Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Using WIC efficiently and effectively!

I know that some of my readers use the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program, and this post is for you!

There have been a lot of changes recently, most noteworthy is the addition of whole wheat products and produce checks. There has also been a drastic reduction (by 50% or more) of the juice allotment, and a reduction of the milk allotment. However, the types you can buy have also changed. In the past, the options for milk were regular fresh milk in a gallon container. However, now you can get powdered, shelf stable quarts, or even canned- which is a good thing for people that may only have a tiny fridge. And with the juice, the new options are either frozen concentrate, or premixed 1/2 gallon containers.

One of the biggest problems with the new packages is the lack of stock in many stores. I went looking for a 16oz package of brown rice (can be regular or instant) but came up empty. Tortillas may or may not be carried by your store. And let's not even start with the *fun* of trying to find a 16oz loaf of whole wheat bread....

Ok, so on to using it more efficiently. Ask your local store if they honor the "Buy one get one free" sales on your WIC items. You could possibly get 2 lbs of cheese if there's a BOGO sale!

Don't eat cereal for breakfast? Then get either Chex or cornflakes or FiberOne, and use it for something else. With the Chex, you can make Chex mix. FiberOne and corn flakes make FANTASTIC breading for oven "fried" chicken.

Excess milk can be used to make yogurt or yogurt cheese.

Cheese blocks are still allowed- so you can still get the 1lb block of cheddar, mozzarella, colby, etc. instead of the standard American cheese. Shred the cheese at home, freeze on a cookie sheet, then empty into a freezer bag with a bit of cornstarch to prevent sticking. Voila, you have your own low cost shredded cheese!

Dried beans are a staple in my house, but they may not be in yours. You can get a one pound package of beans, dried peas, or lentils. There are SO many uses for these, but I'll only post a few ideas here:

Lentils can be sprouted- 1/2 cup of dried lentils becomes 2 cups of sprouts after only a few days! They also cook quickly, ready to go in about 45 minutes when simmered on the stove. They don't need to be soaked, which is a HUGE advantage. They also have the benefit of having a meat-like texture, which means you can stretch some meat dishes using lentils. A favorite in our household is shephards' pie with lentils- 1/2 lb meat and 1 cup cooked lentils are in the meat layer (and the lentils are covered in gravy, so you don't notice them!)

Dried split peas in the crockpot with a ham bone and chicken stock or water= split pea soup base. You can go "traditional", or go crazy and add curry powder for curried pea soup.

Pinto beans are a favorite around here- rinse, pick over, and soak beans overnight. Then, drain and rinse again in the morning, and stick in the crockpot with 2 inches of water above the bean level, then let cook all day. DO NOT ADD SALT UNTIL JUST BEFORE SERVING. When you add salt, the beans will stop getting softer at that point, and if you add it too soon you'll end up with hard beans.

Peanut butter is another option in the packages. You can use it in recipes for cookies, or cold peanut noodle salad.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cloth Diapering

Yes, yes, I know. Not for everyone- but I've got a few tricks up my sleeve on this one.

First of all, we have 20 diapers for 2 children. No, that's not much, about a day and a half's supply. I only wash 16 of them at a time- one on each kid, plus a change ready to go for each kid. We don't do cloth when travelling- whether it be for a day trip or an overnighter. It can be done, we just don't do it (to save my sanity).

Diaper laundry is not nearly as daunting as it sounds. I use a wet pail, which basically means that I use a pail that once held kitty litter filled with water for the diapers waiting to be washed. I change the water a couple of times per day- but again, I only have a day or two's supply of diapers.

When it comes time to do the diaper laundry, I drain as much of the stinky water off as I can, then dump the diapers into the washer and run a full cold cycle to get any yuckies off. Then, I pull the inserts out of the diapers, and run the hottest water I can into the washer, adding a "half dose" of laundry detergent (right now I'm using Arm and Hammer free and clear laundry detergent) and then letting it agitate for a couple minutes, then stop the washer for an hour so that the diapers can soak in the water and soap mixture. Then I come back, turn the washer back on, and run the longest hot cycle with a double cold rinse. After that, I run one final cold rinse cycle- and I always double check to make sure there are no suds during this rinse. If there are, then another rinse is on tap. The key is to make sure that there is no soap residue on the diapers!

When the washing is finally done, into the dryer they go. I try (emphasis on try) to stuff the diapers when they're finally dry, but that doesn't always happen. We usually have to purchase about one package of diapers per month for the kids- both are in the same size so that's a big help!

One thing I would do differently if I could do it all again- don't buy velcro, buy a few more diapers, and buy a tub sprayer attachment immediately. The velcro means that everything sticks together, which is kind of a pain. The tub sprayer and extra diapers will be a big help when we finally get them, but that is yet another thing that is on the back burner for now.

Monday, December 7, 2009

New Ebates Reward! is a cash-back site that I use when doing my online shopping. I just got a postcard in the mail from them, detailing their latest promotion!

1. Sign up for Ebates here You'll get $5 just for signing up!

2. Go to

3. Type in promo code EBONUS

4. Make a purchase of at least $25 by clicking through the ebates page before shopping

5. Get a % of your purchase back (for example, 10% back at Old Navy) AND $10 back for entering the promo code! This means if you spent $25 at, you'll get back $12.50! Now that's a sweet deal!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

On Tap for Today!

Today, I decided I would post what we're doing- since some of the things I'm doing are for future posts (as well as for our current needs!). Here's the plan for the next few hours:

Strip diapers (I'll post my method later)
Start a new batch of artesan bread (and take the pictures for the post)
Mix up some instant mocha latte mix
Work on some Christmas presents
Catch up on some of my tv shows (so far behind on some its not even funny!)

Here I go!

Friday, December 4, 2009

"Make Your Own" Series coming soon

I'm revamping this site, and hopefully I'll have my new "home" soon. In the meantime, when I'm not coding and experimenting, I've been working on a few posts that break down the cost and how-to of making your own *insert something here*. So far, I've written up a post on laundry detergent, ninja-ade, artesan bread, fancy coffee drinks, and rehydrating beans at home... now all I have to do is piece them together, take a few pictures (ok lots of pictures!) and get rolling on them. But I assure you, they are coming, along with a complete relaunch and rededication just in time for the first of the year.