Did your friend just have a baby, or surgery, or is grieving? A hot dinner they didn’t have to think about is such a meaningful gift. Take them one of my favorite comforting recipes. I’ll tell you my whole process to make it super easy for you. This is a list of my EXACT menu favorites, down to how I package every item; check out the sister post How to Bring a Meal to a Friend for tons more tips and ideas sourced from hundreds of home cooks.

collage of photos with pictures of main dishes with text overlay that says, "12 Meal to Take to a friend".

It can feel overwhelming to think about making a meal, packing it up still-warm, putting it in your car, trying not to slop it all over the seat, and hustling it up to your friend’s door.

It’s a big job, but you can do this! Here are twelve simple menu plans, (SIMPLE, much is store bought), that will help guide you toward giving the gift of food to your loved ones, without overwhelming you so much that you never sign up again.

You will see me call for a bagged salad from the store on nearly every menu, and a few other repetitive sides. Because that’s what I almost always do! No apologies. This is just the reality of my life. I’m usually on a time crunch and I’m sure you are too!

These twelve easy meals to take to someone are just the tip of the iceberg. For tons more suggestions and recipes from many other sources, see my How to Bring a Meal to a Friend post!


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four tacos side by side in charred corn tortillas with juicy meat, cotija, and green salsa.

Chicken Tacos or Beef Tacos using my Homemade Taco Seasoning Recipe. This is incredibly easy to prep, and a meal that is almost universally liked by all. If you are feeding someone who is low carb, skip the tortillas; see my Taco Salad recipe.

  • Make the chicken or beef start to finish. Place cooked meat in one half of a dispoable 9×13 aluminum pan. (See the bottom of the post for links to all of my favorite products to package food in.)
  • Fill the other half with a warmed up can or two of refried beans.
  • Chop up (or buy) a ziplock bag full of romaine lettuce ready to go, lined with paper towels.
  • Buy them a new sour cream, or give them one that you have half used.
  • Tortillas
  • Store bought shredded Cheese
  • Bag of chips (Juanitas, plz)
  • jar of salsa, I prefer the fresh salsa from the refrigerated section.
  • Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies, if you’re feelin extra. If you are delivering dough balls, deliver in a ziplock with instructions for how to bake. If you are delivering cookies, put them on a paper plate covered in foil.
  • Bring paper plates, plastic silverware, and cups.
best taco salad recipe
Taco Salad
4.92 from 56 votes
Taco Salad is a show-stopper dinner, if you do it right. Plus it's healthy! I'll show you all my tips (and the best ingredients) for Taco Salad, Done Right. Plus two taco salad dressing recipes to choose from!
View Recipe

2.Old Fashioned Potato Soup

easy potato soup being lifted with a spoon.

Potato Soup is dreamy creamy, kids and adults love it, and it’s SO easy to make. It’s a great option for picky kids or people who have just had surgery (or anyone dealing with a queasy stomach.)

  • Make the soup start to finish. Transport in ziplocks, OR if it’s a good friend, march into their house and pour your pot into one of their own pots.
  • Buy a bag of shredded cheddar cheese
  • Chop green onions and bring in a ziplock
  • Buy a bag of salad at the store that includes dressing
  • Buy garlic bread at the store (or make Homemade Garlic Bread or French Bread). Transport wrapped in heavy duty foil. Make sure it is sliced and ready to eat.
  • Make this with Peach Cobbler, if you really love your friend. Use canned or frozen peaches to simplify. Bake in an aluminum pan. If you are short on time make Chocolate Chip Cookies, either baked and set on a paper plate, or dough balls in a ziplock with instructions. Or skip dessert altogether!
  • Bring paper bowls, plates, plastic silverware, and cups
homemade potato soup in a white bowl with cheese garnish
Potato Soup Recipe (Easy)
4.91 from 456 votes
This Easy Potato Soup recipe is the real deal. Shared with me from the granddaughter of an Idaho potato farmer, this homemade soup is creamy, thick, and luxurious, even without the optional cheesy garnish. It is truly the best potato soup I've ever had. And it only takes about 30 minutes to make!
View Recipe

3.The best Baked Ziti ever, for real

cheesy ziti bake.

The original title of this recipe was “Postpartum Ziti” because it’s such a great meal to take to someone after they have a baby. It feeds an army and is great for nursing mamas! It’s honestly the best baked ziti I’ve ever had. It’s different than most: cubed mozzarella, cream, etc.

  • Bake the casserole start to finish in a 9×13 aluminum pan, OR divide between two aluminum 8×8 pans. Cover with foil or lid. Carry it into their house on a half sheet pan, so your disposable pan doesn’t wobble (don’t forget to bring the sheet pan home right away.)
  • (Alternatively: bring the casserole before baking and include instructions for how to bake it.)
  • Make a big salad to balance all the pasta. A bag from the store is just fine, or this Apple Gorgonzola Salad. Bring the dressing in a mason jar, salad and all toppings in a ziplock. Squeeze the apples with lemon juice if they won’t be eating for a while.
  • Bread is nice but not even necessary in my opinion. Buy garlic bread at the store (or make Homemade Garlic Bread or French Bread) Transport wrapped in heavy duty foil. Make sure it is sliced and ready to eat.
  • Dessert: No Bake Cookies on a paper plate with foil.
  • Bring paper plates, plastic silverware, and cups.

Reader Carolyn says, “Oh my goodness!  Yum!  I just took this over to a young family, thinking it would be easy, kid-friendly and leftovers could be frozen for later. I’m so glad I put a small amount in another pan for me and my husband. I just got a call from the mommy asking for the recipe!  Now that’s a win!”

The Best Baked Ziti with Cottage Cheese (Postpartum Ziti)
4.90 from 94 votes
Italian sausage marinara, cottage cheese, and fresh basil combine to make this decadent casserole. We've always called it "Postpartum Ziti" because it makes a TON and is perfect for bringing to new moms!
View Recipe

4.Easy Slow-Cooker Chicken Stroganoff

slow cooker chicken stroganoff over egg noodles.

Slow Cooker Chicken Stroganoff is one of my favorite meals to bring to new moms. It’s super easy to put together, easy to double if you want to feed your own family the same meal, and to top it off it’s very kid friendly. So if you are bringing a meal to a family with toddlers and young kids, you are giving mama the gift of not having to fight with her kids about eating dinner. Butter the noodles well and leave them separate from the sauce.

  • Make the recipe start to finish.
  • Spoon the chicken into one half of a disposable aluminum pan, trying to keep it to one side. Butter the noodles well and spoon them into the other half of the pan. Cover with foil or a lid.
  • Steam a bag of frozen broccoli in the microwave or blanch for 3 minutes in boiling water. Season with plenty of salt and dot with butter. Store in a medium tupperware, or you could even pile onto a paper plate and cover with foil.
  • Optional second side dish: Raspberry Avocado Salad. Bring it in a ziplock with dressing in a jam jar. Or a bag of salad from the store.
  • Optional dessert: Rice Krispie Treats on a paper plate covered in foil.
  • Bring paper plates, plastic silverware, and cups.

Reader Michelle said “OH. MY. GOSH!! This was delicious. So easy to put together, and the chicken was fall-apart tender. I did use the white wine like suggested and followed everything as instructed. It was really, really good.

Slow Cooker Chicken Stroganoff
5 from 13 votes
This recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken Stroganoff is a huge crowd pleaser and SO easy to put together! Who can say no to creamy noodles and chicken? You can either use a can of cream of chicken soup or use the simple homemade sauce recipe I’ve included. This is one of my favorite meals to bring to new moms.
View Recipe

5.White Chicken Chili

creamy white chicken chili in a large bowl with sour cream and lime and spoon.

Honestly White Chicken Chili is probably one of my top recipes for bringing to someone, because I almost ALWAYS have everything on hand to make it, and it pleases almost everyone, kids included. It’s so good and perfect for doubling. If you’re not into white chili, try Easy 45 Minute Chili, The Best Chili, or the crock pot version, Cream Cheese Chicken Chili.

  • Make the chili start to finish. Spoon into ziplocks, or transport in mason jars, or use these handy soup containers.
  • Make cornbread, baked in a disposable aluminum pan. Use a cornbread mix if that makes your life easier.
  • Bring toppings in separate containers:
  • shredded cheese (store bought if it makes life easier)
  • chopped cilantro
  • tub of sour cream
  • tortilla chips
  • avocado
  • If they have a really large family, include a salad kit as well.
  • Dessert: Raspberry Crumble Bars, baked and cooled and stacked on a paper plate with foil.
  • Bring paper bowls and plates, plastic silverware, and cups.
white bean chicken chili in a white bowl with lime and cheese garnish
White Chicken Chili (Easy)
4.89 from 52 votes
This Creamy White Chicken Chili recipe is the best one I've ever tried, and it's super easy to throw together! Tender shredded chicken is combined with white beans in a thick and creamy sauce. There is an unexpected secret ingredient that brings the flavor of this chili over the top! 
View Recipe


BLT sandwich with mayo, lettuce, tomato, bacon, and avocado.

BLT’s are fast, simple, and everybody loves them. Make this for someone who can handle a little prep on their own, you will be delivering ingredients so they can make the sandwich themselves.

  • Buy a jar of mayonnaise, or give them one from your fridge that’s already open (assuming you don’t have disgusting children who leave crumbs in it…)
  • Tomatoes sliced and salted, laid out on paper towels in layers in an aluminum pan
  • Avocados sliced and salted in a tupperware, squeeze with lemon juice if they won’t be eating immediately.
  • Lettuce leaves washed and dried, in a ziplock with paper towels
  • Plenty of cooked bacon, drained and cooled and stored in ziplock.
  • Deliver with a loaf of white bread and a stick of butter. Instruct them to lightly toast and butter the bread before assembling sandwiches.
  • Side dishes: bag of salad or make them a Macaroni Salad.
  • Dessert option: Snickerdoodles, either baked and set on a paper plate, or dough balls in a ziplock with instructions.
  • Bring paper plates, plastic silverware, and cups.
how to make a BLT with bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and avocado
How to Make the Best BLT!
4.98 from 37 votes
I will show you exactly how to make the best BLT sandwich of your life! Sometimes the simplest recipes are the easiest to mess up. Nobody wants a soggy sandwich, or one that is flavorless and bland! I will show you all the tips and tricks you need to make a perfectly toasted, crispy-yet-tender, juicy and drippy avocado Bacon Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich.
View Recipe

7.Raspberry Balsamic Meatballs

Meatballs with raspberry balsamic glaze stacked on plate with green onion garnish.

These Raspberry Balsamic Meatballs are a grown up version of the grape jelly meatballs you may have tried. The balsamic and green onions give them that special flare. This is easy to double, so you can knock out your dinner and theirs.

  • Make the meatballs start to finish in the slow cooker.
  • Make rice. (One cup of dry rice serves about 2 adults generously.) (This would also work well with pasta or mashed potatoes.)
  • Spoon the meatballs into one half of a 9×13 disposable pan. Fill the other half with cooked rice. Cover with foil.
  • Make Oven Roasted Broccoli, or microwave some frozen broccoli or snow peas, or buy a bag of salad with dressing. Something green!
  • Deliver with small containers or baggies: one full of chopped green onions and the other with sesame seeds.
  • Dessert: Nana’s Famous Fudge Brownies, baked in a 9×13 aluminum pan. Or there’s always Chocolate Chip Cookies, either baked and set on a paper plate, OR dough balls in a ziplock with instructions. Or skip dessert!
  • Bring paper plates, plastic silverware, and cups.

Reader Gina said “I made these meatballs and my husband and I absolutely LOVE the sauce. I will never make the chili sauce and grape jelly ones again. Thank you for sharing!!”

Slow Cooker Raspberry Balsamic Meatballs from The Food Charlatan
Raspberry Balsamic Meatballs (Slow Cooker)
4.70 from 13 votes
Use pre-cooked meatballs to make this super easy weeknight meal. The raspberry and balsamic team up to throw a pretty awesome party in your mouth. These would also make a great Christmas or New Year's Eve appetizer. 
View Recipe

8.Crock Pot Beef Barley Soup

Beef barley soup in a bowl with large chunks of beef, cooked barley, and shredded carrots.

Beef Barley Soup is the homiest, most comforting soup of your life. It’s deceptively simple and makes a ton, so you can either give them the whole pot to feed them for days, or split it and feed your family too. You could also deliver half of it hot, and half of it in a ziplock for freezing.

  • Make the soup start to finish.
  • (I often leave the barley OUT of the soup, because it tends to get soggy, just like pasta gets over-done when soaked too long. So unless they are eating it immediately, I will hand them a little baggie with 1 cup barley and tell them to add it when they heat it up, cooking the soup on the stove for 30-45 minutes until tender.)
  • Bring the soup in ziplocks, OR if it’s a good friend, march into their house and pour your pot into one of their own pots.
  • Buy garlic bread at the store (or make Homemade Garlic Bread or French Bread).
  • Buy a Caesar salad kit from the store, or make this Green Salad with Feta and Beets.
  • Dessert: Absolutely the Best Brownies baked in a disposable pan (or transferred to a paper plate and covered).
  • Bring paper bowls, plates, plastic silverware, and cups.
beef and barley soup in a white bowl.
Beef and Barley Soup
4.83 from 69 votes
This soup is lovingly simmered on the stove or in the crock pot to produce the richest Beef Barley Soup recipe I've ever tasted. Shredded carrots and potatoes give it a fabulous, thick texture.
View Recipe

9.Easy Cheesy Ravioli Lasagna

serving spoons entering ravioli lasagna to serve.

There’s easy, and then there’s “you put the ravioli in the pan while it’s still frozen” easy. This Ravioli Lasagna recipe is great for kids and adults love it too. An oldie from my dear mother-in-law Kris.

  • Make the casserole start to finish in a disposable pan.
  • Bake it if they are eating right away; or find out if it would be better to deliver unbaked. Cover with foil or lid.
  • Buy a bag of salad. Or, make this Pineapple Spinach Salad.
  • Buy garlic bread at the store (or make Homemade Garlic Bread or French Bread). Transport wrapped in heavy duty foil. Make sure it is sliced and ready to eat.
  • Dessert option: Texas Cowboy Cookies.
  • Bring paper plates, plastic silverware, and cups.
Easy Ravioli Lasagna from The Food Charlatan
Easy Ravioli Lasagna
5 from 9 votes
This easy ravioli lasagna bake is a hearty no-brainer dinner to make on busy back-to-school nights. You don't even have to cook the ravioli, just throw it in frozen. It's a total crowd-pleaser! And a great make-ahead meal too.
View Recipe

10.Easy Baked Pesto Chicken

Close up on easy baked pesto chicken sliced with fork ready to eat.

This Baked Pesto Chicken is done lickety-split and has a super short ingredient list. If there’s leftover chicken, the recipients can repurpose it for sandwiches.

  • Make the chicken start to finish. Slice against the grain (if they have kids, do them this favor!) Transfer to one side of a disposable pan.
  • Make rice (One cup of dry rice serves about 2 adults generously) or pasta or Mashed Potatoes. Transfer to the other side of the pan with the chicken, or a new pan if necessary.
  • Make Broccoli Bacon Salad, or pick up a similar veggie side dish at the deli counter. Transport in a ziplock bag.
  • Dessert option: buy a tub of ice cream and bring them Homemade Chocolate Sauce in a mason jar (or buy store bought).
  • Bring paper plates, plastic silverware, and cups.
sliced breaded chicken on parchment paper.
Easy Baked Pesto Chicken
4.75 from 24 votes
This quick Easy Baked Pesto Chicken recipe comes together in about 30 minutes! Can't beat that. I love it because I almost always have these ingredients on hand so it's a good last minute dinner. 
View Recipe

11.Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

pulled pork in a black slow cooker, topped with barbecue sauce.

This Slow Cooker Pulled Pork is a dream come true. Incredibly flavorful, stupid easy to make, and feeds a crowd. You friends can use the leftovers in sandwiches for days.

  • Make the pulled pork start to finish.
  • Make Literally the Best Mac and Cheese I’ve Ever Had as a side dish. Bake in a disposable aluminum pan.
  • AND/OR, buy hamburger buns so they can make sandwiches.
  • Buy a bottle of BBQ Sauce or make Homemade BBQ Sauce.
  • Make Coleslaw, or pick some up at the deli. Store in a ziplock, or give-away-able tupperware if you’re doing homemade.
  • Dessert: Banana Cream Pie if you’re feelin extra, (bake in a disposable pie tin) or Puppy Chow to snack on! Bring in a ziplock.
  • Bring paper plates, plastic silverware, and cups.
pulled pork in a black slow cooker, topped with barbecue sauce.
Crock Pot Pulled Pork
4.98 from 237 votes
The BEST pulled pork recipe in the crock pot! Get the most tender, melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork with almost zero effort from your slow cooker. It's such an easy recipe, the results are AMAZING, and you can feed a crowd an impressive dinner lickety-split. I'm also including instructions for oven roasted pulled pork!
View Recipe

12.Brown Sugar Balsamic Pork Tenderloin

Sliced pork tenderloin on silpat ready to be served.

This Brown Sugar Balsamic Pork Tenderloin has been a go-to of mine for years. It is extremely easy to prep (read: no searing), it cooks in the slow cooker all day, and then you just have to pull together a few sides and you’re done. This would be easy to double too.

  • Make the pork tenderloin start to finish, including the broiling step. Transfer to a disposable aluminum pan. Drizzle with any extra glaze.
  • Make rice (One cup of dry rice serves about 2 adults generously) or pasta or Mashed Potatoes. Transfer to the other side of the pan with the pork, or a new pan if necessary.
  • Buy a bagged Caesar salad, or a Kale salad would go nice with this meal.
  • If they have a large family, make Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes. Transfer to another disposable pan.
  • Homemade Dinner Rolls would go so well with this meal, or get store bought rolls.
  • Dessert: Sugar Cookie Bars, baked in a disposable pan, or baked in a regular pan and transferred to a paper plate covered in foil.
  • Bring paper plates, plastic silverware, and cups.
Brown Sugar Balsamic Pork Tenderloin from TheFoodCharlatan.com
Brown Sugar Balsamic Pork Tenderloin (Crockpot Recipe)
4.79 from 14 votes
This slow-cooker meal is so easy to throw together. The balsamic sauce is simple but oh so flavorful.
View Recipe

That’s it! I almost always choose something from this list when I’m making food for friends! See the sister post How to Bring a Meal to a Friend for a lot more details, tips, tricks, and ideas, including LOTS of links. Have fun feeding and helping the people you love!

  • Aluminum pans: Don’t limit yourself to only baking casseroles in disposable aluminum foil pans. They are a handy size container that you can deliver lots of food items in: chopped salad, taco meat on half and refried beans on the other half, meatballs and rice, pulled pork, a pile of baked potatoes, etc. Unless it’s soup, this is pretty much what I use every time. I buy them in bulk.
  • Ziplocks are your best friend. I always deliver soup in ziplocks. I love to keep 1-gallon and 2-gallon size ziplocks on hand. You can fit two loaves of bread in the larger one, or an entire casserole dish. They are great for freezing.
  • Soup storage containers. These are handy for smaller families!
  • Heavy duty foil is thicker and stronger than regular foil, it’s great for using as a lid if your pans don’t come with lids.
  • Metal sheet pans. I often carry a disposable pan into the house on a metal sheet pan. Those aluminum casserole pans are NOT sturdy, especially when full of hot lasagna. Slide the disposable pan onto their table, and take the sheet pan home with you so they don’t have to return it.

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  1. These two posts are such a blessing- we all need a reminder that kindness begins at home, and then love and generosity can just pour right on out to our friends and neighbors. I just made your creamy turkey soup- so delicious and easy to share!

  2. Omg. I love you so much for doing this post (and the companion one). Your content and recipes are always amazing, but this one is really needed and timely.

    1. Thank you Shabee, it’s been on my bucket list for a long time and I’m so happy it’s finally up! I’m glad you are finding it useful!

  3. i, too, am OBSESSED with meals to bring in. these are awesome options. never would have thought of BLTs! love all the variety too!

    1. It does start to become an obsession right Karen?? My sister Laura told me that recently she offered to a newish friend to bring her a meal, and the friend was a little weirded out by it, didn’t understand. BUT WE GET IT 😂😂 she did end up bringing the meal and hopefully the new friend gets it now too. It’s the best 🤩 thanks for chiming in Karen!

  4. I love everything about this post. I’m not the best at getting this done for people, admittedly, but I’ve certainly been the recipient of this kindness. There’s truly nothing better than someone pouring their time, effort, and love into a dish to help you feed the ones you love.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Elizabeth! Yours was the first comment I read after publishing and it made me so happy to hear that someone else feels this urge, and understands about the kindness of the time, effort, and love. Giving and taking, it’s so important 💕

  5. Years ago, I had very serious surgery and my recovery took MONTHS. We had a toddler and a 2nd grader. Along with treats and snacks,we had dinner delivered to us every single night for a month. Food is medicine and the love that came with those meals saved us.

    1. I love stories like this Marian, they feed my soul! Bless your kind friends for looking out for your sweet family when you were having a hard time. That’s life, right? Sometimes everyone needs a little help, and it’s so nice to return the favor, or pay it forward. Thanks for commenting 💕

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