Start at the beginning using the links below, or read on for our wrap-up:
Post 1: The What and Why
Post 2: Planning and The First Two Weeks
Post 3: How Feeding Others Comes Back To Feed You
Post 4: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
One Month on a $200 Food Budget:
In a way, we have been successful in our challenge. We made it through one month on a $200 food budget. We saved a lot of money, and we didn’t skip a meal (though some meals were sparse – a slice of plain, toasted bread for lunch).
Many people have asked for our breakdown – what our parameters and rules were for ourselves. We touched on this in bits and pieces throughout the series, but not all in one place.
We tossed around a few numbers when setting out on this challenge. Originally we thought $10 a day ($5 each) for a total budget of $280. But in researching some stats, we learned the average Canadian family of four lives on a smaller food budget – around $411per month.
There are only two of us so we cut that $411 in half and rounded it down to $200 flat.
You can see what we purchased here: http://halifaxbloggers.ca/thelocaltraveler/2014/02/18/food-security-challenge-importance-preparation/
- We withdrew $200 cash at the beginning of the month and that was all we could spend on food.
- We had to buy local whenever possible. Things like apples, potatoes, kale were all grown in Nova Scotia. The peanut butter is made in Windsor, NS and the coffee is roasted here. Only things that are not produced here, like bananas and rice noodles, were allowed to not be local.
- Our diet had to be healthy. This wasn’t exactly a hard and fast rule. We don’t follow any kind of strict diet guide. But, we are both very active (both training for the Bluenose Marathon) and we pay close attention to our bodies. We trust that our bodies will tell us when they’re not getting what they need.
- We decided not to include beer and wine in this budget, though we think we will when we repeat this challenge.
But What Happens If The Money Runs Out?
We knew this could happen. Our only rule for this was that we would not spend more than the $200, so if that happened, we would have to be creative.
Within our ‘creativity clause’ We could also source food in the following ways as long as NO MONEY was exchanged on our end. Some examples of this were:
- On trade (i.e. food provided at volunteer activities)
- As part of an already established committee or board (food at meetings)
- Communal eating
– Eating with others (we regularly eat with family, but we also fed a houseguest who stayed with us the first weekend on our budget)
– Drew’s work has a regular ‘Soup Group’ each Tuesday (read about it in Post 3)
- Food through work
– On February 1 we had a sneak peek of a Valentines Day package compliments of The Westin.
– Mid February I attended a free event held by Farm Works with free appetizers from local source.
- In exchange for our skills
– Drew assisted in organizing an event and was rewarded at the volunteer pizza party
– I had offers to exchange advertising and SM consulting for food near the end of the month but time constraints prevented this.
What we did not expect to do was make use of the things that were sitting in our fridge, freezer and cupboard, other than our spices and cooking fat. By week three we were digging through our freezer and seeing the items in our cupboard with new eyes.
Things that had been sitting in the cupboard for over a year were being combined in some pretty innovative recipes (Editor’s note: on Gillian’s part – Drew). This played a big part in the lessons we learned about food waste. Lesson learned: don’t waste anything.
What we would not do was go to a food bank. If we really did run out of money and food, we would buy more, and write about how we were not able to complete the month on our budget.
The Struggles and Successes of the Final Two Weeks:
Week three was our hardest week. Our food supplies were getting very low. At that point we had a full lasagna, a few soups, a package of uncooked beans, two slices of gluten free bread, a cucumber, the frozen, and the 2L of milk. Our coffee was gone at the end of the third week.
The final week of our challenge has been much easier than expected. A few things really pulled us through to the end. Drew went to an AGM that was catered by Highland Drive. There was a ton of food left over at the end, that got divvied up between everyone who was there. Drew came home with some veggies (which we paired with some spices and a few left over rice noodles), a real luxury item in half a ball of That Dutchman’s Dragon’s Breath cheese and some rice crackers and bread, a container of fruit, and this out-of-this-world salad made with corn, feta and tomato.
A gluten free macaroni had been taken to Drew’s school for an event. Leftovers were meant to be taken home with someone but they ended up leaving them in the fridge a few days and were going to toss it out. We intercepted before it was tossed and ate that on day 26. It was delicious.
As I mentioned, our coffee ran out in week three. This felt like the hardest blow to me. With everything else dwindling, coffee felt like my last comfort. Plus, as a writer, I have some very set routines for productivity. Hot coffee in my bowl mug when I start writing by 5am, and a second cup at 10am are key to my work schedule.
On Monday, McDonalds started their one-week free coffee campaign. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the coffee at Mcd’s (Editor’s note: :I – Drew) but we both hate the waste from the coffee cups. I have caved every day (twice the last day). Drew has been strong, raiding our leftover tea supply.
Our cupboards and fridge have never been as clean as they now are. We didn’t expect to need to be as resourceful as we have been on $200. We didn’t expect to be so hungry, either. Still, this challenge has been a success, thanks to the many conversations it has sparked, and all of the lessons we have learned.
If you want to read about some of our discoveries throughout this budget (and we hope you will) I have linked our previous articles below: