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35 Meal Train Ideas to Help Loved Ones in Need

A meal train is a way for a community of people to bring food to someone in need. Whether you're comforting a friend or supporting a new parent, these meal train ideas can help.

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Sheet-Pan Lemon Garlic Chicken

Everyone needs an easy meal. Try this sheet-pan chicken with roasted potatoes for a simple and tasty meal guaranteed to please the whole family. If you use fresh lemon juice, garnish each serving with a little lemon zest for bright flavor. —Andrea Potischman, Menlo Park, California

Once you know what you’re going to cook, check out our meal train tips for help organizing the logistics.

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Favorite Baked Spaghetti

This baked spaghetti is my grandchildren's most-loved dish. It feels like such a special dinner and is so cozy for winter. —Louise Miller, Westminster, Maryland
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Strawberry Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

My family is always happy to see this fruit and veggie salad on the table. If strawberries aren’t available, substitute mandarin oranges and dried cranberries. —Irene Keller, Kalamazoo, Michigan

Editor’s tip: Fresh salads (especially ones with protein) are a great meal to bring new parents—they’ll provide some nutrition to help them endure those first few weeks of sleepless nights!

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Pepperoni Pan Pizza

I've spent years trying to come up with the perfect pizza crust and sauce, and they're paired up in this recipe. I fix this crispy, savory pizza for my family often, and it really satisfies my husband and sons. —Susan Lindahl, Alford, Florida
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Spinach Burritos

I made up this recipe a couple years ago after trying a similar dish in a restaurant. Our oldest son tells me these burritos are 'awesome'! Plus, they're easy and inexpensive. —Dolores Zornow, Poynette, Wisconsin
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Pan-Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

This one-dish roast chicken with vegetables tastes as if it took hours of hands-on time to put together, but the simple ingredients can be prepped in mere minutes. The rosemary gives it a rich flavor, and the meat juices cook the veggies to perfection. It’s unbelievably easy! —Sherri Melotik, Oak Creek, Wisconsin
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Saucy Mac & Cheese

I love the curly noodles in this creamy recipe. Cavatappi (aka cellentani pasta) has a corkscrew shape, but any type of spiral noodle will work. This dish is fun to make and looks so pretty topped with extra cheese and crunchy, golden panko. I like to add ground pepper to my serving. —Sara Martin, Brookfield, Wisconsin

Editor’s tip: Cozy meals like this one are the perfect comforting funeral food and a thoughtful way to express your condolences. Drop it off with a fresh salad to get some greens in the mix, too.

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Lime-Chipotle Carnitas Tostadas

Here's a terrific recipe for your next weeknight dinner. Set out various toppings and garnishes so your family members can customize their own tostadas with the lime-kissed shredded pork. —Jan Valdez, Chicago, Illinois
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Ham & Veggie Casserole

I’ve paired ham with broccoli and cauliflower for years. To complete this casserole dinner, I pass around the dinner rolls. —Sherri Melotik, Oak Creek, Wisconsin

Editor’s tip: To complete the meal, send along store-bought rolls or make your own with one of these dinner roll recipes.

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Mediterranean Bulgur Bowl

You can also transform this tasty bowl into an Italian version with mozzarella, pesto, tomatoes, spinach and basil. —Renata Smith, Brookline, Massachusetts
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Sausage Manicotti

This classic Italian entree comes together in a snap but tastes as if it took hours. It's so tasty and easy to fix. My family always enjoys it. —Carolyn Henderson, Maple Plain, Minnesota
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Bratwurst Supper

After trying a few bratwurst recipes, I've found this meal-in-one is ideal for camping since it grills to perfection in a heavy-duty foil bag. Loaded with chunks of bratwurst, red potatoes, mushrooms and carrots, it's easy to season with onion soup mix and a little soy sauce. —Janice Meyer, Medford, Wisconsin
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Yummy Corn Chip Salad

Corn chips give a special crunch and an unexpected flavor to this potluck favorite. Bacon adds a hint of smokiness, while the cranberries bring a touch of sweetness. It's the perfect picnic companion! —Nora Friesen, Aberdeen, Mississippi

Editor’s tip: When you drop off this meal, send the dressing in a separate container to prevent the lettuce from getting soggy. Consider making one of these quick and easy soup recipes to go with it, too.

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Crescent Turkey Casserole

How do you make a dinner of turkey and vegetables really appealing to kids? You turn it into a pie, of course! My version tastes classic, but won’t take much time at all. —Daniela Essman, Perham, Minnesota
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Roasted Curried Chickpeas and Cauliflower

When there’s not much time to cook, try roasting potatoes and cauliflower with chickpeas for a warm-you-up dinner. It's a filling meal on its own, but you can add chicken or tofu to the sheet pan if you like. —Pam Correll, Brockport, Pennsylvania
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Tuscan Fish Packets

My husband does a lot of fishing, so I'm always looking for different ways to serve his catches. A professional chef was kind enough to share this recipe with me, and I played around with some different veggie combinations until I found the one my family liked best. —Kathy Morrow, Hubbard, Ohio
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Chicken Thighs with Shallots & Spinach

This moist and tender chicken comes complete with its own creamy spinach side dish! It makes a pretty presentation and comes together in no time flat for a nutritious weeknight meal. —Genna Johannes, Wrightstown, Wisconsin

Editor’s tip: Provide some rice to round out this meal. Simple white or brown rice will do just fine, or you can make one of these healthy rice recipes.

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Creamy Skillet Noodles with Peas

I’ve made this creamy noodle side for years. Since kids and adults go for it, I keep the ingredients on hand at all times. —Anita Groff, Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania
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Bacon & Swiss Chicken Sandwiches

I created this chicken sandwich recipe based on a meal my daughter ordered at a restaurant. She likes to dip her sandwich in the extra honey-mustard sauce. —Marilyn Moberg, Papillion, Nebraska
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Bonnie's Chili

This chili is incredibly easy to make, and has a surprising depth of flavor for something that comes together in no time before the slow cooker takes over the work. I can make this for people who like it hot or mild just by changing the salsa. You can make it really spicy if you add hot peppers and hot salsa. —Bonnie Altig, North Pole, Alaska

Editor’s tip: A batch of this Buttery Cornbread is the perfect side dish to pair with this comforting chili.

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Arrabbiata Sauce with Zucchini Noodles

This popular Italian dish is flavorful and spicy. We decided to re-create one of our favorite jarred sauces and serve over zucchini pasta for a lighter, healthier meal that's naturally gluten-free. The results were amazing! —Courtney Stultz, Weir, Kansas
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Cilantro Shrimp & Rice

I created this dish especially for my son, who has the pickiest palate. The aroma of fresh herbs is so appetizing––even he can’t resist! —Nibedita Das, Fort Worth, Texas
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Southwest Vegetarian Bake

This veggie-packed casserole hits the spot on chilly nights. It's a healthy canned vegetable recipe that's great for any time I have a taste for Mexican food with all the fixings. —Patricia Gale, Monticello, Illinois
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Saucy Beef with Broccoli

When I’m looking for a fast entree, I turn to this beef and broccoli stir-fry. It features a tantalizing sauce made with garlic and ginger. —Rosa Evans, Odessa, Missouri

Editor’s tip: If you want to send over something sweet as well, try one of these easy desserts that have five ingredients or less.

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Vegetable Strata

We always serve food at our Bunco games, and since one of us is a vegetarian we like to make fun meatless dishes we can all enjoy. This strata can easily be doubled and tastes fantastic hot or at room temperature. —Doris Mancini, Port Orchard, Washington
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Burrito Bake

Back when I was in college, my roommate would frequently make this economical baked burrito casserole. It's so easy to put together, and one serving goes a long way. —Cindee Ness, Horace, North Dakota
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Stovetop Beef and Shells

I fix this supper when I'm pressed for time. It's as tasty as it is fast. Team it with salad, bread and fruit for a comforting meal. —Donna Roberts, Manhattan, Kansas

Editor’s tip: These make-ahead salad recipes are the perfect sides for a meal train—they taste even better as they marinate, so you won’t have to worry about soggy salad!

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Bacon Avocado Salad

Everyone in my family loves this bacon and avocado salad—even the younger kids! I serve it at pretty much every get-together I've hosted, and at this point, the recipe's been shared too many times to count. —Noreen McCormick Danek, Cromwell, Connecticut
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Shrimp Fried Rice

This delectable shrimp fried rice is filled with color and taste that makes it vanish fast. Our family of four can't get enough of it. Bacon adds crispness and a hint of heartiness. Consider it when you need a different main dish or brunch item. —Sandra Thompson, White Hall, Arkansas
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Peasant Skillet

I prepare this supper frequently throughout the year, substituting whatever vegetables are in season. No matter how often I make it, I'm always asked for the recipe. —Lisbeth Whitehead, Watertown, South Dakota
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Baja Pork Tacos

This delicious pork tacos recipe is my copycat version of the most excellent Mexican food we ever had, when we were visiting Flagstaff, Arizona. The original recipe used beef instead of pork, but this comes mighty close to the same taste. —Ariella Winn, Mesquite, Texas
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Spicy Rice Casserole

Stirring up pork sausage, wild rice and jalapeno to taste makes this a terrific side. Or serve it with cornbread to turn it into a main dish. It’s easy to make ahead and reheat for a potluck meal. —Debbie Jones, California, Maryland
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Bean & Cheese Quesadillas

My son doesn't eat meat, so I created this recipe as a way for me to cook one meal for the family instead of two. It's so easy, my toddler grandson helps me make it! —Tina McMullen, Salina, Kansas
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Garlic-Herb Salmon Sliders

The fresh flavors of the salmon and herbs are just unbeatable. I serve these as full-size burgers on kaiser rolls, too. —Margee Berry, White Salmon, Washington
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Black Bean & Corn Quinoa

Some vegan quinoa recipes are boring, but this one definitely isn't. My daughter’s college asked parents for the best quinoa recipes to use in the dining halls. This healthy quinoa recipe fits the bill. —Lindsay McSweeney, Winchester, Massachusetts

Christina Herbst
Christina is an Assistant Editor for Taste of Home, specializing in content creation and SEO optimization. She enjoys trying out local foodie restaurants and coffeehouses and adding copious amounts of garlic and cheese to any recipe she can get her hands on.

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