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Monday Mission: Give Real Food to Those in Need

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. There are people in need everywhere, and food pantries don’t always have healthy food!

Mexican Beans And Rice

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.

Getting Involved

DSC03672 (475x356)

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.”

Free Printables to Donate to Food Pantries

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.

Donation Printable #1: Chicken Rice-a-Roni Substitute

chicken rice and beans

Supplies

homemade version of chicken rice-a-roni

OR

Chicken Rice-a-Roni with Beans

Free Printable

Click HERE to view and print if you can’t see anything above.

You may also want to print the page at the end, How to Cook Dry Beans, if you’re including bagged dry beans and consider the How to Make Homemade Chicken Broth page as well (scroll down for both).

Feel free to print and copy these pages as many times as you like. Chicken rice-a-roni is also found in The Everything Beans Book.

Donation Printable #2: Mexican Rice and Beans

Mexican beans and rice

Supplies

Mexican beans and rice ingredients


OR

Mexican beans and rice ingredients

Meijer brand taco seasoning was the only one I could find in two stores without MSG, and I just couldn’t buy regular canned kidney beans – they have high fructose corn syrup in them! Arg!

Free Printable

Click HERE to view and print if you can’t see anything above.

You may also want to print the How to Cook Dry Beans printable (scroll down) if you’re including bagged dry beans.

Feel free to print and copy this page as many times as you like. Mexican Rice with Beans is also found in The Everything Beans Book.

Donation Printable #3: Sausage Spinach Pasta Toss

Real Food Donation Sausage Spinach Pasta Toss

Although I know in this crowd, even whole wheat pasta isn’t exactly “health food,” I can’t help but think it’s better than the options many who are struggling have for themselves.

Our family eats whole grain pasta every so often, so for me, it still fits into the “don’t buy anything for someone else that you wouldn’t buy for yourself” rule. This meal is very easy, very delicious, and will give a boost of confidence to anyone who thinks they can only open a jar of sauce with their box of pasta.

Supplies

Real Food Donation: Sausage Spinach Pasta Toss

Unfortunately, there are a number of ingredients that have to be purchased fresh, but the printable includes tips for getting them inexpensively, such as:

  • Watch for frozen sausage (in a roll) on sale. Sometimes store brands, even turkey sausage, are included in 10/$10 sales.
  • Buy bagged spinach when it’s on sale, again sometimes in the $1 per bag sales. If you’ve tried spinach before and hated it, it may have been canned or frozen. All three are very different, and fresh has the least flavor. It blends right into this dish and you hardly taste it, especially if you chop it up a little smaller. Use the extra from the bag in salads, in any soup or casserole that week (even if it doesn’t call for spinach), or lightly steam it (for one minute) and freeze, adding to meals right from the freezer.
  • Skip the cheese to be more frugal, or buy a block and shred your own right on the plates with a microplane grater (watch garage sales/yard sales) – the tiny shreds make it seem like you’re having more, and if you don’t mix it all into the dish, everyone can see and taste their cheese at the table. You can use about half as much with this trick.
Real Food Donation Sausage Spinach Pasta Toss

Free Printable

Click HERE to view and print if you can’t see anything above.

Donation Printable #4: Black-Eyed Pea Stovetop Casserole

I’d never actually used black eyed peas before this recipe. It’s so simple, both in what goes in and how long it (doesn’t) take, and I’m always surprised by how much flavor suddenly appears. Other than today, the recipe only appears in The Everything Beans Book. (shhhh! I’m sharing!) It uses 1/2 pound of ground beef, which is the most frugal use of meat I can think of. But it would still be good without it!

Supplies

Black-Eyed Pea Casserole: a great meal for the family or a real food option to donate to a food pantry.


OR

Black-Eyed Pea Casserole: a great meal for the family or a real food option to donate to a food pantry.

Free Printable


Click HERE to view and print if you can’t see anything above.

You may also want to print the How to Cook Dry Beans printable below if you’re including bagged dry beans.

Feel free to print and copy this page as many times as you like.

Extra Help: Printable PDFs for Chicken Broth and Dry Beans:

Save

Need More Baby Steps?

Monday Missions Baby Steps Back to BasicsHere at Kitchen Stewardship, we’ve always been all about the baby steps. But if you’re just starting your real food and natural living journey, sifting through all that we’ve shared here over the years can be totally overwhelming. That’s why we took the best 10 rookie “Monday Missions” that used to post once a week and got them all spruced up to send to your inbox – once a week on Mondays, so you can learn to be a kitchen steward one baby step at a time, in a doable sequence.Yes! One Change a Week Please!Sign up to get weekly challenges and teaching on key topics like meal planning, homemade foods that save the budget (and don’t take too much time), what to cut out of your pantry, and more.

Need More Baby Steps?

Sign up for weekly missions to take baby steps to real food!

Here at Kitchen Stewardship®, we’ve always been all about the baby steps. But if you’re just starting your real food and natural living journey, sifting through all that we’ve shared here over the years can be totally overwhelming.

That’s why we took the best 10 rookie “Monday Missions” that used to post once a week and got them all spruced up to send to your inbox – once a week on Mondays, so you can learn to be a kitchen steward one baby step at a time, in a doable sequence.

Sign up to get weekly challenges and teaching on key topics like meal planning, homemade foods that save the budget (and don’t take too much time), what to cut out of your pantry, and more.

Need More Baby Steps?

Monday Missions Baby Steps Back to Basics

Here at Kitchen Stewardship, we’ve always been all about the baby steps. But if you’re just starting your real food and natural living journey, sifting through all that we’ve shared here over the years can be totally overwhelming.

That’s why we took the best 10 rookie “Monday Missions” that used to post once a week and got them all spruced up to send to your inbox – once a week on Mondays, so you can learn to be a kitchen steward one baby step at a time, in a doable sequence.

Sign up to get weekly challenges and teaching on key topics like meal planning, homemade foods that save the budget (and don’t take too much time), what to cut out of your pantry, and more.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

About The Author

26 thoughts on “Monday Mission: Give Real Food to Those in Need”

  1. I know I am late to this particular party, but hopefully my comments may still be helpful! I love the idea of providing full meals, for all of the reasons already mentioned. One other thing to remember when donating to a food pantry: lots of guests don’t have can openers, so either including pop-top cans or, better yet, a can opener, would be very helpful!

    Thanks for all you do!!!

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      That’s a great idea to look for pop-top cans, I’d never thought of that. Thanks for sharing!

  2. whisperingsage

    Be really careful about garbanzo beans. Tony Mitra in his book “Poison Foods” points out that even “organic ” labelled garbanzo beans (and lentils too) are over 1000 ppb in Round Up. This very potent toxin kills gut bacteria at 0.1 ppb. i believe it is the real cause of 75% of Americans having gut dysbiosis and various gut illnesses. I believe it is also the cause of occasional toxic bacteria breakouts in various food or slaughterhouses etc.
    Foodbabe has found Simply brand canned garbanzo beans to be free of Round Up. But this isn’t too encouraging. I know Mexico declared themselves Glyphosate free last year and that this year they are working on banning incoming GMO foods. GOOD FOR MEXICO!!! Woohoo. So whenever possible we get our produce from Mexican run grocery stores as they have figured out that they are not interested in poor health and damaged children. I think it’s because of their experience in contract farming here in the USA as they have witnessed the poor state of our GMO crops. (I Read about this in Mother Earth News as these farm workers went home to do it right. And yes, garbanzo beans have become an important crop for them so they would be a safe source of these great protein rich beans.)

  3. Was reminded of this post over the weekend when the paper published an article about the good bank trashing junk food. http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_24350780/some-food-rejected-east-metro-food-shelves-focus

  4. Jolene via Facebook

    It is such a balance for food banks I find. you wan to provide them with healthy foods, but you also have to be conscious of the fact that the patrons might not always know what to do with them or want them. Last year I was working at our church’s food bank and someone had donated TONS of acorn squash. I encouraged an elderly lady, who I had befriended, to take one home. She said she didn’t know how to cook it and so she wasn’t going to take it. I told her how to cook it in the oven and add some butter and a little bit of sugar to it. The next time she saw me she said that it was so good and it was so easy once she knew what to do. Education is the key! Thank you for the printables!

    1. whisperingsage

      I am truly AMAZED at how even older folks don’t know how to cook! How do they live their lives???? My mother was a depression baby raised on a farm, so she knew how to butcher, garden, sew, cook, make bread, raise animals, do needlepoint, and she taught me a lot. And I am more and more grateful that she taught me how to live, I just don’t know how people survive without knowing anything! And if she didn’t know outright how to do something, she was a tremendous reader and taught us that we can learn anything we wanted. and she was always trying out new things. What a good Mom. I don’t know what has happened to people that they are so helpless now.

      Once we found a pigskin in the back of our local grocery store, because in those days, early 70’s, stores still had butcher shops and this one evidently did the whole slaughtering deed on individual animals, and we took that home and salted it, and stretched it. It still had the hair on.

  5. SueAnn via Facebook

    I went to Walgreens tonight, and the cashier asked me if I wanted to donate $5 to a “snack” for the food bank. Snacks in the food bank???

  6. Re: the flavored water–I can relate! I don´t like drinking plain water all the time unless it is really cold because the taste bothers me. It is super cheap to just add a piece of fruit (apple, lime or lemon wedge, or even a cucumber) to get that hint of a flavor and keep it natural. Just for the next time someone makes that same observation.
    Thanks, and I really enjoyed reading the blog today!

    1. whisperingsage

      The nursing homes I have worked at had begun to do that, with ice in a big 5 gallon jug with a spout. Very nice. BUT I also had a friend who lost weight getting off the soda but had to have fizzy water because regular water was not “exciting”. I had never been trained to drink anything “exciting” and in fact, too many bubbles hurts my throat. I don’t like them at all. But the water with cucumber or lemon or orange slices, those are really nice.

  7. A friend of mine recently told me about a non-profit organization called Feeding Children Everywhere (btw, they have a facebook page). They make casserole kits and might enjoy some of your recipes. Here is an article from a paper in FL about what they do: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/03/27/3169043/how-a-25-cent-casserole-is-helping.html

  8. I would say the easiest way to deal with this dilema would be to buy the higher quality canned beans. Many low income families do not own crockpots, as one commenter said, some don’t own a stove or pot big enough to cook beans in.
    Its a shame that communities don’t have a food education program about how to make things for less and then give out slow-cookers to those in need.

    1. I think many communities DO have food education programs – at least they do here in Oregon. I’ve looked at going through the volunteer training before. The state (or maybe local community college??) then offers free classes to folks who are receiving food benefits.

      I’ve heard people in the grocery line turning down items that are on their WIC list because “all those bags of beans just go to waste,” so I know more food education is needed. Yet another thing for my “when I have more time” list!

    2. whisperingsage

      We have fed children at our church Vacation Bible School classes(lasting a week) and are always dismayed when kids don’t recognize real food. Like beans. They had no idea what beans were. In my day, beans were just a normal part of the routine. I never thought I’d see the day where people were so helpless and ignorant that they would think packageded junk in boxes and bags (snacks)were an obligation of the schools to give to children even when children were at home and should have been fed by their parents. I actually got into an argument with an ignorant parent over this.

      Seriously, we are a small community, and our food bank is county-funded, and there is always leftover real food like squash and carrots etc because adults don’t know how to cook it, have never eaten it, etc, Boggles my mind. The director has to give away this good food by the case to livestock owners so it won’t rot. Even bags and bags of lettuce. I have been the recipient many times. I do note how lettuce is encased in voluminous amounts of plastic which must all be disposed of now, instead of just loose in the cardboard box.

  9. I have struggled with what to do with the processed food we no longer eat; is that cookie mix going to be a blessing or a curse for the food bank? Is it better off in the trash or in someone’s pantry? I’m using food stamps to buy the good stuff, but someone else who is struggling and has essentially slipped through the cracks has to use whatever is there?

    I still don’t know the answer, and unfortunately I don’t think they accept home-preserved items; this would be better given directly to families I know of in need. I am a recipient of produce through Backyard Harvest and consider it a great blessing. Once I am in a position to garden on a slightly larger scale I plan to donate produce to them. It is another wonderful way to bless those in need with good nutrition. http://backyardharvest.org/

  10. This is a great idea! I do want to add one consideration: Not everyone has a full-size stove and oven and refrigerator. We had a visiting priest once who spoke about working in an outreach program where a lady was giving what sounded to him like a very helpful lecture about how to save money by buying a whole chicken, baking it, and using the parts for various meals–and then one of the poor women spoke up: “Ma’am, I don’t have an oven. I cook on a hot plate. My refrigerator isn’t big enough for a whole chicken.” Some people might have only a microwave or might not have any large pots.

    With dry beans, there’s also the issue of time. I have just a full-time job and a short commute and one child and a partner who can cook, yet I feel unable to make the time to cook dry beans other than lentils. Imagine how much more difficult cooking would be for a single mother of six who works two jobs and spends so much time in transit that she is at home only 8 hours per 24–some of that time needs to be spent sleeping! So buying canned beans for food pantries makes a lot of sense to me.

    1. I know a lot of my working mom friends frequently cook dry beans in a crock pot while they are gone. We live in the SW where pinto beans are practically a staple food so it makes sense for us to figure a way to make it happen on the cheap. I know that you would have to have a crock pot, but they are a pretty common thrift store finds.

      1. Hmm, would food pantries accept donations of slow cookers? They really are the answer to the “I don’t have time to cook well” dilemma. And you don’t even have to soak beans that are going in a crockpot, they’ll go from dry to cooked in about 6-8 hours on high (how I usually do it) but are just fine cooked even longer. Rice takes about 2 hours on high.

        1. I found this blog today because I am trying to collect information to enable me to either start a non-profit or work with the local food pantry to start a slow-cooker donation program. I have had friends who rely on the pantry give me whole chickens and dried beans they’ve received because they do not know how to cook them. In my dream program, anyone who used the food pantry or qualified for WIC, SNAP, or TANF would be eligible to receive a slow cooker, and slow cooking seminars would be offered where ANYONE could come and sample recipes and learn how to make inexpensive cuts of meat, dried beans, etc. into healthy, tasty meals. I haven’t gotten very far yet but the idea has been brewing for several months. I think I may call up the local food pantry today and see what they think of the idea.

  11. Amy @ A Little Nosh

    I have to say, your comment about dried beans being a craft project was so right on. I bought a bag of black beans YEARS ago, and we just use them for gluing onto things with my son. I really need to learn how to cook dried beans…

  12. I LOVE this concept! Thank you so much for posting such a great idea and the resources to do it!

  13. saved by grace

    Thank you for such a thoughtful way to help the poor. I have 3 college degrees and never in my life thought I would be standing in line at a food pantry, but life has a way of humbling you when you least expect it. I am very well read and know nutrition. I was pained deeply to bring food pantry food home with chemicals, no nutritional value, and expired items and feed it to my children. I cried. A lot. I appreciate your consideration and willingness to help others help the poor in a better way. An organization in my community, Backyard Harvest, also worked hard to donate fresh local fruit and vegetables from gardens and farms to local food banks, which was an incredible blessing to our family. I am an atypical food bank user and have to agree that most of those I visited with while in line do not make the correlation between food quality and health, as well as have limited cooking skills. Providing how-to’s with healthy food is a fantastic idea! Bless you for your efforts!

  14. Johanna via Facebook

    Wow! Thank you for this… Last week I was trying to figure out how to participate in our recent backpack dinner program (I also instruct my son that we donate what we eat, not cheap substitutes or throw-aways). Your RFD printables really make it so simple! My hope is that even if the young recipient doesn’t have much food at home, atleast they have a caregiver willing to make the time to prepare and enjoy the meal with him/her. I am looking forward to more RFD posts!

  15. Christina @ Spoonfed

    Nice piece, Katie. We seem to be on a similar wavelength lately (first food dyes, now food pantries). I blogged about this exact dilemma in 2010, and there was quite an interesting conversation in the comments: http://spoonfedblog.net/​2010/11/24/​would-you-feed-your-own-kid​-the-same-food-you-donate-​to-food-pantries/

  16. Thanks for this post! This subject is near and dear to my heart. I work stocking the shelves of the food pantry at out church and while I know most recipients are simply grateful to have any sort of food at all, it kills me to stock the shelves with all that junk food. We recieve lots of expired highly-processed packaged foods from local grocery stores. I hate filling those shelves with Rice Crispie treats and Hamburger Helper. As I stock, I try to think of ways to improve the quality of food offered of food pantries. No great ideas yet, but your post offers some food for though. TEACHING people how to cook and shop smart seems as important as (maybe even more important than) providing food for them. I’ve been praying for God’s wisdom and guideance as I stuggle with the next steps.

  17. Heather @ Nourishing the Heart

    Thank you for these options when helping others! Summer is approaching and I know our church participates in a free lunch for kids during the summer. I think I’ll have to find out if we could send the kids home with food packs like this!

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