In my opinion, the best change WIC made in changing it’s food package was to include fresh and frozen fruits and veggies. Exactly how this works in each state varies somewhat. Unfortunately, in my state, they set it up in such a way as to discourage using the maximum amount of the check.
In some states, if you’re given a produce voucher you can bring as much produce as you want to the checkout line and the voucher works like a coupon. If the voucher is for $8 worth of produce, they will simply deduct $8 from your bill and you will pay for the remainder. If you bought less than $8 worth, then all of it is free to you (but they won’t give you money back, of course).
In the state of Illinois (and many other states as well), it will say on the produce voucher, “no cash can be exchanged in this transaction.” This means that you may spend less than what’s on the check, but you cannot go over the amount and pay the difference.
Many people are embarrassed about going over the voucher, so they avoid buying produce that’s sold by the pound, or else they end up getting way less than they could if they weren’t afraid that it might go over (the scales in the store are never accurate). Because of this, they avoid buying some of the cheaper seasonal produce with their vouchers like apples, bananas, onions, garlic, peppers, and other seasonal produce that are often sold loose and priced by the exact weight instead of in premeasured and priced bags.
Also, if they are wanting to buy some frozen fruit and they see a large bag is $7.25, they may get that with their $8 voucher, and then not use the other 75 cents on the voucher because they aren’t positive what would ring up for less than 75 cents and they are embarrassed about the thought of accidently going over the amount and the cashier having to start over or push extra buttons to check them out. So 75 cents worth of their voucher is left unused.
I want to encourage you to try your best to use all your produce voucher even if you’re in a state like mine in which the voucher says “no cash can be exchanged in this transaction.” This is one of the healthiest things WIC is offering you, and for your family’s health you should try to take advantage of it best as you can. Here’s how I do it.
I buy whatever produce I am going to buy and put the more expensive stuff at the front of the conveyor belt when checking out. I let the cashier know I have my WIC produce voucher, and that all the produce probably will not fit on the voucher, but that I will be paying for whatever doesn’t fit. Because I’m buying what doesn’t fit, if I’m using multiple WIC vouchers on a shopping trip, I save this voucher for last (right before my non-WIC store purchase). I put all my cheaper and varying weighted produce at the end. For a $6 fruits and vegetables voucher, the counter often looks something like this:
- Large bag of grapefruits: $4
- Bag of carrots: 99¢
- 2 large bunches of bananas: 49¢ per lb.
The cashier rings up the grapefruits and carrots, and I then have $1.01 left on the voucher. They know it won’t cover all those bananas, so they will either ring up a banana at a time and stop when they get within 20 cents or less of $6, or they try to ring up a bunch of them look at how much it went over take a few off and try again until it rings up right under $6. It does take a little extra time, but they really don’t seem to mind. Many of the cashiers are quite quick with figuring out how to get the maximum amount on the check without going over. As a result, I end up getting to spend most of the $6 worth of fruits and vegetables on my voucher.