These deliciously frugal dinner ideas for friends are perfect for making someone smile after a difficult day or a life transition! They're quick and easy to make and won't blow the grocery budget!

Bringing a neighbor or a friend a meal is one of the best ways to show them you care!

Whether someone we love has just welcomed a little bundle of joy or is going through a challenging period, bringing them a homemade meal is a wonderful way to show our love and support. It's like giving them a warm, comforting hug in the form of delicious food. But hey, there are a few things to keep in mind to make this gesture extra special. So, let's dive into some tips and tricks for bringing food to new parents or those who need a little extra care, followed by our FAVORITE recipes to give & receive!

*Note: When you click the links in this post, we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.


Before you decide which dish to drop off, here are some tips to consider!

  • Don't feel like you need to “surprise” them with the dish: you can totally straight-up ASK them what they would like for a dinner! At least reach out beforehand and find out if they would appreciate a home-cooked meal. Ask about any dietary restrictions or preferences they may have. It's all about communication, my friend! Making sure you're on the same page will help you plan and prepare something they'll truly enjoy.
  • Timing is Everything: Timing is key when it comes to delivering meals. For new parents, the first few weeks can be overwhelming, so it's a good idea to check with them on the best time to drop off food. You don't want to arrive when they're dealing with a fussy baby or are finally getting some much-needed sleep. Be flexible and understanding, and let them decide when it's convenient for them.
  • Keep It Simple and Nutritious: When planning your menu, opt for simple and nourishing dishes. Avoid complicated recipes that may require too much effort for your friend to reheat or serve. Stick to comforting classics like casseroles, soups, or pasta dishes that can be easily portioned and reheated. If you're unsure about dietary restrictions or allergies, it's better to go with safer options or ask for guidance.
  • Packaging and Portioning: Consider the logistics of your food delivery. We like to use disposable containers or bring dishes in containers that don't need to be returned. Grab yourself some foil casserole tins and maybe even a pack of paper plates to go with it! Let them take the night off of dishes too! Make sure the containers are leak-proof and easy to transport. It's also a good idea to divide the meal into smaller portions, so it's easier for your friend to enjoy it over multiple meals.
  • Add a Touch of Love: Don't forget the extra little touches! Include a heartfelt note or a card with your meal, expressing your love and support. You can also add some suggestions on how to reheat or serve the food, or even attach a list of ingredients for any dietary concerns. And hey, if you're feeling creative, you can decorate the container with colorful ribbons or stickers to bring a smile to your friend's face.
  • Respect Boundaries: Lastly, be mindful of their emotional needs and don't take it personally if they prefer some quiet time with their family. A simple drop-off and a warm hug or text of support can go a long way.

Remember, it's all about being there for your friend, nourishing their body and soul with your delicious creations. So put on that apron, cook up a storm, and spread the love through food!

The Page Co. Team's Favorite Recipes To Bring To Others!

At The Page Company, you can imagine our team is very experienced with the Shelf Cooking lifestyle! Hey – we practice what we preach! We all love to share meals with fellow neighbors and friends, but we also know that it doesn't require a fancy recipe with 79,024 ingredients we don't have!

Our team at The Page Company decided to share our favorite recipes to give and/or receive, and we know you will love them too!

batch cooking pasta to freeze, from Shelf Cooking

Ashlynn: Deconstructed Tacos

“Tacos served deconstructed are great because:

  1. Super quick & easy to throw together.
  2. They can freeze the leftovers.
  3. Picky-eater friendly – ingredients are separated.
  4. They can easily use all of the fixings for other meals throughout their week. Give them tortillas, chips, salsa, beans, shredded lettuce, cooked meat, cheese, diced tomatoes, etc. and you've basically gone grocery shopping for them!

What are Deconstructed Tacos? A taco in a bowl! Like a taco salad. There are many ways to make them!

You can bring:

  • Chopped romaine lettuce
  • Taco meat – seasoned ground beef, ground turkey, or diced chicken
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Shredded cheese
  • Black or Pinto beans
  • Avocado

This allows the family to still customize their own bowl, without having to do all of the prep work of cooking and chopping!

Josi: Hawaiian Haystacks

“I always do Hawaiian haystacks for bigger families! It's an affordable meal for me but can feed a bunch. I usually just grab a rotisserie chicken from Costco to shred for it.”

This is a COMFORT FOOD recipe! It's made with a base of rice, topped with a creamy chicken gravy and other favorite ingredients like black olives, pineapples and peas. The Chinese noodles are the perfect crunchy topper!

We love this recipe for Quick and Easy Hawaiian Haystacks here!

Mandy: Cranberry Chicken with Easy Homemade Rolls

“My go-to dish is cranberry chicken (the world's easiest dump-and-go recipe!) so then I have time to make easy homemade rolls. Put everything in the aluminum 9×13 pans so they can just throw everything away when they’re done! I hated having to return people’s Tupperware or dishes! For a dessert I usually do pumpkin chocolate chip muffins because they’re easy, make lots and kids and adults love them!”

tray of pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, from Shelf Cooking

Cranberry Chicken is a tasty dinner option, with only 4 ingredients and minimal prep time!

Here's a great recipe we love for 4-ingredient cranberry chicken. Just add a dry onion soup packet, cranberry sauce, and Catalina salad dressing. YUM!

This would be a wonderful recipe to bring in the Fall, and we like Mandy's idea of adding a pumpkin dessert with it! Lucky for you, we've shared a couple of different easy pumpkin recipes:

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies and Foolproof Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins!

Brandi: Chicken Rolls (Chicken Pillows)

“I love doing chicken rolls, as I call them. Some people call them chicken pillows. You wrap chicken and cream cheese in croissant dough, and then dip them in butter and bread crumbs. I add a side of corn or some other veggie with it. Sometimes, I'll even add gravy. It’s always a crowd favorite for us!”

Oh my! Are you drooling too?!

This recipe might be more common and popular in Utah, but I think we can turn it into a global phenomenon! Here's a recipe to try out and WOW your friends with!

Alisha: Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta Bake

“You can't go wrong with a baked pasta!  I like to make a chicken Cordon bleu pasta bake. Plus if they don’t want it right away, they can always freeze it for later!”

She's right – a baked pasta is a crowd pleaser, plus it's typically an inexpensive dish that can feed a family!

We have an Easy Pasta Bake Recipe that will become your go-to family dinner, but if you're looking to try a Cordon Bleu version like Alisha, check out this tasty recipe here!

Kenzie: BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches

“After I had my first baby, a friend brought us over a tray of BBQ Pulled Pork, a package of hamburger buns, and a bagged salad. It was a tasty dinner we could heat up and make as much or as little as we wanted!”

You can easily adapt this Hawaiian Pulled Pork Sandwich recipe to make it transportable to your friends or neighbors!

pulled pork sandwich with barbecue sauce, from Shelf Cooking

Angie: “Guys, I don't bring people food.”

HA! We feel you Angie!

It's not always possible for you to bring a meal as a form of support, and that's totally okay! If you still want to give this sentiment without the time in the kitchen, consider sending an e-gift card to a meal delivery service like Door Dash or Uber Eats. It still sends the same message that you want to bless a family with a meal they will love, and it lets them select their own favorite dish too! Win win!

More Recipes That Make Great Meals To Share

oven baked hamburger tacos, from Shelf Cooking

Here are some more of our favorite recipes that can easily be made in a disposable dish and transported to a friend's house:

  • Oven-Baked Tacos Recipe + Leftovers Tips & Swaps: Round up your ground beef and all your favorite taco toppings and prepare for greatness! This easy and yummy recipe calls for a fiesta of epic proportions! It's so delicious that even the picky eaters will ask for seconds!
  • Easy Chicken Taquitos: Taquitos are one of the most versatile foods around! You can mix and match the meat and fillings and customize them to your heart's content.
  • Chicken Zucchini Casserole: You'll only need a handful of ingredients and about 10-minutes of prep to whip up this chicken zucchini casserole. Oh, and it's freezer-friendly, too!
  • Tuxedo Soup: It really doesn't get easier than this hearty, creamy, and incredibly delicious soup! A cozy bowl of comfort!
  • White Chicken Chili Recipe Three Ways: This is the PERFECT meal to gift someone in colder months! We'll show you how to make it on the stovetop, the instant pot, and the crock pot. You choose what works best for you!
  • Baked Ziti Recipe (Our Fave Freezer Meal): There aren't many things we love more than a one-dish dinner that's big enough to feed a crowd! And because this baked ziti is meatless, it's one of the cheapest things you can make. 
  • Tater Tot Casserole: This tater tot casserole recipe is so cheap and easy to make, it's a perfect shelf cooking meal. Plus, it's a total crowd-pleaser, and freezes like a dream!
  • Easy Pizza Casserole: This easy, cheesy pizza casserole is a cinch to make and is sure to be a hit with both young and old!

Feel Like Adding In Dessert?

If you're feeling extra generous and want to supply that sweet treat to go along with your care package meal, here are some delicious ideas and recipes!

homemade ooey-gooey bars, from Shelf Cooking
  • Cheesecake Brownie Bites: You'll lock in your “Friend of the Year” status with these babies! Swirled with delicious cheesecake and baked into the perfect size for sharing or as a special personal treat.
  • Quick And Easy Dump Cake: Not the most appetizing name, but it sure is tasty, quick and easy! This delicious dump cake recipe is so simple AND it utilizes our favorite shelf cooking principles by using ingredients that are easy to keep in your pantry!
  • Lemon Cake Mix Cookies: Everyone will love this springtime treat that is bursting with light and fresh flavor!
  • Cake Batter Blondies Everyone Will Love! A blondie is basically a dessert bar that is very similar to a brownie, but uses vanilla flavoring instead of cocoa. This fun spin has a confetti filling too!
  • Sopapilla Cheesecake/Crescent Roll Cheesecake: If you opted for a Mexican main dish, like the tacos or taquitos, this might be a fun dessert to accompany it! Sopapillas and cheesecake come together to create the perfect mashup!
Blondies cut into squares

Any simple gesture will go a long way to show a friend that you care about them, and you are supporting them through their current situation! A meal is a universal hug, and will be so appreciated!

Enjoy these other great Shelf Cooking posts:

XOXO, The Page Co. Team!