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How to Set Up a Meal Train
December 5, 2022

How to Set Up a Meal Train

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How to Set Up a Meal Train.
How to Set Up a Meal Train

With a new baby to care for, parents have too much on their plate to worry about, well, what’s on their plate. Between changing a dozen diapers every day, persevering through cluster feeds and trying to figure out every little thing about this tiny person, new parents often don’t have the time or energy to cook for themselves (let alone wash the dishes afterward). That’s exactly why people set up meal trains.

What is a meal train?

A meal train is a series of fresh meals delivered to someone in need organized by their friends, family, co-workers or anyone else in their community. If someone in your life just welcomed a new baby into their family, a meal train is a great way to make sure they’re staying well fed as they focus on their newest addition. A few key things to know about doing a meal train:

  • It should be a group effort. The more people who join in, the better fed the recipients will be. And it’ll be a huge help if you have a co-organizer, too.
  • Deliveries don’t have to happen every day. If the meals are big enough to have leftovers, it’s better if they’re spaced out every other day or two to three days a week. But if there are enough participants to provide meals every day, recipients might be able to freeze any leftovers for later (which can really come in handy once new parents on family leave go back to work).
  • It can last for a few days, a few weeks or even a few months, and it can be any or all meals of the day.

How to Set Up a Meal Train

There are a few steps to setting up a meal train, and you can expect to spend less than 30 minutes total to get things going.

You’ll want to do at least some of the setup before baby arrives, if possible, so deliveries can start right away and the new parents aren’t having to help set things up when they’ve got bigger things to take care of.

  • Decide on a method. A collaborative online document like Google Docs or Google Sheets is one free option. There are also a few different websites out there that make it super easy to organize meal deliveries:
    • Meal Train: The regular version of Meal Train is totally free and allows you to schedule one meal delivery per day. To schedule multiple meals per day plus other tasks like grocery shopping, housekeeping and pet care, Meal Train Plus costs $10 (one-time fee).
    • Take Them a Meal: Allows you to schedule one meal per day, either for making and delivering yourself or for purchase through the Take Them a Meal store (they make the food and deliver it, you don’t have to do anything but pay).
    • Give in Kind: Not only can you schedule multiple daily meal deliveries, you can also schedule other types of help like childcare, housekeeping, errands and even visiting with the family. The new parents can also add a wishlist of their favorite restaurants. All for free!
  • Get the new parents’ info. You’ll need to ask about:
    • Delivery address and any special instructions (if there’s a gate code, whether or not you should ring the doorbell, etc.).
    • Best number to call or text ahead of delivery.
    • Best time of day to deliver.
    • How many people to make food for (especially if they have other children).
    • Food allergies. This is a big one, as some food allergies can cause really serious reactions. If you’re not comfortable cooking for a family with food allergies, a gift card for a meal delivery app like DoorDash, UberEats or GrubHub is a safe option.
    • Favorite foods and restaurants.
    • Dietary restrictions and food dislikes.
    • Who they want you to share the meal train info with. Are they okay with having it posted on social media? (Remember: their address will be visible). Is there a group chat or email list it can be sent to?
  • Set up a delivery schedule. Ask the parents to update you when baby arrives so you can kick things off. It’s likely that the first meal delivery won’t be made until a few days after, and four weeks is generally the recommended length of time for meal trains to run (though they can certainly go longer). If you haven’t told others about it before it starts, it’s a good idea for you to take on the first meal delivery so that slot doesn’t go unfilled.
  • Spread the word. Once baby has arrived, it’s time to launch the meal train! Share it with everyone in the new parents’ community, but also be mindful of their privacy and anywhere they don’t want their information shared. You may need to prompt the participants a few times over the course of the meal train’s duration to make sure as many slots as possible get filled.
  • Start delivering meals. Pick a date, pick a meal, make it (or buy it), deliver it! And feel good about providing nourishment to (probably very tired) new parents. Keep in mind: Delivering a meal is not an invitation to visit and meet the new baby. Unless you’ve been specifically told by the new parents that it’s okay to stick around, plan to just drop off the food and leave.

What food do I bring for a meal train?

In need of meal train ideas? The best place to start is with the people you’re feeding. Most meal trains have at least a little information about the recipients’ favorite and least favorite foods, but if they haven’t provided that, it’s okay to ask.

Other than their favorite foods, a meal that checks these boxes is sure to be a winner (especially for those who just gave birth):

  • Hearty and filling
  • High in lean protein
  • High in fiber
  • High in calcium
  • Multi-course meal: not just the main dish, but sides and dessert too
  • Provides enough for leftovers
  • Freezes well
  • Easy to reheat

Can’t cook? No problem! Meal trains don’t have to be homemade; restaurant delivery via DoorDash, GrubHub or UberEats is totally fine too, as are gift cards.

No matter what food or meal delivery gift cards you provide, the new parents in your life will be grateful for the help. It really does take a village to raise a child, and ensuring healthy, hearty meals is one of the best ways to provide that support from day one.

Amylia Ryan

Associate Editor

Amylia Ryan is the Associate Editor at Babylist, specializing in the topics of health, wellness and lifestyle products. Combining a decade of experience in writing and editing with a deep passion for helping people, her number one goal in her work is to ensure new parents feel supported and understood. She herself is a parent to two young children, who are more than willing to help product test endless toys, books, clothes, toiletries and more.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content and review products, as well as the Babylist Health Advisory Board.