Living Inside The Box: Menu Planning For Food Hampers, vol. 2


Here is the second installment of Sarah and Jessica’s work thinking through the options and dilemmas of a food hamper for a single person. Two weeks after their first hamper, they packed a second one with very different results. The theme of their menu this time around is food monotony–a topic discussed elsewhere on this blog.7031c072416a8ed12eb10eea4bb9_Content

Sarah: Once again, Jessica and I were required to pack a single person’s hamper and create a meal plan to sustain us for—fingers crossed—five days. We received a lot of food in the first hamper, and so it didn’t seem like this would be a difficult task. However, once the hamper was packed and presented to us, there was a major contrast between our previous hamper and the one that was now before us.

This hamper lacked basic categories of food. Unlike our past hamper, there was an absence of 1L milk, a squash, onions, beans, cottage cheese and vegetables. In addition, there was much less fruit, yogurt and bread. On the other hand, we did gain eggs in our hamper! But this hardly seems like an equal trade off. The amount of food received in the hamper clearly indicates the amount of donations received that week. Minimal donations plus ongoing community need left us with a rather small hamper.

Food List

  • 4 Bread Rolls
  • 6 Eggs
  • 4×100 g Greek Yogurt
  • 8 Brussel Sprouts
  • Large Bag of Cherries
  • 1 Loaf of Whole Grain Bread
  • 1 Package (250g) Whole Wheat Crackers
  • 1 Can (398ml) of Peas
  • 1 Can (284ml) Chicken Noodle Soup
  • 1 Large Tomato
  • 14 Turkey Sausages
  • 1 Container ( 500ml) Cranberry Machiera
  • 1 Carton (500ml) Cream
  • 1 Lime
  • 1 Bottle (500ml) Water
  • 1 Bottle (500ml) Sunny D
  • 1 K-Cup Coffee
  • 1 Package (500g) Spaghetti
  • 1 Head of Garlic
  • 1 bag (5 lbs) Potatoes
  • *BONUS* Large Amount of Lettuce from Lobby

Importance of Meal Planning

Jessica: As Sarah and I began to design a meal plan for the second time around I realized the crucial importance of meal planning. For others with more available grocery items this step might not be as important, and what to eat may be largely chosen on what an individual or family feels like eating at that time. For individuals and families that (for some period of time) only have the groceries provided in food hampers, meal planning is necessary: to ensure that the available food is spread out equally and for as long as possible; and to be able to create complete meals. Another area someone using our food hampers may have to consider in the planning of meals would be the best before dates. Some items we provide are closer to these dates and may not last the full designated meal planning time. So planning these items to be eaten sooner rather than later is important.

One thing I have encountered working intake recently has been the availability of food storage and preparation materials for our participants. Some individuals who use our services are limited to what food they can receive due to the lack of cooking supplies and appliances. When designing a meal plan for a single person hamper I have realized more and more that there are many factors that individuals and families face that would make designing and executing a meal plan much more difficult than one would first expect.


Meal Plan

Day 1

Breakfast: Coffee, Toast and Yogurt

Lunch: ½ Can Chicken Noodle Soup with Crackers

Dinner: 2 Turkey Sausage patties on Bread with Lettuce and a Slice of Tomato

Day 2:

Breakfast: 1 Scrambled Egg Sandwich with Lettuce and a Slice of Tomato

Lunch: ½ Can Chicken Noodle Soup with Crackers

Dinner: Potatoes and 3 Turkey sausage patties

Day 3:

Breakfast: Yogurt, Roll, and Cherries

Lunch: ½ of canned peas and 2 Turkey sausage patties

Dinner: a few potatoes, a sausage patty and the Cranberry Sauce combined with remaining peas

Day 4:

Breakfast: 1 Scrambled Egg Sandwich on Roll

Lunch: a few potatoes and a sausage patty

Dinner: Brussel Sprouts, Scallop Potatoes(Potatoes and Cream) with Turkey patty

Day 5:

Breakfast: Toasted Tomato Sandwich with Yogurt and Cherries

Lunch: 2 Scrambled Eggs with a turkey patty cut up

Dinner: 2 Egg Sandwiches with Lettuce and Slice of Tomato and 3 Turkey Slices



Yogurt (1)

Sarah: Jessica and I were able to extend the amount of food for 5 days with breakfast, lunch and dinner. We were unable to slot two snacks a day but did compose a list to pick from for the days at which the amount of food allotted was insufficient.

Although the amount of food given was enough to last approximately five days, it was undoubtedly necessary to create a meal plan to make the food provided last the largest amount of time possible. With a plan in place, it allows you to visually see how much you should be eating in order to make the food last. As well, a food plan enables individuals to plan meals for the expiry date of the perishable items and creates a variety of the daily intake of the different food groups.

Overall, this exercise emphasized the major contrast between the two hampers. What one receives truly depends on the luck of the draw with regards to the size of the donations as well as the amount of people who receive a hamper that week. Unfortunately, during this particular visit our luck had run out.

Reflection on Assignment

Jessica: Looking back on our second experience of packing a hamper and designing a meal plan with our received items I have gained even more respect for the customers that access our services and experience this as a real life activity. The planning of the meals by itself can be difficult, let alone the actual execution and preparation of the meals and the correlating emotions and hunger with such a strict meal plan.

This time around was a little more difficult. We were not able to have two designated snacks per day, but instead created a list of snacks that one could choose from in times where they were hungrier. It is easy to say that we designed a sufficient meal plan for a five day period but until we are actually eating what we have planned it will be difficult to say if what we have planned would be enough food to sustain an individual for that period of time. Like many other areas, there are many factors that could change the amount of food a person would find adequate. These factors could include a person’s height, weight and physical activity, such as the amount of walking needed to get around on a particular day. (Here my large colleague Jesse weighed in: “I would always be hangry if that was my daily caloric intake.”)

Sarah: Putting myself into the position of someone who we help forces me to consider, that If this is my second hamper of the year, I have only four remaining to last me five months. Let’s speculate that I am unable to find any part time work, do not qualify for ODSP or OW as I am a student. My OSAP funds only cover my tuition fees along with my textbooks and the Student Loan I received from the bank is only enough to cover my monthly rent. There’s no money for food, toiletries, electricity or clothes. How will I eat? With only four hampers left, I will have to use other resources: the Salvation Army, Glencarin Mennonite Church, my university’s food bank, St. John’s Community Kitchen and the Ray of Hope Community Centre. I’d probably have to attend some of the meals offered from these organizations. But it has to be easier for me than other people.

For instance, families in a food situation such as mine, I would imagine, would be hesitant to bring their children to Soup Kitchens. They may not want to expose them to their financial struggles or do not want to appear as unfit parents in the eyes of others. It also is undoubtedly more of a struggle with more mouths to feed. Not only are you responsible for your own survival but also your children’s.

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One Response to “Living Inside The Box: Menu Planning For Food Hampers, vol. 2”

  1. Five days on a Hamper Diet: surviving, or thriving? | Hofemergencyfoodassistance's Blog Says:

    […] two other posts, our intrepid summer students discussed “living inside the box,” including planning […]

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