The Food Pantry: When You Are Hungry With No Money

Every Thursday, I volunteer at our local food pantry.  I love the idea of feeding my community and have met some of the most beautiful people through this program.  Many times, when people come in and are given the listed entitled foods, they do not know what to do with them.

So I thought I would put together a menu plan for what a family of four would be able to get at our local food pantry and what kinds of meals one could make.

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What is a Food Pantry?

Our food pantry is a small room that we utilize in an existing building. It is set up similar to a grocery store with refrigeration units and shelves.  We have shopping carts and a packing table to pack up your supplies.

We not only have food but many times we have personal care items, including toilet paper and paper towels.

In the winter, we have used coats, hats, and mittens as well as a special blanket giveaway every year from the Middle School.

We are only a small community food pantry that only serves our townspeople.

There are a more substantial food pantry and information center that serves the entire county in the neighboring small city.

Where Does The Food Pantry Get The Food?

Our food comes from donations as well as the Food Bank.  The director of the pantry places an order online ever other week, and our volunteers travel about an hour south to pick it up from the Regional Food Bank.

Many local businesses, schools, and organizations will have food drives throughout the year to stock our shelves. The boy scouts, preschool, banks, post office all donate every year.

Other people will give monetary donations which is an excellent choice.  We can purchase things by the pound from the food bank.  So a box of cereal might cost us $.04 per box instead of $4.

Where Does The Funding Come From For The Food?

Funding comes from all over.  Community people, organizations, businesses, State level through the Department of Health and  Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP).   

There is also some Federal funding that comes through indirectly as well.

Who Can Visit Our Local Pantry?

The only criteria for visiting our food pantry is to live in our school district and show proof of residency.  We do not require income or proof of government assistance of any kind.

We do ask the reason why you need our services in a verbal explanation and a signature.  Easy peasy!

How Often Can You Visit?

For our Community Food Pantry,  you can visit twice per month, but there must be ten days in-between visits.

At the county Food Pantry, you are allowed one visit per month in addition to the local pantry.

What Kinds Of Food Do You Get?

Here is the breakdown of amounts that a family of four would get at our local food pantry.

  • 1 cereal
  • 2 soups (one chicken noodle and one cream)
  • 1 rice/beans
  • 1 spaghetti
  • 1 pasta
  • 3 canned meat (chicken or tuna)
  • 2 mac and cheese
  • 3 15 oz spaghetti sauce
  • 3 fruits
  • 3 veggies
  • 1 peanut butter
  • 2 cans of beans
  • 3 cans of tomatoes
  • 1 snack (pretzels)
  • 3 waters
  • 1 juice
  • 1 condiment (I would choose mayo)
  • 1 baking product (muffin mixes are plentiful)
  • 1 margarine
  • 1 cheese
  • 1 hotdog
  • 1 meat
  • 3 incidentals (jelly, pasta or rice side dish, and a pudding)
  • 1 milk card
  • 2 bread
  • 1 dozen eggs

We have cards that list what each family gets dependent on your size.  Our pantry always seems to have more than what is listed.  One week we may have an abundance of frozen fish sticks.  Another week, we could have fresh apples.

Incidentals is an entire section of shelves dedicated to miscellaneous items.  Items like coffee (when we can get it) and jelly, convenience foods like canned ravioli and side dishes are also available here.  If you bring your bags, you get an extra item.

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Meal Plan From The Food Pantry

The amount of food that a family receives is, by county and state direction enough to feed a family 3 meals per day for 3 days.  I came up with quite a few ideas.


Cereal with milk, juice, and fruit

Scrambled eggs and toast

French toast and fruit

Muffins with fruit


Peanut butter and jelly sandwich and an apple, glass of milk

Tuna melts with cheese and soup

Hot Dogs, macaroni and cheese, and peas

Any dinner leftovers


Spaghetti with sauce, sausage and green beans

Chili with beans, hot dogs, and rest of sausage

Chicken and rice casserole (made with cream soup, can of chicken, rice, and cheese) and can of carrots

Snacks and desserts can be pudding, pretzels, muffins, and those apples that are plentiful this time of the year.

Cost Of Food Pantry Food Haul

I am going with all the generic products from Walmart here to show you the amount of food one would get.  I thought Walmart was the most universal grocery store to compare.

  • 1 cereal GV Cheerios $1.23
  • 2 soups (one chicken noodle and one cream) GV chicken noodle $.98 GV Creamy chicken $.50 = $1.48
  • 1 bag of white rice GV &1.37
  • 1 spaghetti GV $1.00
  • 1 pasta (elbows) .82
  • 3 canned meat (1 chicken, 2 tuna) tuna $.88, chicken $2 = $3.76
  • 2 mac and cheese .39 each = $.78
  • 3 15 oz spaghetti sauce $1.20
  • 3 fruits $.98 each = $2.94
  • 3 veggies $.50 each = $1.50
  • 1 peanut butter $2.26
  • 2 cans of beans $.54 each = $1.08
  • 3 cans of tomatoes $.98 each = $2.94
  • 1 snack (pretzels) $1.53
  • 3 waters $3
  • 1 juice (apple) $.98
  • 1 condiment (mayo) $1.94
  • 1 baking product (corn muffin mix) $1.25
  • 1 margarine $.98
  • 1 cheese $2.99
  • 1 hotdog .98
  • 1 meat (6 Italian sausage links) $6.76
  • Dozen eggs $.98
  • gallon of milk $2.68
  • 2 loves of bread $.88 each = $1.76
  • 3 incidentals (jelly, pudding, can of ravioli) $1.72, $.50, $.66 = $2.88

Total Price = $51.07

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How To Find A Food Pantry Near You

Please check out the Feeding America website (link)to find a food pantry near you.

If you would also like to know how to shop at Aldi and the best items to buy, please check out this blog post.  Aldi is, by far, my favorite store to shop.  You can’t get much better with the prices at Aldi!

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