The Ultimate Canadian Grocery Savings Guide

Welfare Food Challenge- $26 A Week for 1 In The Grocery Budget

Share to...

If you are following Canadian Budget Binder on Facebook you may have read that I have joined the Welfare Food Challenge out of British Columbia beginning Oct 15-22, 2012. Although I live in the Greater Toronto Area my mate Steve Zussino at Grocery Alerts  who is also taking part in the challenge knew I ran the Grocery Game Challenge and encouraged me to join.

In Ontario there are 2 programs Ontario Works which is temporary assistance to those in need and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) for those with disabilities. Together these programs alone help over 850,000 Ontarian’s each year.

What is the Welfare Food Challenge? This challenge was put in place to show the government in BC that of the $610 they give monthly to a welfare recipient $26 a week for food is not sufficient considering this does not include other necessities such as a hair cut or clothes.

Although Mrs.CBB and I have only $190 a month in our grocery budget outside of this challenge that leaves us $47.50 per week for us to shop for 2. The difference with this challenge is you are starting from scratch meaning you have zero items on your pantry list and you can’t use charitable donations or food from the garden.

Mrs. CBB and I sat down last night to put together a grocery list of food items that I knew I wanted to include in my weekly menu plan. Perhaps I was being optimistic that I could get all the items but in the back of my mind I thought there is no way there would be enough money in the $26 budget. Knowing your prices are key to saving money in your grocery budget along with meal planning, price matching, flyers specials and using coupons.

Mrs.CBB is not taking part but wanted to help with the meal plans. We will be using some coupons when we shop as coupons are generally available to the public in a good proportion of the country. You can find Canadian Coupons from many sources in Canada no matter who you are and how much money you earn. We also will take part in price matching so we don’t have to drive all over town as the majority of people on welfare may take other forms of transport including the bus, walk or ride a bike.

Below is our Potential Grocery Shopping list – We will do the grocery shop on Monday Oct 14,2012 and post the shop Oct 15,2012 in The Grocery Game Challenge. You will see how much we spent and where and what meals I will end up making. I will also take photos of my meals and do a follow-up later in the week with my overall feelings about this challenge.

  • Milk
  • Sugar
  • Limes
  • Garlic
  • Rice
  • Soy Sauce
  • Tuna
  • Salt
  • Lettuce
  • Pasta
  • Tomato Paste
  • Canned Tomatoes
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Avocado
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Sausages
  • Fish
  • Chicken Broth Cubes
  • Bread
  • Dry Beans
  • Eggs
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I had to think Bulk before the benefits simply because I didn’t want to go hungry. It honestly would be much easier if we could use an entire months grocery money to plan the shop so we could purchase bigger items to save money for other items i.e. a 10 lb bag of rice is cheaper than buying five 2 lb bags. I figured that what I didn’t get to purchase this week I would purchase the next and so on until I could build up my pantry. How much should your grocery budget be to have enough money to eat healthy all month-long?

Potential Meal Plan For The Week

  • Fried, Hard Boiled, Poached Eggs on Toast
  • Cereal with milk and a banana
  • Snack-Apple
  • Vegetable Rice Soup with carrots, onions, chicken cubes, beans, salt
  • Tuna or Egg and Avocado Sandwiches
  • Fried Garlic Rice with soy, and olive oil with beans and lime
  • Baked Fish, rice and steamed carrots
  • Salads with carrots, onions, salt, lemon-extra virgin olive oil dressing
  • Pasta with Pasta Sauce made with garlic, onions, salt, water, tomato paste, tomatoes and beans
  • Rice and Beans and Sausages
  • Tea with milk and sugar
  • Rice and Pasta Sauce
  • Water from the tap

Well that’s the pre-plan above and I know it’s not full of variety but for some it’s a reality. Honestly we purchase all the above on a regular basis as we eat this food weekly. We do add fruits and other vegetables and meats as well. Sticking to a grocery budget might be tough but we all need to evaluate where our money is going.

Question for my Fans

If I asked you to pick out from my list of potential grocery list items above the ones you thought were the most important what would you pick and why? What would you add to my list and why?  Post your thoughts in the comment section of this post.

Check back tomorrow to see how we made out grocery shopping. Although we don’t know what the outcome will be we look forward to this Welfare Food Challenge.

Are you NEW to Canadian Budget Binder?

If you are new Start here!

Grocery Game Challenge Rules

Do you have a Question for Mr.CBB please click HERE to ask him!

You can Follow Canadian Budget Binder on Twitter HERE or Facebook HERE and Pinterest Here. 

You can also subscribe to Canadian Budget Binder so you don’t miss a blog post. Fill in your email address on the HOME page of the blog off to the left where it says “Subscribe Via Email”- No Spam, I promise!

Are you on Mr.CBB’s Blog Roll? Check HERE… if not and you want me to check out your blog and add you, come introduce yourself.

Photo Credit: Copyright (c) <a href=’’>123RF Stock Photos</a>

Share to...

Similar Posts


  1. Hello Fellow Canadians!

    Whom ever wrote this article obviously isn’t on government assistance. I live in Ontario where ODSP gives me $800. a month. Out if that I pay my rent, telephone bill (Rogers cable can kiss my butt). I put another $20. on my laundry card. I machine wash ($2. a load) and let things air dry because the dryers are $1.25 a load and the machines are usually out of service. Another $25. per month goes to apartment insurance. I try to buy cleaning products, toiletries and dry food at the Dollarama. I would love to treat myself to fresh fruit and vegetables. I went to a food bank here in Mississauga and most of the items had to be thrown out because they were way past their expiry date. Ever open a can of expired salmon? Cleared my sinuses! Then there’s bus tickets. I buy a sheet of 10 and those have to last me the month. Rub a lamp! At least my nutty medication is covered by ODSP because if I paid for that out my own pocket it’s just a little over $300. My birthday is coming up in April and I would love to buy a new dress instead of going to Value Village where everything has pee stains in it. Running out of space, so good luck to everybody, hope tomorrow is a better day.

  2. I would like to point out that Ontario works gives a lump sum payment once a month, so you could stock up on staples that come on sale, if you are careful. I was previously on o/w for a short time and had friends on ow, with kids and we made it work. It does take a lot of thinking, and planning. Lots of cooking from scratch. We had playground strategy sessions to discuss prices of local stores and occasionally bought larger items with someone in the building who had a Costco membership and split them up. I personally eat cheap cuts of pork as the cheapest meat, (1.20/lb) but there was someone who had to eat chicken as the cheapest meat for religious reasons (1.40/lb).

  3. I have to live on less, one meal per day. I have powdered milk instead of milk as I can buy a lge bag and will keep.

    1. We live on $190 a month for 2 people which includes health and beauty and laundry so this challenge was in line with what we normally eat. The struggle is not being able to spend the full amount $109 for one shop. When you have to buy small bags of products you spend more money than if you bought a bigger bag. I’m sure you can support that. What is your current grocery budget for 1? What types of foods to you purchase to get you through the week or month?

  4. Wow, that’s a challenge for sure. I have served on a coalition for healthy community in our town, and one issue we have tried to deal with is how to plan healthy meals on a very low budget. Sadly, many recipients of food assistance tend to purchase convenience food and don’t have knowledge of cooking. I think if I were to have to shop for $26 a week, I would look for items to make soups with,so I’d pick the broth cubes, carrots, onions, and maybe add some sort of cheap meat like chicken thighs or ground beef.

  5. I am surprised that no one has mentioned lentils, as they are a complete protein when combined with rice. Both of those are fairly inexpensive, though when limited to $26 they may be a better “slowly acquire over time” type thing, I’m not sure.

  6. Wow. I couldn’t imagine living on $26/week for groceries. In terms of what to keep…I would look to keep as much of the fruits/veggies as possible. Many times those that don’t have much in the terms of money will skip these things because they’re viewed as expensive. Next up I would keep the basic staples that can serve multiple uses and aren’t limited to just a meal or two. So that would mean keeping things like the rice, dried beans, tomato sauce and the like. Oh, and of course milk.

  7. I’ve been following and enjoying your blog for a while, first time commenting.

    I’m wondering why they say it has to be $26 a week. Most social assistance programs I’m aware of pay once or maybe twice a month, so in theory, it is possible to buy the lager bags of rice etc to economize more (although for we could also say that the money saved by buying bulk would be put towards grooming supplies). They probably put it as weekly figure for the shock value as well, $26 / week is more dramatic than $104 / month.

    Changes I would make would be…

    Oats (for breakfast)

    Skip the fish (expensive in my area)

    Ground Meat (usually cheaper than sausages)

    Potatoes (if they are less than $2 / 10lb)

    I might switch the Olive Oil for another oil, depending on price.

    As a long term plan, I’d learn how to bake my own bread and make yogurt as well.

    1. Great changes and baking and homemade cooking is great if they have the means. I as told some just have a hotplate. You are right and when I do my weekly update I will post what I thought about the challenge and how it would have been a bit easier for me but still a struggle none the less. Buying in bulk is much cheaper than spending more on small bags of items. Thanks for your comment Sheryl…. Today I will post my grocery shop so watch out for that post. Mr.CBB

  8. Wow – this is quite the challenge to take on. I would add peanut butter if you could. Fairly cheap, easy source of protein. I understand why you picked sausages – it’s one of the cheapest sources of protein out there. I’m curious as to why you can’t include charitable donations – does that include food bank? I guess it’s because you can’t always be assured the food bank will be able to provide you with the same thing..

  9. You know me Mr CBB… I’d pull all the fish, sausages etc and go vegetarian keeping the eggs and possibly a small piece of extra strong cheddar to sparingly grate on a dish. It would give me more wiggle room for the addition of nuts, seeds, spices and Personal Toiletries. Remember, if you plan to wash your body/hair or do your teeth that week and you are starting from nothing…that need to be taken into your budget too.

    1. This is only a food challenge Mary so we are asked to buy only food with the $26 and make meals. I would struggle to fit in toiletries even if I had to buy travel which most times costs more than a full bottle item. I’d likely go to the dollar store if I had to then. Cheese… ahh.. I wish lol. There was so much we could have done but ultimately I think what we chose we decided on so we had more than enough rather than not enough. I think the second week would help and so on to build up food.

  10. I think I’d likely pass on the tuna and maybe the sausage unless it was a really good price and go with chicken, then take the bones after we eat the meat and make my own stock from that. Nobody here cares for tuna so why get it. Fish is iffy here too. The boys will eat what ever shows up on the plate, but they do have likes and such. They are not picky but their father can be. I can’t remember the last time I bought salt which says something about how often I use it. I could do a lot with the fruit if I have flour. I’m sure my daughter could do a lot with the avocado as she uses it. The vegetables could go a long way here, both as part of the main course and desserts/snacks. But again there I’d need flour. Cocoa would be nice to have too…That’s just me but what you have does look fairly good….

    1. It’s amazing how much we could create if we actually had all those products. It wasn’t easy however I think my second week with this budget would make some differences where I can add in more items that I might not have been able to get the first week because of bulk buying.

      1. It is amazing how much we can make with the more basic products. I have quite the collection of cookbooks to fall back on so I don’t buy a whole lot of the overly prepared stuff as I’m sure you have seen. Some are treats like cookies but I can bake better, the trick there some days is just having the time, not so easy right now. I’ve promised my boys some chocolate chip cookies and I plan to try this weekend.

  11. I think you did great on the list. Anything I’d add or omit is purely because of taste preference. $26/week is not a lot. In my US state, it’s a very similar price range. And then we have people complaining about how our food stamp recipients are the ones putting our nation into debt…..right….

    1. Well the list is just the proposed list. If I could get all of that for $26 I’d be in shock but I’m just fooling myself.

  12. Good luck with it – it will be interesting to see how much you can buy on your list for $26.00. Curious what the prices in Ontario are compared to BC – you know we pay a sunshine tax – right! LOL

    1. Haha.. you’re always my sunshine Christine! You will have to wait until tomorrow when I post The Grocery Game to see how we made out. It wasn’t easy but we finished the shop…. ahhh Cheers Mr.CBB

  13. Wow, if you managed to get all of the items on your grocery list for $26, I’m definitely impressed.
    I can’t wait to see your post with the results.

    The items I would select from your list as being most important would be:
    •Canned Tomatoes
    •Chicken Broth Cubes
    •Dry Beans
    •Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    I could definitely do with out meat so I didn’t include sausage. The rice, beans and pasta can be stretched to cover a few meals and provide some variety.
    I can quickly see from my list above that my grocery budget would be much, much lower if I were single. LOL hubby is a meat-lover who wants meat every day and is also very fussy; he won’t eat beans and rarely will eat pasta. 🙁

    1. Hey Pam,
      Funny how we can pick items from that list but honestly you may be shocked or maybe you won’t at how fast it adds up. We spent a good time in the shops today more than usual. I’ll share our ups and downs and the emotions that ran high today in my final post of this challenge. Cheers Pam. MR.CBB

  14. I think my list would include a lot of canned items like soup, bread to make sandwiches and pasta but you know me I am a picky eater. I think you’ll do very well and good for you for taking the challenge 🙂

    1. Thanks Jen but making a pot of soup would be cheaper for me unless of course you are getting cans of soup for $0.05 like we did at one point with coupons. The good part with homemade soup is that you can control the sodium levels and what you put into it. That’s the best part of cooking from scratch if that’s possible. Thanks for the good vibes Jen! Mr.CBB

  15. the most expensive thing your gonna have issue with is the milk and fresh veg.i have a slightly higher budget for 3 people and its harrrrrrrrrrrd

    1. It’s certainly going to be challenging to make healthy flavourful meals that are balanced but I know something is going to have to give. Check out tomorrows post when I share with everyone what I purchased. Mr.CBB

  16. Whoa – did you hear about , run out of Saskatoon? You should pop on over and read up on the experiences those folks had. They have to live on a food bank hamper for one week and they blog their experiences. It was very, very interesting.
    I applaud your participation in the challenge and wish you all the best!

    1. Hi Anne,
      No I have not heard of it and I’ll take a look at it. I’m just now learning about the system in Canada as I’m not familiar with it. Cheers and thanks for the support. MR.CBB

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.