Samantha, Prep for the Challenge

$18 to buy an entire week’s worth of groceries. Could you do it, and manage to maintain a nutritious and palatable diet at the same time?
When I first decided to participate in the 2016 challenge I was pretty confident that I could make $18 work … I lived below the poverty line as a teenager and my family subsisted on welfare for a number of years. I know how to stretch a budget to the absolute breaking point, although it’s been a long time since I’ve needed to do it. My internal definition of “needs” and “wants” has changed over the years as my income level increased. I find myself now smack-dab in the middle class and asking myself, “How spoiled have I become over the years?”

It’s easy to think that I remember what it was like but it’s totally different living it. What I forgot was the amount of effort it takes to survive on such a small amount of money. I spent several hours in the days leading up to the challenge visiting local stores and pricing out my options. What did I absolutely need? What could I live without? Was this item cheaper at the dollar store or at Walmart? Could I afford any fresh produce? How much should I leave for discretionary spending throughout the week?

I follow a vegan diet for ethical reasons. I only eat plant-based foods and nothing with animal by-products or animal ingredients. In some ways, I think this might make it easier. Unlike some others on the challenge, I won’t feel deprived of meat, eggs, or dairy. But with such a limited budget I still have to sacrifice – I can’t even afford a bottle of cooking oil so I’m having to sauté my veggies in water. It’s working out alright, but I really miss olive oil!

As of the end of day 2 I’ve managed to spend my entire budget (less $0.16) and here is what I’ve managed to buy from stores within walking distance of my home/work in Surrey:

  • 1 bag of quick oats (Walmart)
  • 1 bag of penne pasta (Walmart)
  • 1 can of spicy tomato sauce (Walmart)
  • 1 bag of dried green lentils (Walmart)
  • 1 bag of parboiled white rice (Dollarama)
  • 5 packs of instant noodles (Dollarama)
  • 1 box of tea (Dollar Plus)
  • 1 bag of sugar for sweetening my tea and oatmeal (Dollarama)
  • 1 shaker of Italian seasoning mixed with sea salt (Dollarama)
  • 1 onion (Buy Low Foods)
  • Half a head of garlic (Buy Low Foods)
  • Carrots (Farm Fresh Produce Market)
  • Potatoes (Farm Fresh Produce Market)
  • Zucchini (Farm Fresh Produce Market)
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