Food, Feasting, and Survival in St. John’s

The cost of living in Newfoundland isn’t cheap. Somehow, the image of living on a remote island once conjured up images of low rent and reasonable prices — I don’t know why I was so naive.

I’m more than happy to lay the cards on the table here. I have a one-bedroom apartment with a kitchen and living room on the top floor of an old house (I share the bathroom on the second floor with the girl downstairs). The washer and dryer are inexplicably on my floor, as well. It’s a mostly private, somewhat inconvenient, definitely not soundproof scenario. And I pay $675 a month for this, utilities included. In the winter the power goes out intermittently, and the internet too. Some days it seems reasonable, other days it does not. I unfortunately found out that my housemate pays significantly less than me, for reasons I cannot fathom. I would complain but I’m moving in just under two months. Ain’t worth my time.

That being said, life is still expensive here. Food prices are outrageous. I’m only feeding myself, a vegetarian who uses coupons and shops sales, and I spend on average $35 a week on groceries alone (I averaged $20-25 a week in Guelph). The quality is terrible. The worst part is, I know this is the best food on the island. Shipments go right to St. John’s before the leftovers move to the other communities. The grocery store near my grandparents’ house on the west coast is literally a vegetarian nightmare.

So with all this being said, and my internal monologue filled with griping about the state of affairs, it hadn’t crossed my mind how these things affect businesses in town. Short sighted of me, I know. But The Overcast put out an article examining this very issue, and it really opened my eyes.

The food scene in St. John’s is both excellent and poor. It is excellent because there are so many diverse businesses, passionate owners and chefs, and creative dishes on offer. It is poor because these things are all limited by availability and money. There’s no way to dine out cheaply around here, because businesses simply can’t afford to charge anything less and still break even. Their diversity in dishes is limited because there simply are no produce options.

I could go on and on but I strongly urge you guys to take a look at the article on their website. It explains the issue really well. I’ll leave you with this quote:

No one’s out to fleece you in an industry that considers breaking even and surviving another month a success.

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