Monday, December 28, 2009

Wrapping Things Up

Disposable or not? This is up to you. Disposable can make things easier for the recipient. Consider how important it is to you that you get your dishes back also. On the other hand, it is hard to find to a disposable container that can hold a large quantity of steaming stew. I tend to just take it in the pot in which it was cooked. Sometimes, the recipient will just pour it into one of their own and hand the pot back to me. But I don’t stress about my dishes. I have pots to spare and by and large my dishes have found their way back to me.

If you are taking the meal to a family that’s at a hospital and away from home, disposable would just be necessary. In that case, don’t forget napkins and disposable cutlery!

- Sabina

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Importing Email Addresses

Virtually every major email system (Yahoo, Google, and Hotmail) can export email addresses (Contacts) to an Outlook CSV format. CaringMeals can now import Outlook CSV files, so you can save typing and quickly invite all your Friends to bring meals!

Here are the steps:

  1. Export your Contacts to an Outlook CSV file. When prompted to save the file, choose your "My Documents" or "Documents" folder.
      Here are examples from the 3 major email providers:
    • Gmail

      • Click Contacts | Export

      • Select Outlook CSV and click "Export"

    • Yahoo

      • Open your Contact List and select Export

      • Click Export Now next to "Microsoft Outlook"

    • Hotmail
      Open your Contacts and Click Manage | Export

    • For other email systems, look for an "Export" function, and select "Outlook CSV" when asked for the format to export. If you have questions, please check with your email provider.

  2. Login to CaringMeals, Open the Plan you are coordinating, and click INVITE FRIENDS TO HELP. You will see this screen:

  3. Click the "Choose File" button, and select the file from step #1 in your "My Documents", "Documents", or whichever folder you saved the file.

  4. Click UPLOAD, and then you should see a screen like this:If you see one of the following messages:
    - File too big
    - No Addresses found
    - Not a CSV file
    Please correct your file, and try again.

  5. Enter a note to your Friends, and then click SEND!

This is another feature which was requested by our YOU, our users - Keep sending us your feedback and suggestions! We want to keep providing features which help you coordinate more meals, in less time, with less stress!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Food Safety - Your Refrigerator

Why do we refrigerate foods?
Refrigeration slows bacterial growth. Bacteria exist everywhere in nature. They are in the soil, air, water, and the foods we eat. When they have nutrients (food), moisture, and favorable temperatures, they grow rapidly, increasing in numbers to the point where some types of bacteria can cause illness. Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 and 140 °F, the “Danger Zone,” some doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes. A refrigerator set at 40 °F or below will protect most foods.

Stay out of the "Danger Zone" in your refrigerator!

When it comes to meal preparation and storage (Leftovers), knowing how refrigeration affects different types of foods can save you from making yourself or, even worse, someone else painfully sick.

Here are the refrigeration times for some of the most common CaringMeals:
- Opened Luncheon Meats: 3-5 days
- Ground Meats: 1-2 days
- Chicken: 1-2 days
(be careful with chicken and ground meat!)

For an in-depth explanation of this topic, the USDA has provided a complete guide to food safety:

Their Food Safety home page is:

You can even call them at 1-888-MPHotline! Your tax dollars at work!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Who did I Invite?

As your friend list grows, sometimes you forget who you already invited to a Plan. No need to worry - when you click "INVITE FRIENDS TO HELP" and look at your list of friends, the "@" will be your guide. If you see "@" next to your Friend's name, they have already been invited. (Even if someone else invited that friend to the Plan, you will see the "@" symbol!)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Prepare and Conquer

To allow for shopping time and preparation, try to begin planning your meal 2 days before the delivery date ( will send you an email reminder 2 days before your delivery date). Let's look at some tips for planning and cooking your meal...

When choosing a meal to cook for someone else, I have found that this generally is not the time to try out a new recipe. Figuring out a new recipe and wondering how the dish will turn out only adds stress. Meals that your family likes are a good place to start. Of course you want to pick one that is easy to pack and transport. If you decide to try something new, make to cook it at least once for your family (if you have the time).

It’s good to have a stock of recipes that have worked in the past. You don’t need too many because typically you'll only take one meal to a family. It really doesn’t matter how many times you take the dish because it is always "new" to the recipient. Besides, the more you make your favorites, the better you get at it and the easier it is to make!

Having said all that, my favorites are Shepherd’s Pie and Stews/Soups. Most adults and children like these. Casseroles can be assembled bit-by-bit over a couple days and can include all the main food groups. Most of them also refrigerate or freeze well.

A Simple Suggested Preparation Schedule:

1. 2 Days Before : Shop and make sure you have all ingredients. Start chopping veggies.

2. Day Before : Start cooking and assembling dish. Make the dessert.

3. Delivery Day : Finish final cooking, packing. Make call to confirm delivery, if necessary.

- Sabina James

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gawking at Food

There are a million recipes online, but when you can see beautiful pictures of the food being prepared, the recipe really becomes inspiring.

For example, take a look at this:
Seeing the meal is so much more exciting than just reading about it! If you like what you see, browse all of the pictorial recipes on Iowa Girl Eats.

If you love looking at food (and getting ideas for cooking CaringMeals!), take a look at It is user sorted directory (the most popular sites are at the front) of food pictures and recipes from all over the Internet.

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Do I have to Register??

On CaringMeals, we ask you to create a username and password, before entering the site. Sometimes this may feel like a hassle, but here are all the benefits that we can deliver because you register:

- Friends/Address book: The people on your Friends list on CaringMeals are your addressbook. When it comes time to invite others to bring meals, you know exactly who in your circle of Friends can bring meals. You can even find and add new friends on CaringMeals, which you might not have in your personal email list.

- Security: No anonymous users means that you can control who sees your private information. On other sites that do not require registration, people can come and go, but there is no real record of who viewed your information - CaringMeals is secure.

- Friends' Activity Feed: On your "My Meals" page, you will see a stream of activity (similar to facebook), which shows all of the meals, comments, and plans your friends are posting on CaringMeals. You can keep up on the lastest news, and find opportunities to help bring meals.

- Email Delivery: By verifying your email, we can ensure that the important meal reminders will go to a valid email address (not a mistyped address).

- Saved Settings: Under your profile ("My Profile" link), you can save simple information about yourself such as full name, phone, food likes (so others know what to cook for you), and email preferences. Because this is stored in our database, you don't have to retype this information each time you visit CaringMeals.

- Personalized: At the top of your screen, you will see Recently Viewed Plans. Because you login, we can show you the Plans you viewed most recently. Just one-click, and you can see all the details. If you are coordinating several Plans, this is a great time-saver.

The convenience of not registering may appear to be an advantage, but it leaves many features lacking. By completing our quick registration process, CaringMeals becomes a secure, reliable, and fun place to coordinate all your meals!

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at

Friday, November 20, 2009

More Friends!

The new "Copy to My Friends" feature is one of the most exciting and powerful tools on CaringMeals. Read on, and I'm sure you will see why...

Here is a scenario:
1. Your Friend coordinates meals on CaringMeals for someone in your group.
2. A few weeks later, another person in your group needs meals, and you would like to coordinate the meals this time.
3. You want to invite everyone who helped the first time, but you don't want to have to find and type all of their email addresses.
What do you do??

There is a Solution!
1. Open the Plan your Friend coordinated before.
2. On the right side, under the "Activity Summary" area, you will see the link "Copy to My Friends" in the Visited This Page section

(This link is not visible to the Coordinator, since all of the people on the list are already friends with the Coordinator)
3. Click "Copy to My Friends" and in a few seconds, all of the Friends listed below will be copied to your Friends list.

The next time you want to coordinate meals, you will be able to quickly invite all of the Friends who helped with the previous plan. Without knowing or typing an email address, you can instantly expand your network of Friends.
Just another way CaringMeals helps you coordinate more meals, in less time, with less stress!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

First Things First

You want to know what not to make before you start planning. A few simple questions about allergies and likes/dislikes either directly or from the organizer can prevent the awkwardness that results from delivering a meal they cannot or won’t eat.
You also want to know the logistics of delivering the meal, so that the process is as smooth as possible for everyone.

Here are some questions to ask of the receiver when coordinating meals:

  • Are there any allergies?

  • What do you like? Dislike? (If have a dish in mind, mention it now and see how they respond.)

  • How many people should the meal feed? (If they need to reheat or cook/bake the dish, make sure they have the time and equipment to do it.)

  • When can I bring the meal? Ask for a window of time. People need margins.

  • Who will be home/available to receive the meal (or where to drop it off, if no one is home).

Every now and then, there may be many family members and friends present with the friends you want to help. Then the question arises, do you have to feed them all?? In order not to be overwhelmed, I usually plan on the immediate family and add an extra two to four servings. Just let them know how many your meal will feed, so they can inform those who need to fend for themselves. This is your gift to them, so you can make the decision about the size of the meal.

Share your experience with the CaringMeals community! What questions do you ask when coordinating meals?

- Sabina James

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Print a Sigup Sheet

Ideally, when you use CaringMeals, you can reduce or eliminate paper signup sheets and phone tag. However, there are times that having a paper print out of the meal schedule can come in handy (especially when your friends are not yet Internet savvy).

Now, when you visit a Plan, at the top of the page you will see a "Print" link. That link will take you to a page which does two things:
1. The page is printer-friendly, so it will look clean on paper. As soon as the page opens, you will be prompted to print.
2. For the dates that are not filled, you will see lines to write Name, Phone, and Email for someone to signup.

You can pass this printout around at a get-together, then when you come back to your computer either
- Signup "On Behalf" of the people on the printout
- If they provided an email address, send them an invitation from CaringMeals.

This is just another way to help you coordinate more meals, in less time, with less stress.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Public or Private

You now have a choice when using CaringMeals. We hope it isn't as difficult as choosing between Paper and Plastic, but you can now choose between "Public" and "Private" Plans. Let's see what it can do for you...

On CaringMeals, the main object we are trying to protect is the "Plan" which contains all of the details about who needs then meals, when they are needed, where to bring the meals, and so on. In most cases, this is contains information that should be private among friends, such as emails, phone numbers, addresses, and even health conditions.

With the introduction of our "Public" Plan option, you now have two security choices when it comes to security on CaringMeals:
- Private: This is the default setting and is the most secure. Only people who are Friends of the Plan Coordinator can view a plan. If someone, who is not a Friend of the Coordinator, tries to view a Plan, they will have to send a Friend request to the Coordinator. Once the Coordinator confirms the request, the requestor can view the Plan.
These extra steps add security by preventing unauthorized access, but they also add some complexity to the whole process.

- Public: A Public Plan can be viewed by any registered user - They do not have to be a Friend of the Coordinator. This eliminates the need to send and confirm Friend Requests to gain access to a Plan. From a security standpoint, it means that any one who can get the URL ( can view your Plan.
Each person who visits the Plan will automatically be added to the Friend list of the Coordinator.

How do I decide which setting to use?
- If the Coordinator will invite people directly from CaringMeals using the "INVITE FRIENDS" button, each invited person is automatically added as a Friend, and they will never have to send a friend request. Choosing a "Private" Plan is the the easy and secure option.
- If you want to invite people using a mailing list, facebook, or at a face-to-face meeting, you may want to choose a "Public" plan. People that try to view your Plan will immediately be able to view the information and signup more quickly to bring a meal. At anytime, you can switch from Public to Private - The users who have already visited the Plan will be able to return at anytime, but new people who are not friends of the Coordinator, will have to send a Friend request.

If you have any doubts or concerns, choose the "Private" option. You can also contact us if you would like further assistance

Finding the right balance between security and openness (user-friendliness) is typically a tricky balance. A 100% secure system would have no users, but a totally user friendly system would likely have very little security. Our Public/Private option gives you the power to control and adjust that balance.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Different Dream

I recently heard from Jolene Philo, an author and blogger, whose book A Different Dream for My Child: Meditations for Parents of Critically or Chronically Ill Children speaks to parents of special needs children.

She wrote about CaringMeals on her blog: Often we think of bringing meals when someone has a sudden event in their life (birth, accident, illness, etc.), but think of the long-term care needs in your network of friends. I'm sure there are some parents of special needs children who would be relieved to have meals provided once in a while!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On Deck

Here's a quick look at some new features coming to CaringMeals:
- Public Plans: If you are sure that you are not exposing any sensitive information, you can allow anyone to view a Plan you create (not just your "friends"). This will make the process easier by not requiring a friend request for new users. If you choose to keep your plan Private, only your friends can view the information.
- See the Likes/Dislikes of each Plan Receiver: If the Receivers have entered their personal likes/dislikes, you will be able to see their preferences on the Plan.
- Printable Signup Sheet - Ideally, everything can be done online, but there are times when having a paper sheet to show friends at a meeting can help.

Stay tuned for more details!

These features are all drawn from the suggestions of CaringMeals users. If there is a feature you would like to see on CaringMeals, please let us know at!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

No Comments?

Comments are one of the best ways to keep everyone informed of the latest news on your plan.
Here are a few notes on using Comments:
- Comments are emailed to the coordinator and each person who signed up to bring a meal. (You will not receive an email notification of your own comment)
- The comments are visible to everyone who can view the plan (All of the coordinator's friends)
- When your friends go to, they will see all of your comments under their "Friends' Activity" tab.

We are working on ways to further improve comments as a communication tool - stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


For a while now I've been a regular on The goal of the site is to keep "stuff" out of landfills, and get it into the hands of those who can actually use it. I am able to give away useful things that I no longer want, and I can ask for things that I have been wanting, all for free-no strings attached! I've received things for my kids and things for my home! Just be careful, perusing the site and picking up items will eat up your time (and gas) if you let it! Always remember to use your head when connecting with others online.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

You 've Got Mail!

You create a plan, schedule a few meals and invite 20 friends. Then you wait... And wait... Only 3 or 4 people view the plan (you can see on the right side). What is the problem?

1. People don't check their email often (or at all) - Many of my friends (and I'm sure many of yours) do not regularly check their email.
Solution: Call your friends who have not logged in to CaringMeals. If you see others at a meeting (church group, baby shower, party, etc.), just remind them to check their email!

2. Spam Blockers - We take precautions to make sure our emails do not raise suspicions of Spam Blockers, but sometimes overzealous programs can flag our emails as Spam.
Solution: Ask your friends to check their Spam Folder. Also, all of our emails come from, so you can suggest others add to their address book.

3. Sign up on behalf of your friends - If you know someone will be unlikely to check their email, but they want to bring a meal, you can use our "On Behalf" feature to signup for a meal.
Solution: See the blog entry No Email, No Problem.

The concept of coordinating meals on the Internet is still a new concept. Getting your group to adopt this new way of doing things may take some time at first, but in the end, we are confident everyone will agree this is a much better (more efficient) way to coordinate meals!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

What do You Like?

One of the challenges in bringing a meal for someone else is choosing foods that they will like. Now, when you signup or edit your profile, you can tell everyone what you like (and don't):

How do you use this information? On a meal plan, everyone will be able to see the likes/dislikes of each receiver (if they updated their profile). This will make it easier to choose and prepare a meal everyone will enjoy.

Go ahead and update your profile today!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

No Email, No Problem

Do you know someone who wants to bring a meal, but isn't an email user? No problem. With our "On Behalf" feature, you can signup on behalf of someone else. Here's how it works:

1. Let's pretend, that Carla tells me that she wants to bring a meal on November 2nd. She isn't an email user, so she can't access and sign up herself.

2. I login to, open the plan, and click "BRING MEAL" next to November 2nd.

3. I'll see a screen as shown in the picture above. I enter "Carla" in the box, and her phone number in the comments (so she can be contacted if needed).

That's it! When others view the meal schedule, they'll see something like this:

Everyone can see that I signed up, but Carla is the person actually bringing the meal.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

2 Years Young

Just as children grow from crawling to walking and squeaking to talking, CaringMeals experienced tremendous growth in its first 2 years. Thousands of people all over the world used to coordinate thousands of encouraging meals. We are humbled to play a small part in helping welcome new babies home and easing the pain of illnesses.

If there is anything we can do to make you more successful with, please email - We want to make this year the best ever!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Meal Network

As you build up a network of friends on CaringMeals, you will find a lot of exciting information on the My Meals page. Besides the tabs for meals you are coordinating, watching and bringing, there is now a list of your friends' activities on CaringMeals.

If you are on someone's friend list, their activity will appear on your page.
Here are two quick tips for using this page:
1. If you see a friend's name, click on it. You will be able to add them to your friend list, which will save time when you need to coordinate meals. In no time, you will have a large list of friends, all without ever typing an email address.
2. You may see a plan for someone you know but were not invited to. You can click on the plan link and send a friend request to the coordinator. This has really exciting possibilities for connecting people and bring together communities.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Your Social Network

Social Networking in all its flavors (Twitter, Facebook, Digg, etc.) is marvelous in the way that it allows people to keep informed on what all of their friends are doing.

Each time you add a Friend on CaringMeals, you are building your social network. So far, the CaringMeals Friend system has served primarily to build your address book and provide security.

On August 25th, you will see your CaringMeals Social Network in a whole new and exciting way! Stay tuned...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Changed your mind?

Didn't know what you were going to bring when you signed up to bring a meal? Changed your mind about what you are cooking? No problem.

Now, when you move your mouse over your comment, you will see a pencil/paper icon. Just click, and a small dialog box will appear with a place to edit your comment. In addition, Plan coordinators can edit all comments on their Plans. Enjoy!

Monday, July 20, 2009

What's Next?

Sorry its been awhile since the last update. Don't worry, there is a lot of exciting activity going on behind the scenes. Here are some coming attractions in August:
- Edit Meal Comments: Many people have asked for the ability to change or update the meal comment (what they are bringing). This should save a lot of time and confusion

- Import Contacts from a CSV file: If you have your contacts' email addresses in Yahoo/Google/Outlook, you will be able to quickly import those email addresses into CaringMeals, saving typing and time.

- A New Documentation site: CaringMeals is designed to be self-explanitory, but there are times when your have questions or need help with using the site. We are developing a detailed system that will include documentation, examples, and faqs to help you be successful with CaringMeals.

Stay tuned for more updates!


Thursday, April 30, 2009

My Friends are Your Friends

One of the most powerful features of CaringMeals is the ability to easily find friends.
Wherever you see a person's name, you can click on it and see their profile information (if you are not their friend, you will have to send a friend request). As you scroll down the page on your friend's profile you will see their list of friends. See someone you know? Just click "Send Friend Request" and they will be added to your friend list!

This can help when you share meal coordinating responsibilities with someone else. If your friend coordinates a Plan and invites 30 people, you can simply click on your friend's name (Under "Who Is Coordinating These Meals?") and send friend requests to the people you know.
This can save time entering email addresses, and help you find new friends who can help bring meals!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How Many Friends to Invite?

When creating a new Plan and inviting friends to bring meals, people often wonder - How many friends should I invite?

I recommend basing the number of invitations you send on the number of meals you have scheduled. A good guideline is:
Invitations Sent = 3 x Meals Scheduled
For example, if you have 10 meals, plan to invite about 30 people.

Why invite so many people? It is likely that a certain number of people you invite will not check their email (infrequent computer users). Others may be away for a few days or on vacation. Some may open and view your Plan, but be unable to bring a meal on any of the days. So by inviting many more people than meals, you are much more likely to find people to bring meals on all the days you scheduled.

It is great to see a schedule of meals with a friend's name next to each one!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Keep it Coming

Thank you to everyone for your suggestions and comments since the update in late February! Keep it coming!

Here are some exciting features and changes that have been made since February:
- Show Email Address for friends. This will help identify friends, especially when there seems to be duplicates.
- Receiver Description and Instructions
- Email people when friend confirms. When someone confirms you as a friend, you will receive an email notification.
- Reduce errors when inviting people. Previously, when inviting friends, often there were numerous errors and warnings. Now, only critical errors will be shown.
- Plan Activity Stats. This is really cool.

This component gives you up-to-date feedback on how the plan is doing. It answers: How many meals are left to fill? How many people did I invite? Who actually opened the Plan? This feature will really help everyone track the progress of the Meals.

And there is more to come:
- Video Tutorials
- Tips of the Day
- Signup Confirmation Emails (To help remember your username/password)

As always, if you have any suggestions or feedback, please let me know.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Email Errors

Today a problem prevented Emails from being sent from about 7-8pm Pacific. This is resolved now, but please email if you see any unexpected errors.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

And we're back!

After many months of work and a short upgrade downtime, the new site is live!
You can login with the same username and password, and see all of your plans and meals from before the upgrade. Of course, with any new release, there may be unexpected behavior. Please send any questions or comments to

In coming weeks, I'll provide more details on some of the newest features.
One of the biggest (and the one that took the longest to develop) is the "Friend" functionality. Among other things, this will let you:
- Maintain a list of friends (similar to an Address Book)
- Control access to the plans you create and your profile information (Email/Phone)
- Find new friends! When you click on the name of a friend, you will see a list of their friends. If you see someone you know, just send a friend request and they will be added to your friend list.

Enjoy the new site!


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

An Appetizer

The time is near for releasing the next major update to!

To whet your appetite, you can take a look at a few screenshots of the new site.  In addition to being more attractive, colorful, and easier to read, many new features and functions will be part of the upgrade:
  • Meal Comments - When a user signs up to bring a meal, they will have the option to enter a description of what they plan to bring.
  • Most Recent Plans - At the top of the screen you will see shortcuts to the most recent Plan you have viewed.

  • Easy to Remember URLs - When creating a Plan, you will specifiy a Unique Name.   This name can then be used to access the plan.  For example, if you choose "JohnMeals", the address will be
  • Friends - For security purposes and to maintain an address book, a "Friend" system will be in place.   Friends are simply email addresses that you have marked as trustworthy  (If you have used Facebook, this concept will be familiar to you). To view a Plan, a user must be a friend of the Coordinator.  The old "Plan Password" concept will be removed in favor of this system.  You will also be able to view a list of your friends, view their contact information, and invite them easily to help with meals.  More on this to come.
  • Receiver emails - Specify a receiver on the plan, so they can stay informed about the meals.
  • Searching! - In the past, we did not allow searching, because there was no mechanism to restrict access to the Plan.  Now, with the Friend system, a user can search for a plan, and if they are not a friend of the Coordinator, they will have to send a Friend Request before they will be allowed to view the Plan.
There is more, but I think this is enough to let you know that the wait will be worth it.  A date has not yet been set (some more testing to be done), but February 27th is the estimate.

The site will still be considered "Beta", which means that it still needs your feedback.  A big "thank you" for all of your input and suggestions that have contributed to the making the site successful!


Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year!

2008 is history, and 2009 promises exiting things at CaringMeals:
- More people joined CaringMeals in December than any previous month.   It is wonderful to see how people all over the country are benefitting from this service.
- A new, colorful, easier to use, and feature release is planned for February.  We want to make it even easier for you to connect with your friends and coordinate meals.

I wish you, your friends, and family a safe and blessed New Year.