As many of you brought to my attention when I asked you to use the Personal Chef Approach™ (PCA™) to “Feed Your Family and Theirs” in support of the Children’s Hunger Crisis in East Africa last year, food instability is a growing concern right here in the United States. One in six children in America do not know where or when their next meal will come from. A nutritious, well-balanced diet is critical for healthy growth and development, especially in the first 3 years of life, and the lack thereof can effect a person forever.

Good nutrition for children is vital

Good nutrition for children is vital

” According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 16.2 million children under 18 in the United States live in this condition – unable to consistently access nutritious and adequate amounts of food necessary for a healthy life.” Lane Buckman decided to do something about it in her own community, and came up with a clever idea and competition to enlist your help (and it won’t cost you a penny), the Grocery Rescue Challenge.

Lane: Since I learned to cook using the PCA™, I find myself looking at food and it’s preparation very differently. I catch myself pre-prepping just about everything. It has made a huge and wonderful difference for me, saving me time that I’ve been able to put to good use in other places such as volunteering at the North Texas Food Bank (NTFB) working the Grocery Rescue – Family Box line.

The Personal Chef Approach dinners

PCA™ dinners

Our job is to sort through the boxes of food donated by grocery stores – separating the expired, ruined, or unlabeled goods. We also pack boxes full of food meant to feed a family for at least a week. First we put down a layer of cans, then fill the top of the banker size box with whatever goods we can gather out of the groceries.

It’s challenging, and we work hard to prepare boxes that will satisfy as much nutrition as possible. I try to focus on finding foods that will combine and hold well, and provide the family cook with options – all the while thinking how would I serve this to my family?  How could I make this a lunch and a dinner?  I actually apply the PCA™ to my boxes, and about three boxes in, the workers from the food bank started cheering my work!

After those first few boxes, I wished I could throw in the recipes I had in mind too, because if I had received a box like this prior to learning the PCA™… well, let’s just say I wouldn’t have had the first idea of what to do with it. When I came home, I emailed Julie Anne. Knowing her commitment to help end hunger, plus how creative the awesome members of her website are, I suggested a challenge that I hope will raise awareness and offer a solution to families getting a grab-bag of groceries.

Teaching your children the joy of giving while having fun getting creative

Win-win: teaching your children the joy of giving while having fun getting creative

The Challenge

Using the list of ingredients below, try to create recipes for a few meals that will feed 3-4 people.  You may use bonus ingredients of unlimited amounts of salt and pepper, 4 tbs of butter, and a half gallon of milk. Send your recipes to, and I will pass along the top 5 entries to Julie Anne for final judging.

Each box ends up something like this:

  • 6 or 7 cans of assorted vegetables.
  • 3 or 4 cans of assorted soup/chili/ravioli
  • 2 small cans of tomato paste
  • 2 or 3 cans of chicken/beef
  • 3 or 4 cans of tuna
  • 3 cans of Vienna Sausages
  • a bag of rice
  • a bag of spaghetti
  • 4 packages of Ramen noodles
  • 2 boxes of Jiffy cornbread mix
  • 1 bottle of salad dressing
  • 1 bottle of cooking oil
  • 1 bottle of vinegar
  • Peanut butter
  • a small bag of pasta
  • a bag of dried beans
  • chicken stock
  • Some kind of fruit canned/cupped/applesauce
  • A couple of boxes of ready-to-make pasta or mac-n-cheese


gift certificate to for 3 months

Win a gift certificate to for 3 months

The winner will receive a 3 month Premium Membership to, a sparkly gift from One Star Designs, and a great surprise.  I will also share the winning recipes with the North Texas Food Bank as an option to print out for anyone who wants them.

PS. Helping others is not only a great character building exercise for your children, you can have a lot of fun getting creative together in the kitchen like I did with my son. Here’s what we did with a couple of the Vienna sausages and a handful of spaghetti noodles:

Spaghetti and Vienna sausage jelly fish

Spaghetti and Vienna sausage jelly fish

Jellyfish for the Belly

  • Cut the sausages into ½ inch rounds.
  • Break the spaghetti noodles into 4 inch pieces
  • Stick 8 to 10 noodle pieces into each of the sausage rounds
  • Boil until noodles are tender and wiggly
  • Serve on a plate with dipping sauce of your favorite child’s choice.

– or try something like Jewels did –

Julie Anne's black bean spaghetti

Black & White Bean Spaghetti

I first made this for a friend that Tatjana had visiting last summer, and they both gave it the thumbs up, so I started making it for my vegetarian clients too.  Packed full of fiber and protein, this is a very healthy yet hardy meal you can easily make on a tight budget. It’s a real hodgepodge of ingredients, so don’t worry if you are lacking a couple – it will still be bursting with flavor and nutrients guaranteed to fill you up.

Servings: 4


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 small red bell pepper, seeded, deveined, and chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomato
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 ounce can white beans, undrained
2 tablespoons capers
1/4 cup black olives, sliced
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped or 3/4 teaspoon dried
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
1 package of whole wheat spaghetti
Parmesan cheese, grated


1). Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions, peppers, and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened with a little color, about 8-9 minutes. Add the garlic, cook 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant.

2). Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar, black beans, white beans, capers, olives, oregano, parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer, 10 minutes while you cook the pasta. Stir in basil.

3). Cook pasta in a large saucepan according to package instructions. Drain well and add back to pan.

4). Pour our sauce over the pasta, toss and serve sprinkled with Parmesan.

Serving Suggestions:

Serve with a mixed green salad, grilled vegetables, or balsamic marinated vegetables.


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  • May 22, 2012
    8:13 am

    This is awesome Lane & Jewels! I can’t wait to see the PCA recipes from this!

    • May 23, 2012
      9:36 am

      You’re great at being innovative in the kitchen – can’t wait to see what you dream up, and ask Michela too – she’s super creative.

  • May 22, 2012
    9:11 am

    First of all huge kudos to Lane for volunteering AND thinking outside the box AND the contest! Every community should have a lady like you!! Fantastic idea to get the box’s new owner involved in healthier eating too. On goes my thinking cap for this recipe!! As always, fantastic blog post, Lane!

    PS Your son is growing! What a cutie!

    • May 22, 2012
      5:15 pm

      Rachel, he’s grown 4 inches in the past year. It’s shocking how quickly he outgrew his pants. Thank goodness for summer and shorts.

      Can’t wait to see your recipes!!!

      • May 23, 2012
        9:42 am

        I was thinking the same thing – Thor looks SO mature and tall! Such a cutie.

      • May 23, 2012
        9:42 am

        Rachel – I know you and your girls will dream up something fabulous – talk about a creative family!

  • May 22, 2012
    9:33 am

    Wonderful post and ideas! Lane, you are amazing to think of using PCA for build27ing the food boxes and the recipe idea rocks! I know that I would use the recipes to balance out the month when money is tight. JulieAnne, love the recipe and printing it off for this week. Planning a PCA Sunday for May 27 with me getting groceries on Saturday or possibly Friday. Finally got a blender, now saving for a pantry closet to house appliances. 🙂

    • May 23, 2012
      9:45 am

      Ruthee – I need one of those too – my whole dining room is covered in cooking and photography equipment.

      You are ace in figuring out nutritious vegetarian meals – I’m sure you can dream up something yummy to do with one of these boxes!

      • May 23, 2012
        12:09 pm

        Already working on some ideas! So happy you and Lane put this idea out to us. With a lot of people working on this task, a lot of recipes will be generated. If everyone submits theirs to their local food bank, this could be an initiative that crosses many borders. Plus, people will develop recipes based on the preferences or what they know to be familiar to local people/food banks. I’m planning to take the list along with a notebook to bed with me tonite to work on. Hugs to you and Lane for putting this in your blog!

      • May 23, 2012
        12:12 pm

        BRILLIANT idea about giving local food banks copies of these recipes too Ruthee!

  • May 22, 2012
    9:40 am

    Lane – what a fantastic idea!!! I wish we had you at the Hoboken Shelter – they could really use someone as creative and thoughtful as you!

    I’m going to run this list of food by my kids and see what they can come up with – that should be interesting…

    Lane – your son is so yummy!!

    Jewels – LOVE the jellyfish!

    • May 23, 2012
      9:50 am

      EVERY community needs a Lane, oh wait – Hoboken has YOU! My lord Jodi, you are constantly giving of yourself and your talents! I am so impressed by the philanthropic nature of all the PCA members – we do have a strong and wonderfully creative community.

  • May 22, 2012
    12:50 pm

    Lane, what’s the deadline for sending our submissions to you?

    • May 22, 2012
      4:17 pm

      Great question!
      June 4–gives a full two weeks that way.

  • May 22, 2012
    8:34 am

    I LOVE THIS! What a wonderful idea Lane & Jewels!!!

    I was a recipient of such boxes in the past. I know others who have been, also. For those who ONLY get these boxes and also the produce ones, it can be VERY challenging to come up with nutritious meals from them, especially recipes with no meat. Often, the recipients have no money for meat (or very little…they frequent the nearly expired, quick sale meat section and know the best times to go!). I will be attempting to come up with a recipe for this to do my part. AWESOME idea!!! Love you gals!

    • May 22, 2012
      5:14 pm

      Simone, I’m really looking forward to seeing your recipes. It was crazy how excited I got whenever someone opened pallet that had tuna or tinned beef in it. It wasn’t filet mignon, but it was protein, and I was lunging after it for it to go in my families boxes.

      • May 23, 2012
        9:40 am

        With the economy like it is, not everyone can contribute financially these days, so I LOVE when people like Lane find ways to involve everyone in lending helping hand. It is the little acts of kindness like this that build into making a difference for everyone involved.

        It is not just the families receiving these boxes that benefit – it is such a great way to lead by example for your children to learn the joy of giving. Everyone wins!

  • May 22, 2012
    11:32 am

    Thanks, everyone! Julie Anne and I were emailing about what great examples my grandparents and parents were, when it comes to giving. Of course Julie Anne is one of my role models, and thinking about her PCA method is really what catalyzed the idea. I am very excited to see the recipes everyone comes up with!

    • May 23, 2012
      9:54 am

      What people often miss is that you actually GET so much out of giving. When you care – it opens your own heart. I always imagine the Grinch when I feel my heart expand.

      I mean think about it – with this challenge, all it costs you is a little and time and creative energy – that’s FUN in my book, PLUS you’ll be helping people make the most of what they receive.

  • May 22, 2012
    1:06 pm

    This is a fantastic idea! Unfortunately, I am one of those people who needs a recipe in order to know what to do with all of those ingredients. LOL My mom, on the other hand, is amazing in the kitchen! She can look in the cupboards and make anything in there taste wonderful. I will have to pass this by her and see what she comes up with. Good job Lane and Jewels!


  • May 23, 2012
    9:56 am

    I used to be like that Dawn, but once I started trusting my cooking abilities, I started doing more and more of my own thing. You can do it! Just pick one ingredient as your main focus, and figure out things you could do with it, then see how the other box ingredients fit in.

  • May 24, 2012
    8:00 am

    As the Nutrition Education Manager at the North Texas Food Bank, it’s very exciting to see your passion for connecting education with food assistance!

    I believe you would also enjoy volunteering with our Cooking Matters program, which allows volunteers to directly work with low-income audiences on ways to cook healthy, affordable and delicious food.

    If you are interested in supporting nutrition education at the North Texas Food Bank or if you have any questions, feel free to email me at

  • May 24, 2012
    9:25 pm

    Hey Katherine – I’m thrilled to meet you, and I think what NTFB is doing is absolutely amazing! I’m hoping Lane will see this – I’m actually in California, or I would be thrilled to come down and teach a cooking class, but I know this is a cause near and dear to her heart. I do hope you two connect.

    • May 25, 2012
      6:39 pm

      I just got a chance to log in, and I’m very excited to see this! Katherine, I will email you.