I am participating in Operation Come Home’s 24 Buck Challenge this week, during which I am trying to provide meals for myself with a budget of just $24. You can read why in my inaugural post here.
I love food and I love to cook so shopping for this challenge was difficult and uninspiring for me. I mean, check out this menu:
I know, right? Where’s the beef? In fact, where is just about anything that is good and decent in this world? I thought, “Well, coffee and drinks are not included so there’s my breakfast smoothie and coffee” forgetting that I put strawberries, mangoes, bananas and protein in my smoothie. Then I saw ahead to Thursday evening where I will find myself at a dinner party with some girlfriends. Bingo! Free food. I’ll bring the wine! Then I remembered I was attending a potluck on Saturday evening for which I am expected to bring food. Bummer. No food! Looks like I’m bringing deviled eggs to the potluck if I can snag a few mustard and mayo packets from Timmies. AND if I don’t manage to eat them all myself.
Day One started out beautifully: a lovely cheese omelette with a big glass of orange juice and a cup of coffee. Actually I would call that pretty normal even for a Sunday. And dinner? Of course I would have preferred a fresh salad and fresh green beans but chicken, rice and canned green beans was tolerable. But my arrogance and confidence faded quickly after my hardboiled egg breakfast – and I am not looking forward to a whole week of them.
I’ve only just finished Day Two and my favourite expression has become, “Are you gonna eat that?” My family is ok with it but my co-workers find this a little disconcerting.
Day Two and I am also cheating; I can’t help myself. I managed to fit in a loaf of bread on the budget so grilled cheese sandwiches were doable – depending on how far I could stretch 200g of grated marble cheese – but I had no money left over for peanut butter and jam. Let’s just say these things mysteriously appeared on my doorstep one morning, just like the cooking spray and salt and pepper.
Now if only a nice strip loin with a peppercorn sauce with mysteriously appear on my doorstep.
Several years ago, a friend of mine started volunteering his time with Operation Come Home, an employment, education, and support centre for homeless and at-risk youth age 16 and up. Based in Ottawa, their programs focus on what works and what matters to youth, as well as encourage personal growth of everyone as an individual. My friend started out cooking breakfast for their program one a week. He quickly earned respect for many things, not least of which was his menu planning (bacon) and diversions (reading homeless youth their horoscope). I know they appreciated this. (The bacon, I mean). He has gone on to lend his expertise in many other programs and events including 24 Hours of Homelessness, during which he slept outdoors with a group of volunteers for 24 hours. In Canada. In January. It was only 24 hours for him, but not so for many homeless youth in Ottawa.
I knew I could not participate in 24 Hours of Homelessness, not without forsaking my kids RESPs investing in down clothing and bedding, so decided I would show my friend my support by participating in the 24 Buck Challenge. This is a new addition to Operation Come Home’s “Reality Campaign” intended to raise awareness for the income challenges of the average youth living off of welfare. I have $24 to spend on food for the week January 31 to February 6, 2016. The cost is determined by calculating the amount the Ontario Works provides to youth for a monthly allowance minus expenses like rent, a phone bill, bus pass, etc. What’s left over for food would be approximately $24 per week. That’s $3.43 per day or $1.14 per meal. Luckily for me, coffee and drinks are not included in the $24 total. Woohoo!
Some of you may recall the family Lent project I did during which I endeavoured to feed my family of five on the equivalent funds of a family on social assistance. At the time, 2009, my budget was $14.66 per day. You can read my reflections on this challenge on my blog. So this “reality campaign” was a challenge with my name written all over it in peanut butter. I thought, given it was just me participating and not my whole family that it would be a piece of $1.14 cake. Today is Day One and I am quickly finding out how very wrong I am.
My trip to the grocery store played out as follows:
|Bread (loaf, whole wh)||2.17|
|Hunts Pasta sauce||1.25|
|President’s Choice Mac & Cheese (2bx)||1.98|
|Chicken thighs (4)||3.74|
|Green beans, canned||.99|
|Tomato (fresh, 1)||2.00|
|Uncle Ben’s Fast&Fancy Rice (1pkg)||1.00|
|3 fresh bananas||1.07|
As the cashier quickly bleeped up my total, I realized how depressing this week would be. I have a 27cents left in my food budget for the week. And you think that shopping list is depressing? Wait until you see my menu for the week, which I will share tomorrow.
Seven days, $24, and no butter. Someone, throw me a bone … please.