Food Ministry Favorites

I don’t know about the rest of the world, but in the deep south, we use food as a way to show our condolences when someone dies, to welcome a new baby into the world, to help someone heal after surgery, and as a way to help when someone is extra-busy with work or family commitments. Having recently had surgery, I can attest to how much help and what a thoughtful gesture a meal is to someone who needs it. I’m happy to have sweet friends who remembered us and provided well for us. And it doesn’t hurt that they are some fabulous cooks as well!

Our friends provided a great variety in the foods they brought, which is so appreciated. They were so careful to ask what we’d already had so that we weren’t eating the same thing for every meal. They also asked what we liked and didn’t like so they knew they were sending food that we really did enjoy eating. We happen to love anything and aren’t picky, but this is such a thoughtful gesture when someone might be on a special diet. And most of them brought their food in throw-away containers so that we wouldn’t have to return dishes. (One friend did bring hers in a crockpot which we plugged in at my house. It was great to smell the food cooking all day. It made us really look forward to her yummy dinner.) And several friends told us that their meals freeze well and to stick it in the freezer if we didn’t need it right away. This can be a huge help as sometimes you might need that meal when your help (mother, sister, caretaker) goes home and you’re back on full-time wife/mommy/cook/maid/worker/whatever duty.

The ministry of food is so appreciated. It is a great way to reach out to people in your church or circle of friends. And when you are already cooking dinner for your family, it’s not that much work to add an extra dinner for a friend as well. It is a tangible way to show how much you care. And let’s face it – Jesus loved good food and used it in many of His teachings. Providing food is a way to show His love to somebody who needs it.

Here are some ideas of meals to make and take that are sure to please.

1. Chicken Pot Pie: A good chicken pie is one of my favorite meals. It’s comfort food at its finest. My friends brought us a chicken pie after my surgery, and we gobbled down every bite. Stuff it full of veggies and chicken, serve it with a salad and bread, and you have a well-rounded meal. Top it off with something chocolate for dessert (My friends did brownies topped with icing and crushed KitKats) and you are sure to please.

2. Crockpot roast: That crockpot meal I told you about earlier? It was a delicious roast with carrots and potatoes. She served it with green bean bundles, cheesy Texas toast, and a fudge pie. What’s not to love? Here’s my crockpot roast recipe.

3. Chicken Noodle Soup: What is better when you’re not feeling well than a hot bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup? It warms the bones and the heart. It can be put in the fridge and warmed by the bowl if needed. Serve it with hot 7 Up Biscuits, a fruit salad, and your favorite homemade cookies. (I’d send Oatmeal White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies.)

4. Breakfast Casserole: A few years ago I had a friend who had breast cancer and was going through surgery and chemo. She had a really hard time handling the morning off-to-school routine with her children because she felt so lousy. I made a big basket of breakfast foods for them and dropped it off. When she called, she thanked me over and over again for remembering that mornings can be hard on a sick person, too. She’d had lots of help with evening meals, but no one had thought to make her mornings a little easier. A good breakfast casserole is a great way to provide a filling morning meal as the kids are getting off to school and the husband is getting to work. Serve it with some fresh fruit and a gallon of chocolate milk. It’s easy to bring over the night before, stick it in the fridge, and leave a note so the kids can warm a plate for themselves. (And it’s quite tasty for dinner as well.)

5. Appetizer Dinner: You can only eat so many chicken casseroles and tomato-based pasta dishes before you are ready for a change. A selection of your favorite appetizers is something different! Try a combination of three or four of your best tailgating dishes. I like to send basil pesto and pita chips, a Conecuh sausage and cheese tray, a warm dip and tortilla chips (like Pioneer Woman’s Mexican Layer Dip). Don’t forget to top it off with something sweet like cupcakes or Rolo turtles.

6. Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya: If your friends are up for a little spice, chicken and sausage jambalaya is a fun, festive dish. It takes a while to cook in the oven, so be prepared for that. But the result is so, so worth it. Every time I take this dish to someone, I get rave reviews. And you can adjust the spice level accordingly. I usually serve this with a salad kit and loaf of crusty bread. For dessert, I like to pair this with something fruity and cool to balance the spice of the jambalaya, so it’s usually a lemon icebox or key lime pie.

7. Grilled Hamburgers and Hotdogs: A big platter of grilled hamburgers and hotdogs is always a safe bet, especially is the family has kiddos. And this is a super-easy meal to prepare. Just grill the hamburgers and hotdogs, add a bag of chips, the buns, and all the fixings. Mix up a batch of chocolate chip cookies for dessert, and you have a real All-American meal.

8. Vegetable Dinner: Whether we’re sick or not, we all need a healthy serving of veggies everyday. This is a particularly wonderful meal if you have access to garden-grown produce, but if not, the grocery store variety will do nicely. I like to make a filling starch like Caesar Mashed Potatoes or Skillet Potatoes, a green veggie like broccoli casserole or green bean bundles, a corn dish like Southern Fried Corn, and a veggie of another color like honey glazed carrots. Homemade cornbread is the perfect bread to serve with this meal, and what dessert could be better with this meal than Nutter Butter Banana Pudding? This is a stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal, and having the leftovers for lunch the next day is a plus!

9. BBQ: When I first moved from Alabama to Mississippi many years ago, I remarked to my (future) husband that in Mississippi there was a fish camp in every small town, but in Alabama we have BBQ joints. He looked a little perplexed, but years later when we moved back to my home state, he found out what I was talking about. We are super proud of our BBQ in the south, and BBQ is always a welcome meal. You can do whatever meat you’re best at: chicken, ribs, Boston butt, brisket. Add the traditional side dishes like Texas toast, potato salad, baked beans or macaroni and cheese. Again, Nutter Butter Banana Pudding is a great dessert with this meal.

10. Chili/Taco Soup: Chili and taco soup are both hearty soups that most people enjoy. Include all the fixings like sour cream, grated cheese, green onions, and Fritos, and you have a complete meal. These soups are easy to freeze if you don’t happen to need them right away.

11. Baked Ham: While a baked ham is sometimes reserved for special occasions, it is actually one of the easiest meals that I prepare. All you do is stick it in the oven and let it go for several hours. It takes a little time, but there is nothing hard about it. And a good sized ham goes a long way. You should have enough to feed your family, their family, and you have a ham bone left over to make soup. Serve it with a sweet potato casserole or mac and cheese and green beans. Throw in a package of dinner rolls and you have a complete meal.

12. Grilled Chicken: A nice, light grilled chicken can be a welcome meal after several heavy casseroles. Use your favorite marinade or seasoning. Serve it with a green salad loaded with plenty of veggies and bread sticks from your grocery store bakery. This is a quick, easy meal that requires little clean-up on your part. Great for working wives (or husbands) to prepare.

13. Lasagna: This one might be considered an old standby to some, but I’d argue that the reason it’s an old standby is because people like it. Lasagna is a great one-dish meal that feeds many and is always enjoyed. All you need is a salad kit and a french loaf from your grocer’s bakery.

14. Chicken Salad and Pimento Cheese: Just as breakfast was a welcome surprise for my friend, lunch can be a welcome meal as well. I love to provide a big batch of chicken salad and pimento cheese for people to have in the fridge and pul out for lunches or those nights when no one else is bringing dinner over. You can make your own or buy it at a restaurant, but either way, it’s really nice to have on hand for quick meals.

15. Take-Out From Their Favorite Restaurant: Listen, people have busy lives. We all work hard at something and are super busy with carpooling kids to sports or dance or whatever. Don’t feel badly if you don’t have time to make a gourmet meal or if cooking just isn’t your thing. One of the best meals we had after having a baby was when friends called in an order to a great little local restaurant, picked it up and brought it to us. It was easy for them, and we had great food from friends we knew cared about us. You don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen in order to minister to people with food.

I hope you’ll use these ideas as a springboard for expanding your ministry to people who need to know you care about them. People just want to be remembered in a tangible way that helps out when they need it. Food can be a very helpful provision when someone isn’t necessarily feeling their best. Share the love of Jesus to them!


  1. Great ideas!! I have been SO behind on baby meals this summer. And wedding gifts…and baby gifts…and – oh the guilt!!! Here’s to getting caught up.

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