Thoughts| “Don’t feed homemade formula to babies; seek help instead”

Article:“Don’t feed homemade formula to babies; seek help instead”

Money is tight and you’re low on baby formula. Should you try that homemade formula recipe you saw online?
The answer is: No.

The advice is solid here, no questioning that. Homemade formula isn’t a great idea.
However, this article overestimates the help available for parents who may feel it’s necessary to water down formula or go to a homemade variety. If parents are going down that route, it’s most likely because the solutions in place haven’t worked out fully.

When I first read the article, I assumed the homemade baby formula in question was my Grandma’s recipe she handed to me when I became a first time mom almost thirty years ago. It has 3 ingredients: evaporated milk,water,karo syrup.

I looked at the most popular homemade recipes for formula out there and quickly learned that these are not my Grandma’s basic recipes and if those are the ones the author is referring to, I don’t think she has to worry about a parent without money making any of them. The ingredients are expensive (there are also “kits” that run about $180-$200…definitely not within low income budgets). I’m inclined to think those who are making these “natural” formulas are doing so not for penny pinching reasons. They’re probably just anti-formula but aren’t breastfeeding or want to supplement.

That out of the way, let’s focus on suggestions given to parents with the assumption they’re making formula to save money (or because they have no money).

The article suggests that if you can’t afford formula, apply for WIC, SNAP, and TANF.
WIC usually does provide enough formula for babies but some families may find times in their baby’s development where they’re going through more formula than WIC provides. Some states have also made cuts to WIC and may not be providing the same as they were.

While WIC income eligibility guidelines are usually higher than SNAP, recipients are still low income and are likely dealing with the multitude of issues that plague low income folks. Missing a WIC appointment can be disastrous. When we’re talking about a low income parent missing an appointment the reason isn’t easily explained away as “irresponsibility”. Can’t get off work, car broke down,can’t find a ride, no public transportation… not excuses, valid obstacles. In rural areas, rescheduling an appointment may not be a possibility at all. Your WIC clinic is one certain day per month in the basement of a church and if you miss that day, there’s nothing else you can do but wait until next month. Even a weather cancellation could totally screw up a family getting their WIC checks on time.

SNAP? Of course it helps but the average allotment of $3 per day per person isn’t going to get everyone in the family the food they need PLUS formula for a whole month. And TANF is notoriously hard to get approved for. Benefits are low and only temporary. You may even be asked to pay back the amount.

The article also recommends food pantries and yes, of course some will be able to help but small town and rural pantries won’t be able to fill that need always.

Where To Get Formula If WIC & SNAP Doesn’t Meet Your Baby’s Needs

Call Your Pediatrician

Your pediatrician has sample cans on hand that they can give to families in need and should supply you with what your baby needs to make it through to your next payday, WIC check pickup, or SNAP disbursement. They may also be able to refer you to additional community organizations who are specialized in helping low income families with things like formula and diapers.
You may also want to give your local health department a call. They are likely to know of other avenues available.

NOTE: I’m aware that some folks may feel afraid to ask their pediatrician for fear of having child protective services called. Yes, use your best judgement about this and only if you feel safe with your provider.

Check Out Your Local Gift Economy Scene

This one may be tricky. You have to find it first, if it even exists. The idea of a gift economy is simply that if you need something, you ask and if you have something to give, you offer it up. No cash exchanged.
Your gift economy may exist on something like Freecycle or even in the community section of craigslist but more often, you’ll see some thriving local groups on Facebook. They may not be labeled “gift economy”. They may be something like “Moms Helping Moms” or something just as simple as “Free Exchange”.
Local parenting groups with an online group are an important resource and I encourage people to join them, even though they certainly can be a minefield of drama at times if they’re not well moderated.

Pregnancy Centers,Community Centers,Churches

You can use to find a lot of these resources but from my own experience, the list they have may not be complete or it’s outdated. I find that Catholic Charities is usually very helpful (experience may vary on location) and the pregnancy centers that have no religious affiliation are usually the most comfortable to seek help at.
Even if a church doesn’t have a food pantry serving the community, they may still be able to help.

Also recognizing here that asking churches may not be for everyone.

Today’s post is brought to you by the warmest socks on earth (alpaca), baklava for breakfast, and my excitement for new upcoming creative projects

I’m beginning January 2018 with $7 in the bank account, $20 cash, and a $25 Visa gift card. We just paid November rent, making us two months behind on rent now BUT we aren’t behind on anything else at the moment. There’s no urgent needs right now that would require money, except perhaps additional firewood. The deep cold continues and we’re going through wood rapidly but I have a good source for wood if I need more right away.

Our SNAP balance is $0 until the 9th (then it will be $210) but we’re good on food. Much of that is thanks to kindness of others.  We also could not get through without the biweekly food pantry.

In December I was in a cooking rut and we were eating terribly. Lots of Brown Food (chicken nuggets,tater tots,etc). Depression was a big factor but I was also feeling tired of making the same meals over and over again because I just didn’t have a lot to work with and just could not summon the mental ambition to be creative with what I was working with. I was really hating cooking for awhile there.
Once older kids started coming home from college, the extra help around the house  relieved a lot of stress on me and I started making decent meals again. Mostly a lot of my kids fave comfort foods they missed while away at college. Pierogies with spinach and onions, egg rolls, mac and cheese, chili… that stuff I make with cabbage and lentils. They CAN cook for themselves but you know…Mom does it better, I guess.

The food pantry gave out turkeys for Christmas dinners and we were given a lovely holiday food box from Vineyard Church with a ham, potatoes,corn,butter,milk, and treats. We had the ham for New Year’s. The butter was super helpful because my oldest spawn appointed himself as stuffing maker a couple of years ago. He follows Matty Matheson’s recipe. The 1st time he made it, I jokingly asked , “What the hell? Did you use an entire pound of butter or what?” HE DID. He uses less butter since then but lordy…we seem to go through a lot of butter in this house, especially with the big eatin’ days.

The pre-Christmas food pantry was wild. There was a Santa there for some reason. No kids there so adults sat on his lap and Santa was rather saucy. He also sang a song about eating roadkill, which I tried to get on video but all you can hear is an older man standing next to me telling my husband about how he’s afraid old and disabled people are going to be sent to the gas chambers. But you can’t even hear him well enough for me to post that. It was certainly the part that was most worth listening to.
“They keep closing all our programs! They just want to get rid of us”. Later he told me this story about being given an F in school by a teacher who was mad that he talked about gas chambers during the Holocaust. She told the class that didn’t happen. His father put his military uniform on , went down to the school, and told the teacher and the whole class a very non-watered down version of everything he saw as a soldier in WW2.  I’m always amazed when I hear other’s experiences in school being taught about the Holocaust.  When I was in school, it was no holds barred. Graphic, concise, full depiction. Nothing censored. My kids,too. We all feel like we could go our whole life without seeing another documentary about it because what we learned was so thorough and it was intense. A lot at once, which may have been the intended effect because the saturation made a lifelong lasting impression. My husband finds that in his adult life, he’s learned a lot more about it than he did in school but he was still given the important basics.
This past summer when Nazis were marching with tiki torches, I was shocked at the people who were so ignorant about what Nazis did. Jewish people were sharing  stories of what their families went through and the reactions from people was mind boggling. “I can’t believe any of that happened.I never heard about any of this is school.”…from educated adults. It dawned on me that this has to be why more people aren’t seriously alarmed by the rise of  fascism,neo-Nazism and hate groups here. They wrongly think if you laugh at them or ignore them, it will end them.  Mind blown. If not everyone knows the full extent of what that brand of hate leads to, they can’t be alarmed by it and if they aren’t alarmed, they aren’t going to have the inclination to even try to fight it. I’m deeply troubled by this. It’s the same mindset that leads people to believe the government will never take away rights or food/assistance to poor families or medicare from old people. They think anti-poverty activists are overreacting about the future for poor and marginalized  people. I would much rather overreact than be complacent and just let things happen.

I don’t even want to get into people pearl-clutching over whether it’s ok to punch Nazis. I’m not much of a resolution maker but punching Nazis in 2018 sounds like a good one.

Meal planning for this week

I’m trying to make sure we have rent by the end of the week so I was crossing my fingers to be able to do decent meal planning with what the food pantry offered yesterday. No such luck,honestly. Two cabbages and a bag of carrots were the only produce they had. I came away with lots of canned fruit, as much bread as I could take, ground turkey, hot dogs,turkey burger, rice, and some stale “spicy cheese flavored” taco shells. I’m sure I’ll manage some hellacious acts of pantry anarchy with some of it but it’s still disappointing. I think rent will be a little late. We need some grocery basics and gas for the car.
Yeah, that plan of mine to keep money in savings for groceries has not gone well.

On a more uplifting note, there’s a cute little garden happening behind the community center the food pantry is held at. I see rhubarb, oregano, some other herbs.
I have no idea who manages this garden or what it’s used for. My understanding is that once upon a time there was a large garden that served the food pantry but it was at someone’s house and that person has since sold the house and moved out of the area. If I felt like we had any secure permanency in this house, I’d organize a replacement garden on the acres here.



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Quick Tip: Homemade Tortilla Chips

Here’s a thing I do when tortillas are on the verge of going stale. Or maybe when someone left the bag open a little bit and the edges of some of the tortillas get crunchy (it’s always “Not Me” who did this) .

Cut the tortilla into wedges. Spread evenly on a baking sheet. Bake at 350°.Spritz with some oil of your choice and sprinkle salt or dust with seasoning.
That’s it.

Or even easier, throw them in the oven or a toaster oven whole and then break apart when baked. They won’t be chip shaped but they eat the same. I do this when I’m sprinkling tortilla chips on top of a recipe like Taco Mac or Tortilla Soup.

Pantry Anarchy:Blueberry Pancake Casserole

This might be a boring pantry anarchy makeover but I’d rather talk about boring food than money today because uhhhhhhhhhhhhh (imagine that in Tina Belcher’s vocalization)

Last month the food pantry had A LOT of frozen blueberries. A lot a lot. I took several huge bags, stuck them in the freezer, and am just getting around to figure out all the things to make with them (besides the obvious). I found this recipe on The Kitchn for Blueberry Pancake Casserole.

Blueberry Pancake Casserole

Serves 8 to 10

For the casserole:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup whole or 2% milk
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Finely grated zest from 1 medium lemon
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

For the streusel:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

For the casserole: Whisk 2 cups of the flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl. Add the eggs, buttermilk, milk, melted butter, lemon juice, and zest. Stir until just barely combined. Do not overmix — the batter will be lumpy. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight. (You can also skip the overnight rest and continue with baking the casserole immediately.)

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl. Fold the mixture into the buttermilk mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the blueberries; set aside.

For the streusel: Whisk together the flour, sugars, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Add the butter and use a fork or your fingers to work the ingredients together until well-combined and crumbly. Sprinkle it evenly over the casserole.

Bake until golden-brown, the casserole starts to pull away from the sides of the dish, and the top springs back gently when touched, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

Of course I changed some things because I never have everything on hand that a recipe calls for. The biggest one here was fresh blueberries. I used the frozen blueberries. As long as you drain most of the juice from the thawed blueberries when using frozen , I don’t think it matters much. Otherwise you’re adding liquid to the recipe you need to account for.

The frozen blueberries will still have enough juicyness to make your batter look a little cosmic.

I also didn’t have buttermilk and was a little low on milk, so I used 1 cup milk and 1 cup sour cream. I was thinking I would end up with a less sweet version of a sour cream coffee and I was pretty right on there.

The verdict: Delicious AND my very picky boys loved it. This This ones a keeper.


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easiest homemade tomato soup ever

I am finally done dealing with this years tomato crop. I brought the last of the red-ripe ones in the other day and then happened to catch an episode of The Chew where Daphne Oz made Creamy Tomato Soup and since the few I brought in weren’t enough to bother processing to can or freeze, I figured I might as well make them into soup.

The variety of large tomatoes I grew this summer were Rutgers, an heirloom tomato developed by, as the name suggests, Rutgers University in the 1930s. The variety became THE favorite for the canning industry and Campbell’s preferred it for their tomato soup.

And now I totally get why. They made superb soup. This variety is a keeper. High yield, disease resistant, good for eating straight up and for cooking. Thumbs up, Lyman Schermerhorn.

My house is a cave not meant for food photography. Those bit in the soup are wedges of cheesy, heavily toasted bread (oversized croutons).

Here’s the recipe via The Chew ….sort of? On that episode, Daphne used fresh tomatoes. And I don’t think she peeled them. I know I didn’t.  My “pantry anarchy” take on it was to sub half and half for heavy cream and I used veggie stock instead of chicken. I had both onions and garlic from the food pantry and fresh thyme and basil from the garden. Also, I pureed in the regular blender (the one sent to me by one of my readers, Rose! Thanks again, Rose 🙂 )


daily link(s):food I ate recently

I think I can tell you about the decent food we ate with just links, even if I may or may not have used that exact recipe, and not having to subject ya’ll to my sad food photos. I’ll spare you the details of the chicken nugget/tater tots and other ugh dinner selections.

Pumpkin Salsa – I only made one jar because hey, it does sound a little strange. I wasn’t sure the fam would like it but that one jar is almost gone. Best thing: All ingredients came from the garden

Pumpkin Brownies– HEALTHY brownies, right?

Loaded Baked Potato Casserole– I scaled back on the dairy for this one

Roasted Cauliflower and Potato Soup– I used leftover cauliflower. Used chicken broth from the food pantry, herbs from my own garden.

Cheese Lentil,Mushroom, and Rice Bake– I’m using the Kitchn’s photo here because  mine looked almost exactly like that. How often does that happen? Made with lentils and rice from the food pantry.Everything else purchased.  I substituted  cheddar.

I also made chili over the weekend with ground turkey from the food pantry and everything else from the garden. We had tacos twice during the week – once with the ground turkey and the other with black beans.

daily links: affordable veganism and other foodish things

The Economics of Veganism (+ Proof A Fine Vegan Meal Can Be Made Cheaply) – I promise even if you’re a skeptic of veganism ,you won’t hate this piece. Gena Hamshaw gives plenty of recognition to the high cost of produce and lack of accessibility for some while also showing some good idea of how it can be affordable. Gods love her for stating some of the flaws in SNAP challenges,too

In some of our leaner times, we’ve become what I termed “accidental vegans” and as a general rule we eat a lot of vegetarian meals because plant based proteins are so much more affordable. I feel like the disadvantage many might have making veganism work on a low budget is that time is a huge factor in preparation, and it does require a bit of food and cooking knowledge beyond the basic.

Fall Chili, Soups & Stew Recipes and Learn How to Make a Freezer to Slow Cooker Meal ~ Weekly Round-Up – 31 days of soups and stews. I say it all the time…soups and stews are some of the most inexpensive meals you can make and you can stretch a pot through the week . My other tips is to substitute beans if a recipe calls for meat you can’t afford.

21 Budget-Friendly Recipes Starring Rice — Recipes from The Kitchn – essential reading for me this week. Oh,boy.

33 Bowl Recipes to Keep Your Belly Full and Life Easy – I made one of these recently for myself to eat during the week for lunches. Really ideal if it’s just you or you and your partner and maybe one or 2 non-picky kids that can deal with their food not touching .

The Middle-Eastern Cookie That Caused a Panic in Pennsylvania– I’m glad the recipe is included in this article because I immediately knew I had to have some but didn’t want to create hysteria by having something written in Arabic hanging around my house.Heavens no..


I have an enormous bag of chickpea flour to use up, so I’ve been making things like this (basically pakora) . I might make this one this week but commit some pantry anarchy by using a buffalo wing sauce my local produce guy gave me as a free samples.

The bounty of tomatoes and pumpkins coming out of the garden makes it easier to not stay mad at everything. Today’s tomato harvest was 2 colanders worth (scientific measurement) . It’s been hard for me to give everything a measurement and value like I intended . Maybe with the tomatoes I’ll measure by the product I end up canning, whether it be sauce or salsa or whole tomatoes. I would say pumpkins the size of these would be about $4-5 each around here. This bunch will be canned.

It’s 3p.m. as I’m writing this. No word yet on the car. Our food pantry is this evening so if we don’t get the car back within the next couple of hours, we’ll miss that. It’s the last one of the month so that will be a bummer.

We also have a school event tomorrow for one kid that he really wanted us to go to. We’ll cross our fingers and everything else that we at least get the car back tomorrow so we can make that. We missed out on a lot of school events during the time we were a car-free family. I try to make it to everything now if it’s at all possible.

This thing tomorrow evening is also a dish to pass (side dish or dessert). I predict whatever I end up making will have either tomatoes or pumpkins. I’m glad I have them to work with. Something else that has stopped me from going to things like potlucks in the past was truly not being able to take anything. Add that to the list of “The Many Ways Being Poor Can Make You Feel Like Crap”.