains are a lifesaver for new parents!
Friends and family often organize meal trains for new parents as a way to free up time while mom and dad are caring for their new baby.
If you’re not familiar with what meal train is, it’s time to get on board! We’re going to tell you everything you need to know about putting together a meal train for any new parents in your life.
Related: Tips for New Moms: Stockpile Support and Self-Assurance
Get these helpful meal train planning tips, ideas for the best foods to make for your meal train and all the other little details. It’s time to get this meal train moving in the right direction!
What is a meal train?
A meal train is a way to show support for someone who has just gone through a life-changing experience. Having a new baby fits right into that category!
A meal train ensures that new parents have a meal for a set duration. For new parents, this can be for a couple of weeks after they get home with their new baby, or whatever time frame works for everyone.
A group of people who want to be a part of the train get together and sign up for a night they will provide a meal for their favorite new mom and dad. They list what they’re going to cook ahead of time so that your friend isn’t eating lasagna for two weeks!
What are the benefits of a meal train for new parents?
Besides taking the burden of cooking off new parents, a meal train allows parents to eat a balanced meal (hopefully) so that they can stay healthy and energized. When you don’t have time or energy to cook, fast food and junk food become the go-to. But those are not healthy for anyone, especially a new mom who may be breastfeeding.
Both mom and dad can benefit from being well-fed with veggies and a balanced meal as they take care of their newborn.
How to set up a meal train for new parents
Setting up a meal train for new parents isn’t hard if you can organize it well. Here are some tips to keep your meal train moving in the right direction:
Choose an Organization Tool
For a meal train to be successful, you need to have one point person. This is the person who will check to make sure that someone has signed up for each night and that there are no duplicates.
To do this, you have to be organized. For some people, this means creating a Google spreadsheet that can be shared among the group. This way everyone can see what night they’re responsible for and what everyone else is cooking.
There are also websites such as mealtrain.com that can help to organize your efforts for you. Whichever route you go, don’t rely on word of mouth or a quick text message. Someone is bound to forget, and your meal train will get derailed.
Decide on the Frequency
Some meal trains provide a meal every night for two weeks, while others may provide 3 meals a week for a month. Decide what schedule works best for everyone.
Decide a Consistent Drop-Off Time
Ask your recipients what time they would like to have their meal dropped off. Hopefully, this is a time that works for whoever is doing the cooking. Usually, people are so grateful for the help that they won’t be too picky about what time their food comes, but you should always ask.
If there are a couple of nights where the drop-off time doesn’t work for everyone, consider freezer meals. These are meals that can be brought over at any time and reheated at the recipient’s convenience.
Always be sure to label when the food was prepared because you don’t know when the reheating is going to happen.
Ask About Dietary Restrictions
Be aware of dietary restrictions. You need to know if there is a family member who is gluten-free or lactose intolerant. These are dietary restrictions that can lead to serious health problems if they are ignored. Be aware of any other food allergies that can lead to problems if they are unknown to the cook.
Also, ask about food preferences. Some people can’t stand spicy foods or can’t eat other foods due to religious restrictions or other personal choices. Always make sure everyone participating in the meal train is on the same page.
Make Enough for Leftovers
What’s better than having a home-cooked meal than having enough for leftovers? Consider making enough food that will allow for leftovers. This is a great bonus when there’s something left over for lunch the next day.
Use Containers You’re Willing to Give Away
Don’t use your grandmother’s casserole dish that has been in the family for decades for your meal train dish. Use containers that you’re willing to part with when preparing your meal.
Don’t Forget Dessert!
While the main dish is important, don’t forget to add a sweet treat. New parents will love dessert or some fruit to go along with their meal.
Consider Monetary Donations or Gift Cards
Some people don’t have time to make extra meals but still want to participate in the meal train.
Consider a couple of nights of gift card donations to their favorite restaurant or to delivery services on your meal train. This will allow for an Uber Eats or Doordash delivery without having to worry about the cost.
Just don’t make this the crux of your meal train because the concept is to provide home-cooked meals for your postpartum friends.
Best foods to include in a meal train
Once you’re aware of food preferences, you can base your meal train dishes around them. Here are some meal train ideas when it comes to the main dish:
- Lasagna and other pasta dishes
- Rotisserie Chicken
- Tray of enchiladas
- Sausage & Peppers
- Baked Mac & Cheese
- Taco Kits (just be sure to include all the fixings!)
When it comes to meal train food ideas, you can also think out of the box from comfort food and casseroles. Consider breakfast for dinner ideas like pancakes or egg and cheese sandwiches with hashbrowns.
If there are small children in the house, you can look for kid-friendly ideas like pigs in a blanket or fruit on a stick for dessert.
You can also decide to bring all the ingredients for a sandwich or salad bar. Consider bringing rolls, cold cuts, and all of the ingredients for a sandwich bar as well.
Things to keep in mind when organizing a meal train
Whether you’re organizing a meal train or taking part in one, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Don’t expect to get invited in for coffee. Make your meal delivery quick so that your friends can eat and do what they need to do.
- Don’t ask to hold the baby unless the parents offer. Some people don’t like everyone touching their newborn.
- Don’t offer unsolicited advice.
- Try not to repeat main dishes, offer variety.
Other acts of kindness to help new parents
Besides a meal train, there are other kind gestures that new parents would love. If you live in an area where grocery delivery isn’t an option, your friend may enjoy help with grocery shopping. Offering to help with laundry or any other errands may also be greatly appreciated.
If your friend or loved one has a pet, perhaps you can ask if they need help taking care of it. Some parents would also love for someone to come over for an hour to keep an eye on their baby so they can catch a nap.
If you’re not sure how you can help, simply ask. There may be a particular task that needs to be done that could really make a difference.
You’re Ready to Start Your Meal Train!
When it comes to organizing a meal train for new parents, remember to make sure everyone involved is on the same page. This means taking into consideration things like food drop-off times, food allergies, and preferences.
While casseroles and comfort foods are always good choices, you can also think out of the box and offer things like a salad bar or taco kit. Remember, when you do bring your food, don’t expect to get invited in. New parents are tired and may not be up to having company.
Remember, meal trains are an excellent option to help new parents get through the sleep-deprived days of having a newborn. Acts of kindness like these go a long way!
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Having previously worked as a news producer, Kristina left the world of television when her second daughter was born, so that she could focus on her family and love of writing.