Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to give a gift of whole foods to a food pantry or collection the next opportunity you get.
This mission was inspired by a conversation on Facebook a few weeks back when I mentioned that I had purchased brown rice and canned beans instead of the packaged Rice-a-roni and Hamburger Helper that was on the “wish list” for our church’s monthly food pantry collection day.
The conversation got very long and almost heated at some points, but out of it all came a great suggestion, some inspiration for a post, and some important reminders. (See the whole conversation HERE.)
Many readers pointed out that underprivileged people may not know how to cook with ingredient parts, and one brilliant gal said I should include recipes with the foods. Voila! An idea was born – today’s post includes resources for anyone to print that can be attached to real foods for donation (along with handy shopping lists for the giver).
Another reader who is on an extremely tight budget herself pointed out that saying, “Just eat beans and rice,” is tricky, because she doesn’t have the money for all the spices often called for in beans and rice recipes. That turned my thoughts to my two super simple beans and rice side dishes, and I immediately knew that they were two perfect recipes to offer as donation printables.
A third reader gave my suggestion a go and ran into some problems – I had typed out a brief instruction for simple “chicken rice” and beans, and I’m so thankful that she reminded me of the importance of a printable for how to cook dry beans. A bag of dry beans is nothing more than a craft supply for people who have never cooked with them before – it’s a bit scary and hard to try something so new (difficult, but also often hard, as in crunchy beans, which this reader experienced!).
Can I Relate?
I don’t know what it’s like to be poor. I can’t even wrap my brain around what it would feel like to live paycheck to paycheck. (Terrifying? Stressful?)
Even when my husband and I were first getting married and he had just lost his first job out of college (not his fault; the FBI came for his boss, no joke!) and I hadn’t landed a teaching job yet, we weren’t truly poor.
We acted like it, to be sure – we used rabbit ears for television and free phone line Internet through our college logins until he got a job, and if my cell phone hadn’t been in a contract, we would have gotten rid of it. If I remember correctly, it was a 3-year-old flip phone that I had to hold with two hands because the arms were broken, so I wasn’t exactly in the lap of luxury there.
I only bought food on sale, used coupons, and we didn’t go out to eat (unless someone else paid!). We ate a lot of hamburger helper. We lived like paupers and never went into debt, and we continued to live like we were poor for years afterward.
But I’ve never been poor. I’ve never had to wonder where my next meal was coming from or look into the refrigerator or cupboards to find them anything but overfilled.
Even with zero jobs in the household, we still had savings. I’ve always had savings to draw upon, and I’m filled with gratitude for that…but I know many aren’t so fortunate.
I had the opportunity a few years ago to work with single moms and women in unplanned pregnancies, many of whom were down on their luck and reliant on the government for food and housing. I took a young woman, mother of two, a toddler and a baby, food shopping one day because she was having problems with her government-assisted food card.
Since I was footing the bill, I got to choose what went into the cart. I guess I don’t know if she ever followed my instructions for homemade chicken rice-a-roni, but I bought her all the ingredients.
I don’t know if she remembered the mini-lesson I gave on real peanut butter vs. trans-fat laden horrors, but she got a jar of the good stuff that only has peanuts in the ingredient list.
Hopefully she and her boys ate all the fruit and produce we bought, carefully looking through the reduced produce section to find items in good shape.
I wouldn’t buy anything for her that I wouldn’t have bought for my own family, and I put my foot down when she asked for flavored water. “I really don’t drink normal water; it just doesn’t taste good and then I don’t drink enough, but this stuff helps me stay hydrated.”
I told her pretty plainly that I’d never spend so much on water for myself and that she obviously knew she needed to drink water, so she could just make the choice to drink it for free.
I think I only spent about $20 but sent her home with enough food for quite a number of days, at least until her account was reinstated.
I spent about 6 months that year cooking for the group every Monday night and talking about healthy food choices and how to cook things that don’t cost too much or take too much time to make. We talked about super foods and how to get more “bang for your buck” by shopping for nutrient-dense items (although I didn’t know that term at the time).
The two rice dishes I’m sharing today were among the recipes I shared with the young women in the group. It is my hope that you can use these recipes in your own meal planning as well as print them out and attach them to your next food pantry donation…or perhaps even get involved teaching cooking lessons, like “how to cook dry beans” and “using less meat to cut the budget.”
It is my hope that you are inspired as we enter Holy Week, leading up to the celebration of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the most important event in all of salvation history. May we think of others as we seek to improve ourselves.
All four recipes offered include two pages to print, one with a shopping list on half of the page and a copy of the recipe written to go with the ingredients in a package to be donated, plus a second with two copies of the recipe.
Package the ingredients in a clear plastic bag or repurposed grocery bag, tied well. Include a recipe on the outside of the bag and another on the inside.
Click on each title to see photos and get the printables:
- Homemade Chicken Rice-a-Roni printable
- Mexican Beans with Rice printable
- Black-Eyed Pea Casserole
- Sausage Spinach Pasta Toss
- extra help: