Sunday, October 16, 2016

Welfare Food Challenge: Meal Plan

The Welfare Food Challenge starts today. If you haven't heard of it before, the Challenge exists to highlight the inadequacy of welfare rates in BC. A single person receives only $610 a month, a rate that's been frozen for over 9 years. After you pay for the bare minimums to survive, you've got about $18 per week for food left over. (more info on the math here) Raise the Rates, with others, is working to increase awareness of the extreme poverty of people on welfare; & how this poverty costs the people of BC in human suffering & billions of wasted dollars every year.

The campaign inspired me to see what eating on $18 per person per week actually means. I sat down with an actual pen & paper, pulling up the calculator & Save On Foods app on my phone. I planned out the cheapest set of 21 meals I could think of. Here's what I came up with:

  • breakfast: on sale cereal with milk or oatmeal
  • lunch: peanut butter sandwiches with half an apple for lunch every day
  • dinner #1: boxed macaroni & cheese with wieners & frozen peas
  • dinner #2: beans, rice, & salsa with cheddar
  • dinner #3: green beans, potatoes, chicken thighs
  • dinner #4: tofu stir fry on rice
  • dinner #5: hot dogs with baby carrots
  • dinner #6: vegetarian chili with cheese
  • dinner #7: tuna rice casserole with peas & cheddar
This limited menu comes to $72, assuming I could get many of the things on sale or at dollar stores. It includes two to three servings of fruit & vegetables per day--much less than is healthy. It also assumes that we already have condiments & pantry basics like cooking oil, salt, spices, sauces. There are no snacks & no desserts. There's only enough milk for 285ml per person per day--cereal & a bit for cooking or maybe a small drink for the kids. It's also counting on a bit of savings from buying a few things in bulk for the four of us--a single person likely couldn't have even this variety of food.

I'm fairly sure it's impossible to get enough fibre, protein, or fresh fruit & vegetables on this little money. & even if you are extremely resourceful with free community meals, picking up the occasional day olds that some restaurants toss out & go to the food bank, you would still be hard pressed to eat healthily.

I can't imagine eating this way, day in & day out. There's no room for going out for treats, there's no room for birthday cake or having a friend over for dinner. There's no room for variety. The stress of shopping for food & making ends meet with this tiny budget would be soul crushing over the long term. 

While I spent an hour or so puzzling this out, I don't plan to actually eat this way this week. Most of us are recovering from bad colds & I honestly don't want to subject my small children to such poor nutrition for the week. It breaks my heart that so many children & adults in this province have to live on so little. 

Please help me send a message to our government that this needs to change. Go sign the petition to raise welfare rates & write a letter to your MLA to ask for action on the issues that impact poverty: get rid of the arduous barriers to receiving income assistance, increase the minimum wage, provide more publicly funded childcare, increase low-income housing stock, & raise the welfare rates. A sample letter is provided at this link

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Bronte 3.1

Bronte entertaining wee baby B outside Tandem Bike Cafe.

Bronte, currently:

Gotta tuck dolly in too.

  1. looooves preschool. She asks to go every day, even on the weekends. She's particularly thrilled about the scissors, giant blocks, tiny plastic animals, & singing.
  2. still has some hilarious pronunciations, like ukulady, dolophant, & regularly substitutes W for R, & F for TH producing oh-so-cute words like fwee, when asked her age.
  3. has been very shouty lately. She is not at all afraid to let someone know when they've overstepped her boundaries. But sometimes she just gets weirdly possessive, like when she wanted all the cafe toys to herself--sharing them with the other two three-year-olds was hard.
  4. loves babies. She'll spend quite a while making faces & sounds at a wee one in a stroller. Happily, she's gotten to the point where I'm not worried she'll poke them in the eye or something, but I still have to keep an eye on her, because she's convinced she should hold all of them.
  5. spent about two weeks telling every single person she met about her new pedal bike. She's calmed down a bit about it, but still needs to ride it every day. No idea where she gets the obsession with bikes from...
  6. has gotten attached to her dolly again. She has gone through phases in the past year & a half where she won't leave home without it for a while, then it sits abandoned on a shelf for months.
  7. quite likes eating salads these days. Mostly caesar salad or similar creamy dressing, but hey--I'm not complaining.
That's my girl in a nutshell. 

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Camping with Modo

Cramming the last few things into the Modo Kia minivan

Helpful children being helpful while setting up the tents 
Home sweet home for a couple nights

Playing with some lake foam, which our resident biology teacher told us is due to naturally ocurring phosphates

Camping fashion in full effect! 
Hello! How was your summer? Clearly, from the dearth of posting around hereabouts, mine was a bit busy. Hoping to get back into the swing of things once both kids settle into their school routines (OMG, I might actually have a few hours a week where both children are at school & I'm not working & I have time to do stuff. Like write. OMG)

The last week of August we decided to squeeze the last of the good out of summer & tried out something new with Modo: a camping trip with two families in one vehicle. Yep, that's four adults & four kids who all require carseats/boosters.

We'd reserved a couple of nights at North Beach campground in Golden Ears Provincial Park--it wasn't too busy Sunday/Monday night. We booked a Modo eight passenger minivan & crossed our fingers that we'd fit ourselves & all our camping gear inside.

Okay, crossing our fingers was a bit of an exaggeration... Last summer we bike camped with the same friends--Four Kids, For Adults, Four Bikes, Four Days--so we all had experience packing fairly light for eight people. We use relatively compact & light gear--thin foam mats, thermarests, fairly light tents & sleeping bags, small backpacking stoves--so I wasn't seriously worried about fitting in the essentials, but we also threw in a few extras, like two hammocks & folding camping chairs, a cooler full of beer & a lot of tarps.
Someone found the Kool Aid packet

Sunday the weather was a bit iffy & it actually did rain quite a bit shortly after we arrived, but we'd just set up a large tarp over the picnic table. Setup had been pretty quick--two MEC Camper 4 tents, unrolling the sleeping mats & bags inside, unfolding a few chairs & stringing up a tarp between the many trees. Et, voila! Base camp for two nights.

Golden Ears Provincial Park, if you didn't know, has three different campgrounds--pretty standard provincial park setups, though ours only had one water source, which was a hand pump that spewed out urine coloured water. Since nobody mentioned the water being a problem to drink, we didn't worry. However, when we discovered a tap with cleaner looking H2O on our hike the next day, we refilled the water jug there.

Day two we went on a great hike--only about 7 km round trip, but that took us about five hours including lunch at the viewpoint as well as many many stops for each of the small children to pee, etc.

Potty breaks were basically the theme of the hike, with children calling for them at least a dozen times altogether. I wish I was kidding or exaggerating on this. But hey, considering they're 6, 4.5, almost 3, & 2, they did very well.

Linny loves his MEC turtle headlamp
I brought my Nordic poles & my hip held out quite well on the hike--I ended up with more pain in my foot, unfortunately. It was great to get out into the woods with the kids--Linnaeus hiked the whole thing without complaint & Bronte did about half of it, the rest of the time riding in the Beco carrier on Oliver.

On the last day, after we packed up, we headed to a different beach on Alouette Lake, accidentally ending up too far south & going to the one near the dam. The weather was breezy & not too warm, plus it was a Tuesday, so the beach was not busy at all. We ate our lunch at one of the many picnic tables there & I went for a short swim in the lake. I can't even remember the last time I actually swam in a lake.

Our two littlest campers rock chucking at North Beach on Alouette Lake
Though it's a bit squishy to fit four adults & four children (all requiring car seats or boosters) in a minivan, the drive was only an hour each way. I'd definitely do it again--it's fun to all be together in one vehicle & it saves some money--two separate Modo bookings would cost more than the premium vehicle cost.

Gorgeous spot for lunch from the viewpoint we hiked to

The final highlight of the trip was taking the van through the Shine automatic car wash on our way home. I shot a little video of the experience--a first for all the kids & a long time since the adults had been through one. Maybe car washes aren't a big deal to you, but for car free kids they're apparently AMAZING. (PS--Modo members: did you know if you get the Modo vehicle washed, you can get reimbursed plus earn a free hour of driving time?)

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Bronte 3.0

& poof, my baby is a preschooler. This summer went by fast! Suddenly I have two kids in school. Facebook is showing me photos I posted three years ago of baby girl's arrival, so of course I'm getting all nostalgic & marvelling at how far she's come. From a pink, wiggly newborn with a pudgy little face, she's turned into an assertive, articulate, generous, intelligent, independent, athletic child. Happy birthday, little B.

Putting some elbow grease into unwrapping her birthday presents.

Zip tied an ice cream bucket to her runner bike. Thrilled.

Another big milestone passed this month: TOILET TRAINED!

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Bike To Shop Day Vancouver

Today is Vancouver's first Bike to Shop Day! Though I've been biking to shop since I started bike commuting almost twenty years ago, I still get a bit of a thrill when I bring a bunch of stuff home under my own power. (Here's an illustrated list of some of the more impressive things I've transported home by bike here if you're curious)

Spring 2015 a hashtag all about shopping by bike went viral. #Quaxing was all over Twitter & Instagram--do you remember? Here's my post on what it is & how to be awesome at itSpoiler Alert: you don't need a ton of expensive gear to do it! 

Also last year, before Bike to Shop Day was really a thing in Vancouver, I wrote a list of six reasons why you should try biking to shop. Reasons to add to the list: win prizes! Get free snacks! Save money with discounts at participating businesses! Meet some new friends on the themed rides!

HUB has all kinds of fun planned today between 11am & 3pm, from Celebration Stations, like during Bike to Work Week, several themed rides with experienced bike to shoppers along the way to give you tips & tricks for things like transporting pets by bike, plus free bike repairs, snacks, & more at the stations. Find a map of the celebration stations & more information about the rides here. (PS: I'll be talking family biking at the Celebration Station in Victory Square downtown--come by & say hello!)

Register for Bike to Shop Day: it's free online & makes you eligible to win the grand prize: a trip for two to the Okanagan with Accent Inns and Pacific Coastal airlines! You'll also help HUB gain valuable data that they can share with local businesses & decision-makers. (*cough* Commercial Drive BIA *cough*). As long as you're biking to shop at some point, register by midnight & you'll be entered!

See you on the bike paths!

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