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Budgets ARE like Condoms After All

 
master pollinator
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Well I admit that is a topic title that kind of grabs a person’s attention…Permies Click-Bait if there ever was such a thing. However, it is true, budgets are like using condoms. Let’s face it, no one really likes using either, but it gives a person a lot of freedom if they do.

That sounds so counterintuitive; a budget equating to freedom, but it is so true. Just like a condom keeps a person from getting high medical bills from having babies or other health issues, so too does a budget. It does not take money away from anyone, it simply allows them to use what money they do have more wisely. In the short term, using a condom kind of robs some pleasure from the act, just like it is not a lot of fun to go through receipts and logging them into my Excel Spreadsheet, but it is still worth doing.

I just updated my budget while in the midst of major power outage, and so as I posted on here about alternative power, and heating my home, my budget showed me a truth that I did not see on my own. I am not sure if anyone can see it readily in the snap shot of my expenses, in this case a pie chart of my expenses for the year, but it is there if you look.

It is this, even if I had alternative power, and “free” heat, I would only save 4% of my money.

What this pie chart really shows is, I need to concentrate on producing more of my own food. I mean 25% of my expenses is buying food!

That is hardly an easy task as it first seems to be though. Granted, if we grew a ton of potatoes, we would inevitable eat a lot more of potatoes, because it is available to eat, but some food choices would not be that easy. Like here we eat ice cream a lot. To get a dairy cow, and all that to make up for ice cream purchases, would be more costly than just buying the ice cream. But the point is, I must CONCENTRATE on groceries because reducing our food costs…though rather boring…is going to net us better savings than doing something like making alternative power, or heating my home a better way. These are good things, but they will have to wait until I get food consumption under control first.

I guess my question is…for this family of six, what are some practical things to raise that gets the most food for the cost of raising it?



Budget.jpg
Budget
Budget
 
pollinator
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You're going to need to break down what you spend inside the food catagary. and then look for things you can grow that you don't grow. If you have a lot of smoothies for example, berries are expensive but easy to grow and easy to store.  With ice cream look at the cost of making it rather than buying it. For example here a pint and a half tub of ice cream costs $5 the cream to make that costs  $1.6 and the sugar/eggs would add about 80c bringing the cost of making your own up to just under half the bought product. IF you had something homegrown to flavour it with of course. would the time spent making it be worth it? I don't know only you can decide that.
 
Travis Johnson
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I do break down our food consumption to some degree. Like "Food" is broken down into four different categories. Like I track:

Grocery Food
Fast Food
Going to a restaurant with the family
Dates with Katie

What I have found over the years is, as one category drops, another rises. Like on the months I spend a lot of money on fast food, because I am in the car a lot, my grocery bill goes down, but the fast food category goes up. And if we go out as a family, that sub-category goes up, but it is almost directly proportional to the grocery bill. So all in all, over the last few years, my food costs have pretty much remained the same.

All the other categories are the same way. Like Utilities has:

Electricity
Phone
Cell Phone

So even making my own power would not save 2%, it would actually be more like 1% because I still have phone to pay for.
 
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Would a beef cow, a pig, some layers and some meat chickens meet the protein needs for the family for a year?  If not, how many would it take?  Not sure what the input costs for raising those animals might be, but if nothing else, you would have some good clean meat and eggs to eat!  

Otherwise, growing the veg and fruit and preserving it might help a bit.

I think the trick is wanting to eat what you have - it is easy to want what is in the restaurant or drive-through vice what you already have at home.
 
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and then look for things you can grow that you don't grow.  



I've been doing that every year since starting a garden. These have worked very well since moving to TN. Each is nutritious & delicious. Minimal effort to grow.


Seminole pumpkins
sweet potatoes
buckwheat
peanuts
black eyed peas

My main focus next year is fruit trees & perennial veggies.

I would add bees (honey) to the list but they are not as easy or reliable. There's a bit of an art & often a steep learning curve with bees. Chickens are easier & more consistent.
 
pioneer
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It might be helpful to have a new budget category for entertainment.  Date nights and eating out as a family count as discretionary entertainment expenses, and realy, so does fast food.  

It would be interesting to see the percentages and/or dollar amounts for the breakdowns.

While eating out does save on groceries, it costs much more than groceries.  If eating out, even fast food, does not cost more than eating that meal at home, then the issue would be using less prepared food at home and more cooking from scratch.  For example, while I rarely eat fast food, like once a year with a poor travel plan, I have done so, and without a drink or fries it is still about $4-6 for me to eat.  ( Yes, less for a child, but then that child would eat less groceries at home too).  $4 feeds me homecooked food for more than one meal, and with more nutrition and calories.  For me, that is more than a day, but for others, maybe $5/day per person makes luxerious homecooked food.

So, the first is to look at how much is spent on eating out of all types and if this has become a habit.  And, if so, we can give alot of recommendations for cooking at home when busy, for example.  

But, if that is a rareity, and the actual money is on groceries, then first, you need to look at the dollar amount, not just percentage of your budget to see if it is reasonable or too high.  If it is too high per person for the month, you need to subcategorize to see if it is snack foods, cold drinks, premade meals, produce, meat, etc... to find out where for your family you spend alot.

It is hard to give recommendations with out more information.  Many of us do know how to eat well on a budget, and how to produce or preserve foods, but we would need to know where the problem lies to help
 
Travis Johnson
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Sue...

I have that information for you. The next screen shot given is of our "Food Page" so it breaks down the individual categories that I track. In the previous pie chart it was labeled as "Food" well this is how those four sub categories are broken down.

Groceries
Fast Food
Family restaurant
Date Nights

One thing to keep in mind about fast food is, this includes everything. So while we might run into a convenience store for a drink, it gets put here as well, so it is not just "McDonald's" type of food. Although we do go there a lot, because we are always on the road.

The other thing to note is, we have very irregular income, so some months you see very little spent on groceries, like in September, but if you will note, October was much higher, that obviously is to make up for the lack of groceries we bought in September.

Food-Page.jpg
[Thumbnail for Food-Page.jpg]
 
Sue Reeves
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Well, now it is easier to see

in 2017, taking the yearly totals and dividing by 12 it looks like this, (I did not include dates nights as that amount isnt a large part of the spending  at first glance):

eating out ( fast food, family eating out): $416/month
groceries : $576/month

So, to me, growing or processing your own isnt the first step.  Almost half of food money spent is for eating out, buying drinks out.

There are many ideas for this.  I can give you a few that worked for us, but, again, would need more details on lifestyle for your exact solutions.  SO, you need to figure out times of day eating out, lunch ? Dinner ? Snack time ?  Then, if bought drinks are very much of it, that is something to make note of.  

So, I am just brainstorming here, since I do not know the details

For example, bought drinks  solution might include :  Making coffee at home and taking with you in a portable thermos, there are an awful lot of options on these I have seen my grown kids use, stainless steel, well insulated.  They save alot of money making good coffee at home and taking it with them.  Every adult and child could pack a cold drink bottle before getting in the car.  You can decide wether this contains just water, as would be typical for my family.  Or, it could be a water bottle with a water/fruit juice blend in it.  If the kids are small and will not go thru so much during the day, you can have a larger bottle of your preferred mix, in a cooler even, and a few metal cups( see Lehmans catalog to buy) or plastic sippy cups for the littles to serve them theirs.  

Another idea is to always have food with you in the car.  Sandwiches, a sandwich is healthier than MacDonalds.  Cheese, lunch meat or peanut butter, it does not need to be fancy.  They keep well, otherwise my generation would all be dead as we took mayonaise and lunch meat at room temperature to school, but you can always just keep a cooler in the car.  Fruit.  Homebaked cookies, zuchini bread, bread maker bread with butter and jam.  

If kids activities keep you out in the evening, you can switch things up by having a hot lunch and a sandwich dinner.   Or, I used to use a solar oven or a crockpot to make sure there was food ready when we got home.  You can also just microwave what you have cooked the previous night, so always be cooking a day ahead. I do know how hungry they are and how impossible it is to think of cooking when you just get home.  However, it is much easier to think of cooking once you are well fed, so cooking or meal prep can happen in the evening after dinner for the next day.  

I have brought a thermos of hot food for a younger sibling to make it thru the older ones practice or game.  Many leftovers taste good cold too.

My youngest was out of the house alot in her teen homeschool years and would pack lunch, snacks and dinner, and she was an athlete and so this was ALOT of food.  So, maybe one thermos of filling soup, bread and butter and  a container of apple crisp for the hot meal; a thick sandwich or two and fruit for a cold meal; some yogurt, cookies, hummus and veggies, dried fruit etc... for snacking.  



This will save ALOT of money if you do it often, it adds up. Not to mention it will be better nutrition for the kids and save alot of trash and other toxic gick from release into the world.   Maybe it could be a family project where the kids help and the money saved goes to a special account for something the household wants or needs  ?

While at first glance, it may look like work, once it gets going, it is very smooth and I think alot less work that keeping pigs or chickens and slaughtering and canning.  The potential money saved is alot more, given your current budget, too

Since I was a "mean" mom, realy just a very tired mom with a big age gap between kids,  I finally came up with a system where the older kids did an hour trade for all the time I spent driving them to activities and sitting around, and choices had to be made on how many activities each, like maybe one each per season, and yes I know that does add up !  We are at least 1/2 hour each direction from town, but the destination often further in.  This means they would do extra help, beyond their chores, meal prep or clean up, laundry.  Doesnt have to be all on a weeknight when they have homework, they can help do the weekly baking or ahead of time meal prep with you on the weekend ( chopping meat and veggies for the soup and put into a container, etc...)

 
Skandi Rogers
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One way of reducing the amount spent on drinks is to buy them on your normal grocery shop in bulk, so a whole crate of cans and then leave them in the vehicle (weather dependent of course) that way you still get your soda or other drink of choice but at a fraction of the cost of buying one bottle at a time from the garage.
 
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Weeds, honestly. Nothing comes cheaper than a free thing, growing on your land, whether you want it to, or not. Many weeds actually offer better nutrition, than things we cultivate, too. Loads of benefits to foraging - it's free, it's a great, healthy family activity, it's purty durn permie, I think, lol - and they more you do it, the healthier you, your family, AND your budget have the potential to become.
 
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Hey Travis, I applaud your efforts and really think that Skandi's suggestion to track the foods that make up your grocery runs and look at that list to identify things to try to grow. Like you said, if you eat out more your grocery bill goes down, but regardless of where your grocery bill goes month to month, the more of it you can supplant with homegrown food the lower it will be (the next trick will be saving this windfall rather than simply upping your non-grocery food bills).
 
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The main cost-savers food wiser for us are our duck eggs, berries, nettle, and herbs. Potatoes are great because they are easy, nutrient and calorie dense, and the kids like to eat them. We all love berries, both fresh and frozen, and berries thankfully grow well here. They're also really expensive, so we wouldn't be able to buy them if we didn't grow them. Potatoes are pretty cheap, but they grow easily, harvest easily, and help make garden beds for the next year. The kids love nettle and it's easy to fry up and grows naturally as a "weed" on our property. We eat a lot of it when it's in season.

The biggest problem for us is the actual harvesting and cleaning of plants we grow. It takes time! Usually if I do all the harvesting, I don't want to do both the cleaning AND cooking as well. So, it works for us if I bring the food in, my husband cleans it, and then I cook it. But, even then, it still takes a lot of time. I still haven't gotten out there and harvest more kale to make the kale chips I love or to cook it up for dinner. And, there's still some apples from the tree that I need to pick and wash and turn into apple chips. But it seems so time intensive that I still haven't done it! Bringing in a few things like chives or herbs for seasonings is easy, as they don't really require cleaning...but potatoes and carrots do!

I think because we have to cook from scratch due to my husband's crohn's, we're more likely to cook up something from outside. Because we really CAN'T eat out, we don't.

Maybe, with all the cancer and health problems, view eating out at unhealthy restaurants or unhealthy fast food as something you can't do. You just can't do it, and so you don't. You find fast meals you can do at home--sandwiches, crackers with cheese and meat, pasta with sauce, cheep steaks seared in a pan, bags of frozen veggies cooked up in butter, etc.

Medical health costs are crazy. We spent over $6,000 one year (we met our deductible and out of pocket) when my husband was hospitalized with Crohn's and had tons of doctor appointments and expensive medicine. He hasn't been to the doctor in over a year and a half. He's not been hospitalized. The only medicine he has is quercetin, mint leaves, green tea, and ginger. He has no more ulcers and no more Crohn's symptoms. I'd much rather spend my time and money on making good food, than on driving too and from doctor appointments and paying for all that medical work!
 
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Budgets are absolutely like condoms!

Super important for many reasons, but not exactly well loved.

A lot of people who really ought to use them dilligently, don't bother at all.

It's really amazing how much they will stretch to encompass, if you really put your mind to it.

But, it's not necessarily comfortable at that point..

And when you push that last little bit too far, there can be some pretty nasty consequences, involving stressful conversations and difficult choices...
 
Carla Burke
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Now that I've slept, and my fever has finally left, my brain *seems* to be somewhat more functional, now. So, I'll add that weeds aren't the only thing growing wild, for forage. The inner bark, as well as the leaves of many trees have not only health benefits, like pain relief (willow, birch, & pine, plus more), they can add great flavor and nutrients to your food, even if only used as seasoning. Pine needles, for example can add a kind of citrusy flavor, and can add much needed vitamin C, to help stave off  scurvy, and boost your immune system, at the same time. Most tree nuts, including acorn & pine nuts are flavorful, nutritious, filling, and rich in beneficial oils. And, back to the pine - once the nuts are harvested from the cones, the cones can then be dried & used as fire starters, and/or added to craft supplies to keep the kids busy, and decorate your home, or smeared with peanut butter (or honey, or beeswax, or suet...), coated with seeds, and hung near windows, to provide food for your local wildlife, and entertainment for anyone stuck in the house, while they watch the critters antics.

Cherry tree bark syrup is great for coughs, and can save on any otc cough syrup you might buy. Norway and sugar maple leaves are edible, too - and both (not just the sugar maple) can be trapped, to make maple syrup.

We are getting goats, next week, and plan to breed them, in December (gestation is 150days, and that timing will put freshening in warm enough weather to ensure no unexpected cold snap will wipe out the kid[s]), to get a steady milk supply started, for next year, too. Goats are usually cheaper to buy and feed, than cows, the milk is more easily digested, and Nigerian dwarfs are supposed to have very rich, sweet milk, perfect for creamy ice cream, as well as for soap making, lol!

Chickens, geese, & ducks, if you can free range, are a great source of eggs & meat. But, if you can't at least *mostly* free range, they're not so cheap, in our experience, this year. We had a ton of all of them, when I was a kid, and while I'm pretty sure their diet was largely crap - table-scraps from a large family on welfare, to be precise - that made them VERY cheap.
 
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I will preface this by saying that I am a home educating mother of 11 (10 of whom are still living at home, 7 of whom do not work outside the home).  So that's a family of 12 that I shop and cook for.  Food costs could be REAL around here, if we didn't eat the way we do (very little processed foods). With Ohio food prices, I could easily feed my entire family for 400.00 a month (if I had to). My current budget is around 700.00 monthly (with splurges).

My first question would be by how much do you want to cut your food budget?  Knowing that you want to spend less, is a good start, but I think you really need some goals and a solid plan about how you are going to reduce.  

For example, if you usually spend about 600.00 (just an example) a month on food and want to reduce it by 5%, that would save you 13.75 a week, 55.00 a month or 660.00 a year. What items can you cut out every other week that would equal up to 55.00 a month?  I understand that you like ice cream, but if you want to save, perhaps you don't buy ice cream every week, maybe you only buy ice cream every other week or once a month. That should save you 10.00 - 15.00.  What else could you cut back on.

This is easier to do if you have a solid rotating meal plan.  

Another very good way to save money on food is to challenge yourselves to stop eating fast food so often.  It is a relatively new concept to eat it as often as people do now.  In times past people were in the habit of packing their own food when they were going to be away from home for any good length of time.  That is what we do.  I pack food or we just wait until we get home.  I have several Instant Pots and I can easily have a hot meal ready for my family in 20-30 minutes.

As far as what you can grow to save money, I would have to say, whatever you all like to eat.  Do you like tomatoes and cucumbers?  Then grow tomatoes and cucumbers and during the growing season have tomato sandwiches for supper once a week.  Can or freeze enough tomatoes to use it in chili once a week too.  Grow what you will eat a lot of.

 
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If you do a detailed count of cost, nutrients, enjoyment and work required you might be able to pick out the low hanging fruit and get some easy wins.  But most of the time changing habits requires a deliberate effort.  At some point you have to decide that you're not splashing cash out at Macdonald's and keep to it (if that's what you decide is the key).  Or that there has to be two nights of home cooked dinners with as much food from the yard as feasible before the icecream bucket is opened.  Or that "we don't drink sugar drinks, we drink water from our water bottle"

Usually transformative action requires imposing delayed gratification.  On the bright side you can start small and make one change at a time.  right now I'm working on "we don't eat food on the ferry, we bring it from home or buy it before getting on"
 
pollinator
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Let me ship you a few pigs. LOL

I follow a Youtube channel called Roots and Refuge and she discusses in one of her videos that she concentrated on her massive veggie garden first as it was what could produce the most calories for the least cost. I'm not sure if that's true for my climate or yours, she lives in Alabama so long growing season.

We eat a lot of dairy but I don't think milk is expensive enough to justify a dairy cow.

We've started making our own alcohol. I think that'll save us a lot in the long run. lol Now if only it was warm enough to grow agave for tequila!
 
elle sagenev
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From a financial strategy standpoint a meal plan is the best way to go about it. Our current meal plan is only for 2 weeks but when we were in the thick of paying off debt it was the entire month, planned ahead of time. Then I would sit down and figure out what ingredients I needed to make ONLY THOSE MEALS PLANNED. Then make my shopping list. This really cuts down on what you spend, so long as you stick to your list. Grocery stores are enticing, I've been known to grab random things that look good a lot. But if you make a list and stick to it it cuts cost back a lot.
 
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The cheapest calories generally available in the states come in a white powdered form.
White flour is supper cheap, as is "vegetable" oil,  but just cutting food cost isn't what you are looking for.

Maybe I'm wrong,  but I think having land and skills to raise animals makes them the best choice for creating more food.
Low inputs will mean low out puts but zero cost, so if you can get 100 roosters for next to nothing and they all put on only a single pound worth of meat scrounging for themselves, then you have profited.
Perhaps the answer to your food costs is to plant corn,  then get a nuisance hunting licence.

 
Sue Reeves
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William Bronson wrote: The cheapest calories generally available in the states come in a white powdered form.
White flour is supper cheap, as is "vegetable" oil,  but just cutting food cost isn't what you are looking for.

Maybe I'm wrong,  but I think having land and skills to raise animals makes them the best choice for creating more food.
Low inputs will mean low out puts but zero cost, so if you can get 100 roosters for next to nothing and they all put on only a single pound worth of meat scrounging for themselves, then you have profited.
Perhaps the answer to your food costs is to plant corn,  then get a nuisance hunting licence.



I dont think going to cheap, white food calories is needed.  I imagine that cutting almost half this current food budget would net significant food nutrient gains and could be done only using organic whole grains, butter, and other real foods.  I have done it and seen it done.  

As Genevieve said above, it can be tackled one thing at a time.  
 
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I so agree! Budgets are like condoms. (I don't like condoms or budgeting.)
But I do do a lot of budgeting and just like Travis said, it reveals the truth: where the money actually goes. It is often surprising, even after many many years of budgeting.

Another important budgets (besides a monetary one) that come to my mind are:

- The budget of your wants and needs
- The budget of your values

What I mean by these rather clumsy terms that I invented is taking also into account what you and your family truly wants and needs. And what are your most important values.

Sometimes I grow food that I think will save us a lot of money, only to realize that no one else but me wants to eat it.
Sometimes I grow food that my family wants to eat, but growing that food doesn't really align with my values.

 
Travis Johnson
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elle sagenev wrote:Let me ship you a few pigs. LOL

I follow a Youtube channel called Roots and Refuge and she discusses in one of her videos that she concentrated on her massive veggie garden first as it was what could produce the most calories for the least cost. I'm not sure if that's true for my climate or yours, she lives in Alabama so long growing season.

We eat a lot of dairy but I don't think milk is expensive enough to justify a dairy cow.

We've started making our own alcohol. I think that'll save us a lot in the long run. lol Now if only it was warm enough to grow agave for tequila!



This is kind of a funny real life story about our farm.

In 1838 my forefathers got into an argument. The mainstay of the farm was grains, but mostly hops. The son did not want to grow hops because it made beer primarily, and he thought it was wrong, but the father felt that it was okay. Anyway, the son won out, so the hops will tilled up, and instead potatoes were planted. From 1838 until 1988 we were primarily a potato farm.

But the thing of it was, potatoes make Vodka which is far more potent than beer, so I am not sure we gained much ethically wise!



 
Travis Johnson
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Genevieve Higgs wrote:Usually transformative action requires imposing delayed gratification.  On the bright side you can start small and make one change at a time.  right now I'm working on "we don't eat food on the ferry, we bring it from home or buy it before getting on"



We kind of have the same problem. My wife is from new Hampshire which is about 4 hours away. That means when her two kids go to see their dad every other weekend, it means (2) four hour rides: one on Friday, and one on Sunday as we meet at the halfway point. (Two hours there, then two hours back on Friday, then do the same thing again on Sunday, 26 times a year. That puts the kids in the car a lot, and from 3-7 PM, so that is why we eat so much fast food.

For us it is not always fast food restaurants though. Katie typically stops at the Dollar Stores like Dollar Tree, Dollar General or Family Dollar and picks up cheap food there. But it is still "fast food" because it is from a store, and not home-grown. So I can see why people see fast food, they automatically think all of it is from McDonalds or Burger King. It might be a lunchable… but because it is from a store, considered "fast food."

Picture-1-781831-1-.JPG
lunchables fast food
 
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Travis,

I had a good laugh when I read this post, but I think it is apt—nobody really likes them but they are kinda good for us (as a whole at least).  They are a nuisance but they protect us.

Then I was thinking (joking, really) about a Permies organic condom.  Would it be biodegradable?  Made from vegetable matter?  Maybe a hugelcondom (I have no idea what that would be, I just liked the sound/thought of it.  I mean a condom made out of logs and woody debris sounds like a bad design for a condom).  Perhaps a reusable condom (and believe it or not, these have existed!)?  I wonder what other Permies/organic concepts could apply.

Anyways, this is mostly joke, but your analogy is great!

Eric
 
Nicole Alderman
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Maybe on those big long drive days, pack lunches? Grab a cooler and throw in a bunch of finger foods-- peeled boiled eggs, sliced cheese, crackers, cookies, carrot sticks, dried fruit (my kid's favorite), trail mix made from nuts/raisens/etc from the bulk section of the grocery store, homemade jerky (it's the best! Just slice meat and marinate it and then dehydrate), etc.

Packing lunches IS hard though, especially if you have to make it nearly every single day of the week (school and then your long drives). I made all those suggestions, but the fact is I often only get one or two in their lunchbox, the rest is purchased food like yogurt or leftovers from the night before...and I only have to pack lunches twice a week....and my kids eat lara bars for breakfast, because I never seem to have time to make gluten-free breakfast muffins for them.

Meals are hard, no joke!
 
Travis Johnson
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They are hard!

When I cook, I go all out, a true 5 course meal, BUT I have always said that Katie has the hardest part. Cooking meals day in, and day out is really, really tough.

But it is funny, because on the way to church Katie talked about this very subject, and yes...just how hard it is to make meals prior to going anywhere when you have (4) kids, a house to clean, and all the rest that is life. It is tough.
 
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Eric Hanson wrote:Travis,

I had a good laugh when I read this post, but I think it is apt—nobody really likes them but they are kinda good for us (as a whole at least).  They are a nuisance but they protect us.

Then I was thinking (joking, really) about a Permies organic condom.  Would it be biodegradable?  Made from vegetable matter?  Maybe a hugelcondom (I have no idea what that would be, I just liked the sound/thought of it.  I mean a condom made out of logs and woody debris sounds like a bad design for a condom).  Perhaps a reusable condom (and believe it or not, these have existed!)?  I wonder what other Permies/organic concepts could apply.

Anyways, this is mostly joke, but your analogy is great!

Eric



I am not the person to ask I know that. There are guys that definitely "play the field" and those that do not, and I am firmly encamped in the latter group. I have used a budget for 12 years or more, but a condom...only twice.
 
Carla Burke
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Eric Hanson wrote:...Permies organic condom.  Would it be biodegradable?  Made from vegetable matter?  Maybe a hugelcondom (I have no idea what that would be, I just liked the sound/thought of it.  I mean a condom made out of logs and woody debris sounds like a bad design for a condom).  Perhaps a reusable condom (and believe it or not, these have existed!)?  I wonder what other Permies/organic concepts could apply. Eric



Livestock intestines have been used around the world, since the thought occurred to folks (my best guess, in the beginnings).
 
Eric Hanson
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Carla,

Yea, I knew about intestines.  I was wondering/joking about something even more benign than an animal product.  Natural latex?  Compostable (gonna be a funky compost heap!)?  Not really certain what this would be, but for inexplicably bizarre reasons, I like the sound of hugelcondom.  I don’t know what this would be.  Just curious.

Eric
 
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According to wiki treated linen, oiled silk paper, intestines, tortoise shell and animal horn have all been used!


The example lunch you show, how much do they cost? Would it be cheaper to buy a packet of rolls and some ham and sliced cheese and make sandwiches on the way? I don't know how much things are in America but that was the way my mother always did it.
 
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“What this pie chart really shows is, I need to concentrate on producing more of my own food. I mean 25% of my expenses is buying food!“

But what your comments reflect is that you also need to focus on lifestyle habits. No judgement but McDonald’s food is overpriced crap. Lunchables aren’t much better- a dollar or more for a tiny snack. If you produced more food would that help the 3-7 commute to hand off kids? Would it cut down on the ice cream binges? (And I love ice cream! If I sat in for Paul I’d be handing out scoops instead of apples and slices of pie). Just rhetorical questions to get you thinking.
My solution with kids was always- make extras, eat leftovers, make it fun. So maybe make pizza but make extra and turn it into mini calzones. Or bake whole wheat bread and make an extra loaf for the road. And bring peanut butter. More nutritious and far cheaper than ‘McCrap’. Grapes, blocks of cheese, slices of ham or roast beef, veggies and dip, apple slices with cinnamon... all are cheaper and healthier than fast food, and all are fairly easy to take in a car. If water is too boring, make lemonade or ice tea. Or buy a quart of juice and mix it with a gallon of water. Far cheaper than even generic soda.
More gardening ultimately = more canning/drying/freezing. As you mention, with 4 kids any extra food prep work is a burden. If you have land, my budget tip is to raise free range pigs. Easier than chickens or beef, more valuable to sell or trade the extra (in some areas anyway). We got into a cycle of raising 4 pigs. When they hit ~300 lbs, we called ‘the pig guy’ who came and hauled them away. He got one (his choice) as payment. Then another one (our choice) got processed/wrapped to our specs. The other two were hanging ready to cut/wrap, and we either sold or traded them to get: grass fed beef, local honey, free range broilers or cash. We even traded some for home brewed beer and homemade cheese one year. 4 pigs required 1/2 acre (fenced), and as a bonus we got the soiled tilled and fertilized!
Or, if you can find a market, maybe consider a cash crop like gourmet garlic. At $10/lb I don’t know of any food you could grow to eat that’s worth as much. Take the kids fishing and hunting, and subsistence can be a bigger factor in your budget (and diet) too.
Other than a mortgage, I see food for a family as being a ‘largest’ budget item. I don’t know that 25% is all that bad, really. Everyone eats 2 or 3 times a day.
 
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Oooooooh...looking for new ways to get inspired about budgets!  Thanks Travis!
 
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If I'm out for the day, I might buy something to eat but I try to keep it minimal. Fast food prices have skyrocketed due to higher labor rates of $10-15/hr. I might get a cheap burger by itself or even fries by themselves. The other thing I do is buy a slice of pizza from the local convenient store chain, Casey's. Pretty good pizza. $2-3.00 is about as much as I'll spend. McDs double cheeseburger with bacon added is about $3.00

I don't drink soda anymore but do drink sweet tea. If I buy it, it will be from a convenient store so I don't have to pay for ice aka water. I buy sweet tea by the gallon for $3.00 and when I buy a 16oz bottle, I rinse the bottle and refill from the gallon and take the bottle with me.

My sister used to be a USPS rural carrier aka mailwoman. She would put cereal in a tupperware and munch on dry cereal all day.

I've been tightening up our food budget lately and potatoes are a big help. I also got an Instant Pot which also helps though I wish I'd have gotten the 8 quart rather than 6 quart. $4.00/lb chuck roasts come out good. I rarely pay more than $4.00/lb for meat. If whole chickens are on sale down close to $1.00/lb, I get 4-6 of them and stick them in the freezer. I built a smoker a couple of years ago and mostly do Boston Butts when they're around $1.50/lb. I know when our local grocery store puts out the manager's specials in the meat dept. Any weekday around 2:30-3:00. Any meat I buy is either a good sale or a manager's special. Hit the jackpot a couple of days ago and got a two pack of good sized T-Bones that had a $5.00 off sticker. That put them at $11.50 and fed the four of us. That was a splurge really but we get quality cuts of beef so infrequently, it's nice to have a good steak a couple of times a year. Had potatoes and carrots with them. Probably a total of $12.50 for the four of us. I try to keep us under $10.00 for dinner for the four of us. Occasionally, it's as low as $4.00 (chicken & rice)

Future plans:
Meat goats (small acreage and hilly/rocky - average kidding of twins)
Kunekune pigs (small, docile, cute as hell and don't root much at all - average litter of 8 or so)
Laying Hens (already have - super cheap eggs)

I raised some red rangers one time and it came out to over $1.00/lb so I don't know if it's worth it. Maybe if I can find a way to supplement the purchased feed.

Haven't grown a whole lot yet. Did taters for a few years and tomatoes a couple of years. I'm digging a root cellar this winter and building a high tunnel that will go up in Spring.

I'm digging a root cellar this winter. You can grow a bunch of stuff but then you have to store it or process it and processing it takes a lot of time and energy and energy cost $$.

Our income is around $1200/mth and right now food is about 25% of that or $400. Would love to get it down to $100/mth. I'm hoping to have the livestock pay for itself. Will sell kunekunes to individuals, maybe processed but probably live. Might sell meat goats the same way or might take them to the sale barn. For both, I'll be keeping some for the freezer and sell enough to pay for feed and other expenses. hopefully.

I got some fertilized eggs from a neighbor which saved some money and we'll be keeping a rooster so we can have our own fertilized eggs.

We really don't eat enough greens but that's definitely something that will be grown in the high tunnel.

We don't have a choice but to use a budget but at this point, I don't have to break down food costs because I spent the last year keeping track of how much a meal costs. I just know what I can buy and what I can't. No $4.00/lb fruit. No prepared/packaged food.(except for sauces/condiments) No $8.00/lb beef. No $4.00/lb chicken.

Speaking of chicken. When you buy them whole, there's a bit of work to be done to prepare them. These days, I spatchcock pretty much all of them and then roast. Very quick and easy. I've got half a dozen chicken carcasses in the freezer I need to make stock from. Probably make some chicken soup out of most of it.

When warm weather comes again, I'll start grilling them. I built a crude wood fired grill. Field fence wrapped in a circle. Fill 2/3 with large rocks. Lined the top 1/3 around the outside with flat rocks. Fill with wood, set on fire, wait for coals, set grill on and cook. My neighbor's got a neat one. It's a steel outer tractor rim and his grill hangs on a line that he can raise and lower the grill with by using a boat winch. Mine just kinds of spans across the rocks and isn't adjustable. It's something I threw together one day. I need to rig something up to raise and lower  the grill. I've got an old steering column from a 1950 truck I'm thinking of using somehow. Just turn a steering wheel to raise and lower.

I've got an abundance of wood here and will for some time as I continue to clear land. Nearly free cooking fuel. I want to make a rocket oven someday as well as a rocket water heater and rocket mass heater. Thought about designing and building one of those "Improved Stoves". Basically a rocket stove with a hole for a pot to sit down in that's a couple of inches larger in diameter than the pot. I'm hoping to power a pressure canner with it.

Something like below but since I'm a fabricator, I'd probably make it out of steel plate.  



One thing that cuts the cost on fast food is you don't have any time or energy costs. Might only be $0.25 per meal but money's money.
 
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Travis Johnson wrote:
I guess my question is…for this family of six, what are some practical things to raise that gets the most food for the cost of raising it?



To this specific question I think it depends on what you eat already, what you are willing to do, and what grows well. I can grow tomatoes on our farm like nobody's business. Beans do well and if I keep the weeds under control we can get some really great sweet corn. My family loves all of those. I have great aspirations for my gardens each year, but so far they have gone out the window in one way or another. Last year we had two volunteer butternut squash that took over everything. We still have piles of them in the basement, some still edible over a year later. So if you like squash, it might be a good one to grow, or spaghetti squash. Just plan on about 3 times as much room as you think they will need.

As I said already, tomatoes do really well and there are many varieties. Sauces and chunks for soups and such. Green beans are a good one as well with many uses.
I have done will with sweet corn garlic.

At the end of the day it still needs to be processed and stored. That is where the biggest challenge comes in.

One bit of advise on gardening I heard from Urban Farmer Curtis Stone was when really going at growing a large garden, pick one thing and master it. Then add something else. I have tomatoes figured out for us. Green beans are my next challenge. I need to figure out how to grow them really well. What process works best, what variety, etc.
Sweet corn is also on the list. We have had enough to have meals when it's ripe, but I need to nail down how to grow a year, or two years, supply of corn then harvest, and store it.
This year I raised chickens and will be doing that again next year. I used the Suscovich style tractor and Nutrena NatureWise Grower this time. According to the Cornish Cross charts they ate feed at 75% of chart for weight. I raised and butchered 30 birds for $1.25/lb in the freezer. I know I can do much better on the feed with a paddock style setup.

Ways I try to keep our food budget in check is bulk. We eat a lot of oatmeal, so we get it in bulk from Azure Standard. Look at options that have great discounts for bulk.
Rice is another good bulk item as well as beans.

I take PB&J sandwiches for lunch. I premake and freeze them a week at a time. I mix the PB&J to the J doesn't soak the bread, and I wrap them with a paper towel before putting them into a sandwich bag. This helps keep the bag cleaner, longer, and gives me something to wipe my face with when I'm done. The bag goes back in my lunch box to be reused next week. I'm not sure how many uses I get from a bag, but it's the most space efficient for the freezer. It's kinda like an "uncrustable" with better ingredients and for less money.

Papa Murphy's take-n-bake has $10 Tuesdays(larges) and I will get two family size pizzas the way we like them for $27. Those pizzas will make two meals plus a snack, so we are down to about $13/meal for a family of 4 eaters. #5 is still nursing. If we go out to a McDonalds or Culvers type fast food it's generally $28-$30 for us to eat one meal.

Pork Butt was mentioned already, and it's one I use. I'll pick up a few at a good price and do a large batch of pulled pork. Weigh it out into meal portions and freezer bag it. Flatten them out so they stack nicely and freeze. To reheat, put them in a pot of water and turn the heat on, when the water gets to about 150ish, or starting to steam pretty good, pull the bag and dump it out. Ready to go on sandwiches, rice, noodles, etc. depending on your pulled pork recipe.

My observation in reducing the food budget has been that the biggest gains are made in planning ahead and maximizing the work you do at once. If a meal is being made that is a casserole or soup type meal, how much harder is it to make enough for two meals at once? This save that time later for a quick reheat and meal is ready instead of defaulting to a fast food option.
 
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I'm definitely a Dave Ramsey fan, and budgeting is the core of what he teaches.  Need to get back on the wagon.  My 22 year old Camry died a week or so ago (felt down on power, then got a mid-RPM rattle, then stalling in the road, then when it would start a horrid squeaking rattle from the #3 or #4 cylinder), so I need to replace it.  Which means buying another car.  Which, had we been budgeting properly would be a lot less of a stressor.

I'll eventually fix that Camry (I hope) but that'll have to wait.  Rebuilding, or even swapping the engine will take way too long.
 
Travis Johnson
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We took the Dave Ramsey course last winter, and it was very good. As a side note, and a nod to Elle, her and her husband are instructors for his course.

We struggled with it because Katie has not worked in 9 months, and I have not worked in 3.5 years, so it is hard to set a budget and live within those budgets when you have no regular income coming in. We wanted to complete steps 2-7 in one fell swoop by selling our home, but it never sold, so we finally gave up, and moved back into the house.

It seemed natural for me just to go back to work, but that too is falling flat. I MIGHT have a job as a Lineman/Tower Climber, but it will probably be the first of the year before it happens.

My career advisor through the Displaced Farmer's Program of the USDA is helping me out, but they got gobs of money wand want me to go in (3) different directions. Get a decent paying job, go to college, and finally look at getting the farm viable in a different way other than sheep farming. That is all okay, but those are (3) very different things so it is hard to do all of them, at least for me, at the same time.

 
Travis Johnson
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I have always thought about potatoes. We grew potatoes from 1838-1988, so 150 years of doing something kinds of proves it works well here. We got the soil and the equipment. I would have to convert the barn over to house the potatoes, but I can do that easily enough.

I was thinking of having a "Spudtacular" Event. It does not look like we are going to be doing Rock the Flock any more, so I thought we could grow potatoes for the area Food Pantries at least. I am not sure how many pounds of potatoes there are per acre, but now that I do not have sheep, I have 107 acres of open land I can grow crops in. That is quite a few potatoes I would think.

This whole Disabled Farmers Program is nice, but I feel hugely guilty for being part of it. I feel I have to "pay back" society since taxpayers are paying for it, which could be college for me. That is why college will be in Alternative Power, and my job in telecommunications. I do not even have a cell phone, but it is important to most people, so I feel I should do something that helps society. Growing spuds for the hungry is also a huge part of that.
 
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I'll add to the sentiments that Sue Reeves, Elle Sagenev, and Caleb Mayfield shared.
Eating at home is ideal for saving money, and packing breakfast or lunch can be good too. You know what you are eating, and what you are paying for.

Planning meals vs. "I dunno, what do you want for dinner?" day after day... can save a lot of stress, money, and time. Because, face it, when you buy impulsively, you are trading money for time not spent planning or cooking.
Bulk purchasing and bulk cooking go hand in hand, and with a family of 6 you may already be doing it... But my mom used to do this for just the two of us and it not only saved money but also time!

As a single mom, she'd get what was on sale and spend a Sunday cooking. Turkey, pot roast, American chop suey, stuffed peppers or cabbage, 4 dozen Italian sausages...
We'd eat Sunday dinner, then leftovers Monday, but then the rest was packed off to the freezer for easy mid-week meals without all the work of cooking, maybe just boil some potatoes, rice, or noodles and a vegetable... done! Thaw some sausages in some sauce while the spaghetti is cooking.
Turkey was a favorite, and was packaged into "meals" of meat and gravy, and sometimes stuffing, or squash; and also a basic soup (meat and stock) which would get whatever vegetables and rice or noodles were on hand when prepared to eat.

It was a gift to her future self, of a home cooked meal, without the work and mess.

You could chase every penny with the monotony of oatmeal, rice and beans... (or cheap processed foods, the dollar menu...) or save the TIME, which is worth more.
Time spent shopping, cooking, working to earn extra $$ to afford eating fast food.
If you cooked a turkey, and got 3 meals instead of just one, you just saved at least two hours not cooking/cleaning up on the other two days...
 
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Andrew- take a few minutes and pull off the valve cover. That sounds a lot like a scenario with a Nissan I had, and was a relatively easy repair. One of the rocker arms had come loose and was not opening the valve anymore. You might get lucky....or not. But worth checking. 🤷🏻‍♀️
 
Andrew Mayflower
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Travis Johnson wrote:We took the Dave Ramsey course last winter, and it was very good. As a side note, and a nod to Elle, her and her husband are instructors for his course.

We struggled with it because Katie has not worked in 9 months, and I have not worked in 3.5 years, so it is hard to set a budget and live within those budgets when you have no regular income coming in. We wanted to complete steps 2-7 in one fell swoop by selling our home, but it never sold, so we finally gave up, and moved back into the house.

It seemed natural for me just to go back to work, but that too is falling flat. I MIGHT have a job as a Lineman/Tower Climber, but it will probably be the first of the year before it happens.

My career advisor through the Displaced Farmer's Program of the USDA is helping me out, but they got gobs of money wand want me to go in (3) different directions. Get a decent paying job, go to college, and finally look at getting the farm viable in a different way other than sheep farming. That is all okay, but those are (3) very different things so it is hard to do all of them, at least for me, at the same time.



IIRC irregular income is covered in the budgeting section of the class.  I think the basic idea of that was rather than necessarily doing the "zero-based budget" you rank order your expenses and as the income comes in you pay the expenses in that order.  If you have a surplus after paying for everything in your budget that gets set aside for the lean times.  Obviously this requires having some "good" months early on in the process to give something of a buffer to the "bad" months that are inevitable.  And, of course, if you've been living with that irregular income for a while you probably have an idea of what it can be on a seasonal and annual basis.  And then as much as possible try to set your budget to reflect a nearly worst case scenario for long term income.  That way as income above those expectations comes in you'll have a plan to save it for necessary or highly desired spending (e.g. vehicle replacement, vacations, additional equipment for the homestead, medical care, etc).  

If that DFP is going to pay for college you might as well go for it.  But if it's only going to a portion, especially if a small one, then it may not be an opportunity worth taking.  I got an MBA with 50% tuition reimbursement from my employer.  Thus far (3+ years post completion) I've seen 0.00% ROI.  Actually it's probably more like a negative ROI.  At this stage I'd be a whole lot better off if I'd never done that program.  Now, if my attempts at a new job come through that will be a different story, and I'll be able to make back the money I spent on the MBA quite quickly.  But that hasn't happened yet.  Point is, as a skilled welder you can make a LOT of money without going to college at all.  So I'd only take up that option if it's either little or no money out of your own pocket and/or it will realistically allow you to make significantly more money than you can with your current skill set and possible physical limitations.

I like Mike Rowe's philosophy.  If you really want to go into a career that requires a college degree, and that will pay enough more than your viable non-degree based career alternatives to give a good ROI, then go for it.  But otherwise there a lot of skilled trades that desperately need competent workers and it's better for everyone if the people that go into those trades haven't spent several years and 10's (or 100's) of 1000's of dollars getting degrees that don't benefit them first.
 
The permaculture playing cards make great stocking stuffers: http://richsoil.com/cards
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