How to feed your family from a food bank
November 13th, 2013
12:15 PM ET
Share this on:

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

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

soundoff (447 Responses)
  1. marisab67

    Dear Everyone who has responded to my attempt at helping some people in a bad situation make it better. I probably should not have gone on the attack and let you go on about your useless business presuming to know how people's lives are and how they should be run. I had no idea this many people had so little to do but it has been an eye-opener and I'm done. Go sick on me people. I suck, blah, blah, blah. This is who you are as people. When I'm done with the food bank in the Spring I'll still be the sort of person who wanted to help and you'll still be under the bridge waiting for the billy goats to get across.

    November 18, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • kai

      Sounds like your only 'goal' in wanting to help was so you can pound your chest and exclaim how great a person you are.

      November 18, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • fzkatt

      I want to apologize for the snarky comments I made. No one on this comment board knows your situation and no one is in a position to judge you. Anyone can find themselves in a bad situation. I hope things pick up for you and your family. Remember, on the internet blogs, Jesus Christ himself would be criticized for healing the sick and feeding the hungry.
      And as to the hog food, our local food bank gives away the boxes of food to the needy in the morning and in the late afternoon encourages anyone in the community to come by and get perishables. What is not used is given to local farmers. Not everyone is able to preserve food, particularly the poor or homeless with no way to freeze or can or store.

      November 18, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
      • marisab67

        I appreciate it. There are reasons we ended up here but in no way was the article supposed to be anything but ways to help people. Not ever having been subjected to trollers I had no idea how many people don't care about the intent, they care about being right and inflicting their hate on others. A paradigm shift is always a great thing, so thank you.

        November 18, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
    • emintey

      What you probably shouldnt have done marisa was that when people inevitably started to grill you about your actual need was to try and explain your actual situation. They are just looking for fodder and no matter what they will find it and seek to delve deeper. I think a simple "I qualify for aid in food banks" should be enough .

      November 18, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
      • marisab67

        emintey, Your thoughtful comments are the best anecdote to the hate. I'll know better next time, but I feel like if people don't respond, then the bullies think it's perfectly okay to treat people like that in their own lives too. I wish YOU could be a cnn hero, for trying so hard to remind people of what the word "decency" means.

        November 19, 2013 at 10:43 am |
        • emintey

          Thank you, but I'm sure it's a lot of wasted effort. In many cases it's just trolling or trying to make people feel bad because it's good sport. but there is a strong feeling also in America to trash people in need, they are easy targets, you have no answer for them that could possibly satisfy them there are very few people that could possibly need aid if any, it's always something. I dont know how a simple article telling people how to eat better from a food bank turned into a critique of your life and how in hindsight you should have done this or that it's kind of like the anti-"it's a Wonderful life" where the guy is standing on the bridge ready to jump off and his guardian angel comes along to tell him that he really does make a difference and he means so much to many people except these are demons who review his life for him in the worst possible light and that he ought to go ahead and jump, that one woman even told you that if she was you she'd kill herself. Did she really say that? yes, how sick is that? LOL
          Anyway, I'm done dealing with these nasty trolls, it's a wasted effort as long as you know not to take it seriously.

          November 19, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • k

      no, we will still be getting paychecks and shopping at grocery stores, and donating leftover canned food so you and your passion pursuing hubby can whine online about how hard life is. The rest of the world will continue to babysit you by providing you with your basic needs. Enjoy your food bank holiday, I'm sure someone will donate some yummy creamed corn for you.

      November 19, 2013 at 12:16 am |
      • Jerv

        What an incredibly ugly human being you are. And cream corn is wonderful, thank you very much.

        November 19, 2013 at 9:07 am |
        • k

          What an incredibly hard worker I am, at a job, with a paycheck, supporting others so they can pursue their passion of eating free creamed corn.

          November 19, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
        • emintey

          I'm going to quit my job tomorrow so i can pursue a life of ease eating free creamed corn.

          November 19, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
        • marisab67

          The have never had a good corn pudding Jerv, that's why the hate.

          November 20, 2013 at 10:16 am |
      • marisab67

        K, you sound like a terrific human being. Does CNN know about you and your leftover cans? Maybe you could be one of their heroes and get a plaque for your complete asscrackery. Happy Holidays!

        November 19, 2013 at 10:32 am |
        • emintey

          LOL K and her 9 yr old creamed corn donations what a gal!

          November 19, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
        • k

          No, I think you should be their hero for allowing everyone to quit working and pursue their passion while living off the handouts of others. I want to paint. Can you leave me a bag of cans and day old bread on your doorstep? Or better yet, take a p/t job so I can paint AND write poetry!! You've inspired me, off to the food bank I go! Happiest of Holidays to you, my paintings, which I will paint using food bank tomatoes should be featured on CNN soon!

          November 19, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
        • Truth™@K

          "How we treat others is often a reflection of how we feel about ourselves." – Mother Theresa.

          Just a little food (no pun) for thought...

          November 19, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
        • marisab67

          Photovoltaic batteries k, NOT painting. Works full-time. For the biggest inverter manufacturer in the world. That decided to freeze their employee's salaries. The solar industry is not a high-paying one and the people who work in it for the most part are very committed to things that are actually useful to us His passion was saving unpleasant people like you from owing your hard-earned dollars to utility companies. I'm sure your pictures are super nice. Thanks for playing!

          November 19, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
  2. kai

    So you have ongoing payments of $18 for internet, $500 car and more for insurance, and I don't know what else you are paying that is NOT essential to life. All along with money in a 401k savings account. AND your husband can work a real job instead of his passion. In other words, you HAVE resources to feed your family other than the food pantry. Said it differently, you are taking food away from people that have no other resource. Feel better???

    November 18, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • marisab67

      The choice was to give back the car after paying so much in or keep it. It is a 2006 Subaru Forester and our only car. We live in a place where there is no public transportation. Not directly in Sacramento. $500 includes the expensive insurance we have to have due to the car loan. Should we really not have a vehicle so that I don't eat HOG FOOD?I I would rather wait in line for this HOG FOOD than spend our 401k. That's whose mouth it comes out of. I don't take the Pantry items that come from the USDA or donations, other than the produce and bread. Would you like pictures of the bins of wasting food next time? I would be happy to take some. I shop at Goodwill exclusively, take my family nowhere that costs money (the park is free), do not have cable. Our computer is a 2005 Dell. No smartphones. Should I keep going? Thank you Mr. Krugman for your very nice comment. Happy Holidays!

      November 18, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
      • kai

        In your rabid attempts to defend yourself and to kick back and scream and name call all the naysayers, you are missing the point.
        YOU have money to buy food, there are pantry users that do NOT. Since the pantry is not an unlimited resource, there are others going hungry because you choose to keep your money locked up or refuse to give up some optional expenses.

        November 18, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
        • marisab67

          HOG FOOD. THERE IS SURPLUS. THAT GOES IN BINS TO FEED HOGS. I think YOU missed the point.

          November 18, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
        • marisab67

          Please go to my twitter page and look at the cases of produce. Notice how no one is around them? I'm not taking it away from anyone. No one WANTS it. Please do us all the favor of educating yourself as to what you are actually complaining about.

          November 18, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
        • emintey

          kai, you are way out of line. It's hard to sit by and you see you spout this holier than thou stuff. No, she is not entirely destitute, no she didnt give up her home to live in a tent in an abandoned lot to eliminate an unnecessary rent payment.
          No matter how she reduced her expenses you would find SOMETHING that she should give up.
          A person does not have to be totally destitute to receive food aid and she meets established criteria, she is not taking any food from anyones mouth since she meets that criteria. She should not have to plunge herself into total poverty for the small amount of food aid she qualifies for. Internet is a necessity to fully participate in American society and the cost is little enough. A 401K IS the establsihed retirement vehicle in this country, no doubt she has little enough in there. So she should pay the penalty and the extra taxes by closing her 401K and then be destitute in retirement and receive actual government subsidies. 401k's work because they accumulate over time. The fact that some people are too poor to donate to a 401k does not invalidate her situation, it means that the very poor face a bleak retirement picture often through no fault of their own. If she were poorer you would still be poring over her resume and finding SOMETHING to complain about and attack her for because that's your mindset, as if I would believe that your concern here is actually the very poor which I dont buy for a second, I doubt there is hardly a person receiving aid of any kind which you dont have total scorn for.

          November 18, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
        • emintey

          And further kai, if you are so concerned about the destitute which you unfairly claim marisa is robbing perhaps that can be alleviated by you donating a little bit more.

          November 18, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
        • goatsandgreens

          The point of her article is to show that one CAN make nutritious selections at a food bank, and as she notes, she's not denuding the place or preventing other humans from getting expired food. PS, Kai, you may live in a place where a car is not essential, but a lot of the country doesn't live where you do. It's a two-mile walk to vestigial public transit from where I am, on roads where I'd take my life in my hands by walking it. You may wish to stop judging lives you don't really know much about. Or, not.

          November 19, 2013 at 6:58 am |
  3. just saying

    This article, which was going around a couple of weeks ago, was very similar.

    Only the woman in that one was a working single parent.

    November 18, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • marisab67

      I'm glad your committee has nailed down exactly who and who should not eat expired foods out of bins destined for the hog farm. Just sayin.

      November 18, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • marisab67

      Thank you for sharing that link. I hadn't seen it and thought it was terrific. One thing that really troubles me is the delineation between single moms and me. I am sorry my husband and I made choices that for some reason everyone has chosen to focus on, instead of the spirit of the article , which was how I make gourmet food come out of a bin full of smashed fruits and vegetables. These must be very, very unhappy people who have nothing better to do since some of them DICK HEAD andJizzlemcmonkeynuts seem to spend a great deal of time on the chat boards "questioning" which is a nice word for passive-aggresively attacking my family. Which I won't stand for. THOSE PEOPLE are people too, I sure wish we could all remember that.

      November 18, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • Kat Kinsman

      That's a really great piece!

      If the implication is that this article is somehow copying - that's not the case. This series of posts have been a part of the CNN Hunger Dialogues that Sanjay Gupta hosted at Emory last week.

      The unfortunate fact is that millions of people who never thought they'd ever rely on assistance suddenly find themselves in that position. I wish this were a much less common state of affairs, and I am grateful that Marisa was brave enough to step up and offer practical advice to people who are suddenly facing these circumstances.

      November 18, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
  4. JAE1983

    So basically, Daddy decided that liking his job was more important than feeding his kids. Mommy is a 'former chef' with no mention of current employment. Stuff like this makes me not want to give to food banks – people like this certainly don't 'need' assistance, and are selfishly taking food from the mouths of those who truly do.

    November 18, 2013 at 6:41 am |
    • RichardHead

      Cough,cough…Sorry, I too am allergic to Bull Sh it being spewed from this supposed " Chefs " pie hole.

      November 18, 2013 at 7:35 am |
      • marisab67

        I keep asking which part is bull. The food I get at the food bank is not donated by you. It's rotting food that grocery stores pull and throw into boxes to go to the hog farm if no one takes it. Please get the Jesus over how we got into this situation and take the tips or shut it down. I'm not going anywhere Mr. Head. And JAE, if people eating out of a hog trough upsets you enough to not donate some Top Ramen and canned green beans? We'll live.

        November 18, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • marisab67

      Know what we do at night, JAE? We slop naked, atop our piles of Hamburger Helper and free day-old bread, counting our hundred dollar-bills while we wait for the hookers to get here. It's MARVELOUS.

      November 19, 2013 at 11:45 am |
  5. Thinking things through

    I have to say, when I donate food to shelters or food banks, I donate as much nutrient-dense food as possible. I DO NOT DONATE pasta, no matter how cheap it is, because pasta is cheap on so so many levels. I want to donate nutrient-dense foods. Some are vegetarian, some are meats like canned tuna and meat-based chilis. I donate minimal sugar-laden foods. Yes, the canned pears have sugar added, but overall, they are pears and are real food with included nutrition.

    November 18, 2013 at 12:33 am |
    • marisab67

      These are great things to donate. Pasta by itself is just sugar disguised as food and many who receive it don't take the vegetables that they could use to make it more nutritious. Thank you for being a part of the solution!

      November 20, 2013 at 10:23 am |
  6. k

    Pathetic. Here's an idea how about hubby changes his passion to feeding his kids?

    November 17, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
    • marisab67

      Know what's REALLY pathetic? SIgning in to make a useless comment on a blog post that has nothing to do with the article. My husband could suck as hard as your mom but it doesn't change the fact that I was trying to help people make better food choices. Happy Holidays!

      November 18, 2013 at 9:57 am |
      • K

        You failed at that too. Go to work, feed your kids from a grocery store, tell hubby that his new passion is working so mommy doesn't have to go to a food bank and then write a blog about how great it is to work, get a paycheck and feed your kids.

        November 18, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
  7. Tammy Metzger

    Thank you, Marisa, for this important info. I just volunteered at a food bank and this is great advice for anyone who is struggling to provide healthy food for their family. There are many food banks in our area and in my church everyone was treated with respect and dignity. We handed out healthy foods from local supermarkets and other donors that would have otherwise gone to waste. This is a much smarter option than McDonald's or Top Ramen.

    November 17, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
  8. SueW

    As far as having the internet goes, guess what? It's not a luxury-it's a necessity. Why? Most schools require kids to have it. It's difficult if not impossible to apply for a job without it. The days of faxing or mailing resumes are long gone and few places welcome walk in applicants. My husband and I relied on a food pantry for about a year-and we had internet. Why? The other reason it is not a luxury-for many of us it's our livelihood. I work online as a writer, editor, social media manager and tech support person so I HAVE to have an internet connection. The library doesn't cut it as they only give you an hour a day. The hate and vitriol toward poor people in these comments is just sickening.

    November 17, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • marisab67

      Isn't it, Sue? I wonder how people live with themselves. Thank you for your nice comment, though. The internet is essential to almost everything and only costs $18 a month. Food for my family costs much more than that and it gives us the ability to do so much. Like find more food banks. Happiest of Holidays to you and your family!

      November 18, 2013 at 10:00 am |
  9. Southernsuga

    Marisa, I think your story is a bunch of phooey. This was all fabricated. Secondly, I think you have a filthy mouth. Do you teach your children how to call people "jackholes"? I've never heard of such a word! How filthy! Don't even bother to reply. I'm not going to read anymore of your trash.

    November 17, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
  10. abbydelabbey

    Sad state of affairs that one of the richest nations on earth has people scrounging for food - with the GOP/TP deciding who can or cannot eat because they are bound and determined to cut the safety nets to the point that the poor are malnourished, the elderly are skipping medications for food or heat - all the while the corporations pay less than their fair share of taxes and some corporations (fossil fuel industry) gets taxpayer funded subsidies.

    We have billions for war but not to feed people.... Shame on us, America, shame on us!

    November 17, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • Bob Brown

      Do not forget who has been President of the United States for the last five years.

      November 17, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
      • David Hoffman

        Do not forget which party in the US Senate used the filibuster and cloture rules to turn the legislative process into a mess for the past five years.

        November 17, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
  11. oldbones24

    My 74 year old sister has been living off food closets for 2 years and I help her when she goes. Some of them are better than others but I won't let her have/eat food that says "Use before this date" and the date had passed. Better to be hungry than very sick. Thank you for the pointers.

    November 17, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      They tend to be FDA or corporate dates to avoid lawsuits. But agreed.

      November 17, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • Bob Brown

      Those are often arbitrary dates set by a benevolent government. Bottled *water* has an expiration date, for goodness sakes. Those dates are why food is donated to pantries in the first place. I just (November, 2013) used buttermilk with a "sell by"date of August. It's just fine.

      Give "expired" food the smell test. If it smells OK, it probably won't hurt you.

      November 17, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • emintey

      Let me try to clarrify this: Canned food does not go bad the day after the sell by date, why would it be good the day before and not the day after? Sell by dates on canned items are very cautious and healthwise it is perfectly acceptable to eat them. it is possible that some time after the sell by date the food may suffer some loss of texture or taste but it is still healthy to eat, having said that I thought that food banks had a policy of not accepting items for donation after the sell by date.
      Fresh dairy products are another story however. Some states date their dairy products with "use by" dates and some by "sell by" dates. If it is a "use by" date then it means it should not be used after that date, if it is a "sell by" date then it is acceptable for two or three days after the "sell by" date. Milk and eggs will NOT last much longer after those dates and should not be consumed. Cheese is a little different, if it gets moldy then the moldy parts can be cut off and the rest consumed. There are resources available on the internet by googling the subject.

      November 17, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
    • marisab67

      Such a good point. Sometimes the volunteers suggest I might not be in a position to choose what I take and I always explain the cost of an ER visit vs. us just eating some extra bananas and not taking the things that might not have been handled properly. Food safety is MORE important for poor people, I think.

      November 20, 2013 at 10:38 am |
  12. larry

    Don't forget, the Republicans think "If your poor (Need help) it's your fault". Sometimes life hands you "Lemons" through no fault of your own. You know how to vote in 2014 to avoid this "Cold and uncompassionate attitude". Yes, there will always be those that abuse the system but let's not punish those that most need help.

    November 17, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • abbydelabbey

      Larry, they think that the poor want to be poor and on hand-outs, even that 80 year old woman who is struggling to survive on a meager social security check...

      November 17, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
      • Bob Brown

        Reminder: Barack Obama has been President for five years.

        November 17, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
        • Paul P. Valtos

          Rememberr the previous administration spent 4.1 trillion dollars in Iraq because they "wanted to kick some ass" Yup they kicked the American people and the economy.

          November 17, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
  13. YoonaID

    I'm grateful to hear all of the very practical tips for making the most of items from food pantries and using food stamps, because I think it's good advice for anyone trying to keep their family fed in a healthy way, no matter what their economic level.

    However, I am starting to question how much personal decisions factor in to where people end up economically. Did I see the author blaming actress Virginia Madsen at one point for her husband's boneheaded, selfish, childlike decisions? It really does sound like the author is parenting three kids, including her husband, not two. The constant string of excuses (It's the aunt's fault / the family's fault / the company's fault / the economy's fault / we were misled / we thought things would work out differently / if just X then we'd earn Y more money) says a lot about the maturity level, or lack of, that led them into the position of relying on SNAP in the first place.

    WIC has a nutrition program for mothers using it, before they can receive services (at least in our area). I wonder if mandated, ongoing classes in financial management and budgeting as a requirement for receiving SNAP would be helpful. You can't mandate common sense or completely overcome some people's adolescent urge to follow their dreams instead of following labor that feeds their growing children, but maybe it can make them pause and consider the hard costs of each decision.

    November 16, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • emintey

      Certainly it was a stupid decision to quit a better paying job for one with which you cannot support your family , and tha author acknowledged that and opposed that decision. A parents first responsibility is always to support their children which includes putting aside or postponing their own desires, that comes along with the territory of being a parent. He probably didnt even do the math and face the fact of what he was doing, let's hope a lesson was learned. However having ended up in the sitaution they are in children still need to be fed, this article addresses how best to do that with the limited means available.
      Yeh, I think some kind of class could be useful to reinforce those lessons if the money can ever be found for it. Sometimes the school of hard knocks is the best teacher.

      November 16, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
      • lindsey

        You must be a yuppie with a 9/5 job, not all of us have that luxury. I worked in a rubber-seal factory for 7 years that required me more than most of the time to work 80 hours/wk-thats 12hrs/day 7days/wk. i had two young daughters under the age of 10, i had to quit my oldest daughter began acting out at school. so i made the choice to start taking better care of my children and get of the fog of work and fatigue. I was only out of work for 6 wks before i found a new job i now work at the school-which i am in heaven cause my schedule is the exact same as my girls--but i make less than half of what i did at the factory. It was really hard at first i felt so guilty for quitting i felt like all our hardships were my fault--i've been working at the school a year now my husband and i have paid off bills which has allowed for a lot of breathing room so overall I'm very happy with my decision to take a lesser paying job

        November 17, 2013 at 8:18 am |
        • emintey

          We are talking about very different things. First of all you dont know anything about me or about how I may or may not have worked.
          I am talking about a person choosing to leave a job which has reasonable and normal working conditions for reasons of "self-fulfulfillemnt" which then places his family in jeopardy to pursue his dreams through voluntariily accepting lower pay..
          I find it very hard to believe that anywhere in the US labor law would permit a worker to be required to " more than most of the time to work 80 hours/wk-thats 12hrs/day 7days/wk " . The way you describe it this sounds like a non-exempt (non-management) factory job. Aside from the law it would make no sense for a company to employ workers in that way since overtime laws mandate that after 40 hrs/week workers be paid overtime at time and a half. it would be cheaper for an employer to employ two workers at regular pay for 40 hrs/wk each, neither did you mentiion the need for medical insurance as a factor, though it seems unlikely that an employer which treats it's employees so poorly would even offer medical insurance.
          I'm dumbfounded that a worker outtside of a 3rd world country would accept such working conditions or that the authorities havnt ended such practices.

          November 17, 2013 at 10:08 am |
        • emintey

          Further, if you were not being paid overtime you are entitled to major damages for back pay as well as for other labor violations, I'd see a qualified labor lawyer.

          November 17, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • marisab67

      My husband's Aunt Virginia stuck us with a $500 car payment for a "present" she was going to buy us. This is the number one reason I need to supplement my food budget. I felt attacked and like I needed to explain. I realize that it is pointless, but I would like to point out IF YOU HAD READ THE ARTICLE, that we do not get SNAP. Or any other assistance from the government. We have insurance and a 401k that I refuse to spend. We are getting ourselves out of debt and next year I will not have to go to the foodbank anymore. Thanks for focusing on the comments instead of the article. Happy Holidays!

      November 16, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
      • debi5475

        Marisa, just ignore everybody (including me) and continue trying to help others stretch the money or donated food.

        November 17, 2013 at 7:53 am |
      • CuttinBack

        Marisab67- Your husbands Aunt Virginia "stuck you" with a $500 car payment? Sorry, but YOU stuck YOU with a $500 car payment. Get rid of the car. Give it back. Get a cheaper, new to you car. That is what most people do. We got rid of the vehicle we had that was costing us $400 a month when I was laid off a year ago. We now have two "new to us" cars that dont cost that a month. Plus all our other "toys" and extras are gone. I would have chewed my husband up one side and down the other if he had done what yours did. And that is going with he didnt tell you he was thinking about it. If he actually talked to you and you ok'd it? You definitely deserve to be where you are now. It was irresponsible. You got yourselves into your predicament.

        November 17, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
        • marisab67

          CuttinBack, I don't know if I DESERVE it, that being some sort of universal judgement call and all but we have certainly taken the responsibility if paying for it and are not putting our burden on someone else. Thanks for missing THE ENTIRE POINT of the article and commenting on the comments. Happy Holidays!

          November 17, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
        • marisab67

          The car saga is long, long, long. If you would like to email me I would be happy to relate the entire thing and the screaming raging fight that took place when he told me what was happening. If you really don't care that much I'd like to ask you to stay out of it next time.

          November 17, 2013 at 5:56 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 6:02 pm |
        • marisab67

          I have pretty much BEGGED to be able to teach this at all the food banks in my area and the lack of resources or whatever it is to get people to call you back is very frustrating. People should not have to try so hard to volunteer.

          November 18, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  14. Melanie in IA

    Reblogged this on Our View from Iowa.

    November 16, 2013 at 9:09 am |
  15. KieranH

    Food bank does not have foie gras, truffle oil, wagyu, or anything else good. I can't feed my family there.....

    November 16, 2013 at 8:03 am |
  16. momzna

    I've never seen anybody paying for basic food with food stamps. It's always expensive cuts of meat, cold cuts from the deli department, cakes, some stupid cereal and other "fun" food that I see being paid for with food stamps, – never rice and beans. I think there is something wrong with the system if it asks taxpayers, who at the lower end can barely afford food for themselves, to provide gourmet food for the poor. I have to say that I don't work at a supermarket, so my observations in this matter are very limited.

    November 16, 2013 at 7:03 am |
    • abbydelabbey

      That's odd – my friends who are a cashiers at Walmart have told me more than once the people on assistance are buying the cheapest foods possible - big bags of beans and rice, the cheapest hot dogs, and the food items that are on sale because they're expiration date is that day. You must live in a very different place than we do.

      November 17, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • TM

      Your observations then are clearly biased and incorrect. My husband and I had to be on SNAP for five months last year when he was laid off. We survived on rice, beans and cereal grains, There was never enough money to pay for the diet you are talking about. Costco was our best friend.

      November 18, 2013 at 3:20 am |
      • TM

        Sorry, I was actually replying to momza. What a hateful person.

        November 18, 2013 at 3:26 am |
    • emintey

      The idea of people eating high off the hog with filet mignon and sipping fine wine on food stamps is an urban myth that will never die.

      November 18, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  17. RH

    After reading this article and then some of her replies…I feel compelled to donate a case of MIDOL to this Snarky Witch. Wait,you want me to donate water too? Ain't happening.

    November 16, 2013 at 5:50 am |
    • emintey

      W always like our recipients of food aid to grovel, self-flagellate and fall over themselves with thanks to those who never even thought of donating to a food bank.

      November 16, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • marisab67

      And I'm EDITING my snark, even. Midol is super expensive. I would love a case. I just use the generic ibuprofen. Happy Holidays!

      November 16, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  18. 123elle

    Lentils are wonderful, cook quickly and are so versatile and cheap. Any dried beans or legumes are usually a good bargain because they make big, storable servings of wonderful soups and are also low-effort. Ham hocks in lima or white beans. That reminds me - corn meal to make your own cornbread, also a bargain. Powdered milk has come a long way since its origins. If kids learn to drink it, it is maximally nutritious. Post-Haloween pumpkins can be a bargain as well. It takes a little effort to cut up and bake, but you can find a recipe for crust-less pumpkin pie and it's delicious and soooo healthy.

    November 16, 2013 at 2:00 am |
    • emintey

      You can put a pumpkin whole in the ove on very low heat, like 175 to 160 all day, check it to see it it's done, it will come apart in your hands to easily to get at the flesh inside for pies, seeds of course make good snacks.

      November 16, 2013 at 4:02 am |
    • marisab67

      Great ideas 123elle and emintey. And emintey, THANK YOU.

      November 16, 2013 at 11:35 am |
  19. laylay

    Ok, so after a lonely Friday night and a bottle of chardonnay in the company of my cat, I really do need to come clean. I amdeeply jealous of the author. I envy her her husband, her kids, and not one day goes by that I would not trade all of my worldly possessions for what she has. I am a product of a broken home, and ny father disowned me. That is the reason for my fractured relationships, my eating disorders and my general self hatred. Please forgive me for not hiding this better. You have no idea how bad it feels to always be the new kid who will never fit in.

    November 16, 2013 at 12:22 am |
    • RC

      Now that was funny!

      Nice one "T"

      November 17, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
    • Otis Guelpe

      You have my sympathies. My father was emotionally distant and uncommunicative. My big brother was sexually abusive. My little sister was a thief and abused our mother. I suffer every day from this crap despite years of psychotherapy. Today I'm chronically ill and unable to support myself. God bless those who donate to food pantries!

      November 17, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
  20. marisab67

    @JDzzlemcsomething so I should have let clockworkcouture/Pattycakes say whatever she wanted and not responded? I'm not that big a person. I'm a mom doing the best she can and I cannot believe this sort of "let the bully get away with it" attitude. I very much appreciated Truth and many other's kind words, but I can and will stick up for myself EVERY SINGLE TIME somebody tries to mess with me. I gotta be me. Let's just let you be you and drop this whole pointless argument, 'kay? Happy Holidays!

    November 15, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
    • 123elle

      You're doing a wonderful job, and you'll look back on these as good times, I promise. Times when you rose to the challenge and did the right thing for your young family. Take pride in yourself for your ingenuity and love and effort. Everybody faces challenges - it's how you face them that determines the kind of person you are, and the coping skills that your kids take with them into adulthood.

      November 16, 2013 at 2:08 am |
    • Southernsuga


      You go to a food bank, yet you can afford the internet? Something tells me you aren't an honest person.

      November 17, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
      • Kat Kinsman

        Dunno about you, but there are tons of libraries and Apple stores and other places around me where a person can use a computer and internet for free. A person could have a laptop or tablet that someone's given them, or had since before the economic trouble happened, and use wi-fi at a coffee shop or in a public park, regardless of their income level.

        November 17, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
      • marisab67

        I'm one of the most honest people you could ever hope to meet, actually. It's my thing. My internet connection costs $18 per month. Fresh fruit and vegetables for a family of four costs much more than that. We only have one phone and it's not a smart one and no cable. Would you like to ask me something else? Happy Holidays!

        November 17, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
  21. SueW

    Been there. Those being so nasty and judgmental need to get off their pedestals. The air is mighty thin up there. My husband and I were very comfortable until his company of 20 years in 2009. He still hasn't found a new permanent position. We got by on my income, every temp and odd job he could find and our savings for nearly 2 years,then it ran out. We applied for food stamps and were denied because we made a whopping $75 over the allowed amount per month. So we turned to a food pantry. It got us through some very rough times. We are not lazy or uneducated. My husband reads Socrates and epic poems for fun! He simply had the misfortune of having a selfish, greedy company that put profits before people. We are lucky that we are relatively "food secure" now, but the food pantry was a life saver. And yes, my husband has applied for EVERY job he can find, even minimum wage retail. He's told he's overqualified. Right now he works a temp job that demands HARD physical labor and does so without complaint. Jobs are just NOT easy to come by these days. If you've never had to worry about making ends meet or where your next meal would come from, instead of making vicious judgements and berating those who aren't so fortunate, count your damn blessings! It doesn't take much at all to go from being a "have" to a "have not". A layoff, a serious illness or injury, a divorce..that's all it takes. Hope you don't find that out the hard way! Oh and yes, I work full-time.

    November 15, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
    • TM

      Exactly, Couldn't have said it better myself.

      November 18, 2013 at 3:36 am |
      • SueW

        Thank you-and oops..somehow "laid him off' never made it in after "company of 20 years". Sorry about that. Fingers and brain were not in sync!

        November 18, 2013 at 4:25 am |
  22. marisab67

    One of the most enlightening parts of telling my story was the showing of total asshattery that has nothing to do with the tips being provided, but only seems to self-serve the losers who troll the pages of the internet looking for the word 'poor' so that they can further some agenda, make them feel better, or, as the delightful Kat Kinsman says "yell at THE POORZ" in the hope that we will go away or at the very least shut the effing Jesus up. I don't know what the rules are of your little internet deal are because I spend most of my time cooking and taking my kids to the park and doing the dishes and being a HUMAN BEING, but if you think for a minute that i am going to let you bully me with your bullsh**, you've got the wrong girl people. Plan on hearing a lot form me. Love from the 916. Marisa.

    November 15, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
    • Southernsuga

      Do you teach your children your nasty vocabulary, as well? You're not an honest person.

      November 17, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
      • marisab67

        If you could please elaborate on the part that is dishonest I would love to hear it. And what honesty has to do with my trashiest of mouths I don't know. If you think jackhole is bad you should hear what I just called you on Twitter where I can't be moderated. Happy Holidays!

        November 17, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
  23. Joseph

    For those who lack electricity and/or gas to cook, consider getting an old-style oil lamp. I've had to live on $10 a week for many months in the past and cooking was ... interesting. I made a small stand of hangar wire to hold a can over my oil lamp (which also provides both light and heat from pretty much any sort of oil, vegetable or other) and cooked many meals of mac-&-cheese, hotdogs, and even ~real food when I got hold of some. As long as there is a bit of ventilation, in your rented room, car or wahtever, in my case, my ancient station wagon in a cold North-Esat winter, an oil lamp in a stand so it Cannot be tipped over is a great deal.

    November 15, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      Oof. Ventilation is key, there my friend. Been there, done that. I grew up poor as f***. Hate Ramen Noodles to this day. Can't even look at it in the store.

      November 15, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
  24. Robin

    My local food pantry operates from November through April. Rather than give out food, they give out vouchers. $50.00 each month for the head of the household and $30.00 for each additional member. These are only usable at local grocery type stores. No alcohol, cigarettes, or gasoline are allowed, but you can buy any other needs with the vouchers. When I was really poor, I used the vouchers to get paper and cleaning products, even over the counter medicines that I couldn't get with food stamps. I had a disabled friend who was able to move from a rented room with shared kitchen to her own apartment. She had no dishes/pots and pans, etc. Every month she would use part of her voucher to buy a pan or a dish so she could cook the food she was also able to get. I've been to other food pantries (luckily not in many, many years) where even with some choice, the items available really couldn't be used to make a full meal. A taco kit, hamburger helper, or a can of tuna without the additional ingredients is not really very helpful. Having been so poor and relying on food stamps and food banks to survive, I now feed a family of three on less than $300.00 a month. Meal planning, cooking from scratch, and using leftovers effectively is the key. We still have ice cream and junk food, but I also make cookies to keep the convenience food costs to a minimum. No one should ever judge someone if they haven't had to use food stamps or, particularly a food pantry or bank. It's not fun, it's challenging, and ultimately being poor is very time consuming!

    November 15, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      I spend $50/ week on awesomeness. WTF are you shopping?

      November 15, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
      • Karma

        Ok buddy,go sh*t in your hammerpants and get a life.Better yet go cry to your drug addicted prostitue mamma.Oh wait she's too busy whoring herself out to feed that drug habit.P.S I give as good as I get so let the war begin little boy.You people on here being so self righteous have no flipping clue about peoples struggles.Yes I'm food secure.However reading articles about little girls in Brazil as young as 9.Being forced to prostitue themselves in order to help their families makes me thankful that my country has services to try and help it's citizens.Sh*t on others while your on top and they'll sh*t on you.On your way down.

        November 16, 2013 at 1:36 am |
  25. Margaret

    I know people on food stamps and before the cuts they did not stretch the full month, and that is eating a lot of pasta and hotdogs. They also use the food banks, some of the local food banks are heavy on the cake, pies and cookies. Good ones from the local stores bakeries that sold for some very high prices, but not really great basic food. But that was what was donated, One time they got bags of fresh fennel, most of the people at the food bank never saw fresh fennel before. The food bank did not give you choices.

    You are right about the ability to cook, In many cases they live in low cost housing that has broken refrigerators, stoves and may or may not have water. Even when you report these things to the local authorities it can take months or years for them to track down the owners and get them to make repairs. The family next door did most of their cooking on a grill, because the cost of running the electric to cook was prohibitive, and the owner gutted the kitchen (leaking pipes) . The owners finally repaired the kitchen and replaced the appliances after the family moved. I know this, I wrote letters and called the authorities looking for help for them. They built a grill and used wood they could scrounge up. So when people accuse the poor of being too lazy, try living in their shoes.

    November 15, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • laylay

      But to live in their shoes would mean to go back many years, and instead of working my butt off to gain education and skills, I would goof off and be lazy, resulting in today having no job and being in poverty.

      November 15, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
      • Shirley U Jest

        It is obvious you are "entitled". You grew up in a nice suburb, bullied the less fortunate kids in your schools. Your parents paid for your college education. They even bought you a car. Don't fool yourself, you know nothing about work or sacrifice. You are a lazy bum, playing your employer for every paycheck.

        November 15, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
      • steph

        You are a pathetic piece of human flesh.

        November 15, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
      • Amy

        Until something happens (illness, layoff, accident) and the income stops. I pity you for your lack of understanding and compassion.

        November 15, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          Living in the healthcare world, everyone is one serious illness from being destitute.

          In the US, anyway. We are one of few, if not the only, countries that are in the healthcare business for PROFIT. Why do you think half the doctors are from foreign countries? Gets PAID here, mang!

          Elsewhere, it's a noble and humbling profession.

          November 15, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          Here's also something to think about...... 50% of doctors were in the bottom of their class. Flip a coin.

          November 15, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
  26. laylay

    One sure way to ensure that poverty continues is to continue to provide free handouts.
    Without the handouts this family would be forced to earn its keep, else the family would cease to exist.
    The ONLY reason I go to work every day, is so I can afford to live. If I could survive without having to work, I would choose that. But in fact, I cannot survive on these minimal handouts. It is not enough for me. I would kill myself if I had to live such a crap life.
    Therefore, I must work. It's a great motivator. Remove that motivation though, and I would be on the beach surfing all day every day. No one wants to go the office.

    November 15, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • I think I speak for a lot of us...

      " I would kill myself if I had to live such a crap life."

      Why wait? Unisom is on sale at Walgreen's this week, along with rope from Lowe's. It is also hunting season in many areas, so I am sure you could locate a weapon.

      Why wait? Avoid the rush!

      November 15, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
      • laylay

        I'm rich, single, and pretty.
        Why on earth would I kill myself? I am living the GOOD LIFE baby.
        I would only kill myself if I had a shit life.

        November 15, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
        • emintey

          Not only do you feel a need to viciouslty tear people down, but also make a display of building yourself up. Yeh,I get the picture.

          November 15, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
        • 123elle

          But you're ugly inside.

          November 16, 2013 at 2:12 am |
        • RC@laylay

          "trust me, I would only kill myself if I had a shit life".
          Trust me. You do.

          November 16, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • Shirley U Jest

      The way I interpret your post is that you are LAZY – if you didn't have to work you wouldn't, meaning you are a black hole to your community and society. Your lack of motivation is only second to lack of compassion, so much so even dogs don't like you.
      "I would kill myself if I had to live such a crap life." – News flash You are living such a bitter life now, so please follow through and the world will be a better place.

      November 15, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
      • laylay

        I am living the good life. And I contribute way more to my Family/City/State/Nation than I extract from it.
        What else you got?

        November 15, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
        • Proverbs 16:18

          Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.

          November 15, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
        • AlexTurner

          you missed the point, which is something I'd wager you do a lot.

          November 15, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
      • laylay

        Correct, good observation. I am extremely lazy. If not for the strong motivators, I would never work.
        Much like a lot of people. And this is why we should not be giving anything away. It feeds the lazy people like myself.

        November 15, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
        • 123elle

          You must be a terrible employee with that attitude. Working grudgingly and hating it, if you consider yourself lazy, and are this full of arrogance, imagine what others who have to put up with you and your work habits think of you?

          November 16, 2013 at 2:16 am |
        • 123elle

          What kind of employee are you, with that attitude?

          November 16, 2013 at 2:17 am |
  27. Shirely U Jest

    This is a great article that covers an often ignored topic. The very fact it is so personal adds dimensions to it that a facts and figures article could never show. Hopefully this will bring insight to those that did not know food banks exist.
    More importantly this article highlights the very fact that once upon a time in the not to far past hunger was almost wiped out in the US and today 14.7% of Americas households are struggling every day wondering where their next meal will come from.

    November 15, 2013 at 11:48 am |
  28. Hello Patricia

    You just proved that your trash. Go away mean old lady.

    November 15, 2013 at 10:44 am |
  29. Truth™, with a request and a public service announcement...

    This is an article about feeding your family from a food bank during difficult times. This is NOT a public forum to bash the author (who is reading the comments), not her husband. This is not about trying to make yourself feel superior. If you need to do that so badly, please seek therapy.

    And at the heart of the matter, this could easily be any of us. Divorce, poor health, job loss or any unforeseen issue could easily reverse your personal financial situation. If anything, I have to applaud the author for sticking it out during difficult times and not seeking the easy way out of leaving the marriage. In this day and age, "for better or worse" seems to have morphed into "For better or else"...All too often and by both genders.

    November 15, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      Excellent post.

      Sometimes we all have to be aware of how are posts are perceived as there is no way to communicate tone of voice or body language via written texts, myself included. Things can come off as rude or condescending.

      November 15, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • RC

      Amen, brother. Very well said.

      November 15, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • marisab67

      Dear Truth. Thank you. I am done responding to the anger. I don't comment on posts ever so I had no idea there was a faction of people who don't care what the topic is, they hear poor and all of a sudden Hitler's Youth are in the mix. Though they would never admit that that's how hateful they are. I appreciate you advocating for me and us.

      November 15, 2013 at 10:30 am |
      • lwesson2013

        Thank you. I've been using a food bank for over a year and I have two jobs. It is a lifesaver. I make too much money for assistance but not enough to buy groceries. It is a sressful situation. Some people just breed negativity. God bless you!

        November 15, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
        • marisab67

          Thank you lwesson.

          November 16, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Thank you for this! I think there is a notion that if you chastise someone enough and try to make them realize exactly where they went wrong, it'll make you immune to it ever happening to you. But it doesn't work that way.

      Yes, there is room for reflection from ALL of us about how we got where we are, for better or for worse, but there is an infinitely more positive and useful way to do that, and perhaps a moment for pause before assessing the life choices of others.

      This could happen to anyone.

      November 15, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • laylay

      It could not "easily be me." Highly unlikely. I planned very far ahead by getting a great education and set of marketable skills. I can go work anywhere and add tons of value to anyone's operation.
      But if it did happen to me, I would go ahead and leave this place so that I don't further burden anyone else with problems caused by me.
      That is taking the high moral ground. Do everything I can do to prepare to not be a leach. That is not what this family did. They had kids, clearly never learned marketable skills. That is irresponsible, and yes I will use this article to continue to push forward my political agenda because I want the policy changed to motivate people to be responsible.

      November 15, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
      • emintey

        it can easily happen to anyone. People seem to think they are immortal but yet some devastating illness could strike you tomorrow, it happens to people all the time. Medical bills pile up after losing insurance with not being able to work, savings gone it's a shame that you dont feel that anyone values you enough to want to keep you around, or that you have no one to want to live for, it's a very cruel world that you define, most of us live in a better one..

        November 15, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
      • emintey

        Politics aside you will never be able to stop people from donating to food banks, nor will you be able to through the political process eliminate aid to those who cant care for themselves or who need some assistance.

        November 15, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
      • Unlo4

        Being a chef isn't a marketable skill?

        November 15, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
      • marisab67

        If you had the stones to admit that you would like to kill all the poor people we could have a more reasonable conversation.

        November 15, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
        • RichardHead

          Your a very Bitter woman….Anger Management class starts at 7:30 p.m. Perhaps you should show up an hour and a half early.

          November 15, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          And that makes two longtime regulars here who have said this along with a handful of others. I empathize with the situation, but dang some of her responses of been snarky to say the least.

          November 15, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          Coming off as someone who loves themselves some drama. Never seen so many responses from someone involved in the story to the comment section, either.

          November 15, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
        • marisab67

          @RichardHead and JMcDIzzlethewhatevertheeffpants. I DON'T troll blog comments so I wan'st aware how this worked. I thought I could share a nice story that might help people and didn't know I wasn't supposed to defend my self when total jackholes started ripping on my family. Thanks for the advice, fellas!

          November 15, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          One case in point:


          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 15, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          "We" never did that. By "we" I mean the regulars here. Truth, RichardHead, and myself have been around since this blog has been created. Rich and I called em' like we saw it based on your responses. Truth came to your indirect defense, bless his soul.

          You endeared all of us on this story and I wish you well. No, we don't know you. Except:

          You have 2 kids
          You have a young husband
          He chased a dream
          You gave birth at 45 (cool!)
          Youve had many miscarriages and a still birth (how terrible, losing a child is devastating – regardless of age)
          You're not cool with your husband's decisions
          You told us he cries regularly, which every man would love printed on the internet.......
          Everything in the article
          Your backhanded sarcastic comments to ours (like this one)
          Should I go on?

          I know more about you than I do about my cousin.

          November 15, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
        • emintey

          You have to realize marusa that many commentors here have been doing this forever, their primary occupation is to have no regard for the feelings of others, rip apart other posters and the author and generally behave in a way they never could get away with in real life, after all, it's only the internet or so they say. it;s kind of a sick sport, the rules or lack thereof are limited only by their callousness.

          November 15, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          Calling someone a POS, whether or not they threw the first punch.....

          November 15, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
      • RC@laylay

        No one gives a CRAP about your political agenda, or what you "want". I think I would rather be in Marisas predicament than go through life as the hateful, self centered person you are. What an ass.

        November 15, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
        • laylay

          Who's the ass? Some person pouring their true political leanings out on the internet in a session of pure honesty, like myself?
          Or the person calling someone an ass?
          I'm talking policy and you are name calling.

          November 15, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
        • emintey

          laylay, all you've done is name call,except when you do it you call it "policy", then you dont like it when it's dished back. there are many words to describe you, self-centered, lack of empathy, judgemental, an inability to grasp what motivates people , a sense of superiority, no appreciation for the trials some have endured or personal limitations which is no fault of themselves, such a large world outside of yourself that you have no comprehension of. You construct for yourself a black and white world which bears little resemblance to reality. You attack and offend people and imagine you are taking the high road.
          I appreciate your "honesty", which is all well and good but it's "honesty" w/o understanding, compassion, depth of comprehnesion of human nature and external circumstances. You have contempt for people in an undeserved fashion based on a mean spirit. it's sad and you are wrong. You say you are trying to make a contribution with all this, but it;s not in any fashion. What is required for you is a personal realization, human and spiritual growth which usually comes through some kind of trauma. I hope that if and when that time comes you are able to accept what you so venemously deny for others rather than take that other route that you described.

          November 15, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
  30. Sun

    This is the very reason urban agriculture needs to be mainstream now. In every city there are acres and acres of unused land just sitting there that could be used to grow food. City farms are needed now.

    November 15, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Shirely U Jest

      There are cities of empty roof space that could be easily and cheaply turned into productive vegetable gardens and fish farms. An added benefit of utilizing city space in this matter is that runoff from the city into rivers, bays and ocean would be reduced which would offer many ecological benefits starting with cleaner water.

      November 15, 2013 at 11:52 am |
  31. Rick Johnson

    I volunteer at a Salvation Army food pantry with our engineering guild. The rule is that we do not cater to any one client and that what they get is what is in the sack when we hand it to them. Their invoice shows how many sacks they get. We can toss in some baby items if they had children up to 16 months old. But its hard not tryng to help the individual family with obvious needs. If they have a lot of kids, I like to toss in some extra jars of peanut butter and jelly. If they are older, I can toss in some adult nutrition drink mix. But the director does not want us to go overboard because what happens when they show up the next time and we are not there. Then its prisoners, probatoners, and treatment program workers and they stick strictly to the rules and don't budge a bit for fear of loosing a day's credit. I do know one way to seriously upset the director is for a client to go through the sacks and try to pick and choose their items. I've heard she has expelled someone for doing that. So when I see people trying to do that, I warn them to stop it and move on with what they got.

    November 14, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
  32. karen14217

    Okay, let me get this straight. The husband of this woman gave up a good job to follow his dream. Sounds nice, but he already had kids! So now by following his passion, his familiy is on public assistance and depends on handouts to eat. This is the height of irresponsibility. If you have children, your first duty is to them and society which you fulfill by providing for them if you have the capability. Shame on this father!

    November 14, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
    • marisab67

      The purpose of the article was to give tips to people who might be going through what we are since I am a chef and know how to cook, I'm curious why people like you want to make it about the choices we made to get here. If you read the definition of public assistance, we aren't getting it. Thanks for your support and nice comment!

      pub·lic as·sis·tance
      government benefits provided to the needy, usually in the form of cash or vouchers.

      November 14, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
      • Amy

        perhaps if you could have saved some money while living your "organic, grass-fed, sustainable and delicious life" and your children "snacked on mangoes and avocados" you wouldn't be standing in line at the food pantry for the third year...

        November 15, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
        • marisab67

          Thank you for your nice thought Amy. Happy Thanksgiving!

          November 15, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
      • fzkatt

        But you arent' supporting yourself either. What are you doing to change your situation?

        November 15, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
        • marisab67

          We are paying off our debts instead of going bankrupt like half the country does to easy out of their problems. As soon as our bills are paid next May, I'll be done. I consider what I do good for the planet because that food is going to go to the hog farm, quite literally. We don't need more hog farms. Is this an okay answer? Happy Holidays!

          November 15, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • Becca

      AMEN! What an idiot of a father.

      November 14, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
      • Shirely U Jest

        So you believe that one should not take chances to better themselves even though it might cause temporary hardship? Good luck with your life working part time at Wally-Mart.

        November 15, 2013 at 11:55 am |
        • Ndstars

          If you're on your own with no lives depending on you then I'd say go ahead and follow your dreams. IF, however, you have little tummies that rely on your wages to be filled, then those tummies should take priority over any kind of dream, no matter how noble.

          November 15, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
      • marisab67

        Thanks Becca. You are fun! Happy Holidays!

        November 15, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
      • marisab67

        That is so helpful, Becca. Thank you. Happy Holidays!

        November 15, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • dalllllli

      I read it as his new salary was adequate until the recession hit, *THEN* it was cut 60%. That can happen to anyone regardless of the security you think you have. Since it obviously hasn't happened to you, take a break from being judgmental long enough to be grateful.

      November 15, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • 123elle

      Oh, what do you know about her family? Are your hemorrhoids hurting you tonight?

      November 16, 2013 at 2:24 am |
  33. linda

    Here in Arizona we have a group called the 3000 club. It operates mostly in winter and has what is called "market on the move". For 10 dollars you can purchase up to 60 pounds of produce. The goal is to get the food used before it goes bad. The produce comes from overstockings at warehouses in southern arizona. Sharing with others is strongly encouraged. The group is a nonprofit run by volunteers. Every week they have a list of different churches, schools and community groups that they distribute at. Hence the name, market on the move. This would be a great thing for other states to have as well.

    November 14, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
    • marisab67

      Do they have a website? I'd love to read more about what they do.

      November 14, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
      • linda

        Yes, they have a website. you will see market on the move up on the black banner. They have different things each time. I share mine with family and coworkers. They have other programs as well. One is a medical program in the philippines. Right now that one is particularly important with the typhoon. Another suggestion is to join with other families and buy in bulk if you can.
        I want to wish you and your family the best of luck and I hope things get better for you! the people who are critical of you need to walk a mile in your shoes. I work in behavioral health and so be thankful you are all healthy and are all together with a roof over your heads. There are many out there who don't have that. Some of these commenters are ungrateful fools who always assume it is the other person's fault (lazy, etc), until it happens to them. Of course, then they are blameless for their situation.

        November 14, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
  34. Jupiter

    Reblogged this on Poor as Folk.

    November 14, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
  35. LCM

    So comical...

    A good and informative article... Check.

    A collection of judgmental, defensive fools (including, unfortunately, the interviewee) wandering off on stupid, self-serving tangents in the comments following the article... Check.

    Are the interviewee's personal details and situation even relevant to the topic at hand?

    Apparently, she meets the criteria to use her local food bank so must we really delve into how she got where she is?

    The people who need an answer to this question are trying to create a safe distance between her situation and their own because they are petrified they might find one day find themselves "food insecure" and needing to use a food bank...

    I would have more respect for the interviewee if she chose not to dignify these comments with a response.

    She should stick to concrete advice about how to use a food bank (which she did so well) and ignore all the judgment. By taking the time to respond to the personal insults, she detracts from of all of this useful information she took the time to painstakingly impart.

    Marisab67: Grow a pair and learn to let criticism and judgment roll off your back, especially on the internet.

    November 14, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • marisab67

      Thank you so much for your kind thoughts. Have a super great day.

      November 14, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
  36. dalllllli

    @marisab67, thank you for this article. My husband and I haven't had to use a food band but have come close. His job was eliminated right when the economy started tanking so we started a business (where we both work, although I still work full-time). It's growing and going well but we have yet to take a salary so things are tight. It's all about prioritizing and our priorities don't match with everyone's (particularly the judgmental crowd – yes, I need a smartphone to get everything accomplished. No, I actually prefer to watch movies at home instead of the theatre. Yes, my husband loves me even though he doesn't send $80 bouquets for our anniversary. And on...). No one knows your specific circumstances and priorities but you and your husband; your lifestyle is your decision alone. This also applies to your marriage. He's depressed right now and I bet is doing the very best he can. I was once told by a psychiatrist that there are few things more crippling to a man's mental health than suddenly being unable to be the breadwinner. Check out local university and health center's mental health studies. You might luck out and find one that is seeking participants. Our local university even pays participants in addition to the free counseling. My very best and warmest wishes to you (and I apologize for the length of this touched a nerve with me!)

    November 14, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
    • Margaret

      One of the things many people complain about is people not taking low paying jobs when they lost a high paying one. Many years ago my husband lost his job and it was very depressing for him, fortunately he got another fairly quickly. Today is different, so many people took pay cuts, or lost their jobs it has been very difficult to get another. So what do the know-it-alls say? Get more education. When they do, or start a new business then the same people complain because they still need some assistance. There are more jobs out there, and the economy is slowly recovering. Things cost more and a lot of jobs have never recovered their higher salaries. The longer you go without a job the less an employer wants you. They would rather have someone who is still working. Crazy but true.

      November 15, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
  37. saltgrain

    This is my take on the husband's job switch. I am sure and positive that he did not imagine that he was going to be experiencing a permanent salary cut. The problem is that his timing couldn't have been worse and while hindsight is 20/20.. I am sure that if anyone could have forseen the terrible economic contraction this country has experienced.. there would have been a LOT of different choices made by a lot of people. The problem is.. and he probably didn't realize it at the time.. because the economy tanked.. his former job was no longer an option. He couldn't just go back to a construction trade. Same with mine who had a business that relied heavily on corporate entertainment money and personal celebration spending.. in 2008.. business dried up completely! Then the next endevour ended up having his ability to sell his product in the state cut to zero due to political/regulatory restrictions that hit him harder than anyone else in the industry. No one works harder than my guy.. but he has been dealt one crummy card after another.. and he hasn't given up.. and I KNOW he will continue trying. However, if there is realistically little they can do to "undo" the decision, nothing is going to be gained by harping on the what if's and should have dones!

    November 14, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
    • Margaret

      Yes it would be nice if crystal balls really worked. But most people had no idea that the good times were going to come to a screeching halt. People had babies based on the income they had, bought cars and houses. They went back to school and took classes in construction. It is like the people who complain about the people who get sick and (did not plan ahead). There are some things you just can save enough for, or plan for. Hang in there.

      November 15, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
  38. liquid kitty

    Scary stuff.

    November 14, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
  39. Curious

    What is the approval process like for one of the food banks?

    The reason I ask is that I just realized you said what your husband makes is too much to get supplemental benefits. But I'd always thought that food banks were available only for people who qualified for the other benefits programs.

    Do they look at what you make and put out, or are they basically available to everybody?

    I'm not planning on hitting them up for free food, of course, I'm just very curious as to how that works.

    November 14, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • Kaylee

      Hi Curious! Food pantries, at least in our state, are able to serve folks who make up to 200% of the poverty line, which creates a bit of a buffer for folks who almost, but don't quite, qualify for benefits. The upper limit for many of those programs is 130% of the poverty line. Each state, and sometimes each food pantry, has different rules as to how people can "prove" their income level.

      November 14, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
      • Curious

        Thank you!

        Another question, if you don't mind. After you qualify to use a food bank, how does the shopping process go. Do you have a list of items or amounts that you're allotted according to your income, or is everyone given the same things across the board?

        November 14, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
        • Kaylee

          The shopping process is different at every pantry, based on their capacity and the food they have available. There are traditional pantries where every family receives a pre-packaged box or bag of food, with the quantity of food included based on the number of people in their family. There are also choice pantries, which are set up more like grocery stores, where families are able to choose what items will work best for them. Usually there are guidelines about the number of items a family can take from a particular category, again based on the number of people in the family. I'm not aware of a pantry that has a sliding scale based on income – it's almost always based on the number of people in the family.

          Great questions, though!

          November 14, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
        • David

          I have a local community center that hands out food, I started using it about a month ago. They don't ask for proof of how much you make. It sucks that I need to go there but everyone is real nice, they give you a random number which determines your place in line. If you ask which days have the most food they will tell you which makes it easier to get better food like meat or fruit. Some days they barely get anything so unless you have a low number you are lucky to get a loaf of bread so plan on going more than one day a week if they allow it I've heard most places don't, I was told the local food bank that is 45 min away only allows you to go once a month.

          November 14, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
        • Margaret

          Some food banks have meat packs that they sell. It is a low amount and you have a choice of size. It can include packages of beef cubes, ground meat, chicken strips. Mostly easy to use food. So you can get the food box based on the number of people in your family and buy a supplemental meat pack. I don't recall if you can use the Snap card for the meat.

          November 15, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
  40. ellen

    I volunteer regularly at our local food shelf and at first was dismayed at the choices some of our guests made e,g, sugared dry cereal instead of a box of oatmeal which would have provided many more servings and more healthful ones. Then i reminded myself that mothers would take what their children would eat [and what they were able to serve–realizing that some might not have a kitchen]. Same with beans. But the best day I had was when a young couple with a toddler came in and chose a box of oatmeal and a bag of dried beans! I wanted to hug them, but realized that probably wouldn,t be appropriate. Now our food shelf has been revamped and produce is the first thing our guests see when they come in. We still have baked goods donated by local grocery stores and bakeries, but they are at the end of their shopping trip. Also the healthiest canned and boxed items are shelved at eye level. We also have a closet stocked with clothing for the whole family. Our food shelf is generously supported by the community and also well used by the less fortunate in our community, I always feel "there but for the grace of God go I" and think of the guests when I do my own shopping and I can choose whatever I want, and say a little prayer of thanks.

    November 14, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  41. Wyatt

    Pretty good advice I reckon. I might add "take only what you need" – it seems like some of the points are about beating everyone else to the good stuff than making the most of what is there.

    I am a bit confused about the family situation though. My understanding is that the husband once held a 'lucrative' job, and then suffered a 60% reduction in pay. I think I am getting hung up on the meaning of 'lucrative' – I would expect that 40% of a 'lucrative' salary is still enough to get by on. Maybe my idea of 'lucrative' is off, or else CNN decided to spice up the article with meaningless words. Also, does the wife work at all anymore? I ask that not to judge but to get the whole picture. Either way, I wish them all the best.

    November 14, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
1 2 3
| Part of