Sense & Centsibility Blog
Bowl of chili

16 Resources to Help You Feast Frugally During Tough Times

In a previous blog post, I described ways you could eat more frugally and improve your finances, your health and your relationships. Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic recession have made saving money on food even more crucial for many households. Here are services and informational resources to help ensure you have enough food, feast frugally and eat as healthy as possible.

Public services: 

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) - This federal program is the nation’s largest source of food support, serving more than 37 million Americans as of March 2020.  SNAP is designed to help individuals and families with low incomes get the food they need. If you are eligible for SNAP, you can use your benefits at grocery stores and (in Minnesota) farmers markets and senior dining sites. For more on Minnesota’s SNAP program, go to the Minnesota Department of Human Services website. If you live outside Minnesota, go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.
  • Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Special Supplemental Nutrition program serves women, their infants and their children up to age 5. WIC provides nutritious foods, nutrition education and counseling and referrals to health and other social services. The Minnesota Department of Health has more on our state’s WIC program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has more on WIC programs outside Minnesota.
  • Market Bucks is a Minnesota program where individuals can use their SNAP dollars to buy staples at local farmers markets and receive up to $10 for additional purchases of produce and other SNAP-eligible food. Read this flyer for more information.

Private food services and businesses

  • LSS Meals has a variety of services to help Minnesotans access nutritious food and live healthy, active and independent lives. LSS delivers meals to older adults age 60 and over and provides curbside service to them at locations in local communities. LSS Meals to Go ships frozen meals statewide to individuals of all ages who experience food insecurity or who need assistance with nutrition or dietary needs and don’t have an LSS Meals site in their area. See the LSS Meals web page for more details.
  • Meals on Wheels delivers meals to older Minnesotans in areas not served by LSS Meals, and it provides services nationwide. Go online for a list of locations across the U.S.
  • Hunger Solutions has a page on its website where you can search for food shelves, food delivery, farmers markets, free meals and discount grocery programs across Minnesota.
  • The Sheridan Story – Based in Roseville, Minnesota, it works with 31 school districts in Minnesota and Western Wisconsin to fill the gaps to food access that children face during weekends, summers and extended breaks.
  • Ruby’s Pantry is based in North Branch, Minnesota. It gathers food surpluses and bumper crops, then packs them into food bundles that are distributed at “pop-up pantries” in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Recipients pay $20 for their food bundle.
  • Fare For All buys fresh produce and frozen meat in bulk from wholesalers and manufacturers. Volunteers at Fair For All’s warehouse pack the produce and meat into food packages, which are sold for $10 to $30 at 38 locations in Minnesota. There are no income eligibility requirements.  
  • So Low Grocery Outlet is a discount food market and butcher shop based in Minneapolis. 
  • Imperfect Foods is located in San Francisco, California. It offers imperfect, misshapen food that is still tasty and healthy, including produce, affordable pantry items and quality eggs and dairy. It delivers them to individuals who qualify for SNAP benefits. 
  • LocalHarvest says its mission is to “connect people looking for good food with the farmers who produce it,” and “create thriving community-based food systems that will make high quality local food available to everyone.” Search its nationwide listing of farms, farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs to find ones near you. CSA programs deliver locally-grown food to you throughout the growing season when you buy shares in a local farm.

Helpful Informational Resources

  • “Eat Your Leafy Greens” – My financial counseling colleague Mary Ellen Kaluza wrote this blog post about the importance of eating healthy, locally-grown produce. 
  • The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group. The Non-Consumer Advocate’s mission is help people learn to live on less, and to do so in a way that lessens their environmental impact. You can ask the group questions like, “I have these five things left in my pantry or fridge and no more money to spend on food this week. What can I make with it?” The Facebook page members will offer suggestions.
  • The Simple Dollar blog has an entire category of posts called “Meals” with tips on inexpensive food and meal preparation:
  • The Imperfect Foods Facebook page often has posts on food saving tips and recipes.

If you’d like additional assistance with managing expenses, creating a realistic budget, increasing savings and/or paying off debt, LSS Financial Counseling will provide free, confidential support. Call today at 888.577.2227, or get all your support online.

Author Sarah Jannusch is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling.