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frugality and food storage

 
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The rummage sale last weekend, they had mostly Mason and some Kerr jars, pints and quarts. Modern, and $2 each ($24/Doz). No rings, no lids. Downtown you can get brand new for $1.30-1.50 with lids and rings. They didn't sell so they tossed them. I dived my own dumpster for 15 dozen plus three jars. 9 doz regular pint, 3 doz widemouth pint, 2 doz regular quart, 1 doz widemouth, and three extra quart regular. There were two busted quarts that I got around. Plus a bunch of sheer curtains and four old sheets. I need bloom and seedhead bags so totally a winning dive!
Staff note (r ranson):

This conversation was inspired and split off from https://permies.com/t/56235/Spending-save-money

 
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Deb Rebel wrote:The rummage sale last weekend, they had mostly Mason and some Kerr jars, pints and quarts. Modern, and $2 each ($24/Doz). No rings, no lids. Downtown you can get brand new for $1.30-1.50 with lids and rings.



Don't you hate it when the yard sale, rummage sale, or thrift store people want more for their pre-owned stuff than it costs to buy the very same stuff brand new? Do these people not have Google?

Very nice dumpster dive though!
 
Deb Rebel
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Dan Boone wrote:

Deb Rebel wrote:The rummage sale last weekend, they had mostly Mason and some Kerr jars, pints and quarts. Modern, and $2 each ($24/Doz). No rings, no lids. Downtown you can get brand new for $1.30-1.50 with lids and rings.



Don't you hate it when the yard sale, rummage sale, or thrift store people want more for their pre-owned stuff than it costs to buy the very same stuff brand new? Do these people not have Google?

Very nice dumpster dive though!



Yeah was worth the climb in and fish'em out. If they'd done $6 a doz, that is what the thrift store marks preowned non-vintage no-lid no-ring and they would have sold. They had a few things that were majorly 'precious' and other things that were bargains. Dunno.

The priceless moment was when my better half asked how many jars I think I need, and I said 'oh, fifteen hundred'... At four jars a day that's a years worth of food. There's two of us so that would cover feeding us every day (some would be pints, some quarts). He is still trying to wrap his mind around that. As I fill them up this year, it should sink in. Plus fresh plus dried plus frozen.
 
pollinator
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Deb Rebel wrote: and I said 'oh, fifteen hundred'... At four jars a day that's a years worth of food. There's two of us so that would cover feeding us every day (some would be pints, some quarts). He is still trying to wrap his mind around that. As I fill them up this year, it should sink in. Plus fresh plus dried plus frozen.



Holy cow, I never looked at it like that...I need lots more jars.
 
Deb Rebel
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Todd Parr wrote:

Deb Rebel wrote: and I said 'oh, fifteen hundred'... At four jars a day that's a years worth of food. There's two of us so that would cover feeding us every day (some would be pints, some quarts). He is still trying to wrap his mind around that. As I fill them up this year, it should sink in. Plus fresh plus dried plus frozen.



Holy cow, I never looked at it like that...I need lots more jars.



My mother, her sister, a few other cousins, and my grandmother all believed you couldn't have too many jars. You would have shelf after shelf built in the cellar and load them with the produce as the season went on, then would be emptying them all winter. Think of standing over an old fashioned squareish wood stove, at 110F in August, and canning, with at least two or three big pots going on the stove (one or two bath canners and a blanching pot). Even after the days of gas or electric, that is still daunting. My whole extended family, all us kids (especially the girls but the boys too) learned to pick and cut veggies up from a young age. You'd have to have the assembly line going to get the food put up...

Try measuring out, with measuring cups, everything every person in your house eats, per day. The amount of food will surprise you. if you eat just three meals a day and eat 1500-2000 calories (and not all empty sugar calories) it will add up. If you are truly trying to feed your family from your garden, it will be a lot. If you fill two pints for every day of the year that is 730 jars, or 61 dozen. I figure at peak I will fill about 1500 with veggies, fruits, pickles, and cooked foods (stew base, etc) in the course of a year to be used up. I am not near that yet. Plus every year you have a few go sideways that you don't dare open, just discard; or they chip or crack or get broken. So. I am still building my collection. And yes, during food production season the on-table needs will be partially filled by fresh-to-table harvesting and cooking. Still for a good well rounded all year supply, figure that two pints or one quart per day. I will probably put up mostly pints.... some things like pickles are better done in quarts. I prefer the widemouth as they are easier to pack, get into, and clean.
 
Todd Parr
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Deb Rebel wrote:

Todd Parr wrote:

Deb Rebel wrote: and I said 'oh, fifteen hundred'... At four jars a day that's a years worth of food. There's two of us so that would cover feeding us every day (some would be pints, some quarts). He is still trying to wrap his mind around that. As I fill them up this year, it should sink in. Plus fresh plus dried plus frozen.



Holy cow, I never looked at it like that...I need lots more jars.



My mother, her sister, a few other cousins, and my grandmother all believed you couldn't have too many jars. You would have shelf after shelf built in the cellar and load them with the produce as the season went on, then would be emptying them all winter. Think of standing over an old fashioned squareish wood stove, at 110F in August, and canning, with at least two or three big pots going on the stove (one or two bath canners and a blanching pot). Even after the days of gas or electric, that is still daunting. My whole extended family, all us kids (especially the girls but the boys too) learned to pick and cut veggies up from a young age. You'd have to have the assembly line going to get the food put up...

Try measuring out, with measuring cups, everything every person in your house eats, per day. The amount of food will surprise you. if you eat just three meals a day and eat 1500-2000 calories (and not all empty sugar calories) it will add up. If you are truly trying to feed your family from your garden, it will be a lot. If you fill two pints for every day of the year that is 730 jars, or 61 dozen. I figure at peak I will fill about 1500 with veggies, fruits, pickles, and cooked foods (stew base, etc) in the course of a year to be used up. I am not near that yet. Plus every year you have a few go sideways that you don't dare open, just discard; or they chip or crack or get broken. So. I am still building my collection. And yes, during food production season the on-table needs will be partially filled by fresh-to-table harvesting and cooking. Still for a good well rounded all year supply, figure that two pints or one quart per day. I will probably put up mostly pints.... some things like pickles are better done in quarts. I prefer the widemouth as they are easier to pack, get into, and clean.



And I'm in zone 4b, so add a couple of months storage (or subtract growing months) from your climate. I'm just learning canning and all that goes with it. So far I've only canned venison. The amount of space it will take to store everything I can, on top of a couple hundred pounds each of squash and potatoes, is pretty daunting. I do find it very reassuring to walk into the basement and see shelves of food and 50 lb. bags of rice ready and waiting.
 
Deb Rebel
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Todd Parr wrote:And I'm in zone 4b, so add a couple of months storage (or subtract growing months) from your climate. I'm just learning canning and all that goes with it. So far I've only canned venison. The amount of space it will take to store everything I can, on top of a couple hundred pounds each of squash and potatoes, is pretty daunting. I do find it very reassuring to walk into the basement and see shelves of food and 50 lb. bags of rice ready and waiting.



I grew up in 2b and now live in 6b and can crop about 9 months if I try some (two cold season, one hot season, and overlapping through the middle, long season). If I want to save food for offseason so I have it year around, I figure I will end up at that level of storage. You can probably squeeze 1 to 2 months more out of your season with use of coldframes and berms, at least for cool season fresh crops.

It is daunting to have true storage for a year, plus for me, the storage for low use but necessary cooking implements (such as my largest stockpots, frypans, canners, cake/casserole pans, etc). I still say though, when you are adding stuff to your cooking collection, go for the quality and you will appreciate it later. If you can afford it get a pressure canner-it makes canning tomatoes and the like a lot easier and less likely to have issues (some tomato varieties are low acid and can have issues). Invest in a good grinder and a good processor (mine has a sieve sleeve and pulps tomatoes like nobody's business and sends the seeds elsewhere). Go for stainless everywhere you can on your cooking accessories, even strainers/colanders. Buy good quality knives, learn how to hone them and how to sharpen them. Cast iron will wear forever after it's properly seasoned up and nothing beats it for frying.

Recontainerize the rice, it gets the little bugs/moths, and just bagged, it can draw other vermin. Also by breaking it down into smaller than 50#, if you have an infestation you can see it and it might not be in all of it. Otherwise freeze treat it for one week at 0F before putting it into storage containers. In that I use either food grade plastic with gamma lids or glass gallon jars with good lids. For use in the kitchen nearby pantry or cupboard, the glass is preferable. I am turning over eventually to all glass instead of the plastic. I suddenly had to change what I stock and add more bulk stuff forced the arrival of the pails. I will later use the pails for other duties, just pop the gamma lids off. So not just quality, multi-use and reuseability can also factor into what you buy. To me that can make a quality purchase as well.
 
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A comment on long term storage of grains for human food. Ideally they are stored in a mouse and rat proof container. That means metal or glass as rats will chew through the sides of 5 gallon plastic buckets. Wood and plastic will not stop them. So some cheap answers. 15 gallon metal barrels cleaned up for storage use, metal buckets with lids, christmas metal flavored popcorn cans, old metal bread boxes and old metal storage boxes, file cabinets with good fitting drawers and the bottom welded shut if needed, old meat locker cabinets, some old school lockers with tight fitting doors are some of the possible metal containers to keep rodents out. Remember that anywhere the mouse can put its head it can find a way for its body to follow. So any gaps need to be small.(on the order of 1/8" inch. Now the one other trick we used successfully for about a decade was a table with super smooth plated metal legs out in the middle of a room. The only time we ever had trouble with it we figured out someone had left the broom leaning against the table for a week or so providing a ladder up to it. The other part of rodent solution is predators both human and animal. Continuous trapping/baiting inside and 2 to 3 cats outside reduces the problem.

For insect control grains need to be in a sealed container that was frozen to kill the bugs that might already be in it. Plastic bags won't work here as bugs may tunnel through them. But you can make them work by adding bay leaves inside and out. Bay leaves won't cause bugs to leave grain products but they will often keep them from getting in. If you put leaves both inside with the grain and outside but in the outer container. Multiple layers of sack with bay leaves between the layers may help here. Be aware the bay leaves need to be replaced about once a decade to reliably keep pests away. Sealed containers with oxygen removed extend shelf life somewhat but can reduce germination. Heavy duty sealed plastic containers like plastic buckets and plastic jars work great here for this purpose.

For mold control in sealed containers be sure the grains are dry enough before being stored. If they are not dry then dry them slowly as fast drying can cause kernel splits. Steady storage temperatures are also best here as rapidly heating and cooling cycles in stored containers can cause trouble too as moisture is driven out and makes temporary wet spots in condensation.

Year's supply is one in this category certainly. If foods you buy are on a really great special but once a year and you catch it and buy enough for your next year, you spend more at the time but less over all. Done with care you can reduce your spending on food by nearly 50% or more. You also reduce "emergency" trips to the store for stuff which saves you money and time. The cost is some time in dating stuff and the cost of shelves and the space for storage. But once you get used to having it in your life you will not feel those costs and the savings will more than pay for it.

Now for the rest of this discussion. On pens I agree that the main pen(s) in your life should be quality. My reasoning is a bit different in that cheap pens leak and make messes which adds a hidden cost to carrying them. If they ruin one quality piece of clothing or purse or briefcase a decade you can easily pay for their expense. I will second the recommendation for Fisher space pens. I have run them for 30 years as my main pen. One secret to keeping a good pen is on the occasions when you are doing meetings where people will ask to borrow a pen take a cheapy throw away. Seminars and other one time classes are a common place. Things where signing up for stuff is common is another. Now I also believe in seeding pens around. I know as a business I have pens disappear regularly so those should be cheap.

Now the tools discussion I fall middle of the road. There is a place high quality tools and there is a place for cheap tools that are "good enough" At times having the right tool for the job or having the tool close at hand for the job is more important than quality. I have a few tools that are handed down from a great grandfather that are still in use. By the year that tool didn't cost much. There are places for the best tools you can afford to buy. But there is also a place for seed tools. A cheap hammer is still mostly a hammer. Every vehicle and tractor should have one. They will get lost and stolen so you don't want much in them. Even with the occasional handle failure of cheaper tools having them at hand always has a time saving value. Cheap tools cost you time and money at times. But having more of them or having the right tool for the job instead of making do because you can't afford the good tool also has value. Say I do a particular job 3 times a decade. The high quality tool to buy is $1000. I can get the cheap tool for say $150. Say it will fail on average in 6 jobs. That means I get 2 decades out of the tool. The time saved by having the correct tool for the job will pay for the $150 tool but won't justify the $1000 tool.





 
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1. big garden & bulk purchasing
2. jars
3. dehydrator
4. vacuum sealer (it's evil plastic i know)

 
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Another frugal way to store things like rice and dried beans is to buy gallon size glass iced tea jugs at the end of summer and store dried goods in those.  We pick them up for about a dollar on clearance at the end of summer or at thrift stores.  We buy staples like rice, sorghum and dried beans in bulk and then pour them into the jugs.  They keep critters out and you can see through them.  I also use them for wine making.  The flip top in the lid perfectly fits a bung and airlock.  :)
 
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I don't do many garage sales or thrift stores so I get my bargains mostly at the dollar store or grocery store.  I read the ads and make a list of what is on sale at a good price.  Not all sales items have good prices.

I watch for things on clearance or marked down.  Most of the meat I buy is marked down. Alot of the meat I get are prime cuts for a couple of dollars.
 
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Dan Boone wrote:Don't you hate it when the yard sale, rummage sale, or thrift store people want more for their pre-owned stuff than it costs to buy the very same stuff brand new?  Do these people not have Google?  



I see the same thing on eBay where people price items at more than the new price. Sometimes it is because they don't know what the new price is, but I suspect other times they charge it because they can get it from buyers who don't know what things cost.

We need to borrow some strategies the Amish and Mennonite communities use. For example, the Mennonites in Texas bring in a big truckload of apples from their kin in the NE once a year for processing into juice, jelly, and canned apples for pies.

Fruit can often be bought in bulk locally in good production years. Because the peach crop in Oklahoma failed, an organic farmer pre-sold peaches by the pound and by the case and drove to Colorado several times to pick them up for resale here.

I've often wondered if running an ad on Craigslist or Facebook offering to buy grass-fed and finished meat and poultry, produce, fruit and nuts would work until I get production up high enough to grow most of my own. I haven't tried it, yet.  

Pears that aren't super for eating right off the tree are fantastic canned. Use your slow cooker to make pear butter and can that in the smallest jars (4 oz. or at most 8 oz. because jellies, jams, butters can mold if you don't eat them quickly.).

Use a corer. Then cut pears in eighths lengthwise and pack in light syrup in 16 oz. pint jars. One jar is perfect for snacking or cutting up on a salad. But my favorite use is coffee cake. Remember that old bisquick recipe for coffee cake? Use the syrup liquid as part of the liquid for the batter. Pour it in the pan. Then lay out the sliced pears and push them down into the batter. Top with a mixture of 1/3 flour, 1/3 butter and 1/3 dark brown sugar. Delicious! I am sure going to miss those pears (on the place I moved off of recently).

 
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Anne Miller wrote:I don't do many garage sales or thrift stores so I get my bargains mostly at the dollar store or grocery store.  I read the ads and make a list of what is on sale at a good price.  Not all sales items have good prices.

I watch for things on clearance or marked down.  Most of the meat I buy is marked down. A lot of the meat I get are prime cuts for a couple of dollars.


I know what I call my "buy price" for the things I normally stock, and look for them at retail, discount stores, thrift stores, yard sales, or free stuff. If it's an item I stock, and it's below my buy price, I'll usually get it. Knowing my prices lets me not have to put a lot of work into figuring out what's a good deal. If it's a quart mason jar and it's 50 cents or less, it's probably coming home with me. If it's dry beans and it's 75 cents a pound or less for most types, it's probably coming home. I can scan the grocery store ads fast, I know what I stock, and my price, and that rules out 95% of it right there.

You are SO RIGHT that not all sale items are good prices! There's a nasty little trick some of the grocery stores do where they put a price up for a few weeks, then "discount" it to the normal price. If you know your buy price, you don't buy it at either of those prices, and wait for a real sale, probably at a different store. I keep track of which stores do that in my area, so I know to watch them.

I am a dumpster diver/cheap buyer type, and a lot of my food storage is in glass or plastic jars. I do like the plastic square jars, they are easy to grip to put up on down on the shelf, and are light (my 80 year old mom is not a fan of heavy glass jars.) A bunch of my stock is in glass, gallon jars where I can, smaller where I must. I have certain types of glass jars I like, smooth ones, no hard to keep clean dents in them, with lids that interchange. Like my buy price, I have my jar type list, if I see a nice smooth walled pickle jar, it's probably coming home with me. If I see a loose lid that fits my jar sizes, it comes home too.

A good amount of my deeper storage is in #10 cans (around a gallon,) that I get from the recycle bins (a bunch of weird criteria there too for choosing them,) that I seal metal lids on with tinfoil tape. Those are tough, they don't break, don't take water or bug damage. It's a fairly detailed process to make it work correctly, I can write it up if anyone wants, but when I moved I found one of those that had fallen off the shelf and was not reachable, lentils, that were 12 years old. They were totally fine, I rotated them in and we ate them. Says something good about my process
 
Gail Gardner
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Pearl Sutton wrote:I know what I call my "buy price" for the things I normally stock, and look for them at retail, discount stores, thrift stores, yard sales, or free stuff. If it's an item I stock, and it's below my buy price, I'll usually get it.



Another trick to beware of is assuming that the larger size is cheaper. After years of advertising "save by buying the larger size", now many times the larger size is more per ounce than the smaller size! I've seen this in stores and also online.
 
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Gail Gardner wrote:

Pearl Sutton wrote:I know what I call my "buy price" for the things I normally stock, and look for them at retail, discount stores, thrift stores, yard sales, or free stuff. If it's an item I stock, and it's below my buy price, I'll usually get it.



Another trick to beware of is assuming that the larger size is cheaper. After years of advertising "save by buying the larger size", now many times the larger size is more per ounce than the smaller size! I've seen this in stores and also online.



Yes -- I check the per unit prices if it's on the store tags, and if that doesn't work, I do the calculations in my head (need to go back to carrying a calculator in my purse -- those of you with smart phones have one already with you).

Kathleen
 
Pearl Sutton
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:

Gail Gardner wrote:

Pearl Sutton wrote:I know what I call my "buy price" for the things I normally stock, and look for them at retail, discount stores, thrift stores, yard sales, or free stuff. If it's an item I stock, and it's below my buy price, I'll usually get it.



Another trick to beware of is assuming that the larger size is cheaper. After years of advertising "save by buying the larger size", now many times the larger size is more per ounce than the smaller size! I've seen this in stores and also online.



Yes -- I check the per unit prices if it's on the store tags, and if that doesn't work, I do the calculations in my head (need to go back to carrying a calculator in my purse -- those of you with smart phones have one already with you).

Kathleen



Yup. The calculator on my phone is a busy thing. I was glad to get the calculator I have carried for years out of my purse

My buy prices are by actual unit size/weight/volume not by package. I don't buy cereal, but have you seen what the commercial cereals have done the last few years? I use them as an example of the box staying the same but the weight changing. And the price going up on that box as the weight goes down. It's a great example for people who are just starting to notice things.
 
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Years ago, my family and I lived in a place where I purchased staples yearly, and they were barged in.  Other than that, we ate what we grew, raised, or hunted.  It's the mother-of-all-shopping lists, but then you're done with that!  Now I still do this, but living a bit less isolated, I replace as things run out rather than all at one go.  I always have at least a year's worth of food on hand or on the hoof, so to speak.  

Two things I've learned over the years are to just grow or store what you will eat, and to use what you have stored or grown and not be buying fancy treats all the time.  It seems obvious, but if you don't like beets, for example, don't bother raising them, and certainly don't bother preserving them.   It took me a while to work through this, though.  It's really critical to align your diet and your food storage so they match up.  Over the years I have refined my list, and my cooking/eating so I don't waste time and money on things I "should" eat.  There are so many choices, even within your food growing area, it's not a nutritional nor a moral problem to decide you just don't really care for lima beans.  There are other things you can grow or buy that will fill the same niche.  

I also eat in season as much as possible, and eat almost nothing that wouldn't actually grow where I live, though I might not personally grow it, for whatever reasons.  This is a philosophical decision, but also turns out to be very economical.  I usually eat things that were raised on the island where I live--the three mile diet I like to call it.  Saves on transport costs!  I have developed a standard pantry staples inventory, and I cook from that plus whatever I have fresh or seasonally stored.  If you get your basic list right, you can make everything you like to eat, whenever you want to, except you can't eat fresh strawberries in the dead of winter, of course.  This system works great for me, and I am always tweaking it around, too, mind.  I love to cook and experiment, so I have anything but a boring diet.  What I do have is a comprehensive stock of basic ingredients suitable for my tastes and climate, and from there, I can go wild!  

Glass is great storage, of course, and I use gallon or half gallon stores to stock the kitchen supplies of things.  For bulk, I like lard tins, which are rat and insect proof and last forever if you keep them dry and don't store salty things in them.  Food grade plastic buckets with those lids you can get that screw on are good too, though I don't like to get more plastic in my life.  I abhor packaging, so I buy in bulk, and hardly get anything in cans or bottles unless it's essential and I can't work around it.  (There is no "away" where I live--if you make non-compostable or burnable trash, you have to figure out what to do with it, as you can't just throw it away to become someone else's problem.) Canning is great, freezing is good too (I have great solar, even in the Pacific Northwest, so freezers are an efficient tool here).  Salting and drying meat is good, and economical in storage space.  A root cellar or two is helpful, though it's possible to do without.  Store grains whole and grind as needed, whole grain keeps better.

Another thing I do that helps keep food moving through in a timely way is to keep an inventory, with dates, so I know what I have and how old it is.  You have to rotate stock, or things go bad.  I think it's pretty cool to have the food situations under control at all times, and I like knowing the quantity of food I need for a year, and best of all is to know exactly where it came from and ate before I ate it.  I've grown to feel a little weird about eating food that is from somewhere else, over the years, rather than the other way around.  

How to start?  One staple at a time, and seasonal food as it comes to you.  What do you eat, on a regular basis?  Next time, buy fifty pounds of rice instead of 5.  Keep a list, build up gradually.  Don't go shopping daily, if that's an option where you are.  Shop weekly, then at bigger intervals.  You'll soon see what your patterns are, and you can go from there.  If you list what you like to eat you'll see what the typical ingredients are, and you can start to build a stock of those in bulk.  Cook from what you have, rather than going put to get what you need to cook a certain recipe you saw on Facebook.  Learn the subtle art of substituting things in recipes.  It's a cliche where I live that at some point, you will inevitably find you've substituted every ingredient in the recipe, and thus have an entirely new food!  It's far from boring, which is what people seem to think working from a set food stock would be.  

 
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I have long ago avoided the low calorie thinking. The more calories, probably the more value for your money.  Imagine 2 products of the same price, but one has much less calories, has more fiber or water or other "filling" ingredients to make look more voluminous etc. It's actually a waste of transport, work, and ...  money.

Sure, I enjoy herbs, greens, roots etc, but I have also learned to think: how much satisfying and healthy calories can I get out of a certain amount of money/work?  It's a fine balance, and experience helps.
Hunters/gatherers had to deal with this kind of problem: for instance, digging hard for roots that would totally exhaust you, but then barely nourish you, would burn more calories than they would give.
 
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