Welfare Food Challenge – Surviving but not Thriving

Sushi and BSG
We’re halfway done the Welfare Food Challenge and it is no longer smooth sailing. Our fresh produce is going bad but we can’t afford to replace it; I’m bored of rice and beans and oatmeal; and both Emily and I are feeling tired and sluggish, so there’s likely a nutritional deficiency in our diet.

The hardest part of the challenge has been socializing with friends and not being able to eat the food they offer. Last night I had to resist snacks and sushi while battling cylons. It was a good conversation starter about welfare rates in BC, but it was difficult feeling content with carrots and bread when everyone else was snacking on strawberries and olives.

Mouldy Tomatoes Fresh Salsa Homemade Tomato Sauce
Our tomatoes have started to go mouldy. We turned the good ones into fresh salsa (the 8 cent jalapeno was my best purchase!). I chopped off the mouldy bits of the others and turned them into tomato sauce. That should buy us some time. Our kale is also starting to go bad, so we’ll have to eat it soon or freeze it.

When we did our initial grocery shopping, I was confident we had enough nutritious food to last us the week. However, it’s becoming increasingly evident that something is lacking. Could it be low iron or not enough protein? I created a spreadsheet of all the food I’ve eaten in the first 3 days and the nutritional content of everything.

Ideal Average (Day 1-3)
Calories 2300 2074
Fat (g) 70 21
Carbohydrates (g) 330 408
Protein (g) 80 84
Vitamin A 100% 1521%
Vitamin C 100% 173%
Calcium 100% 51%
Iron 100% 157%

Most of the numbers are good – lots of protein, carbohydrates, Vitamin C, and Iron, and we’re getting a ridiculous amount of Vitamin A (thank you carrots). Our calorie consumption is a bit low, but we have leftovers after almost every meal. It’s possible the boringness of the meals is causing us to eat less.

I’m only slightly worried about our calcium levels – half of what they should be – but I don’t think it’s causing short term health problems. We’re missing many of our best sources of calcium like almonds (25% of daily calcium in 100 g), broccoli, and oranges. We get some calcium from the beans, but the best source we bought this week is kale and we’ve been saving it.

The really worrying number is fat – 30% of ideal level – this is likely the cause of our malaise. The biggest things missing from our diet this week are nuts and fresh vegetables. A cup of cashews or almonds would have 45 g of fat. A single avocado would have 30 g. The only significant fat source we bought this week is the canola oil. We have $6 left in our food budget, so I’m going to find a cheap source of healthy fat to supplement our diet for the remaining 4 days.

Pictures of some of our meals on Day 2 and Day 3:
Welfare Food Challenge - Day 2 Lunch Welfare Food Challenge - Day 3 Lunch Welfare Food Challenge - Day 3 Dinner Lots of Rice


  1. I’ve been enjoying a lot of the recipes from Good and Cheap (“Eat Well on $4/Day”):

    Would be interested in hearing your thoughts on it given your experience over the last week or so.


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