How to Send a Sympathy Meal to a Grieving Family


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When someone is experiencing grief, it’s not always easy to know the best way to help them. Across the world, food is used as a way to bring people together and offer a small dose of comfort. Though it might sound simple, a sympathy meal could be a huge help to a grieving family. 

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From meal train ideas to arranging delivery, how exactly do you send a sympathy meal to a family in need? If you don’t live nearby, you might be wondering the best way to ensure the family has a warm meal as soon as possible. 

Luckily, we live in an innovative time. Thanks to the internet and our connected social structure, there are endless ways to send a sympathy meal to a grieving family. Try these steps to send a dish today. 

What Types of Food Should You Send to a Grieving Family?

First, what types of food are best for a grieving family? While you might think any food will do, you must be mindful of your selection. Sympathy meals are a powerful way to help someone through a hard time. However, you want to make this as easy for them as possible. Here are things to consider before you send your meal:

  • Allergies: Of course, always be mindful of allergies, restrictions, and dietary needs. 
  • Cleanup: Don’t send anything that will take a lot of cleanup or be overly complicated. 
  • Prep: Similarly, this should be a meal that doesn’t require a lot of prep work. 
  • Children: If you’re giving a meal to a family, they might have children who are pickier eaters. Including a kid-friendly option can be a big help.
  • Savable: Your meal should also be easy to save, usually through freezing. Many families get a large number of meals after a loss, so they might not be ready to eat them all right away. 
  • Nourishment: Most importantly, your meal should be healthy and filling. There’s something especially comforting about a home-cooked email. 

With that in mind, you can send different types of food to a grieving family. Dishes like casserole, meatloaf, enchiladas, mashed potatoes, and soup are all easy to prepare. Better yet, these take little preparation for your recipients if you’ve gone to the work of cooking it for them. Other options are pasta bakes, rice and veggies, and freezer meals. 

Alternatively, you might give foods meant for grazing rather than big meals. This might be fruit, cheese, desserts, breads, sandwich supplies, or snacks. Having things to munch on between meals is often preferred, especially during busy or stressful times. Not everyone feels ready to eat large meals after a painful loss, and grazing foods help keep them going. 

Ultimately, consider the needs of the family you’re sending food to. Everyone has their own preferences, and no two families are completely alike. Consider the type of food you would like to receive if you weren’t in a position to cook for yourself. In all cultures, food is a sign of love and respect. This makes a powerful sympathy gift, especially when paired with a thoughtful sympathy note. 

» MORE: Online obituary that is 100% free. Honor a loved one beyond a newspaper.

How to Send a Hot Meal to a Grieving Family

How to Send a Hot Meal to a Grieving Family

A hot meal is best for the first days after the tragedy. After experiencing a loss, especially a sudden loss, things like meal planning and cooking suddenly feel impossible. Not only will the family not likely have time to grocery shop, but they also might be worried about funeral food if they’re planning a memorial event. 

By sending a hot meal, you ensure that the family has something comforting to eat in those first critical days. However, you’ll want to deliver this meal carefully to ensure it’s put to good use. 

Step 1: Consider the family

Before you begin, you’ll need to give some thought to the specific family and their needs. This could be different for everyone, but you should ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the family have any food allergies or dietary restrictions?
  • How does the family prefer to cook meals (oven, microwave, stove, etc.)?
  • How many people are in the family?
  • How will the family store the meal easily?
  • Are there any foods or cuisines that are particularly meaningful to them?

When in doubt, consider traditional comfort food. Things that are easily stored in the refrigerator for eating later are always a good idea, and you don’t want to choose anything too complicated. If you’re unsure about dietary restrictions, don’t be afraid to ask or otherwise opt for a more customizable food service. 

Step 2: Choose a service

Next, choose a service. There are so many food delivery services to choose from that connect with local restaurants to bring warm meals right to the family’s door. It doesn’t matter where you’re located, you can likely find a delivery service that works.

Some of the most common options are:

How do you choose? It’s best to check with individual services to see which deliver in which zip codes. There are often some restrictions. Also pay attention to their hours of operation, included restaurants, and fees. 

In addition, if you’re familiar with the area, you might know of local restaurants that have their own delivery or pick up system. Most pizza places, for example, offer delivery. It’s always great to be creative, especially if you know a restaurant that the family loves. 

Step 3: Get a gift card or order food

Once you’ve decided where to order from, it’s time to decide between a gift card or food order. You have the option to either order the food yourself or you can opt for a gift card. 

Unless you specifically know what times the family will be home and what to order, it’s usually best to choose a gift card. All of the services above allow you to easily purchase gift cards online, and you can send them quickly via email. 

If you’re wondering how much to add on the gift card, a good rule of thumb is $20 per person in the family. That means if it’s a family of five, a $100 gift card is likely a fair number. If you’d like this to last for several meals, you might include more. Keep in mind that you’ll also want your gift card to cover extra fees like service fees, tips, and so on. 

Step 4: Let the family know they’ll receive food or a gift card

Last but not least, ensure the family knows to keep an eye out for your food delivery or gift card. In times of need, they likely are wrapped up in a lot of other things. Knowing that there’s something positive to look forward to makes everything a little bit easier. 

You could pair a food delivery gift card with another one of these sympathy gift ideas. When you fill out your e-gift or physical card, be sure to leave a supportive message and remind the family that you’re always there for them. Though it might be small, your food delivery is sure to make this time a little less stressful. 

» MORE: Grief can be lonely. Create space for your community to share memories and tributes with a free online memorial from Cake.

How to Send a Food Gift Basket or Meal Kit to a Grieving Family

How to Send a Food Gift Basket or Meal Kit to a Grieving Family

Another option other than sending a warm meal is to send a food gift basket or meal kit to the grieving family. A gift basket or meal kit is one of the best gifts for a grieving friend. Not only does it give them a bit of comfort, but it’s a good way to take their mind off the current stress.

Step 1: Consider what they’ll prefer

First, choose between a food gift basket or a meal kit. A food gift basket is something you either make yourself or purchase through a basket company. These include things like:

  • Baked goods
  • Cooking essentials
  • Candy
  • Cheese
  • Crackers
  • Granola bars
  • Healthy snacks

On the other hand, a meal kit includes all of the ingredients the family needs to make high-quality meals at home. These have a recipe and just enough ingredients to feed the full family with or without leftovers depending on the plan you choose. 

A food gift basket is likely ideal for immediately after the loss since it provides sustenance and comfort quickly. A meal kit takes more hands-on preparation, but it still makes a great sympathy gift as it brings the whole family together over the dinner table. 

Step 2: Choose your service

The fastest way to send a food gift basket or a meal delivery kit is to purchase one online. There are many designed specifically for sympathy or treating someone to essentials in a time of need. In addition, there are many meal kits to choose from.

If you choose to purchase a food gift basket, you can find many online at these shops:

  • Amazon: Believe it or not, Amazon has a lot of options for food gift baskets to suit any occasion. Many of these are available with Prime 2-day shipping. 
  • Harry & David: This classic retailer is known for their gourmet food gifts. They have different sized baskets and arrangements for any situation. 
  • 1800 Baskets: Another well-known place for food arrangements is 1800 Baskets. They have fruit, sweets, and more to choose something special. 
  • Hickory Farms: Hickory Farms is usually associated with holidays, but they also have sympathy gift baskets to send your condolences. 
  • Spoonful of Comfort: With Spoonful of Comfort, you can send anything from soup to chocolate chip cookies. 
  • Etsy: Finally, the hand making marketplace Etsy has a number of thoughtful food gift baskets to ease any family through grief. 

When it comes to meal kits, these are some of the leading options:

  • Blue Apron: One of the most well-known meal kits is Blue Apron. This allows you to choose from a lot of leading gourmet recipes delivered right to their door. 
  • Home Chef: Home chef brings delicious meal kits for all sized families, and there are a lot of options to choose from. 
  • Dinnerly: If they don’t have time for cooking, Dinnerly sends ready-to-heat meals that are both healthy and delicious. 
  • HungryRoot: For the health-conscious, HungryRoot sends minimal-prep meals in bulk so there’s enough to go around for days. 
  • Green Chef: Finally, Green Chef prides itself on being very customizable no matter what diet, preferences, or favorites your family in need has on their plate.

From there, it’s easy to customize depending on what the family needs. Make sure to consider how many family members they have, whether they have time to cook, and their dietary preferences. 

Step 5: Customize your meal kit

If you choose a food gift basket, make sure you include enough goodies for the entire family. Remember that these foods will likely be munched on for hours or even days. Ensure there’s enough to go around. 

In addition, consider your customizations when choosing your meal kit. You can choose dietary preferences, how many servings, and how many recipes are included in each box. When in doubt, choose more than you think they’ll need so they can mix and match as needed. 

Step 4: Send a sympathy card or message

Lastly, ensure the family knows to look out for your gift with a sympathy card or message. When sending a message to let them know you’re thinking of them, also let them know to keep an eye on the lookout for your gift. 

With meal prep kits, in particular, you’ll want to ensure it’s refrigerated relatively quickly. While they come frozen and on ice, they need to be received immediately. This is why it’s a good idea to coordinate with the family before sending. 

» MORE: An online memorial is a perfect ending to honor and celebrate someone's life. Create one for free.

How to Send Frozen Sympathy Meals to a Grieving Family

Alternatively, you might send frozen sympathy meals to a grieving family. This is a perfect fit if you know your recipient has already received many meals from others. Having food in the short term and a few weeks out can be a huge help. This is often when grief sets in the most, and your loved one will have a warm, thoughtful meal to turn to. 

However, sending a frozen sympathy meal is a bit more complicated. You can cook the meal yourself or order through a frozen food service. Still, it would help to consider the food's longevity and the recipient’s particular taste. If you want to send frozen sympathy meals to a family in need, follow these steps below.

1. Decide to purchase or cook the meals

You have two options when sending frozen sympathy meals. You can cook or purchase pre-made meals through an existing frozen food company. There are many great places to find ready-to-freeze meals online. Once you prepare this food, make sure you add clear instructions, so it's easy for the family to prepare your meal when they're ready. 

Alternatively, if you'd prefer not to cook, many ready-made services are designed for frozen food. These give you many options, especially catering to special dietary needs. Whether you purchase your meals or cook them yourself, this is a thoughtful gesture.

2. Choose your meal service

For those who wish to purchase frozen meals from an existing service, you’re in luck. There are so many options nowadays for frozen meals. Better yet, if this is your first time purchasing through one of these companies, many offer great first-time offers. Alternatively, you can give a gift card to your recipient so they can choose their own meals. Some options are:

Each option has different pros and cons, so weigh your selection to see what’s right for you. It’s easy to select multiple meals, sending a full box of frozen food that’s easy to store for several weeks or even months. 

3. Arrange your delivery

Whether you’re cooking your own food or scheduling a service, make sure you arrange a delivery time with your recipient. Yes, you can leave food outside their place. However, you don’t want to risk food spoiling by being left out too long. These come in insulated boxes if you’re using a meal delivery service. They still need to be refrigerated within a few hours of delivery, especially when they include meat products. 

If you’re unsure whether or not they’ll be home for a delivery, have the meal kit delivered to your own address. You can take it to the family in person if you live locally. This is a more personal option and ensures the food doesn’t spoil. Otherwise, talk to the family to determine the best date/time for delivery in advance. 

4. Consider adding extras

Whenever you’re using a meal delivery service or preparing your own meals, there’s an option to add extras. You can include paper goods (plates, napkins, cups), snacks, breakfast items, sweet treats, and pre-packed fruits. These small things are helpful around the house, and it’s one less chore your recipient has to worry about. 

Similarly, always pair your gift with a card or phone call. Use this as an opportunity to check in, not just today but also into the future. The pain from a loss doesn’t go away after the funeral. Continue to reach out to the family to see whether they need anything. You might choose to send meals regularly, or it might be a chance to share a meal. 

Send the Gift of Comfort 

There are few things in life more difficult than experiencing a loss. If you know a family going through grief, make sure they don’t feel alone. Sending the gift of comfort with a warm meal, food gift basket, or meal kit can do a world of good. 

Don’t underestimate the power of food. Meals bring us together and give us comfort when we need it most. A warm meal goes a long way, especially in times of crisis. 

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