Everyday Living Tips

Poverty Food Hacks For Struggling Canadians

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

There are more than just poverty food hacks for families who struggle to put nutritious food on the table that needs to be discussed.

Being poor and always broke are different, although both can have positive outcomes.

According to the Ontario Food Bank Hunger Count 2022 survey, nearly one-third of their clients are children, representing approximately 20 percent of the general population.

Let that sink in.

An Angus Reid survey in July 2023 found that 1 in 3 Canadians said the latest Bank of Canada interest increase would further impair their financial situation.

Half of Canadians (49%) say grocery costs are difficult to endure, while half say they are comfortably keeping up (49%).

The size of the group having challenges rises to 63 per cent among those whose household incomes are less than $50,000.

Angus Reid Survey July 2023

Because of this, there has been a decline in charitable donations, with two-in-five Canadians (40%) cutting back during these difficult economic times.

Take time to learn about services in your community to help be part of the poverty solutions that plague our country.

One of the most complex parts about struggling financially is hoping someone will listen.

A Canada where no one goes hungry is the Food Bank’s vision, and I couldn’t agree more.

Today, I discuss poverty food hacks, the Food Bank, and Second Harvest as my way of giving back.

Poverty Food Hacks For Canadians In Need
Poverty Food Hacks For Canadians In Need

Food Bank Visits On The Rise

This year’s food bank usage represents a 15 per cent increase compared to March
2021, and a 35 per cent increase compared to March 2019.

Overall, food bank visits have skyrocketed since 2019, with the highest year over-year increase in usage since the aftermath of the 2008 recession.

Stagnant provincial social assistance rates, the end of pandemic-related benefits, and soaring inflation have all affected the ability of individuals in Canada to feed themselves and their families.

Food Bank Ontario Hunger Count 2022

Poverty and Homelessness

It’s not just homeless people struggling for food and living in poverty.

It could be your next-door neighbour who lives in a well-to-do neighbourhood or someone who lives in an apartment.

According to the Food Bank Ontario Hunger Count 2022 survey, the top three reasons people accessed a food bank this year were food costs, low provincial social assistance rates, and housing costs.

The percentage of older people accessing food banks has increased from 6.8 per cent in
2019 to 8.9 per cent in 2022.

Indigenous people accessing a food bank rose from 8 percent in 2021 to 15.3 per cent in 2022.

What about students who can’t put food on the table?

Ultimately, there are people you walk by every day or never see that are starving or need a place to call home.

Often some people are too quick to judge why someone may not have money to buy food.

Perhaps we can chalk it up to ignorance because there can be many reasons for the who, what, where, when, why, and how.

Provincial social assistance is the main source of income for nearly 50 per cent of food bank clients.

Provincial social assistance benefits, which includes both the general welfare and provincial disability support income streams, have rapidly eroded compared to general

People whose main source of income is provincial social assistance fall far below the official poverty line, with single-person households accounting for 45.4 per cent of food
bank clients

Food Bank Ontario Hunger Count 2022

Instead of focusing on the negative that might encompass poverty and homelessness, look for the good in what you can do to help.

Show compassion, empathy and perhaps extend a hand to someone who wants to work.

Changing lives begins with Canadians who want to make a difference, not a dam.

Pretending poverty doesn’t exist is a fool’s game; blaming it on the government or those suffering doesn’t belong in this world.

Open the flow of communication, and your perspective will change how you view poverty.

rising rate of inflation
Food Bank Survey Respondent Food Bank Hunger Count 2022

Facts About Poverty

In March 2022, there were nearly 1.5 million visits to food banks in Canada,
the highest March usage on record even though unemployment rates were at
their lowest on record in the same month.

Food Bank Hunger Count 2022

Second Harvest Canada

Canada’s largest food rescue organization is Second Harvest, with a motto of “No Waste, No Hunger.

Their work supports the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals – Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action, and Zero Hunger.  

We’re on a mission to grow our innovative, efficient food recovery network to fuel people and reduce the environmental impact of avoidable food waste.

Second Harvest

Food waste stats are incomprehensible, and why Second Harvest rescues food to feed those in need while sustaining our planet.

  • 58% of Amount of all food produced is lost and wasted in Canada every year
  • 11.2 Million Tonnes of edible food that goes to landfill
  • 5.6 Million Canadians who are food insecure

Food rescued from local businesses before it goes to landfills is sent to Harvest Kitchens.

Second Harvest picks up the unused food in Toronto and takes it to its warehouse for distribution.

Foodrescue.ca is the website where a store can post what it wants going.

Registered charities like the food bank see the post and send their truck to the store and bring it to their facility to be distributed.

All this is supported by donations and our government. It may have been cheaper to pay half of everyone’s rent for low-income earners.

At the Harvest Kitchen, the food is prepared into meals and donated to non-profit organizations that cannot meal prep.

From there, the meals are distributed to community members in need.

What A Food Bank Client Receives

A CBB reader who volunteers at her local Food Bank was able to take photos and send me a breakdown of what might get packed in a box.

The biggest problem for the food bank is its image that has been portrayed in the past.

You’re a failure because you needed to go to the food bank; you were looked down on.

Food banks were hidden so your neighbour won’t see you going in.

However, today, many families access the food bank, and we know proper nutrition is key to good health.

Over the years, the food bank has attempted to make each facility welcoming for clients to come in for food.

The government funds the fresh food program.

Clients receive sliced bread, eggs, milk, butter or margarine, apples, and onions. Sometimes small chickens and potatoes are through the fresh food program.

In this box is an allotment for two people and a cold hamper containing the following items.

  • One tomato
  • Three eggs
  • 1 1/2 pounds of butter
  • 1/2 a stalk of celery
  • Six baking potatoes
  • Frozen food
  • Six-packs of meat (today was 2 lb hamburger)
  • Two pounds of Round steak
  • Six Shiskabobs

This very rich hamper is meant to cover five days which not all food banks can give.

You can access the food bank once a month.

I hope this helps you see exactly what a food bank client would receive.

Gift Cards

First, the food bank willingly excepts prepaid grocery cards, which are often given out at Christmas or Thanksgiving.

With a gift card, a family can purchase just what they want.

For example, a family member may need gluten-free, or a diabetic needs sugar-free.

Shortage Of Volunteers

To volunteer, contact your food bank and ask for a volunteer application.

Fill it out and return it, as the need for volunteers is great.

Plus, I heard from a friend that volunteers that anyone who receives Food Bank services and helps takes home extra.

I’m unsure if every Food Bank does this, but volunteering is the basis of the task.

Surviving Growing Up Poor

Growing up poor is about ‘surviving,’ which means doing things less than desirable or illegal.

Although I don’t advocate what was done below, it’s essential to read the reality of some folks.

Reddit user TheIndulgery grew up very poor, and below are a few things they used to do:

  1. Get a job at a grocery store when you’re 16 and throw away some stuff. When my mom would come to pick us up, we’d take the food home, and she’d return the non-food items for cash the next day.
  2. Sit outside behind the bagel shop and wait for them to throw out the day-old bagels. They usually put them in their bag so they weren’t mixed with the rest of the trash.
  3. Have car washes at gas stations with signs that we were fundraising for a church trip (we had 8 kids, so it was enough to be believable). We’d raise a few hundred dollars to a thousand a weekend doing that.
  4. Flour pancakes. Just flour and water. They were f@@king horrible. Cereal with water was worse.
  5. Popsicles were just water and sugar. Pop the cubes in your mouth. If you were flush that week, you’d add powdered Koolaide.
  6. Selling plasma. $80 for your first trip and $20 a trip after, and you could do it twice a week
  7. When I moved out, I lived near a casino. Free drinks while you’re gambling, so I’d bring $20 to the roulette table and make it last for about $100 worth of drinks. Usually walked out with my $20

Positive Food Hacks And Survival Tips When You’re Poor

Another Reddit user had the below information to share. Unfortunately, I lost the link to the source, but I will add it if I find it or they come forward.

I edited it for easy reading.

  1. Find out what the “clearance” and “markdown” signs and stickers look like at your grocery store. There is usually a dedicated clearance section, but not everything marked down or discontinued will be there. Train your eyes to spot those stickers and signs as you walk through the store.
  2. Freeze for Later. If I come across some marked-down meat, I will buy, repackage, and freeze if reasonably priced. For example, I got 10-12 count boneless chicken breast packs for $7 at a local store on markdown. We don’t eat that many at a time, so I repackaged it in freezer bags and stocked it up.
  3. Bread is flour, salt, water, and yeast (which is all cheap af). You can have yourself a fancy-a$$ loaf of bread for under a dollar.
  4. Chicken thighs are the cheapest meat I’ve found.
  5. Don’t use a cart or basket at the grocery store. Buy only what you can carry. Assuming transportation costs don’t offset it. It’s hard to carry more than $40 worth of groceries. As a result, it will slow your spending rate by limiting it to only immediate needs. It’s a kind of Just in Time logistics approach to buying ramen.
  6. Eat with tortilla or bread to be satisfied when there is not much food.
  7. Fry bread consists of sugar, flour, baking soda, and oil. It’s not amazing, but it’s food.
  8. Coffee grounds can be used more than once. They’re not phenomenally reused, but they can be reused.

Survival Tips

  1. Growing up poor, I learned how to crochet. I created things that were popular at the time. I earned a lot of money for doing what I love.
  2. If you’re on the street, laundromat vents might be a good place to hang out in winter.
  3. Most Mcdonald’s, Starbucks’ and Libraries have free wifi.


I had to share what the above commenter said and give it space as it was touching.

I hope that one day your kids realize how much effort you went through to keep their innocence, give them meals filled with love, and not burden them with the knowledge of your financial status, and I hope they pay it forward.

Poverty Food Hacks

Produce is wasted at every level of the food supply chain
Produce is wasted at every level of the food supply chain

Perhaps the most significant source of sticker shock has been at the grocery store.

Half of Canadians (49%) find it difficult to feed their household, a proportion more or less similar to that registered over the past two years.

While overall inflation had cooled to 2.8 percent, grocery prices rose more than nine percent year-over-year.

Between May 2021 and May 2023, grocery prices increased by nearly 18 percent, according to Statistics Canada’s consumer price index tracker.

Obtaining community help for food is only one step of the process for Canadians in need.

The food must stretch for a month, which can be challenging for anyone.

Why the difficulty?

Potential reasons can affect anyone, anywhere, and at any time.

Stretch Nutritious Meals With These Food Hacks

For this reason, I asked my Facebook community to help me develop kitchen food hacks.

The purpose was to share their experiences with others looking for ways to get more from the ingredients they have in the kitchen.

I save bread ends, crusts, and pieces of stale bread in a bag in the freezer to prepare homemade stuffing.

  • Tomato Paste makes a cheap pasta sauce.
  • Ramen noodles can be dressed with vegetables, meat, fish, spices, and sauces.
  • Using just frozen bananas, make a delicious breakfast smoothie.
  • Substitute hotdogs for sausages to bulk up meals.
  • Bulk minced meat with oatmeal, stuffing mix, or bread crumbs.

Facebook Poverty Food Hacks

As a student in the 70s, I lived very frugally and would soak dry pinto beans and then cook them with one onion and jalapeño.

If there were any meat in the mark-down bin, I would add that and then eat it with rice. I always bought the cheapest store brands, and dessert would be Jello.

My landlord would give me fish when he went fishing. I learned to bake bread cheaply with flour, yeast, and water.- Cathleen Camp-Murray

There is an app/website where you can input your items. It’s called “My fridge food.”

Purchase meats that have been marked down and have food storage from buying items on sale.- Su Cu

I love looking through old recipe books, like the ones churches and other groups put out as fundraisers.

The old recipes are great, with Good food and no processed crap. Just good easy food.- Christine Weadick

A YouTuber I follow suggests investing in spices. Adding extra flavor to inexpensive meats/veggies can help (especially if you eat the same thing for multiple days)- Anne Laidlaw.

Final Thoughts

Do what you can to help by volunteering, donating, motivating, or lending an ear to Canadians in need.

Discussion: What other food hacks can you stretch, flavour, or build nutritious meals?

Please leave your comments below.

Thanks for stopping by,


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  1. This was a great article. It was nice to learn what some people have to do to feed their families and themselves.

    1. Hi Dale,
      I really wanted to get into this because Canadians are struggling pretty bad. I’ve never volunteered at the Food Bank but I plan to perhaps during the winter months. I think I would learn lots and gain a better understanding. We have a program in town which we donate to and I’ve had the opportunity to meet up with the coordinator who is also very low-income. It’s an incredible project that he runs. Thanks for dropping a comment Dale. Mr. CBB

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