How to feed your family from a food bank
November 13th, 2013
12:15 PM ET
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Marisa Miller is a married mother of two who never imagined she'd find herself relying on the kindness of others to feed her family. As a former chef, her life was filled with abundant food, and her husband had a lucrative job. Between the two of them, an organic, grass-fed, sustainable and delicious life seemed assured.

But things changed. Her husband left that job to pursue a career in a field about which he was passionate, and in the height of the recession, his salary was cut by 60%. The family became food insecure in a matter of months.

Their household income is just above the qualifying levels to receive SNAP, WIC or any other kind of assistance. After bills, Miller has just $100 left over for food, gas, clothing, band-aids, toilet paper and other necessities. She supplements her grocery-buying with trips to her local Sacramento, California, food pantry and an awful lot of thoughtful, creative cooking and meal planning.

"No one is living off Top Ramen in this house," Miller told Eatocracy in an e-mail exchange.

Here's what she had to say about dignity, practicality and perception when you're struggling to feed your family.

Eatocracy: What emotional adjustment is involved in using benefits or a food bank?

Marisa Miller: The first time you wait in line at a food pantry, you tell yourself that you don’t belong there and it won’t be forever because you’re not like “those” people. You act timid and unsure and give up the extra pack of strawberries because you think that lady with the dirty clothes and her kids must need it more. Three years later you become a Terminator, take all the cauliflower you can and start coaching the new volunteers on organization and food safety.

When we first started going I took my children thinking I was giving them a life lesson. We tried a new pantry and two of my 8-year-old’s classmates were there. I think the other mom and I were both mortified, but I was proud of us for doing what we need to do to feed our families. I hadn’t considered the stigma of being a “food bank kid” though, so I go by myself on the weekend now.

Eatocracy: How much choice do people have in what their family eats when they rely on benefits or food banks?

Miller: Choices for many are also dictated by what kind of kitchen they have access to. Most of us take a car to get to the store, and the stove, refrigerator and the electricity required to run them. When we accuse people of being too lazy to take care of themselves and cook a proper meal, we assume they all have pots, pans, knives, sinks. There are people on social media who get on their high horses and call people who don’t make their own pasta “idiots”. Are you kidding me?

My children were used to eating mangoes and avocados for snacks and having unlimited access to the cupboards and refrigerator. Now there is rationing. Woe to the person who eats the last egg I was saving to add protein to the salad. I turn into Mommie Dearest within seconds now, on edge all the time, trying to be the food police.

Eatocracy: What should people who have the resources to donate to food banks take into consideration?

Miller: We are all guilty of the "pantry clean-out" method of donating. Pretend it’s your child or elderly mother that is going to eat it.

Peanut butter, peanut butter, peanut butter. It’s the one protein I can always count on to feed my kids if there is nothing else left before payday. Multigrain toast and peanut butter are so much better for you than cereal. It can go on apples, celery sticks and pretzels.

If you have a garden or fruit trees and are so inclined, pick a case and donate it. It’s not like many years ago where it has to all be non-perishable or canned.

Eatocracy: What strategies should people use for selecting food on a very limited budget or at a food bank?

Miller: Eat food with the densest nutritional quality. If you really can’t afford animal protein, learn to love brown rice and beans with a bit of meat as an ingredient instead of the outdated protein, starch, veggie image that is burned into our minds.

Know the pull days at your grocery. When things come off the shelf, they either get reduced for clearance or donated to a food pantry, senior center, etc. Be there next to the man with the scanner and ask him to hand you that sour cream he just discounted 50%.

Be okay with imperfection. Buy the bag of smushy tomatoes on clearance, find the one that needs to get tossed, rinse the rest, make sauce. Expired milk that your kids think smells funny but is only a few days off the date? That’s the time to make pancakes or waffles and have breakfast for dinner. Most bread is going to last more than a day at your house and get toasted anyway, so get the day-old bread to start with.

Most every vegetable can be turned into soup, juiced, or preserved, provided you have electricity to cook with, which, sadly, some of the nice people I meet in line, do not.

If you live in a place where there is a large supermarket chain, ask the manager which organization they donate food to and make that your primary food pantry. Trader Joe’s pulls all the expired food on Friday for the weekend so Saturday is a great day to get the strawberries for free that your neighbor just paid $3 for. Don't be ashamed; you are feeding your family.

If grocery stores are not as plentiful where you, are most food pantries will let you come weekly for bread and produce. This can be a great supplement to any benefits you may already be receiving. If there are several pantries in your area, visit them all and figure out who donates what to where. My kids eat a well-rounded diet because of this. can give you a list of local food pantries.

Eatocracy: How crucial is it for people to learn to cook?

Miller: It’s everything in this fight against hunger. You cannot sustain good health on fake food. Even if it’s only part of your diet, you must have the nutrients your brain needs or you are the battle-wounded.

The thing that we forget while we’re denigrating other people’s poor life choices, is that not everyone knows how or is physically able to get up, let alone shop for and prepare meals.

It doesn’t have to be fancy, or take more than a few minutes, but you have to kick yourself in the butt and remember that it might be easier in the short haul to open a package of something but the long term effects of poor nutrition start compounding and then it is that much harder to get motivated to feed your family the right things.

One of the reasons my family is able to remain optimistic during this tough time for us is that we stay physically fit and that helps keep us making the next right choices. Being able to nourish yourself allows you to be able to nourish others.

Eatocracy: What are a few of your go-to dishes that are nutritious, economical and satisfying?

Miller: I’m partial to dishes where meat is the condiment so I don’t stress out about who got the most/biggest/best piece. Rice stir-fries don’t have to be Asian-influenced if that’s not your thing. Brown rice tossed with a few ounces of Italian sausage, garlic, roasted vegetables (a carrot, a zucchini, a few mushrooms, a pepper) and a sprinkle of Parmesan (use the dried, powdered one) is a great meal and has every food group represented. Better for you than pasta. Tons of protein for little people.

We eat falafel every other week. Garbanzo beans are an incredible source of iron. Cut this recipe in half and feed a family of four for less than $5. Or keep it whole and have leftovers for lunch the next day. (See Miller's falafel recipe at

I cannot stress enough the value of an ethnic market. Most other cultures eat offal and other strange things because they view food as fuel and don’t want to waste a bit of it. They need to sometimes mask or enhance the taste; this is the reason Sriracha exists. Take a cue from these ancient peoples and explore all the condiments. Start with the less intense ones like pickled ginger or a different kind of vinegar.

Sauté or roast ingredients first if you are able to. If you have a tiny bit of extra money to spend, use butter instead of margarine.

Look for herbs growing wild in your neighborhood and appropriate them. If they are in someone else’s front yard, ask nicely. Very often people don’t eat the all food they grow and are happy to see it not go to waste. This is especially true of citrus trees. A little fresh lemon juice will make almost anything better. The same goes for using a pepper grinder at the end of cooking. It brightens the food.

Eatocracy: What do you wish the public understood about about people who are food insecure?

Miller: If the numbers one in four are remotely accurate, then you know these people. They teach your children, put out your fires, deliver your mail. Many of us have had salary freezes and were able to afford the same food in 2010 but three years later, our income has stayed the same while the cost of bread has doubled.

The image of Jabba the Hutt’s crew sitting on a couch playing X-Box, stuffing their faces with lobster, waiting for a handout is wrong. We are not all lazy, unmotivated or unintelligent. We are people with families trying to make it all work. Just like you.

Follow Marisa on Twitter onlyonemarisa and learn more ways to help the hungry people around you at CNN Impact Your World

Opinion: SNAP isn't about a 'free lunch'
The food stamp challenge results: eating on $30 a week
Could you live on $30 a week?
Our family will lose $44 in food stamps
5 Shocking statistics about hunger
Witnesses to Hunger: A portrait of food insecurity in America
Childhood malnutrition has long lasting effects
"A time of record need" for food insecure
Lawmakers eat on a food stamp budget
Food stamp cuts a cruel proposal

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Filed under: Charity • Favorites • Human Rights • Hunger • SNAP

soundoff (447 Responses)
  1. allergymom

    My so almost died eating peanuts. Hebhad them before so it was a shock. He started vomiting, wheezing, became lethergic. Luckily i realized what was happening and called 911 while plying him with the only thing I had on hand benedryl knowing that what he needed to live was an epi pen. I held him and ran outside to meet the ambulance. Since that day we live in constant fear of what he might accidentally eat knowing that one wrong bite could mean his death. I hope you never have to deal with a child who has a deadly allergy. It is NOT a luxury. His epi pens cost $75 with insurance. We are food insecure. Luckily we manage without a food bank but if I ever have to use one would be reading every label. Any item with peanuts or tree nuts would be refused. He was old enough to remember his reaction and our home is his one place of pure safety. How dare you judge those with food allergies. How dare you comment on what you do not understand. It is life and death for my child.

    November 14, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Margaret

      Because this is a life threatening problem, and they give peanut butter as a basic, you would need to tell them up front that the child has a severe allergy reaction to nuts, Most places will work with you. The difficult part is many people think food allergies are funny, and get upset if a person says they can't even be near the item. We really need to educate people on this more. It seems like more people are allergic to more things now. I have a son allergic to potatoes and cantaloup, and the blue coloring in some foods. You just never know.

      November 15, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  2. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    After reading a lot of your replies, I find you to be a bitter and angry person.

    November 14, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      Posted too soon. I do not envy your situation, but I noticed you're pretty defensive when people ask simple questions and assume we're attempting to troll.

      Best of luck

      November 14, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • JohnnyBoy

      Can you blame her? Her idiot husband put her in this situation and is now too "depressed" to get off his @$$ and find a job.

      Cry me a freakin' river.

      November 14, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

        Unfortunate circumstances, but making sarcastic remarks to genuine questions or curiosity is not very endearing.

        Sounds like she should get a divorce. She hasn't said anything good about him in her posts.

        November 14, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
        • emintey

          Perhaps you ought to mind your own business, this isnt Dear Abby, thia is an article about cooking and diet when people need to use food banks. Now...tell us about your marital bliss.

          November 14, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          OK, I will mind my own business and never read what someone puts out on the internet for the entire planet to read and comment on.

          And then you ask me about my personal life? LOL

          November 14, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
      • Truth™

        You sound completely lacking in empathy. You need professional help.

        I usually do not wish hardship on anyone, but here's hoping you are dependent on charity someday. It might just teach you some compassion.

        November 14, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
        • JohnnyBoy

          Too smart and too skilled.

          Right back at ya, though!

          November 14, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
        • Dr. Phil

          Not to mention arrogant.

          November 14, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          I don't think he's being lazy (the husband). I think he may need some counseling.

          November 14, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
  3. laylay

    My dad was wrong. There is such a thing as a free lunch!
    There is free health care, free shelter, free education, too.
    I earn well over 100k per year, but I am going to look into these freebies. No one will ask me to show evidence of why I am deserving of a free lunch? Sounds like a great deal. Something for Nothing. Awesome.
    I wonder who pays for all the stuff though.... hmm oh well I don't care. It's free.
    And as far as anyone else is concerned, not only do I Need it, but I Deserve it.

    November 14, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • laylay

      Even if it 100% my own stupid fault for being poor and hungry, that is irrelevant. The fact that I am in Need means I am Deserving, even if my Net contribution towards my City/State/Nation is less than zero. Even if I am a meth dealer or a crack head or an uncaught violent felon. Does not matter. Need = Deservedness.
      And that is the systemic flaw which ensures that the leaches will multiply.
      We need to check for Deservedness. If you are a scumbag, you don't Deserve anything for free from the public.

      November 14, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
      • emintey

        "At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge, ... it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."
        "Are there no prisons?"
        "Plenty of prisons..."
        "And the workhouses." demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?"
        "Both very busy, sir..."
        "Those who are badly off must go there."
        "Many can't go there; and many would rather die."
        "If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

        November 14, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
      • marisab67

        laylay, You seem to be very angry with me for trying to take care of my family. The food is rotting in bins at the food bank. It will go to the hogs if people don't eat it. It doesn't cost you a penny. Or the government. We get no EIC or WIC or SNAP or anything. We pay our bills. If it was your mom would you call her a scumbag?

        November 14, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
        • laylay

          You are not a scumbag. I read your posts. Smart and nice girl, I can tell.
          But do you think we should we check for Scumbaggedness before giving away free stuff to people?
          I know you understand what I am asking here.
          No one ever talks about Deservedness, across all of the entitlements we enjoy. In my opinion, some of us don't Deserve the entitlement.
          The people who don't Need it, for example. Me? I won't need Social Security when that time comes. I will take it though. I am entitled to it. A lot of people who collect SS end up piling that up in the huge pile of money that will be inherited anyways. That's wrong in my opinion, despite the fact that those people paid in and are entitled to extract it back out.
          Also there are people who simply don't Deserve it based on their own lack of merit – murderers on death row to illustrate an extreme example.
          So there is legit argument to be had about Deservedness I think. I believe that checking for Deservedness in a proper way would help our society out immensely. But that's just my op.

          November 15, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
      • Karma

        Are you rich in your own right or did you ride your parents coattails?Do you my friend deserve your inheritance.Did you work for said inheritance?Is there a way to determine if you deserve said inheritance.Looks fade with age sweet cakes,but then again you can use your wealth to buy a new face.Lets hope after said surgery you don't end up looking like the joker.Know what I mean?but then again you know what gets whispered behind the backs of girls like you.Go spread your legs,I mean message else where.

        November 16, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • marisab67

      Hugs and kisses, Sweetcheeks. My free strawberries are undeserved but tasty.

      November 14, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
  4. sanjosemike


    Many people here can be very judgmental. I've been extremely poor and food insecure in a bad economy. I have been there. Marisa67 is obviously a very talented, hard-working and intelligent lady. She has a husband who detested his past job and wanted to find something better that he loved.

    While that is laudable, the real world intervened. He has a family he is not supporting. Rather, his wife is supporting him. He is depressed, irritable and his self-confidence is at an all time low. That is not a good pattern for potential success at his hoped-for new career. A new career requires enormous creativity and new thinking. While he is depressed he is unable to come up with that skill. He just goes farther down, watching daytime TV and feeling worse about himself every day.

    However, after he negotiates an agreement with Marisa67, he can go back to work part-time or full time at his old career that he has found previous success. Maybe he should try to find a different "classification" of his old job that he might enjoy more. Maybe he just hated his old co-workers.

    Once he starts getting income again for his family his mood will improve and he will have a far better chance of becoming successful at his dream job than he has now, when he is so depressed.

    Instead of going in circles about this with his wife, they should start a negotiation. It may lead to an entirely new realm of success for both of them and their kids. It will also be a good lesson to model a negotiated agreement for their kids.


    November 14, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • marisab67

      Thank you, Mike. People do the best they can and I was hoping to help people with my story which it seems to be doing. I'm going to get a thicker skin and not feed the trolls anymore. It is hard to not wish hardship on those who are so angry about a mom getting some food for her kids. I'm not breaking into anyone's house to do it. It doesn't cost them anything. It is expired, rotting food. It is crazy that people seem to think it affects them.

      November 14, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • marisab67

      I should also clarify, he works fulltime so he isn't home watching daytime tv and he has been promoted twice at his job. If his company didn't have a 3 year salary freeze in place there would have been cost of living increases and salary increases. He is looking for another job. The solar industry is something he really believes in and he will do as well as he did in the construction business. Getting through it is part of the wedding vows. I wonder if some people are single and don't know what those really mean. Thank you again, Mike, for your open mind.

      November 14, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
      • saltgrain

        Marisa.. I get it.. in the last 10 years, we have had three family businesses go under due to economic reasons/govt regulations. Now he is getting even more certifications so that he can move into another industry that has proven to be less susceptible to the current economy. It isn't cheap or easy to do that. Thankfully, I have had my same job the whole time.. He has done everything in his power to help pay bills.. sell scrap, do freelance construction jobs etc.. He also is able to fix everything we own which reduces our repair bills for home and car to parts only.. so I get that you can't value someone's contribution by only the dollars they bring in. That is the truth. Hopefully the economy will get better and his options will open up more.

        November 14, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  5. onlyjustwords

    Reblogged this on Onlyjustwords and commented:
    I think many people ought to seriously weigh this in as a possibility if my son is not returned immediately:

    November 14, 2013 at 10:36 am |
  6. Michael

    I am food insecure – for sure. Any resources you may have – try to buy in bulk. Olive Oil, Beans, Rice, Vegetables, Fruit especially requiring cooking which lowers the cost. Cooking and Refrigeration are a huge help. Plan – Plan – Plan – never buy on impulse. If you are on the street, Bread seems to be one of easiest items to get. Canned Beans. Ask other people familiar with this plight how best to survive until you improve your lot. Sometimes you can get food at closing from a fast food place at closing. Be very careful of eating something rancid or otherwise compromised. The real hope is enough nutrition until you can get back on your feet.

    November 14, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • marisab67

      Thanks for getting it, Michael. I hope we are both food secure soon.

      November 14, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
  7. saltgrain

    Marisa, I applaud your efforts to feed your family healthy meals even though your means are limited. Your story illustrates that "wealth" isn't the only indicator of a happy life. Obviously, the new career your husband has chosen outweighed the "easy access" to food you enjoyed with the higher salary. But, you show that despite this belt tightening, your children are happy and well fed. My family will on occasion drift into "starvation diet finance" mode as well and I am thankful that both my husband and I have the skills to put great tasting and healthy food on the table.. even using the cheapest ingredients. Thankfully, we have always been able to purchase our groceries.. no matter how meager they were and have been able to supplement our neighbors' pantries through gardening and livestock that we raise. I also am a big proponent of food banks because I believe it is a better way to help hungry people. I also like the habitat for humanity work because I believe that people taking an interest in their own "saving" stand the best chance for success!

    November 14, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • marisab67

      Thank you saltgrain. My husband volunteers for H4H, installing solar systems on low-income housing so that those nice people do not have to pay for power. Anytime we can help others the Universe smiles and says YES.

      November 14, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
  8. On the cusp

    If my house was not paid off, and if we did not raise our own vegetables, chickens,etc. my family would be homeless and starving. Not many people have the knowledge or property to do so. Our food banks are few and far between. If you garden raise a row for your local food bank-its your neighbor who will benefit.

    November 14, 2013 at 7:28 am |
    • Damselinsos

      I have a garden every year. Last year, we had a bumper crop of tomatoes. Even after making sauce, I was throwing them out by the 5 gallon pail. I would have gladly donated them to a food bank but I didn't know where there was one and if they took fresh food. Instead, I put them out in a shoe-box labeled "Free" and stuck them curbside hoping someone in my off the beaten path subdivision would take them.
      I love gardening (and volunteer with 4H and FFA) and would love to see more "community gardens" pop up in vacant lots, unused space, corners of city property but don't know how to start such a movement.

      November 14, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
      • saltgrain

        Damselinos.. one thing you could also do is post on in their "free stuff" section. You could also look for churches in your area that do free meals and see whether they could use your extra produce. My inlaws go every Saturday to cook and serve a meal to hundreds in their rural community. We have several neighbors that live well below the poverty line.. so we always thought of them when we had extra.

        November 14, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
  9. marisab67

    Aucasun, you are right. I was pointing out that starving people very rarely have these food allergies, or if they do I have never heard a single person speak of one in 3 years of weekly visits. No one asks when they are getting the food re: ingredients. No one gives back the milk or peanut butter. No one requests gluten-free anything. I could have phrased it in a nicer way.

    November 14, 2013 at 4:36 am |
    • Floretta

      Marisab67 – food allergies do not go away with hunger. Just because you never heard of anyone turning food away because of allergies doesn't mean they don't have allergies – they may have simply traded, say, the jar of peanut butter for fresh fruit with someone who is not allergic. I'm allergic to shellfish, our son to tree nuts. We would simply pass on those things if we got them to somebody else who could use them.

      I regularly buy the BOGOF (or better) specials at our local grocery when I shop, keeping a mini food and sundries pantry of my own at home for [a] one disabled sibling on food stamps; [b] shipping food to a second disabled sibling who lives alone 800 miles from here and has trouble getting out to shop (also order groceries by phone for her); and [c] local food drives. I always have a bag started for the Boy Scouts, mail carriers, church groups, etc. For shipping I like to get things that are "just add water" such as instant potatoes, pancake mix or flavored pastas, ready made foods like tuna in sealed pouches or heat and eat macaroni and cheese, treats like cocoa mix, nuts, granola bars etc.

      November 14, 2013 at 6:31 am |
      • marisab67

        I realize that some people have severe food allergies. I know there are people who can die from them. My point was that it has never come up in over 100 visits and everyone gets peanut butter and wheat bread in their bag.

        November 14, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  10. jade

    I liked all these tips, but why the snarky backhanded remarks?

    For example, 1) the diss on ramen. I get you turn your chef nose up at it, but that attitude in turn disses people that like and rely on it. Does it make you feel better than them that you don't have Top Ramen in your home? It comes off that way. 2) the diss on "pantry cleaning". This is especially offensive. Why are you so insulting to what people have? Presumably, it was good enough for someone once to buy, so why diss their personal taste? And if they bought it to eat for themselves, they probably would serve it to family. There's no need to assume it's crap food, and no need to insult people's personal taste. Maybe they have a small house. Maybe they over shop. You may, once again, turn your nose up at the offerings but don't discourage giving, and don't make people feel bad about what they choose to give. Someone else might like it.

    November 14, 2013 at 12:43 am |
    • marisab67

      My answers were edited. My food pantry remarks referred to the cans of salmon, expired foods, etc. that you or your family won't eat themselves but think, Meh, those poor people will eat it. And yes, as a chef, I have a huge problem with Top Ramen. It's death in a package and i would rather spend that 33 cents on a cup of brown rice for my kids. Also, I'm a total bitch. Just because I want to help feed people, it doesn't mean I'm a nice person.

      November 14, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • saltgrain

      I think "pantry cleaning" refers to the practice of people donating old/expired food to the foodbanks when they clean out their cupboards. They donate stuff they no longer feel is "good enough" for their families. I don't thing anyone looks down on someone who likes Ramen. But, with the high salt content and relatively little "nutrition" I don't think anyone would consider it the most healthy thing that someone could put on the table. So.. I don't see it as snobby.. just trying to be more healthy. This coming from someone who's favorite fish is the "filet-o". I know it's not healthy.. but I like it. However, I wouldn't think someone was a snob if they wrote an article promoting better fish options:)

      November 14, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
      • marisab67

        EXACTLY, saltgrain.

        November 14, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • Ally

      Jade, the "pantry cleaning" she refered to is more about when we go through our cupboards and donate all the stuff we don't want anymore. ie: 1 old can of hominy, 2 cans of stewed pumpkin (we always buy too many over the holidays), the expired packets of gravy mix, ohhh...and that jar of boysenberry jam has been in there for years...

      We've probably all done a little of that. But I liked the suggestions to picture one of your loved one's having to eat the choices you're donating. Go ahead and get rid of stuff you wont' use. But it won't hurt to add in a couple of cans of new stuff you eat regularly. and a big jar of peanut butter. :)

      November 14, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      I remember when I was little, we'd donate the canned yams and canned beets that had been given to us when my Dad's work would send their annual Christmas gift baskets. We didn't want to eat them - why did we expect anyone else would want to? Now, I try to give things that mirror what is in my actual cupboards.

      And of course now that Marisa suggested it, I am gonna start giving cases of peanut butter.

      November 14, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
      • emintey

        Believe it or not there are people who like canned beets and canned yams, my father would scarf that stuff down. I think taste in food over the years has changed and eledrly people may have different tastes, as well as people from different cultures. IMO if it's good and not expired food donate it, someone will take it, if not there was no harm done.

        November 14, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
      • sue

        Wow – I didn't realize that "pantry cleaning" was so distasteful to people. I had a sweet elderly neighbor who was getting a bit senile. She would buy more of some items than she needed and then forget and buy more. She'd knock on my door every few months and tell me her pantry was full and offer things to me. I tried to refuse if it was something I didn't really need or want and it obviously hurt her feelings so I just started taking it and donating it to the food pantry. I'd usually add some things of my own like pasta sauce or peanut butter but usually it was just her things. I thought I was doing a good thing – what was I supposed to do with the stuff, throw it in the trash?

        I agree that people who want to donate to the food pantry and can afford to do so should give high quality items, but why shame people who have non-expired, usable food who prefer to donate it rather than throw it away? My parents both grew up in large families during the Depression years and they knew true poverty. I can't imagine either of them thinking that pasta or creamed corn was not good enough for them, then or now. BTW – they bought ramen noodles because they actually liked them and lived happily into their 90's so it's not like eating them sometimes is a death sentence!

        November 29, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
        • marisab67

          I got a box of Jello that expired in 2010 yesterday at the food bank. That is the sort of item I was suggesting leaving out. Is this a problem? Would you like the nearly 4 year-expired Jello, Sue? I think you need to get back under the bridge, SugarCakes. The dinger just dinged on your Lean Cuisine.

          December 1, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • Shirely U Jest

      The nutritional value of Ramen noodles is next to nothing. Ramen noodles contain significant amounts of sodium, saturated and trans fats, as well as additives that can lead to chronic disease states such as Type II Diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease if consumed in excessive amounts. Enjoy!

      November 15, 2013 at 11:30 am |
  11. An Irish Wench

    What a well written article!!

    As someone who is disabled, and also struggling for food, we have the problem of the LACK of food banks where I live, sad to say. If you are lucky enough to find one that actually has food, ( I'm told often we don't have any donations today) what they give us is dogs...canned chili and other such nasty-ness.

    I have learned a lot reading from the comments and the article and what to get and cook, and love the idea of a cookbook for those that struggle and actually have to make do with what's on hand. I hope someone actually follows through! It should be given to everyone who goes to a food bank or lives on food stamps.

    Thank you for this article! It's certainly given me a LOT of ideas!

    November 13, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • xdx

      November 14, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
    • marisab67

      I think some nutritional recipe cards by the door would be a great idea! You would be surprised at how hard it is to get the food banks to respond to requests to volunteer to do thing like this, unfortunately. Maybe this article will give me a little leverage!

      November 17, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
  12. Lori

    Thank you for your insights. I've been thinking about what I could donate to my local pantry. I'm with you in regard to the cleaning out of the pantry donation. If I wouldn't eat it ,why would I give it to someone else to feed their children. And finally, it's nobodies business how you came to be in the circumstances that you are in. $#|¥ happens. Peace to you.

    November 13, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
  13. ieat

    oh and also at many Asian bakeries, the bread sells for half price at the end of the day because they don't sell day old.

    November 13, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
  14. ieat

    Marissa, look for a local CSA. I have one where I pay 20 a month for 2 weeks and then some full of fresh produce. They are a little dirty straight from the farm but they are organic and picked that day. I don't know where you live but like you say Ethnic markets are cheap. Korean markets in my area have sales every Friday and they're 1/2 the price of American markets which we (as Asians) consider to be a rip off to start with. Good luck and I wish you well.

    November 13, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
    • marisab67

      We use one in the summer. In the winter it's $25 every week but mostly greens. I love them but it almost works out to grocery prices then, so we wait until around April and start up. Then between the food bank, the farm, and neighborhood gleaning, we;re set. There are even meat CSA's here, but I'm too worried that if I bought a freezer and it broke, I'd lose more than I could afford (which is zero)

      November 13, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
  15. KanneMe

    There were a number of years (2009-2011) when my husband and I lived on $11,000/year after health insurance premiums were paid. I had always been a coupon clipper but I honed my skills considerably during this time. By combining store specials and manufacturers coupons, I regularly save $55-$75 off $100 worth of groceries. I recommend it for anyone who is struggling. I clip the coupons in the evenings while we watch a movie or such, match them to the weekly in-store specials and spend less than two hours a week to save that much. Also, wow, Wow and WOW! I cannot imagine living where it costs $4.00 for a loaf of bread. Here in the upper-middle-west you can get a loaf of whole grain or 12 grain bread for $1.69 (regular price.) Produce is also a bargain. We make fruit, vegetables and grains the mainstays of our meals, with meat as an add-on or smaller-portioned component. One chicken breast can go a long way when mixed with veg and rice. Blessings on all of you who are hurt and suffering. I wish you full hearts and full tummies.

    November 13, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • marisab67

      Those who have compassion in their hearts for others are truly the blessed. Full tummies, indeed!

      November 13, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
    • Floretta

      $1.69 for a loaf of whole grain bread? Wow. $4+ is the norm here in upstate NY for most whole grain breads. Even the bakery Italian bread is nearly $3.

      November 14, 2013 at 6:35 am |
    • Expensive Bread

      In my area, prices for bread run the gamut, but in general the types of bread you want to buy, whole wheat, oatmeal, multigrain, etc., are all $3 to $4 – even at so called savings stores like walmart. If you're not too picky, though, you can get basic white or wheat breads for under $2 at places like dollar stores and discount groceries. I've seen a lot of grocery stores now set up a discount rack, where they place breads that are getting older, bruised fruit and other items for a steep discount.

      I don't know how that is in your area, if these resources are available to you. It's almost a crime, the price of bread, though.

      November 14, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  16. Tallgirl1204

    We discovered by accident that we could get our local organic grocery's lettuce trimmings for free. The first time, my husband asked the clerk who was trimming and stocking lettuce if we could have the trimmings for our chickens. He got home with the bag and we discovered that it was in such good shape that it never went to the chickens– after that he worked out what day they stock produce and would show up to pick,up the discards... Just an idea that may work for others.

    November 13, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • marisab67

      Love it. I find that most people are happy to help where they can and it just takes being bold enough to ask.

      November 13, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
      • DML

        I read your article and will not bash you or ask about why your husband made the choice he did. This goes beyond that. You are experiencing something that you did not foresee happening and you are trying to make the best of it. I grew up poor, where sometimes dinner was one slice of bread with the choice of mayonnaise, mustard or ketchup! It is very difficult for a Mom to know that their child is hungry. I have an idea – why don't you teach some of the less fortunate human beings that have to go to the food bank, how to buy and cook healthy. Teach them why buying what you buy is better than the pre-packaged, high calorie/carb food. Maybe provide some recipes. You would be helping people to understand the value and benefit of the healthier foods and how to make them last and stretch the meals. Just a thought Marisa....

        November 13, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
        • marisab67

          I signed up to do just that but my availability doesn't meet theirs as often as I would like. There is a program that NoKidHungry has that I am going to try and I'm going to do classes that Jamie Oliver sponsors to learn how to really teach these effectively. Thank you for your open mind. We try to Be Here Now and keep moving forward instead of commiserating. Only perpetuates it.

          November 13, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
        • DML

          I have some other ideas and know two well-known chefs that I might be able to reach out to and see if they have some suggestions or ideas. How can we communicate off this post?

          November 13, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
        • marisab67

          Are you on Twitter DML? I'd give you my email but I don't want trolls invading my inbox.

          November 13, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
        • DML

          No, I'm not on Twitter. I did have to put my email address in to make a comment. Is there a way you can get it from the website that this is posted? If not, I will go ahead and post my email address to you.

          November 13, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
        • marisab67

          I can't see it. I don't want you to get trolled either.

          November 14, 2013 at 4:29 am |
  17. Joyce shields

    I am 74 years old and go to the food pantry twice a month. I get $24 a month in food stamps. I pick very careful on what I can get. I make most of my meals on food provided by the pantry. We get lots of fresh veggies. This summer they gave me lots of tomatoes and I canned them. So have plenty for soups this winter. I could not survive with out the pantry.

    November 13, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
  18. Me Not You

    If you're a diabetic like me, you'll die early eating from a food bank since most of what they give out is all carb-heavy processed food. It's very scary when you don't have choices.

    November 13, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
  19. Honeybumblebee

    Thank you for this. I was once in that place when my husband was laid off, a 3 year old son, and me working where I could for 7 bucks an hour. The experience with social services was bad enough but the day I had to go to a food bank I broke down and cried. Most of these people commenting have no clue to the struggle of working a job that pays little and no insurance and that's not even including the expensive of a sitter. Things did get better but I learned the importance of how to give properly and the most important of all....don't judge until you have walked it and know the story first hand.
    Thanks for you bravery in writing this.

    November 13, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
  20. Ndstars

    I'd like to know what rationale the husband used for leaving his previous job. Granted, the details aren't provided, but on the surface it sounds like he had a great-paying job that he didn't like, left it to pursue something he really loved but didn't pay as well, and now his kids are struggling because of it. What kind of father holds his own heart above his children's needs??

    November 13, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
    • marisab67

      If you read down in the comments, there is much more detail given. But you're right, my question for 3 years has been the same as yours. He made a stupid, stupid choice and is suffering for it. As for motivating him to look for another job or a second one, there is only so much screaming that can go on in one household and my kids have heard enough of it to last a lifetime.

      November 13, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • Betty Hendel

      My thought exactly. What a fool.

      November 13, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
    • Jessica

      Neither of you seem to have read the part where the husbands new jobs pay was reduced by 60% when the recession hit in 2008/9. Nobody can predict the future and the government at the time was saying that everything was great and would continue to be great, which of course turned out to be pure B S because they knew things were about to go south.

      November 13, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
  21. William

    Great article!!!

    November 13, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
  22. clockworkcouturesux

    Interesting article just wish that Marisa was more honest about how they ended up in this position. They both have the ability to make the money through working jobs to not be in the situation they are in. Through her husband choosing to take a lesser job and her choosing to not work at all they are putting them in that situation. Most people living in real poverty are suffering from issues of institutional poverty and while Marisa is taking food from those people she unlike them has the ability to find a paying job. She could choose to not home school her children and do what million of other people do and send them to public schools but I guess that while free food is ok with her, free public education is not. Be aware Marisa that every food you take at the food bank you are taking out of the mouth of a person who does not have the educational, class or societal benefits that you've had since birth. Also your comment that not everyone is lazy who needs these is really disgusting as it shows you still think some people are unworthy even while you take these free things while having the actual ability to work and pay for food.

    November 13, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
    • emintey


      November 13, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      I'm not quite sure why you're so fixated on how they got there, unless you're using some magical thinking that it will somehow ward it away from every happening to you, if you get her to bow down in a burlap sack and grovel before the people of the internet until they forgive her.

      It's also not as if people can will lucrative jobs into being. They're in this situation, they're doing the best they can, and Marisa is being extremely generous with her experience and expertise, when many people wouldn't have the guts to do so.

      If you come forward with your real name and what you do for a living and how you spend your money, then perhaps you can start to critique other people - or even better and more generously, share what knowledge you have.

      November 13, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
      • marisab67

        You are a loverface. I wish I'd have come up with the burlap sack comeback :)

        November 13, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
        • Kat Kinsman

          Don't forget the ashes, hon. The people wanna see ashes.

          November 13, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
      • Jacque

        Kat well PUT! :)

        November 13, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
      • clockworkcouturesux

        Kat while I understand person is your friend that doesn't change the reality of her privilege and you're attempts to shame only reflect poorly on you. My name is Patricia Blake. I posted from my granddaughter;s account as I'm not big on the internets yet. I like many people who lived through the depression and before civil rights have actually had to deal with the widespread economic and societal oppression that your generation is willfully ignorant of. Since we are doing CV, I worked for years as housekeeper because higher education was not an option for a person of my gender, color and class. All the while I raised five children while going to whatever kind of school I could. We never took state aid but that mainly cause it wasn't even offered to us. Marisa and her husband are responsible for where they are, that doesn't mean she shouldn't seek help but it's pretty clear that unlike the majority of people deal with real poverty this is her first time with any hardship and perhaps because of this she is not taking responsibility for her own lack of effort to improve her life with getting a job. No doubt once she gets her book deal, she'll be able to go back to the life of privilege she is used to.

        November 14, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
        • Jerv@clockworkcouturesux

          My grandmother was from your generation and experienced a lot ,and more, of the same hardships you experienced. Not once did she ever brag about it or throw it up in some poor souls face to demean them. You should be grandly ashamed of yourself.

          November 15, 2013 at 10:59 am |
    • marisab67

      That was so many judgements all in one place. Right after we moved here, I became pregnant. After a 37 week stillborn and 5 miscarriages, I figured I could save the $500 for an abortion and wait to miscarry. At 45 I had my second son. We have one car and live in a place with no public transportation, no relatives to help, and the cost of childcare is equal to what I would make cooking so I would be working for free. My mother fell off a ladder when I was 12 and my dad was absent. I took care or her, including wiping her ass, did all the cooking and cleaning, until she was able to recover FOUR YEARS LATER so I'm not sure what economic step-up I benefited from. I've been homeless and got myself out of that. I COULD go to work a graveyard shift and have zero energy to do anything at all for my family. My son is homeschooled because he was being disruptive to a extreme degree in class because he is smarter than most children and to me, the responsible parent thing to do was to stop impeding his classmates education and let the other parent's kids not be impeded by this. So tell me again where my dishonesty lies? Thanks for your support. I hope you have all kinds of luck in life.

      November 13, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
      • Joyce

        Too many people hide behind the anonymity of the internet, and say horrible things that they would not say in person. Don't hurt yourself by taking this personally.

        I plan to save this article for future reference. I may need it some day. Thank you for your experience and insights.

        November 13, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
        • Trent

          What they say on the internet is in their heart. Though they wouldn't say it in person because they know they would experience the social consequences of revealing their lack of empathy. Most sociopaths learn to conceal their lack of humanity.

          November 14, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
        • clockworkcouturesux

          My name is Patricia Blake, I'm 86 and live in Maryland. I lived through the depression, civil rights, wars, two husbands, five children and 16 grandkids all while working until I was 70. I'm using my granddaughter's account as I don't go on the internets thing much. I have no problem with anyone getting help if they need it but when someone is taking when they can provide for themselves that's a sad sad state and I stand by what I wrote. Everyone (although especially it would appear her husband by her many comments) is to blame for Marisa's situation but herself. That's just not the case. She can make all the excuses she wants but generations of women have gotten jobs and yeah sometimes that means coming home bone tired but you do it. It amazes me she is 46 and has learned so little other than how to get over and play the victim.

          November 14, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
      • clockworkcouturesux

        so your son has behavioral problems but it's just because he is "smart", your husband doesn't make much because he choose to take a lesser job and he is 32. Your body clearly wasn't capable of carrying a child but you choose not to use birth control. Again you choose to marry your husband, you choose to keep getting pregnant.
        Also your comment of someone only making 48,000, you realize that is more than most families in the US make correct?
        So you not taking responsibility for your life or your family is clearly nothing knew for you.

        November 14, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
        • emintey

          Your comments are way out of line.

          November 14, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
        • marisab67

          Dear Patricia. You sound like a real hoot. I'm so glad you have such good faculties at 86 to jump on the "internets thing" and butt your old fanny into my business. The whole point of the article was to help people eat better and I really don't get what the problem you have with that is. Good luck with the being old thing!

          November 14, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
        • linda

          Great response!

          November 14, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
        • emintey

          Patricia, in reading your posts i see you have lived an interesting life of courage and determination and you deserve everyones respect. But if you dont mind let me add something that may not have occured to you. I think your resentment of Marissa is a little mispalced, while everyone makes mistakes in life we deal with them as best we can. While certainly everyone in need deserves aid, the small aid she gets in food banks isnt depriving anyone else. You may certainly have a right to feel resentful, i dont think marisa should be the target.
          Talking about wriiting a book, I think your life would make an interesting one.

          November 14, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
        • DML

          Emintey, If I could "FAV" you I would!!!!! What a great comment!

          November 15, 2013 at 12:16 am |
      • sluggin' it out on the night shift

        Interesting that taking a job working NIGHT shift is so off your list of things that you could do to help your family. I worked nights for 25 years, only just now getting ahead enough and being promoted to a day shift. I went to college, which I paid for myself, while working, but could not finish the last 6 classes while working. I have chosen to take the road available to me and not put myself in your position by quitting my sad night shift job to finish those last 6 classes and getting my degree. I may be working class scum, and not ever have any energy from working the night shift, but I shop at the farmer's market and Whole Foods and have not EVER relied on government or ANY assistance, for that matter. All the while that I was working full time nights and attending school during the day, a friend of mine decided that she should have a baby out of wedlock, bringing her home with only $40 in her bank account. The government (aka the rest of us poor working night shift fools) paid all of her childcare, WIC and all of her schooling while she got her nursing degree and made sure that I knew that she didn't have to pay for any of it. I suck it up every day to work at a factory, and this is just for myself! If I had a child that was depending on me, I would damn well take that night shift job. People in the US really need to get their priorities straight.

        November 15, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
        • marisab67

          I'm 46. i have 2 kids and I worked my ass off as a chef for 20 years. I am putting my energy toward raising a family, albeit on a small budget with assistance from the hog trough. I was not in anyway denigrating the graveyard shift. My husband did it so well that he was promoted to the office at the co. where he eventually became a VP. I am so glad you are doing well. Happy Holidays!

          November 15, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
        • emintey

          You are not the only one who went to school and worked the night shift, some of us dont become so embittered by our experience that we upturn tablecloths lookng to complian about someone who we imagine hasnt sufffered enough. Women sometimes become pregnant, either planned, by carelessness or pure accident in spite of precautions, children in our society are a valuable resource that cannot be measured in pure monetary terms, nor should anyone seek to determine that a pregnancy should be terminated except for the mother herself. A woman who accepted public assistance and attended school to obtain a useful profession which she now works productively at and pays taxes as most do as most recipients of social benefits do after a few short years on the "dole" is to be commended.
          I've worked the graveyard shift while going to school, i rasied 2 children on my own despite working the kinds of hours you couldnt even comprehend and always supported my children because i could, but if i couldnt i would gladly have accepted aid. never once did I look around jealously to see if someone else got something that i didnt because I have faith in human nature and mankind, it's easy to find what you want to find when you have a small mind and take the low road. I'm glad I'm me and not you.

          November 15, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          Children are priceless.

          My question is, why try and have one at 45? We all know the dangers to both mother and child..........why?

          November 15, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          5 miscarriages? Why stop there?

          Sorry Flamenons, I have a hard time with this one.

          November 15, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
        • emintey

          God, wtf is wrong with you? It's far from unique to have children at 45, many women have miscarriages. Is this sport for you? How old are you anyway, you seem like a 17 yr old. If you want to ask question i want to know why you are such a dipsh*t. her life isnt something to be pored over by you, it's really none of your business. Dont you think you can find a better hobby, like playing video games? this almost seems like some kind of obsession for you

          November 15, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
      • Southernsuga

        You're just out to make a dollar. I'm quite sure that all of this is nothing but a fable. Where do you get the money for the internet? I'm not buying any of your story. Too, you have a filthy mouth/vocabulary.

        November 17, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
      • JAE1983

        And after a 37-week stillbirth and 5 miscarriages, it never crossed your mind that birth control might be something worth using? Even though (if I have the timeline correct) you were already relying on the foodbank to feed your existing child?

        November 18, 2013 at 7:28 am |
        • marisab67

          It's a little weird that you are so focused on my vagina, but hey. I never got pregnant NOT using birth control until I met my husband at 35 so it was a complete shock to both of us. We WANTED another baby and my husband was making over $100k per year so we did not use birth control. We were on zero assistance. There is this thing called the internet, if you look up "women" and "fertility" there might be some stories about other vaginas who have had MANY miscarriages in their attempt to have children. When I got pregnant in 2011 I was ELATED, even with the salary cut. Some people have these things called hearts and the idea of a baby was fantastic although I was sure it would end the way the rest had, God likes me and gave me a beautiful son. And we are making it work. Go blow yourself.

          November 19, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • marisab67

      Also, I never assume anyone is lazy. I said the stereotype of people who need help is that we are all POS losers. But that would actually be YOU, my friend.

      November 13, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
      • emintey

        Some comments are not worth replying to, clockworkcouturesux's was one of them.

        November 13, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
      • clockworkcouturesux

        If that's how you talk to a friend, no wonder you don't have anyone helping you out. But if it give a break from yelling at your husband well then have it. When you are done with your self pity how about finding a JOB.

        November 14, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
        • Kristen

          A bit late to this party but have to say that you -clockwork -are one of the nastiest and ugliest people I have ever encountered on these threads. And that is saying ALOT. Perhaps this "internets thing" isn't the place for you. Of course then where would you channel all your hate and bilei if not behind the keyboard? *shudders*

          November 17, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • Betty Hendel


      November 13, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
    • Jacque

      You are missing some serious components...

      November 13, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
  23. Kate

    Good concepts here even for people who don't use a food bank.

    Totally agree on ethnic markets. Asian and Hispanic groceries in my city have perfect fruits and vegetables around half the price of mainstream stores. Spices, condiments, grains, herbs, etc. are also much cheaper. I buy tofu from Asian markets – high quality, versatile protein typically under $1.00 lb.

    Things like lentils, brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, beans – even white pasta is okay sometimes. They're all cheap, super simple and fast to cook once in a big batch. I add frozen or fresh veggies and fruits, eggs, dairy on sale. My local grocery does buy one get one free on different items each week. That usually makes something like frozen veggies or whole wheat pasta $0.50 – $0.75 lb. Hard to get much cheaper unless it's free.

    One other thought. Meat is unnecessary, whether one can afford it or not. There's way more than enough protein in, say, beans and rice without adding any meat at all. 5-10% of the population in the U.S. are vegetarian, along with hundreds of millions of people in the rest of the world (most of India, for example). It's a huge savings, with the bonus of being healthier as long as you eat a variety of other nutritious foods.

    November 13, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • ithappens

      If you find the day your grocer marks down meats, that's a good way to stock your freezer if you have one. Recently mine reduced some low fat chicken and pork combo italian sausages (5 per pack regularly $5) down to $2.49/pack, all pork ones, store brand, down to $2/pack. Separate them, freeze individual, pull out one or two and remove the casing and cook them up to add to spaghetti sauce or red beans and rice. One or two sausages spread out over a family of 4or 6, it will last a while. And if you portion it out before you freeze it, you can cram them into the spaces between other items in your freezer.

      November 14, 2013 at 11:48 am |
  24. maxigyal

    Thank for sharing your story. I am a single Mother of one, I do not qualify for food assistance. I find myself going to the food pantry twice a month ( I was just at one yesterday) Our dinner tonight comprise mostly of items I received from the food pantry. I have a food budget of 75-100 dollars a month. I buy the bruised produce, the past sell buy date produce. I freeze, cut ( green peppers got a spot, cut it off!) , bag anything I can. I shop at many stores -including dollar store- to make sure my daughter an I eat well. I know when certain stores are marking down their meats- I buy it then freeze it. Some may scoff at the idea, but hell, I do this, my daughter and I are healthy, no one goes to bed hungry. Thank you for speaking on behalf of families nationwide who have to do this out of necessity.

    November 13, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
    • marisab67

      Maxi, moms like you are exactly why I'm speaking out. Good for you for having the pride (yes, I think it is pride) to do what it takes to feed your daughter. Shame belongs nowhere in a conversation when a loaf of bread at a regular grocery store costs almost $4.

      November 13, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
  25. Dan

    This year we got carried away planting sweet potatoes and ended up with over 200 lbs extra that we gave to our local food bank. I always thought of food banks as being places filled with cans and non perishables. But this has given me an idea. I like gardening and I have plenty of garden space, so this coming year I hope to plant extra tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes and the like to give away. I can combine my hobby with doing something useful.

    November 13, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • Kate

      My local food bank has a formal program each summer called something like "Plant a Row for the Hungry". They encourage local backyard gardeners to do exactly that – plant a extra few rows and donate the results. You might want to see if there's something like that near you. I'm sure they'd be happy to have your help!

      November 13, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
    • marisab67

      God Bless your heart, Dan. You are excellent. And if you live in the Sacramento region, I'll take some of those sweet potatoes :)

      November 13, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
  26. Lisa

    Never judge anyone. You never know when your world will be turned upside down. I lost my 15 year old daughter to undiagnosed terminal illness in April. 4 months later my son was laid off, 30 days after that my husband was laid off, three days later my dads home burned to the ground, 5 days later my daughters car was vandalized then 8 days after that my son was at a stop light and someone hit him from behind. Anyone's security, bliss and happiness can be wiped away in the blink of any eye. If someone needs to use a food bank go for it. I just wish there was more ways to help one another, because before you know it you may be the one needing help.

    November 13, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • emintey

      It frustrates me no end that so many people dont realize that it could be them but for a simple twist of fate, any of us.

      November 13, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
      • JAE1983

        It frustrates me that many people don't seem to realize that purposely cutting one's salary in half, and flat-out refusing to be anything other than a SAHM, aren't even close to the same things as unexpected death, job loss, or house burning down.

        November 18, 2013 at 7:23 am |
        • emintey

          Everyone understands that, everyone understands this was a stupid mistake and no there may not be a simple alternative for bringing in extra cash. You can throw tantrums all you want about it if that makes you feel better but remember, that's only childish acting out.

          November 18, 2013 at 8:06 am |
    • marisab67

      And we keep on because that's what moms do. I am so sorry, Lisa. What an excruciating amount of loss to suffer so quickly. let alone at all. I had a 37-week stillborn. I can and cannot imagine how that feels. xoxoxoxoxo

      November 13, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
  27. emintey

    My local supermarket has a barrel outside the front door where people drop donations, I think it's Mother's Cupboard. I usually pick up a few items, like today I bought some canned veggies, tuna fish, apple juice and peanut butter oh and a box of pancake mix. I didnt know they accepted fresh produce, if I bought a bag of oranges or something would that be accepted?

    November 13, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • Lisa

      My supermarket has pre-bagged bags of food on a table by the register. You can buy a food bag for $10 and it is donated to the local food bank.

      November 13, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
    • marisab67

      Most likely not. The things in the bins have to get sorted and distributed between different organizations usually and so they might spoil before they could be used. Your local pantry would absolutely take it in it person.

      November 13, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
  28. JoEllen62

    Wow. This article is so moving to me.
    I remember the hunger I felt 31 years ago. Homeless, pregnant, and no food.
    Thanks to our Lord Above, I am now blessed to not be anywhere near that situation.
    I cook 99% of the meals. Shop smart, Grow some of our food. And help others when I can.
    Sorry if my grammar isn't perfect, it's hard to see through the tears.
    Thank You for sharing.

    November 13, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • emintey

      Love you.

      November 13, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • marisab67

      Mamas gotta stick together. Thank YOU.

      November 13, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
  29. may_814

    Hi Marisa, I wonder if you can use the fact that this article has been published on CNN and piggy back on some kind of publicity to help you get a cookbook together. Not sure if reaching out to Cory Booker who's tried to live on SNAP for a week would help, but maybe. This was a very good article and just in time for thanksgiving as well. I will make sure to donate extra peanut butter next time. Thank you for a well written article and the tips.

    November 13, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
  30. sanjosemike

    Marisa, my wife and I were once very, very poor and were food insecure. There were no large discount warehouse stores then, so we couldn't buy sacks of rice and beans there. Most food insecure people can't afford a discount store ID card. You have to go with friends who have one.

    Large sacks of rice and beans, combined with some tofu or soy flour are a complete protein, so it doesn't make any difference what else you serve with it. Fresh fruits and vegetables were the biggest challenge we had. It still costs money to buy food. Obviously it is better to get it for free.

    I tell you what I would do now, if it were us: We would DUMPSTER DIVE. Dumpster diving is definitely a skill but it is something that can be learned. I would bet that many of your friends also do this, and could teach you how. There's lot of myths around DDiving. It is not dangerous if you do it in good neighborhoods. You can look up on the Internet to learn how, if you have access to it.

    Oh yes, I think it IS time to get your husband off of his "dream" and get him to earning a living. He has a family. Being "passionate" about his work is fine, but he still has a family. That must come first.


    November 13, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • marisab67

      I am concerned that if there was a contamination issue there would be a hospital bill I couldn't afford. We don't eat some of the prepared food that Trader Joe's donates for those reasons. I would love to find a kind and gentle way to motivate my husband. He is incredibly depressed that he did this to us and tends to shrink away from my suggestions.

      November 13, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
      • Betty Hendel

        Then dump him. How can you love someone who would do that to his family???

        November 13, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
        • Joyce

          Lots of people take risks with the best of intentions. In fact, sometimes those that are the most successful also risked everything in order to become so.

          This family is already going through enough, without encouraging Marisa to get a divorce. With her resourcefulness and ingenuity, they'll get through this.

          November 13, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
      • Floretta

        Can he afford to see a therapist? If he's depressed he may feel "stuck" and unable to make the moves to get himself looking forward again. He's unintentionally sending out negative vibes that potential employers pick up on. Talk therapy or counseling, with or without antidepressants, may help him stop beating up on himself.

        November 14, 2013 at 6:44 am |
      • sanjosemike


        Marisa67, it is possible for both you and your husband to work out an agreement, even though he is depressed. While therapy would be helpful to both of you, obviously you can't afford it. I'd recommend you look into the "Karpman Drama Triangle." This is a part of what is called "Transactional Analysis."

        You and your husband are now shifting positions in the "Drama Triangle." I can't explain it fully here, but when you read about it you'll see immediately what I mean. His depression and your "pushing him" are both part of the Drama Triangle.

        You both can beat this. This can be negotiated. He can work on his "dream career" part-time and start earning some desperately needed money. He will feel way better and by negotiating a way to exit the Drama Triangle, he may ironically improve his chances for his "dream career." Success smiles on success. I've seen it happen many times.

        It's very difficult to find success at his dream career if he is also depressed. By negotiating with you, he might even find something he prefers MORE than his so-called dream career. If his dream career is making him depressed, it can hardly be called a "dream career."


        November 14, 2013 at 11:33 am |
      • 123elle

        I'm sure your husband made the best decision he could under the circumstances, and he is sticking with his family, so he should not waste these years of his prime of life and strength being down on himself. My dad started a business and put everything into it back in the 1950s, and it failed, We lost our home to foreclosure and were poor. Nevertheless, I worked my way through a top college, got a fantastic job and became a professional writer. My sister has an M.A. degree and is a teacher. More than anything, we loved our dad, and we look back on him, many years gone now, with pride and compassion because of the good person he was ad how hard he tried. He had bad luck, but we wouldn't have traded him for some of the arrogant, boastful, mean-spirited showoffs that other kids had.

        November 16, 2013 at 2:42 am |
    • BaltoPaul

      It is amazing how much good food is simply thrown out. Read the book "Farm City" by Novella Carpenter, if you ever get the chance. She started gardening on a vacant city lot, but before long was raising poultry and pigs. She fed her pigs by dumpster diving for multiple 5 gallon pails of discarded food every single night.

      I keep chickens, and find that some places I shop will often give me discards for them simply for asking. They're happy to see what would otherwise be garbage put to use. There's a lot of slightly damaged produce that is wasted, simply because it is slightly blemished. I once scored an entire truck load of "pie pumpkins" from a tree lot that was closing on Christmas eve. All I had to do was load them and take them away. They kept all winter, and cut my feed bill by more than half. I don't scavenge out of need, I simply hate seeing things go to waste.

      I expect you could simply tell grocers or restaurants that you are "urban farming" and ask for their still-edible discards, even if you don't actually have chickens. Better yet, get some chickens! :)

      November 13, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
  31. chrisrapier

    I recently donated a good amount of food to our local food drive. I bought 10 2# bags of rice, 20 cans of beans, 10 cans of corn, 4 jars of peanut butter and jelly. I was going to buy a lot of dried beans but my girlfriend pointed out that the people going to food banks might not have the time to soak and cook dried beans. Thinking about that seemed like the right move but it seems far less economical. Marisab, I was wondering if you had some thoughts on that. I want to maximize my donations but I don't want to donate something that won't be useful to the majority of users.

    November 13, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • marisab67

      Chris – I would suggest a bit of both. The cans are good for the people who don't have kitchens. Many of them are men who live in their trucks and have campstoves, so fuel use would be lower than boiling dried ones. And 1# bags would feed twice as many people. People like you who care enough to feed others are doing God or Mohammed or Buddha or Cthulhu or whatever you believe in's work. Thank you.

      November 13, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
      • chrisrapier

        Okay, I'm super amused that you mentioned Cthulhu. Here's to the dead dreaming Cthulhu ;)

        Thanks for the tip. I'll pick up a bunch of dried beans as well.

        November 14, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • Floretta

      The best thing to help your local food bank or pantry is simply ask them what they need most. It might be cash, with which they can stretch their buying further. It might be non-food items like diapers, soap and shampoo, deodorant and toilet paper since food stamps can't be used for those. Perhaps they need baby formula or jars of baby food. Even pet food. I am sure they will appreciate any donation but if it something they really lack, all the better.

      November 14, 2013 at 6:50 am |
  32. LPLT

    Marisa, this is an excellent article. I donate to my local food pantry and also work on my company's charitable committee where we organize food drives etc. so the information you provide about donating is invaluably helpful. Thank you.

    November 13, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
  33. Kat

    Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! Enough said!

    November 13, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
  34. annek

    I just posted this article on my facebook page. It was so helpful I think even if you do not have to use a food bank. Thnk you for your knowledge and insight! I really appreciated it. Food is expensive for most and I know I like to feed my family healthfully and it doesn not have to cost a ton. You can live within a budget. Thank you again.

    November 13, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
  35. Thank you

    You don't owe anyone an explanation. Even if you have some luxuries or even one luxury (which I'm sure you don't because you sound incredibly self-disciplined), good grief, everyone needs something. I hope there are times (and you don't have to even reply to this) when you can afford a small treat - a book, whatever - for yourself or the kids. And do it without guilt. You're not gaming the system or anything like that. Everyone deserves a little something sometimes :).

    November 13, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
  36. Thank you

    Marisa, you are an amazing lady. I applaud your strength. Your kids are blessed to have such a good mom who takes care of them. Also, this reminds people that folks getting assistance aren't just all just hanging out "on the dole." Nowadays, many of us struggle financially, despite working hard.
    Anyway, just wanted to thank you!

    November 13, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Isn't she fantastic? And I bet she inspires a lot of people to pony up some peanut butter to their local food bank.

      November 13, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
      • Thank you

        Yep! :)

        November 14, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • marisab67

      We should also thank the lovely Kat Kinsman for giving me a platform. I am happy to speak for the poor people who seem to be exhausted and depressed and would do it themselves if they knew which mountaintop to shout it from. I appreciate the kind words. Thank YOU for listening.

      November 13, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
      • other options

        Marisa, thank you for sharing your valuable tips and strategies for what will probably remain a lingering recession for many. I would like to offer that people don't need animal protein at all and can procure various forms of soy products and beans for super cheap and they store really well. Soy products take the flavor of whatever is added too so the combinations are many. Also, soymilk and almond milk are healthier than cow milk, cost less and last much longer in the fridge. Those are just some things to consider. I'm not even vegetarian, just economical.

        November 13, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
        • marisab67

          We use all the kinds of milk. You're right. Lasts so much longer. We used to eat a great deal of meant. Now I tell my kids we're mostly vegetarian so that we help save the planet and they love almost every single veggie. It's goofy how we don't need meat to grow vegetables, but we need enough corn to kill the world to make meat.

          November 13, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
        • edwin

          If almond milk and soymilk last longer, why do all the cartons I buy say "drink within 7 days of opening"? Or are you refering to shelf life?

          November 13, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
        • marisab67

          Edwin, I think it gets stinky after about 3 weeks open. It seems like the ones that are refrigerated to begin with last longer than the boxed ones.

          November 13, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
      • Kat Kinsman

        YOU get peanut butter! And YOU get peanut butter! Everyone gets PEANUT BUTTERRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

        November 13, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
        • marisab67

          Know what's wacky? No one at the food bank ever talks about their deathly food allergies.

          November 13, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
        • edwin

          LOVE the comment about the food allergies, marisa! I highly recommend you read "Surviving Whole Foods" if you haven't already:

          My favorite line from this piece:

          "I'm not rich enough to have dietary restrictions. Ever notice that you don't meet poor people with special diet needs? A gluten intolerant house cleaner? A cab driver with Candida? Candida is what I call a rich, white person problem."

          November 13, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
        • Aucausin

          So part of the message of your story was to decry the judgement of people who are just trying to feed themselves and their families? Yet you turn around and start judging people with food allergies? That's very shameful and embarrassing on your behalf and I hope you apologize.

          You might think it's "whacky" that you've never found someone with a "deathly food allergy" in a food pantry, and you might think that food allergies are a luxury and not a reality, but for the people who have to watch what they eat or risk death it's not whacky and it's definitively not a luxury.

          Instead of considering "deathly allergies" whacky, perhaps you should be thankful that food allergies aren't something you have to tackled. Then be understanding of the people who do face food allergies, nobody enjoys being anxious about what they eat or worrying about the consequences of eating the wrong thing. In the same way you're asking people who aren't afflicted with hunger to be understanding and supportive of those who do.

          November 14, 2013 at 1:25 am |
  37. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    Cool thing, in Alaska road kill moose are donated to charity or individuals that have signed up on a list. By law, you are required to call the State Troopers when you hit one. That's about 800 pounds of meat

    November 13, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      Of course, you have to go get it and butcher it yourself.

      November 13, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
      • RC

        Not to mention you have to get a new car.....

        November 13, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
  38. question

    I have a question that I hope does not come accross as judgemental. Why did your husband leave a job that could provide for the family? By doing this, it puts the family in a position where you are dependent on a food bank. Wouldn't those resources be better allocated for individuals that were terminated by their employers instead of those that resigned? I'm just trying to understand a choice that sounds like willfully becoming dependent on assistance. Thanks for reading my question.

    November 13, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      I think that is a good question. I once quit a job I hated and couldn't find work for an astounding 8 months, even with a nice resume. Ran out of money after 6 months and my credit has been under repair ever since. I notice this interview was done via e-mail. Was this at the local library or at home?

      November 13, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
      • marisab67

        It was done on the internet. We don't have cable if that was going to be some zinger you were going to lay on me. My son is homeschooled so it's a necessity. The computer I'm using is a 2005 Dell and I have a 3 year-old pay as-you-go phone. All my clothes are from Goodwill. There is no alcohol or tobacco or Gatorade in my house if those were going to be the next questions.

        November 13, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
        • annek

          Marissa, I apologize for the people that are laying any sort of zingers on you. I am sure that your husband thought he was doing the right thing at the time. I am sure he thought he was doing the right or why would have done that. They make me angry! My husband thought he was doing the right when he starteda business that sent us for a loop. lessons were learned when the business failed. You Go Girl! You are awesome and enjoy ur internet and cable if that what u need for ur family! every one is different.

          November 13, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          It was just a question. Quit being so sensitive, you make me like you less.

          November 14, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • KB

      That's not judgmental at all. That is precisely what I was thinking. Very irresponsible of husband.

      November 13, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
      • marisab67

        It was and we almost got divorced. Do you want to live in the past with me or should we consider my advice useful and not go over my families decisions since we take no assistance from your taxes?

        November 13, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
        • question

          Thanks for the reply. I wasn't trying to be judgemental. It was just a question to understand better what goes through different people's minds. I thought that your article was quite helpful. Recently my department went to help out at a local foodbank/meal delivery organization and I was shocked to see that the "meals" being distributed where a slice of white or wheat bread, a butter packet, a juice box, and one other item I can't recall. I really feel for the kids that have to make due with this as a meal. Anyway, I'm serious when I say I appreciated the article. We aren't receiving assistance and it is still a challenge to get the full value out of our foods. I think most people could stretch their food a lot farhter and be happier for it. Thanks for replying, I wasn't really expecting the author to read the comments.

          November 13, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
      • clockworkcouturesux

        Not understand the bashing on her husband when it appear that she also does not have a job at all (although I'm sure she'll pull out the I'm raising my children, that's my job trope). Also not understanding the internet being a must have because the kids are homeschooled. She and her husband have made a series of choices that affect her children and put them in this position. 1. her husband choose to take a lower paying job, she choose to not work at all, they choose to home school their children rather than putting them in public school and she go to work. For her to claim she has to go to food banks due to low work income just isn't true. If both of them worked and worked at a level they are capable of, they wouldn't need to the food bank. They are in fact taking food out of the mouths of people who truly are deprived by society. Also the comment at the end that not everyone is lazy and wants a handout implies that she thinks some people who get assistance are. No doubt Marisa will have a book deal in no time and become a nice "expert" on poverty all while never acknowleding that she is in this position by CHOICE not because of institutional poverty.

        November 13, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
        • emintey

          I dont think anyone uses a food bank by choice (of course there is always an odd exception). If someone is going to go to a food bank I for one am not going to examine each and every detail of their lives for whatever mistakes they may or may not have made, that's kind of like denying them their dignity and that's not a good thing.

          November 13, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
        • marisab67

          Two year-olds can't go to public school, FYI.

          November 13, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
        • Jessica

          I hope you lose your job you sanctimonious piece of ...

          Life deals people blows for whatever reason. Consider yourself lucky you can feed, house and cloth yourself and your family. Whatever happened to "there but for the grace of god, go I".

          November 13, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
        • BaltoPaul

          Clockwork: Several of my family members home-school. My wide and I don't, but we still share ideas and resources, and augment what our children learn in school with some of the homeschooling ideas our extended family is using. Based on personal experience, a low-cost internet connection would provide a far wider range of resources at a lower cost than trying to rely on traditional textbooks and other sources of materials that all cost money.

          Perhaps you could try being more open-minded and learn from the life experiences Marisa is sharing, instead of being so judgmental.

          November 13, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
        • Joyce

          Doesn't it get tiring some times? Being perfect?

          November 13, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
        • fzkatt

          It does seem as if she is in this position by choice and is making no effort to get out of it. Part time job maybe ? cleaning houses, washing windows?

          November 14, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
        • JAE1983

          "Two year olds can't go to public school"? You've been relying on a food bank for three years, and you have a two-year-old? And you're 46? The more information you put out here, the more everyone rolls their eyes at your failure to provide for your family.

          November 18, 2013 at 7:14 am |
    • marisab67

      I am so glad you asked. I didn't want people to think I would make such a goofy decision. I'm 46 and he's 34. He grew up with that whole Oprah "follow your bliss" nonsense and fell for it. I tried to explain how much things really cost and he didn't believe me. Thought I was spending excessively at Target and Whole Foods. Almost got divorced over it. He knows better now, apologizes and cries quite often about the situation he has put us in. It became worse when his aunt stuck us with a car payment for a birthday present she supposedly "bought" him. Her career went back into the craphouse (Virginia Madsen, in case you want to scorn her like I do)) and she decided to stop paying. That $500 (it's our only car so we can't default on the loan) killed us. Started the food bank saga. The blessing is that his new job is in Sacramento instead of Los Angeles. It costs half as much for our rent and there really are fruit trees and other things to forage everywhere.

      November 13, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
      • Question Heir

        Once again a reason not to judge anyone's situation without details.

        As much as people decry it (and despite actually knowing someone who does it unfortunately) I think it's actually pretty rare that someone is looking to take advantage of the welfare/charitable system, and thus quits a job or something like that. Most of the time it seems to be either an economic casualty, or a mistake, or just a plain bad set of circumstances.

        November 13, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
        • marisab67

          He really just was unaware of the real world. His aunt and uncle live in a weird little vacuum of "isn't it amazing" all the time even though they are both has-beens and no one ever really laid it out for him that $100k in student loans for a degree in Psychology from USC was a stupid idea that he would be forced to deal with forever. They just said "fabulous" a bunch and went back to making lousy movies. Well. Not his uncle. We like Mike.

          November 13, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
      • marisab67

        Question ,you were not being judgemental at all. The question after yours about where I used the internet seemed to be the start of baiting to see if I was using my iPhone while I drove my BMW to the food bank :) Might not have been, but the comments on Hugh Acheson's post yesterday were full of "you could quit drinking water and not have to pay the city that $10" sorts of tips and they really irked me. Who the hell would quit $100k a year cushy job for $48k and think they were going to living of the government? I cut every single corner and get testy when people suggest I might not have thought of every single way to stretch my budget.

        November 13, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
        • .

          Marisa, remember not to pre-judge the comentors if you do not wish them to pre-judge you without having all the facts. That is good advice for us all.

          November 13, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
      • Betty Hendel

        Sounds like you're raising a 34-year-old child. Stop. He's not worth it & will find another woman closer to his age soon.

        November 13, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
        • marisab67

          We've been together for 12 years and most of them have been good. He held our dead baby when I could not and will readily admit that this was a disastrous choice for us. Better or worse got worse, but he is honest and loyal and kind and smart and cute as heck so I'm sticking with him. The ride goes up and the ride goes down. Right now we're down, but the ride always changes. Do you live in CA Betty? Maybe you can come over and give him a kick in the pants for me. I'll make dinner.

          November 13, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
  39. Burbank

    For those who are lucky enough to have a house with a patch of ground, you can save the seeds from your peppers, tomatoes, watermelons, squash, etc. and grow them if you can't afford packaged seed. Packaged seed tends to be better because seed from commercial vegetables has been engineered for everything to ripen at the same time to accomodate harvesting equipment and the yield won't be quite as good extended over the season. Packaged seed is intended for home gardening with the produce ripening repeatedly over the course of a season. Even at that, seed saved from commercial veggies is better than nothing, you can always bring your extra fresh produce that you are unable to use in time to donate to the food bank and help others in the same situation.

    November 13, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      You can grow hydroponically, too. Right in the basement next to the weed.

      November 13, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
      • RC


        November 13, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • marisab67

      I actually did this this year. I consider myself to be very bright, yet the idea that all those seeds I was looking at were the same kind of seeds I planted only just occured to me!

      November 13, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • Jessica

      @Burbank, better hope they are not Monsanto generated seeds. They have modified most of their seeds so that when you get a Monsanto tomato the seeds will not grow. It is their way to make sure you and the farmers have to keep paying them for the seeds each year.

      November 13, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
      • BaltoPaul

        It's generally not that plants have been genetically modified to not grow another generation. It's that a lot of commercial crops are hybrids to provide for pest and disease resistance, uniform ripening times, etc, and some of these hybrid plants are nearly sterile and can't effectively reproduce. Better to seek out other gardeners, make a small investment in seeds, and trade with others to get started. You can then seed-save for the following years. There are also seed exchangers on gardening message boards to trade with for the cost of postage. You could likely find people who would willingly donate some of their seeds to get you started.

        November 13, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
    • Damselinsos

      Some online seed companies (2B seeds) offer free tomato seeds with proof of unemployment. I get my petunia seeds from there and love them. I know Flowers are not the same as veggies but....

      November 19, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
  40. edwin

    I wonder if a food pantry would accept a donation of a camp/portable stove. Would be a great way for those without electricity to get some cooking done.

    November 13, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
    • Burbank

      That sounds like a great idea. I bet they would accept it. If not, I'm sure there are homeless shelters or such that would.

      November 13, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
  41. phil

    Peanut butter. Good to know!

    That suggestion alone has me thinking I can help by donating a case of peanut butter and it won't go to waste.

    November 13, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
    • marisab67

      That would make 24 mothers very happy, Phil.

      November 13, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
      • BaltoPaul

        Canned tuna is another good item. Lots of protein in a small container, quite portable, and can be eaten right from the can if necessary. When I was in the Army, carrying cans of tuna to augment our usual field rations was quite popular.

        November 13, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
        • marisab67

          Tuna, yes! The problem is that kids are picky little buggers and tend to not want to eat it. I, on the other hand, love a tuna sandwich. On the white bread that is so plentiful at all food banks.

          November 13, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
      • Liz

        Marisa, I did read the article and have a suggestion for you. You ought to put your knowledge together into a class on living frugally but healthfully. For the time being, you could earn money by offering it through the Learning Exchange (yes, I live in Sacramento, too). There are probably lots of people out there who would like to have your skills. Maybe you could, eventually, offer classes through the local social services office or to high school students.

        November 17, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
      • sue

        Marisa67 said: "My food pantry remarks referred to the cans of salmon, expired foods, etc. that you or your family won't eat themselves but think, Meh, those poor people will eat it."

        She then says: "Tuna, yes! The problem is that kids are picky little buggers and tend to not want to eat it. I, on the other hand, love a tuna sandwich."

        Why is tuna OK but salmon is not? I don't understand the difference – they are both protein sources. Canned salmon is not good enough for her? I started out having a lot of sympathy for her; by the end of the comment section – I have none at all. Sounds like a food snob with a lot of personal issues to work out; she also strikes me as a once priviledged woman struggling with a reduced income and not dealing well. I was a genuinely poor single mother once – you can sense the ones who are experiencing a "genteel" form of poverty and think they understand the real thing. You don't. If you did you wouldn't sneer at canned corn, white bread or ramen noodles if that's all that's keeping you from hunger.

        About those ramen noodles: cook them, rinse them well, don't add the flavor packet which holds most of the sodium, then add tomatoes, carrots, spinach, or whatever fresh veggies you can get and your kids like. It's better to take what you can get and make it better rather than turn your nose up at what you have.

        November 29, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
        • marisab67

          Dear Sue, Please try to get your children to eat canned fish when they haven't been poor their whole lives and get back to me. I AM a food snob. I'm a chef. Canned salmon is gross and yes, if I was starving to death I would eat it but I would probably be able to forage something else in this post-apocalyptic world you need me to live in so that I am deserving of your sympathy. Which I never asked for. The article was supposed to be tips for eating better if you found yourself in a line at the food bank for the first time. Thanks for playing!

          December 1, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
        • Frugal Hausfrau

          After reading the article and the comments, I have to say I very much agree with Sue...the article had some great tips, but the idea of someone using a food shelf on a long term basis to supplement their family food supply so they can continue to enjoy a lifestyle as opposed to a family using a food shelf based on need is an idea I find it very difficult to wrap my head around.

          In our area, fresh fruits and vegetables are scarce at food shelves – and I find it hard to believe that there isn't some scarcity at this food shelf if the author has gone so far as to find out the dates food will be donated so as to make certain fresh food will be available to her. Maybe if she wasn't there first thing on Saturday to get the Trader Joe's strawberries, someone else could use certainly doesn't sound like they were destined to go to the hogs...

          I know of many poor, working families where both parents struggle, sometimes both working two jobs, to make ends meet to have much sympathy for an educated stay at home mom...especially a chef, who could probably easily find a job working odd hours or weekends when hubby isn't.

          January 14, 2014 at 12:28 am |
        • Frugal Hausfrau

          From Starving in a Boom, last month, about SF food shelters: The problem goes beyond seniors. The report found that one in four San Franciscans lacks sufficient resources to purchase nutritious food, causing many to turn to food pantries for assistance.

          Those pantries are now well beyond their capacity, Food Bank representatives told us, and the system is bursting at the seams.

          The problem goes beyond seniors. The report found that one in four San Franciscans lacks sufficient resources to purchase nutritious food, causing many to turn to food pantries for assistance.

          Those pantries are now well beyond their capacity, Food Bank representatives told us, and the system is bursting at the seams.

          January 14, 2014 at 1:12 am |
  42. scooter

    Staffing a food bank is also a challenge. Usually they are very good people that want to help. However there can be a bit of shock when the people who use the bank do not seem that thankful for the food. So people end up not wanting to staff. Human beings are proud and nobody likes a hand out. People who use the bank need the food, they are down on their luck for one reason or another, but are not liable to gush about how amazing the experience is. To many it is a near humiliating experience. The best thing staff can do is understand that the goal is not to make the staff feel better but to get food into the hands of people that need it regardless of whether they say thank you or not.

    November 13, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • .

      Civility is both a right and a responsibility from all people. What is embarrassing is that almost all the animals at the shelters I've volunteered in look up with raised ears, wagging tail and a plea for petting from all the passerby, even when they are emaciated from starvation, they've been beaten, neglected, set on fire, bred every cycle since 6 months old and then dumped by their "guardian" to be euthanized at the shelter. I help those who experience atrocity on a daily basis before they die in the "rainbow room". Others can volunteer at food pantries. It takes many notes to make a symphony.

      November 13, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
  43. cali girl

    Look for pasta when it goes 10 for $10. I stock up when they go on that sale, as much money as I can put to that. Pasta is filling and healthy when boiled, add Olive Oil and garlic seasoning or the actual sauteed garlic finely chopped. Then pair it with any fruit or vegetable for the side dish.
    Get to know the seasons for each fruit and vegetable. Artichokes for example are not always $3 a piece, there are times of the year I can get each for $1. If you have access to farmers markets good deals can be found.

    November 13, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • No

      Pasta isn't really all that healthy. It's a starch and a simple carbohydrate.

      November 13, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
  44. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    I went to a food bank once in my life and was astounded at what was NOT available. It looked like the grocery store shelves in The Walking Dead or The Book of Eli, anything of value simply didn't exist or was cleaned out and you could tell the tomatoes were excess ones from someone's garden.

    These are valuable tips.

    November 13, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • Burbank

      Actually the tomatoes from someone's garden are probably safer and healthier than ones from the store. People don't think of home-grown veggies as "organic" but if you aren't putting any chemicals on them and hand-picking instead of spraying, the tomato worms, that's exactly what they are.

      November 13, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
  45. Christine

    I grew up in this very environment, very food insecure with a large family, but my mom made ours the healthiest diet of anyone we knew. I agree with so many of your techniques and still live by the the "meat as condiment" philosophy. Beans and rice are still my comfort foods. We had friends who were hunters who gave us deer sometimes and I learned to cook with and appreciate the "less standard" cuts of meat. I'm incredibly grateful for the abundance I now enjoy but also appreciate the resourcefulness I gained from that time. After hurricane Sandy hit my community I suggested that those who were able donate a duplicate bag of the groceries they bought to restock their groceries to their local pantry.

    November 13, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • Burbank

      Venison can be pretty good if you use lots of garlic to disquise the gamey taste.

      November 13, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
      • RC

        And if you can get it, Elk is even better. Much better actually.

        November 13, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
      • Rita

        Venison makes the best chili ever.

        November 13, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
      • BaltoPaul

        Venison doesn't need to have the taste disguised! It is much more flavorful than supermarket meats. I second Rita's comment; venison makes for amazing chili!

        November 13, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
        • Robin

          Venison is great! Like most game meats, it is very lean so additional fat is often necessary to provide more flavor and keep any toughness to a minimum. Ground venison is terrific in chili as someone else mentioned. If you have venison roasts or steaks, wrapping them in bacon provides the extra fat, although does take away from the health benefits. Moose has a little more fat content I think and can be cooked just like venison. Slow cooking in a crock pot is another way to make the best of venison and moose steaks and roasts – the slower cooking in a liquid helps to keep what tenderness there is intact.

          November 15, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
  46. Question Heir

    I like the tips that you've given to donators. It can be hard to understand what a person might most need.

    November 13, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • marisab67

      You're welcome. I think imagining it going to your own family makes it easier to understand. And many don't consider those who don't have electricity to cook anything, so the cans and boxes are wasted.

      November 13, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
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