Community Food

Joe Average Buys Groceries

The New Year is upon us, and I am starting it off with a post inspired by activity in the Manitoba Food Bloggers group at the very end of last year. Group moderator and organizer and generally all-round terrific person Shel Zolkewich, posted a poll which stated that according to Stats Canada, the average Manitoba family spent $241.00 per person per month on food. I’m pretty much a Joe Average kind of guy, so this should work for me.
Now, I eat out a lot, but I thought this might be an interesting experiment to attempt. This is not my first attempt at some sort of budgeted eating. I did a $20.00 a week Lenten challenge a few years back, and more recently I did the Winnipeg Harvest poverty pledge.

Average Joe Grocery bill
ill $51.11 is the total of my first shop for the month.
Canadians can’t afford Thanksgivi...
Canadians can’t afford Thanksgiving dinners due to JustInflation

So, on one level, I know how easy it is to live off of $241.00 for groceries for a month. However both of those other times were based on the idea of restriction. Limiting myself to a certain amount of calories. Giving myself a small, almost infinitesimal idea of what it is like to live daily with the bare minimum or even less.
This, on the other hand,will give me more of an idea of what I eat on a regular basis. It will encourage me to be more thoughtful in the way I shop. Hopefully it will also help me to cut down on my food waste as well.

Some Notes for the Average Joe

If my understanding of the Stats Can information is correct, the $241.00 figure only includes food. I think though, I will try and keep track of this on the side. I plan to try and purchase household goods and sundries separately from my actual food purchases.
One interesting item for me will be to tally my eating out costs versus my store bought groceries costs. I have a feeling that the second will be quite a bit higher. Firstly, because  of my reviews. Secondly, though, because I do spend a fair bit of time in coffee shops over the course of the month.
I do have some food in my cupboards. Not very much, but I am reasonably well stocked on spices and oil. Other than that I have a few onions, a couple of potatoes, a lemon, some garlic, one can of black eyed peas, the remainders of a couple of bags of frozen vegetables, and a couple of pots of turkey stock in the freezer. Oh, and most of one fairly large bag of white flour.

The Average Joe Bulks Up

Bulk buying is a great way to save on food costs. It’s also a great way to add monotony to your diet. I’ve written before about buying in bulk as a single. I started my shopping for this experiment at Superstore – Sargent location. The first thing I looked for was meat, to see if there were any good buys on. Unfortunately the only things on sale were bulk packages of meat. I enjoy chicken drumsticks, but the best buy on those was about $17.00 for a package containing around 2 dozen drums. That’s a lot of meals eating chicken drumsticks.
I did however, by a big bag of Basmati rice. I grew up with rice as a regular part of the family diet, and I really enjoy eating it.
One other thing that affects bulk buying is that I travel everywhere either on foot or by bus. This makes bulk shopping a lot more difficult. The extra cost of cab fare, would offset much of the savings of buying bulk, so I will be doing several, smaller shops during the month.

Average Joe rice.
Bagged Basmati, biggest buy in Average Joe first purchase.

A bit of Freshness

In the picture underneath you’ll find the only two bits of fresh food that I have picked up. One 5lb bag of carrots and a container of grapes. When I hit Superstore last night, it was into the evening and not only was it cold, but I wasn’t sure how soon I would be able to catch a bus. I will try and make a trip later this week to pick up some more vegetables. I’m also not averse to frozen and canned, so I’ll likely add some of those as well.

Average joe grapes
A little freshness in the grocery bag.


Of the two items below, only one is truly a snack item. However, the individual servings of apple sauce kind of fall into this category as well. Now, snacks would be an easy thing to cut out if I wanted to place an emphasis on savings. However, it seems only right that if I’m going to be average, I should at least be including some snacks in my food purchases. The containers of blueberry-apple sauce are the unsweetened kind. I find them more refreshing than the sugar added type.

Average Joe Snacks
I dont know what constitutes average as far as snacks go, but I certainly will be buying some.

Meat and Dairy

As I stated above, I didn’t really like any of the meat options at Superstore. However, they did have a good deal on the Smoke House Bacon, so I did pick up a package of it. The big block of cheese will be more for lunches than for recipes, while I hope to use the Parm to add a little zip to some of the dishes that I prepare.

Average Joe meats
There was not a lot of meat purchased because nothing but club packs were on sale,

Joe Average Staples

I don’t know if staples is the correct term for the items below, but these are the kind of things that have an extended shelf life. They are all things that I can take with me to work to make lunch, without having to worry that they might go off if my plans for the day change and lunch at work isn’t feasible.

Joe Average staples
A few staples for the cupboard to complete my Superstore trip.

Joe Average and Nutrition

As you can probably tell from looking at my purchases, they are not particularly well rounded on the nutrition side of things. My first shop, which after adding the Stew Beef from Bouchee Boucher, came to $58.36, is very heavy on the protein side. I did some calculating on the protein aspect, and if I were to consume everything I bought, the protein amount would be around 2050g (I calculated this on the back of an envelope, and then left the envelope behind). Based on my weight and daily protein requirements, this is anywhere from 11 days – 37 days, (and people wonder why it’s so hard for anyone to eat healthy).
Anyway, as I go along, I’m also going to take a closer look at how this is affecting my intake of vitamins and minerals, etc. I’ll also try and keep an eye on my fat intake(I love butter, so this will likely be high). One thing I won’t worry about is my calorie intake. My thoughts on calories are very much like those of Robert Farrar Capon in his seminal book, The Supper of the Lamb:

Even more important, however, the distinction must never be thought of as depending on the “richness” or fattening quality of the foods involved – as if the festal ones were full of calories and the ferial ones dietetic. The calorie approach is the work of the Devil.  Page 25

Average Joe Stew Beef
500g of Stew Beef from Bouchee Boucher. My shopping choices so far are high in protein, if nothing else.

I hope you find this and any following posts on the subject to be interesting. Please feel free to send along comments and suggestions.

By Donald McKenzie

Anglican priest, and food blogger. This blog is focused on Food. It will feature reviews of places to eat books, and the odd recipe. I also write about what it means to gather together around food.