Guest post from Courtney of Blessed by Brenna
“What can I do to help?”
For many, this is the first thought that comes to mind when you hear of a family who has just welcomed a new baby, someone who is battling health issues, or a family who is grieving in the midst of a death. However, it can be difficult to know how best to help a family in need, especially when there is not much extra money around.
When our daughter was born in December 2011, with a life-threatening skin condition, our community leaped into action to aid in whatever ways they could while we dealt with many health problems during her first year.
From that experience, we gained a much better understanding about what can be very helpful during a time of crisis or need. And assisting a family in need doesn’t have to hurt your tight budget, especially if you get a little creative.
1. Take charge and put your time to good use.
If you are close to a family in need, think about what you would want done in a similar situation, whether it’s a new baby or a health emergency. Gather a group of friends to clean a family’s home or let someone know you are going the store and ask what you can pick up for them, so that they don’t feel they are inconveniencing you to request groceries.
Or, tell the family when you are available on a certain day or time period, so that they know it’s not an inconvenience to ask for help during that time.
2. Organize meals.
There are online tools for this, such as MealTrain.com, that alleviate any stress of coordinating, as people who want to bring food can simply sign up with what food they are bringing. You can also tailor it for the family’s schedule, so that if getting meals every day is too much food, you can limit it to two or three days a week.
Creating a meal is a frugal way to make a positive difference to a family who doesn’t have time to worry about cooking and grocery shopping.
When it comes to food, you might also keep a couple of things in mind:
- Consider preparing a frozen meal instead of fresh. When a family has a new baby, they are likely getting a lot of food right away. With a frozen meal, they can put it away to enjoy at a time when the food supply has died down but life is just as hectic. Be sure to tightly wrap the food with foil and Saran Wrap and to label what it is, the date it was prepared and any cooking instructions.
- Breakfast and lunch items can be just as helpful as dinner items, and are often less expensive to prepare. Baking a batch of freezer-friendly muffins or bringing over deli sandwiches and soup is extremely appreciated by families who are likely getting only dinner meals.
- Package all your food into containers or Ziploc bags that can be thrown away when done, so the family doesn’t have to worry about returning a nice casserole dish to you.
3. Give a gift card.
If a family is in the midst of a health emergency and you want to help financially but can’t afford to give cash, consider giving a gift card to aid with meals, gas or groceries. You can utilize your Swagbucks points or other rewards systems to “purchase” a gift card for someone at no cost to you out of pocket.
For months, I was unable to clip coupons, shop around for the best prices, or meal plan, so being able to use a gift card to run into a single store or order a pizza was a huge relief on our budget and our emotional state.
4. Consider the container.
If you are bringing a gift to a family, such as for a new baby, “wrap” your presents in a decorative basket or storage container instead of spending the same amount on a large gift bag. Containers can be put to good use to help store toys, craft supplies or other household items whereas a gift bag will likely just be thrown away!
5. Send thoughts and prayers.
If your budget is really tight, don’t hesitate to simply reach out to someone and let them know that you are thinking of them and praying for them. Sending a heartfelt message with prayers can mean the world to someone who is trying to cope with a big change in their lives, good or bad.
Courtney Westlake is the author of the blog Blessed by Brenna, where she shares the challenges and triumphs of her family after her daughter Brenna was born with Harlequin Ichthyosis, a very rare and severe skin disease.