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What are your basics?

I was going to write about something else entirely today and then I found this in my email. Well technically I didn't find the picture in my email - that was on their website, but I did find an email about the introduction of what they call a Basics Box:

"filled with a range of pantry essentials and food to help make meals and snacks for one person, for up to two weeks.... It even includes an 8-pack of toilet paper."

It's not available to everybody - just those in need - apparently us because we are over 60, and those with concession cards of one sort or another. In their words:

"We’ve created the Woolworths Basics Box to help provide essential products for customers who are currently unable to visit our stores and are in genuine need."

It's supposed to be for two weeks and you can't order more than two in that two weeks. So well done Woolworths I guess. Oh it's to be ordered online of course, and is delivered to your door. I suppose the elderly are capable of ordering online, and the needy too, although then again I can imagine there are some really elderly and really needy people who can't, either because they are intellectually incapable, or do not have the equipment with which to do it.

It will also set you back $80.00. Now without doing a detailed and lengthy series of sums I couldn't tell you whether that is a bargain or not, but it is what it is.

So what do they consider to be basic? And by the way this does not include any fresh fruit and vegetables or fresh meat or fish which is a somewhat interesting omission to me. Why? I suppose this might be because they then could not have a standard price for all the boxes - though other companies who deliver boxes of food all the time, have worked that out.

There is no bread either - they include spreads for breakfast, but no bread to spread on, and no butter or margarine or whatever you might use, to spread under the jam or honey. But there's a heck of a lot of sugar. And some flour. Maybe you are supposed to make your own bread. And no dairy at all other than longlife milk.

Moving on to lunch and dinner it's all cans and pasta. Well to be fair you can have rice, noodles, lentils, couscous or quinoa instead of pasta and there are some wraps. Plenty of biscuits and muesli bars for snacks though. And we have to drink tea - there is no coffee!

I wonder how they came up with this list. Maybe it reflects what has been disappearing from the shelves because they do include toilet paper. Maybe it's from their database of what sells. If it is, then I think it's a very sad reflection of what people are eating these days. It's very sort of wartime rationing kind of stuff. Although I remember getting butter in our wartime goodie boxes from overseas.

So how do the vulnerable and needy get the other things that they really need? I suppose they order those online too, but separately. But then if you are ordering those separately why not just include the 'basics' with that order anyway? Why would you order twice?

I know it's not aimed at me - there are only a few things on that list that I would consider to be pantry essentials that I would buy - rice, flour, pasta, fruit juice, baked beans and tinned tomatoes and beans for occasional use. The rest is non-essential - well maybe the toilet paper. But I would have thought - or is it hoped - that the needy and vulnerable would be needing at least those other things I mentioned - the butter, bread and dairy - where are the eggs and the cheese? You can do a heck of a lot with an egg and some cheese.

I saw in the newspaper that a 'posh' supermarket in Sydney was also offering a basic box - but theirs included fresh fruit and vegetables. And then of course, those boxes that get delivered from people like Always Fresh are still going I assume.

It makes you think though doesn't it? What is basic? I mean if you are ordering this every week and the contents don't change then you will end up with a heck of a lot of sugar and biscuits.

Sort of well done Woolworths, but not really. Requires a bit more thought I think.


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