All About Meal Trains

21 June 2021

I have unofficially officially declared myself the Queen of Meal Trains. This might sound grandiose, but here’s the good news: the number of people who can hold the title is limitless, and you need absolutely no skills to do so.

Why the title? I believe meal trains are magic. Before having June, I wasn’t really sure if I wanted one: would it feel awkward to ask people for help? Would we really need it? What if they arrived right when I was feeding her or she was crying? What if they stayed to talk for way too long? (Introvert problems, am I right?)

But then she arrived, and the meals arrived, and it was magic. Not having to think about dinner at the end of the day? Magic. Yummy food made just for you? Magic. The feeling of being thought of and cared for by friends? Magic.

And so now, because I know how much it meant to have meals brought to us as new parents, I basically chase pregnant people down on the street to ask if I can set up a meal train for them, or at the very least bring them a meal. (This is only a slight exaggeration.) I don’t want anyone I’m even mildly acquainted with to miss out on having a meal train, either because they didn’t understand the value or because no one thought to ask them. It’s such a small thing, but I’m making it my thing!

Want it to be your thing, too? Here are my best tips:

1. Use It’s free! It’s easy to set-up! Absolutely no skill is needed! Just ask your recipient for a few pieces of basic information (address, desired delivery time, meal preferences, number of people eating, allergies, etc.), fill out the online form, and voila! It’s ready to go. I usually recommend running the train on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays (to give working meal-bringers a weekend option!) for 2-3 months.

Once you’ve activated the Meal Train, a link will be sent to the recipient so they can block dates, add a photo, or make changes as needed, too.

2. Ask everyone. Like seriously, everyone. I used to worry that people might think I was weird or overly-forward for asking. Maybe a closer friend had already set one up? But who the heck cares?! If they already have one, then you have the perfect opening to ask for the link so you can sign up to take a meal – and they’ll be tickled you thought of them. And if they don’t, you’re giving them a huge gift that literally takes ten minutes of your time.

3. Offer to send an email. I know it can be awkward to ask for help, which is why I always request a list of email addresses to send the meal train to on behalf of the recipient. I strongly believe people want to help, and when you give them an easy way to do so, they’ll gladly jump on board! I’ve found there is a huge difference between the number of sign-ups when an email is sent and when one is not; this is almost always due to the direct ask, not the size of the friend network. (And if someone sets up a meal train up for you and doesn’t think of this, do not hesitate to ask if they’d mind sending one! I’m sure they’d be thrilled to!)

On a related note, if you’re passionate about bringing meals, this post has 10 great dinner ideas for new parents, and a few of my favorite tips. The only thing I’d add a few years out: it is 100% okay to bring a store-bought meal or takeout favorite. In fact, I did just that this weekend – our life is a little too crazy right now to make an extra home-cooked meal, but I happily picked up a few favorites from Donovan’s Dish and delivered them on Saturday afternoon to a new mama friend. If you’re self-conscious about your cooking or worried about getting the delivery timing right, this is a great option!

I would love to hear: do you have an acts of service “thing”? Do you always remember to write condolence notes? Do you watch friends’ kids so they can go on a date night? Do you send a Starbucks gift card for big days or hard weeks? (I have a friend who is consistent with doing this the week friends go back to work after maternity leave – so sweet!) And if you don’t yet have a thing, I hope this post (or the comments!) might inspire you to choose one! :)

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
June 21, 2021 10:28 pm

I love bringing new parents meals, but I have never set one up. I would love to know all that is in that bag of goodies! I am great at cards, but the best thing of all I do is an actual phone call on my friends’ birthdays. Now, nobody answers phones anymore, but I hope it brings a smile to their face to hear my voice, haha! Am I crazy for trying to do that still?

June 22, 2021 7:18 am

Yes, yes, yes! I totally agree on every count. I thought it would be awkward before our first daughter was born, but I was SO appreciative when the meals arrived. I plan meals for many mamas-to-be, but I also try to include people who have other struggles (health issues, a spouse out of town, etc). It really is such a great thing to do! :)

Kelly C
June 22, 2021 8:38 am

I love this! I’ve done a few meal trains now, always referring to your posts, and find they bring great joy for all involved! I’ve even sent some meals many cities away many months after delivery because the 3-6mo range can be challenging too. And with the delivery services available now the world is literally your oyster.

June 22, 2021 9:03 am

Love this! I have recently participated in a few meal trains and love doing so. My husband and I went through a rough time a couple of years ago and we didn’t have a lot of loved ones close by, and I’ll never forget the people who showed us tangible kindness during that time. It truly was like a life raft when I felt like I was drowning, and it is a huge priority to me now to ensure that we are supporting our loved ones both near and far.
After reading this Buzzfeed article a few years ago, I have adopted the simple Venmo option as my act of service of choice when faraway friends are going through a tough time. Consider it a simpler version of the Starbucks gift card! Everyone I’ve done it for has been surprised but so appreciative!

June 23, 2021 5:37 am

LOVE LOVE LOVE! This is definitely MY thing!
I am always the first to put together delicious meals, little gifts of thanks or to brighten up a day… Anything to help x

June 23, 2021 10:50 am

I love this. Having had a baby mid-pandemic, I cherished every meal brought by, and often drop off was my one bit of social interaction a day. I’d add that you can also love people from afar (or if you just can’t make the dropoff window) by ordering food to be delivered. Places like Cava offer family meals that reheat well.

June 24, 2021 3:34 pm

Bless you for all the dedication, enthusiasm, and effort to create meal trains! I have participated in many, but never been the recipient of one, and with #3 due in a month or so dinner is one of my biggest concerns so it is such a blessing to others!
My service “thing” became a more consistent gift during the pandemic, when I suddenly couldn’t visit new (or repeat!) mama friends out of town (90% of my close friendships are not local). I started sending care packages mostly for the mama — trail mix, something sweet, my favorite barefoot dreams socks, and something fun like a lip balm, candle, one line a day journal etc. And sometimes put in something for baby, but really focused it on Mom! Sometimes I’ve sent for when they arrive home from the hospital, but more often for when Mom is returning to work when things feel hard and she needs some more love and support.
Love all the ideas and thoughts in this post and comments!