Food that Barb Ryeburn bought for the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

Barb Ryeburn, Prep for the Challenge

Planning for the challenge, October 31, 2015

Tuesday is the start of the Welfare Food Challenge. My husband, Kim, and I have made the commitment to eat only the food that we are able to purchase with $21 each for the week. This is the amount that Raise the Rates has determined is available for food to people living on social assistance once they have covered all their other basic costs. I’m hopeful that by participating in this campaign, I’ll develop a deeper understanding of one of the many challenges people living on welfare face. I also hope to help raise public awareness of the inadequacy of social assistance payments so that pressure is put on our provincial government to raise welfare rates in British Columbia.

For the last several days, Kim and I have been debating what we will buy. Today we sat down and planned our shopping list. Some items were easy to choose. As we live mainly on a vegetarian diet, lentils, tofu and peanut butter seemed logical as the cheapest sources of protein. I managed to convince Kim that eating only potatoes for the week wouldn’t work for me. But potatoes are an inexpensive way to fill your belly, so we’ll buy those, along with cabbage, carrots and onions for vegetables. Rice and oatmeal will be our other source of carbs.

One thing we weren’t sure about was the idea of using portions of some bulk items that we already have in our home, like tea, coffee, salt, and oil. An easy solution would be to calculate how much the portion of these items that we would use in a week would cost, but that doesn’t seem fair. If someone is struggling to buy enough to eat for the week, I doubt they have much left over to stock up on items. Bulk buying seems to be a luxury for those who have enough extra money on hand to wait and buy large amounts of items when they go on sale. So except for Kim’s yerba mate and the apples that will go bad if we don’t eat them, we decided not to dip into our food stores.

I have a few worries. One is whether I will survive the challenge of eating for a week with limited seasoning and variety. Another big worry for me is how to get my caffeine fix. I love to make a big pot of good quality, steeped, loose leaf tea in the morning and have an occasional latté after lunch, but both of those will be out of the question. Hopefully I will be able to find some inexpensive tea bags to get me through the week!

Our Big Shopping Expedition, Nov. 2, 2015

Today after supper we went shopping. Armed with a list that we had finally agreed upon, Kim and I headed down to the local No Frills, which Bill Hopwood from Raise the Rates had recommended as one of the most inexpensive places to buy food. Since we moved to Vancouver in September, I’ve really enjoyed supporting the local shop owners and the food coop in my neighbourhood on Commercial Drive. Now I see that being able to choose where we shop is a privilege for those who have the money to do so. Keeping my money in the community and buying eggs from free range chickens and organic milk are choices reflecting my principals that I am fortunate to be able to carry out.

I’m posting a picture of our shopping list and the food that we bought. Kim ended up cooking up most of the vegetables that were still in our fridge into a big stew that we put in the freezer for next week, but there were a few items that we couldn’t freeze and decided not to waste. I’d really like to keep eating a raw vegetable salad for lunch, so we kept the avocadoes and limes we bought last week and added their cost to our total. We also charged ourselves the price of the remaining apples from Keremeos. We decided that the cheapest way to add flavour to food would be to use soy sauce. We already have a bottle of that, so just added the price that we saw at No Frills to our total cost.

I’m off to bed now, excited about starting the first day of the Food Challenge. On the breakfast menu is oatmeal with peanut butter and a banana along with my pot of tea made with budget tea bags.

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