A friend sent this link along — a Toronto Star reporter spent a week eating nothing but food he could purchase at Dollarama.
If Spurlock could make an entire documentary out of eating Big Macs for 30 days, I figured I could at least spend a week solely eating at my favourite store, Dollarama. What better place to shop during a recession?
Bank of Canada Gov. Mark Carney has said we have taken on too much debt as consumers are retrenching their spending habits.
Eating only Dollarama food would be a commentary on the stock market downturn, of food banks and the need for a living wage, the globalization of the food product industry, trans fats and poverty and the rise of chronic disease. At least that’s what I pitched to the editor.
Have a look at the photo with the article: that is a LOT of sodium.
Apparently, for some people, the dollar store is increasingly subbing in as a grocery store.
The food selection though has exploded over the years. The dollar store always had a five-star snack-food aisle. But now it’s stocked with enough ready-to-eat meals to keep 2012 apocalypse types happy.
The variety is incredible. And there are even brand names like Snapple and E.D. Smith. But mostly it is a bunch of stuff made in Egypt and Portugal with names I’ve never heard of. I marvel at the miracle of the supply chain that something that could be made in Egypt can still be sold for a buck in Canada. I also wonder what the heck they put in it.
Wong points out that for some people, Dollarama food is not an experiment; it’s just what they can afford.
The Dollarama in downtown Toronto’s Moss Park neighbourhood is in one of the more destitute areas of the city. About a third of households are designated low income.
Here you become acutely aware that while I’m eating Dollarama food for a week, some people have no other choice. Or some are lucky if they can afford Dollarama at all.
Dylan, a 32-year-old panhandler on the sidewalk, says he sometimes goes in for a treat when he’s got enough in the orange plastic beach pail he uses to solicit loose change.
“I like their biscuits and chocolate bars, but I’d rather go to Tim Hortons for real food,” he says.
That makes me really sad.
As Wong found, his Dollarama diet was good for his budget but bad in other ways. First casualty: taste.
The picture on the box looks great. Inside, there is a foil pouch with toppings and a plastic pouch with noodles.
The toppings look nothing like the picture. More like a salty brown gravy sludge. The noodles taste like Play Doh.
I offer it to my wife, Sharon. “Seriously, I’m going to throw up,” she says.
Next casualty: a reasonable fat intake.
I’m indulging in some butterfly cookies, about 18 of them for $1.25.
They’re not bad, but a serving of just two cookies equals almost a quarter of my saturated fat intake at 2 grams. It also has 5 grams of trans fat.
Springle says trans fats are the devil. She suggests 2 grams max.
I forget to tell her that I have already eaten eight of them.
And then, the irritability comes.
Sharon is eating a spinach salad. So much for team spirit. She says I’m getting cranky and moody eating all of this processed food.
“I wouldn’t eat your stupid salad if you offered it to me,” I tell her.
“You’re stupid,” she says.
“No, you’re stupid,” I reply as I plow into my Mr. Moo Chips ‘N Cheese Ready To Eat Fun Snack.
Hooray, now it’s time for constipation!
But despite the fibre in the noodles, my bowels are completely blocked. Springle warned me that a lack of fibre means that you can lock up at any time.
Note to Dollarama: Stock Metamucil. You’ll make a killing.
Wong concludes that you can actually find some decent-tasting food at Dollarama — good news for those who shop there out of necessity. But the lack of fresh produce, the high sodium and saturate fat counts, and the near-total absence of fibre is not a happy story for those who have to eat like this a majority of the time. There’s got to be a better alternative.