They made the grocery store with $ 210 per week for a month |NEW VAT

They made the grocery store with $ 210 per week for a month |NEW VAT

Fear of lacking food, limited products and constant obsession surrounding meals planning.Washand parents confronted with feeding their families as if they earned $ 11.25 The hour had to change their way of grocery.

"I was afraid of having to deprive children of food.I told myself that I was going to deprive myself long before them, "recalls Josée Lalonde, the mother of Émil, 13, and Ulysses, 7 years old.

In the midst of a debate on the minimum wage, and during a winter month when the price of certain foods is very high due to the rarity, Ms. Lalonde and her spouse Denis Paquin agreed to take up the challenge at the request of the Montreal Journal.

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- Part 2: Stress touched the family during the experience

A permanent challenge

Throughout the month of February, they could only spend $ 838 to eat, the maximum of what two workers at the minimum wage can devote to food.

"It is possible to get away with it, but it is necessary all the time that you are thinking of that, and it must not happen to you an unexpected," sums up the father, Denis Paquin.

Without their visit to collective cuisine, the five bags of foodstuffs from the food bank and lunchtime meals provided at the older school, hard to say if the parents would have managed to complete the experience.

Because during these 28 days, the couple cut more than half the budget he normally devotes to food.

They used the amount in two payments of $ 419, on February 1 and 14, as if they were paid every two weeks.

Terring first week

The day before February 1, the newspaper went to the lalonde-caps to sort through the contents of the pantry and fridge so that it contains only a few basic products, such as mustard, ketchupor a background of cereal boxes.

Money has also been removed from the "pay" to compensate for the two dozen eggs, sliced cheese or dishwasher pads.

"We went every week at the end of the budget, without doing excess," says Denis Paquin.All the products we bought was basic products.Flour, rice, a little meat and we cook our bread.It's a difficult budget.»»

To respect it, the family had to make choices that they had never been confronted in the grocery aisles.Half less milk, very little beef, and goodbye juicy oranges and fresh fish.

The stress of planning everything depending on the circulars, doing several stores and cooking was very heavy.

Food occupied all the mother's thoughts, as she noted in her logbook, of which are published on page 32.

Children, who are greedy, have also become aware of their chance to live in a wealthy family.

« On a aussi réalisé à quel point l’alimentation prend une place importante dans les rapports sociaux»», dit Denis Paquin.​

Before experience

Family income: $ 170,000

Budget allocated to food: $ 450 at $ 500 per week.

During the experience

Family income: $ 43,875

Budget allocated to food: $ 210 per week, no more penny.

Where does the amount of $ 210 per week come from?

The amount allocated of $ 838 is based on the calculations of the Research and Socioeconomic Information Institute.

This is what remains in the pockets of a family of four (2 adults, 2 children) whose two parents are at the minimum full -time wage after all the other invoices have been paid, such as housing, electricity, transport and others.Calculation takes into account social measures as family allowances.

Only income

La famille qui a mené l’expérience était en quelque sorte « privilégiée»» parce qu’elle avait deux revenus à temps plein.

In reality, almost 60 % of workers at the minimum wage work less than 25 hours per week, not 37.5 hours, as has been calculated for the experience led by the family.

About 64 % of these workers are aged 20 and over, 47 % are in a household with two or more income and 17 % are single -parent families.

352,900 workers are at the minimum wage in Quebec.

Only the purchase of food and household products was taken into account during the experience.The amount allocated was fixed.In reality, many families must reduce the food budget when an unexpected occurs since they are often not able to put money aside.

The newspaper asked nearly ten organizations to find a family who would agree to take part in the experience.Only the coalition for a Quebec without poverty returned to us with the Lalonde-Paquin family, which had to be convinced to experience one whole month.

No one is immune to being in a precarious financial situation, whether due to a divorce, a loss of employment, a depression, a disease or other.

The Lalonde-Paquin family has also expressed almost daily emails in the newspaper of their many concerns about their ability to spend through the month, especially during the first week.

The experience was held while the increase in the minimum wage to $ 12 an hour reacted small businesses and encourages defenders of the minimum wage $ 15/h, as Ontario will do in 2019.

Difficult to make grocery stores

« On prend du beurre ou du lait ?»» a demandé la mère à son fils, qui n’avait jamais été confronté à faire un choix entre deux aliments de base pour arriver à boucler le budget de la semaine.

The Lalonde-Paquin family members had to manage with $ 419 for two weeks, no more penny, as if the two parents worked at the minimum wage, to appease their hunger and that of their two children aged 7 and 13.

« J’ai budgété chaque aliment et indiqué les plats qu’on pourrait cuisiner en fonction des produits au rabais»», raconte la mère, Josée Lalonde, qui ne se posait normalement pas de questions à l’épicerie.She bought according to her desires and children's requests.

The father, Denis Paquin, started to make his own bread to save.The consumption of milk of children has gone from four to two glasses maximum per day.And no question of wasting a drop: if the glass is not empty, it is given to the fridge for the next meal.

The chicken was bought by having in mind that it would be used for two meals, the lenses replaced part of the chopped beef in the Chinese pâté so that there is meat to make tacos.

No oranges or fish

« Denis reluquait des oranges qui semblaient succulentes, mais à 6 $ le sac, cela ne rentrait pas dans le budget»», se souvient Josée Lalonde, qui a été choquée de devoir laisser sur les étalages des aliments aussi essentiels.

Restaurant delivery on Friday evening, the local bakery breads or the sausages of the delicatessen were of course no longer part of their lives.

Sacrifices have even been made on fruits or vegetables that the family appreciated, or more expensive dairy products, such as grain cheese.They disappeared from the basket.

Fresh fish had also become too expensive.Even frozen fish did not fit into the budget.The couple therefore dropped the idea of having fun on Friday evening by preparing a homemade fish and chips with cod or eaglefin.

Products packaged individually, such as bear legs or tender bars, were limited to lunches.No more question for children to take it as a snack at home.

« On a cuisiné pas mal de biscuits, muffins, des croustades pour remplacer les collations habituelles»», explique le jeune Émil, qui s’est plus impliqué avec son frère dans la préparation des plats dans la deuxième partie du mois.

Alcohol consumption was reduced to half a breeze on Friday and a bottle of wine in a supper with friends, bought with the money saved due to the fact that there was no meal atprepare.

Cooking, cooking, cooking

Between work, school, homework and children's lessons, weekends were entirely devoted to the preparation of meals and snacks for the rest of the week.Less time for leisure, to see family and friends, which the mother has found very difficult.

The basket also contained more versatile basic products, such as carrots, potatoes, onions, eggs or flour.

The family does not think they have eaten less well than usual because they bought basic products and fewer processed products or prepared dishes.

However, the couple was eager to find a variety in the food they consume, even if they showed imagination to make different dishes during the month.

"Chinese chicken and pâté, I'm disgusted. Le riz au tofu, c’est bon, mais à moment donné, je commençais à être tanné aussi»», a confié Denis Paquin à la fin de l’expérience.


Chicken with homemade fries


Chinese pâté half-viande, mid-lentils (with the potatoes that remain from the bag)


Hot Chicken (with resting Sunday chicken)


Rice pork and tofu


Pasta (spaghetti sauce with minced meat and frozen vegetables)


Tacos (with minced meat not used for Chinese pâté)

Ils ont fait l’épicerie avec 210$ par semaine pendant un mois | TVA Nouvelles

1.Planning and preparation of meals

"We must always do stock management, plan what we will need.There is no room for error in the purchasing decision or in the preparation.Everything is counted.»» – Denis Paquin, le père

2.Difficult choice for grocery store

"We did not feel at all the same pleasure of going to the grocery store as usual.We had to stick to our special -based list.»» – Denis Paquin

3.Psychological stress

"I thought all the time, especially at the beginning, of the planning of meals and what I was going to do.People [at the minimum wage] must be tired of calculating everything, it never stops for them.»» – Josée Lalonde

"We even had a discussion around the fact that a friend of our children had taken too much butter, and we feared that we are missing.»» – Denis Paquin

4.Fears that children lack something

"We were afraid that the youngest, Ulysses, would not adapt because it is more difficult.Finally, it is more we who adapted to him, because he likes more basic dishes.And the Kraft Dinner, he would eat it every day.»» – Denis Paquin

5.Little time with family or for leisure

"As we spent all our weekends to cook, in more than half an hour per evening, so we had less time to do activities, to go out, to have fun with the children, which was a bitdifficult at times.I also train normally twice a week at the swimming pool, I only went there once.»» – Josée Lalonde

Children got their hands in the dough for meals and snacks during the month at the minimum wage to help their parents reach both ends.

« On a fait le pain»», sourit fièrement Ulysse, 7 ans.

The increased involvement of children in food is one of the positive aspects of the family experience.

"For snacks, we made cookies or muffins. J’ai aussi plus aidé à faire le repas que d’habitude»», ajoute Émil, 13 ans, qui a aussi fait un pain avec l’un de ses amis pour l’emporter lors d’un souper en famille.

A visit to the food bank at the start of the third week of the experience also reassured the children, who found bags filled with food (which the newspaper compensated by putting a donation into the organization) by returning fromschool, like what they usually had.

Le plus jeune s’est même exclamé : « On est riches !»», en voyant tous les dons reçus, lui qui n’avait pas aimé voir le réfrigérateur vide au début de la semaine.

"Children have realized that they are very lucky. Ils sont dans une situation dans la société où ils n’ont pas à se questionner à savoir s’ils vont avoir assez à manger à la fin du mois»», se réjouit la mère de la famille, Josée Lalonde.

More flexible

The children were also more grateful for efforts made by their parents to manage to cook good dishes despite the lack of means.

« Les enfants nous disaient que c’était très bon, qu’ils aimaient la recette, ça me renforçait beaucoup, ça me donnait du feedback positif»», souligne Mme Lalonde.

Like their parents, the couple's children were forced to comply with a more limited choice of food during the month when the budget was limited.They also paid more attention to waste, putting the glasses of milk still filled in the fridge.

"Usually, they expect to find exactly what they like to eat, and if we forget, they let us know. Cela les amène à apprécier ce qu’ils ont et à être plus flexibles sur le plan alimentaire, ce qui n’est pas peu dire»», ajoute la mère lors d’un échange courriel avec Le Journal à la troisième semaine du défi.

It doesn't take the test

Parents were still having to juggle the fact that the youngest Ulysses, 7, was a little more difficult in terms of food.

"We tried to do homemade chicken spread for lunches, while usual, we buy the one already made at the grocery store.But Ulysses refused to eat it. On a été obligé de racheter celle faite en magasin»», rapporte le père, Denis Paquin.The Chinese pâté with lenses did not pass the test either.

The children were looking forward to the experience to end up to find some of their habits.

« Est-ce qu’on peut dire que le défi est fini dès que la journaliste est partie ?»» a demandé Émil, la dernière soirée de l’expérience.

Besides, the latter did not hesitate the next day to jump on the contents of the snack cabinet that had missed them so much.

At the beginning of the third week of the challenge, the nutritionist and animator Geneviève O’Gleman met the Lalonde-Paquin family to give them tips to make the grocery store with their breakfast.At the end of the experience, the Pink Therrian nutritionist also made recommendations following the family made by the family.Here are some of their tips.

Before going to the grocery store

"You can do the home to compare the circulars this week, see which merchant offers the products I like to eat at better prices.We have to look at the circular that best suits our tastes and we go to this grocery store and we try to make the best choices.»» – Geneviève O’Gleman, nutritionniste, animatrice et productrice de Cuisine futée, parents pressés

"Remember to make an inventory of what you have at home before leaving for the grocery store allows you not to buy what you don't need.»» – Rose Therrien, nutritionniste

"We can try to buy in bulk as much as possible to try to save on the packaging.Ethnic grocery stores can also be a good choice.»» – Rose Therrien

At the grocery store

"To save money, you have to be flexible, you must not have too stopped ideas, want to eat absolutely chicken, cauliflower and apples.If they are not cheap, we end up cutting ourselves on savings.»» – Geneviève O’Gleman

"You have to give yourself time.If we are in a hurry, we don't have time to make comparisons, find the bargains.»» – Geneviève O’Gleman

"Avoid individual formats which are more expensive and unwanted.Choose large yogurt or cheese formats and portion them yourself.»» – Rose Therrien

"To better compare prices between products, you have to look at the price per kilogram in the alley of meats, the price per 100 g in grocery products and do not hesitate to weigh the fruits and vegetables to know if it'sis more advantageous to take it in the pounds or in a prepackle package.»» – Geneviève O’Gleman

"Look at the top and bottom products of the shelves because those in the middle are often more expensive because the companies pay to be well placed on the shelves.»» – Rose Therrien, nutritionniste

If your child does not eat much or lifts his nose on new foods

"When you take a snack before the meal, it fills the appetite.We become a little more selective when the meal comes, we are more difficult, we are good, we are not so hungry, so we can more sort food.It's worth not eating a snack for a good hour or two before the meal.»» – Geneviève O’Gleman

"A child needs two glasses of milk a day, it is not necessary that he drink more.Besides, a large glass of milk or juice before the meal, it fills the appetite, so he risks eating less at the meal.»» – Geneviève O’Gleman

"For legumes for example, you can try to integrate it into a dish that we already like.In a spaghetti sauce or a Chinese pâté, we add lenses in a recipe that is already winning.It is also worth doing it by step.We do not replace 100 %, we can make a 1/3 legumes, 2/3 meat and season the legume as we would have seasoned meat.»» – Geneviève O’Gleman

"Another thing for children to be a little more curious is to make active games before the meal, to go to play outside, it will dig their appetite, they will be less difficult to meal meal.»» – Geneviève O’Gleman

If you are tired and you don't want to cook...

"You can always buy a frozen pizza, but you accompany it with raw vegetables, a soup or a salad, you can even add vegetables to the pizza.»» – Rose Therrien, nutritionniste

We eat less meat and we are always hungry...

"We have two allies to support our appetite: proteins and fibers.Meat is expensive, tofu, legumes are inexpensive, foods made of whole grain will support longer, we do more milking with a single meal.»» – Geneviève O’Gleman

Frozen vegetables

The couple has taken frozen vegetables, more economical than the costs.


The couple chose a field cucumber rather than the Lebanese.


Basic products have been favored since they were used for more than a meal.

Milk bags

The family has halved their milk consumption.

Kraft Dinner

Chosen to satisfy tastes.Little of the youngest.


We opted for canned olives, cheaper than the fresh.


The couple has chosen house brand bagels to save.


Purchased to make homemade pizzas.

During the challenge, Josée Lalonde, the mother of the family, held a logbook to keep traces of the experience.Here are some extracts that demonstrate family concerns during the month.

Sunday 4 février

"It is this hunger that I would like to get rid of, because as I think all the time of food, it looks like my appetite increases.However, I know that the fridge is not empty, but the fear of not having enough money until the next pay inhabits me.»»

Sunday 11 février

"Everything becomes luxury when you only have the minimum to eat.In reality, it must be very hard.I imagine very well the impact of a high electricity bill, for example, on the food budget: it would be cut, which is not our case.»»

Saturday February 17th

"We spend the day cooking for this week.Time passes quickly and we have to choose between cooking and seeing our loved ones.We have no choice but to reduce our leisure, our social life.This is what I find difficult at this weekend.»»

Tuesday 20 février

"We couldn't take it anymore: we went to eat a pizza, Denis and me.We needed to go out, ventilate.We "indebted" $ 40, but it was worth.It's like a second breath that allows us to spend more easily the week.»»

"I miss fresh fish a lot.I also can't wait to receive.We have limited the invitations a lot, even for children's friends.It goes beyond food, it also disrupts family and social dynamics.»» – Josée Lalonde (mère)

"It is not so much a particular food that I miss, but the more freedom to say that if I don't want to cook I simplify my life with the restaurant or a dish prepared.»» – Denis Paquin (père)

"I can't wait to find my snacks, like bear legs and cheese.I eat a lot of it.»» – Émil (13 ans)

"The calf, I really like that.»» – Ulysse (7 ans)

More attentive to the budget allocated to the grocery store

"The experience made us aware of the budget that we allocated to food, which we did not do before.We will be more attentive to some of our desires that we will be able to postpone.The money we put in food, I can choose to put it elsewhere.»» – Josée Lalonde

Cook more

"We realized that we could cook more.We liked to cook bread, it was easier than you thought, we would like to continue to do it.Small $ 6 mustard jars may take the edge and we may prepare more things ourselves, now.»» – Denis Paquin

Change your way of consuming

"During the month, I felt less consumer, I took control of our lives rather than being influenced by all these brands in the grocery store.We didn't even watch that anymore, we just took the cheapest.It calls into question our way of consuming.»» – Denis Paquin