You just had a baby. You need to eat. But you don’t really need to be cooking (or spending tons of money on takeout). So, you need a meal train!
A meal train is a meal scheduling/coordination system. Generally, it’s an online calendar system where your friends and family can sign up to bring you delicious hot meals after birth. Setting up a meal train is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a postpartum person—we promise. And as postpartum doulas, we know of what we speak!
What Is A Meal Train?
Meal trains (also known as meal registries, food calendars, or food trains) are online calendars that organize and coordinate meals for people who are experiencing hardship or change, such as a new baby or a death in the family.
These days, there are actually quite a few different options for meal trains. All of these website-based services offer an easy way to sign up, an editable online calendar, and a way to communicate or specify food preferences/allergies, drop-off times and other logistical details for getting you your food. You can set one up yourself or enlist a friend or family member to do it for you.
Still, different meal train services do offer different options, so it’s worth investigating each of them to see which will work for you. There’s no “best” meal registry—just the best one for you and family. Consider your families’ specific needs in the fourth trimester when choosing a service and making your meal calendar for after baby. Will you need additional support with household tasks, like laundry? Is just one meal a day good for you or is it beneficial to schedule more? Would you like the option to receive digital gift cards for local restarants?
Use our meal train comparison of three of the most popular food train set-up services, Meal Train, Take Them A Meal, and Give In Kind to learn which of these will meet your needs after birth.
Possibly the best known and most used of the food train calendars, Meal Train is a simple and elegant solution that helps you organize a meal schedule after birth (or surgery, an accident, a death, or any other occasion that someone would need support). It has a simple interface and is easy for most people to use.
The free version is the most common, but there is a more comprehensive paid version, too.
- Interactive online calendar for one meal a day
- Digital gift cards for Grubhub, DoorDash, restaurants, and more
- Digital gift cards for groceries, restaurants, etc
- Allows participants to make financial contributions/donations through PayPal
- Allows multiple organizers
- Reminder emails at 1 day and 1 week before date
Meal Train Plus, the paid version, offers options for multiple meals per day, tasks, and more. It is a one-time fee of $10. Check out a sample Meal Train page (scroll to the bottom).
Take Them A Meal
Another popular option is Take Them A Meal. This site was founded in 2007 when the founders’ friend collapsed from a heart condition. Since then, it’s been utilized by millions of people who need support.
- Interactive online calendar
- Searchable database (so people can easily find you on the site!)
- Reminder emails for participants
- Recipe database of easily-transportable meals
- Option to send a fully-cooked meal through Take Them A Meal’s own meal service (options include Honey Lemon Chicken and Ravioli with Marinara Sauce)
The interface of Take Them A Meal is pretty basic (maybe even a little outdated, if we’re honest). Check out a sample Take Them A Meal page.
Give In Kind
Give In Kind is a newer addition to the meal train scene. Started after the founder, Laura Malcolm, experienced a stillbirth, Give In Kind is a way to coordinate multiple types of support during the postpartum period, including meals and tasks/errands like childcare, grocery shopping, and more.
- Interactive online calendar for multiple meals a day
- Reminder emails for participants
- Allows multiple organizers
- Option to add other ways to help, such as tasks/errands like dog walking, grocery shopping, etc
- Update/newsfeed option to share photos and communicate with supporters
- Digital gift cards for GrubHub
- Option to connect a digital wishlist, like an Amazon wishlist or even a baby registry
- Allows participants to make financial contributions/donations through PayPal or GoFundMe
- Offers curated gift boxes that participants can send to recipient
Check out a sample Give In Kind page for birth.
Which Meal Train Calendar Should I Choose?
If you’re looking for a simple solution to organize and coordinate meals after having a baby, Meal Train or Take Them A Meal are meal registries that will easily meet your needs.
Take Them A Meal is probably best for people with a big local network, as it does not have many options to send digital food cards or money. The inclusion of vetted recipes is a nice touch and can be really helpful for your supporters.
Meal Train includes a great calendar for your supporters, as well as the important option for both digital food delivery gift cards (like Grub Hub and Uber Eats), as well as financial donations.
But if you’re looking for a more comprehensive option overall, Give In Kind may be a better solution. We think it’s a good option for those who don’t have a lot of friends and family nearby: the gift box and wish list options make it so easy for people to contribute meaningfully to your postpartum experience without having to show up at your door with a hot meal.
Give In Kind also stands out for its’ task scheduling and sign-up capability. It can be useful to get support with other household tasks that need doing, like dog walking, cleaning, childcare, lawn care, and more. Give In Kind makes that very easy for both you and those who are supporting you. This is especially useful for postpartum families who have older children, multiples, or a baby in the NICU. Having the option for your community to sign up to help you get tasks done or errands completed is also great if you are a single parent.
Although Meal Train also offers task scheduling in its paid version, this option is free from Give In Kind.
Whichever meal train service you choose, we hope there are lots of yummy nourishing meals in your future! For even more after birth meal ease, download our postpartum app, My Fourth, to get access to some amazing recipes created just for the postpartum period (as well as a day-by-day guide to the fourth trimester AND easy text access to our virtual postpartum doulas).
About Major Care: Major Care is a doula-led maternal health company on a mission to tackle America’s postpartum care gap. We blend the power of guided learning with the support of virtual postpartum experts to create a safer and more supported experience for parents while addressing a $14B+ problem for providers, employers and payers. The My Fourth app, which is free, blends self-guided learning with virtual care. It includes a postpartum prep toolkit and six full weeks of daily guides to life after birth, with videos and content covering physical recovery, emotional health, lactation, relationships, and baby care. The app also offers plans for texting and video sessions with a diverse team of on-call doulas and lactation experts.