Reconsider your food budget

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We don’t budget for food. Gasp!

We are of the belief that “we are (quite literally), what we eat”. Why then would we want to be frugal or even worse – stingy – with what we place into our bodies?

We are all about wisely using the resources we have available to us. However, we often scratch our heads at the concept of trying to feed a family for as little as possible. That can be somewhat self-defeating. Americans have one of the lowest ratios of food cost to income in the entire world. We spend less on food that nearly every other country on planet earth! Yet, we still often want to spend even less!

Consider this… if someone can go through all the trouble to feed you and make a profit and you only spend $.99, how good can the quality be? What value can a “value meal” have in such a case? The only “value” is to the producer. The consumer may feel full but is not consuming quality.

We raise (among other things) pigs. We feed them non-GMO feed produced by a local small producer.They can’t produce feed for the cost of feed from the local mills typically. Because it costs us more, we couldn’t sell a pig for what others who feed less-premium feeds could. We simply couldn’t sell a pig fed on premium quality feed and beat $.99/lb prices found in the grocery store. Fortunately, we don’t aim to!

So as both producers (for ourselves) and consumers, we want the best quality foods possible. If those cannot be obtained inexpensively, we will spend more for food before we will eat lesser-quality food.

We once heard it said “You make your healthcare decisions at the grocery store. You make your sick care decisions at the doctor’s office.” We couldn’t agree more. We live in a culture that is conservative on food spending but liberal with “health” spending.  We’ll think nothing of spending $500-$1000 per month on health “insurance” but half that or less to feed our family. Folks, good food nourishes far beyond the best medicines.

Food and nutrition should be a high priority in the budget – perhaps the highest. For some, all that is needed is a shift – spend less on sick care and more on quality nutrition. Raise your insurance deductible and use the extra funds on a bigger grocery budget. When we did so, we found our doctors visits dramatically declined.

We get it – some folks have little to no choice with their budgets. Nevertheless, most of us, with a change in our thinking, can find resources for the things we value. Place yourself and your family at the top of your list, not your insurance company or Physician.

 

Potential pitfalls of hyper-frugality

Frugality often seems to go hand-in-hand with the homesteading crowd. People naturally inclined to do things for themselves that others rely upon others to do results in such, or maybe it’s the other way around?

Frugality is great… but can one get carried away with it? This is what I would call “hyper-frugality” – being frugal to the point of working against yourself.

Has anyone ever said on their deathbed “it’s been a good life…I’ve saved all sorts of money!”? I doubt it. Saving money for saving it sake is kinda pointless. Frugality should lead to freedom from need, not delaying real needs to “save”. The latter doesn’t really accomplish anything and just robs from the present with some hope of future benefit that may or may not ever come.

So consider this, even if it feels controversial to do so:  Some things should not be waited upon until they are, or feel affordable. If you do so, oftentimes you’re not taking advantage of that thing when you need it the most! Here are a few examples:

The kitchen:

On our homestead, the kitchen is command central. Like many, we’ve used odds and ends for kitchen gear. Frugality has prevented us from investing in the nicer things we’ve really enjoyed. That is, until recently it occurred to us… if ever there were a time to have the best kitchen stuff, it would be now, at the time in life when we use it the most! When the kids are grown and on their own, we might be more able to afford those things but will have far less occasion for their use. That just doesn’t make sense! So, we’ve been investing in higher-quality kitchen items that hopefully will make the next twenty years of meal preparation, canning, and freezing much much better. That isn’t to say that quality cannot be obtained inexpensively, it sure can, but that is the exception more than the rule in our experience.

The workshop:

I grew up in a home we always had what I’d call “Big Lots tools” – the kind of tools that one finds in the checkout line at the drugstore. You know, ratchets that freely spin no matter what direction you attempt and hammers with handles the size of your pinky. We never had good tools!

While I’m on that subject… As a newlywed back in the day, it bugged me that people threw wedding showers for the ladies and showed them with every manner of implement for their new home, yet few men did this for the fellas. It would have been awesome to have a tool shower as a newlywed man. A time and place to give a guy the stuff he’ll need to look after some of the DIY needs he’ll encounter. Let’s start a new tradition of showering new families with all sorts of stuff they’ll need!

A while back, it also occurred to us… homesteading is a very tool-intensive, and resource-intensive endeavor. There is almost always something to fix or build. What sense does it make to choose frugality over quality when it comes to equipping your homestead with the best tools for those jobs? This is one of those cases, where hyper-frugality can work against your homestead. If you aim to be homesteading a long time, buy the absolute best tools you can manage and as many of the tools you’ll need as you can manage. Same goes for a good work area. We regretfully didn’t build a good workshop until four plus years into our endeavor. I’ve since kicked myself for making those four years exceedingly cumbersome when a work area would have really made that time much more efficient.

In summary, don’t be afraid to invest, even heavily, into the core operations of your home and homestead. It might feel really scary to plunk down some serious money on such things, but it will reap dividends.

Don’t forget beauty on your homestead

One thing that has often bugged us with many homesteading approaches is what we would call a hyper-practical approach that many employ. We sometimes refer to this as ‘pallet homesteading’ because of the widespread practice among this crowd of fashioning damn-near everything out of pallets. Pallet buildings, fencing, furniture, etc. Now before you flame us as being anti-pallet, realize that we DO use them!

Here is a pallet chicken coop (before we finished it) on our own property…

 

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Our pallet chicken coop

 

Like many homesteaders, we enjoy resourcefulness, upcycling, etc. – however… we’re not into a homestead that looks straight out of the Great Depression, especially so we can feel like some sort of hero for having saved $10. If we were living during such a time, and that is the best we could do, fine, but for the moment, thankfully we aren’t. Look for a separate post or two from us regarding our thoughts on hyper-frugality.

One of our favorite authors, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms writes that farming and the production of food should be aesthetic pleasing, aromatic, sensual and even romantic pleasure. We would agree! We would summarize all those things as “beauty” and where possible aim to make our homestead as beautiful as possible. To some this is vain, for us, it’s about joy. We are here all the time and want to enjoy where we live. Investing in your home and property – even in what feels superficial, can be a very good and noble thing to do.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so for some, that may result in pallet homesteading, old tires for garden beds, and the like. If that’s your thing, go for it. Our point isn’t to discourage frugality or resourcefulness. Rather, our encouragement is: don’t forget beauty in the process of homesteading.

Hopefully, you’re going to be homesteading for a long time and live where you live for a long time. Someone will inherit your space after you. Don’t be stingy, invest in the beautiful on your homestead, even if it doesn’t directly result in food in the pantry or freezer. For many, this will be hard and may require revolutionizing your worldview, especially if you gravitate towards being stingy. In our experience, this can be harder for men than women. Men might want to give their gals a new casserole dish for a special occasion when their gal would much rather have flowers or an updated garden bed. Beauty is important!

Let us encourage you with this… beauty feeds the soul, first and foremost, the souls living on your homestead – including your own! Secondly, it will feed the souls of those who will visit your homestead. Beauty creates warm, welcoming, and hospitable places to welcome the weary, including yourself. A beautiful homestead delights your soul and brings health to your bones. It’s nice to look with pleasure on your land after a long hard day of working in the garden or orchard. Invest in it!

 

Are we “Survivalists”?!

Did the title of this post catch your attention? Good. Many, many people sneer at the thought of being a “survivalist” – or “prepper” and not without cause. Many are turned off by paranoid proclamations of doom and gloom and the accompanying encouragement to run for the hills, store up food and water, heavily arm themselves, etc.

Then there is the sustainable homesteading crowd. For some, those words might conjure up images of venturing out west on a covered-wagon train, eating cornbread and beans over a campfire as you hand-clear a hundred acres of raw wilderness with an ax and saw.

“Sustainable Homesteading” – might conjure up other pictures of a bunch of dreadlock-sporting granola types howling at the moon and dancing around a drum circle.

We sometimes get curious looks or inquiries about ourselves. Are we “preppers” or “survivalists” or “homesteaders”, “farmers” perhaps? It’s a difficult question to answer without some explanation.

We would propose that if one were to pursue one of these things, in time they’ll become the others – at least in part.

Now we’re not saying that if you try growing your own vegetable garden, you’ll end up living in a bunker with 25 years of freeze-dried food.  It’s just that the path to being sustainable followed far and long enough, is likely to result in you being a pretty good survivalist whether you want to or not. Likewise, the journey of a well-thought-out survivalist is going to eventually lead toward a life of sustainability.

Why is this?

Because you cannot be/do one without the other. In order to be sustainable, one must be able to provide for a need indefinitely without exhausting all their resources in doing so. So for example, to be sustainable regarding food, one must be able to provide an ongoing, inexhaustible source of food without exhausting their means to keep doing so.

Hmmm… sounds exactly what a prepper or survivalist might ponder as they think about how to indefinitely provide food for themselves and their family in the event of an emergency or disaster. In order to truly “survive” some scenarios, one would need to do so sustainably, or their survival would have an expiration date. That wouldn’t make for a very good survivalist!

To be survivable long-term requires being sustainable. If one is sustainable, they’ve provided continuity for doing what needs to be done for as long as it needs to be done. Those people, whether they like the name or not – are in some senses “survivalists”.

At the deepest level, someone pursuing sustainability is doing so because they want themselves or their environment to flourish despite whatever else is going on in the world. Nevertheless, many (including ourselves) don’t consider ourselves “survivalists”. We would prefer the term “thrivalists”, because what we do, we do to thrive, not to survive. What is the point of the latter without the former?

Why bring all this up? Because the journey to simple, by nature, is a movement toward being sustainable. This entails reducing dependencies on systems and resources that are without and managing those within to the best of your ability. If we can’t keep doing what we do, we haven’t accomplished all that much.

A survivalist might do things because they expect systems to fail. A thrivalist does them because a life that is not contingent upon these things is not enslaved to such things.

The great news is, as one becomes more sustainable, they’re prepared for times if and when those systems and resources ever become unavailable. That’s exactly what the survivalist hopes to accomplish and that is what the sustainable homesteader aims for as well. For us, we’ll stick with “thrivalist” since no other term does justice to our intentions.

 

Where have you people been?

Okay, so it’s been a loooooong time since an update. To be honest, we didn’t think anyone read this blog, so why update, right?

We took a hiatus from this for a few reasons…

  1. We didn’t feel like our life was necessarily getting “simpler”. In fact, homesteading, unless one is ultra-frugal or willing to live a very primitive lifestyle, is anything but simple and for us, has not been inexpensive. More on that in a minute…
  2. We aren’t real keen on living our lives just for the sake of having good things to blog about online for an audience of people we don’t know or are known by. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to share with you, we just don’t want our desire to share with you to unnaturally influence how and what we do. Seems like many these days are living a life for the sake of good sound bites or video – maybe what they want people to see – rather than the real life right in front of them, with all the blood and guts and gore. That’s not how we are.

So… we may blog some more here in the days ahead. First order of business is discussing “The Plan” and how we have or haven’t made progress on such.

We don’t want to write what you don’t want to read (for the most part), so please use the comments to recommend what we might cover next, or ask your questions, etc.

Cheers!

 

Juice Fast – Day 8-10

Day 8!  Two more days and counting!  The biggest struggle for me (Laura) right now is that every juice tastes similar.  The vegetable (Mean Green) tastes like ginger and celery and the fruit juices taste sweet.  The fruit juice is made yummier by blending it with a banana.  So I find myself just sucking it down as fast as I can, to be rid of the taste.  We had a treat yesterday, Iced Coffee (decaf) made with Hemp Milk.  Utterly different than normal, but remarkably tasty.  We have both had some minor health changes, but nothing radical (like the folks in the movie “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead“.)

Right now I am wondering what it will be like to “eat” again.  Will my mouth feel weird?  Will my guts?  I am in utter awe that people really do this for 30-60 days!  “Good on them!” as our mate from down under would say.  We have decided that on Tuesday, we will follow a 15-day plan for eating all fruits & veggies.  These are actual meals, so we plan to feed our children in the same way.  To an extent of course.  The plan reccommends no dairy or bread, of course the baby still needs her bottles.  And since she kept handing me the veggies out of her tortellini stir-fry, today, she will probably still get her mini-sandwiches.

Andrew: We’ll see about making the baby sweet on veggies. That’s my goal at least. I started reading a book “Disease Proof your Child” by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, MD. In it, he makes the case for early nutrition (or lack thereof) being the biggest contributor for predicting disease later in life. It’s really got me thinking about how we feed our children.For certain, we do feed them healthy foods, but perhaps still desperately short on fresh produce. This book explains what is needed, why supplements are not adequate and how to change. So far, good reading (though I don’t care for the occasional reference to Humans being another of the animal world).

As Laura said, we’ll be following another “Reboot” program (with some modifications) starting Tuesday. We’ll be doing this for fifteen days and hopefully will use this as a way to get our start in eating a diet of 60%+ fruits and vegetables (most Americans eat 5%). I’m excited about this. We’re not going to stop eating other things we love – just smaller quantities or less frequently. We believe the long-term health of our children and ourselves will be influenced by doing these things. More on that another time.

Juicing is getting old. Or rather, not eating is getting old. My mouth just needs to feel food in it again – plain and simple. I’m not craving much of anything, and not really anything unhealthy either. That’s one benefit of doing this – dealing with cravings and getting to their root. When I’m truly nourished, I don’t need/want the other stuff. Lots of stuff sounds good to me, but I have no plans to gorge myself on unhealthy stuff when this is done. What I do have a hankering for is beans and legumes, stuff like that. Something with some hearty flavor. It’s hard to stomach such flavors in juice – though I have tried!

In the beginning, I thought I might go 3o or more days on this. I’m not giving up, I’ve just learned more about what I need. According to the Reboot “Needs Assessment“, all I really needed was this fifteen day program – not really a juice fast. The juice fast would be better for folks with health problems or a lot of weight to lose. Since neither of this really need such, we don’t get much benefit from juice fasting. So, why continue fasting when we can get the same benefits from the fifteen day program? Nevertheless, I might do this 2-4 times a year just to center my mind and give the insides a break.

On another note… we made the best-tasting fruit juice to date. Papaya, Pineapple, Mango, Kiwi and Green Apple. Wow – it was like something I’d expect to be served in glass with an umbrella on a resort in the tropics. Totally delicious!

So today is it… the last day (shwew!). Tomorrow morning we’ll be eating solid foods once again. Should be an interesting time! We’ll do another post with some final summary thoughts once we’ve made the transition. Thanks for following along on our journey. Best wishes if you go on your own! Please drop us a note/comment if you’re on, or are planning something like this. We’d love to hear about it!

Get out of debt, or invest?

We’ve spoken to several financial planners and investment advisers over the years and unequivocally, they’ve recommended investing funds on hand rather than reducing essential debts like mortgages and student loans. Certainly, the math behind this makes sense because good return on investment is based on two things – time and compound interest. The logic goes like this. If you pay off your debt on hand, then begin to invest, you lose those years of compound interest on your investments. For many years we thought this was a wise way to go.

Over the last few years though, we’ve come to see things differently. As our lives become simpler, so our ideas about finances. Our entire western culture is built on a desire to better one’s life in ways that generally allow one to accumulate more stuff. Our education is geared around preparing our children for this pursuit. We make sure they get an adequate education that will prepare them for pursuing the amount of material comforts they’ll need or desire. Once they begin working a job, they begin to prepare to maintain this status until the end of their days.

To us, this seems rather silly. Is not life about more than working a job and having stuff? We’ve come to see that his is an empty pursuit that robs people and families of their essential well-being. It drives families into debt, which results in more work to service their debt. Truly, “the borrower is servant to the lender”.

Once we began to see that money is an illusory carrot dangled in front of the masses of society in exchange for servitude, we began to change our minds about debt. No longer are we concerned about how many thousands of dollars we’ll have when we reach 65. Rather, what kind of people will we be at 65? What kind of lives will we have lived? Will our resources have been used for good, or to line the pockets of the super-wealthy? What will our children be like and what will the experiences of their lives be? Without exception, for us being debt free as soon as possible provides more enjoyable answers to those questions. Are we saying investing is bad? No! But for us, we’ve come to see investing in debt reduction to have far more value to our lives than investing those same funds to get “more”.

Being debt free truly brings freedom. Does freedom have a price? Debt brings a lack of freedom as one is contractually bound to pay back their debt, therefore must gather the resources to pay their debt. This means choosing a job and schedule that gives one the resources to pay this debt. At the same time, we’re living in a culture that encourages more debt. Don’t believe us? Our entire economy is based on this premise. Debt IS currency in the USA. Not sure about that? Do some research on fractional reserve banking sometime.

Being debt free allows people and families to choose to spend their time doing what they enjoy, where they desire to do so, and with whom they desire to do it with. Does that mean NO work? Not usually – but it does give one the freedom to enjoy more trivial work that provides only what is needed. If we were debt free, we could invest a much smaller amount of time outside of our home and interests than we do now. To us, that has far more intrinsic value than any gains we could experience by investing our resources elsewhere.

So get out of debt or invest? Which is it? We would say getting out of debt is investing – and perhaps the best investment one could ever make.

Please share your comments!