Syringes to Sobriety

Stories and Advice from a Real Heroin Addict
Eating Salad With A Spoon

Prison Food Recipes-Eating Salad with a Spoon

Those of us with a history of substance abuse are no strangers to serving jail or prison time.  I served my time in Maricopa County’s Estrella Jail.  There are many things to prepare for when one is facing a jail or prison sentence.  Knowledge of prison food recipes will help make the time you spend inside a lot more bearable.

I wish our justice system had a more effective way of trying to help substance abusers, but most of the time they lock them up.  For some twisted reason, judges and many of those unfamiliar with substance abuse disorders, believe throwing a user in a cell is a great way to make them want to quit.  Unfortunately, jail and prison can have the compete opposite effect.  From the way inmates are treated to the food they are forced to eat, it is a wonder ANYONE would want to stay sober after such a traumatic ordeal.  I would like to help make your experience less traumatic so you feel less bitter when released and more revved up to continue your recovery.

While serving my sentence, I journaled constantly.  It is the only thing that kept me sane.  As a result, I amassed tremendous amount of stories, tips, insights, and more pertaining to life in jail.  I hope these writing can help those of you facing jail or prison time.

Today I will share with you an excerpt from one of my most useful resources.  Can you guess what it is?  Probably not…

It jailhouse recipe book, Eating Salad with a Spoon!

During my sentence, my bunkies and I developed some of the tastiest recipes on the block! (excuse the pun!)

I recommend memorizing the recipe include below before you serve your sentence.  Keep in mind, you will need to make sure someone puts money on your books as soon as you are booked.  With this money, you can order the commissary items required to make your own meals.  Once you see the food they serve you, I promise you will thank me.

Before I share a recipe with you, I want to prepare you for the shock you will experience the first time you are served a jailhouse meal.  Arizona’s Maricopa County Jail has the worst inmate meal plan in the country. You are served two meals a day.

The first is served at 8 am in a plastic bag.  Items include a stale mini loaf of bread, a bruised apple, a personal size package of Ginger or Vanilla snaps, a 4 oz serving of soy peanut butter, and a To Go ketchup size jelly packet.   You are not served another meal until 5 or 6 pm.

Here is an excerpt from my journal describing what you can expect for your second meal:

Most nights we are served slop, which has the consistency of wet dog food, potatoes, and some sort of soggy vegetable:


Photo Credit:  Jail Inmates Go On Hunger Strike Over New Menu

(Don’t let this image I found on Google fool you!)

It’s rare to get an apple that is not half bruised and rotting.  Kitchen staff does not eat their apples because they have witnessed rats crawling among the apple crates.  I try not to think about it because I know how important eating the only fruit I have access to is.  The broccoli above is the best vegetable served and so far I have only had it 2 times.  Lately, we have received a pile of iceberg lettuce each evening, no dressing.  Just dry lettuce.  As you can see, the only utensil an inmate is afforded is the plastic spoon pictured above.  I have become expert at eating salad with a spoon. 

As a working inmate, I am assigned to an overnight shift. I pick up trays of this stuff that have been sitting for just a few hours after mealtime.  In just a few hours, the potatoes and slop have hardened to the tray and I have to bang the tray against the side of the trash can multiple times just to make the food budge.  No wonder my stomach is always upset in here.  A few of my bunk mates work in the kitchen and inform me that there is a starchy calorie packer added into the slop and potatoes.  This must be what makes it okay to only serve two meals a day.  However, if you can stomach the food, you must be careful.  I have ran into dozens of girls who gained upwards of 30 pounds in a month only eating these two inmate meals a day.  I asked a D.O. why it’s necessary to trick inmates into eating so many calories each day.  She responded, “Well, because fat people aren’t as fast.”  

The point of this post is not to scare you though.  For those of you fortunate enough to have people on the ‘outs’ to put money on your books, you can order off inmate canteen weekly.  However, there are not many healthy options so we are forced to become very creative.  Here are the options on inmate canteen:

I have added prices in the quantity line so you can see how expensive things get, as they are all marked up substantially.



Using a few items from the list above, my bunkmates and I started developing recipes like the one I am sharing with you today.

Prisoner Potato Salad

For this recipe, you will need to order cereal.  After you eat the cereal, save the plastic bowl.  Break all the bristles off an inmate comb and use it to poke 20-30 holes in the bottom of the plastic cereal bowl.  This works well as a strainer and you will need it for this first recipe.

Commissary Ingredients:

  • 3 plastic spoonful’s of hot pickle
  • 2 fingers pickle juice(hot pickles from the canteen are packages in pickle juice)
  • 1/2 cup of chicken(this is a delicacy as it costs 3.50 on canteen)
  • 1/4 pouch jalapeño cheddar cheese packet
  • 2 plastic spoonful’s crushed up jalapeño pretzels
  • as many potatoes as you can salvage from your dinner tray


  1. Using you cereal bowl strainer, wash your potato mush from dinner, until only the potatoes remain. (This recipe works best if a few of your bunk mates contribute their potatoes as well, because you are not left with many once you strain the starch off of them.)
  2. After you have separated out the potatoes, add your jalapeno cheddar cheese and pickle juice.  Stir until mixed thoroughly.
  3. Rip a tiny hole in an unopened bag of jalapeno pretzels.  Lay the bag on the floor and stomp on it until pretzels are crushed down to a spice consistency.
  4. Add chicken and hot pickle pieces to the potato mixture and stir
  5. Lastly, add jalapeno pretzel spice to taste
  6. Serve to your bunkmates, and enjoy!

Trust me, it is simple things like this that make your time bearable.

Hope you have enjoyed this recipe and stay tuned for how to receive your own personal copy of our Eating Salad with a Spoon Jailhouse Recipe Book!

If you have any of your own recipes, feel free to share them in the comment section below.  Also, if you have information about another state’s meal program feel free to share.

Stay strong everyone!


7 comments on “Prison Food Recipes-Eating Salad with a Spoon

  1. Oh I love it! Wish I had a jailhouse cookbook while I was locked up. The food in there is so super nasty and unhealthy!! Even the food on commissary which most inmates can not afford to purchase anyway, is so bad for you. I doubt you could put together a commissary meal in there with less than 3000 calories in it. Literally, no good options.

  2. This is a really interesting and eye-opening glimpse into a world I know nothing about. Sounds like you really have to get creative to get any flavor into your life. I’m sure that this will help prepare someone serving their time and help them to delight in the little successes while in a traumatic and unfortunate circumstance. I look forward to reading more of your articles, really interesting stuff!

    1. Jail or prison can be scary when someone does not know what to expect, so it is good to feel a little prepared beforehand. Thanks for stopping by Melyssa!

  3. This is certainly a cookbook with a difference! It certainly gives me an insight into what life ‘away’ is like, plus some giggles as well, just as you promised. and it’s great that you’ve been able to take such an experience and share it in this way. In addition to being entertained, I am humbled and moved. Best regards, and good wishes for your continued success!

    1. Thanks Lorna. I do hope that through humor I can reach those who would never think to listen to an inmates perspective of things. Will be sharing more soon!

  4. This was very informative, thank you! I have never been in prison and never actually thought about the food there. As you pointed out, it can be (and is) a very important part of life, especially there.

    And this is actually a good recipe even for common life usage. Thank you for your insight, I am looking forward to new recipes.

    1. Thank you Dalibor. I will be sharing a lot of different experiences from my time in jail. This experience was not as dark as most, but I am hoping my writings will spark conversation about who the majority of people serving time in out jail and prison system are. Sometimes we get caught up in thinking that all inmates are BAD. In truth, a small minority of inmates are inherently ‘bad.’ The majority are creative, intelligent people, most of whom made a mistake that only hurt themselves(i.e. drug users). Then, of course, there are those who are wrongly accused. We must show compassion for everyone.

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