So usually in this section I plan on sharing some of our favorite family recipes and food adventures that we may have out and about in Tokyo. Today I am taking this in a different direction. I wanted to share our experience with “Meal Train”
The basic idea of a “meal train” is to help out by delivering a meal to someone in need. This can be applied for any need but most commonly used for new parents, illness, surgery, or other life event that may cause a burden on someone to have the ability to cook meals for themselves or their family. Of course many of us are familiar with these through churches or friends but I recently participated in this through an online forum and it made scheduling and coordinating meals for someone in need 100% more efficient.
There are several websites online that you can use but I participated in a meal delivering group through www.mealtrain.com. This was my first time using meal train.com and it was really easy to use even for a first timer! You can also use this for pot-luck and the like.
So basically the person who organized this idea of having meals delivered to a family just went to the site and created the event. It is free to create and then you can pass it around through emailing the link. Whoever wants to sign up for the meal train just simply clicks on the date that they want to claim for taking a meal and they follow the instructions. You must make an account which is pretty easy. You just need your name and a password. Then you claim the date you want to deliver a meal on and you type in what meal you will be taking over.
There is a section of information for each meal train where the organizer can request special diet requests like allergy information, dislikes, and such. This way you do not have to worry about what you are making and you do have a bit of a guide.
You can also view the entire meal train list. You can see what other dates are open and view the dates that are taken and what meals are scheduled on those days. So when I signed up for my meal train dates I just went in and claimed my dates. Then I also viewed the dates near mine. I wanted to make sure I didn’t serve the family chicken 2 days in a row and such.
The meal train had the delivery address, family names, and delivery time requested. It was all input by the organizer of the meal train. This made everything so easy. I didn’t have to worry about losing the address or calling around to make sure the family would be home. I just logged into the meal train and checked out all the details.
I also had reminders sent to my email from the meal train. We were pretty busy when we volunteered. We were in the middle of an international move and I had a lot on my mind. However I still wanted to help out and send over a couple meals to the family we were serving. I was worried that I might forget though! So I set up the meal train reminder to send me an email the week before, that way I could get all the items input on my grocery list. Then I had a reminder sent to me the day before meal delivery. This way I was reminded that I had a few foods to prep the night before. The automatic email reminders were amazing! This alone makes me want to tell everyone about meal train! So much easier to notify everyone and make sure no one forgets their dates or any information. And trust me I am the one the always forgets things!
Our meal train group made a meal for a family every other day for a few months. They had taken in other children that were having some family difficulties and were allowing the kids to finish the school year out before having to leave the country. Doing the meal train every other day allowed for the family to polish off any leftovers without bombarding them with food but also giving them enough meals to help them offset the costs of taking in more children without any assistance.
I only sent two meals. I also dropped off my meals on the same day. I had precooked everything and didn’t have to give the parents any cooking instructions. I thought this would just be easier for them. All they had to do was reheat. I also was not sure if they would have leftovers from my first meal. So I gave them the second meal in advance should they choose to use it early or should they decide that they wanted to make plans instead of waiting around for us to arrive with food as it was a weekend delivery.
I think that I will utilize meal train again in the future. It is just such a nice helpful way to help others. And this makes it so simple. I would not hesitate to creat a meal train in the future. When I think that someone could realize use a meal in the future I think I will just try to create at least a short meal train.
I do have a couple suggestions for anyone looking to create a meal train. I hope these will help you if you plan on trying this out.
- suggest all meals be delivered in disposable containers (the family can skip a big clean up)
- ( FYI- I used foil containers that were 3 for $1.00. Then I covered the tops with glad press and seal. It keeps out any leaks and is much cheaper than the large foil containers with tall plastic lids. Plus you can stack the press and seal paper without leaks. The plastic lids on foil containers crush if you have to stack them!)
- choose meals that everyone in the household can eat (so nothing super spicy if it for a house with small children)
- choose meals that can easily be reheated
- choose a one dish meal if possible (easier for yourself to bake a casserole type of meal and transport less containers)
- if you don’t have time to make a meal or think that your cooking skills aren’t adequate don’t skip out! Send over a gift card and then they can plan to eat out on a date. (if it possible for the family in the meal train)
- simple is best, don’t stress yourself out by making a fancy dish you have never attempted. Many people who need a meal train for help with be thankful for your time and help. They don’t expect you to make a five course meal. Make a simple meal that you have cooked previously.
- label your items. If you are not pre baking the meal make sure you leave prep instructions like the temp and time to bake. Also label what exactly you have in the containers.
I hope you have as much luck with meal train was we did! Leave your experiences or tips in the comments below!