Do you use food banks or food pantries?
Last night I went to one in my community for the first time and I got so much food! It really was exciting and a lovely experience. Right now I am working hard to come up with ways to use everything before it goes bad.
here is what I got -
five pound bag of chopped lettuce
four loaves of bread - two artisanal, one wheat, one farmhouse white
two containers greek yogurt
two zuchinnis (Huge)
Four summer squash (huge)
two acorn squash
a ton of fresh shrimp
large package of potato chips
several candy bars
sleeve of water crackers
can of butter beans
package of dried pinto beans
one liter of soda
five large white onions
about 30 small potatoes
Right now I am focused on using up the lettuce, bread and summer squashes/zuchinnis. I think the acorn squash, potatoes and onions will keep for a bit.
It is so nice to have all this food to eat. Although i am limited in my options, I can mix these things with food I already have, to make some nice meals.
I am thinking of getting some ground beef, cheese and tomatoes to go with the shredded lettuce and zuchinnis. I can make taco sandwiches using the artisanal bread! The unflavored greek yogurt can serve as sour cream.
I am also wondering if i can make some sort of bread pudding with the acorn squash and the farm white bread, and use the vanilla greek yogurt as a filling with some spices?
Any ideas? I am a miserable chef but would like to use the food up. BTW - I hate shrimp and gave all that to DH.
Ever use a food pantry? How did you feel? Do you have any tricks for using up food you are gifted?
Oh, and about ten plums too!
With those ingredients you can make a fabulous marinara sauce. Take squashes, carrots, tomatoes, onions, add stewed tomatoes, simmer in crock pot, mashing with hand masher - do NOT put in blender - hand mashing only. This sauce goes well by itself, over shrimp, or make turkey and pork meatballs. It is healthy and extremely filling. Slow cook time varies from 6 to 10 hours, depending on how full your crock is.
Before you add acorn to mix slice it in half add butter and cook in microwave for 5 minutes. Add the meat of the acorn squash but toss the peel. Summer squash and zucchini you can cut and add raw, depending on your school of thought you can leave on skins. I would suggest peeling as these are likely chemically processed.
Potatoes ... I suggest soup.
Boil potato, carrot, red onion (can use white onion but I prefer the flavor red lends to soup)
Boil down until all are tender
Blend (with the water from boiling)
Add some chicken or veggie broth while blending
Put back into pot and add either coconut milk or regular milk
Keep on medium-low (don't allow to scorch)until you start to see bubbles. Turn off. Let sit uncovered to thicken and enjoy.
Homemade bread goes well with this meal. It is filling, freezes well and is nutritious.
Yogurt is a no brainer, add some fresh fruit, oats, and enjoy. It can also be added to soup. It's also wonderful in a bath!
The plums ... lol ... you can make a fantastic sauce by simply reducing plums in pan over medium low heat with some water. You can also make a plum cobbler.
MMMMmmmmm, the sauce sounds great. We will see if any fruits are left after dan gets through with them.
I also have a cucumber. is there some sort of cucumber yogurt sauce i can make to eat with the potatoes or as a dressing on the lettuce?
I am most concerned about the shredded lettuce. The bag is the size of a bed pillow. Once I open it, it will have to be used rapidly!
For dinner tonite i sliced the zuchinnis very thin, drizzled with olive oil, basil and garlic and then cookeda little. Then i added diced tomatoes from a can and some mozzarella cheese, and let it cook once more.
It was yummy. I dipped some of the the artisanal bread in the drippings.
For breakkie I used the bread that seemed the most stale, chopped it up and layered with cinnamon, raisins, greek yogurt (vanilla), choc chips, butter and milk. Heated in the microwave and let it set for a few minutes.
For tonight, maybe i will have the acorn squash?
There's a truly refreshing Greek sauce made with cucumbers chopped really fine (discard the seeds if they're too big) and yogurt. Stir those two ingredients together with a little minced garlic, squeeze some fresh lemon juice on top, top with chopped mint leaves and/or chives, and a sprinkle of salt. Stir it up, chill it, and drizzle a little olive oil on top before serving with pita wedges, Italian bread rounds, chips, or crackers. It's called tzatziki. It's sooooo good as a dip but I use it as a salad dressing, too.
As for some of the other veggies you mentioned, make soups and freeze the soup for some incredibly nutritious warm foods when it gets cold outside again. The veggies won't keep but soups will.
Deb's marinara sauce recipe sounds to-die-for and it freezes beautifully, too. Make your freezer your friend.
I even freeze lettuce sometimes, too, if I've got too much to use before it goes bad. (I just cannot STAND to put food in the garbage can!) I just stick a bag of it in the freezer and in the winter time, when I use my crock pot a lot to make stews and soups, I just break off a chunk of my frozen lettuce (or spinach or other greens) and toss it in the pot without bothering to thaw it first. As it cooks, it releases all the nutrients we know and love. Try it!
These are great ideas. I don't have a real freezer though. We have two of those mini fridges. So I prefer to preserve foods via pickling, salting, drying, fermenting, jerking, etc.
I also using those methods make me feel better since they don't require a permanent source of energy. If the power fails, I won't have to go crazy eating stuff from the freezer.
Oooh, i love the tzatziki idea!!! And I can use my lettuce with that, or make toasted flatbread from my leftover breads (would be good with tabouli, yes?)
It's a Mediterranean classic with tabouli! I think you'll love it.
Do you have a food dehydrator? Slice your surplus veggies thin and sprinkle them with a little salt. Don't think of the salt as flavor or a dietary issue, think of it as a mechanical element. It helps draw the water out of the vegetable so it dries quicker and more evenly.
I did this recently with some zucchini and I sprinkled some ground cumin on top, along with a little bit of salt. I absolutely love the flavors of zucchini and cumin together. I dried this till the zucchini was brittle and it was soooo good I nibbled away till I ate the whole batch in one day. If you've got more restraint than I do, store the dried zucchini or other veggies in an air-tight container for longer term keeping.
Jilly, do you like chilled soups? I don't but here's an idea that just came to me:
Chop lots of lettuce into really small pieces and heat it with some flavorful broth - meat based or veggie, either one. Start with just a little broth because the liquids in the lettuce will cook out, adding to the liquid volume of the soup. Add some onions, garlic, a little bit of salt, and pepper; use a little white pepper if you don't want black specks in your pale green soup.
When the lettuce and onions are soft, toss everything into a blender and puree till smooth. Let it cool and then add some yogurt (or tzatziki sauce) to thicken it, then chill it for a while. (If you add milk-based foods to hot liquids, it's likely to curdle so let the soup base cool first.)
You'll have a nice refreshing soup that's totally loaded with nutrients.
To fancy it up, top it with croutons, toasted bread crumbs, fresh herbs, dried parsley, grated cheese, perhaps some diced ham or other meat or seafood - any or all of the above. Sprinkle a little paprika on top, too, maybe?
Might even be better the second day, after the flavors have a chance to develop overnight.
Sandy, if I don't have a blender but do have an old fashioned hand mixed that you crank, will that make the soup smooth enough?
I try to do everything the off the grid way. I do have a dehyrator, though.
I just took my six squishiest little potatoes and planted them in a mound. Now to figure out how to store the rest.
I love Greek sauce! There is so much you can do with it!
I would look on craigslist for people wanting to get rid of a freezer chest. I just picked mine up for $35. It stores all frozen goods, leftovers, and I even have room to store bug prone pantry products. It is a worthwhile investment, as it saves money on waste.
I'm with Sandy - I use my dehydrator daily. I take my dried fruits and turn them into teas/tinctures. I'm actually in the process of harvesting prickly pear fruit and drying.
I don't know if Sandy lives in AZ. I know when I lived in the Midwest and on the East coast salt was necessary. I honestly have not had an issue drying in AZ so I have been skipping the salting step without any negative result. I mention this as many women have issues with high sodium consumption, so just food for thought.
I would use a hand masher over a hand beater to smooth out for soup ... I still highly recommend a basic Hamilton Beach food processor - it has endless uses.
Nope, Sandy doesn't live in AZ but she's right in the middle of the driest year on record in Texas - it's brutal!! It is so dry here the salt might not be necessary but I think it helped get the job done quicker. And it was pretty tasty, too! Although I didn't add enough to make a medical difference.
I really love the idea of adding dried fruits to teas! Thanks for that one. Haven't made tinctures in a few years but I'm missing doing so. Maybe I should revisit that some day soon. Thanks for that.
Yes, Jilly, your old-fashioned, hand crank mixer will do just fine. Just be sure to cook the veggies till they're tender or you'll need to add some extra elbow grease to the recipe. I admire your off-the-grid style
yesterday i got my second box from the food pantry - there was a TON of produce. Honestly there is no way I can use it all. They will be good in the compost pile at least.
What i got this week -
Five kinds of bread
ten plums (a little past ripe - not sure what to do with them)
lots of celery
lots of summer squash
more acorn squash
a bag of dried pinto beans
a liter of soda
a can of applesauce
a package of peanut butter crackers
a large bag of baby carrots
five tomatoes on the verge of mushy
I am going to try to figure out how to store the onions, potatoes, carrots and acorn squash (i have a book on root cellaring techniques), work on eating the summer squash and celery, make breadcrumbs from the bread (I still have bread from last week), pickling the cucumbers and, of course, storing the nonperishables.
Didn't someone suggest making a plum sauce? How to do that?
Does anyone else collect food from food pantries and food banks ?
PS - i used the nearly mushy tomatoes tonite in some quick nachos. They were fine like that!
Make Plum Jam - chop the plums into small pieces, cover them with sugar, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, till you've got jam. Jams and jellies keep a long time without refrigeration.
I haven't been to a food pantry but you're sure making me want to scout out the pantries in my area. I've got that on my to-do list for tomorrow. Thanks!
The plum sauce I make is a reduction.
Pit the plums
Cut in quarters
Use enough water to cover
Simmer on medium-low (do not let it hard boil)
Mash until smooth
I add about a tablespoon of honey (I would taste test first to see if it needs any sweetening)
Let cool slightly and enjoy
This would be a wonderful sauce over bread pudding.
Those both sound like great ideas. I think i will try the plum sauce tomorrow, and then do the bread pudding idea. I'll take photos!
Sandy, let me know how your search for a local food pantry turns out and what you get in yours.
Jilly do those pantries allow you to change items or is it you get what you get?
For the free ones, you get what you get. I think that makes it fun - i have to figure out what to do with what is in the box.
It might be different at other food banks. I really don't know.
Has anyone tried out their local food pantries yet?
I got this week's box today and here's what was in it:
four kinds of bread
two boxes of desserts
nilla wafers box
a bag of pinto beans
liter of soda
box of microwave popcorn
bag of chips
head of green cabbage
I think i will make the plum sauce if dan can't eat the plums in time. Will make salsa from the tomatoes, store the celery, onions, squash, potatoes and cabbage, dry the pears, pickle the cukes.
I honestly have not been able to keep up with all this bread. Either i need to freeze them, or else start making some serious breadcrumbs and putting them aside.
I am at the point of looking on craigslist for a used chest freezer. How much would one pay for one of these? I see some for $75 - is that too much?
Jilly, I sold a good frig-freezer for $50. Maybe you could bargain down. That's great you get so much fruit. To make freezer jam smash your fruit and stir in sugar till it disolves and put in ziplock bags. No need to cook it. After defrosting keep in frig.
Susan, that is a good price. And that sounds like a really easy way to make freezer jam. I think i need to play around with freezers and produce.
This week i got this from my food pantry:
bag of potatoes
bag of chips
four pack of clear soda
bunch of onions
bag of pinto beans
can of beef stew
several fresh plums
bag of prunes
half gallon of grapefruit juice
six cans of misc fruit
several cans of corn and string beans
box of poptart type treats
bag of tomatoes
four loaves of bread (some wheat, some white, some buns, some English muffins - there were many choices to pick four loaves from)
four ears of fresh corn
four green bell peppers
Oh and I also got a bag of egg noodles, a bag of elbow macaroni and a bag of dried milk. Was very excited about the dried milk.
I think I will use my dehydrator to dry the peppers and the plums.
I've had a little success with drying the peppers and plums. It's encouraging me to try drying more foods. I really cannot keep up with the produce from the food pantries!
Next tuesday I am going to try a different food bank in a nearby town - i will be bringing my filled in application, with my ID and some printed out bank statement with income deposits circled. they tell me that will be all i will need to come home with a nice big box.
In this week's Bread of Life food pantry box i got:
head of cauliflower
bag of potatoes
4 pack of lime soda
five kinds of bread
box of cinnamon donut holes
bag of tortilla chips
several cans of fruit
some canned veggies
can of beef stew
six heads of corn
a dozen plums
a dozen nectarines
box of wheat thins
bag of dried pinto beans
three containers of greek yogurt
three green bell peppers
a whole cantalope
What seems to be a constant, from a month's worth of boxes:
potatoes and onions
bag of pinto beans
at least one bag of something salty, like chips
some kind of soda
some kind of sweet snack
at least one canned item
Not much by way of meat, dairy or nuts. I did get some cooked deli shrimp a few times, and last week i got a bag of dried milk. I was happy about the milk. Not sure what to do with the shrimp since i don't like shellfish. Do cats eat it? Can I dry and crumble them for extra protein in ramen noodles?
I am told that all this produce is fortunate and uncommon - that other places never offer fresh food. I can't report on that until I find another food bank (hopefully next week).
I have been getting lots of cabbage all fall. It's nice that those last a long time, relatively speaking, as produce. I have also been experimenting with drying cabbage in my dehydrator. That actually works quite well.
Still getting potatoes and onions every week. I'd say that is a constant.
Anyone else know what comes in their local food pantries?
I found two - possibly three - more food pantries. And all three that I use now have given me chicken (two birds, one in cutlets) this week. I guess that is what they do around Xmas time! It's nice - but rare - to get meat. Sometimes I get a meat stew in a can, and twice I got plates of cold shrimp. I also got some milk this week and sour cream.
One really could live off this food if they planned it out well. There isn't enough protein mainly(except for bagged beans), but there has been plenty of fruits, veggies, breads of all kinds, potatoes and onions, and even sweets <----all those things show up weekly.
The produce appears both canned, fresh and sometimes dried (like dates and prunes).
But really, there is plenty of it to go around. If i had a large freezer I could put lots of breads, produce and the occasional meats aside.
Right now i have about four heads of cabbage to deal with! I am going to dehydrate them in my dryer, hopefully tomorrow or friday.
The point is, really, that one CAN live on this, supplementing the free food with purchased items (ie - more protein) to round things out. A lot of it takes being creative.
maybe a food pantry type cookbook/menu planner is called for? Any interest in that?
Jilly....I noticed you've been getting a lot of cabbage. Here is what I do with cabbage. Maybe you will like it.
In a very large skillet or dutch oven on the stovetop. For a small head of cabbage use the equivalent of a medium onion, for a medium head of cabbage use a large onion. Saute roughly chopped onion until cooked and starting to brown. I use olive oil but you can use what you like.
Add the cabbage which has been sliced in 1/2 inch slices and then cubed the best you can. You can julienne the larger ribs to make them cook at the same rate as the rest of the cabbage. Stir cabbage into the onions and add salt and pepper to taste, along with some more olive oil to moisten.
Cover and cook on medium heat, stirring often. Add a little more oil as needed to keep the cabbage from sticking to the bottom of the pan or pot. In about 20 minutes you will have a wonderful veggie side dish when the cabbage is cooked through and has wilted down. It will be nice and sweet from the onions too.
Jilly.....what's this about pickle juice that Phyllis talked about on another topic? It was a suggestion of yours but I can't find it on this forum. Maybe tell me where to go to find it so I can read up on it. Sounds interesting.....
I like new ideas for not wasting things.
Thank you for the cabbage idea, Cassie. I do get an awful lot of cabbage. Good thing i like them! I often treat them like i would lettuce with sandwiches and mexican food and such. I also like them in my tuna fish and soups.
And thank you also for the kind comments.
I found the pickle juice thread
. It was buried in the 'older than three months' posts. I will comment on it and bring it back to the fore. It's a good one that Phyllis started with some great ideas.
Updated report: i have been getting lots of fresh tomatoes and heads of lettuce these last couple of weeks. Also a ton of oranges. Been getting a break from the onions (i planted some and they are indeed sprouting) but still lots of potatoes.
Lots of canned produce, some canned beef stew, some yogurt, some eggs, a thing of sour cream, some pesto (nice!). Also chips, soda and candy. Those latter junky things I put in the back cabinet for when I have visitors who like to eat those things. It's nice to offer someone a soda even if i don't like the stuff.
Potatoes and cabbage - one of my favourite soups is cooking potatoes, adding onions, mashing a bit so that the sauce is thick and adding cabbage at the last minute so it doesn't cook too much.
Ripe tomatoes - chop finely and sprinkle with dried basil - mix and leave ideally for several hours for flavours to develop. Doesn't always look great but it tastes wonderful.
Yum, both suggestions sound wonderful.
How do you eat the tomatoes then? as a side dish? On bread like tapas?
I am slowly making the rounds and visiting other forums.
I like the cabbage and onion dish.
I would also be interested in reading about the pickle juice topics.
Is there a website listing food banks in the cities for each state?
Yea! I have moved on to first launch stage.
One step closer to becoming a full editor.
Dean, if you read up, you will find i made a link to the pickle juice thread. There is a lot of info in there!
Congrats on making it past training! You will enjoy Launch - lots of good learning in there.
To find food banks for your area, so a google search like "Food banks arizona" or "food pantry flagstaff" or whatever your town or county is. Also, start asking around to people in helping professions - they have a lot of resources. A lot of these places do not have web sites or any sort of web presence. I am still finding new food banks in my area. I think after a year of looking I have found 8 already within 20 miles. Who knew?
I am compiling a financial resources book for my area. I think i should make an article about finding food banks. Thank you for the idea!
Thanks for your information.
I am especially interested in locating food banks that deliver food packages. Being visually impaired makes transportation an issue. Locating a food bank that would deliver the food to my apartment building would greatly benefit me. Your suggestion about asking others helped me. I did ask some of my building neighbors and they gave me the names of 2 food banks that will deliver a food package to homes of people who have problems with transportation.
Again thanks for your information.
I think a book about locating food banks is a great idea.
Just got another cabbage idea for you, Jilly. I did not realize until much later that you don't eat onions, although the sauteed cabbage on its own should be tasty as well.
Just went to a restaurant where the cabbage was sauteed like I suggested but with no onions. Instead there were other veggies like fresh green beans and thinly sliced carrots in with the cabbage. I found this dish to be delicious.
I never did this before myself, but now I know that cabbage does pair well with other veggies. So sautee some up with your favorite veggies.
Jilly I usually eat the tomatoes as a side salad, sometimes with a couple of other small salads for colour and texture - maybe chopped cucumber with mint and a salad of celery, red pepper and spring onions. I have also used the tomatoes on toast (I think just on bread they would make it too soggy).
Asha, great ideas and thank you. I can totally do this right now with what I have in my own garden. too cool.
I went to the Cornville food pantry today and got my free monthly box. I got meatballs, a frozen potato-chicken meal, a dried rice casserole, a bag of white rice, a bag of egg noodles, some milk, some canned veggies and fruit, dried prunes, tortillas, some gorgeous red potatoes, rice crispies, several beautiful loves of artisan bread, bagels, bananas (a little brown but i always have ideas for those), two kinds of melon plus a watermelon, a cookie cake from father's day, a box of apple turnovers, a gallon of ice cream, a box of fudge cookies, and a few random extra vegetables.
This is just from ONE box. I have other food pantries i can hit. So many in fact, that I could actually visit a pantry every single weekday and get gobs of lovely free food.
This is stuff the bakeries, groceries and specialty stores would have tossed anyway to make room for other shelf items. Very good stuff and plenty of it. Even they don't have enough people to keep up with the fresh stuff! Much of the bread/produce the pantries have still gets tossed because not enough folks are coming in to claim the foods.
I hope this is encouraging some of you to take a look at the resources in your community. Take advantage of the largesse set aside for your area, help keep good food out of the landfills, and enjoy some free nutritious additions to your diet.
One absolutely could live off this food, and all communities have such pantries. No one should have to go hungry in the USA. I can't speak for people in other countries, but I will repeat, there is no excuse for hunger here.
Great job of talking up the food banks. Since reading your articles and post's I have located several food banks and agree, I don't see why anyone who is willing to take the time to find programs and services should go hungry.
We have a great country and people needing help must reach the point were they can recieve the help in a positive manner and not as someone not being able to help themselves or as failures - everyone needs help at one time or another in their lifetime. Our country can provide - help is ready, just have to make the connection.
Keep up the good articles and great work!
There have been various news programs showing communities with such food pantries who are struggling. Based on what you are saying, your communities have more than enough to offer people in need, which is great. Unfortunately many other community pantries are not able to fill their shelves to help others especially with the increase in need, depending on the sizes of these communities, unemployment levels, available donations, etc. It is sad because many people still have to go without.
Dean, you are so right and i wish everyone had your point of view about accepting handouts. It's not a shameful thing. Most people are hurting and this food is there to help. My food banks have so much food to give away that there aren't enough takers for it. Even the food banks are tossing the leftovers. Far better this food should get to the people that could use it.
We have a huge surplus of extra food in this country. My food banks get the stuff that would otherwise be tossed away, just because grocery stores need the space on the shelves.
@debbie, I don't know where you live but find it strange your food banks are struggling. Maybe they don't have partnerships with the local grocers?
Here is my possible week: (note that daily means weekdays. there is nothing i know of on weekends)
-Four places for a free hot lunch and two for cheap hot lunches
-one place on tuesday nights for free hot dinner
-daily food boxes in Cornville
-daily food boxes in cottonwood
-tuesday boxes in camp verde
-wed food boxes in camp verde
-more daily food boxes in cottonwood
-once a month big boxes in cornville
-twice a month big boxes in camp verde
-another place in Cottonwood that I need to check out
-i know there is more, but it takes years to find them all. Seriously. They don't really advertise, or have websites...some don't even have phones.
There are also free clothing sources (i can think of four offhand), free books, free showers, free clothes washing, free haircuts, free women's clinics...all kinds of resources.
What we do not have in the Verde Valley is a homeless shelter, though. It doesn't freeze here so people just sleep in the bushes, under bridges or in their cars.
Jilly.....I didn't say that my community's food pantry was struggling, because I don't know that for a fact. I was talking about other communities that news programs have shown on tv......rural areas, communities where factories have closed and most of the population is out of work, etc. I do know that a neighboring town is struggling here and my church regularly asks for food donations to help them out for the needy. I have not had the need to seek out the food pantry in my own town.
Oh, right, you did say these were from programs you've seen.
hmm. I will start doing some digging about what the deal is with food pantries in various places. Maybe some states don't allow the grocers to hand out to-be-tossed food.
I think all grocery stores should pass their discarded food to the local pantries if it is still edible. It just makes sense and eliminates waste. Too much food still winds up in the trash, which is a darn shame when others can use it.
Here is information from the Freegan website on the 1996 Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.
With these laws, there is no reason for a grocer or other food-related establishment to not donate to food pantries, soup kitchens and other organizations to help out the hungry.