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How to Organize Meals for a Friend in Need: A Review of 5 Meal Planning Websites

Updated on May 30, 2017
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Meal Coordination Websites

A few years ago, I became the Food Team Coordinator for my church. Whenever someone has a new baby or has had surgery or illness, I am the one called upon to arrange for meals to be provided for them and their family from our church members. After several months of being a middleman and making phone calls back and forth, a friend told me about a website called Take Them A Meal.. I found that this website was a great tool to simplify meal coordination. On the site, you have the opportunity to make a meal coordination page for an individual or family. This page allows you to add important information such as food allergies, likes, dislikes, etc. Other information to include is the recipient's address and how many people the meal will need to feed. There is a calendar for you to put in the dates a meal is requested. When a meal provider signs up, they can put in their name, number and what food they will be providing on the date. The website will send both the coordinator and the food provider an e-mail reminder a day or so before they are scheduled to take the meal.

Have you ever taken a meal to someone in need?

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The Benefits of Online Meal Coordination

When you are trying to plan multiple meals for someone, there are going to be a lot of texts, e-mails or calls back and forth between potential meal providers and the meal recipient to coordinate information. It cannot be fun for new moms or people recovering from surgery to be bothered by constant questions!

There is also the risk that 3 meal providers in a row might all bring lasagna! I doubt anyone loves lasagna that much!

Also, the sleep deprived mama brain might have a hard time keeping up with what days meals are scheduled. This gives her an easy way to check on her meal schedule.

Another benefit is through the use of a website, though the meal planning my originate from a church, group or club associated with the family in need, the information can be easily shared with other outside family members and friends in the community. This way everyone is organized in one central location to make things much easier for those coordinating and receiving the meals.

All of the potential problems and confusion are solved with the simplicity of a meal coordinating website. There is no need for a middleman. Once the meal page is set up on the meal coordinating website, the friend or family member coordinating can spread the word about the page. Individuals can then go to the page, see what dates are available, sign up for a date and also include the type of meal planned to avoid consecutive repeats. The recipient of the meal will be able to also go on the website and see what is scheduled to be delivered.

As a meal coordinator, I can attest to the immeasurable value of such a service! The coordinator can also monitor the sign up list to make sure the particular meals needs are being met.

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Reviews:

Below you will find my reviews of 5 different meal coordination websites and their notable features:

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1. Take Them A Meal:

I will begin with the website I first began using for meal coordination Take Them a Meal remains my favorite. This free meal website is the one I find to be the most uncomplicated. You simply use your e-mail address and create a password to make a free account.

Next, you create a meal schedule. You put in the information needed about the recipient (name, address, preferences, etc) and make a password for this particular meal plan. To make it simple, you can select a range of dates to provide meals and select what days of the week (such as Monday, Wednesday, Friday) to have meals provided. The site will then create the schedule for you. If you have need for a more custom plan, you can add or delete custom dates. You can also arrange for multiple meals to be delivered in the same day.

You may invite friends from the website itself or just spread the word and tell them to sign up by using the recipient's last name and the password to access their schedule. So easy! The recipient may also view their schedule using their last name and password. Take Them a Meal will automatically e-mail the meal provider a reminder a day or so before the meal is to be delivered. I found this site has the easiest way to view the entire meal planning schedule of upcoming meals and dates available.

There are also recipes available on the website to assist you in meal planning.


2. Meal Train:

This website can be found at www.mealtrain.com. The meal coordination concept is the same as Take Them a Meal with the following differences:

-click on specific dates on a calendar

-journal and guestbook features

-option to make donations, however Meal Train takes 5% from each donation.

-they have a premium services such as scheduling multiple meals a day or arranging other types of care services for one-time $10 fee.

3. CaringMeals:

Another meal coordination website is www.caringmeals.com. I found this website to be the most difficult to navigate.

First, you had to confirm your e-mail address to sign up.

You had to add each individual meal date instead of being able to schedule a range of dates or easily click on a calendar.

It was also difficult to delete the meal plan if so desired.

They do have the option to add friends on the site who can have ready access to your meal plans. It is much less user friendly for the meal provider and the recipient though. There is a search option for a friend's name in order to find a meal plan.

4. Care Calendar:

The Care Calendar at www.carecalendar.com is also a little more complicated and time consuming to set up. However, it does give you options to set up more types of care.

In addition to meals, they have the options for you to set up eldercare, childcare, etc. There are more steps to setting up a page on this site but they are offering more services which require more details.

A gift shop is available for users to have the opportunity purchase cards to send. The use of this website is also free.

5. Meal Baby:

This website at www.mealbaby.com offers a few unique options especially for those that are no longer living in close proximity to the meal recipients.

-easy to click on calendar dates

-option to have restaurant gift cards sent to family in need of meal (for a shipping and processing fee of $4.95 and up). The gift cards offered are to various restaurants in $25 increments.

-it also recommends a link to a website (the TLC Kitchen) that offers meal gifts that can be delivered directly to the meal recipient's address

-the coordinator may send e-mail invitations or there is a specific link users may click on or share that takes you directly to the website. After creating an account or signing in you may view the meal plan


Meal Coordination Websites and Notable Features

Take Them A Meal
Meal Train
CaringMeals
Care Calendar
Meal Baby
very user friendly
option for donations to recipient
less user friendly
more steps to arrange plans
can purchase restaurant gift cards
recipes to view
offers journal and guestbook
can add friends list
offers plans for more services
user friendly
easily viewed calendar and meal
have premium site with more features
search options for recipient name
has gift shop for cards
link to share for meal plan page
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Concluding Thoughts:

I hope you find this information about the meal websites helpful as you make an effort to bless others through the gift of food. I have highlighted all the features that I have noted as being significant by navigating through or using each website. I highly recommend Take Them A Meal because it is so easy to use. I have had great success personally using this website to plan long and short term meal needs for my church members. Since each website offers a very helpful service to people in need, as long as you pick an option and are ministering to others - you can't go wrong!

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