Daydreaming and role models

I don’t have much time during the day for things like daydreaming, so unfortunately I daydream at bad times, like when I am driving (which causes me to turn when I mean to go straight, oops), or when I am talking to people (which is really bad because my mom says I am not as good at multitasking as I think I am and have a hard time formulating coherent sentences when I have so much going on in my head). I just have so much going on right now and I need to daydream to keep it all straight (because my daydreams are mostly figuring things out for the future).

Right now I am trying to figure out our brand. What exactly do we want the farm to stand for and how to we get this out to people and make sure that the steps we are taking are the correct steps in this process. Well, we know that our main stance is to help people break away from the corporate greed that has so many of us enslaved. Currently I would say we have large companies that control the wealth of the country, and because they control the wealth they also control the government and every aspect of it. These companies are insurance, pharmaceutical, packaged foods, oil, utilities, and banks to name a few, I am sure I am missing some but these are the big ones. We dish out most, if not all, of our money every month to almost every single one of these guys. Very few people do not have one of these industries taking money out every month. We want to help break this cycle by showing people how they can lower their carbon footprint. The second thing we want to do is show people that eating an “organic” lifestyle doesn’t have to be expensive. We pay more for food that is good for us because we think we have to, but we don’t. The third thing we want to do is show people what good food really is. What different food labels mean, why it’s important to be able to visit the farms that grow your food. I encourage people to visit our farm, see what goes into the soil, how the chickens are raised, what the cows eat, whatever they need to see to make them feel better. We shouldn’t have to hide what we are doing, If we do then we know what we are doing is wrong.

This also got me thinking about my role models in this field we are getting into. The two that stuck out in my mind the most are Ed Begley Jr. and Joel Salatin. When I was first introduced to the work of Ed Begley Jr he was always being portrayed as the crazy environmentalist actor who runs his kitchen appliances with a bike. I am very impressed with his work though. I am impressed that he can step away from the life a “traditional actor” would lead to follow a position he feels very strongly about. He lives in a modest house with renewable energy sources, drives an electric car, and even rides a bike to the Academy Awards. He has books and gives talks about the importance of maintaining a low carbon footprint. Heck him and Bill Nye are competing for who can have a lower carbon footprint. That’s so cool.

I know I have talked about Joel Salatin before but he is definitely my role model in building the food part of the farm. I greatly respect his ideas that a farm should build on itself, and that animals should be animals. If you take care of your farm the right way there really should be no need for non organic soil additives, mass produced chicken feed, even silos. Everything on his farms builds on each other. The cows “mow” the grass, his chickens eat the bugs in the grass that the cows “mowed” for them, It’s all very cool.

What we want to do is take these same ideas and mesh them together with the idea that neither one has to be expensive.  We dont care about being a million dollar farm, or build a $200,000 home because our goal isn’t how much money we make or spend, it’s how many people we help.  If we can show people that they can build a house with a low carbon footprint and renewable energy sources and grow or buy  really good natural food while living at or below the poverty line then we have reached our goal.

I would love to hear these two speak in the near future, but more than that I would love to meet them someday. When I say I want to meet them I don’t mean in a “I’m gonna stand in line and spend a second shaking their hand or having them sign a book” kind of way. I mean that I would like to meet them because we are involved in some sort of activist thing together. Be that a talk, or a film, or whatever. I want to meet them as a colleague, not just a fan, if that makes any sense. I want to publish books and give talks, and have real conversations with people who are already in it. This gets me excited. This is what I have wanted to do my whole life. Now I just have to get our building permit….

Just When You Think it’s Safe

I knew when I started this that I would be sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly.

We have been really good with money every since moving.  Not to the point where we really have extra, but to the point where we could buy what we needed for life and the house and still be able to make it to the next payday without freaking out about money or getting hit with overdraft fees.  Somehow this week we really messed up.  We overspent by probably about $150 this weekend and until I get paid next (in a few days) we are kinda screwed.  This isn’t the first time this has happened and probably wont be the last but I’m currently freaking out and have to figure out how to fix today so we wont get overdrafted.  After today we should be ok, unless we get ovrdrafted and then we wont be ok.  ugh I hate this.  I think the most annoying part is that the $150 we blew was supposed to be used to do the perc test.  Now we have to wait until next thursday before we can do it.  I think what I may do is go ahead and apply for the perc test and schedule them to come out sometime after next Wed.  This is definitely the one major problem with building the house ourselves.  The good news is we only have $250 left to pay for renting the excavator.  Money is so stressful.  We also may have to go back to the drawing board with the architect too.  Our architect may have fallen through and if that’s the case we are looking at an addition $2000-$4000 we have not budgeted for.  Ugh, so frustrating.

I’m also still trying to get 100 followers!  Don’t forget to follow the blog!

If you would like to help with the build check out our GoFundMe

Update: We have fixed our current money situation and should be better by tomorrow (whew!!).  My aunt is spotting me $30 until tomorrow (i already have $50 being transferred to my account) and even though they are a big giant terrible bank Chase is pretty great.  I called and told them the situation and they took off the overdraft fee.  Sometimes if you are nice and calm and polite, yet still firm they give you what you want!   I may have also found some designs for our home that will cost us about $400 (yay!!) and everything is starting to look up.  I hate days when I wake up to a freak out.  However, fixing problems gives me a total high.  I am loving life right now.

More meal planning

Now that summer has officially hit and we are starting to harvest some of our garden crops I am once again really excited about meal planning.  We have been doing really good at planning our meals and staying within a $150 budget for 2 weeks, however…. things are about to get real!

We splurged a bit this week and spent $60 at lucky’s.  We bought 2 nights worth of teriyaki steak kabobs for $16!  I nearly had a heart attack until C reminded me it was for 2 nights.  We also bought the milk, cream, and buttermilk that we prefer but can’t justify buying because it’s almost twice the price of the cheap stuff but it’s so much better for you because it’s low-temp pasteurized and un-homogenized.  You can definitely tell a HUGE difference in that vs the cheap stuff.  We also bought butter, oatmeal, veggies that we need that we either aren’t growing this year or havent come in yet.  We got cabbage, bananas, sweet peppers, and organic onions and potatoes.  We have decided we are no longer buying root vegetables that are not organic.  We really want to get the most out of our food and until we either are growing everything we need or can buy all organic we are slowly moving towards what we feel is most important, and after reading about the soil quality of potato farms after the dirty dozen list came out we decided to make the change.  We also bought some spices, cheese, and drinks for us.

Today C is going to the restaurant store.  He is buying yeast, flour, corn meal, butter, and cheese.  My guess is he will be spending about $50.

Here are our meal plans for the next 2 weeks:

Dinners:

bean stew MON 1
teriaki beef kabobs with rice and naan TUES 1
pizza WED 1
chili THURS 2
buffalo chicken cornbread with blue cheese salad FRI 2
cornbread sliders with green beans SAT 2
spinach and mushroom quiche SUN  2
calzones MON 2
Chicken enchiladas with rice and salsa TUES 2
baked cabbage and ground beef WED 2

Breakfasts:

frittata, fruit oatmeal, omelete, fruit pancakes, scrambled eggs, breakfast burrito, pork buiscut sandwich

Lunches:

chicken sandwiches, feta and spinach fritters, steak sandwiches, curried chicken salad, stir fry veggies with rice, veggie roll ups, leftovers, homemade fish sticks

and snacks:

Bananas, banana bread, zucchini bread, oatmeal cookies, veggies with homemade ranch dressing, cheese cubes,

Now I know what you are probably thinking: “Wait a minute, you didn’t buy a lot of those things”, and you are right, but as you may recall 1) we are growing a lot of our own food 2) we have been slowly buying bulk meat and putting it in the freezer, and 3) we have both meat and egg chickens.  I have also been figuring out a preliminary dinner plans for the NEXT 2 weeks:

here is my shopping list:

restaurant store: yeast ($2), olive oil ($16), steak ($35), cheddar cheese ($12) = $65

lucky’s/ kroger: fish ($5), onions ($5), peppers ($4), chocolate chips ($3), kale ($2), raisins ($3), potatoes ($5), lettuce ($5), beans- dried black and pinto ($4), cream ($8), milk ($4) = $48

Now these things may change because I’m not sure we will need cream, and i’m going to try to find steak for cheaper than $35, and I tend to overcompensate for the price of things so that if C decides to splurge on a few things I’m not freaking out.  So right now we are looking at about $110 for 2 weeks of food.  and this is what it looks like:

thai curry fish with rice THURS 1
chicken tikka masala with rice FRI 1
stuffed pablano peppers with beans and rice SAT 1
rolled steak with cucumber tomato salad SUN 1
grilled cheese with zuppa toscana MON 1
ranch taco salad TUES 1
beef stew with beans and veggies WED 1
stuffed cabbage rolls with fried green tomatoes THURS 2
pizza FRI 2
chicken pot pie SAT 2
veggie fajitas SUN 2
green beans with pork and fried green tomatoes MON 2
grilled cheese with homemade tomato soup TUES 2
tortellini WED 2

I dont know about you but i’m pretty hungry now.  The beans slow cooking on the stove aren’t helping.  yummmmm

First World Problems

It’s amazing the things in life that we take for granted.  We are so lucky to have power in our home, clean running water, the choice of how we want our children to be educated.  I am visiting this topic because yesterday our cistern ran out of water (or at least I thought it had, it ended up being a malfunction with the pump which was easily fixed) and it got me thinking about how much we as Americans take for granted.  We are so wasteful and many of us dont even care.

It’s funny, it’s almost as if this is my form of fasting.  It’s a way for me to become closer to the earth and to the things God gives us so that I don’t take them for granted.  I am blessed to have these things at my disposal, it’s my job to not be a glutton to them, and to be thankful for them everyday that we have them.

Some of what we do comes from being so poor for so long, but most of it comes from our views on the environment and how we should be treating it.  So here is a brief look at the life we live.  We have about a 300 gallon cistern under the cabin we are renting.  Until we get the rainwater collection set up we are relying on filling the water tank whenever it is empty.  It takes us about 7-10 days to empty the cistern.  Lets look at this critically.  We have six people living in a household that uses 300 gallons of water in a week.  We can run 3 loads of laundry, take about 2 showers each, 2 baths, and wash dishes every day.  How can we do this in a time when most households use 100 gallons of water per person every day?  Technically we should be refilling the cistern twice a day.  We have changed the way we do things in order to conserve more water.  i wash my dishes with a soapy dish towel before i rinse them off.  The water is only on while i am rinsing.  We take short showers.  When the kids take a bath we use the same bath water.  The washer uses less water than other washers.  We also don’t wash our clothes after every single time we wear them (unless they need it, like diapers or underwear).  I have some people who call me gross, I have some people who have stopped being friends with me after finding out how we use our water, and that’s fine.  We have been conditioned over the years to believe that showering everyday, washing your clothes after every wash, etc, was more “sanitary” and that “normal people” do it.  These things have actually been shown to not be better for us, or for the fabrics in our clothes, but we have been conditioned by those who benefit from the profits of us doing these things (shampoo companies, laundry detergent companies, etc).  The one thing that I do is wash my face everyday and the places that i sweat a lot, but i do this with a washcloth.  I don’t care what people think because this is the life I want to live.

We also spend about $200 on groceries every month, nothing is packaged, we have very little food that we waste and what is wasted gets fed to the dog or the chickens.  We throw away 2 bags of trash a month, and hopefully soon we will be down to 1.  Most of what people throw away is some sort of packaging, both food and non food.  If you reduce the amount of packaging you buy you reduce the amount of trash you have.  I feel much better about adding 1-2 bags of trash to a landfill every month than i did tossing 3-4 a week.  We reduce the food waste too by only buying what we need.  Yes, by the end of the 2 week pay period our fridge is looking very bare, but it should.  I find if it doesn’t we tend to not eat certain things that end up going bad.  This way we are forced to figure out how to incorporate these things into our meals, or just not buy them again for a while.  Once our garden is up and running we also will be spending much less on food.

We conserve electricity too.  We don’t keep appliances running during the day except the ones that have to (like the fridge).  We almost never have the tv on.  We also make sure to turn the lights off when we leave a room (or at least try to, our 10 year old is terrible at this).  Although part of what helps is that we are almost never home.  I find that we get cabin fever even if we are home for a few hours with so many of us in such a small space.

All in all our footprint on the environment is very low and we want it that way.  We are always looking for more ways to cut back without compromising on our heath and well being.  I have trained myself to stop and ask “what is the least wasteful way I can do this”.  I recommend trying it sometime.  It really does make you appreciative of the things you have.

Time to get back to work

I love my job.  It’s work, and it forces me to be motivated, but when I am working I love it.  For those of you who don’t know I am a Mary Kay consultant.  I have been for over 9 years.  I was a director for a period of time until my son had major surgery and I stepped down to take care of him for 4 months while he recovered and we adjusted to his new lifestyle.

After my son’s surgery I had a hard time bouncing back.  It’s almost as if I felt defeated.  Like I wasn’t good enough to remain a director while going through such a tough time, and that’s ok.  It’s ok and perfectly valid for me to have felt that way, but it’s time for me to go back to work.  We are having trouble putting aside much of anything for the build because C’s job pays all our bills and enough money for gas and food with a little left over and that’s it.  If i go back to work as much as I was for the several years before i became a director then we can put aside a lot more.  It’s not even full time work and I can still be basically a stay at home mom and run a farm, especially since I am getting really good at time management.

So what would that look like?  I just hired someone to watch the kids two days a week for 3 hours each time (that’s 6 hours a week).  That time will be spent networking, meeting new clients, and catching up with existing clients.  I would then spend 1 hour a day the other 3 weekdays contacting clients and doing paperwork stuff, then i would hold 3 selling appointments a week totaling 3 hours each (1 hour for driving and 2 hours for the appointments).  That’s a grand total of 18 hours a week working.  When i am working like this I typically bring in $800-$1000 a month.  i know my numbers, i know my stats, and now i just need to get working.  I need to see 30-60 clients a month which is totally doable when i am holding that many selling appointments.  it’s not about people buying stuff either.  Some people i see will buy $300, some will buy nothing, that’s not a big deal.  The individual numbers don’t mean much, it’s the relationships i am building and the number of people i am servicing every month that matters.  LETS DO THIS!!  LETS BUILD A HOUSE!!

Grocery Shopping

We totally overspent yesterday.  We knew we would, and I know it’s going to save us a ton of money in the long run, but it still sucks.  How did we overspend?  Thanks to some awesome friends of ours (you know who you are!) we discovered a restaurant supply store right next to Cs work.  This is where C bought the 50lb bag of flour for $14 the other day.  we bought butter, 10 lbs of flat iron steak, 10lbs of ground beef, 10lbs of pork chops, a huge jug of the good Worcester sauce, 3lbs of Mozzarella, and a large piece of Parmesan cheese, oh and enough olive oil to last us about 6 months.  We spent about $145.  I just about had a heart attach, but after thinking about it a LONG time i realized we are actually saving ourselves a lot of money.  If we send $20-$40 every month on meat we will be buying at least 10-20 lbs of meat, will have a huge repertoire of meat to chose from, and we will only be buying veggies at the grocery store (that is until ours come in).  We currently have about 10 weeks of meat in our freezer.  that’s pretty darn good i would say!! Plus we wont be buying more meat until next month.  our freezer is so full.  We need to get the deep freeze from Cs mom soon, especially before our 25 chickens are slaughtered.  We have enough food to feed us for over 3 weeks.  I’m pretty excited about all this, and NOTHING is from a box or “processed”.  It’s gonna be great once the veggies come in.  We will be spending probably about $50 a month on food if that.  I don’t think we have ever had this much food before.  ever.  We had trouble closing our freezer.  It felt pretty darn good.  Just to think that only three months ago we were striving to live on food stamps.  God is good!  We have a long way to go but we are so much better than we were when we started.

Payday and Groceries

C gets paid every other Thursday. I (am such a dork)…no I have a spread sheet of possible dinner ideas that we have made and liked.  I do this not to be anal but because when I don’t we tend to eat the same thing every 2 weeks.  It helps me remember more creative dinners we have made so i don’t have to spend hours going through cook books to try and “spice it up” a bit.  Although you all know I do that anyway, darn being a foodie.  I think I probably think about food 80% of my day.  Not in an unhealthy way mind you, but in a “food is my hobby there is so much that you can do with it” kind of way.

We have so far planted squash, zucchini, three or four different types of tomato, jalapenos, poblanos, two types of habeneros, hot banana peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, and beans, and possibly some other things i can’t remember.  I am keeping a journal of how much we spend on the garden so at the end of the year I can figure out if we actually did save money having the garden vs buying food at the grocery.  BUT in the meantime we go grocery shopping every 2 weeks.   I make my list of dinners we would like to eat in the next 2 weeks, make a list of what we need in order to make those dinners, and modify based on our $100 budget.  This week we are going over a bit because we are buying some things in bulk so that NEXT payday we can spend less.  We are mainly buying the expensive things in bulk until we can make/grow them ourselves.  Meat, oil, butter, things like that.  C bought me a 50lb bag of unbleached unenriched bakers flour two weeks ago and i havent even made a dent in it (after making 8 loaves of bread, 20 tortillas, pancakes, pasta, and various other goodies).  We also have 25 meat birds that will be ready for slaughter in 4 months which will be a  HUGE help.

So what does our grocery list look like?  it’s almost 100% vegetables with some lemon juice (we go through 1 large jar a week of the organic kind), cheese, and some various bulk food items.  NOTHING IS FROM A BOX (except the Annies mac and cheese).  What will we do with it?

Dinners:

french bread pizza with broccoli salad, thai chicken salad with peanut sauce, kale and quinoa patties with spicy mayo and mac and cheese (2 nights), roast chicken and veggies, pork stir fry, taco skillet with beans, ranch taco salad, spinach and mushroom quiche, stuffed cabbage rolls, black bean burgers with cole slaw, 3 cheese and spinach tortellini with grilled squash (2 nights), stuffed chili peppers

Snacks:

Bagels, Zucchini bread, Banana bread, oatmeal raisin cookies, snickerdoodles,

Breakfasts:

upside-down Apple pancakes, egg sandwiches, french toast, frittata, Omelete, strawberry pancake, breakfast burrito, and pork biscuit sandwiches

Lunches:

leftovers, green goddess sandwiches, feta and spinach fritters, ranch chicken club roll-ups, chicken salad sandwiches, bacon sandwiches, eggplant sandwiches, fish tacos, burritos.

As you can see we eat pretty darn well, and other than the extra we are spending on butter, and meat we are within our $100 budget.  Once the garden starts producing and our chickens are ready we will be spending even less.  i’m pretty excited about the whole thing!!!

Fundraising

I set up a GoFundMe account yesterday.  This should be the only time we need one, but this will prevent us from having to stall the project for 5 -6 months.  I realize that it’s a long shot in getting anyone to help us with our project, but I figure even if nobody donates anything it should at least help us get the word out on what we are doing.  The account is http://www.gofundme.com/0tohomestead.    Please check it out, if you can’t donate (or don’t want to, and that’s ok too!) at least share with your friends!!  Thanks!!

dirt pile

The Challenge!!

I did a lot of thinking after writing my post yesterday.  I had a very interesting conversation with a friend of mine after publishing my post about cost of living vs budget, and how my $100 a week food budget was unrealistic in places where the cost of living is much higher.  At first I agreed with her that yes budget restrictions are limited by cost of living, but that statem

ent REALLY bothered me because deep down I don’t agree with that.  So I did a little research…

The whole premises of this blog is teaching people how to be able to live a happy fulfilling life, being able to eat well and save money for the occasional fun activity, and not have to live in poverty when you are, well, living in poverty.  There are two numbers I want to throw at you.  The first is, acc

ording to the National Conference of State Legislatures the highest STATE minimum wage currently in effect as of 1-1-15 is $9.50 in D.C(1). so that is the number we will use as the highest cost of living we will address.  This is because that number is the highest of the lowest people have to live on, so that is the highest someone is expected to be able to live on when assessing cost of living.  That is $380 a week if NO taxes are taken out (so about $285 a week).  Basically this person would be on food stamps, they would have to be.  The second number is the cost of land.  As of 2014 the highest cost of agricultural land per acre in the US was Rhode Island ($13,700) (2). So basically if an acre of agricultural land would become available it should only cost $14,000, of course that numbe

r is completely arbitrary because it also is based on where it is, but usually only residential or commercial land costs more than that.  Based on these figures there are several things I want you to understand about this project:

This project takes work and dedication. Period.  You have to want to do it.  It also takes sacrifice.  Over the course of the past two years we have had to train ourselves to say no to ourselves, and that’s hard, but it’s important.  I think as a society we spoil ourselves too much and we come to expect that these things that we spoil ourselves with are needs and not wants.

ducks

Our current $100 food budget figure is based on several factors.  The first is how much we know we can afford.  Based on C’s current wage increase we can afford more than $100 a week, so the second factor comes in, how much we WANT to afford.  When we were on food stamps we were expected to live on $270 a month.  There were times we really had to scrimp to make it because we really couldn’t afford more than what they gave us.  We don’t want to have to scrimp like that anymore, but we don’t want to over-indulge either.  We also want to show that you can eat well, and very healthy, with less than what the government thinks a family of 4 needs ($150/wk).

I also understand that it is difficult to find land in some areas, especially around cities.  If you are considering something like what we are doing then you may have to either move a little outside your comfort zone, or outside where you work to be able to achieve these goals, or figure out how you can urban-farm where you are (below are some great ideas, keep reading!!).  Yes city farming does occur, but many times you have to deal with city laws and crabby neighbors, but it’s still completely possible.  We chose our piece of land because it was within our price range and exactly what we wanted but it’s almost an hour from Cs work.  That was a sacrifice we were willing to make.

This is not an easy task and really I only recommend it for people who really want to homestead.  Yesterday’s blog was not a “this is a quick fix” post.  These are major life changes I’m talking about here.  My friend was talking about high food costs despite the fact that they cut coupons and look at grocery store fliers each week.  I don’t.  I don’t do any of that.  I am the worlds worst couponer ever.  When I do find a coupon I want to use I forget to use them, or don’t bring them with me, or whatever.  So how do I do it?  How do I expect others to do it?  Hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and imagination.

First off we grow a lot of our food.  We also have become close with our local homesteaders.  This goal is hard to achieve if you don’t.  Homesteaders are GREAT.  They are a fantastic community of people who want you to be educated on how to live like them.  We got out there and met our local homesteaders.  When someone would say, “hey you need to talk to so-and-so” we DID.  We asked questions, we went out to learn things, we exchanged services for goods.  We made deals to help buy feed in exchange for eggs, we exchanged produce,  If you don’t take advantage of the homesteading community you are missing out on a lot of resources that would greatly cut down on your food costs.  This is especially helpful if you live in an area where land isn’t available or if you can’t grow your own garden.  I know people who rent space in either public gardens or private so they can grow a garden without having the space.  Be creative.  It’s going to take time, it’s going to take energy, but it’s totally worth it.

So here is my Challenge.

I Challenge each of you to live on my food budget for a week, wherever you are.  I want you to show me it can be done, and done well, without eating non clean foods.  Our food budget is $100 a week, but that’s based on 2 adults and 2 small children who don’t eat much.  C and I discussed in detail what we think an accurate food budget should be and here is what we came up with:

$50 per person over 13

$25 per person 5-13

$10 per person 0-5

Here is an example of a week or groceries at our house:

Meal Plans:

Breakfasts: pancakes, eggs with cheese, banana smoothies, oatmeal

Lunches: lunchmeat Sandwiches, Beans and rice with cheese and sour cream, grilled cheese, peanut butter sandwiches, fruits and veggies for sides, leftovers

Snacks: homemade crackers, pancakes, fruits and veggies

Dinners: Fajitas, Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken Salad Sandwiches, pizza, stir fry, hashbrown surprise (potatoes with meat and a cheese sauce), sweet potato cakes with cheese sauce
Grocery list (I am not adding everything you need to make these items because many of them you only need to buy every 3-4 months so I will leave out the cost of some of them)

Whole wheat pastry flour $6 (we buy every 2-3 weeks)
Milk (un-homogenized low temp paste pasteurized) $3.75 (sometimes we buy 2)
butter $3.75 faometimes we buy 2)
baking powder (most people already have this)
2 doz eggs (these are typically free for us, but this is winter so we will say $3 per doz) $6
3 blocks Chedder (we can get antibiotic free cheese at lucky’s for pretty cheap $4 per block) $12
1 block Lucky’s mozerella $4
bananas LOTS $5
cream (un-homogenized low temp paste pasteurized) $8
2 lbs oatmeal $2.50
1lb sale lunchmeat $7
2 cans blackbeans $2
sour cream $2
natural peanut butter $4
carrot sticks, celery (or whatever veggie kids like that’s on sale) $5
strip steak for fajitas $5
Whole Chicken (bake half to make chicken salad, cut up rest of raw meat for tikka masala) $10 (if it’s not already in your freezer!)
cumin $2
garlic $.50
bag of onions $3
bag of potatoes $4
sweet potatoes $4
oil (this is an expensive item, but one you really only need once a month) $8 (I keep olive oil and expellor pressed safflour oil both of which I get at about $8 a bottle but it takes me a while to go through them)

Total = $107.50. I went over but the flour and oil I don’t buy every week, plus we wouldn’t be spending the $10 on chicken either. I know what you are thinking “you didn’t buy bread, or many veggies”. For one I make my own bread, for two ….

bread

Here is the list of stuff that’s already in our freezer, fridge, or pantry:

stewed tomatoes (I blend and boil down to make the tikka masala, and pizza sauce)
Peppers for the fajitas
mayo (I make my own and everything I need is in the above grocery list)
berries (I bought some when they were on sale but we also freeze them if we pick a lot

rice (I buy a large bag 2-3 times a year)

I do believe that’s everything. We eat really well, don’t go hungry, and stay pretty close to our budget. There are some weeks that we rely more on freezer/ pantry goods so we can splurge and make huge batches of beef jerky or granola.

So how about you? How can you eat clean on a food budget?

How to raise children on a budget- my version

I have been coming across a lot of articles lately titled something like “raising a child on a budget” or something along those lines.  So apparently this is a fairly hot topic right now.  I do have to say that too many of the articles are written more from the perspective of someone who really means “budget” as in you know how much you can set aside each month for baby stuff.  Lets get real.  Really real.  Lets actually call this article “How to afford a child when your flat a*^ broke”.

raising kids

Here is my honest opinion: Children are not expensive.

The figures are insane if you look at the cost of raising a child born in 2013.  $250-300 THOUSAND DOLLARS.  … Really?  That doesn’t even include college!  According to these figures housing is the most expensive cost, followed by childcare and education, then food, lastly transportation, healthcare, and miscellaneous stuff falls at the bottom.  These figures are confusing to me.  I guess the understanding is that as we have more children we are expected to have bigger houses… ok, i can see that logic, sort of.  Childcare and education… childcare is EXPENSIVE, education really shouldn’t be, unless you are paying for private schools or special programs.  Food I get, and healthcare i would think would be a larger chunk than that, although my kids qualify for medicaid so ours is free, but im not sure how long that will last since we are making more money now.

So lets take these figures and break them down into my thinking.  Really the only kid that should be expensive is the first, they are paving the way.  You know what to expect after the first one. Plus hand me downs are fantastic.  So lets look at what you need when having a baby.  These are my essential items: 1) a co-sleeper bassinet 2) a moby or some sort of baby carrier 3) a carseat 4) at least 7-10 cloth diapers.  I prefer the one size covers without a pocket.  the Flips are my favorite.  I also would have about 15-20 inserts.  the really nice sturdy cotton flour sac towels are the best.  you get them in the kitchen section and they are like 5 for $5.  That’s it.  That’s what I have for newborns.  No special shampoos or bath seats or random stuff that’s just gonna take up room.  My babies shower with me, and only about 2 times a week.  I don’t use harsh soaps on them, usually just rub a handmade soap onto a washcloth and rub them down.  I don’t even really have a diaper bag.  I have a large bag that i sometimes take with me with a change of clothes for the kids, diapers, and snacks but i rarely use it.  usually i just throw a clean diaper in my purse with a plastic bag for the dirties.  You really dont even need a changing table.  babies can be changed anywhere, especially if you have a towel handy.

There is big stuff you will need for later.  That’s the crib, the high chair, and some sort of a swing or bouncy chair.  something that entertains them so you can put them down and walk away for a little bit.  Ask for those for your baby shower (ask for ALL the essentials for your baby shower).  The bouncy seat you will probably use pretty quickly but the rest will take you probably at least 6 months so if you dont get it, you have some time.

Here is the most expensive thing i have come across: if your income relies on both of you working.  Childcare is expensive.  We were lucky enough for me to be able to work part time from home which means we dont need childcare.  I highly recommend if you can figure out how to be able to survive on one income, or can have a job that allows you to be flexible with your schedule, that is the best, plus there is nothing quite like staying at home and raising your kids.  I still do pay for childcare when i can though.  i prefer to have someone watch the kids 2-3 times a week for 2-3 hours at a time (when we can afford it).  That ends up being about $10-15 a day.  That’s not too bad, especially when it allows me to make at least $150 more a week than i would have, and have sanity.

Lets now tackle the big one: housing.  We are about to be a family of 5/6 and we are building a 1500 sq foot 3 bedroom home, which will probably end up costing us about $80,000.  We expect our kids will spend most of their time outside or in the family room/kitchen with us.  They dont each need their own bedroom.  I understand that house size and bedrooms are completely a personal preference, but don’t feel like you cant have a child because you only have a 2 bedroom place, you totally can.  Housing costs to me is a total non issue.

Food: well, you know my stance on food.  But still food cost is a big one.  This is also an area where each kid will cost approximately the same.  it’s not like other costs where once you jump the hurdle of having the first the rest are far less expensive.  it doesn’t work that way.  So we cut costs other ways.  Mainly by growing our own and making everything from scratch.  We have been discussing our food budget since we are off of food stamps and we are looking at about $100 a week.  That’s not because we can’t afford more, that’s because we don’t WANT to buy more.  That $100 would feed us VERY well.  Very Very well.  with snacks and 3 meals a day and real hearty nutritious stuff.  According to the USDA the average family of 4 should be spending $146-289 on food every week.  To me that number is crazy.  I could eat a gourmet meal every night on that kind of budget.  Once we start growing our own livestock and hunting deer we wont even have to worry about the cost of meat, and possibly even most dairy.  Although we will have to pay for the livestock, that cost isn’t $0, but it is smaller than what we would be paying at the store.

So here is my summery: I LOVE my kids.  I love my kids more than I knew I could love.  I love being a mom (even though some days I just wish i had a good tall glass, make that bottle, of wine to get me through the day).  Of all the money issues we have had over the past 2 years not once were my kids one of them.  They are probably the least expensive part of my life right now.  So when I hear about how to “raise a child on a budget” I have to laugh, because you really don’t need a budget to raise a child.  Lets rephrase that again, you don’t need a budget to raise a WELL EDUCATED, DISCIPLINED, INTELLIGENT, LOVING, QUALITY MEMBER OF SOCIETY child.  You don’t  You just have to WANT to put forth the effort to do it.