Poor & Hungry During Covid-19

After 5 months of quarantine (beginning in March 2020 for both the USA and Canada), many Americans and Canadians are feeling the effects of poverty due to financial strain. Some people are experiencing true starvation for the first time. I share this same hunger, so I decided to make a reasonable, realistic, and honest grocery list. First, I will explain my American grocery list. Second, I will explain my Canadian grocery list. Hopefully this will give you insight into what to buy, how much to buy, and when. 

Every store I mention in both countries are as common as Walmart. However, surprisingly, Walmart does not make the cut into this list since some small towns can’t afford to build a Walmart, but luckily everywhere has a dollar store. Let’s get started. 

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (USA)
Family Dollar & Dollar General

* Please note that Family Dollar does not list their prices online, but Dollar General does.*

CHEAP MEAL #1: CHILI DOGS

Ingredient 1: Hormel Chili with Beans, 15 oz. (Price and availability may vary a little by store, but this item should be 1.00$ at Family Dollar and about 1.80$ at Dollar General. Call ahead to confirm price and availability so you don’t waste your time. Most of us have to carry groceries through hot and freezing weather.) (Family Dollar Link & Dollar General Link)

Chili dogs are a cheap way to make sure your family gets their protein. It is a meal you can make over and over again without getting tired of it too quickly. You will not get as much protein in your chili dogs if you buy the Hormel Chili without beans which renders the entire meal pointless. Only buy chili with beans. You are making chili dogs in order to get your protein. Since we’re also buying cheap hot dogs and cheap cheese (cheese is optional), you will not get your protein anywhere else. Beans are always cheap.

Ingredient 2: Whole Wheat Loaf of Bread. (Price may vary a little by store, but this item should be 1.00$ at Family Dollar and Dollar General. Call ahead to confirm price and availability so you don’t waste your time. Most of us have to carry groceries through hot and freezing weather.) (URL n/a)

You can’t afford hot dog buns. One, there is usually only 6 buns which equals one meal and is not enough for any family. Two, hot dog buns are a gimmick forcing you to buy more. Bread is bread even if it’s in a different shape. You can fold a single slice of bread to use for your hot dogs. The bread may be thin, but don’t use two slices. If you can keep it down to one per hot dog, the loaf should last you for 2 or 3 meals depending on the size of your family. And finally, even though white bread is the same price, you should not buy white bread while on a tight cheap diet because of the health concerns. We’re not choosy anymore. White bread has been known to create and irritate gallstones. Not worth it. This whole wheat bread will also help you get your important daily fiber, white bread will not give you this.

Ingredient 3: (Optional) Cheese Slices. (Price may vary a little by store, but this item should be 2.00$ at Family Dollar and Dollar General. Call ahead to confirm price and availability so you don’t waste your time. Most of us have to carry groceries through hot and freezing weather.) (URL n/a)

Please do not buy cheese named “white” or “imitation” cheese. This is not real cheese. You may choose dairy-free or regular depending on your irritants. You want to avoid choosing anything “pasteurized” or “processed,” if possible. If you are forced to choose, the lesser evil is “pasteurized.” Pasteurized cheeses are created with milk that has first been heated to approximately 65° C (149° F) which kills off harmful bacteria and pathogens such as Listeria and E. coli (plus others like Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella) which can be present in raw milk. However, it also kills off the good bacteria that gives some cheeses their flavors. On the other hand, far worse, is “processed” cheese which is given additional flavors, preservatives, food dyes, emulsifiers and additional ingredients, such as vegetable oils, salt, or sugar may be included. For learning purposes, perhaps when your financial situation improves in the future, remember that the expensive and healthy “real cheese” is made of only 3 ingredients: milk, salt, and the cheese’s own natural flavor.

CHEAP MEAL #2: CHICKEN SANDWICH 

Ingredient 1: Starkist Chicken Creation Premium White Chicken in Sauce (Classic BBQ). (Price may vary a little by store, but this item should be 1.00$ at Family Dollar and 1.45$ at Dollar General. Call ahead to confirm price and availability so you don’t waste your time. Most of us have to carry groceries through hot and freezing weather.) (URL n/a).

Starkist Company makes Chicken with Sauce options such as: Classic BBQ, Buffalo Style, Zesty Lemon Pepper. I believe the company Starkist also makes Tuna and Salmon options. However, I have not found them in store and I cannot confirm they match the same 1.00$ price tag as the chicken option.

Ingredient 2: Whole Wheat loaf of Bread. (Same as above.) (URL n/a)

CHEAP MEAL #3: TUNA CRACKERS

Ingredient 1: StarKist Albacore Tuna In Water, Chunk White, 5 Oz. (Price may vary a little by store, but this item should be 1.00$ or more at Family Dollar and 1.45$ at Dollar General. Call ahead to confirm price and availability so you don’t waste your time. Most of us have to carry groceries through hot and freezing weather.) (Dollar General Link & Family Dollar Link)

You will commonly see the words, “solid, light, chunky, oil, water” associated with tuna. The most common is Albacore Tuna vs. Light Tuna. Let me explain. Albacore Tuna is exactly that, it is composed of the the Albacore Tuna which has the lightest color flesh of all the tuna species. “Light” Tuna, however, has a rosier color and can be any mixture of the following varieties including skipjack, tongol, yellowfin and others. See below.

Image Source – a great article on deciphering canned tunas.

Ingredient 2: Saltine Crackers, 16 oz. pack. (Price may vary a little by store, but this item should be 1.00$ or more at Family Dollar and 1.50$ at Dollar General. Call ahead to confirm price and availability so you don’t waste your time. Most of us have to carry groceries through hot and freezing weather.) (Dollar General Link & Family Dollar Link)

CANADA
Dollar Tree

Canada is a much harder country to be poor in. In Canada, we don’t have many dollar stores simply because of how the economy is run. Canada has a popular dollar store called “Dollorama” that used to honor it’s “every item is $1.00” back in the day, but now their price tags range from $1.00 to $15.00 and up. They’re just a regular store now, and that’s why they don’t make this list. Ironically, the only store that makes this list is Dollar Tree, which is an American company. I did not add Dollar Tree to the American list simply because the other two dollar stores above are more common in the USA, but Dollar Tree is a great alternative too and just as popular. In 2019, Dollar Tree closed 390 locations across Canada which makes me wonder how long the company will keep its doors open to Canadians. Nevertheless, for now they remain open, but only in select locations. If you can manage it, try hard to make it to a Dollar Tree. Every item in their store is priced $1.00USD, which equals $1.25CAD. They honor this rule so much that nothing in their store has a price tag. If you see it, it’s $1.25CAD.

Unfortunately Dollar Tree Canada (Website Link Here) does not list any of its product online in order to encourage you to go in store, so I’m not able to create a grocery list for you. Knowing their $1.25CAD price tag and using the American list above, you should be able to choose a good selection alone. Keep in mind protein and fiber. Stay away from artificial sugars, if you can.

SPECIAL NOTE!

If you’re truly starving and honestly cannot afford to buy even canned food, buy Snickers. Snickers Chocolate Bars contain a third of a “healthy man’s” vitamin requirement for survival. A human being can survive on Snickers alone for a while. Of course, this isn’t healthy, and when you go “number 2” it won’t exactly be pleasant, but you can at least consider it if you’re desperate. Some people like to think of Snickers as astronaut food.

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