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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Alright, Frugals, thinking caps on!!!!

You are given this box of produce. There is a Shoprite/Pricerite grocery store accessible and you have modest funds to get extra ingredients. How would you make/use/serve serve it? Assume there are children involved, but they are receiving free school breakfast and lunch M-F. Assume you are granted 1 box for every 2 family members. You can save things for later in the freezer, but assume canning is not an option. You have an average kitchen, nothing fancy, but an oven/cooktop, microwave. You can serve each item fresh or cooked, alone or combined with new ingredients as any type of dish (main, side, etc...) There will be another box next week, but we cannot know if it will be more of the same, or totally different.

(Bunch of spinach, 1lb beet, 1lb yam, corn, apples, zucchini, green peppers, 3lbs white potatoes.)
(Approximately 10lbs, approximate local cost $12)


Food Broccoli Plant Ingredient Natural foods
 

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Set aside 1 ear of corn and one bell pepper for spanish rice. Make with plain white rice and tomato paste or sauce.

That leaves 3 ears of corn, 1 each for 2 adults and half an ear for each of 2 children.

Steam or oven braise the beets and peel. Serve 2 as a vegetable with a meal, reserve one for later.

Divide the spinach into 2 portions and chop for salad. Serve half with the reserved sliced beet and nuts (anything you have or can afford, don't need much) and a sweet vinaigrette. Serve other half with sliced apple on top and a creamy dressing like home made buttermilk ranch.

Potatoes can be shredded for hash browns for breakfast or dinner. Add shredded apple to make them into sweet latkes.

Serve any remaining apples as snacks or with breakfast.

Zucchini can be steamed, boiled or grilled but I like to make fritters. You need eggs for that, and a bit of onion is nice if you have it. They freeze well (the fritters).

The bell peppers.... I dunno. Eat them with leftover salad dressing as a snack. Stuff them with leftover spanish rice. They should last at least a week in the fridge. If you have to preserve them, dry strips in a low oven, they can be added to soup or sloppy joe mix.

IMO, not enough here to do complete meals, and I don't know what proteins you have or can afford. But this is how I'd prep it to use it up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
IMO, not enough here to do complete meals, and I don't know what proteins you have or can afford. But this is how I'd prep it to use it up.
I agree, not enough for complete meals, but trying to think of ideas other than "just microwave and eat plain." This is an example of the boxes that are being distributed in the neighborhoods where I am working this semester. The schools are giving every school child free breakfast and lunch, and some schools are also doing take home bags of dinner plus snacks.

I found out about these boxes while researching food supplies in the neighborhood. Everybody just lovvvveees to talk about how there's "no access to healthy food and fresh vegetables." Not only is there access (a grocery store that accepts SNAP/EBT and WIC that is within walking distance AND on the bus line) there are these FREE boxes at assorted locations, days, and times allllll over the city. It's not advertised very well, I think, but the guy I talked to today said they usually give them all away at his location. He was letting people take more than one, no questions asked, no ID required, just sign in a name and a zip code.

The challenge I perceive is that some people just don't know what to do with plain ingredients, which is why I pinged you guys! You all are so creative! I love the idea of the spanish rice and stuffing the peppers! I am not big with cooked peppers, so I wouldn't have thought of that, OR splitting the corn for smaller kids!!! And zucchini fritters have been on my "try sometime recipes" board for over a year, but I wouldn't have thought of it... and latkes!!! A family with SNAP is definitely encouraged to buy eggs with the benefit, but if they are on WIC, they get eggs free!

There is a social work student in my group FINALLY, I am hoping she can teach me more about the programs... they are so opaque if you are not "part of the club." Even these boxes-- you had to know where to look to find the info, then the city claims they are 20lb boxes, but the company that packs them says very clearly that they average 10lbs... so it is hard to know if people are REALLY getting the help we THINK we are giving them...

So as a side project, I am thinking of how people could use these boxes and the weekly sale prices at their local store to stretch their dollars (whether personal or EBT/SNAP) to eat more healthfully. I'd like to track things for a few weeks, then create a some sample menus to give ideas and have pictures and box locations posted around our clinic and community center. Nothing too "in your face," but just a gentle nudge that you absolutely CAN eat nutritiously with what is available in the community.

Keep it coming, y'all! :)
 
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It's also come to me that if the family gets dairy they can make potato and corn chowder with the above box. Canned chicken or vegetable broth or even bullion cubes can be used for flavor. (I'm thinking of things that might come from a food pantry)

Speaking of soups, the peppers, corn and zucchini would make the start of a nice chicken tortilla soup, with the addition of canned broth, canned tomatoes, and leftover or canned chicken. Rice or beans could be added. It can be frozen if there is extra. (Most of the online recipes make huge amounts)

Zucchini, corn and peppers could be made into fried rice, with some egg for protein, and/or chopped canned meat.

Beets scare people, but they are a lot like a red potato. Bake 'em, boil' em, fry 'em, whatever. You can make beet fries, but that's probably more work than the average recipient can put in. With this box you could make an apple, beet and carrot slaw just by grating and dressing the raw vegetables. Carrots are cheap, and may show up in one of your boxes. Beets also make good soup.

Chopped up spinach can be added to anything, soup, pasta, casseroles, eggs, used on a sandwich or taco in place of lettuce....

I've got recipe booklets from my community garden, I'll look tomorrow and see if they have anything else to offer.
 
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A breakfast burrito ( using spinach, cooked shredded potatoes, cooked chopped peppers, add scrambled eggs and tortilla shells) Can add bacon or sausage crumbles as well..
A frittatta ( scrambled eggs with chopped up peppers, fried diced potatoes, chopped steamed beets, sauteed spinach)
Can make applesauce with pureed beets added, individual apple dumplings, sliced apples with peanut butter, apple muffins....
 

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That box of stuff looks delicious! We get similar distributions here from various sources.

I would cook the corn on the cob (steamed or microwaved) because it is a major treat, and doesn't store well.
Then, boil the cobs with other veggie scraps for broth to put in the freezer for future soups (especially with dry beans...the corncob/veg broth leans sweet so is good with beans that lean bitter)

If the apples look like they won't store, slice up and serve ASAP. If they will, then a half an apple per person with each meal is great. A casserole with slices of potato and onion alternating with slices of apples is also great. If you peel them, sprinkle the inside of peel bits with cinnamon and bake until crispy. These make nice treats. Mom had us convinced that these and pie crust scraps with cinnamon and baked to a crisp were "cookies" (we also had "real" cookies). IF you have pancake or biscuit mix or flour and baking powder or soda and a bit of sweetener (sugar, karo, honey, anything real) then a quick biscuit mixed up and in a pan over diced apples and baked makes a good cheap dessert. Can do the same with cornmeal, obviously!

Dice up the kale stems as they are removed and add to the stock.
Bake the kale into Kale chips in the oven, or add an onion and one of the peppers to a pan and dice up the kale and fry it. Keep 1 or 2 leaves diced in the freezer for future soup.

personally, I would dice one beet up and add to the kale fry up, put the peels/ends in the broth that is cooking.
Serve the fry up over baked/microwaved potato. For protein, add an egg or two or canned/cooked beans or peas.

If you make a giant fry up, the left overs are great in eggs or stretched with rice, or thrown in the broth for soup

I would dice the other beet up and put it in a jar with a bit of salted water to make beet kvass...healthy probiotic. A half a cup a day is good and if soup made late is bland, this is a healthy not too salty addition to perk it up. (I've also fermented zucchini slices in salt brine and gotten REALLY good sour pickles this year that would go nicely on a soup...damn...if only there was a cabbage in there...)

Once that has brewed a couple days, the beat cubes go into the next fry up with the zucchini and any allium (onion, garlic, whatever) that can be found. The beets are softer and fry faster.
That goes well over potatos/pasta/rice/whatever with beans or eggs if protein is short. Or a can of tuna.

The last of the peppers get fried up with any alium or whatever is about to go off in the fridge, then add the freezer broth made from the scraps. If the soup is bland, a tablespoon of decent vinegar or some lemon/orange peel (which you zested off any oranges that showed up over the past months and either froze or let dry on a woodstove or near a heater) will perk it up.


I like the fritter and frittata options for all this depending on what else folks have.
 

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Some ideas from the community garden:

Shaved Zucchini Salad with Lemon, Mint and Feta (my recipe is similar, uses lemon juice instead of lemon peel)

Shaved Zucchini Salad with Parmigiano and Pistachios Recipe (sub walnuts or pumpkin seeds for the expensive pistachios)


Blender Spinach Banana Muffins recipe gluten-free dairy-free (this one has stuff like coconut oil and almond milk that can be substituted with regular oil and milk)

Black-Eyed Pea and Spinach Salad use bottled dressing if desired

Tangy Apple and Beet Salad Recipe sub any red cabbage or arugula for the radichio, and feta or goat cheese for the blue cheese

 
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I think it's not always true that lower-income people can't deal with fresh produce. At the food shelf where I volunteer, most of the customers LOVE the fresh produce. I would see it first-hand when we had inside shopping; now the produce is outside in a tent and people can come every day and get some. It's not just supermarket leftovers either, we buy in bulk from the food bank, potatoes, onions, apples, cabbages, carrots, whatever. Lately we have been getting bulk leftovers from the different summer camps in the area that have closed for the season.
And all the food "help" that is available to people is never intended to supply ALL their food needs - it is a supplement to help out.
 

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lots of great ideas! but think that is kale not spinach. I make a dutch dish called stumppot cooked kale and mashed potatoes w sausage basically filling but fresh kale takes long time to cook..you can freeze for a few days and then is faster to cook. or kale salad too.

we don't really like beets here but found out if roasted I like them. my son like borscht too which you can make but no one else does lol I bbq or fry zucchini w onions or other veggies too.

as you saw you can do so much with what you have.
 

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Cook apples and yams, puree together, add cinnamon. Would that be "yapplesauce"?
Mashed potatoes and cooked greens mixed together is called "colcannon" - Scotch/Irish dish.
I love beets with feta cheese but I see recipes combining beets and cottage cheese which would be more affordable.
 

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Some more:

Courgette gratin uses fresh tomatoes, but canned diced would work, too. Any hard cheese, like aged cheddar or parmesan would work in place of gruyere.

Ratatouille Recipe | ChefDeHome.com classic comfort food here, made with potato, zucchini, and peppers plus a can of tomato sauce. Eggplant optional. Sweet potatoes can be used if you have them. Bechamel is a fancy word for white gravy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I think it's not always true that lower-income people can't deal with fresh produce. At the food shelf where I volunteer, most of the customers LOVE the fresh produce.
I think, like most things, it comes down to individuals and also age groups. What I have been seeing so far is that the grandmothers are picking up the packages to cook for their grandkids they are helping raise, but a lot of the 20-somethings I've been meeting talk about how they don't have time to cook... so I think there's an opportunity there if the center offered cooking classes with free child care off to the side.

And all the food "help" that is available to people is never intended to supply ALL their food needs - it is a supplement to help out.
I agree, but if I said that anywhere NEAR my school, I would be burned at the stake! :rolleyes:

I love beets with feta cheese but I see recipes combining beets and cottage cheese which would be more affordable.
But feta TASTES so much better. 😜 ....yapplesauce...:ROFLMAO:

Ratatouille Recipe | ChefDeHome.com classic comfort food here, made with potato, zucchini, and peppers plus a can of tomato sauce. Eggplant optional. Sweet potatoes can be used if you have them. Bechamel is a fancy word for white gravy.
I have never heard of ratatouille with potatoes before! I will have to look into this! Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
This is the box for this week, same location as last week.

Same: apples, peppers, potatoes, corn, and kale (which looked MUCH better this week)
Different: 2 delicata squash, rainbow baby carrots

No beets, no yams this time.

My favorite way to do cooked carrots is just to roast them with a little salt or steam them, then splash with OJ and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Anybody ever cooked delicata squash before? I've heard of it, but never used it.

(It was coincidence that I was in the city this week. Next week I am thinking I will check other locations when I am there on Tuesday/Wednesday.)
 
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
This is the box for this week, same location as last week.

Same: apples, peppers, potatoes, corn, and kale (which looked MUCH better this week)
Different: 2 delicata squash, rainbow baby carrots

No beets, no yams this time.

My favorite way to do cooked carrots is just to roast them with a little salt or steam them, then splash with OJ and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Anybody ever cooked delicata squash before? I've heard of it, but never used it.

(It was coincidence that I was in the city this week. Next week I am thinking I will check other locations when I am there on Tuesday/Wednesday.)
The picture didn't post... Grr...
Food Plant Natural foods Ingredient Staple food
 

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I haven't done delicata, but have cooked other winter squash, and would do something simple like baking it: Roasted Delicata Squash - Delicata Squash Vegetable Side Dish

After it's been baked, if there's leftovers, it can be made into soup: Instant Pot Autumn Harvest Butternut Squash Soup - Panera Copycat Soup Sub the delicata for either butternut or pumpkin.

Could also use it in a recipe like this: Squash & Red Lentil Curry

DH isn't a fan of winter squash, so I often cook it, mash it, and hide it in things like chili or stew, and other recipes that need "thickening".

Here's a kale and squash salad that describes how to make the tough kale leaves edible: Fall Salad with Kale & Delicata Squash | Healthy Paleo + Whole 30 Recipe

Also came across this recipe and saved it to try: Creamy Vegetable Soup Use whatever you have.

Love this carrot salad in the summer, it's so easy, and only a few ingredients: French Grated Carrot Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette - Once Upon a Chef It also keeps a couple of days in the fridge.

Glazed carrots are a classic and this recipe is not loaded with sugar like some others: Lemon-Honey Glazed Carrots

Grated carrots also make good "filler" for spaghetti sauce, chili, meatballs and meatloaf, stuffing mix (like you'd put in a turkey or use in a casserole) and of course added to salad and cole slaw.
 
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I love apples and squash together in a thick blender used soup. When the soup gets down to the end, throw some flour in the last bit until thick and make squash pancakes or muffins with an egg or some baking powder for leavening
 

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If you've got apples and cucumbers, try this: Radish, Cucumber and Apple Slaw with a Spicy Honey-Lime Dressing | I make it without the radish and red pepper because of DH.

Here's a simpler version without sugar: Apple Cucumber Slaw - Med Instead of Meds

The recipe does require a lot of chopping, if you grate the apple and cucumber you end up with mush. Also, best to eat it right away, does not keep.

I'm sure you know what to do with too many tomatoes: Easy Bruschetta with fresh Basil and Garlic! - Chef Savvy Works with any fresh tomato, even the ones that are a little too ripe. Like a fresh salsa this will keep a few days, but the vinegar starts breaking down the tomatoes.
 
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Hello, Master Chefs!

Today I present to you a version of a "Tuesday Box." (I won't show you what it looked like LAST Tuesday, because it basically looked like a Martha Stewart photo spread... no advice needed on a box like THAT...) Bottom line, Tuesday boxes appear to be more fruits (and IMO just BETTER) than the late-week corn-and-potato boxes. They also are much more full.
Food Plant Ingredient Natural foods Fruit

This one was at one location today, a second location had strawberries instead of the cherry tomatoes, yellow peppers instead of red. There were lemons, limes, avocados that will not be ripe for a few days (better than overripe!) and both locations had pineapples that appeared very green. I don't think that is a bad thing, necessarily, because it would give families time to use up the clementines and strawberries before moving on to the pineapple.

Friday night I researched a distribution site closer to my community center. The boxes were definitely more like the Thursday boxes I had been seeing (nice pack of bib lettuce, though, and bok choy instead of kale.) What was cool about that location was that they (it was a Latinx church or community center or something...) were adding 5lbs of rice, 5lbs corn flour, a package of salt, and a bottle of oil... in other words everything you need to make corn tortillas-- that was not part of the city-wide program, though, that was just them being extra nice. There were extras at one of the locations today, too, but I am trying to focus on what actually comes in the boxes.

So with the Tuesday box pictured above, I can see guacamole or marinated avocado salad (avocado chunks and halved cherry tomatoes with a little bit of Italian dressing= AMAZING.) And of course avocado toast for those who like it and have bread. I would use the clementines and sliced peppers for lunches... but I am having a lot of trouble coming up with anything "healthy" to do with those lemons and limes...

Lemonade and limeade, of course, are packed with vitamin C, but also either sugar (bad choice for a diabetes-prone community) or alternative sweeteners (expensive, and if we're talking artificial ones, people freak out about the chemicals.) A little bit of lemon juice goes a looonnnggg way, and five lemons and six limes is a lot. If it was me, I'd use the limes for guacamole and to flavor rice (along with cilantro, not included in the box, but cheap and food-stamp friendly.) I'd use the lemons for lemon pepper fish and chicken, but that is assuming that people will actually buy (unprocessed) fish, or eat it any way but fried. I did find recipes for lemon greek potatoes, using olive oil, though, so combining the Tuesday lemons with potatoes from a Friday box and dollar tree spices could make a nice dish...

And then there's the leeks... Don't get me wrong, the kids and I love potato leek soup, but I'm not sure how many of our neighborhood folks would agree with us on that... I did find this recipe that I am going to try (and tweak) but I doubt it's something that a lot of people will be jumping for joy over. Leek and Potato Dumpling Stew (Vegan) - Everyday Healthy Recipes

When I make my pitch to the community center (hopefully next week!) I will DEFINITELY be practically BEGGING them to have a "No, Thank You" table where people can put their unwanted box items for other people to take if they want extra. They may argue against it for sanitation reasons (I disagree) but I think there's probably a lot of kale and squash going into some people's trash that other people might want. I see a lot of cultural diversity at the sites, and what one family may think is gross may be treasure to someone else.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Adding two recipes I found:
(997) Pinterest Is a leek quiche with a crispy potato crust-- only concern here is the 1 cup of feta cheese required. I'll look for that at the local grocery after clinical tomorrow...

Recipe: Creamy Baked Orzo with Ham, Peas and Leeks | Kitchn (thekitchn.com) This looks do-able... I think the addition of meat (4 oz of ham) would make it more acceptable people as a "real" meal (not a side dish), and a tiny bit of ham like that is cheap and easily available. The goat cheese would probably be a no-go for a lot of people, bringing us back to the feta question... I think I am going to try this recipe, but also look at substituting potatoes for the pasta (since they are not only more nutritious, but they come in the derned boxes!!!)

Guess I need to be tweaking the menu for the next few days!
 
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