When money is tight and it doesn't look like you can afford enough food to get you through to that next paycheck, visit the local food cupboards. They will likely be able to help. You may need to bring along proof of income and other information for the first visit to each place, so call ahead to see what they require.
Start with Manna and the Salvation Army, then look in the phone book to see what other food pantries are in the area. Be aware that, often, church food pantries will provide food even if you are not a member of their church. And be aware that each pantry may be run differently. One place might give food once a week, while another only once a month. Keep track of the places and how often you are allowed to visit, as well as their days and hours of operation.
There is no need to feel guilty about having to go to a pantry for help. Everybody does what they have to in tough times, and helping is what these places are set up for.
What might you expect to bring home from a food pantry? It often depends on the week, what people have donated, and whatnot. As and example, one week you might bring home something like this for a family of four:
- 1 gallon milk
- 1 tub butter
- 4 apples
- 4 bananas
- 1 can fruit
- 1 bag carrots
- 1 bag celery
- 1 box cereal
- 1 loaf sandwich bread
- 1 loaf Italian bread
- 2 cans soup
- 2 cans vegetables
- 8 potatoes
- 1 large jar peanut butter
- 1 small chicken
What can you make from this? Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Roasted chicken with potatoes, 1 can vegetables, Italian bread with butter, water to drink.
- Leftover chicken fried with the other can of vegetables, leftover Italian bread with butter, water to drink.
- Cereal with milk for breakfast.
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, water to drink.
- 1/4 fruit with 1 tablespoon peanut butter for snacks.
- Celery with peanut butter for snacks.
- Toast with peanut butter, a small cup of milk, and a little canned fruit for breakfast.
- Leftover chicken with homemade, baked French fries, leftover Italian bread, and water to drink.
- Celery and carrots sticks, and a tablespoon peanut butter for a snack.
There is no telling what you might come home with after visiting a food pantry. Some interesting take-homes have included organic green tea, juice boxes, a whole turkey, oatmeal, 2 shopping bags of fresh corn on the cob, organic jelly, gourmet mustard, and bulk size bags of pasta.
Be creative with what you do glean from food cupboards, and try to make the food you receive stretch during the leanest weeks. Visit Frugal Recipes: Spending Less to Eat Healthy for recipe ideas, and Frugal is Fabulous! for other ways to live a frugal lifestyle.
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