I want to tell the story of my dear friend, Natalie Calastro.
Natalie is a caring mother of 5 and the most loving wife I have ever seen. She is a huge inspiration to me. Her patience is unlimited. Her morals are strong and firm. Her children look up to her as she is all they have.
9 months ago, Natalie lost her husband to a texting 17 year old driver. It left her & her children alone and unprepared.
“I urge all families, young and old – large and small families, to prepare for the worst. Grow a food storage, increase investments and savings, and ideally have life insurance.” – Natalie Calastro
Unprepared Natalie had to give up their dream 4 bedroom home, 2011 minivan, flat screen tv’s, computer, and 401k & retirement plans. She had to start over all while mourning her loss.
“The only thing that kept me going and still keeps my hopes up, is the love my family was built on. My family isn’t the only ones who have lost someone to distracted drivers, drunk drivers, or and kind of driving accident, but we are one of the few who didn’t have a back up plan. Because of that, I had to teach my ‘spoiled’ children how to cope with the morning of their father along with the feeling of being ‘deprived’ of the life they knew. I tried to hide it the best I could, but they knew we were struggling.” -Natalie Calastro
At rock bottom, Natalie had to start somewhere in order to build her family’s life back together. In order to get out of debt, she got a full time job, moved in with her mother, sold everything she owned, and walked into the Women Infants & Children program’s office.
“I was very fortunate to have my mother. When I got my full time job, she was more than willing to commit to my children’s full time nanny. I love my mother for all that she is.” -Natalie Calastro
When Natalie got home from the grocery store with three bags of food her children would have to eat for two weeks, she bawled. Overwhelmed, she called me for help. She had no idea how to meal plan, let alone meal plan with the allowed WIC foods. Together we came up with a menu she could easily be comfortable with.
“I want all mothers on WIC to feel good about the foods they feed their family. It’s hard but it is do able. We need to always remember that.
Share my meal plans and my story so that mothers all around know there is hope in all things, that together we can do it!” -Natalie Calastro
WIC foods are very healthy. Healthier than 90% of SAD (Standard American Diet) foods, which makes it a hard transition for some. The concept is basically a whole foods diet.
Foods that are allowed:
whole wheat bread
whole wheat tortillas
oatmeal & cereals
fruits & vegetables
When broken down, meals are very easily created. When I went to her mother’s house to help her create a menu, we included her children. I believe that when we include our children in making their meals, they are more positive about becoming healthy and also more WILLING to actually eat it.
Natalie’s children love oatmeal, so it helped make things easy for her. The cereals in her brochure didn’t appeal to her children as much as oatmeal did. But they did want more options rather than just oatmeal every morning.
Their Breakfast Choices:
oatmeal fruit smoothies
mini wheat cereal
peanut butter toast
eggs and toast
Lunches were easy to plan as well. Her children already went to school with a sack lunch everyday. Packing their lunches were simple since she only had to change up a few ingredients.
Their Lunch Choices:
peanut butter sandwich
cheese & tomato sandwich
peanut butter & tortilla roll up
“chips & dip” homemade chips and peanut butter/apple dip
*all with carrots & celery plus some fruit and their water bottles
-sometimes Natalie will add cheese cubes on the side, jelly or mayo to the sandwiches, or even do turkey sandwiches when she can find ingredients on sale. As WIC does not provide jellies, jams, or luncheon meats
Dinners are pretty versatile because she has to buy other meats like chicken and discounted roasts. Her meats are usually the only extra items she has to purchase. Monday’s & Thursdays she try’s to do meatless dinners.
Their Dinner Choices:
vegetable bean soup
bean and cheese burritos
grilled cheese sandwiches
BLT minus the B sandwiches
rice and veggie stir fry
green salad with boiled eggs and cheese
She bakes or roasts a meat and serves with:
bean and rice
steamed veggies/frozen bags
She’s made my cheesy tuna rice casserole and her children adore it!
They don’t really have a lot of desserts in their home anymore. But when they want a little something sweet, they have some oatmeal with added sugar and raisins, apples and peanut butter, more smoothies, and sometimes Natalie can afford some butter and brown sugar for cookies. She doesn’t deprive her children. She gives them what is needed and has to limit the expensive sugary packaged foods. She eats just as they do, no exceptions.
Telling her story and scrutinizing over her meal plan has really made me fortunate for my life and is another reason why I’ll never take the foods I eat for granted. Children are really starving, families truly need help sometimes. The next time you are line behind a WIC mother or family, help them out by having more patience, help them organize their coupons and foods, or just simply smile and tell them they are amazing. We don’t know their story.
We should always be giving back and helping our neighbors and friends. They aren’t asking for it. And that’s exactly why we should help them.
If you are interested in the WIC program, here is the link to take you to their website.