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Sympathy Meal Ideas

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.

Sympathy meal ideas - comfort for friends in mourning

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.

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.

Please feel free to share!