This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

You’ve asked, we’ve heard, and now we’ve pulled it together! Here is your ultimate guide to cooking for others and easy meal train ideas for those in your life. This is a complete guide; whether it’s your first time or your fifteenth time in prepping a meal for someone in need, I’ve got you covered. 

A collage of foods that reads: A Guide to Home-Cooked Meals & Meal Train Ideas

I’m really excited to share this post with you because it’s an extremely useful tool and resource filled with great recipes that will help you help those in need! Meal trains are a fabulous way to show support for friends and family in times of need. 

Whether your loved ones are suffering a loss, just had a baby, underwent surgery, or need a little extra help, a home-cooked meal is always appreciated. I cook a lot for others and have gathered a few tips throughout the years, which I share below. Keep reading to learn what a meal train is, how to start one, and find family-friendly recipes to make! 

What is a Meal Train? 

A meal train is an organized way for friends, family, or community members to provide meals to someone in need, most often during significant life events like illness, recovery, or the birth of a baby. 

It is a schedule during which those who participate bring meals to the family in need on specific days, typically ensuring the family receives meals daily. Meal trains are designed to reduce the stress of the individuals in need, allowing them to focus on healing or managing their current situation. 

Looking for more details? Learn more about the process, and organize your own plan for someone in need with Meal Train

A Few Notes About Delivering Meals

  • Dietary Restrictions: Always inquire about dietary restrictions before planning the meal! What do the kids hate? What are you hoping to get the kids to eat more of? Does everyone eat meat? Are there any family members with food allergies or intolerances? Etc.
  • Delivery Time: Text/email/call the coordinator or the family to find out the best time to deliver dinner. Keep in mind that the family is dealing with an important issue (either good in the case of a new baby or difficult in the case of illness) and may not want to visit with friends. So, plan on dropping food off on the porch.
  • Disposable Containers: I always use disposable food containers/trays so the family doesn’t have to clean dishes for me to pick back up!
  • Make it Extra Special: If I have time and depending on the situation, I’ll add chocolates, wine, flowers, or something extra special. If the occasion is a newborn baby, something special for the big brother or sister, like a coloring book, stamps, stickers, or a little game is always a great idea to make them feel extra special. If I know the person and am in communication with them, I’ll ask them if they need any groceries on my way (milk, eggs, bread, etc.)
  • No time to cook? Look into local meal delivery services or restaurants, and have a meal delivered! Chip in with friends and figure out a schedule that works.

Meal Train Recipe Ideas

Breakfast Meal Train Ideas:

  1. Granola
  2. Freezer Breakfast Sandwiches: grab and go – so easy!
  3. Cut Up Fresh Fruit & Yogurt
  4. Frozen Smoothie Packs: Place smoothie ingredients for one serving in freezer-friendly Ziploc bags, label with an expiration date (about 6 months for frozen fruit), and store in the freezer until ready to use!
  5. Freezer Waffles: Pumpkin Waffles, Double Chocolate Banana Waffles, or the Best Ever Waffles in my Cookbook
  6. Freezer-Friendly Pancakes: Paleo Pancakes, Kid-Friendly Spinach Pancakes, Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pancakes
  7. Frittata: Potato Leek and Chard Frittata, Sweet Potato BLT Frittata
  8. Quiche
  9. Sheet Pan Eggs
  10. Overnight Cinnamon Roll French Toast
  11. Breakfast Burritos (freezer-friendly)
  12. Breakfast Parfaits in Mini Mason Jars
  13. Muffins: Cinnamon Bun, Banana Berry, Pumpkin Sticky Bun Muffins, Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Muffins, Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins, Coffee Crumb Cake Muffins
  14. Breakfast Cookies
  15. Tex Mex Egg Muffin Cups

Main Meal Train Meals: Lunches & Dinners

  1. Freezer Burritos
  2. Pasta Dishes: Pesto Pasta Salad, Pasta with Meat Sauce, Sausage and Veggie Pasta, Mac and Cheese
  3. A Protein: Grilled Chicken, Steak, Shrimp, Fish
  4. Meatballs: Thai Meatballs, Loaded Turkey Meatballs, Nanny’s Sweet & Sour Meatballs, Swedish Meatballs
  5. Taquitos: Oven Baked Beef Taquitos, Air Fryer Chicken Taquitos, Buffalo Chicken Taquitos, Pulled Pork Taquitos
  6. A Batch of Soup: Chicken and Kale Soup, Turkey Chili, Game Day White Chicken Chili, Healthy Broccoli Soup, Green Chili Vegetable Soup, Feel Good Veggie Soup, Classic Chicken Soup, Butternut Squash Curry Soup, Tomato Basil Soup (with grilled cheese), Slow Cooker French Onion Soup (and send a loaf of bread)
  7. Chicken Nuggets or Tenders: Gluten-Free Chicken Nuggets, Pecan Popcorn Chicken, Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
  8. Sheet Pan Dinners: Sheet Pan Buffalo Chicken, Sheet Pan Chicken & Veggies
  9. One Pan Meals: Lemon Garlic Chicken & Rice, One-Pan Indian Spiced Chicken & Cauliflower, One-Pan Fiesta Chicken
  10. DIY Taco Bar or Taco Salads
  11. Casseroles: Spaghetti Squash Bake, Creamy Pumpkin Casserole, Sweet Potato Casserole
  12. Slow Cooker Dishes: Caribbean Pulled Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Thai Curry Chicken, Beef Barbacoa, Carne Asada, Slow Cooker Baked Potato Bar
  13. Easy: Sausage, Peppers, and Onions
  14. Mason Jar Salads and Thai-Inspired Chopped Chicken Salad in Mason Jars
  15. Avocado Egg Salad and a Loaded Egg Salad
  16. Bowls: Copy-Cat Chipotle Burrito Bowls, Thai Turkey Bowls, Korean Ground Beef Bowls, Mediterranean Bowls, or Paleo Asian Beef and Rice
  17. Stir Fry
  18. Sandwiches: Lettuce Wrap Sandwich, DIY Lunch Pinwheels
  19. Chicken Salads: Pesto Chicken Salad, Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad, Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Salad, Taco Chicken Salad, Loaded Chicken Salad Four Ways, and more.
  20. A Tray of Lasagna, Oven Baked Ziti, No Boil Pasta Bake, Pizza Burrata Pasta

Meal Train Side Dishes

  1. Tray of Roasted Vegetables: Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Spiced Roasted Cauliflower, Perfect Roasted Veggies, Garlic Roasted Vegetables
  2. Salads: Arugula Salad with Mint Chia Dressing, Steak Cobb Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette, Grilled Caesar Salad
  3. Mexican Street Corn Salad
  4. Israeli Salad
  5. Pasta Salads: Antipasto Pasta Salad, BLT Pasta Salad, Cold Asian Noodle Salad, Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad, Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad, Caprese Pesto Pasta Salad, Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad, Classic Macaroni Salad
  6. Sweet Potato Fries, Zucchini Fries, Eggplant Fries, or Regular Fries
  7. Instant Pot Risotto
  8. Beet Slaw
  9. Greek 3-Bean Salad
  10. Potato Latkes (makes a lot)
  11. Mediterranean Fritters (makes a lot)
  12. Potluck Sweet Cucumber Salad or TikTok Cucumber and Sweet Pepper Salad
  13. Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread Muffins, Easy Gluten-Free Cornbread
  14. Classic Potato Salad

Snacks/Treats for a Meal Train

  1. Cut up Veggies & Hummus or Other Dip: Tzatziki Sauce, Spanish Eggplant Dip, Buffalo Chicken Dip, Spinach and Artichoke Dip
  2. Chips & Salsa: 5-Minute Ají, Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
  3. Trail Mix (make a homemade blend of nuts, dried fruit, seeds, and chocolate chunks)
  4. Granola Bars
  5. No-Bake Energy Balls: Nut-Free Energy Balls, Mint Chip Bites, Chocolate Chip Cookie Energy Bites, PB and J Oatmeal Energy Balls, Tart Cherry Coconut Energy Balls
  6. Cookies: Double Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Chai Cookie Bars, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Gluten-Free Lactation Cookies, Kitchen Sink Lactation Cookies
  7. Secret Ingredient Brownies (send a pint of ice cream, too)
  8. Cupcakes
  9. Chocolate Dessert Cups + Fresh Fruit
  10. Bowl of Fruit (pre-cut)


  1. Cold Brew Ice Coffee
  2. A Pitcher of Iced Tea
  3. A Pitcher of Lemonade
  4. Chia Seed Jam
  5. Paleo Sandwich Bread or a Loaf of Bread
  6. DIY Chicken Rub
  7. Wine
  8. Chocolate
  9. Flowers
  10. Fresh Milk (or other groceries)
  11. Nonfood-related meal train ideas: Chip in with friends and hire a cleaning service!


What is the etiquette for a meal train? 

It’s best to organize a meal train in advance and communicate with the family in need regarding the types of foods and delivery times. Don’t plan on staying, instead speak only for a few minutes as you drop off the food, or leave it on the porch. 

How long should a meal train be?

Four to six weeks is the average length of time for a meal train, but you can also ask what would be most helpful! 

What food is best for a meal train? 

The best meal train ideas are comforting recipes that make enough for a family, store, and reheat well.

What kind of meals to bring for a meal train?

Commonly dinner is brought, but it’s a good reminder that a breakfast, or prepped lunch is extremely helpful for people too! Pack a little snack in with the dropoff, too, and help take any extra pressure off of the recipients.

I hope that you find this resource extremely helpful and that the meal train ideas hit the spot with those you’re serving.

You May Also Like

Secrets to Quick Dinners
Get my practical tips & advice for a healthier life dropped right into your inbox!
newsletter collage

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Hi Lexi! I absolutely love your recipes! I have your cookbook and I have made just about every recipe in it!
    My family is eating so much healthier now and looks forward to seeing what I prepare for them next. This guide is fantastic. Thank you for sharing these helpful tips. I’m really looking forward to a new cookbook, hopefully soon!

  2. Love this and the timing could not be better! I have two families/meal trains to do this week, thanks Lexi!

  3. Love the meal train idea! When our kids were born we were part of a mom’s group who always provided meals to families with new borns 🙂