The cost: a week’s worth of groceries at Toronto’s Kensington Market

The buyer: Craig Mazzali, a 45-year-old bike courier in Toronto.

The story: I work as a bike courier for two delivery apps. I work six days a week, about six or seven hours a day. I take Mondays off because people usually come over the weekend and don’t order as much. I make around $800 to $1,200 a month.

My job gets a little dangerous in the winter. There are certain days, when it’s snowing or it’s really cold, when it’s not worth it, so I work less. But sometimes I have to work in really bad weather to make more money, because they will pay us more, like three to five dollars more per order, which is fantastic. But it is not at all a pleasant experience. Before the pandemic, I used to get tips in cash, but that’s not so popular anymore. Some people tip through the app, but I’m afraid tipping is going away.

I live in a rooming house in Kensington Market, Toronto. I have five other roommates. I spend about $60 to $70 on groceries per week. I shop at FreshCo, a discount grocery store, and at independent grocers in Kensington Market. I usually make pasta dishes and bean tortillas. If I have a good week and have made more money, I will buy meat, like steak or salmon. Otherwise, I eat vegetarian.

When you’re a bike courier, food is very important. If you’re not eating right, it’s a struggle to work out. When the pandemic hit, I noticed that food prices had gone up. I couldn’t buy as much as before with my grocery budget. I rely more on my sister to lend me money or buy me meals. It’s embarrassing and stressful too because it’s another struggle to pay her back and also to support myself.

I end up skipping meals two or three times a week. There are drop-in centers that offer free meals. Sometimes I go, but I see the food and I can’t take it anymore. These are things like sausages and eggs. Eating doesn’t do me any good. Maybe it’s better for me to shove it down my throat, but I can’t. It makes me sick.

Facebook support groups have also been a big help. I go there several times a month to eat. People will post extra meals or pantry items they give away for free. Or I will post in the group asking for help with food or money donations. If it’s a bad month, I might ask my sister for help once or twice a week. If I’m really stuck, I skip meals, or don’t eat at all, because I don’t have enough food. Since the pandemic, my diet has been very poor.

As told to Andrea Yu

Weekly shopping list:

Steel cut oats: $5
Bread: $4
Cheese: $7
Lemon: $0.69
Garlic: $2.45
Spinach: $4
Broccoli: $2.50
Cheese: $7
NY Striploin: $9
Tortillas: $7
Pasta: $2.49
Refried black beans: $6
Tomatoes: $3.49

Total: $60.62

This story is part of a series on food insecurity in Canada funded by the Maple Leaf Center for Action on Food Securityin partnership with Community Food Centers Canada.

Do you want more ?

Get the best of Maclean’s sent straight to your inbox. Sign up to receive news, commentary and analysis.

Leave a Comment