Day 6

I thought I would run out of food on or before day 6 and I did. This is a little of what I learned on the challenge: Despite being resourceful, creative in the kitchen, and having low caloric needs relative to most people (I’m petite), trying to feed yourself on $26/week sucks.

Day 6

Welfare diet is about ensuring survival (and even that, probably not too well) but it does not offer nourishment for the body or soul.  I have been hungry, tired and grumpy. [More than usual.]  While i have had food to eat, i have not enjoyed my meals.

Day 7

OK last day – I’ve brewed my last tea bag – there’s just a smidgeon of oatmeal left after today’s porridge and the milk’s gone. There is lentil soup for lunch with our peanut butter sandwiches, and the last slice of apple (I didn’t have any yesterday).

The last day blahs

As you may have noticed, those of us who were posting regularly at the start of the challenge have slowed to a trickle the last few days. I think many of my fellow participants are experiencing the same things as me – lethargy, trouble thinking clearly, and lack of motivation to post about our boring meals. 

Update from Princess Margaret Student

Hi! I’m from the Community Leadership team from Princess Margaret Secondary School. I participated in the Welfare Food Challenge and made it one week spending only $ 26 on food.

Day 6

Today we have to boost morale, because we both will have a very busy and physically demanding afternoon. We start with sourdough pancakes. This is a first for us. I must say that the dough smells very  yeasty – the closest to beer that we’ve come in a week!

Day 5

Continuing on with conservation measures, I dialed down dinner just a tad. 1. The spinach soufflé has 3 eggs in it, not 4 2. I am holding back a corner of the diminishing frozen block of spinach

I couldn’t do this without a full kitchen

I needed a change from rice and beans so I decided to use my dried chickpeas. After soaking them and boiling them for hours, I kept half for lunch and dinner tomorrow and made the other half into hummus. Although it’s not really hummus without tahini, oil, salt, and lemon juice – it’s just glop!

Surrounded by good food (I can’t have)

Same thing for dinner again tonight: rice, beans and broccoli. At least it goes down easier with the added apple sauce but the boredom is getting to me. Especially because I have to watch my kids eating (and wasting) so much good food.

Last day

Today is day 7 of the Welfare Food Challenge. It has been an eye-opening and stomach-grumbling experience. I averaged 1650 calories per day—about 1200 fewer than what I require to maintain my body weight, given my level of physical activity.

Day 4

I took our last 80 cents and bought 1.2 of the smallest cabbage I’ve seen in a long time. We really needed something green besides the spinach which is going to run out soon.

No more food

And so ends the Welfare Challenge for us. We had no idea the toll that it would take when we decided to do it. Low energy, hunger pains, migraines and frustration have been omnipresent during this challenge. Without use of our pantry and our spices the food that we made was bland and simply used for fuel – if that.

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.

Latkes! And lessons learned

So last night I made potato latkes. Yum!! For those of you out there with no bubbe, let me tell you about them: I learned to make them years ago, when I worked in a Jewish deli. They’re a delicious combination of grated potatoes and onion, bound together with an egg and a bit of flour.

All day I dreamed about food

It has been a while since I have been able to muster up the motivation to write a blog post. I have been feeling quite lethargic and have been having trouble mustering up much energy, and what little energy I do have is required by food preparation.

Top 5 things I’ve learned

This is my last day today and just in time as I am very low on food and have to eat smaller meals today. I have felt hungry most of the time for the last 2 days.  I learned a lot during my week on the welfare challenge.  It is hard to pick the top 5 but here they are.

Grim pickin’s

Another day has passed and so has much of my food. Still have lots of rice and oatmeal, but only one carrot left, 2 potatoes, 2 onions, an apple, two bananas and four eggs. I have a fair amount of milk, left, too – I’ve only been using it for my morning oatmeal.

Once a vegetarian, always a vegetarian

I’m making some potato and onion soup, second time this week, using stock from the potatoes and bok choy I had last night for dinner. I brought some potatoes and choy to a friend’s place for dinner – she made lasange, caesar salad, a fruit crumble with ice cream.

Day 3

I’m feeling a bit better today, maybe getting used to a lot less caffeine and a lot more carbs and fat than usual.

Day 2

This is our splurge day – roast chicken. I would have saved it for later in the week, but the strategy involves using every bit of the chicken up over time.

Day 5

Hello, my name is Aisha, I’m in grade 11 at Princess Margaret Secondary. Our Leadership teachers and a group of students are doing the Welfare challenge. I’m sorry I didn’t send this sooner but i really didn’t feel like doing anything when the challenge started.

Day 4

No pictures for the blog today.  Too tired and irritable.  It’s actually quite stressful having to portion out food and trying to think about how to stretch it so I don’t run out.  I can’t imagine having to do this with all the other household expenses like toilet paper and shampoo.  I can’t imagine doing this all the time.  

Day 4

I’m 4 days in and it wasn’t too bad (mostly just incredibly boring) until today, when I got sick for reasons unrelated to diet.  It’s nothing terribly serious, but eating like this is really awful when you’re sick – I can’t imagine doing this for more than a week, or with a chronic health condition! 

Making more with less

Breakfast: orange punch (usually we have OJ) diluted 6:1 instead of 3:1. This gives the impression of citrus and retains some degree of normalcy. Oatmeal with milk. Tea (more about this later).

3 days 5 dollars

When I started the challenge I decided to hold back some money in case I planned poorly at the outset. I’m glad I did as I have been worried about running out of food but at least I have the sense I can still get more with my last 5 dollars. I try to imagine what I would do if I was on welfare and some unexpected cost came up. It would be a disaster. Five dollars does not really buy much protein and that is what I am low on.  

Day 4

I’m getting sick of being hungry. I’m hungry an hour after I eat! I think it’s because on $26 you don’t get to buy much in the way of protein. I also didn’t have money left over for the usual kinds of snack that I would eat between meals like yogurt or fresh fruit.

Today I bought a coffee

Oops. Now I have .45 cents left in my budget. I had planned to use my remaining $2.67 to replenish my supply of vegetables, but all this denial of the little indulgences I’m used to having has made me irrational.

Beans, beans, the musical fruit…

Day three has come and gone, and HERE’S an unanticipated outcome of the Food Challenge! I’m an omnivore, and eat a lot of beans and rice throughout the year, in part ’cause the fellah I live with is Mexican. We eat red beans and rice, refried black beans, as well as chicken, pork and even just beans in various molé sauces.

Day 3

I am in the midst of caffeine withdrawal and its raining cats and dogs. I have been eating oatmeal everyday for breakfast (which I normally do anyway) however, I have none of the trimmings (cinnamon/nutmeg/nuts/raisins ect…) that make oatmeal yummy and a joy to eat. I skipped lunch because I had errands to run and it completely slipped my mind to pack a lunch. 

Words make me hungry

Earl Grey tea is really bugging me. Just hearing the words, this morning when my partner and child were having breakfast, was sheer torture. I think that was actually the hardest thing I endured on Wednesday, the first full day: going without any coffee or tea.

Day 2

I really wish I could have afforded peanut butter…and ketchup.  My sweet tooth is threatening a mutiny.  Day 2 of hard boiled eggs for breakfast with an apple later on. This was lunch:

Take that cook book and stick it….on your shelf!

I get lots of advice on how to manage my $26 of food. It is usually very sound advice and I appreciate it. Honestly though? Not going to happen. Before I started the Challenge, I decided to research some menu ideas. Started with a healthy eating cookbook I regularly use.

Alone among others

Last night I went to an event that Trish Kelly, the other Co-Chair from the Food Policy Council, and many others helped to put on at the Roundhouse Community Centre. It was a phenomenally organized and fun event with loads of great displays and entertainment.


Today was another big cooking day for me. I spent at least two hours preparing lunch and dinner, but I will be able to have leftovers from both of those meals tomorrow. One item I have in excess is oil. I wanted oil for salad dressing, and the smallest bottle I could find is 500 ml.

Welfare week day 3

Thinking about pregnant women on welfare as I am in my 22 week of pregnancy. I am continuing to take my pre-natal vitamin which feels more important than ever this week. I’ve learned women on welfare can get extra dollars to buy these ($45/month). I like the intention but with just $26 a week to purchase food how likely is at woman would use the extra she is given for prenatal vitamins? 

One of the slowest runs I have had in a while

Well, I did it. I just went for a run. It’s not an unusual thing for me to do on a weekday morning before having a shower and some breakfast before getting down to work for the day. However, this was the first time I have exercised since starting the Welfare Food Challenge.

Day 1

Started a day later than everyone else because I decided to do this last minute and between work and school, definitely didn’t have enough time to plan. Went grocery shopping. Spent ridiculously long amounts of time in each aisle using my cell phone calculator trying to stay in budget. Hoped to keep $2 left over for later.

The best peanut butter sandwich I have ever eaten

Well I am just home from the Vancouver Food Policy Council meeting tonight, and despite an inspiring meeting (I will come back to that) the only thing that was really on my mind on my way home was the peanut butter sandwich I was going to make myself the minute I got in the door..It was indeed the third of the day, but by far the most satisfying.

Day 2

I was at a lunch potluck today with some fabulous women I work with. A number of them are superb cooks and I always enjoy the food that they share with me. I explained why I was turning down their offers of samosas, pancit, chicken empanadas, banana bread, tiramisu, sticky rice…you get the idea. It took a whack of self discipline!

Up at 4:05 am!

I’m wide awake and hungry for food I just cannot afford on the welfare food challenge. I was so tired at the end of my day today ( day 2) and it took me ten extra minutes biking home because of low energy! Missing my vitamins and protein already but most of all just feeling “off” for the most part. Need to get sleep so I can function well at work in 3 hours, good night. Constantly hungry Constance

What can I do?

A good question posed last night at the Vancouver Food Policy Council meeting. Several of us on the Welfare Food Challenge were invited to talk about the issue of food security and people’s right to food. I was surprised at the turnout but also the keen interest of people in the Challenge.

It’s not fast food

I just ate lentils and a potato. Again! It didn’t take long to heat up today but yesterday it took a couple of hours to make the lentil stew. Chopping up the ingredients and simmering everything long enough to soften up the lentils takes time. I have the luxury that I can work at home if necessary so that’s what I had to do to keep an eye on the stew.

Already feeling the effects of the Welfare Diet

It’s only day two and I’m already having a harder time concentrating at work. I just had to take some pain-killers for a caffeine withdrawal headache before it turned into a migraine. I’m susceptible to those and they can knock me out for at least 24 hours so I had to nip it in the bud early. It’s probably against the rules of the challenge.

2nd day, same as the first

Today I had the leftover of what I cooked yesterday – oatmeal for breakfast, crappy salad for lunch, and mung beans and rice for dinner. I’ve been eating my meals later than usual so I won’t be hungry in the evening, but by the time I had dinner today I was starving and shaky. And grumpy, I’m told. 

Shopping for groceries

Yesterday, I spent $25.77 on groceries and this is all I’ve got for the whole week: Lentils Chickpeas Rice Pinto beans 2 loaves of bread Dozen eggs

Putting a human face on poverty: Interview #1

This week as part of my welfare food challenge I’m talking to people from my community who’ve lived in poverty. The first is a woman I’ve known for a number of years: we conducted our interview over facebook.

Day 2 comes and goes – with a Math Update!

So let’s start with the lessons I’ve learned so far – The first is: Don’t do math after ten at night!  I was calculating how many Canada’s Food Guide Servings, and thought that 7 X 7 = 35 for some reason – So  now I’m a bit more worried about  my nutrition. I’m supposed to be getting 49 servings of vegetables and fruits, and 49 servings of grains.

Grocery shopping and meal plan

Hi My name is Mona, and I am taking the challenge, here is what my grocery shop cost and what I purchased and how I am using it. I also want to say that I am a very thrifty shopper and keeper of the household budget. I live with a teenager who did not want to take the challenge because she said she would cheat everyday and that was not fair.

It’s not the economy – stupid

My apologies for misusing President Bill Clinton”s 1992 campaign slogan “it’s the economy stupid”. He used it to score votes during a recession.  Here in BC, one of the most common arguments I hear for why we can’t invest in poverty reduction is that the economy is bad and we can’t afford it right now. My experience on the welfare food challenge has brought home to me how really false is that excuse.

My most stressful shopping experience ever

Myself and several other taking the Welfare Food Challenge did our shopping at Buy-Low Foods before today’s media launch at noon. I arrived at 11:15 hoping to give myself plenty of time to scour the aisles and make sure I was getting the best value. I assumed that would allow me to finish with some time to spare, but what I didn’t expect was the most stressful shopping experience of my life.

News Release: Welfare Food Challenge launched

Today, Tuesday October 16, Raise the Rates launched it is Welfare Food Challenge, where people will only spend $26 for all their food for a week. This is the same amount as a single person on welfare would have for food.

Hungry, almost cheated right away

I started my challenge today at noon, when some of us met at Buy-Low at Kingsway and 10th. After talking to fellow challengers, people living on welfare, and the organizers, and some media, I went into the grocery store to get some apples ($3.99) and a bag of oatmeal ($3).

Caffeine withdrawal

I think this will be the theme for many participants today. I did ok. Oatmeal for breakfast, brown rice and mung bean kitcheree with garlic and bok choy for lunch, a few almonds this afternoon.

My “What If” Dilemma

Now that I have gone grocery shopping, it has hit home to me that I might run out of food before the end of the week. Obviously this is not a huge problem for me doing this just for a week. So I fast for a day. No big deal.  I know it is very time limited. But it brought home for me the real stress this must place on someone on welfare.