Simple tips for using canned foods from community food pantries

Use these simple tips to make canned community pantry foods tastier.

Hungry families and individuals who use community emergency food pantries receive several canned foods, like fruits and vegetables, as well as other non-perishable foods. 

While fresh foods are always recommended for meal preparation, studies show canned foods are comparable to cooked, fresh and frozen varieties in providing major vitamins to the American diet.

According to the Canned Food Alliance, using canned foods in your meal planning has an array of benefits:

  • Canned foods add a variety of food types to your meal planning. Adding canned beans or chickpeas and canned tuna to a fresh garden salad instantly makes the meal more interesting and adds important nutrients, just from opening up a can.
  • Using canned foods and other forms of food (fresh, frozen, canned and dried) in your cooking can add more flavors to your meals and save on your food budget.
  • If you are crunched for time to prepare meals like many busy families, especially during the week, using canned foods will help you to get food on the table quickly.
  • Fresh food, while undoubtedly delicious and nutritious, can spoil if not used a short time after purchase.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that canned vegetables and beans first be rinsed to decrease salt content. Be sure to always read food labels and when possible, choose the low sodium varieties of canned foods.

There are still consumer questions about whether or not canned foods are healthy for you. The Canned Food Alliance says that despite the fact canned foods are getting a “bad rap”, they are actually nutritious, accessible, convenient, affordable and flavorful.

Keep food safety in mind when visiting and choosing canned food at your community food pantries. Never choose canned foods that are past their expiration dates or having any flaw such as dented or bulging.

Families who are on a tight food budget often use community food pantries and want to know how to flavor and spice up canned foods when preparing meals.

Ask your community food pantry if they have recipes for their participants, most community food pantries offer low-cost recipes. For additional recipes, you can also checkout Feeding America’s cookbook for a cause for tasty snacks and entree ideas.

There are several ways you can add pizazz to your meal preparation by using canned foods the following ways:

  • Canned chili beans, green chilies, mushrooms to casseroles, salads, etc.
  • Canned vegetables to soups, stews, salads and casseroles
  • Canned beans to soups, stews, nachos and casseroles
  • Canned tomatoes and tomato products to one-pot and skillet meals, casseroles, soups and stews
  • Canned cream soups to casseroles
  • Canned fruit to fruit salads, fruit parfaits and other desserts

Using canned foods are an economical way of saving money and provide satisfying and favorable homemade meals for your family. Using the above simple tips for preparing meals, entrée, desserts, etc. can be pleasing and provide a sense of well-being to those who are cash strapped. 

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