These sympathy meal ideas are also known as funeral food—something you bring when a friend has lost a loved one. After all, when someone is deeply grieving, the last thing they should have to worry about is cooking.
What Should You Bring to a Family in Mourning?
When you cook for a family in grief, make it as easy for them as possible because they’re hurting. This means there shouldn’t be a complicated process to heat up the food.
If you choose to cook something in your slow cooker, like this pot roast, that’s fine. However, you should transfer it to another container to leave with the family.
Never expect a family in mourning to pick up the food from your house. Instead, bring it to them, but don’t expect to stay unless they ask you to.
Another thing they shouldn’t have to deal with is washing your serving dish. For this reason, I prefer to bring food in a disposable container or something they can keep.
You may also want to bring paper plates and plastic forks so they don’t have to do dishes.
Yes, I know about protecting the environment, but there are times when it’s okay to bring disposables. And this is certainly one of those times.
Easy to Serve Food
Whatever you bring for the family to eat should be easy to serve. If something needs to be heated up, provide clear directions.
Avoid anything that requires elaborate preparation, or you defeat the purpose of bringing food. The grieving family needs to focus on healing.
Appropriate Sympathy Meal Ideas
Although anything is appropriate funeral food, there are certain things I typically bring to a family in mourning. I base this on how easy the foods are to transport and how consistently they turn out.
First, salads are usually welcome. Since they’re probably getting a lot of heavy dishes and sweets, it’s nice to lighten up a bit.
Second, I like to bring casseroles or one-pan meals. These are easy for you to assemble and for them to heat up.
And of course, desserts are good. I highly recommend bringing desserts that don’t require refrigeration since their fridge will be packed with other food.
When to Bring Food
The timing on bringing food to a family in mourning is certainly up to you. However, there are a few times when they’ll need it most.
As soon as the loved one dies, they’ll go into a state of shock, even if they were expecting the death. For this reason, they may not feel like cooking. So if possible, bring food right away.
Sympathy Meal Ideas for Before and After the Funeral
Another time they’ll appreciate food is right before the funeral. They’ll probably be so busy with preparations they’ll forget about eating.
Then right after the funeral, it’s nice to have folks drop off food that keeps. That way, they’ll have plenty to eat without worrying about cooking.
There may be a funeral reception. Unless this is held at a restaurant, offer to bring food for a buffet.
Sympathy Meal Ideas
It's important to have a list of foods you can bring to people in mourning. Keep them simple and make sure they transport well.
This is one of those salads that most people will like because it brings back the flavors of happier times.
This bacon lettuce and tomato salad is a delicious twist on one of our favorite sandwiches, the BLT. It has the same flavors, only without the bread—unless you add croutons, which you can certainly do.
The flavors of this salad will please those who like something a little bit different.
This Greek olive and feta salad adds flavor to any meal. You can make it a side or add some protein and make it the main entree.
Potato salad is the perfect side dish for any meal. You can bring this along with a main entree.
My mother's potato salad recipe is one of the most popular at potluck events. Anyone you bring this to will appreciate having something so delicious any time of year.
The creaminess of this macaroni salad is very soothing and calming.
Creamy macaroni salad is delicious proof that macaroni is good, even without cheese. In other words, you can mix it with something different to get a dish everyone loves.
Chicken soup is definitely good for the soul during some of the saddest and most stressful times.
My homemade chicken rice soup is a favorite around here—especially when we need something comforting. It’s easy to make and doesn’t take long from start to finish. In fact, dinner can be ready and on the table within an hour.
This rich, dense soup is easy to make, delicious, and filling.
This homemade slow cooker potato soup is another recipe requested by one of my readers. I haven’t made this soup in decades, and I think I’ve only made it once or twice.
Bring some chicken salad and a basket of rolls or bread.
Chicken salad is one of the first things I think of when I get to the last of a rotisserie chicken. After all, I hate the idea of wasting a single bit of such deliciousness. You can also make it with canned chicken.
Mac and cheese is a comfort food for most people.
This mac-and-cheese with ham casserole is one of my favorite meals to prepare in advance. Besides being super easy to make, it is delicious and doesn’t need a side–that is, unless you want one. This is an easy family dinner under $10.
This traditional chicken and rice casserole is easy to make and one that most people like.
This creamy chicken and rice casserole satisfies the need for comfort food. Basically, it’s warm, tasty, and tamps down the hunger without making you feel stuffed. And if you use chicken thighs or drumsticks, you can have a family dinner under $10, even with a vegetable on the side.
If there are any children in the family you're bringing food to, they'll love this hamburger Tater Tot casserole. It's easy to make, budget-friendly, delicious, and filling.
Hamburger tater tot casserole pulls a bunch of deliciousness together in one dish. As soon as you take your first bite, you know you’ll be asking for seconds. Just make sure there’s enough for everyone in the family.
You can't get any easier than this 2-ingredient apple cake. It satisfies the sweet tooth and delights the taste buds.
All you have to do is combine a couple of ingredients and pop it into the oven. You can leave the top bare or frost it.
Butterscotch pecan cookies are easy to make and just as easy to eat. The bonus is that they're delicious for dessert and snacking.
They’re super easy because you start with a cake mix, and they’re better than any cookie you can buy at the store.
Pecan brownie cookies satisfy the chocolate craving that gives people a boost of well-being--even during the most difficult of times.
Since they're so easy to make, you can whip them up quickly
Flourless peanut butter cookies are delicious, easy to make, and ideal for anyone who can't tolerate gluten.
They are so delicious, and I couldn’t believe how they turned out without flour. At first, I tried to follow a recipe that wasn’t great. So I tweaked it a few times, and it finally became perfection–at least to me.
Chocolate fudge is an easy food to bring. It's nice for the people in mourning to have something comforting they can snack on.
This easy chocolate fudge recipe is one of my favorite go-to candy recipes. Not only is it super easy to make but also it’s delicious. One of the things I like most is you can’t mess it up.
A few weeks after the funeral has passed, many people stop coming around. For that reason, this is a good time to check up on them. It’s also nice to have a basket of food for an extra dose of comfort.