A Walk In Other's Shoes - Poverty Challenge - Family

This challenge is asking families to attempt to stay within a social assistance budget for five days. Ontario Works benefits provide a maximum basic needs for a couple with any amount of children is $458.00; this sets the challenge budget at $75.00 per family, or $15 per day. A single parent would receive $344.00 per month, therefore, their challenge budget will be $60.00 or $12.00 per day.

The budget includes all food and drink, entertainment, some personal supplies and transportation costs. Each family will be given challenge cards which will reveal additional challenges to be completed before the end of each day. As the family completes the challenge, they will blog about their experience.

Boucher Family

Boucher Family

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

This is what I bought with our $75 to feed a family of 5 for 5 days. 2 liter milk $3.35 2 cans tomato soup $1.00 Fish sticks $3.97 Hamburger helper $1.97 Honey Combs cereal $1.99 Dozen eggs $2.27 Cheese slices $3.76 Mixed Veggies frozen $1.97 Margarine $2.97 Rolled Oats, 900g $2.27 100 tea bags $1.97 2kg flour $1.00 2k white sugar $1.97 Cereal $1.47 Sunlight dish soap $1.97 2 Whole wheat bread $4.14 1 pkg wieners $1.99 3lb bag apples $2.97 2lb bag carrots $1.48 1 onion $0.81 10kg potatoes $3.00 Popping corn $1.67 Coffee $4.47 Chocolate Chips $1.50 Pasta $0.97 Whole wheat breas $2.07 Chicken balogna $1.47 4 bananas $1.02 Lettuce $1.29 Fem. Paper product $2.79 Red poster paper $0.95 Toilet paper $2.58 coupons used -$10.01 For a total of.........$59.30 I used $2.00 for the boys Scout dues, $1.00 to borrow a car today and we used a liter of milk from at home so I will say $2.00 for that. I have a grand total of $10.00 left. We got toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss for free at the Northwestern Health Unit. We used 2lbs of deer meat and apple sauce from home that we hunted/made for free. With bought supplies I made 3 dozen applesauce muffins and 4 dozen chocolate chip oatmeat cookies. The food we have left is- 2 carrots, half an onion, apples, potatoes, 1 can tomato soup, oatmeal, sugar, flour, coffee, tea, apples, muffins, one loaf bread, half a pack cheese slices, whole pack chicken bologna (Bought it for cheap, no one like it. Hummm, maybe if I fry it they'll eat it.) Oh yes, my coffee filter still worked great this morning!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Nearing the End

Yes we are almost done the poverty challenge. It has been a good experience for our family. We are really proud of the kids for not playing video games or computer. We have watched some Olympics but the kids never watched their own shows and reminded each other not to play the electronics or watch T.V. It has also been interesting to discover what was hard for us and what was not too hard. I actually found the grocery shopping on the food budget not too bad. In fact, when Gerry told a friend what our meal plan was for the week he said "isn't that what you normally eat". The part of grocery shopping that made my brain tired was actually thinking meals through so we could have good food on the budget. Normally, with this same meal plan I would not have to think "will I have enough margarine for biscuits or enough milk and eggs to bake?" If I ran out I would just drive my van to the store and get some more. I managed not to run out of any food and had about $10 left over but really had to think things through. What I could not have afforded on this budget was junk food, ice cream (the kids really like ice cream), quick lunch add ons and juice. But hey, better for our waist lines. But really, never having a treat can be discouraging and I know the kids would like to have some of the same foods that their friends get. The other items this budget would not have afforded are what I call interesting foods-nuts, cheeses, veggies like orange and yellow peppers and fruit like pineapple, grapefruit and kiwi. I remember when Gerry and I first got married and our food budget was like the poverty challenge budget. I would get so tired of eating the same old healthy food. I never even looked at a pineapple and would stand in front of the green peppers for the longest time wondering if I could afford one that week. Wow we have come a long way, I will put a block of cheese and a green pepper in my shopping cart without a thought. This week was a great reminder on how things used to be, how blessed we are right now and how many people still live with this degree of poverty or even much less. What we found tiring was walking everywhere. Yesterday Owen was sick and the walk home from school was not fun. If we were not on this challenge I would have picked him up with the van. That would not have been a choice for people who could not afford a vehicle or gas for it. I would also find poverty isolating. I am involved in the community as a Scout leader, Red Cross volunteer and in church activities. I just would not have been able to do any of this without wheels or Internet communication. How lonely. Tomorrow the challenge wraps up by lunch. Gerry and I had to borrow a car so we can get there as we are both working tomorrow in different directions. So, Gerry put his walking boots one more time and hoofed it to a friends house to pick it up. at least we have a friend willing to do this for us. Not everyone would. Tomorrow morning I will crunch the numbers for this week in my final blog. P.S.- didn't have time to buy our icecream treat today, maybe tomorrow. And my coffee two coffee filters are still in great shape!! Will use again tomorrow morning.

Free pizza

Today will be an easy day for us. Gerry is already at work and I am leaving for work as well so no walking for me!! The neighbours are giving the kids a ride to school today. Our challenge today was- Grandma is coming through town and she brought you a pizza. We already have a meal plan today that we like so we are going to buy some icecream instead of pizza for a treat.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Bed Bug Solution

After getting the kids to school this morning I walked up to town once again. I went to the Northwestern Health Unit to ask some questions. In regards to yesterdays toothache challenge, this is what I learned. If you earn less than $20,000 a year and have proof of residence and Ontario health card your children qualify for some dental programs. In my challenge, I could bring in my child and they would take a look and make some recommendations on what needs to be done. If my child needed dental care they would make the recommendation and help fill out the paper work. If a family did not have a permanent home (live in a shelter, hotel or someone else's house) if they have a Ontario health card and someone to vouch for them they could get care as well. For my challenge the health unit also encouraged a good flossing in case it was something stuck in the teeth that caused the sensitivity. I got toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss from them (I'm not proud but I returned the toothpaste and brushes, unused of course, the other day to buy the coffee I was craving!) I then walked to the next office to ask about any milk and food programs that may be available(we are running low of milk). The healthy babies program had milk coupons but our family situation did not qualify for them. The Minto Resource Center has a breakfast program where you can by a loaf of bread, carton of milk and small carton of eggs for $2. They were closed today and I was just too tired to walk that far for the milk and eggs. If they were opened I might have tried to mooch a ride there. From there I walked up the hill to the other Northwestern Health Unit building to address my bed bug situation. It was recommended that I don't move the backpack with the bed bug on it, bring a plastic bag to it and put it in. Then, very carefully put the backpack in the dryer (take out of plastic bag of course and knot it closed) and dry it on high. Only high heat will kill bed bugs. If any bed bugs are found in beds, couches and chairs I would need to get an exterminator in but that would cost a lot. If I were on Ontario Works, I would call them help deal with the situation. From there I picked up some paper work at the legal clinic and started the walk back home. On my way home I stopped at the Neechee Friendship Center for some soup and bannock. They serve soup or chili every Monday and Wednesday. I took some to go for Gerry and dropped it off at his work. Wow I am tired! Really, a few small errands took me so much time to do on foot and used up a big portion of my day. I have no energy to do anything else. If it took me much of the day to get help for my child's toothache or get help for a bed bug problem, get food and do paperwork/banking up town I really wouldn't have much left for anything else. Because if my child really did have a tooth problem I would have had to walk with them which would have been slower, had their teeth check, navigate the paper work for aid...that would be a whole day. Supper was stew made with potatoes, carrots, peas and wieners fried in onions in a cream gravy. Really, it's very good. I grew up on it and the kids love it. I also made biscuits. With all the baking I have done I am out of milk, have two eggs left and very little margarine. But because I have been baking cookies, muffins and biscuits from scratch I have $14 left so I can get more. The boys has Scout tonight. Owen stayed home because he was sick but Branson went. In reality, if we were on assistance we could not have paid for this. There is a program called Triple Play that helps families, who qualify, pay to enroll their children in one program each. We have in fact used Triple Play in the past. It is a wonderful organization that helps families and allows kids to join in activities they love. In Scouts the kids pay $1 dues each time they go to pay for some programing costs. I could send Branson $2 out of the $14 I had left for his dues. (I didn't pay last week) That felt great to be able to pay that. By the way, my coffee is wonderful and reusing coffee filters works great!

Bed Bugs!

Today's challenge is - we found bedbugs in one of the children's backpacks. My instinct would be to just throw it out as bedbugs are a world of trouble and my kid goes with no backpack until I find a way to buy another one somewhere. Next would be stripping the bedding and washing all of it. Bedbugs hide in the light so I would make the rooms dark or wait for evening and inspect all the mattresses, couch and chairs with a flashlight. Really paying attention to the seams where they like to hide. I could try to squish them. If I had Raid I would spray them. I know that is not really the best or recommended way to kill bedbugs but a can of Raid may be all I can afford. When I walk downtown today I will stop in at the health unit to get some advice. The kids are at school now. Branson walked to his school. Kate and Owen got a ride from the neighbour as he happened to be leaving as we were walking down the street. The ride was much appreciated as it is very cold today and the road the kids have to walk is not safe. Branson is choosing to take part in the lunch program at school today. Owen and Kate got cheese slice and lettuce sandwiches, carrots a cookie and a muffin that I made. Owen also took a banana and an apple. No juice for the kids. The reason I have been able to make the food budget stretch to get the fruits and veggies is I have not really bought meat. It just costs too much and I could see protein being a problem for people on assistance. Yesterday supper was a hamburger helper. Tomorrow I plan to make pasta with a meat sauce. The meat for these meals come from deer that Gerry shot behind our house with his bow and we butchered it ourselves so there was really no cost involved with that meat. Realistically that is how I have made my normal food budget stretch as well. I know that hunting and fishing isn't a possibility for many people but for lots of folks on some form of assistance it is the way they get meat. Gerry's Ojibwa background is a clutter of sharing meat. When he has hunted enough for us he has got deer for his mom and aunties who have no family to hunt for them. I now plan to walk uptown to pay some bills and run some errands. It takes all day to do simple task so I feel like I get little done in one day and I am tired. I can see this being a problem for people who have to walk everywhere. I at least have warm winter clothes to be walking in. Yesterday Branson asked why the poverty challenge didn't happen in summer when walking everywhere would be easier. Poverty does not take winter vication.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Oatmeal , oatmeal, oatmeal, how I love thee,but not for dad , kids were very hungry and gobbled it all down, toast and tea for me, I'm good. We ended up using white sugar instead of brown sugar, that is not a cheap thing. Maybe that is why my children ate it up, not healthy but effective in filling tummies. We had planned on walking to our church but drove because Ange had to work there, much to the relief of the kids. But really, if we had no vehicle, the church we would have chosen would have been within walking distance, but with this cold weather, church may have been iffy. We caught a ride with friends from church on their way to Mcdonalds then proceeded to get our winter gear on inside of the restaurant. I should mention that in the past, I mooched rides whenever and wherever I could so today was no different. Many people offered rides to our destination but we declined only taking the ride that was already on the way. We walked from Mcdonalds to the Jubilee church against a north wind. We had left our van at our church and I planned to walk back and get it home. Wonderful service and meal at Jubilee , kudos to Pastor Frank and Lynn Kowal for their mission. After the afternoon at Jubilee ,Branson and I hoofed it all the way back to Lakeside Baptist (with a tailwind), Owen got a lunch invite from a friend (lucky), Ange and Katy went to the grocery story to return shampoo and buy a bit more food. (Ange here) I broke down and bought coffee. I could not handle the headache I was getting so I returned some items so I could buy the coffee. I am sure this is not a rare occurence, people returning items to fun a vice. Kate and I started our walk home, we made it about half way before Gerry met up with us with the van. Kate was very happy for the sunshine and the fact that the cold wind was not freezing our faces anymore. She was also wondering, "how long do we have to do this walking thing?" When we got home I mooched two coffee filters from a neighbour. Gerry said back in the day he could use one coffee filter four times so I will give it a try. Our challenge today was - One of you family members has a terrible tooth ache. Fortunately it does not require any dental work at this time but it is very sensitive. Find a solution. Our solution was that family member should rinse their mouth out with salt water and do that a few times throughout the day. Tomorrow when the Northwest Health Unit is open I will walk there and see if we can get anything or get any advice about what to do about the tooth ache. Spending the rest of the day at home because it is just too cold to go anywhere are we are too tired to be walking around.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

All right, one more picture. Sorry for putting them all seperate in different posts, for some reason I am having problems uploading them. Not so techy smart. This is a picture of the laundry I washed by hand drying on a rack in the diningroom. Drying clothes without a dryer was not part of todays challenge, just washing them, but I used to always dry my clothes like this and out on the line all winter long. At the time I needed to do this to keep the electrical bill down so I could pay it. I have gotten out of this habit. I used the "staples" I bought and made applesauce muffins for a treat today. The kids were very happy for the snack. I did use applesauce from my freezer, I didn't buy it. I picked the apples in fall, cooked them and mushed them into applesauce for free in. It is so easy to do and costs nothing, a person just needs to can it or freeze it. I asked Gerry if the places he lived in growing up in poverty had ovens. He said they had the woodstoves with the oven on the side so they could do some baking. As an adult he didn't always live in homes with ovens, just a little hot plate and a small bar fridge. If that is all the housing a person could afford baking would not be an option even if you could afford flour, sugar and eggs. Gerry said he went to his mom's or aunties for yummy bannock when he needed baking! I know many of the housing units downtown don't have real kitchens and many people just have a hotplate. That really limits your ability to eat healthy and save on food costs by baking. We had a nice quiet day at home, it is just too far to walk to many services from our house. As nice as the family day was I could see this growing old fast. It would not take long for a person to feel isolated in this situation. We also did not use our phone to call friends as many people on assistance may not have a phone. Oh, Kate's comment on not being able to play video games today was "being poor sucks". This evening we drove to church for an event. I am employed there and was running a Family Night event so since this was work related we drove. Family night is a free activity night that we do once a month to allow families to socialize with other families, bond with their own families and have free fun. We would have gone even if I were not in charge because it was a great way to be with other adults, the kids had fun and there was free food (which was our supper). Many churches have free events to participate in and there is often food involved with these. Those are always great resources to take advantage of.