How Much Should I Budget for Food If Nursing Homes Budget Is $8.33 per day?

The Ontario provincial funding rate for food for residents in long term care facilities, most of whom are seniors, has always been lower than seems reasonable. In 2014 the amount was $7.80 per person per day for the “raw food.” That number was so low that a public outcry managed to get a small increase to $8.33 per person per day. It’s been stuck there ever since, though, despite the rate of inflation for food and the drop in the value of the Canadian dollar versus the American dollar which affects the prices of imported fruits and vegetables. Reading an article in The Star made me wonder what I should budget for our food costs if the government believes that a person can eat healthily for $8.33 a day.

Why Does the Government Provide More Money for Prisoner’s Food Per Day than for Pensioners?

One fact has always been extremely upsetting in the provincial funding for food: the funds provided for residents in Long Term Care homes are lower, per person, than those for prisoners.

At first, it may seem vaguely reasonable. Aren’t more prisoners younger men who have a higher caloric need than most pensioners who are often older women?

But then you realize that more of the older residents have special dietary needs. You shouldn’t eat grapefruit, for instance, if you taking certain medications. If you are diabetic, you may need to carefully balance the amount of carbohydrates you eat at each meal. Overall, due to reduced ability to absorb nutrients, you need to maximize the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat to increase the likelihood of receiving proper nutrition.
And, of course, it seems “morally” wrong to feed wrong-doers better food than older or disabled persons.

In March 2017, the Ontario government is paying $8.33 per person per day for raw food costs for each resident in a long term care facility. It is paying $9.73 per day for prisoners.

That just seems unjust.

What Could I Afford at $8.33 Per Day for Raw Food Costs?

I realized that this question has an attached question: where am I living? If I live in the Greater Toronto Area in Ontario, I have access to a large variety of food stores. Within walking distance of my suburban home (yes, some suburbs are walkable!) I can count six grocery stores, a butcher, a bakery and an organic greengrocer. Only two of those grocery stores belong to a major Canadian chain. The others are independents who tend to compete well on pricing.

When I think of one of our vacations to the Maritimes, though, I remember being unhappy with the fruit and vegetable selections at both the big chain grocery stores in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. The prices were between reasonable and high, but the quality was terrible. And many items I can easily get here were not even for sale.

Where you live will likely play a big factor in your grocery budget. If you have to pay $7 to get a bus to and from the store, that is another big cost that affects those that can least afford it.

Budgeting for a Typical Day’s Food And Its Costs

Ok, let’s try any way.

1 /2 cup of oatmeal
1 / 4 cup of milk
1 serving of coffee

2 clementines

2 cups nappa cabbage
1 /4 c craisins
1 english muffin
1 /4 c pork tenderloin, leftovers
1 tea bag

1 gala apple

1 /4 of a store-made roast chicken
1 cup broccoli
1 /4 cup cherry tomatoes
1 cup jasmine rice
2 home made chocolate chip cookies

1 /2 cup Rice Krispies
1 /2 cup milk
1 mini Kit Kat

My total cost? About $9.

Could I do this in another location though? I doubt it. The fruits and vegetables I buy almost always are purchased at the independent grocery stores. They have noticeably lower prices. I’m sure that many people who don’t live in a “food oasis” like this must pay much more for the same food.

What Will I Budget for Food Costs for Retirement?

I don’t know exactly what I should budget for food costs for retirement, but I know it will be more than $8.33 per day.

It’s especially important to remember that the $8.33 per day includes

  • Any food lost due to spoilage. (Ever open a carton of eggs and find one is cracked? Opened a head of lettuce and found brown leaves in the middle?)
  • Any food for special holidays such as a turkey, fancy dessert, cheeses.
  • All snacks even the occasional candy bar or soda pop.

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Will a Scorcher Summer Ruin Our Budget for Electricity Or Will It Just Be the Astronomical Rate Increases?

We don’t have an energy efficient home. We have old windows and only one new door and you can feel the drafts around your ankles in the winter. We do keep an eye on our electricity usage, though. We have power bars on our TVs, microwave, stereo, computers, router and various other appliances. Still, when I got our June hydro bill I started to wonder what to expect if we have a record-breaking heat wave this summer especially if it arrives along with yet another huge increase in the rate per kWh.

Will Dropping the Number of kWh We Use Dramatically Drop Our Hydro Bill?

Maybe. Our bill is not just based on the amount of electricity we use. It also includes delivery charges, costs for the infrastructure, costs for regulatory charges, for who knows what, and debt retirement charges, which probably include the original debt on building the generating station at Niagara Falls. Some of these are based on the kWh used but I’m not sure that all of them are.

Why Is Our Ontario Hydro Bill So High for 2016?

The most obvious increase in price for our residential electricity costs in 2016 is a change in government sleight-of-hand. We’d been getting a 10% “discount” from a previous election promise. That’s over now, so we saw an immediate 10% increase in our bill.

The nasty part of the “discount” is while our electricity costs appeared to be temporarily reduced we still have to pay that amount either in increased taxes or in future electricity “debt retirement” charges—worse, we might even have to pay more as interest fees!

And let’s not forget we also pay HST. That was almost $30 on the most recent bill!

There have also been some painful rate increases as well. They’ve been much higher than the rate of inflation estimated by the federal government. I’m sure it hurts those on pensions such as CPP which are increased only at the artificially low cost of living increase calculated by the feds.

It hurts us even more as this is the third year with NO raise or cost of living raise at work. Yes, our take-home pay has been losing ground to inflation for three years now with no end in sight. That’s good training, of course, for retirement when only our CPP and OAS will be indexed. That’s also why I prefer some of our future retirement income to come from dividend-payers who increase their dividends to at least keep pace with inflation.

Should We Use Our Air Conditioner If We’re Already Spending Too Much for Electricity?

Every year I tell the kids that they should be grateful if we use the air conditioner at all. We didn’t have a/c when I was growing up and I can vividly remember sweltering. The best (or worst) benefit (or drawback) of air conditioning is that it drops the humidity significantly.

That can be a real blessing when the humidity is up near 100% and it’s also pushing 35-40 C.

How Do We Reduce Our Electricity Costs for Air Conditioning our House?

We usually only run our air conditioner from 7 p.m. till 7 a.m. We try to drop the temperature to somewhere in the low 70s between midnight and 5 a.m. The temperature then gradually climbs all day and it can get pretty hot by the early evening.

This compromise has helped keep the cost of the electricity to run the unit to something tolerable. It means the load is during the “off peak” hours which have the lowest rate at 0.087 $/kWh. That’s less than half of the prime time rate.

Air Conditioners also run best when their is a good differential between the temperature of the outside air and the temperature of the inside air. At night, in theory, it’s cooler outside, allowing the air conditioner to run more efficiently than at, say, high noon.

So for now, we’ll keep using the air conditioner. But I hope I don’t regret it when we get our next bill!

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