Gent Family, Day 4

Hitting Halfway, and top-up day

Kids enjoyed popcorn and sugar water at home last night while we were out, thankfully didn’t eat all the food, but we’re now grappling with how to allocate the $25 holdback we kept from our initial shopping trip. Jen hit the dollar store this morning, found a multi-spice pkg (whoo hoo!) , more jam, more pasta, and some Honey Nut Cheerios lobbied from the children – all for $6.25. I’ll head out for another 10lbs of apples, milk, margarine and eggs at the Buy Low to get us through the second half. Bit of a false exercise moving to multiple locations, but Dollar store is only a block away, and I’m visiting the grocery store en-route to another errand.

Midway top up shopping


(gms, unless otherwise)

Margarine 454 2.00
pasta macaroni 900 1.25
Cheerios 240 2.00
strawberry jam 375 1.50
assorted spices 82 1.50
Milk 4L 4.89
Apples 10lbs 5.00
Eggs 18 4.79
Total midway trip   22.93

Remaining Budget – to be used for final trip (or emergencies??) – $3.70

Sunday was, as usual, a set of busy activities with the kids, and our taking stock day (literally). Things look promising in terms of not completely running out of food, but we can move from comfort to panic pretty quickly. You recall the “welfare blueberries” feast on the night before the challenge started, and yesterday I almost burned some food, and had to be very careful with the new spices we found so as not to overseason, as each could have created some dire consequences at this stage. We cringe when the kids make their own frybread, because they waste too much flour. How precious a few lentils and vegetables can be when you have limited alternatives.

Heading into the homestretch, choice will start to become less available, and we don’t really have a lot of anything. Another interesting insight at the grocery store – a few of the things we went back to get – apples, eggs and some hashbrowns, were no longer on sale. It matters WHEN you shop – something I never thought about, to which Jen replied, “No S#@! you didn’t“ All of a sudden our budget plan is shot, and we have to improvise / shift. The $5 bag of apples was now $8, and there was no other reasonably large fruit choice we could fit in the budget. Just as hope was lost, in the middle of the pile, Jen found a bag of apples that still had a physical pricing sticker for $5. We took it to the front, they rang it through for $8, at which time Jen pointed to the $5 sticker, and they gave it to us for the lower price. Never been so happy to get a deal!!! We left euphoric, and when we got home had a small family dance around the apples. Afterward we also wonder how successful or comfortable a homeless person would be advocating for their price reduction at the till.

Kids moods fluctuate, likely more a function of adolescence than anything, but limited nutrition aggravates the situation, and both Jen and I have noticed being more tired, and just “not quite right” physically. I’ve lost about 5 lbs already.

Not healthy.

Another interesting insight about the kids which was fascinatingly transposed from deprivation to “depravity” by Jen. She’s noticed that they seem to have manifest an interesting transference to other areas of our lives. They seem to want to go without a whole bunch of other things, almost out of spite, or a sense that they’re being punished. Very difficult to process the separation of food from other types of consumption for them.

Amelia, in a glucose shortened fit after soccer today, screams “Fine, I won’t have anything!” The other kids, when offered more, non-food compensation (motivated with some parental guilt about putting them through this exercise) at the Dollar store, were uncharacteristically refusing.

The best sound bite thus far, again from Amelia: “Welfare sucks!” Amen, my child.

Kids savoured the boxed cereal we picked up on the weekend tonight, and we all seemed more comfortable with the extended process of preparation and the larger than normal allocation of carrots in our packed lunches this morning. I found myself really looking forward to the egg this morning as well.
We’re all starting to talk more about the end now, in terms of what we’ll eat, and how we’ll mark the occasion – which causes more reflection for those who don’t have this luxury, and the lightness of the exercise in some ways. Jen always contended this would be entirely do-able for the kids. It’s a week. Like a camping trip for them. They can suck it up, because they know what we’re going back to. The concept of forcing families to maintain this for months, or with no end in sight, this is something we really need to work on as a society.

A final reflection on my / our privileged upper middle class lens on these issues, which is most certainly a skewed one, naïve, full of liberal guilt, and too often a bit of sanctimony or even completely missing the point at some times. Still, I’m reflecting on the underlying purposes of this exercise. From my take, there’s no expectation that we’ll develop any type of “lived experience” here. It may be precisely the privileged middle class population who needs to be reached. The impetus to change public policy here will not likely come from the hardened activist or the elite power brokers, and maybe there’s a broader public education piece that’s not hitting the mark.

I’m struck by the lack of movement in poverty reduction, early childhood development support or even preventative healthcare given that the issues are actually fairly well understood and the business case is pretty clear. We need more urgency. As a start, we need to raise the rates!

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