As most of you know, Mike has had THREE different jobs in 2010… what a long year it was!!! His second job was 100% commission (as is this current one). With the decline of the housing market lately, this was a really dry time for the mortgage industry. In fact, things got so bad in the end of the summer/early fall that he did not have a real paycheck for about 6 weeks (that means not even big enough to cover our mortgage). At that point, we decided to see if there was any way we could qualify for food stamps. God worked powerfully, and though we wouldn’t normally qualify, the case worker I met with happened to be a former realtor and understood what it is like to be commissioned. He somehow worked the numbers (he was honest, but he had to project ahead for an average), and we got some help. Mike and I were amazed that we were given $640… way more than we could have expected! Because we qualified for food stamps, I was able to qualify for WIC. Unlike food stamps which only gives you money one month at a time, WIC gives you 3 months worth of “coupons” for food all at once. Although it is humbling to have to ask for assistance, it is such a relief to feel like you don’t have to worry about whether you can put food on the table or not. I spent quite a bit of time researching how to best use these resources to do our best to still eat healthy. A blogger I like had written a series of posts about trying to eat well on a food stamp budget that helped a lot (http://nourishedkitchen.com/food-stamp-challenge-week-1/) Here are some of the things I learned.
Food stamps are great because they give you such freedom! We got a debit-type card that you swipe like any other when you check out, so it was super easy. I don’t think that there was a store I shop at that did not accept it, so yes, I could even keep going to Whole Foods to get some of the specialty stuff I need for Daniel. Thankfully I had recently found out from a friend that some Wal-Mart Markets had started carrying gluten and casein free foods, so I went to check it out. I was able to get the Tinkyada brown rice noodles/spaghetti that we love there for about $1 less that WF, as well as better prices on Muir Glen organic tomatoes and some Bob’s Red Mill grains like brown rice flour. I mainly used the food stamp money to stock up on basic ingredients such as these and fruits, veggies, etc. Oh, another thing I used them on was honey. Normally I like to order raw honey from the food coop, but I couldn’t justify that, so I found the next best thing at Reasor’s- Cheatwood’s honey. Quite a few stores in Tulsa sell it, but Reasor’s has the best price AND they put it on sale sometimes. It seemed like the Lord really made that money s-t-r-e-t-c-h farther than I expected! -I was often reminded of the story of the loaves and the fishes in the Bible or the widow’s oil and flour. :)
What about WIC? Like most things, there are pros and cons. The good thing about WIC is that the government is trying to help people make “healthier” food choices by specifying the foods on which you can spend your coupons, i.e. whole grains, cheeses, peanut butter, beans, milk, eggs, fruits and veggies. However, I don’t agree with everything the government considers healthy- i.e. CEREAL* and JUICE. Many of the coupons were on these items, but I would have preferred being able to get bags of oats or grains and fresh or frozen fruits! Of course, I am not in the majority, so I am probably one of the few who dislikes this aspect. Beggars can’t be choosers, right? Well, here is how I made the most of my coupons:
My favorite store overall to use the WIC coupons was Target. After hours (literally) of walking down aisles and reading ingredients/comparing sizes, I found some nice options. Things I liked to get at Target: milk & cheese (the Archer Farms brand actually does not use rBGH! wow!), whole wheat tortillas (no high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils), organic fruits. Reasor’s was good because they were the only store with the right size cannister of whole oats (WIC requires a specific size)- these were the only whole, unprocessed grains I could get. They also had the better wild, Alaskan canned salmon (Pillar Rock, I think). The salmon was a blessing; I got it because I am a nursing mom… you could choose any canned fish.
Okay, this is getting long. I had more thoughts on eating well on less money, but I will have to write another post. I would love to hear if anyone reading this has any great ideas or experiences like this to share!
* Here is a good blog post that summarizes my thoughts on cereal, in case you are curious: http://www.naturallyknockedup.com/what-is-cereal-good-for/