In this economy, shopping at Aldi, watching for double coupon days and stocking up on sale items still leave the food budget overdrawn for some individuals or families. Anyone who's caught economically between a food shelf and a discount grocer can try Fare for All or Angel Food Ministries. Both programs offer groceries at a savings of 40 to 50 percent compared with most supermarkets. Anyone is eligible to use either program. The food provided at each site is fresh, frozen or packaged, purchased from large food suppliers. The menu changes slightly each month.

Ted Evans, communications coordinator for Fare for All, said that usage is up 25 percent since February. The White Bear Lake site that sold 390 packages of food in February sold 541 last month. "The program is for anyone who wants to make the most of their food dollar so they don't end up in a worse situation," he said.

Fare for All (, 763-450-3880) offers pre-packaged food packs at 16 city and suburban sites around the Twin Cities (93 sites statewide). Anyone can find the schedule by calling or checking online. The New Hope site offers packages from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. every Monday. Other sites are available once a month. Offerings include the regular pack ($17) containing two to three fresh fruits, four to five fresh vegetables, and four to five frozen meats. The meat pack ($12) includes four to five meat items such as beef, chicken, fish and pork. The vegetarian pack ($10) contains fresh fruits and vegetables along with rice, beans, pasta or peanut butter. A family pack ($20), light pack ($12) and seasonal specials are also available.

The New Hope location also stocks a few a la carte items such as bread or excess produce. Customers go to any of the sites and pay and pick up food on the designated day of the month. Cash, credit cards and food stamps (EBT) are accepted. Customers may purchase as many packages as needed.

Christy Bidon of Ham Lake has used the program occasionally since 2007. "You can't beat the prices," she said. She recently spent $25 for a package that included a ham, bread, potatoes, six cans of fruits and vegetables, gravy mix and dessert. A similar ham at a discount supermarket was $22 alone, she discovered. Bidon feels that the program has made her family eat healthier. "We made fresh spaghetti with the ingredients purchased at Fare for All instead of eating it out of a can," she said. The program got her to try eggplant for the first time, a vegetable she had never eaten or cooked before.

Both she and her husband volunteer at the program, too. Most of the Fare for All program is staffed by volunteers. Customers are asked to volunteer two hours per month for each month they buy groceries from the program. Volunteering does not have to be done with the Fare for All program and is at each person's discretion. Fare for All is a program of the Emergency Food Network.

Angel Food Ministries

Angel Food Ministries (www.angel, 1-877-366-3646) offers $65 worth of groceries for $30, including strip steak, chicken breast chunks and filet, pizza, beef patties, hot dogs, cheese, vegetables, French fries, tortillas, rice, canned peaches, pancake mix, milk, eggs and dessert. The box feeds a family of four for a week or a single person for a month, according to Angel Food. Nine additional specialty boxes are available for anyone purchasing the basic box, including a senior menu, allergen-free and vegetarian. There are no purchase limits, applications or qualifications. Ordering can be done online with cash, credit card, money orders or food stamps. The next distribution day will be 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. April 25 at Living Word Christian Center, Church of New Life and Oak Hill Baptist.

Products and brands are comparable to what you'd find in a grocery store, said Michelle Malarz of Crystal, who recently used the Living Word program. "I was pleased with it. My mom, aunt and sister have ordered it, too, and we'll swap favorites," she said. "I liked the curbside pickup option." Living Word distributes about 1,300 to 1,800 boxes of food per month.

Angel Food Ministries, a national program, is affiliated in the Twin Cities with Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park (763-315-7111), Oak Hill Baptist Church in Columbia Heights (763-789-4337) or Church of New Life in Richfield (612-823-6822, ext. 22).

John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633 or If you spot a deal, share it at