While Jason Ladouceur family’s needs have not gone up, he says the cost of living basics have doubled or sometimes tripled.
Ladouceur, 41, is a stay-at-home dad, taking care of two children aged nine and 10 with intellectual disabilities and a wife with a respiratory illness.
The family has just $3,000 a month to survive.
“We’re lucky if that comes close to paying our bills. Usually, every month, we’re picking and choosing which bills get paid and get paid on time. We’re just able to manage to where they’re not getting cut off or being threatened to cut off,” he says. “Somehow, we do survive, but barely.”
The couple also has four other children from previous relationships, three of whom are now adults.
Ladouceur, who used to run his own renovations company, became a stay-at-home dad to take care of his 10-year-old daughter, who has severe autism requiring 24-hour care.
“She requires everything from potty training still, diaper changes, and a lot of things. She’s ten years old, and a lot of stuff my wife can’t do with her. She can’t physically pick her up anymore or move around if need be,” he says.
“It’s made it hard to keep full-time employment or even to seek full-time employment or any employment with her needs. We’re never too sure what her day will look like, let alone her week or month.”
Deciding between paying bills or buying groceries
While Ladouceur says their rent has stayed at a manageable level, the increase in other basics his family relies on is starting to hurt.
“The prices of everything else going up, especially the little things like even diapers, cost us almost triple what they did two years ago at this time. It’s not so much that my daughter’s needs that went up, it’s just the prices from the manufacturer to the grocery store and then back to us, the consumer.”
In addition to high prices, he says his family has also noticed the size of products going down while the price stays the same or increases, a practice known as shrinkflation. In April, an Ipsos poll conducted for Global News found 84 per cent of respondents were concerned about shrinkflation.
Given his daughter’s specific needs, Ladouceur says having the right food on hand is essential.
“There are only certain things that she will eat some days, and a lot of the stuff that she does love and eats every day has tripled in price. A lot of the fruits and vegetables that she likes and relies on have skyrocketed.”
While the family used to spend around $200 a month on groceries comfortably, that number has more than doubled to $500.
Food banks see record highs amid increasing costs
“We have used the food bank and, to be honest, almost monthly for the last couple of years due to our needs. They do help a lot. Sometimes it’s extra diapers, sometimes it’s extra wipes and just the canned food, and that helps go a long way with our children,” Ladouceur notes.
Food banks across Canada are seeing massive increases in demand for service, in some cases experiencing a doubling of those in need due to higher food costs.
The Barrie Food Bank had a 94 per cent increase in October visitors compared to the same month in 2022, while the Waterloo Region’s and London’s food banks both saw a 37 per cent increase in October from the year before.
Melissa Swales, 40, compares the high cost of living to a game of choice having to decide which experiences or foods she can afford and which she can’t.
Swales who is legally blind with a service dog says juggling the cost of food for herself and her dog is a struggle at times.
“Should I pay this bill, or do I really want that type of food or have to choose something cheaper so that you can go and provide for your electricity or provide for your service dog because you can’t afford them all?”
While Swales says she does get $80 a month from the Ontario Disability Support Program to help pay for dog food, its cost is upwards of $200, which takes a big chunk out of the $1,700 she has a month to live.
Affording the holidays?
With the holiday season approaching, Ladouceur acknowledges the pressure to spend more.
“If it wasn’t for having help from any of these charitable organizations, I don’t even know what Christmas honestly would look like for us in the last couple of years. It was one thing that we used to look forward to: Christmas and being able to spoil the kids. But now it’s definitely gotten harder and harder every year, and it’s something that we try not to think about.”
Ladouceur says his family tries to focus on the important things like having food and a roof over their heads.
“We definitely could have done a lot more a couple of years ago without inflation and how everything has been going up.”
A recent study on holiday spending by Deloitte found that Canadians will cut holiday spending by 11 per cent this year, finding that four in 10 Canadians have seen their household finances worsen this year.
“I’m not even thinking about Christmas because I’m just trying to get by,” Swales says.
Looking ahead, both Swales and Ladouceur say something needs to change to curb the high cost of living.