Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

Sharing Food When You’re a Real Foodie {GUEST POST}

April 15th, 2014 · 20 Comments · Call to Action, KS lifestyle, Mary and Martha Moments

Sharing Food When You're a Real Foodie

This is a guest post from a generous reader who responded to my request for “reader driven” Monday Missions. I enjoyed reading her ideas on using food as a blessing, which inspired yesterday’s actual Monday Mission, and I hope you are challenged and inspired, too. -Katie

It all started as a conversation around the garbage can on trash day.

My elderly widowed neighbor and I were partaking in our ritual Trash Day Small Talk. She looked at her watch, then up at the sky – as if pondering the weather. She sighed. “Guess I should go to the grocery store. It’s just so hard to cook for one.” We chatted about the rising prices of groceries, food we liked eating, and our mutual disdain for the never-ending curse of dirty dishes. As we wheeled our garbage cans back to our respective houses, she chuckled in parting: “Let me know if you ever have leftovers you don’t want!”

I would love to tell you that the light bulb came on. That the heavens parted. That I ran inside to bless my neighbor with dinner. (We’re a family of voracious eaters – we always have food on hand.)

Taking a quick moment to help her out would seem logical, right? But I have to confess something embarrassing: I didn’t.

Fast forward three years. Yes, I said it was embarrassing.

Kitchen Kindness

Over the last three years I have teamed up with a ministry at our church called Kitchen Kindness – a group of people who pitch in meals for those in need, like moms with newborns or folks recovering from surgery. My family has also been on the receiving end of Kitchen Kindness meals due to my lengthy stint on bed rest from preterm labor. Receiving over 90+ meals certainly makes you appreciate the gift of food!

While it was natural for me to think of offering food to a friend in crisis, I never considered offering food to my neighbors “just because.” Well, until one day recently.

The Gift of Soup

Thanks to Katie’s Monday Mission on making bone broth, I make a monstrous pot of soup most Monday nights and we eat it for an easy lunch for the rest of the week.

This particular Monday, I divided out the soup for the week … and I had just ONE cup of soup left. Sure, I could freeze it. But one serving? Really? For a family of four? My freezer was already well stocked with little servings of soup. I groaned at the prospect of adding more.

And that’s when my conversation from three years ago came rushing back. With a twinge of nervous excitement, I picked up the phone and called my neighbor.

“Hello, Florence? It’s Bethany from next door. Would you like some soup?”

The Joy of Sharing

Blessing Others with Food
So began a beautiful relationship of sharing food with my neighbors – just because. This past summer we baked mini-loaves of bread and delivered them steaming fresh to nine of our neighbors. (Note to self: be sure to grease those adorable disposable cardboard pans. Nothing like giving away food that is STUCK to the dish. Oops.) At Christmas we delivered cookies. This winter we shared multiple bowls of hot soup at dinner time.

Now, please don’t look at me like some sort of magic Food Fairy who lives in a small Mayberry-esque town. We live in a closed-door neighborhood where everyone is treated as strangers and nobody waves at each other. It still takes guts for me to knock on the door of someone who barely knows me with fresh food in my hands. However doing so has opened doors of conversation that I never thought possible.

Shared food has a way of breaking down barriers.

Two weeks ago, my own doorbell rang. A neighbor baked me a homemade carrot cake as a way of saying thanks for caring about them.

The art of sharing food doesn’t have to require herculean effort. It can be a few slices of fresh bread or two muffins on a plate. It can be a pint jar of soup or a few fresh tomatoes from the garden. It’s often those spur-of-the-moment gifts that create the biggest blessings.

Sharing Food You Disagree With

I consider our family a “whole foods, slow food” family. We eat very little processed food, making pretty much everything from scratch. We enjoy our homemade yogurt, farm-fresh eggs, and local honey. When I share food with others, I am usually sharing extras of what our family already eats.

Warning: What I’m about to write is very, very controversial.

It’s okay to share processed food that you don’t agree with.

It’s okay to give away food you wouldn’t normally buy for your own family.

I recently had the opportunity to bless a friend with a stash of homemade lunches. She’s at that awful stage of pregnancy where just the smell of food makes her queasy and her energy is zapped. She was drowning in self-imposed mommy guilt because she was struggling to spend time in the kitchen.

So I decided to make 2 weeks’ worth of lunches that could be stored in the freezer until needed. I wanted to give them something affordable, FUN, and nutritious. Something her 5-year-old could help prepare, and that her entire family would be eager to eat. So I made and froze 30 PB+J sandwiches, bought 10 jars of their favorite canned fruit, and purchased frozen vegetables in microwavable steam-fresh bags.

This took a big stretch for me. We don’t own a microwave – by choice. We don’t eat canned fruit cocktail – by choice.

And THAT’S the tricky thing in blessing people with food. It’s not speaking love to them if it’s not something they are going to enjoy. Yes, it feels a little strange to purchase cocktail fruit cups — because it’s something I would never do for my family. But my friend was desperate for an alternative to McDonalds and they enjoy fruit cocktail cups. She’s not asking for help: I’m blessing her with a surprise.

So I’m okay buying something that I normally disagree with, because I know that it will be received with relief, gratitude, and open arms.

Because I can still be God’s blessing to them — even if the food isn’t the “best” food. I can’t let my personal preferences (“oh, I’d NEVER buy that”) keep me from helping meet the needs of others.

A Final Visit from the Neighborhood Food Fairy

A few months ago, a young neighbor had a baby. A week after they got home from the hospital, I knocked on her door with hot soup in hand. In the seven years we’ve lived here, we’ve done little more than wave in passing. So to see me on her doorstep – food in hand – overwhelmed her. Her eyes welled up with tears in gratitude. She later returned my jars with a note: “If you ever have more leftover soup, please let me know!”

This time I didn’t wait three years to take her up on her offer.

Have any extra food in your home? Do you have a neighbor you can share your leftovers with? Give it a try and share your story below!

Bethany - Guest PostBethany lives in Ohio with her wonderful husband, delightful 5-year-old daughter, and adorable 2-year-old son. When she’s not busy making a disaster in the kitchen, she enjoys taking all-day cycling excursions with her family and reading books. She comes from a long line of cooks, including ancestors who were chefs to German royalty. Despite her chops in the kitchen, she is completely unskilled at vegetable gardening. (Her consolation is knowing that in a zombie apocalypse, her role would be the town baker and not farmer.) A long-time KS reader, Bethany is thankful for Kitchen Stewardships’ baby-steps and Monday Missions that have completely transformed her family’s life.

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20 Comments so far ↓

  • Laura

    I love this post! Thanks so much for sharing and for your honesty (I can totally relate to taking years follow up on a good idea!). We live in a closed door neighboorhood too and this would be a way to start opening doors. And I for one totally agree with your stance that it’s ok to give away food if the reciever could benefit even if it might not be something I’d feed my family. This issue reminds me of a satire cartoon tv show I watched a decade plus ago. The scene was a group of rich (but well meaning) high school fashionistas who went around their neighboorhood collecting clothes donations for the homeless. They ended up rejecting all the clothes because they weren’t fashionable enough. They were helping save the homeless from bad fashion!

  • Holly

    I have given extra soup or homemade mac & cheese to neighbors before, and it was always very much appreciated. I routinely bake for my neighbors as well. Right now I’m really into baking fresh bread and giving loaves away. I think it has made a huge difference on our block and I feel like we have a little community here. After reading this post, I think I will branch out and take food to a neighbor I haven’t given food to yet.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Holly, you go girl! :) Katie

  • Rebekah

    ABSOLUTELY. It’s sad that this is even controversial!

    Kelly R. Reply:

    I love this one!

  • AshleyB

    Thanks for the encouraging story, Bethany! The gift of food is often more immense than we realize. Though I imagine many will not, I agree with your view of giving food that you wouldn’t normally buy. Like Katie said yesterday, it doesn’t do any good if it just goes in the trash!

  • Sheila

    Single people who live alone can be wonderful to bless. I have a single friend who lives far from me. She has been through so much in her life that most people don’t know about. Nothing makes me happier than to see her post on Facebook that a friend brought her over a casserole or some soup after work so she could eat a good meal despite a long day’s work. I can’t do stuff like that for her because of distance, but I am so happy people do.

    When I was pregnant with my first child, we were painfully poor and I was working full-time. A coworker occasionally brought me a quart of soup to bring home, and I could have hugged her. In fact, I think I did! One of the hardest things at that time was knowing I was building my child’s body but didn’t have the time or money to eat anything very good for me. I got so much judgment from people for eating stuff like canned soup or frozen burritos; they would have long lists of reasons why I should eat better, since I was pregnant. But only ONE person brought me soup from bone broth to actually help me out.

    My actual neighbors, though? I feel shy. I’ve offered garden veggies to one family several times, only to hear their kids don’t like those vegetables. Plums from our plum tree they did accept, but I don’t know what else they like to eat. Next door, though, I have a nice guy who loves to hunt and is always giving us venison. I asked him the other day if he likes sauerkraut, and he said “if it’s the good stuff!” Haha, well, let’s hope mine is “the good stuff” because I have a jar fermenting for him. :D

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    You’re going to be the sauerkraut fairy soon, Sheila! :) Katie

  • Anitra

    I’m trying to do this more. Back in the fall, I had a bunch of pumpkin muffins that I wanted to share with new neighbors (with children) we had recently met – but they weren’t home. My kids were disappointed. But on the walk back to our house, I remembered the nice older man who has let us pick pears from the tree in his front yard. “I bet he and his wife would love some muffins!”

    We’ve also invited neighbors over for homemade pizza (whole wheat crust), their choice of toppings. I’m not so great with making food in advance to give away, but I love sharing it when it’s hot and ready.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    That rocks, Anitra! Love it! :) Katie

  • Candie

    I love this! I wish that my neighborhood was like what my parents remember, open doors and everyone looking out for each other. I need to stop wishing for it and build it one cup of soup at a time!!

  • jim

    Oh, I am laughing so hard at this (in a good way). No good deed goes unpunished. My wife has the same type of heart you do. She recently decided to offer to make a “favorite meal” for elderly residents at a nearby nursing home on their birthdays. She sent the nursing home an email to that effect and then was promptly inundated with emails and phone calls from a ton of different retirement homes, all offering to show her around their facilities. Apparently no one actually read her email – they just got her email address and phone number and must have sold it to all the other retirement homes. Love the idea of sharing food with neighbors!

  • Abi Craig

    Yes, yes, yes. Great post; excellent attitude and perspective. I’ve had to explain to my kids why I sometimes purchase things I don’t buy for them (certain granola bars, crackers) to give to a local program that gives food to kids who would otherwise not eat at home . . . “it will still feed their bodies and is better than what they might have otherwise; since they are not used to what we eat, they might not like those things and then not eat them, so we wouldn’t be helping them.” Sharing foo with neighbors is a great outreach – Hot Cross Buns are going around tomorrow!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    That’s so awesome Abi! I wish I lived in your neighborhood. We have similar conversations with my kids when we volunteer with a local organization that makes sack suppers for underprivileged kids – why Jello counts as a fruit, for example (durned government standards). ;) Katie

  • Nancy

    Thanks for sharing this post. Just what I needed to get out of my slump !! God is so so good to me–it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to share that with others !! Happy Easter !!

  • Karen

    I have yet to share cooked food with my neighbors, but have been able to share some produce from my backyard. We recently landscaped our front yard and put in several large raised beds for veggies, and several fruit trees. Our neighbors normally keep to themselves, but they really like our front yard and stop to chat with us about it. I’m hoping I will be able to offer them more veggies, but I know not everyone cooks.

  • Brittany

    Wonderful idea!! I did something similar for my husband’s grandma (who lives out of state) when we stayed with her for a week. I made all the meals and froze any leftovers in single-serving portions. But I never thought to do anything like that for people closer to home!

    Also, I love the idea of choosing ingredients or food that will most bless the recipients rather than fitting my personal preference. Isn’t that the point of giving? As I was reading, I was thinking how it’s kind of like giving my sister the sweater she’s been raving about that I would never wear (or movie or whatever).

  • Victoria

    I stumbled across this looking for organic ways to get rid of wasps, go figure. What a wonderful post. I live in a suburb where neighbors don’t socialize much. I’ve opened many a door with banana or pumpkin bread :) Also I frequently cook extras for an elderly neighbor because I know she doesn’t cook much. She reciprocates by making me the most extraordinary cookies a couple times a year, labor-intensive things I wouldn’t bake for myself.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Victoria,
    That’s wonderful! I was reading too fast and thought you said “opened many a door with a banana” which is a pretty funny image….and I hope you can get rid of your wasps, too! :) Katie

  • Shelly O

    I would love your soup recipe, sounds yummy!

Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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