Gift Guide

Meal Train Set Up Guide and Etiquette Tips



Kristin McCarthy, M.Ed

Kristin, a former educator and mother of four, utilizes her expertise and passion for blogging to generously provide valuable insights and guidance on a diverse range of subjects.

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Released on June 4,

Meal Train Set Up Guide and Etiquette Tips

In times of major life events, the thought of cooking tends to vanish from one’s mind. Close ones, like friends and family, extend their support in every possible manner, and one of the ways they do so is by organizing a meal train. Meal trains are a remarkable gesture of assistance towards families in distress, conveying the message that they are constantly in your thoughts.

Reasons a Meal Train Set Up Takes Place

Meal trains come into existence due to a myriad of reasons, however, they usually take shape during moments when individuals confront formidable challenges or experience transformative life situations that render it arduous or impractical for them to prepare meals on a daily basis. Various significant life events that may necessitate the aid of a meal train encompass:

  • The arrival of a baby.
  • Pregnancy and resting in
  • Loss of a loved one in
  • Major surgery.
  • Military deployment.
  • Serious illness.
  • Before embarking on the noble journey of organizing a meal train for someone in dire straits, it is advisable to extend a friendly hand and inquire whether they would be receptive to receiving nourishing meals. Should they graciously accept, the subsequent phase entails meticulously crafting a well-structured timetable for these gastronomic delights.

    How to Set Up a Meal Train

    Establishing a meal schedule for an individual in need is not complex and can be accomplished in multiple ways.

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    Setting up a Meal Train is a simple and efficient way to organize and coordinate meals for someone in need, providing support and nourishment during challenging times.


    In order to orchestrate a meal train for a cherished friend or member of your community, consider utilizing the power of email. Reach out to a selected group of individuals who you have identified as potential participants for the meal train. Enlighten the team of enthusiastic volunteers about the duration of the meal train and assign them the appropriate number of meals to be prepared. Additionally, ensure effective communication by discussing any specific dietary requirements of the person or family being catered to.

    When collaborating via email, kindly encourage the volunteers to consistently employ the “reply to all” feature in their email correspondence. By doing so, it guarantees that the dates and dishes chosen by the meal train participants are effectively conveyed to every member of the meal train, rather than solely to the individual initiating the initial email.

    Text Message

    Texting serves as a convenient and efficient method to connect with meal train volunteers. It offers the flexibility to inform the members about the circumstances, provide updates on the individual being cared for, specify meal dates, and share other relevant details. Although texting facilitates prompt responses, managing a sizable group of volunteers often leads to extensive back-and-forth discussions. Consequently, crucial information may become obscured and lost within lengthy text conversations.

    Google Spreadsheet or Calendar

    A spreadsheet or calendar serves as a well-structured tool to maintain a systematic record of participants, dates, and meals. The host takes the initiative to create the spreadsheet and extends invitations to meal train participants for their contributions. Each person involved has the flexibility to input their name and meal onto the designated dates within the document. The beauty of utilizing a spreadsheet or calendar lies in its convenience, as it allows group members to effortlessly modify information or incorporate important notes. Consequently, all meal train members gain immediate access to the spreadsheet, enabling them to stay updated with any alterations made.

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    Meal Train Program

    Meal trains have gained immense popularity as a means of assisting individuals facing difficult times, leading to the development of a dedicated Meal Train website. This platform incorporates the use of spreadsheet-calendar features while also offering additional benefits to enhance the meal train experience. Users of this website can take advantage of a sharing function, enabling others to contribute financially towards the scheduled individual. Moreover, participants have the option to provide gift cards for meals, which proves particularly beneficial for volunteers residing far from the recipient.

    Other companies have jumped on the meal train bandwagon, making it easy and efficient for organizers to help loved ones with food.

  • Deliver a Dish – An online platform where individuals can contribute gift cards or choose from a variety of pre-prepared meals to be delivered on their behalf.
  • Care Calendar – Banishes the frustration of endless phone tag and overwhelming email influx for hosts, offering handy email notifications, precise driving directions, and interactive maps for dedicated volunteers bringing nourishing meals.
  • Communicating Needs With the Recipient

    Each family has unique dietary requirements. Various cultural groups may steer clear of specific food groups, while some families embrace a plant-based or vegetarian lifestyle. Additionally, there are those who refrain from consuming gluten. When organizing a meal train, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with any dietary preferences or restrictions that meal recipients may have.

    Additionally, inquire about the optimal time to deliver meals. As food has a limited shelf life, it is important for meal deliverers to avoid leaving items unattended at doorsteps. Both the individuals dropping off meals and the recipients should have designated time frames to ensure that they are present and ready to receive the meals. In cases where meals cannot be handed directly to people, arrangements can be made to leave a cooler on the front porch temporarily.

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    Finally, inform the family about the duration of the meal train, taking into account the specific situation of the recipient. Keep in mind that it is not necessary to arrange for a meal delivery every single day of the week. Usually, three meals per week are more than sufficient, especially if there are leftovers from the previous meals.

    Meal Train Do’s and Don’ts

    When hosting or participating in a meal train, there are several guidelines and recommendations to keep in mind.

    Avoid the regret of losing cherished dinnerware – When someone relies on food train deliveries, it’s safe to assume they lack the luxury of returning beloved casserole dishes. Anticipate that any dish you send off on a meal train journey won’t find its way back. Instead, opt for Tupperware or disposable containers, ensuring convenience for both the recipient and the sender of these nourishing meals.

    Embrace organization – Take into account that not everyone possesses culinary wizardry, therefore, it is important to leave no room for assumptions. Ensure that all instructions for preparation and storage are diligently provided alongside the delectable creation.

    Drop and dash – Not everyone craves chitchat on the doorstep every morning. The ones delivering meals might desire updates or wish to share affectionate words, but bear in mind that the recipients might not be in the mood for it. Keep food drop-offs brief and delightful.

    Take into account every member of the household – In the event that a family receives the meals, it is crucial to prepare enough food for each of the six individuals. There is no greater inconvenience than being given a meal portioned for two and still having to provide nourishment for the remaining members of the family.

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    When participating in a Meal Train, there are certain guidelines to follow in order to ensure a smooth and helpful experience for all involved. Here are some do's and don'ts to keep in mind.

    Common Dishes to Prepare for a Meal Train

    Open your arms wide and be prepared for an influx of delectable dishes that will surely elicit an abundance of heartfelt gratitude. Nevertheless, there exist a handful of effortless go-to gastronomic delights that never fail to captivate the taste buds of the masses.

  • Tater Tot Delight- Tater tot delight is not only wallet-friendly and effortlessly prepared, but also a surefire crowd-pleaser for families with little ones, appealing even to the most discerning palates. It can be conveniently prepared in advance, accompanied by detailed heating guidelines, or assembled with comprehensive cooking instructions for the lucky recipient.
  • Tacos – Preparing taco meat is a breeze and it won’t keep you tied up in the kitchen. Dice some fresh lettuce, tomato, onions, and cilantro and add these delicious toppings into handy Tupperware containers. Don’t forget to offer tortillas, zesty salsa, and a generous amount of shredded cheese, accompanied by crispy chips and creamy guacamole.
  • Chili – Embrace the simplicity of a one-pot creation! Whip up an enormous pot of chili to gratify a famished family. Unleash your culinary ingenuity by concocting an array of tantalizing chili renditions to bestow upon a meal train. Experiment with a delectable chicken-infused chili or a hearty vegetarian option. Accompany these flavorsome concoctions with delectable breads, scrumptious toppings, and a refreshing side of verdant salad.
  • Chicken Noodle Soup – Everyone adores chicken noodle soup. It’s comforting, filling, and remedies almost any ailment.
  • Indulge in the deliciousness of Pulled Pork Sandwiches! Harness the power of your trusty slow cooker to effortlessly conjure a mouthwatering batch of tender pulled pork. Pair this delectable meat with fluffy rolls or sandwich bread, and complement the flavors with a refreshing side of coleslaw and delectable sweet corn.
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    Food Is the Way to a Person’s Heart

    When an individual finds themselves amidst a difficult period, extending the gesture of nourishment can provide genuine solace. Engaging in a communal feast not only demonstrates your unwavering care for those you are providing sustenance to, but also conveys that they hold a special place in your thoughts. By offering your culinary creation, you bestow upon them a profound sense of affection and encouragement, all while alleviating a burden from their already overflowing plate. It is undeniable that sustenance possesses the power to forge a deep connection with a person’s soul.

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