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.