The phone rang this morning at 7:30. I hate when the phone rings before the boys leave for school because I know it’s going to be something urgent. Sometimes it’s as simple as a friend asking if I can pick her child up for school, but often it’s more than that. This morning, it was my friend calling to say her mother had died unexpectedly.

When someone you care about loses a loved one, your first instinct is to do something for them — anything. You think to yourself, “What do I have to offer my friend that will make what they’re going through a little easier?” For me, and I assume for many of my readers, the answer is food.

In deciding what to bring to my friend, memories of the fruit baskets that arrived after my father’s death several years ago came to mind. Thoughtful as it was for friends and relatives to send them, it took about an hour per basket to extract the contents from the super-strong tape that held them attractively together. After the extraction, I was left with a bowl of fruit (good), various hard candies that no one wanted to eat (not so good). There was also a pile of tape, ribbons, plastic wrap, some sort of basket grass, and a basket that went straight into the trash (wasteful).

If you’re close enough to a friend or relative who has lost a loved one, and you want to drop off food, I’ve got some suggestions here for foods that will go over big, won’t take more than an hour of someone’s time, and will give the family something to offer to people who pop by to give their condolences. Barring any food allergies or dietary restrictions, these are safe bets.

  1. A tray of cut up vegetables and fruit. Do the work and cut up fresh produce for quick eating. If the vegetables and fruit are ready to eat, your friend might just get some healthy food in during the days between the death and the funeral.
  2. Bagels and cream cheese. Fresh bagels and cream cheese are a quick breakfast or snack for both adults and kids.
  3. Coffee and creamer. Find out what type of coffee maker they have and buy a few bags of good coffee (or single-use coffee cups, if that’s what they use) as well as a regular creamer and one flavored creamer. With extra guests dropping in, coffee will go quickly.
  4. Homemade fillings for sandwiches. Some people make a cold cut tray, but it’s easier to control the quality of ingredients if you make something homemade like chicken salad, egg salad or Sloppy Joe meat. Provide some sliced tomatoes, lettuce, and bread or rolls, too.
  5. Soup or stew. In colder months, these can be reheated easily and are quite nutritious. Add a good loaf of crusty bread with it.
  6. A complete dinner. A couple of weeks ago, I posted a recipe for a chicken dish with ideas for sides to take to someone who has just had a baby. That Spiced Baked Chicken dinner would also work in this situation.
  7. A sweet treat. Bake a cake, make a plate of brownies, or break out the chocolate chip cookie recipe. It’s good to provide food for easy, nutritious meals, but a little something sweet can be comforting at this time. 
A few tips
  • Try to take food on plates and containers that you won’t need back.
  • Unless you’re sincerely invited in when you drop the food off, it’s best not to even go through the front door. You’ll be able to tell the difference between an invitation that’s being offered simply to be polite and a sincere request for your company.
  • Understand that the food you’re bringing is a gift and don’t expect anything in return — even a thank-you note. Yes, many people will write thank-you notes for your kindness in the weeks following the funeral, but when people are going through grief, sometimes things get overlooked.
This list certainly isn't exhaustive. What foods do you think are helpful to take when someone has lost a loved one?

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