$23 a week for groceries? Valley woman leads the way

Melanie Seamone says stretching a dollar involves monitoring sales and reducing food waste

4 min read
Woman shows her grocery shopping receipts.
caption Melanie Seamone shows examples of her grocery shopping receipts from her current grocery challenge.
Raeesa Alibhai

An Annapolis Valley woman is spending $23 on groceries every week and is documenting the challenge on her YouTube channel, Adventures in Groceryland.

Melanie Seamone completed her first grocery challenge in October 2021 when she spent $21 a week on new food items. She got the idea from another YouTube channel named Jessica Wanders.

Seamone’s budget is rigid but she has a process. Every Wednesday morning she checks online flyers to see what will be on sale on Thursday.

“Is it better than what’s on sale this week or do I need to pick up a couple of those items before the sale ends tonight?” she said.

“It’s not easy, it’s not instant,” she added. “It takes time but I’m willing to put the time in because I want to eat really well and spend my money on other things.”

Since the groceries she buys depend on what’s on sale, she’s learned to be flexible.

When she can purchase a whole chicken, she can use it in multiple recipes — chicken fried rice, casseroles and salad. Seamone said she can even use the carcass and bones for soup.

In week 5 of her challenge, she included recipes like peanut butter protein oat balls and shepherds pie. Nearing the end of week 6 now, she’s not sure how much longer this challenge will last. Her 2021 challenge lasted 16 weeks.

Even with her budget, she still eats her favourite foods – spaghetti and pizza. Seamone has also tried new recipes like French onion soup.

She says because of the effects of inflation, her content is of interest to a wider audience than it was before.

“It feels different now … there’s just way more people struggling with food insecurity,” she said. “People are deciding things like, ‘Am I going to pay for heat or am I going to eat?’ That’s the really sad reality.”

Seamone has over 2,000 subscribers on YouTube and 173 videos. She often receives feedback on her videos. For example, people from New Brunswick said her content is especially useful because the stores are recognizable.

Groceries, inclduing cheese, oat milk and chicken nuggets, laying on a kitchen counter.
caption These are the groceries Melanie Seamone had collected after week 5 of her grocery challenge. Some still remain from earlier weeks.
Melanie Seamone

Through this $23 challenge, Seamone learned about the public’s level of food literacy.

“A lot more people than I realized just don’t have basic cooking skills,” she said. “It’s not that they don’t want to save the money, they simply don’t know how to prepare the ingredients to actually come up with the meals when it just seems like magic to them.”

Caitlin Skerratt, the community food co-ordinator with the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, said food insecurity has worsened for Nova Scotians. She said people are struggling to keep up with the cost of groceries and income is a key determinant behind the issue.

She said food banks help but more work needs to be done.

“They’re not a solution to poverty, which is the reason why rates of food insecurity are so high,” she said.

Skerratt advocates for community engagement and dignified food access programs. And she said the Just Food Action Plan is a step in the right direction. The plan is a set of recommendations that involve governments, communities and businesses working together. Halifax Regional Council endorsed the first part of the plan in March 2023 and endorsed a second part on Feb. 6. In March, council will review the budget.

“That funding is going to be really key in us starting to make that actionable change,” according to Skerratt.

She added that supporting local farmers in a vulnerable food system is important.

“The number of farmers entering the profession is decreasing and that’s a real concern for us,” she said. “They’re calling out for help and we need to be able to support them better.”

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About the author

Raeesa Alibhai

Originally from Toronto, Raeesa Alibhai is in her fourth-year of the Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) Program at King's. She is fond of all forms...

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