Sunday, September 29, 2013

How Low Can You Go? A Grocery Challenge

Hybrid grocery cart.

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about food. While I write about it a lot, cook, and seem to eat with wild abandon, I'm very well aware of all the people who struggle every day to put food on their family's table. Whether it's the kids in breakfast programs at school or who need lunch every day, hunger really is a big issue in BC. Last year Raise the Rates held the first ever Welfare Food Challenge, asking people to try to survive on what a welfare recipient in BC does. After rent and basic needs, the average single person only has $26 per week to spend on food.

The people who are living with food insecurity could be right next to you; the family next door in that nice house who are struggling to pay the bills, a senior, single mom, college student, someone you work with, you never know. There is no one 'type' of person and believe it or not, it can happen to you. Yes. YOU. And me, too.

Food is expensive, and with the prices of everything mortgages to hydro, gas, and just plain old living goes up, families are feeling the squeeze.

Typically, my family has spent anywhere from $160 - $200 a week on food and toiletries, which would average out to around $800 a month. Awhile ago I read some articles about people who participated in the Welfare Food Challenge last year, and it got me thinking. If we were in this situation, what would that look like? What food would we have to give up, or change? Could we even do it for a week? How about an entire month? I decided to try and slashed our grocery budget to $400, or $100/week.

Our challenge has a twist. If you do the math, with three of us in the house, my budget is about $22 more than what people on the Welfare Challenge make do with. It should be noted though that many people on welfare also make use of the food bank, which we aren't (of course). I also have allowed us to use anything and everything in our pantry and freezer, unlike the challenge. So it's not entirely like the Welfare Challenge, but it's still a look at what it's like to try to buy food on a fixed, smallish income.

The point is more to use what I have, rather than buy more so I have to get creative with what is already in the house. This actually can be a good thing to do now and then, even if you don't plan on doing a grocery challenge. Too often there are bits of things here and there, lounging in the recesses of the freezer or shoved into the back of a pantry that we forget about and end up throwing away. No food waste this month, I'm using it all, baby.

On October 16th it's World Hunger Day, and Raise the Rates is holding their second annual Welfare Food Challenge, if you'd like to participate. I'll be sharing our experiences all month long, with the recipes I've come up with.

You may never look at the meal on your plate quite the same way again.

Follow along with me on twitter and facebook with the hashtag #howlowcanyougo

Photo credit: image by Polycart
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