When someone passes away, the last thing that family wants to worry about is preparing fresh meals. Eating out is a good alternative, but even this is time-consuming and costly. It’s hard to find the energy to eat or think of other things beyond grieving, especially in those first few days after a loss.
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Jump ahead to these sections:
- Kid- and Freezer-Friendly Sympathy Meal Ideas
- Vegetarian- and Freezer-Friendly Sympathy Meal Ideas
- More Freezer-Friendly Sympathy Meal Ideas
- Tips for Bringing Sympathy Meals
It’s common to bring food to grieving families as a sign of respect and condolences. However, you’ll want to be mindful of what food to take a grieving family. Whether you’re working on meal train ideas or bringing something to a loved one yourself, you need something fast and easy.
The best option is to bring what’s known as a “freezer-friendly” meal. This is anything that is easy to store in the freezer and reheat without much preparation. It’s also typically in a large quantity, so it serves as multiple meals or enough food for the entire family. If you need some inspiration, here are 18 easy and freezer-friendly sympathy meals to bring to a loved one.
Kid- and Freezer-Friendly Sympathy Meal Ideas
If your loved one has young kids who might be picky eaters, it’s important to keep their eating habits in mind when bringing over food. No parent wants to cook something special for their child in a time like this. These kid-friendly freezer-friendly meals are bound to impress.
1. Mac and cheese
Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food, so it’s easily one of the best sympathy gift ideas. Even more important, it’s quick and easy to make, and it reheats without much fuss or mess. You can pair this with a protein or veggie, or just cook it as-is.
Another crowd favorite is lasagna. It’s easy to create a whole pan or baking tray full of lasagna to share with a family in need. To make this even easier, pack the lasagna in a disposable or old cooking tray you no longer need. This way, the family doesn’t need to worry about returning it.
Meatloaf is a well-loved comfort food, and it’s very filling. This inexpensive option doesn’t take a lot of complicated preparations, and it’s easy to make kid-friendly.
4. Baked ziti
Similar to lasagna, you can easily prepare baked ziti in a single pot or dish. It’s easy to add on to make it even more hearty and filling by adding ground beef, meatballs, or a side of fresh bread.
5. Fruit salad
A fruit salad is also a good idea for an everyday snack or breakfast. These are made with any fresh fruits you have on hand, and the option to add yogurt or other dressing mixed in. When frozen or kept in the refrigerator, this can last a long time.
There’s something inherently happy and positive about pizza. You can easily put together yourself with some fresh dough, tomato sauce, cheese, and other toppings. Wrap it in plastic, include baking instructions, and it’s the perfect homemade pizza for a family in need.
Vegetarian- and Freezer-Friendly Sympathy Meal Ideas
Many people today have dietary restrictions. Whether they’re meat-free, dairy-free, or both, these vegetarian freezer-friendly sympathy meal ideas are ideal for these special requirements.
7. Spaghetti in tomato Sauce
You don’t need meatballs to make the perfect spaghetti. With the right noodles, a hearty sauce, and some tasteful seasoning, this is a delicious meal for vegetarians or vegans.
Just pay attention to any additives if you purchase store-made sauce since meat is occasionally an ingredient. Otherwise, feel free to package these with easy to prepare vegetarian meatballs.
8. Veggie fried rice
Since Chinese takeout can be complicated when dealing with the challenges of a loved one’s death, make some at-home veggie fried rice. This only takes a few ingredients, and you can usually use frozen vegetables to simplify it even more. Just be sure to ask about eggs or don’t include them at all.
While chili is typically a meat-based recipe, it’s easy to make vegan or vegetarian with a few key changes. Namely, double up on the beans and consider a meat-free alternative for added flavor. Deliver with bread for a hearty, fulfilling sympathy meal.
10. Veggie burgers
Veggie burgers are healthy, filling, and easy to grab-and-go. You can make your own vegan patties with veggies and beans, or you can buy some in the vegetarian section of your grocery store. From there, include some easy toppings like cheese (or vegan cheese), sliced tomatoes, pickles, buns, and so on.
11. Black bean soup
Soup is the ultimate comfort food after the loss of a loved one. It’s also very simple to make. Use a black bean soup recipe for an easy vegan or vegetarian option. Add quinoa, rice, or cheese to make it more of a meal.
12. Veggie burritos
Another grab-and-go option is to make veggie burritos. All you need are tortillas or vegetable wraps and whatever fillings you choose. Rice, beans, and cooked vegetables are the most common option, but you can get creative. These freeze easily, and they’re perfect for those who can’t sit for a full meal.
More Freezer-Friendly Sympathy Meal Ideas
When paired with the right sympathy messages, a freezer-friendly meal is the best way to let someone know you’re thinking of them. Here are additional ideas for meals that work well when someone is in need.
13. Funeral potatoes
Though the name might sound morbid, funeral potatoes are a longstanding tradition when it comes to bereavement food. These are a type of cheesy, potato casserole that’s easy to whip up in a pinch.
14. Chicken pot pie
A chicken pot pie is a warm, comforting food that easily feeds several people at once. You don’t need to go all-out on a fancy recipe. In times like this, simple is best. Just use fresh ingredients and freeze it with care.
15. Pasta Salad
Another option for an anytime meal or snack is pasta salad. This doesn’t need to be fully reheated, so it’s perfect when it’s left to defrost from the freezer. Use any fresh noodles, a simple dressing, and add-ins like veggies or chicken.
Muffins are more than just a breakfast food. They’re also the perfect late-night or on-the-go snack for when you need a quick pick up. From oatmeal to blueberry, there are so many options for making the perfect muffins that freeze quickly.
This Mexican classic is easy to make in so many different ways. Use tortillas filled with beans, rice, chicken, cheese, or anything else you can think of. Pour a generous layer of enchilada sauce and bake until ready. These are perfect for large families.
18. Chicken noodle soup
Chicken noodle soup is a staple for when you’re feeling under the weather, but it’s also perfect for times when you need to feel comforted. All this dish takes is some broth, chicken, veggies, and noodles. It’s easy to freeze this for later, and it still tastes great when stored this way.
Tips for Bringing Sympathy Meals
Before you bring one of the meals above to a loved one, there are a few things to consider. While it’s also a kind gesture to think of someone in their time of need, you also want to ensure they’ll put this food to good use.
These tips below are important to keep in mind:
- Disposable container: When giving food, it’s best to use a container that you won’t need back. This could be something inexpensive, no longer needed, or disposable.
- Dietary needs: Always ask about dietary needs, allergies, and restrictions. When in doubt, talk to a close friend or family member.
- Meal train: If possible, organize a meal train with multiple friends and loved ones to ensure the family always has a home-cooked meal.
- Preparation instructions: Include easy-to-understand instructions for heating and enjoying the meal.
- Disposable cutlery: Because families in crisis don’t usually have time to do dishes, gift your meal with a set of paper plates and silverware.
Most people don’t ask the family before bringing over the meal, but do be sure to let the family or a loved one know to expect your meal. Though the family might say they don’t need this, it’s usually a thoughtful idea. It’s common for people to turn down these types of kind gestures, so realize you might need to be persistent.
Healing Through Food
Food is one of the many ways people come together. If you’re not sure what to do for a family in need, bringing over a freezer-friendly sympathy meal like these above is almost always a great idea. Nothing is better than a warm, home-cooked meal. This is especially true if you cook a family favorite.
Never underestimate the power of a home-cooked meal. For families in need, this makes all the difference. Though small, this is something they’ll remember for years to come.