Whether it’s for a wonderful occasion like welcoming a new little one into the world or for a more difficult circumstance like sickness, surgery, loss or grief – sometimes, you need to support those you love by providing dinner.
I cook all the time, but I can still have that “what in the world do I make?!” anxiety hit me when I think about taking a meal to someone.
A good meal to take to someone is not only tasty but diet-friendly, allergen-free (if applicable) and most of all, convenient.
Here are 20 of my tried-and-true dinner options that check all the boxes.
- Three-cheese lasagna
- Broccoli and cheese soup
- Chicken fried rice
- Chicken tortilla soup
- Crockpot chicken or pork with potatoes & carrots
- Italian lentil soup
- Lemon chicken orzo soup
- Chicken and spinach carbonara
- Breakfast casserole
- Chicken fajita
- Hearty salads
- Roasted kielbasa and cabbage dinner
- Potato bar chili
- Ground turkey sweet potato skillet
- Beef ramen noodle soup
- White chicken chili
- Creamy sausage tomato pasta
- Caribbean salmon quinoa bowls
- Chicken and wild rice soup
- Take-out or delivery (as a very valid back-up)
Jump to any recipe by clicking the links above, or read on to learn about simple ways to make your efforts go the extra mile.
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Preparing to take someone a meal
1. Check for an organized meal train.
A very common practice, especially for surgeries or new babies, is using an online website to coordinate meal deliveries. This is often called a “meal train”.
When inquiring with your friend or loved one, ask if there is one set up. If so, this is the easiest way to choose a day/time that has not already been filled – and it relieves your friend of the time and effort of coordinating.
You can use the information on the meal train’s page to:
- See on what days meals are still needed
- Review what others are planning to bring, so that you don’t bring the same thing and can mix it up 🙂
- See how many people are needed to fed, which helps you plan for portions
- View notes on allergies, diet restrictions, and/or general preferences
- Gather instructions for delivery
If a formal meal train has not been organized, you can offer to set one up yourself at MealTrain.com! (No need for the Plus plan.)
2. Find a convenient day and time to bring a meal.
As mentioned above, meal train sign-ups help to do this automatically. However, if a meal train is not in use or isn’t appropriate for the situation, simply reach out to your loved one to find a day and specific time to bring a meal.
Use the list above to gather additional information needed such as any meal preferences, diet or allergy information, how many servings are needed, or anything else that might help them!
During this communication, I sometimes send over a few different meal options so that they can choose the one they want!
3. Strictly adhere to food restrictions or preferences.
Based on any information you have for food allergies, diet restrictions, or general preferences – ensure that the recipe you choose adheres to this!
Don’t hesitate to ask your loved one specific questions if needed. As a mom of a son with severe food allergies, I know how happy I am to answer questions and ensure food is safe. 🙂
To help you in choosing appropriate meals, all of the recipe suggestions below are labeled based on common diet restrictions. Many of them can easily be adjusted to accommodate restrictions, as well.
- Gluten free
- Egg free
- Dairy free
*Very important* According to the specific allergy, be sure to check the bottle or container of any ingredient – even spices!
Even if the recipe doesn’t call for an ingredient that obviously contains that allergen, you can check the ‘warning’ area of the nutrition label to ensure nothing sneaks in.
And although not specifically indicated here, be sure to check on any soy or nut allergies.
4. Make sure you have easy supplies on hand.
One REALLY helpful thing to do is to delivery a meal in a container that doesn’t need to be returned.
When someone needs a meal, they are usually dealing with a major life change or adjustment. By using a disposable container or a plastic one that you’re willing to pass along, you eliminate the time, effort, and mental energy need to return it.
If you want to add a special touch, consider adding:
- paper plates & napkins for easy clean-up
- a favorite dessert or treats
- or if the occasion is positive, you could bring a fun gift like this!!*
SAVE TIME ON GROCERIES
The COVID pandemic converted me completely to Grocery Pick-Up.
By quickly adding what I need on the app, I can pick up my groceries in less than 10 minutes. Plus, the items are saved when I need to order them again.
Here are several options depending on your favorite stores. ($10 off minimum orders.)
Get $10 off your first Walmart pick-up order (no fee!)
Get $10 off Instacart to shop at places like Aldi or Earth Fare.
Use Target’s curbside pickup with no minimum order!
Use Amazon Subscribe & Save or Amazon Pantry to put things on “autopilot”.
Best Recipes for Dinners to Take to A Friend
I feel like lasagna is such a staple meal to take to loved ones. However, this recipe taught me that it’s WAY easier than I thought.
gluten-free if using GF pasta
PS – we received this handy tote* as a wedding gift and it has made it so easy to transport hot casserole dishes.
If it’s cooler outside, this is such a cozy soup to serve! Make sure to bring some great bread that only needs a quick toast. You can also bring a salad if you want- although this soup is packed with veggies already!
gluten-free if using GF flour or other thickening agent
I love this recipe because “Asian” food doesn’t often come to mind when bringing dinner to someone. It gives some great variation to the soups & pastas, plus is a homemade version of some awesome takeout!
Gluten free if you use GF soy sauce (my friend recommends this one*!)
Recognize this from the Top 10 Starter Recipes? Easy, cheesy- can’t get enough of it. This recipe can be done in the crockpot or quickly on the stove-top. Just don’t forget the toppings!
Dairy free if you don’t add cheese, sour cream, etc.
Crockpot is the way to go for an easy meal if you don’t have too much time on your hands. Whether you use chicken, pork, or even a chuck roast, it will be falling to pieces by dinner time and perfect to take over to a friend!
I love using a crockpot that has clips for the lid because it makes it so easy to unplug and take over! We’ve had this one* for 4 years and it is absolutely perfect!
Can also be gluten free and dairy free if cream of mushroom soup is substituted appropriately
Consistent with every recipe I’ve ever made from Gimme Some Oven, I found this recently and LOVE it. I’m ashamed (or not ashamed?) to say I’ve also tried adding a little bacon to the recipe early on to give it some extra flavor and love it that way, too. Of course, it wouldn’t be vegetarian then, but it’s an option!
Vegan if not garnished with cheese
Dairy free if not garnished with cheese
An amazing twist on classic chicken noodle, it is so comforting and can be frozen if needed. This is especially good for your sniffly or achy loved ones as they get better! Pair with a great bread (or maybe some Sleepy Time Sinus Soother* 😉 )
Gluten free if using GF orzo
This is how you do pasta. Seriously so tasty & easy to make! Coming from Budget Bytes, it’s also easy on the wallet!
Gluten free if using GF pasta (egg noodles work well if not avoiding egg!)
9. Breakfast Casserole
What’s better than breakfast for dinner?
While breakfast casserole can be done many ways – there are two takes that are my favorite. First is the sausage-crescent roll combo like this one. And also amazing is more potato-focused like the one here. Pair either of these comfort foods with some fresh fruit – totally golden.
Potato-based casserole is gluten-free (but the crescent roll recipe is not)
10. Chicken fajitas
This recipe is wonderful for both baking in the oven or using the crockpot, and I’ve received tons of compliments.
I tend to make this on my favorite baking sheet* rather than a glass dish to cut down some of the moisture.
Make sure to take over some tortillas, cheese, and sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt if your friends roll like that).
Gluten free if using GF tortillas
Dairy free if you don’t add cheese, sour cream, etc.
11. Hearty salads
Oddly enough, I craved salads after my first son was born. Don’t shy away from a good salad, especially in warmer months! I loved this recipe in particular that was made for me.
Make a quick salad with grilled chicken! I love putting together a green salad with lettuces, spinach, cucumber, cheese & marinated grilled chicken. Include a bottle of their favorite dressing or your own quick homemade recipe* and you’re good to go!
Ina Garten recipe above is:
vegetarian as long as no meat is added
12. Roasted Kielbasa and Cabbage Dinner
I’ve included this because (1) it’s a family favorite, (2) it’s a great way to mix up the meals someone is receiving and (3) it is chosen very often when I send several recipes for someone to choose from.
13. Potato Bar Chili
Not only is this delicious, comforting and easy to make – it is also perfect for a large family or crowd.
It can be customized so easily to meet different dietary needs, as well. If dairy is not a concern, cheese and sour cream are the perfect additions – but it’s also great on its own!
Similar to the last recipe, many of my friends have requested this meal! It is unique but healthy and flavorful.
dairy free if omit cheese topping
This is an amazing soup for cold weather while still mixing up the flavors! There are a lot of variations out there – adding mushrooms, shredded cabbage, celery, and more – but this is a great beginner recipe.
In cooking this meal for our son, we’ve had to be careful with sneaky ingredients in Ramen, soy sauce, pastes, etc. Be sure to review sauces, spices, and noodles if you’re cooking for someone with severe food allergies.
Could be easily modified to be vegetarian by replacing beef with more vegetables
Also a family favorite, this is a great spin on normal tortilla/taco soup. With only 5 ingredients, ability to cook on the stove or in the crockpot, and very customizable with toppings – it’s a definite winner.
Gluten free if using GF chips for topping
Dairy free if omitting cheese and sour cream toppings
This is the ultimate comfort food! While dairy may be prohibited during surgery recovery (always be sure to ask), this can be such a comforting meal for postpartum or other times.
As a personal suggestion, you can easily replace tortellini with farfalle pasta for a slightly-less-cheesy option.
Gluten free if using GF pasta/tortellini
Egg free if using EG pasta (check ingredient warnings)
If you know your friend typically enjoys lighter and healthier, this is a fresh, easy, delicious option!
I first made this soup when my husband had the flu, and it is hands-down the coziest, heartiest meal. While it takes a little time to put together, it is full of flavor and nutrients. (Do yourself a favor, double the recipe, and have dinner for yourself!)
Gluten free (but check spices and canned soup to be sure!)
20. Take-Out or Delivery!
Do not feel bad about this option! Whether you live out of town or are just super busy, a take-out meal can be a real treat and fun change for your friend at home.
With services like UberEats or the many restaurants that offer delivery, you are sure to find a great meal for dinner.
I hope you found the perfect recipe for your loved one!
You’re making the world a better place by meeting the needs around you. ❤️
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Some resources are my own, and some are from other creators. ALL of them will help you overcome what is holding you back from enjoying peace of mind and a home you love.