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!
As if she was reading my mind, Foundry follower Sally Ashley asked if she could do a guest post on Frugal Date Nights. Just in time for Valentine’s Day! When she’s not reading this blog, Sally writes about romance and personal finance. Her most recent work focuses on how to pick the best finance schools.
So if you don’t have anything planned for your sweetie tonight, and you want to keep it frugal, read on…
How to Plan a Frugal Date Night
Planning a date doesn’t always have to be expensive, and you can have just as much fun on a frugal date as you can on an expensive date. Below are some great ways you can plan a frugal date night and still have a great time!
Hangout at Home
You can plan a fun but cheap date night in your very own home. You probably have food there, so look up some recipes online and cook a great meal for you and your date. More than likely, you have some good entertainment in your home as well. A stereo, television, computer, video game system or just some good old-fashioned board games can be fun on a date. Simply invite your date over to hangout and listen to music, watch a movie and share a meal, or play some fun games.
Attending Local Events
Most every city has local newspapers that list local events and happenings that will be going on in the next few weeks. Some cities have their own websites that list these events. Look in those papers or Internet sites, and search for some local events that you and your date can attend. When you see something that looks fun, and go out and have some fun. Most of the time, these events are relatively cheap or even free.
Visit the Park
A romantic AND cheap date that can be a lot of fun is going to the park. If you or your date has a dog, take your pet along. You can pack a nice picnic lunch and a blanket and sit under the trees and enjoy good conversation while eating lunch. Some parks host events and activities as well. They might have a swimming pool, walking/jogging trails or some secluded areas to get some privacy. If it’s winter, there might be somewhere to go ice skating.
Going out to the movies on a date is ridiculously expensive, and more often than not, boring. Staring at a screen and being silent for over two hours can make it tough to get back into the vibe after the movie is over. However, if there is a movie you both want to see and it is available by rental, check it out and watch it at home. You can pop your own popcorn, have your own drinks and sit down and share a movie together. Every now and again, you can stop the movie to enjoy some conversation or refresh your beverages. If you know your date pretty well, take advantage of the cheaper movie specials during the daytime, or visit the dollar movie to catch a really cheap one. [ed: Even cheaper, borrow a movie from the library for free!]
Cheap Coffee Dates
Meeting up for coffee can be a good idea if you know your date pretty well. If so, you can engage in good conversation the entire time you are there. If you do not know your date well, a coffee shop can be intimidating – trying to find something to say for a couple of hours. If you have a nice coffee maker or cappuccino machine at home, ask your date over for some homebrew, and make your own coffee at home while enjoying conversation, a meal or just watching television together. First dates at a coffee shop are easier if you go on a double-date to help break the ice. Afterwards, you can go to a cozier place alone if things go as planned.
Hopefully, you can use some of these frugal date ideas for yourself. They are easy on the wallet, and they will allow you the opportunity to get to know your date better. You can learn a lot about a person by using one of these cheap date ideas over the more expensive options.
Thanks, Sally! Readers, how are you spending your Valentine’s Day (frugally or otherwise)? In our family, we exchange hand-made cards for each other, and Mrs Foundry usually bakes a treat for the family. This year I splurged and got her a bouquet of her favorite flowers (even though we agreed on no gifts). Oops!
One big offender in our budget was the mobile phone plan. We were paying $150 a month for 2 phones with data plans. I knew we could do better. Pre-paid plans look cheaper on paper, but I didn’t want the hassle of recharging minutes (or worse, forgetting to recharge and finding my phone out of service).
Ting to the rescue! They run on the Sprint network (so you can bring your Sprint phone over), and use a tiered plan. At the end of every month you only pay for what you used, in terms of minutes, text messages, and megabytes of data. For instance: less than 100 minutes is $3, 100 – 500 minutes is $6, and so on.
You can see the dashboard in the image above (that was my usage for last month), but they also have alerts you can set up. “You’re about to go into the next level of text messages,” for instance.
Here’s the best part: without changing my phone habits much, my phone plan went from $75 (my half of the family plan) to $25! I use Google Voice for long calls (or when I know I’m going to be on hold) and for outgoing text messages. And I’m almost always near a wi-fi signal.
I highly recommend taking a look at Ting to see how much money they’ll save you. Especially if you already have a Sprint phone, since your existing phone will work.
Here’s a promotion code for $25 off: https://z2qhtq7rd1.ting.com/
NB: The links on this post are referral links, that get each of us $25 off. Please click on them! It’s a nice and fully optional way to help out this blog if you choose to do so.
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.
My Rabbi challenged everyone in our congregation to do a week-long Food Stamp Challenge, starting on Sunday. This means you go a week spending the same amount on groceries that the average person on food-stamps receives in benefits, which is $31.50. It won’t be a huge stretch for our family, since our grocery spending is already at a pretty low level.
In the interest of full disclosure, we’re cheating and allowing ourselves to eat from the food in our pantry (which is modest though well-stocked). I’m talking about stuff like wheat flour to make bread, not caviar.
We’re planning a shopping trip for Sunday to get the food for the week. To make it more realistic, we also won’t be eating lunch in restaurants at work, which is something we normally do a couple times a week.
I’ll let you know how it goes, maybe with a detailed breakdown of how we fed our family for a week, spending only $31.50 per person.
Is anyone else interested in participating?
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.
I previously tried a powdered laundry soap recipe, and concluded that it was too much effort and not worth the trouble for the minor cost-savings. As a footnote to that post, I mentioned a different, liquid recipe that looked promising.
When the homemade powder ran out, I decided to try that liquid recipe. Now that we’ve been using it at home for a few weeks, I’ve concluded that it’s great!
The recipe is from The Duggar Family, and is as follows:
- 4 c water (heated in saucepan)
- 1 bar of soap (I recommend Trader Joe’s oatmeal soap, it’s $1 and mostly free of weird ingredients)
- 1 c washing soda*
- ½ c Borax
- 5 gallon bucket
- Empty liquid detergent container (or any large-ish container with top)
- Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves.
- Fill 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved.
- Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken. (You’ll either need a very-long-handled ladle or a brave, clean arm)
- Next morning, stir well. Fill a laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill rest of way with water.
Shake before each use, as the mixture will gel. Use ¼ c per load in a front-load/HE washer or ½ c in a top-load/conventional washer.
The recipe yields 320 washes for top-load and 640 washes for front-load, so you might want to half (or even quarter) it as a trial run the first time. The ingredients cost about $6 total, so that’s less than $0.02 per load.
We used to use Trader Joe’s powder detergent which is $0.16 per load. We do about 200 loads of laundry a year and I estimate the recipe took about 30 minutes of my time, so I’m saving about $28 for a half-hour’s worth of work, or $56 an hour (more than I make at work). Plus, I know exactly what’s in the detergent and that all ingredients are safe, which is a plus.
In conclusion: totally worth it!
* To make washing soda out of baking soda, bake it for an hour at 400 degrees.
Update: This batch of laundry detergent lasted exactly one year for our family of 5.
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