Simple, healthy recipes to stretch your food dollars

Article was written by Terri Ward, FoodWIse Nutrition Administrator, Kenosha and Racine Counties
Originally published in the Kenosha News.

Many changes and new needs have arisen in the world of food supply and distribution since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Food pantries, in particular, have been hard at work altering their food supply and distribution systems to protect the growing number of already vulnerable people from increased risk of exposure to the virus.

Faced with major new challenges, such as changing distribution models to adhere to social distancing best practices, pantries are also left to manage their more perennial struggles; among them, how to encourage people to select and use donated, nutrient-dense foods that are occasionally in surplus at some food pantries.

Think seasonal produce at this time of year, which we’re fortunate to have, and then there are the occasional batches of donated items many people don’t know how to prepare, such as dried beans. Or one week it might be whole grains that some people aren’t familiar with because they’ve never tried them. There are a handful of “reasons” for some of the dynamics, including perceptions of which items are “good”, and part of our work is to troubleshoot with pantries and participants to resolve some of them, increasing the nutrient density of pantry participants’ diets, and encouraging the use of donated foods that promote improved health.

Typically our FoodWIse team would be using much of the fresh zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, dried legumes and whole grains to prepare simple, inexpensive, tasty recipes to sample out alongside our nutrition education at the food pantries with whom we partner. Because of COVID-19, we have shifted most education online and are publishing and sharing several resources on our website including a newer “Weekly Featured Recipe” resource, in English and Spanish, driven by the foods pantries are telling us they sometimes struggle to move quickly enough.

  • Cool Cucumber Salad
  • Zucchini Pancakes
  • Tzatziki and Pita Chips
  • Garlic Ginger Ramen (hint: remove the sodium-laden “seasoning” packet)
  • Garbanzo Bean Soup

You can find these and other recipes and nutrition resources on our website at

As pantries share these simple recipes that contain many staple ingredients they have on hand, they are getting positive feedback. We’re also including a link to our list of regularly updated emergency food resources in both Kenosha and Racine counties among other resources, such as ongoing nutrition education options for all ages.

Whether you use a food pantry or not, we challenge you to try a few of these recipes and take a look at how much money you might save by substituting some of them into your normal meal rotations. Over the long term, reaping the health benefits of increasing vegetable and fruit consumption, switching to whole grains, and reducing the consumption of salt, fat and sugar will be the real cumulative bonus that brings long-term savings.

And if you’re in the position to give, please consider the nutrient density of foods as you donate to our pantries.

University of Wisconsin-Madison      |        Explore Extension: Agriculture Community Development Families & Finances Health Natural Resources Youth