Journal of the Welfare Food Challenge

Journal Entry #1: We did it! We came in at the grocery store at about 50cents under the $78 dollars that the three of us would have left for food if we were on welfare. That’s it, for the whole week. Walking through the store, Dan said – must suck to see all this food and not be able to buy it. Exactly. Me – I’m home right now making my daughters lunch (she’s our third participant) and feeling mother guilt about sending her to school with less. Makes me think about what parents on welfare must feel like when they can’t give their kids what they want to give them. I cheated a bit – since we chose not to buy juice or juice boxes I flavored her water with some lemon and sweetener (that came out of the cupboards – that was breaking the rules).

Journal entry # 2: I am hungry! Can smell the roast chicken cooking in the oven. Bought it because I was hoping to stretch into lunches and at least another dinner. Dan and I debated – he says chicken is too expensive a meat – but I think that’s only the choice cuts like the boneless breast. I just couldn’t face buying twice as much pork or beef loins for the same price (or whatever huge cheap cut it was that he hoisted in the meat section – I could barely look at it!) Other than that we’ve got baked potatoes (no butter or toppings) and sauteed broccoli. For breakfast all week there’s no juice and we’re eating puffed wheat and hoping the milk will last. I’ll keep you posted.

Journal entry #3: Eating is boring and I find myself using more salt than usual to compensate. So far I am missing many things such as: fruit (we bought some select veggies only thinking they would do for lunches and dinners), juice, mustard, mayo, ketchp, pickles (missed those things with my chicken), butter/marg, spices, sugar, cheddar cheese.

Journal #4: As a parent, I think the hardest thing about being on income assistance would be concerns for your kids. Not being able to give them what you want to. I can go without, but as much as Brigid protests that she is fine: “I might be a bit hungry, but that’s ok” (she’s trying to be tough), I still am noticing how little she is eating, like a bird, and worry about her. Today I forced her to take more than a boiled egg and a couple other things (none of which included carbs for fuel for her day).Noticing the same tendencies in Dan – there was chicken for sandwiches in the fridge, that I told him to take, but he continued to take peanut butter, saying he wanted to leave the chicken for Brigid and I!

Journal #5: I wonder if, as a working upper middle class professional, I have more opportunities for free food than many of the low income people I support in my job? Many tend to be quite isolated from any support system. Tues night I went to my book club, and all the others brought wonderful appys. Today I facilitated a parent group, which the office funded the snacks for. Tomorrow I am volunteering at the Surrey International Writers Conference (in order to be near to Brigid if she needs me – she’s a participant, among all adults and teens). We paid for her conference, but as a volunteer I get a lunch voucher. Friends and workmates have also stepped up with offers of donations .. Suddenly I’m noticing all the food coming my way …

Journal #6: Contrary to my expectations, what I miss most is fresh fruit and real fruit juice. I thought it would be cheese! We had to make some hard choices when we did the shop, and if wasn’t filling and wasn’t going towards a meal, it had to go. Dan and I have concluded its possible to feed yourself on $26 (especially if you pool the money) and get thru the week, but the food feels like sustenance, nothing more. Very little enjoyment, very little that’s fresh and good. And even just getting through the week takes a certain level of knowledge and life skills.

Journal #7: So tonight, due to a social obligation, we have to take a break from the challenge. We’re having a late Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws, and I volunteered to bring the brussel sprouts (I recently discovered a DELICIOUS recipe, with cream, pine nuts, etc). Had to shop for the ingredients. IT WAS TORTURE. I lingered by the fresh fruit, by the bulk bins of chocolate (the smell wafting out of the bins). I wandered around aimlessly with a fuzzy brain from no coffee (I’ve managed to scrounge some caffeine every other day this week.) By the time I came out, my resistance was down. I wasn’t feeling well at all. So I cheated – I went next door for a Starbucks, just a 1.85 drip with cream and sugar in my own cup. Nothing fancy. late (the smell wafting out of the bins). I wandered around aimlessly with a fuzzy brain from no coffee (I’ve managed to scrounge some caffeine somehow every other day this week). By the time I came out, my resistance was down, and I … cheated. I wasn’t feeling well at all. So I went next door and bought a Starbucks coffee. Not anything fancy though, just a 1.85 drip with cream and sugar in my own culate (the smell wafting out of the bins). I wandered around aimlessly with a fuzzy brain from no coffee (I’ve managed to scrounge some caffeine somehow every other day this week). By the time I came out, my resistance was down, and I … cheated. I wasn’t feeling well at all. So I went next door and bought a Starbucks coffee. Not anything fancy though, just a 1.85 drip with cream and sugar in my own cup.

Journal #8 (LAST): Well, with a few donations, and a couple instances of bending the rules, we made it to the end of our week. Of our $78 (for 3 people) we had left Salt, 2 T soy sauce, half a jar of peanut butter, 1 cup rice, 3-4 slices of bread, couple donated cans of soup, and 3/4 cup plain yogurt. On a normal week more food goes to waste than I’d care to admit … this week we wasted nothing. The lentil pilaf (with no cinnamon, cumin or allspice) fed us for two dinners and a lunch or two. Last night we had chicken soup (I cooked the heck out of the bones from earlier in the week.) Yesterday I planned five dinners and we did our weekly shop (for four people, not three) and spent about $210. And more than likely there will be at least one or more quick trips (for missing ingredients), treats and coffees out, and maybe a frozen pizza or something fast if I am on the run. And of course we’ll be using stuff that is already in our kitchen, unlike last week!

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