We went to No Frills today to spend our $18 for the Welfare Food Challenge. I got: one-minute whole grain oats, 7 beef flavour instant noodles, a small jar of peanut butter, some rice, some green lentils, and 12 eggs.
When we walked in, the produce section was right there at the front of the store, and Alex said, this isn't for us, which it wasn't. But we picked up our baskets and walked through it (just to be sure, I guess). It felt vaguely like walking through one of those fancy stores that sells diamond rings and stuff. You look, but that's it. Phyllis watched us shuffle awkwardly around and said, well, you can always come back. In other words, get what you need first. In other words, you don't need fruits and vegetables. In other words, caloric intake. In other words, survival.
She was right. The oats are giving me some twisted-right-the-way-all-up peace of mind. The lentils seem good because there's lots, but honestly I've never cooked them before because it seemed hard or just time-consuming to me, and I've never had to, so I haven't. There isn't enough rice to give me peace of mind. The rice gives me anxiety.
My calculator came out right away. I wanted to know the numbers, watch them, know them, control them, not let them get away on me. I hadn't done any research or made a plan of how I was going to eat for the week, so I was nervous and just experientially at a loss. Alex had made a plan and he calculated in his head, roughly. He kept saying, How much were the beans again? How much was the peanut butter again? And I kept saying I don't know because I didn't know and because I don't know because I don't buy canned beans or peanut butter in which the second ingredient is icing sugar and because I couldn't keep track of another thing in my head with all the rest of everything running such amuck.
We ran into Kathy at the store too.
"Is that Kathy . . . ? Is that Kathy . . . ?! That's Kathy!" I think Alex was happy to see her. I was too.
"Kathy!" I chimed in.
She turned, "Oh, hey guys! Hi, Phyllis!"
"Are you getting your stuff?"
"Yeah, oh my god."
"How's it going?" Alex asked her.
"Well, Shoppers Drug Mart has the cheapest eggs! Even cheaper than the dollar store. They were on the sale—oh, shoot, I think the sale ended yesterday—but still, they're only ten more cents regular price! And the dollar store has really cheap big cans of tomato sauce, and I might trade in my jam for "fruit spread,"" (this she said laughing), "because you can get a big thing of it at the dollar store for cheap," (seriously).
She had done a lot of research, clearly.
"I don't know what I'm gonna do for coffee!"
Neither did I. I still don't. Well, I do. I'm not going to have any. But like, oh.
At the till, the cashier asked me if I wanted bags.
"How much are bags?"
I looked at my groceries. "Just one bag, please."
Phyllis drove me all the way home so I wouldn't have to carry my groceries all the way home on transit. In the car ride home, Alex asked me if I was sad, but I was only pensive. I was thinking about the rice, the fact that I was getting a ride home so I didn't have to be cold, wet, and tired, how many 3s there were in the ones column of all the prices at the store, and looking at the fallen leaves stuck wet, flat, and all leaf upon leaf onto the rolling tire of the car next to us.
Tonight, I'm meeting some friends at Banana Leaf for dinner. The cheapest food on their menu is $7, which is a lot more than the 3s in the grocery store.