Cold Lake FCSS helps locals navigate their food budget

COLD LAKE - With inflation and the increased cost of living a challenge for many Albertans, managing finances can be a daunting task.

Rising costs and economic uncertainties often make it challenging to maintain a healthy balance between spending and saving. The Cold Lake and District Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) has come to the rescue with a program that aims to help people plan budget-friendly meals while offering valuable tips and tricks to save money.

Brenda Parsons, the social programs coordinator with FCSS, emphasizes the program's inclusivity, stating, “The budget-friendly meal program is a program for anyone to learn how to cook on a budget at home, using a lot of the ingredients you might already have or that are easily accessible."

The program was designed to teach participants how to plan and prepare meals that are not only delicious, but also cost-effective. By making informed choices and implementing realistic strategies, individuals can significantly reduce their food-related expenses, according to Parson.

This program goes beyond learning culinary skills. It dives into the skills of kitchen maintenance and learning proper food storage. Participants gained valuable insights into maintaining a clean and organized kitchen space.

“It's always fun, and there’s always good food to take home with you. For $5, you get to come have some fun, learn some new things, and have a meal too,” Parsons added.

Food choices affect everyone's lives, and the economic implications of grocery bills can echo people's financial well-being. Parsons brings a wealth of personal experience to the table.

The recipes shared are born from practical insights - whether it's stretching a rotisserie chicken to last a week or creating a meal from a handful of cupboard essentials, it's all a learned skill. It's "a little bit of research and a lot of experience. I worked in the hospitality industry for a long time, and with experience comes a lot of knowledge,” says Parsons.

Canadians across the country – the Lakeland region included – has noted an increase in their grocery bills over the last few years, causing the affordability of basic food necessities to be a growing challenge for many.

While prices may have stabilized lately, the overall expense remains daunting. "Stabilized, maybe, but they went up. Food security is a huge issue for a lot of people, and it's not just our lower-income participants. Everybody is feeling the pinch,” says Parsons.

The most recent Budget-Friendly Meals session took place on Nov. 9. For further details about this initiative, please reach out to FCSS at 780-594-4495. It's important to note that this program welcomes participation from all residents, extending its reach to Bonnyville.

Chantel Downes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lakeland This Week