How To Transport A Hot Meal

Taking a meal to someone in need requires a certain amount of preparation and care to deliver the food safely.

One of the kindest gestures a person can make is to deliver a hot, home-cooked meal to someone who is ill, busy, or struggling with difficult emotions. Everyone enjoys a home-cooked meal, and having it brought right to your home is a plus.

But getting the meal there safely and intact can be challenging. Soup or stews can spill, casseroles may tip, and rolls may not stay warm. When planning your next meal delivery, here are a few practical suggestions:

1. Prepare a meal that can be transported by vehicle rather easily. Avoid multi-layer cakes, dishes served with hot oil (like wilted lettuce), soufflés, or anything that is eminently spillable. Plan dishes that can be packaged and carried by car smoothly with a limited risk of falling, cooling, spilling, or collapsing. One-dish casseroles with limited and neat (as opposed to messy) side dishes are useful, as well as square, circular, or round desserts, like cakes or pies, or those that can be packaged in containers of those shapes.

2. Use disposable cooking and storage pans. For example, bake a meatloaf in a lightweight, disposable aluminum pan. If it becomes messy while baking transfer the cooked meatloaf to a clean pan of the same type. Buy the accompanying lids, if available, to snap on and cover food to keep it hot. Or cover warm foods with sheets of aluminum foil, tucking it carefully under the lip of the pan all the way around, or layering it two or three times for added insulation and spill-proof protection. Some people place the wrapped foil dishes in plastic or paper grocery bags for added protection. Do the same with side dishes, breads, salads, and desserts.

3. Include unopened accompaniments. Instead of slapping butter on the bread or a vegetable, include a separately wrapped stick so your guests can apply the desired amount for themselves. You may want to avoid salting food for the same reason. New bottles of salad dressing and soft drinks are easier to load and transport than those that are already open.

4. Pack wrapped food into cartons or boxes, perhaps two or three items per box, for easy, safe travel and carrying from your house to the car, and from the car to your guests' door. Lay several layers of newspaper on the floor of the back seat or the trunk of your vehicle before setting the cartons inside. Pack a blanket around the outside of the boxes to help hold them stable.

5. Be careful when carrying the boxes to and from the car. Avoid letting eager children lift heavy or hot loads. Instead, let them have a package of dinner rolls or a two-liter bottle of soda to carry. Let the recipients know if you want your containers or boxes returned, or take the boxes with you. You may want to include a treat for their pet, or a bouquet of flowers as a special, added token to your gift.

6. Don't stay to share the meal or converse. Unless the family presses you urgently, let them enjoy the feast in peace. Stay just long enough to deliver the meal along with your good wishes, then head back to the car for your return trip home.

Delivering a home-cooked meal can be a true blessing during stressful times. Don't take chances on dropping, spilling, or losing part of the meal by failing to wrap it securely.

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