Saturday, January 24, 2015

How to use your Florida W.I.C. benefits even when your family is on a Paleo Diet

As I mentioned before, my family only lives off of $500 a week. We are also a family of four with two daughters. The oldest just turned 7 and the youngest is 3. Since my husband’s income is from disability insurance, I tried to find ways to help provide my family with what we have needed during this season of our lives. Our family lives in Florida and while we have never qualified for food stamps or federal assistance, we did qualify for the Florida Health Department’s Women, Infant and Children grant program. This is a program whereby my 3 year old receives certain “nutritional” assistance in the form of specific named foods. (If you are a resident of Florida and are interested in the program requirements, click here.) We also have “check-ups” throughout the year at the Department of Health where they finger prick the child to check their iron level. At first, I was scared about doing this and how my child would feel. However, the prick is TWICE a year and since my child was having problems with anemia last year, I thought it might be a way for me to also know where her iron level is currently.

I also have friends who have concerns even after they find out they qualify for this type of assistance. Most of them are dietary concerns. I have one friend who told me her family was going more natural and probably would not eat any of it. So this is a list of encouragement to families who don’t think they could use it…and besides, this is really for the KIDS. While the adults may not drink milk in the household, I think there are more benefits than cons for children under age 5 to receive a glass of milk as part of their regular diet. So here is a list of benefits and possible suggestions for anyone on a more natural diet, paleo diet, or even gluten free diet.

For ONE child, this is what you receive each month:

- 3 gallons of 1% milk

- 1 quart of 1% milk

- 2 lbs of whole grains

- 36 oz. of specific “approved” cereals

- Two 64 oz of juice or One gallon

- 16 oz of protein (peanut butter or beans)

- 16 oz of cheese

- 1 doz large white eggs

- $8.00 worth of fruits and veggies – also “WIC” approved.

Ok, now comes the interesting part. There are some things not on a “paleo” diet per say but close enough. Let me explain.

The milk is your standard milk at the grocery store. However, that being said, you must check your labels. Some stores exclude the hormones in their milk! Gustafson Farms is a local dairy farm near me in Green Cove Springs, Florida. They do not use the rBST hormones that some farmers use. They may not be “organic” but if I use my benefits for milk at Rowe’s grocery store, then I’m supporting two local businesses in my area and I get good fresh milk! It may not be organic, but it’s still good milk.

With the two pounds of whole grains, you have three separate options to use them. One choice is two 16 oz loaves of whole wheat bread. Another choice is two 16 oz packages of Mission yellow corn tortillas (gluten free). (There are other brands out there that are NOT gluten free – so check each store.) The other choice is packages of brown rice. With the rice option, you can buy minute or microwavable rice, or bags of regular brown rice. If you are going Paleo, it’s better to choose the two 16 oz bags of brown rice or the two 16 oz packages of corn tortillas. We try to alternate these each month or make our choice depending on what the store has available.

WIC also allows 36 oz of cereal per month. This cereal can be in the form of instant oatmeal, instant grits or boxes of cereal. Cereal is sometimes a “dirty” word in the paleo diet. If you are trying to go completely un-processed, then you may want to skip getting the cereal. However, if you are going gluten free, then you can use that 36 oz each month towards Rice Chex! While checking the labels, this is the ONLY option for a gluten free and partial paleo diet. Whether you allow your kids to eat the instant grits or oatmeal is up to you. These are individually packaged and do contain preservatives and sugar.

Many different juices are listed on the WIC approved list. But all have to be 100% juice and at least 120% of vitamin C. At walmart, I can get a Gallon of Florida’s Natural orange juice with my benefits. If I don’t want OJ, then my options are Welch’s grape, Mott’s apple, generic grapefruit and generic pineapple juices. However, juices vary from store to store. Publix allows Apple and Eve brand apple juice and Libby’s pineapple juice. We don’t use a lot of juices in our diet but they do come in handy to add flavor when juicing or making marinades for meats. These juices aren’t completely organic, but as I said, I have found options for “natural” juice vs. concentrates. Read labels and visit different stores to compare.

They do allow a type of “protein” on WIC. Your choices are a 16 oz jar of Peanut butter or 16 oz of dry beans (or 4 cans of beans). If you or your children are not allergic to peanut butter, I would suggest getting the “natural” PB. WIC supplies one or two brands of the natural. I have found one of them at Walmart stores. You are only allowed one 16 oz jar a month but I find that plenty for a “dip” with apples. Dry beans are the other choice and very easy to do with a paleo diet. While they only allow certain kinds, all are paleo friendly.

The 16 oz of cheese has three options. First you can get either mild cheddar cheese or mozzarella cheese. The other option is the “better” American cheese that is not individually wrapped. If your paleo diet does not exclude dairy products then I would suggest the first two alternatives. I have found that sometimes the mozzarella is the “fresh” mozzarella and is less processed than other cheeses.

The one dozen eggs is the store brand. These are not organic, nor are they brown eggs. I wish there was another option but for now you can either get the white or skip it.

The last thing on the list of benefits is usually something I spend first. They allow $8.00 for “fruits and vegetables”. You can use it on jarred salsa, canned fruit, canned veggies, frozen veggies, frozen fruits and fresh fruits/veggies. I usually go with the fresh option as it can be labeled organic! Walmart, for example, sells a bag of organic apples for $3.67 and carrots for a little over a dollar! Plus since my family follows the “dirty dozen” list of organic fruits/veggies, we will buy regular oranges with this money. This usually allows for one bag of apples and one bag of oranges a month! That helps not only my three year old, but the rest of us too!

Above are just some ideas to help families who have a special dietary concern and are considering if or how they should use those WIC benefits that they qualify for. This is just one way we are able to supplement our grocery budget and stay within our $500 a week for all of our expenses. I don’t plan to live on the benefits forever…and in fact, a family cannot unless they keep having kids! Remember you must be pregnant or have a child under age 5 to qualify. For now this helps us through this “season” of our life and my hope is that after some of you read this, you may see how flexible these benefits are to you and your family should you have them.

I have also found some couponing strategies to use with WIC benefits! I will address that in a later article. For now…God Bless and come back Sew Hungry For More.