Last weekend we bought our second full cow from 3 Sisters Farms. We kept 1/4 of it (about 150 lbs) and divvied the rest up between a few other families. The first one lasted us 18 months, which means we ate just over 1.5 pounds of beef per person per month. I’ve heard a healthy red meat portion is 6-oz, so if we were eating right-sized portions each time (I probably ate more than my fair share), that comes to 4 servings of meat, or once a week. That’s probably about the optimal frequency for consuming red meat. However, we often brought the meat to potlucks and entertained guests with red meat dishes, so not all of it was actually consumed by our family.
If you compare the picture above to the one I took for the blog post about our first cow purchase, you can see how much better I’ve gotten at efficiently loading up the back of the car with boxes:
You can also see the difference between an old camera-phone, and Mrs. Foundry’s nice DSLR.
This year, the farmers weren’t making trips into the city so we drove to Whidbey Island to pick up the meat. Originally, I thought it was going to be a hassle (and negate the savings of buying bulk meat), but we made it into a fun day trip with Rose from Our Lady of Second Helpings and her son who’s about the same age as our youngest. We had a picnic lunch at Deception Pass and rode the ferry, so even though we logged over 150 miles onto the car (more than I drive in 3 months) I think it was well worth it to meat…I mean meet the farmers and the future hamburgers. The animals were well treated, and seemed very happy. The pigs had an unobstructed view of Puget Sound, and as much as I love the view from our back deck, I must admit I was a little jealous of those porkers.
The price went up compared to 18 months ago ($4.25/lb vs $4.00/lb last time) but that’s about the pace of inflation. To make it an even better deal, they threw in the organ meat (heart and liver) along with some dog bones that we gave to the other families who have dogs (and kept some for ourselves to make soup stock…shhhh).
Maybe I should have put a warning at the beginning of this post for vegetarians to skip over it? Nah.
PS: Happy Birthday to my sister, Mindy! I won’t divulge her age, but as of today, it now ends in a zero!
When I was a boy, my dad felled a tree in the front yard and chopped it into firewood. He said he’d pay me 25 cents per log to move them to the wood pile in the back yard.
I worked all day and moved about 400 fire logs, earning myself nearly $100! Which at the time was probably a year’s allowance.
That was the last time my dad ever paid me a per-unit fee for doing work for him.
Here’s what I’ve learned about buying school supplies without breaking the bank:
- Look around your house for supplies before going shopping. I found most of what was needed in the house. Look in the junk drawer, the desks, and anywhere else there might be school, art, or office stuff.
- For the things you can’t find around the house, wait until after school starts. School supplies go on sale then. If you feel bad not sending supplies with your child on the first day, send them with the stuff you’ve collected from around the house. If they have a pencil, paper, and some markers or crayons, they’ll be fine. Oh and don’t forget their lunch, it’s sitting on the counter!
- Go to the thrift store before the office supply or drug stores. Most of the stuff you need (folders, binders, rulers) can be found in the “home” or “office” departments of a thrift store.
Using the above tips, I was able to keep costs down to under $20 per child, and that included some optional items for the classroom (hand sanitizer, tissues, etc). The one thing that pulled up the average cost was that Isaac’s teacher required students to have a 1½” binder. The 1″ and 2″ binders were cheap and plentiful at Goodwill, but I had to buy a new 1½” binder at the drugstore for $6!
My apologies if this article arrives too late in the school year for the parents out there.
My uncle gave our family free tickets to a concert last week. It was Pink Martini, one of my wife’s favorite bands, so we couldn’t pass it up. The concert was a blast (especially for the kids who got to dance around) and I don’t regret going, but the evening came with an important lesson about the hidden costs of “free” activities.
Transportation: it was too far for the little ones to bike, and the bus ride would have been inconvenient with our picnic supplies, so we took the car. This put me over my limit in the gallon challenge, so although it wasn’t a huge deal to drive for the rest of the family, it was a personal defeat for me.*
Food: we were in too big of a rush to prepare dinner, so we ordered a pizza to go (and they forgot to put tomato sauce on it, WTF!?)
Other temptations: the concert was in a park that had a carousel, so the children wanted to ride on that. Only a couple bucks, and well worth the price for the nostalgic fun. Grandma bought the children some treats too. That’s what grandmas are for, right?
The point here isn’t “don’t leave your house” or “never take anyone up on an offer” since that would make life boring. The point is that it’s rare when things are truly free, and it’s important to think ahead about the actual cost of your choices.
* For those keeping score at home, this trip brought me up to 1.85 gallons.
Purpose: Dad’s 60th Birthday Dinner
(I also took a family camping trip this weekend, which was very fun, but doesn’t count for the challenge.)
So with just one trip, I used almost all of my 20 miles. This is going to make the rest of the month even more challenging! It was worth it though, to celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday with the rest of the family. Had I been better prepared, I could have taken the bus to the restaurant and then caught a ride home with the rest of my family, saving half the mileage. Or I could have suggested a restaurant closer to my house, but I thought that would have been selfish. My dad only turns 60 once!
On a brighter note, I’ve managed to do the camp drop-off by bike every day, with only a few minor setbacks. At least I wasn’t ever late. Venessa and I also rode our bikes to a BBQ/pool party Sunday evening. I pulled Lillia (and all our gear) in the trailer*. It felt pretty awesome to get there all warmed up and then jump right into the pool. (Seattle had unusually hot weather this past weekend).
How’s your August challenge going?
* Another great craiglist find. We split the cost of the trailer with a neighbor family that has a son Lillia’s age
My sons are way into an album by the Portland group Yacht. I’m always happy to introduce them to non-mainstream music, but I’m especially glad they’ve taken a liking to this album, because the messages of the lyrics are very positive. There’s one song in particular called “We’re always waiting.” I never realized how well the lyrics summarize the Your Money or Your Life, voluntary-simplicity movement.
Give it a listen:
We’re always waiting. What are we waiting for?
We’ve got all we need right here, but something’s telling us we need more.
We want all that stuff. All that stuff that costs too much.
Why are we working? And what are we working for?
We feel sad and such. Are we owned by our own stuff?
We don’t want our boring jobs, to keep us paying bills for ever.
So what are we waiting for?
It’s August, and that means it’s time for another monthly challenge. This one is really going to stir the pot: the Gallon Challenge. I’m not talking about the fraternity hazing ritual, where you have to drink a gallon of milk in an hour (don’t ask). This challenge is about limiting yourself to a gallon of gas for the month!
You’ll quickly realize that this challenge seriously penalizes those with less fuel-efficient cars. Good! It’s time to feel the pain for making an inefficient car choice. Don’t feel too bad, I’m in this group (our car only gets 20 MPG), so I’m making some pretty major lifestyle changes to make sure I only drive 20 miles this month.
The biggest change is getting the boys to summer camp. The round trip is 7 miles, and there’s 10 days of camp. That obviously won’t work. My first thought was to take the bus, but that would take 40 minutes, with a transfer. So I decided to take matters into my own hands, or shall I say “feet.” I contacted Bike Works, a local non-profit dedicated to getting more people biking. They have a loaner program where they’ll loan out all sorts of bikes. For a small donation, I got this Sun Atlas cargo bike for the two weeks that the boys are in camp.
Riding it is a blast, for me and for the boys. I find that our commute is much more social, not to mention the amazing workout that I’m getting! Isaac looked pretty proud rolling into camp the first day on the back of a cargo bike.
So that’s the challenge. Who’s up for it?
Fine print: Use your car’s average MPG to figure out how many miles you’re allowed to drive (e.g. 20 MPG = 20 miles). Family vacations don’t count (you can consider that fuel consumption to be in the “vacation” category). Decide for yourself if you count being a passenger towards your miles. Maybe you can count that for half miles? Let me know what you decide.
Yesterday while driving on I-5, I hit a bit more traffic than I’d bargained for. A shooting/crash had all lanes of the freeway blocked for over an hour. The silver lining on this cloud is that I was interviewed on local news (click that link if you don’t see the video embedded below).
Longtime readers will note my subtle reference to the sweet rims concept — things in your life that you spend an inordinate amount of money on.
Lillia is potty training now, so she can’t wear onesies any longer. It would be a shame to get rid of them, so we just cut off the bottoms and turned them into regular t-shirts. Bam! New wardrobe!
That zig-zag pattern is accomplished by cutting with pinking shears, and it helps prevent the fabric from fraying. If you don’t have a pair of pinking shears, get a solid used pair and they’ll last forever. They probably feature in a craft project at least once a week around here.
(Dudes, I know it has the word “pink” in it, but they’re just scissors with sawtooth blades and that’s pretty manly when you think about it.)