LOOKING for: common items and food pantry cooking

san_November 29, 2008

our local food pantries are hoping for increased donations well beyond the holiday season--for the next several months at the very least. a friend and i were talking this morning and she said in her area, they were looking for more proteins, such as canned tuna and chicken. i suggested adding hard salami or pepperoni as they were shelf-stable until opnened but she was afraid such things might be looked at as not being very nutritious. yes--a pretty fair amount of fat and salt in those items but, couldn't the same be said of a box of mac & cheese? and if you are on a very restricted budget, how long before you are sick to death of that and tuna noodle casserole? so i'm asking for your help in thinking outside the box a bit while keeping things basic and simple. ultimately, i'd like to print out your ideas and recipes and include them with the next donation to our food pantry.

for instance, things like a main course salad of chick peas or cannelini beans and salami over chopped iceberg and a little oil and vinegar dressing might work. or, how about a soup based on plain old stock and tortellini and canned tomatoes and some pepperoni? would canned chicken work well in a white chicken chili sort of dish? some sort of a spicy peanut sauce for chicken over noodles? except for a tuna fish sandwich or a tuna noodle casserole, i have no idea of what to do with tuna but i'll bet you guys do! i'd really love to see your ideas and share them with our neighbors. TIA!

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Unless you've volunteered at a food pantry, it's hard to understand what a minimal subsistence many of the recipients have. Imagine having no money for spices or condiments other than salt and pepper.

If you were eating rice and beans for dinner most nights, a can of chicken or tuna or SPAM would be a welcome change of pace. (SPAM is available in a low sodium variety for the same price.) Most likely they will be eaten as is, because even making a tuna casserole requires other ingredients that the recipient might not have.

If you want to be a real hero, get some canned "chunky" soups with beef. They are one of the most highly desirable items in our local food banks.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2008 at 4:43PM
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Canned salmon & corned beef.
1 large can red salmon
6 eggs, well beaten
6 TBL melted butter
7 soda crackers, rolled fine
1/2 tsp salt

Remove oil, skin & bones from salmon. Flake fine. Add rest of ingredients & stir until very smooth. Pour into buttered deep dish or mold. Bake 1 hour in a preheated 350° oven.~~

Corned beef slices
Mashed potatoes
Sliced Cheese

Put corned beef in bottom of baking dish. Spread on a layer of mashed potatoes, then on top put slices of cheese. Bake until heated through & cheese is brown in a preheated 350° oven for about 30 minutes.~~

    Bookmark   November 29, 2008 at 5:30PM
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thanx ruthanna--you make a very good point! i'm sure there are alot of folks who don't have anything more for flavorings than salt and pepper. and i didn't mean to "pooh pooh" the contribution of a can of tuna or the like--not at all. i have brought food in and have sorted food into like items, but in our town, foods that are "in excess" are taken to a larger city and sort of exchanged for things we are short on. those runs are done on a weekday and i've never been on one and don't know how the decisions are made...

i've never brought in canned chicken but stock, canned tomatoes, bottled salad dressings, boxes of jiffy bread mixes, peanut butter, big bottles of parsley, onion flakes, red pepper flakes and other common spices from the dollar store, various types of canned beans, cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soup, and bags of noodles and boxes of rice pilaf have all been recurring contributions... when i go to the dentist, he's always willing to give me some toothbrushes and dental floss. chunky soup is something i hadn't thought of but certainly will remember that--thanx!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2008 at 5:54PM
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ah--thanx ginger--i never thought about boxes of mashed potato buds either. and my friend was wondering about those jars of dried beef--looks to me like they'd work perfectly in that recipe!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2008 at 6:26PM
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Nutrition wise, beans and rice are tasty and inexpensive. Add an onion, a can of tomatoes and some chili powder to canned or dried black beans or kidney beans and serve over rice.

Any recipe for taco soup makes quite a bit. This recipe is quite acceptable with half the ground beef. You could sub ground turkey as well. And the ranch dressing mix could be omitted.


2 pounds ground round
1 large onion, diced
1 packet taco seasoning
1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch original
1 can kidney beans (with liquid)
1 can pinto beans with jalapeños (with liquid)
1 can yellow hominy
1 can diced tomatoes and green chilies (Rotel)
2 cans stewed tomatoes (I use Mexican stewed tomatoes)
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup of water

Cook beef and onion until beef is browned, drain excess grease. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2008 at 8:49PM
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I often hit the dollar stores for cans to donate to the local food pantries-- they have canned chicken & noodles in gravy, beef in gravy , beans with hotdog slices, potted meat,vieanna sausages,beef stew , hash , corned beef, canned chicken & ham, jars & shelf stable pkgs of dried beef-- good price of bags of rice & "bisquick" type mixes you only have to add water to. Tang,teas & coffee-- ritz & saltine type crackers-- cheese in a can, Velvetta

Another couple things the pantries around here appreciate:
Sweetened condensed milk, dry milk, oatmeal, pancake mixes

non food:('cause food stamps won't pay for these)
disposable razors
tampons & panty shields
bar soap
toothpaste & brushes
dish & laundry soaps

Don't forget the homeless & battered women shelters in your areas-- they often need the above things plus towels & washcloths-- puzzles, cards, kids games,books & magazines-- & next time you're baking do a couple extra homemade cookies for those shelters.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2008 at 5:12PM
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To all those wonderful people who volunteer and donate to help others in need a very special thank you from one who volunteers from a local church/community outreach center.

Please, for this holiday, do not forget our soldiers, contractors and peace makers! God Bless them all who preserve and protect our nations!

    Bookmark   December 6, 2008 at 12:28PM
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Ruthanna hit the nail on the head. Heat-and-eat and ready-to-eat foods work best. I teach cooking/nutrition classes at our local Food Bank, and more often than not, it's the children in the family who do the "cooking".

Depending on the economy, it's mainly substance abusers and the learning disabled folks who frequent the food bank, not necessarily people who are down on their luck. Food preparation is not a priority for most of the folks. Having something to eat, is.

Many have only a few pans or a skillet, and most depend on a hot plate or a small microwave for food preparation. Many live in a cheap hotel room, not a house, and don't always have a refrigerator.

Beans of all varieties are plentiful at the food bank, but many people don't like them, have no knowledge of how to prepare them, or an inclination to cook something that takes so long, and will give them back to the food bank if they find them in their bags.

I've had some luck teaching a class on how to "cook" beans and rice in a Thermos bottle using boiling water, but had to provide the Thermos bottles.

Tortillas and cans of refried beans seem to work better than beans they need to cook, plus it's a complete protein (grain/legume). We mill beans into bean flour so they can make "instant" refried beans (cooking bean flour and water for a few minutes), and this has worked well for many of the folks.

I base many recipes on USDA commodity foods. Those are foods people may commonly get free and need recipes and help using.


    Bookmark   December 9, 2008 at 5:43AM
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