In previous posts, I wrote about the micro food pantries that are popping up outside churches, schools and businesses in communities around the country (link HERE), as well as ideas for meal kits or recipe kits to put in these mini pantries (links HERE and HERE and HERE).
A major challenge when creating recipe kits for a micro pantry is that only nonperishable ingredients can be used, which rules out ingredients like milk, eggs, fresh meats and most produce.
Winter weather provides yet another challenge: Not only must the items be nonperishable, they must be able to withstand freezing temperatures. This is particularly true in regions where temperatures can dip into single digits or lower. Canned goods or glass jars can break or swell and burst when frozen, creating quite a mess! (Think cans of soda left in the freezer.)
You will want to choose meat that comes in pouches rather than cans – tuna, chicken and salmon are some options. Choose boxed soup rather than canned, or soup mixes in pouches. Peanut butter and jelly, mayonnaise, pickle relish and pasta sauce often are available in plastic jars rather than glass jars.
Fortunately, that still leaves plenty of creative options for meal kits.
For a sandwich kit, pair peanut butter and jelly in plastic jars, or tuna in a pouch with mayonnaise and pickle relish in plastic jars. Add a loaf of sliced bread.
Another meal kit idea might include a package of chicken soup mix, paired with chicken in a pouch. Still more recipe kits can be made with boxes of pasta mix and pouches of meat. Examples include a family-size pouch of tuna paired with a box of tuna noodle casserole mix or a pouch of chicken chunks paired with Alfredo mix.
Breakfast food items are always popular – boxed cereal, boxed juice, instant milk, pop tarts, pancake mix and syrup in a plastic bottle can withstand colder temps.
In addition to meal kits or recipe kits, staples such as sugar, flour, corn meal, rice, dried beans, pasta noodles, powdered milk, powdered egg whites, salt and pepper can withstand freezing and are always welcome regardless of the season.
Other good temperature-resistant items that fly off the shelves include grooming supplies (bar of soap and washcloth, toothpaste and toothbrush, feminine hygiene products), toilet paper, laundry detergent in a plastic container (pods) or box, and small bags of dry cat or dog food.
Snack bars, chips, sandwich crackers, jerky and “snack kits” are great for homeless people who need something that doesn’t have to be heated up or thawed out. These items are also good for putting into sack lunches for work or school.
Despite the extra challenges, keeping micro pantries stocked in the winter is particularly beneficial because factors such as higher utility bills and unexpected medical expenses due to seasonal illnesses are likely to squeeze budgets especially hard this time of year.