Let me start by saying food banks are wonderful. They’re a lifeline to put food on otherwise empty kitchen shelves, and keep hunger at bay when the budget doesn’t support a trip to the grocery store. At one point in my life, a box of typical food bank canned and boxed food that appeared on my porch was a lifesaving gift, so I know what I’m talking about.
But one of the biggest challenges facing people trying to use a food bank to survive is how to build healthy, tasty meals from canned and packaged foods. Even after my own financial crisis had passed, my single mom days were often filled with trying to make healthy, tasty meals for my kids and I from the case-lot canned good section of the grocery store, or even what was on the shelves at Dollar Tree. If you’ve never experienced that, let me tell you, it’s hard!
The Capital Area Food Bank here in Austin understands that struggle. That’s why they’ve asked local bloggers in the Austin Food Blogger Alliance to come up with a family friendly, low cost dinner using canned goods likely to be found in a food bank. I jumped at the challenge, because I understand the need!
(Before I share the recipe, I need to let you know that even a meal as simple as this one is hard to make when you’re counting pennies. Food banks seldom include spices or seasonings on their shelves, simply because people don’t think to donate them, so making food flavorful is hard. I chose to include them here, because the availability of bulk spices in local grocery stores like HEB makes it more affordable to get a small amount for under a dollar, and make a big impact on flavor. )
I started with a selection of canned good typical for a food pantry. Selecting a variety of vegetables means you’ll end up with a meal that’s heavy on nutrition. If low sodium versions are available, do select those cans.
Vegetable (or Chicken) Pot Pie
6-8 small pot pies or one large casserole
- 2 packets biscuit mix (available at many food banks, or for .50/packet at HEB
- 1/2 can evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed)
- 1 can peas, drained
- 1 can carrots, drained
- 1 can potatoes, drained (diced, if not already diced from the can)
- 1 can corn, (do not drain)
- 1 can green beans (do not drain)
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 1/2 can vegetable broth
- 1/2 can condensed cream soup (mushroom, potato, chicken, etc.,), low fat if available
- 1/2 can evaporated milk
- 1 can cooked chicken, tuna or turkey or one block tofu (optional)*
- 1 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- In a bowl, combine biscuit mix with 1/2 can of evaporated milk (or 1/2 cup regular milk)
- Mix and set aside.
- In a large sauce pan, combine all the vegetables, broth, remaining 1/2 can of milk, 1/2 can of condensed soup and seasoning.
- Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until onions start to soften
- Make an egg-sized ball of the dough and pat it into the bottom of a pot pie tin or small loaf pan (I bought a package of 5 mini-loaf pans at Target for $1.45)
- Pat one half of the dough into the bottom of a 9 x 9 baking pan
- Fill pans to within 1/2 inch of top of the pan(s)
- Pat out remaining dough to cover each pot pie (or the large pot pie.)
- Make 3 -4 small slits in the top of the crust
- Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (or 45 minutes for a large pie)
- Serve hot, in the pan or inverted onto a plate
These pot pies freeze well. If you’re not planning on eating them immediately, assemble them, then freeze. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees, or until hot in the center.
* I don’t eat meat, so I used vegetarian protein sources. Tofu, at about a dollar a package is a great choice for vegetarians on a budget who want to make this dish.