Experiencing Homelessness

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Homelessness can take many forms. Families may be living on the streets, in shelters, in transitional housing programs, or doubled up with family and friends. If you are experiencing homelessness or if you have limited storage, refrigeration or cooking equipment, there are still healthy food options you can provide to you and your family.

Shop Smart

  • Buy groceries at a grocery store instead of convenience stores where prices tend to be less expensive.
  • Buy store brand products instead of name brand as prices tend to be less expensive.
  • Create a meal plan for the few days or the week you are shopping for. 
  • Make a shopping list and stick to it while shopping. 
  • Avoid buying too much food at one time.
  • Plan to prepare food that does not keep on the day you purchase it.

Shop Healthy

  • Buy canned fruits that are packed in 100% juice instead of syrup.
  • Buy canned veggies without added salt or drain and rinse the veggies prior to use. 
  • Avoid drinking sugar sweetened beverages and juice. Choose water instead.
  • Whole pieces of fruit (apples, bananas, oranges, pears) are easy snacks to have on hand that don’t need refrigeration and don’t spoil very quickly. 

If No Refrigeration

  • Buy foods that will not spoil fast and do not need to be refrigerated like vegetables, fruits, nuts and canned goods. 
  • Buy smaller quantities of foods that will spoil without refrigeration like single serving milks, yogurts and cheeses. 
  • Avoid buying fresh meat. Instead choose canned protein items like tuna or chicken. 
  • If buying fresh meat, plan to cook it immediately after purchase. 
  • Food that can spoil should not sit out for longer than 2 hours.
    • Store food in airtight containers or zip-top bags.
    • Keep food away from direct sunlight and keep it in an insulated bag, cooler, lunch bag if possible.
    • If food has mold on it, do not eat and throw it away.

Meal Ideas

If No Refrigeration, Hot Plate or Microwave

Breakfast:

  • Cold cereal, prepared powdered milk, apple
  • Peanut butter, bread, orange
  • Cereal mixed with applesauce
  • Banana wrapped in tortilla with peanut butter

Lunch/Dinner:

  • Tuna packet mixed with mashed white beans on bread or tortilla, carrots
  • Peanut butter & banana sandwich, snap peas
  • Canned chicken mixed with avocado on tortilla, pineapple
  • Soup or chili (can be eaten cold), crackers, apple

Snacks:

  • Whole or canned fruit
  • Carrots or celery with peanut butter
  • Crackers with peanut butter
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Popcorn

Have Refrigeration But No Hot Plate or Microwave

Breakfast:

  • Yogurt, peaches, cereal
  • Hard boiled eggs, cereal and milk
  • Hard boiled egg and cheese sandwich
  • Overnight Oats: ½ cup quick oats, ½ cup milk, 2 tsp peanut butter, ½ banana. Refrigerate overnight. Stir and enjoy cold.

Lunch/Dinner:

  • Deli meat and cheese sandwich, yogurt, bell peppers
  • Canned chicken, tuna or hard boiled egg mixed with mayo and bread, pear
  • Hummus, veggies and cheese wrap on tortilla with yogurt
  • Lettuce salad with corn, black beans, tomatoes, and cheese w/ salsa or dressing

Snacks:

  • String cheese and almonds
  • Veggies and hummus or dip
  • Apple slices dipped in yogurt
  • Cheese and crackers

Have Refrigeration and Hot Plate or Microwave

Breakfast:

  • Oatmeal with raisins and milk
  • Scrambled eggs with toast and oranges
  • Peanut Butter French Toast: Mix 1 egg with ¼ milk. Coat 4 pc of bread w/ mixture and cook over lightly greased pan on medium heat. Spread with peanut butter or syrup. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Lunch/Dinner:

  • Grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup, applesauce
  • Corn, black bean and cheese quesadilla with salsa, banana
  • Chicken Tacos: Mix 4.5oz canned chicken with ¼ cup salsa over medium heat. Place chicken mixture in 4 taco shells and top with cheese, lettuce and tomato.
  • Veggie chili: Saute ½ diced onion and ½ diced bell pepper in cooking oil over medium heat. Add 2 – 14oz cans of fire-roasted diced tomatoes, 14oz can black beans and 14oz can chili beans with 1 tablespoon chili powder. Bring to boil then simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Skillet Tuna (or Chicken) Noodle Casserole: Cook 12oz pasta per package instructions and drain. Add 2 – 4oz cans tuna, 15oz can peas (drained), 14oz can cream of mushroom soup and ½ cup milk. Simmer until desired consistency.

Meal Plan & Shopping List Tool

Food Safety

  • Clean
    • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before prepping any food.
    • Avoid cross-contamination by using different knives and cutting boards for meat and non-meat products. 
    • Ensure the surface you are using to prepare food is clean. 
  • Cook
    • If you have access to a stove, oven, hot plate or microwave make sure food is cooked to doneness.
    • Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature. 
    • Cook chicken and turkey until juices run clear and meat is no longer pink (165°F).
    • Cook meat (beef, pork) until it is no longer pink (145°F).
    • Leftovers should be reheated to 165°F.
  • Store
    • Perishable food should not sit out for longer than 2 hours.
    • Thaw meat and poultry in a refrigerator overnight, not sitting out at room temperature. 
  • Store food in airtight containers or zip-top bags.

Additional Resources

Check out these statewide resources or reach out to your local WIC clinic if you need help with additional food sources, housing, transportation or other resources within your community.

Source: Homeless Nutrition Education Toolkit Sacramento Hunger Coalition

This post was last updated on August 9th, 2021 at 11:50 AM

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