With rising housing costs, inflation and the trickle-down effects of Covid-19 including job loss and work stoppages, Canadians more than ever are relying on Food Banks to feed their families. According to Food Banks of Canada, visits to Canadian food banks rose over 20% from March 2019 to March 2021.
It can be daunting to figure out what types of meals you can make from the commonly donated items. The trick to getting the most out of your hamper is to take inventory of all the items, meal plan, keep an open mind and have fun experimenting.
Looking for specific ideas? Review the list below for inspiration on how to use some commonly donated Canadian food items often found in food hampers. If you are looking to donate to your local food bank this is also a good list to consider:
- Instant and Quick Cook Oats: Oats can be ground in a blender to add fibre to smoothies and used in meatballs or meatloaf instead of breadcrumbs. Oats can also be used in yogurt bowls and muffins.
- Canned Salmon: Add canned salmon to a cream-based soup like cream of broccoli or cream of mushroom soup to make an easy, Omega-3 packed salmon chowder. Canned salmon can be served with cucumber over rice and topped with sriracha and mayonnaise for a fun and quick salmon rice bowl.
- Canned Tomatoes: Canned tomatoes come in many styles and are incredibly versatile! Budget beef cuts like stewing beef or eye of round roast (or chickpeas, for a vegetarian option) can be slowly braised in stewed tomatoes and served over rice for an easy and hearty Swiss Steak-style dish. Pureed tomatoes can easily be turned into a homemade pasta sauce by simmering with onions and spices. Petite cut tomatoes are a great addition to soup and stews or used in ground meat casseroles.
- Canned Lentils: Add a cup of drained and rinsed canned lentils to any ground meat dish or soup to ‘stretch out’ the recipe. Canadian green lentils can also be mixed in with canned tuna like in this Tuna + Lentil Salad Sandwich.
- Dried Lentils: Dried lentils slowly simmered in a broth of your choice with pasta and dried oregano or Italian seasoning make a comforting winter meal. Once cooked, lentils can also be turned into a puree to seamlessly add into homemade or canned soups, stews, chilis and even smoothies for an added healthy dose of fibre and potassium.
- Fresh and Canned Ham: Both cooked fresh and canned ham can be cut into small pieces and fried in a skillet with eggs, turned into fried rice with leftover rice and veggies and even mixed into macaroni and cheese to add protein to the classic pantry staple.
- Potatoes: Potatoes can be simply roasted with canola oil, salt and pepper and then served with chili on top for a fun and hearty meal. Alternatively, potatoes can be pureed with many other vegetables that kids may not love to eat like leeks, broccoli or cauliflower.
- Chicken, Beef and Vegetable Broth: If you aren’t in the mood for soup, broth can still be a welcome addition to any pantry! Cook instant rice in a broth of your choice for extra flavour or warm it up and sip it from your favourite mug as an alternative to tea!
- Canned Cranberry Sauce or Jelly: Cranberry sauce is not just for the holidays! Cranberry sauce can be used as a mix-in to oatmeal or served with pancakes or frozen waffles for a sweet treat.
Looking to donate to support your community? Consider purchasing Canadian-grown foods for your local food bank! In addition to the list above, you can donate canned mushrooms and canned corn, pureed pumpkin, canola oil, wild rice and applesauce in addition to baby formula and baby food.