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Places to get food:

 

 

 

1. Frugal Options

2. Low-Income Options

 

Frugal Options:

 

Accessibility to low-cost, healthy, & quality food is critical. I avoid using any vending machines or purchases of food that is not hot from convenience stores & gas stations because it can usually be purchased more cheaply in higher quantity elsewhere. The quality of hot gas station food can also be pretty bad so I don't eat it much. For instance, I once saw a dead fly in the pickle relish in the hot dog (which of course are not very healthy, although some varieties are much better than others) stand in a 7-11. Better quality control seems to exist at fast food locations. Nutrition is also important to keep in mind, especially fiber and plenty of water. In addition to a water bottle, I tend to keep things like banana chips, raisins, and sometimes other foods like granola bars, jerky (although it's often a bit on the pricey side even if you get it in mass quantity unless you're getting it by hunting. The best prices I've found for jerky besides hunting and other unconventional methods is when it's on sale at Costco or Sams Club), and shelled sunflower seeds in my car.

 

Stores:

Costco (or often Sams Club if one's closer even though there will likely be some variation):

I get a 7 lb. bag of organic whole grain steel cut quick-cooking oats and a 4 lb. box of organic raisins from Costco. Costco's also a great place to get cinnamon to add to that. Rice can go very cheap at Costco (The last time I checked you could get a 50 lb bag for under $20, with pricier healthier grain alternatives available as well) as well and the selection is great. A gift card to Costco can get you in if you are not a member. You can get rotisserie chickens that are 3 lbs for $5 from Costco and Sams, and uncooked chicken even cheaper. 

 

Aldi:

I get fruit for under $1/lb from Aldi, with bananas as a <$.50 staple and looking for whatever (apples, pineapple, watermelon, grapes, kiwi, pears, peaches, plums, nectarines, etc) is on sale as long as it is at or under $1/lb. I also get sweet potatoes from there. I also get banana chips, dry roasted unsalted peanuts, and shelled sunflower seeds here. 

 

The Dollar Tree:

When double fiber, extra protein, or 9 grain bread is available, I like to get it from the Dollar Tree to make PBJ's. I typically freeze the bread then pop it in a toaster oven when ready to make a PBJ.

 

Walmart:

I get cans of frozen veggies with no salt for $.38 per standard size can from Walmart. I mostly get peas and corn because green beans are too low calorie and alternative options tend to be more expensive. Another option to consider is dried beans and split peas to go even cheaper. I also get peanut butter and jelly from Walmart at times, including both grape and apple jelly. 

 

Discounts at other locations:

Sometimes I find deals via sales at other stores or in the discounted section of certain stores like Kroger. An example that I've seen & purchased at Kroger and other stores is 64 oz of 100% juice apple juice for $1 & turkey for less than 50 cents a pound around Thanksgiving/Christmas. 

 

Fast Food:

I suggest regularly checking the apps/deals for Sonic (especially the ones that come via text), Burger King, McDonald's, and Wendy's if they are each available. I usually eat for $1 at each place, getting a sandwich (or discounted chicken nuggets) and a glass of water. For a long time this year the McDonald's app had the best deals by far, but at the time of this writing, it's more even between BK and McDonald's. Earlier in the year, they had a long time promo for almost any sandwich at McDonald's to get them for $1 without buying anything else, including the double filet o fish, quarter pounder w cheese, etc. BK (at the time of this writing) has $1 whoppers & Crispy Chicken Sandwiches via mobile orders right now. I sweeten the deal w a 10 cents cashback per purchase debit card regardless of the price and a few extra cents by using Samsung Pay, which is ideal for a $1 purchase. If no short-term deal is available, see if the ongoing price of nuggets at BK is 10/$ and if the ongoing price of a double hamburger at McDonald's is $1 or $1.19. When eating like a Spartan, the same thing over and over can get boring. I increase the taste by requesting extra ketchup, mustard, and pickles, but request no salt. Also, with $1 often not being sufficient for a full meal, I will often supplement a $1 fast food purchase with items purchased elsewhere, eating them at another time, including but not limited to in the car right after while driving if I sit down in a fast food restaurant to eat for wifi access or otherwise.

Hunting, gathering, gardening, & fishing:

Especially if you have good spots to do it & the time to do it, hunting, gathering, gardening, and fishing can not only be a fun way to acquire food but an economical one. For instance, in VA, if you own land, or certain members of your immediate family do, and the laws don't prohibit hunting, fishing, or gathering, you don't even need the license that you normally would. It's important to be sure to follow the law though in the process. Keep in mind, however, that sometimes police will not know their own laws well, so it's important to be well informed prior to going about this process. I can remember shotting skeet on my father's property, only for police to tell us to stop even though we had every right to. Thankfully we were able to get it cleared up with the sheriff, who knew the laws better than his deputies, but it just goes to show you. Also, if selling anything you acquire, know not only the laws regarding that but also the fact that the town could change the law on you, which is especially important if you are going to heavily invest in something like my family did with oyster farming. Hunting, gathering, gardening, and fishing can very often be very healthy options, with certain exceptions like pig farming. Prior to planting anything, it's important to check to verify that whatever you are planting is zoned to thrive in that climate. For instance, in Hampton Roads, VA, many varieties of pecans, walnuts, peanuts, blackberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash can all do very well. It is very important as well though to make sure that the soil is good soil and that you have an efficient watering system in place before planting anything. I personally prefer those plants that you plant once and can keep coming back to harvest more every year like many fruit & nut bushes & trees. The most cost-effective forms of hunting, of course, are those where you can either reuse a trap or where there is a lot of meat from a single bullet (i.e. a deer, elk, or moose depending on your state). Knowing what plants are edible is also very beneficial. There is a weed, for instance, where I know of practically no one besides those who I have told and those very familiar with gathering who know that you can cook and eat its leaves. 

There are some piers that allow free access for fishing where the pier has a license and no one fishing needs one, such as a fishing pier located at Yorktown Beach. 

There are some options that show you where you can gather fruits, nuts, and other edible plants. For instance, most acorns in America aren't eaten by people, while they were a staple part of the diet of some Native American tribes. If you've never had acorns, you're missing out on taste and nutrition. There are multiple maps available online or via app for locating edible plants, and the number of apps for plant identification via picture is growing greatly. Here is a website/app I use for locating edible plants, where I've added some myself to at least 4 locations in Hampton Roads. If you find the website useful, the app is only $1. With plant identification, it's critical to be sure that you are consuming something edible, as there are sometimes lookalikes that can be fatal if consumed, and some edibles need preparation before you can eat them, like acorns. I use the free app "PlantNet" for identifying plants. Shroomify is a good free one specific to mushrooms & this page has some more in section 3.

Aggressive recycling & store donations: While I don't currently practice this method of acquiring food, due primarily to cultural conformity & the negative impact of this practice on others' opinions of you, there was a time in my life when this method was my primary means of food. In the United States, there is so much wasted food that it could feed entire countries. 

 

Some businesses donate their leftovers and expired items at the end of the day, while others have no one to collect them, so they trash them. Others have policies due to liability & inconvenience that prohibit them from donating, such as Aldi years ago. If you visit a dozen bakeries, you are likely to find at least a few that would be willing to donate to a church or a ministry where they are currently trashing items and have no policy against donating. A liability release form may be required, but you can find something like that online. By going through a ministry, knowing their tax ID number with the authorization of a church, ministry, or non-profit, it will give you legitimacy when requesting that an individual who is in need does not have. I find that bakeries and places with mass-produced bread are most often places that could be donating and have no one to pick up. Some of the places I found that would donate to a 501c-3 based club I established, depending on the location, were 7-11, Panera (although they may already be donating, sometimes you can ask for donations when someone doesn't show up for pick up), Einsteins Bagels, and 7-11 (sandwiches). Local specific places also donated that were focused on bread, like a mom & pop bagel bakery and another small chain that baked their own bread. FYI, it is difficult to find fruits, veggies, and meat in this fashion. I found that most are either going already going to a food pantry, food bank, or the store has a policy about trashing them. I secured about a dozen locations in the Chicagoland area that were willing to donate through this means. After getting denied by 3 Aldi's due to corporate policy, and heavily researching aggressive recycling (dumpster diving) including legality, disease, and otherwise, I looked into the dumpster of an Aldi one day in 2007 or 2008 while in college at Wheaton. What I saw changed the next year or two of my life, where I engaged rather heavily into aggressive recycling, providing food for myself and others. One critically important matter to note is that if providing food to others via this method, you must tell them how you acquired the food. I made this mistake and it cost me a friendship once where the person in need who I gave large quantities of food to was deeply hurt. It is also important to weigh the negative impact that it can have on your friendships by those who know that you engage in this method due to negative cultural perceptions of the practice, particularly among the more ethnocentric. Also, this method works better in colder climates, especially for food that requires freezing or refrigeration. If going about this method, I recommend avoiding all food that requires freezing/refrigeration initially, as I did, in light of the culturally revolting notions that I had despite the research I was doing in light of the culture in which I grew up. I recommend heavily researching this method yourself prior to attempting it, knowing the possible negatives if you do. I no longer practice this method.

 

Low Income:

 

Check out a map of options in Hampton Roads, VA, by searching on Abba List.

 

If you're low income, hunger shouldn't be a problem in America if you know what you're doing & work the system. I remember a homeless friend of mine who had a job, but said that he "never" spent any money on food. He would buy plenty of alcohol, which sometimes meant that he couldn't eat at places with free food if he was intoxicated, but he would never buy food. He knew how to work the system, even if he was lax sometimes by showing up to a feeding while still tipsy. That said, his addiction was probably the number one thing that kept him homeless. 

 

While hunger should not be a problem with a small understanding of the system in America, nutrition sometimes is. The more that you know about the right channels, the better nutrition you can get. Without knowing much, but knowing a little, you probably won't be hungry, but you might be malnourished with a diet of mostly bread & lesser portions of meat. Eating those alone will mean that you're a lot more likely to get things like pancreatic cancer from not having enough fiber. It's also important to break the norm here among homeless & poor people. Some people don't believe in the whole "culture of poverty". I do. I saw it firsthand abundantly clearly. When 2nds was called, the meat and potatoes were cleaned out quickly, while no one got 2nds on peas. Plenty of people didn't get any seconds because the only item left was peas. Peas are the #1 nutritious food that they could have eaten that night by far out of the 3. With vitamins and fiber, it serves exactly what a homeless diet lacks too much of. I got a whole plate of peas for seconds that night. I suggest getting some education on the kinds of foods you should be eating, focusing on veggies that are not starches (corn, white potatoes, etc.).

 

If you're homeless &/or your income is low, you may be eligible for food stamps. When I Google "food stamps in Virginia" the first non-ad site that comes up is the one I'm looking for, here.  

 

It's critical to budget your food stamps & any other funds for food wisely so that you don't run out before the end of the month. It's best to try to eat minimalistically for the first 3 weeks of the month prior to larger purchases for more long-term foods near the end of the month. Large bags of rice (you can get a 50 lb bag for less than $20 at Costco), large containers of oatmeal (Costco & Sams Club are my go-to's here as well), large bags of beans (you can get a lb of dried beans for $1 at the Dollar Store and get get even cheaper at Kroger, Sams Club, and Walmart at time) large bags of flower (Costco & Sams), etc. can be very wise purchases. I also get $5 3 lb rotisseries from Costco & Sams Club for convenience. I have a large stockpile of canned veggies, especially peas, which I got 3/$1 while they were on sale from a regular grocery store like Farm Fresh, Kroger, or Food Lion. I usually get fresh fruits & fresh vegetables from Aldi where the items on sale can be incredible deals, usually not going over $1/lb. Bananas are especially cheap but I've even seen Kiwi at less than 50 cents a pound I believe. Raw carrots, especially on sale, can be a great staple veggie. I usually eat mine with peanut butter I get from Costco or Sams, and it's even better when you blend peanut butter and cinnamon which is really cheap at Costco. If you know a member of Costco or another wholesale store, that can be one of the best places to get these items. Having a good freezer and stockpiling when good deals come up (like $1/lb split chicken breast or cheaper leg quarters on sale at normal grocery stores or cheap frozen turkeys around Thanksgiving) is also a good idea. 

 

Look for your local food bank. By Googling "food bank Hampton" I went to the first non-ad website, and found this list of opportunities. 

 

Some local churches have their own food pantries that can also help. By Googling "food pantry Hampton" I went to the first non-ad website, and found this list of opportunities. 

Food Pantries:

HELP