Category Archives: health

Meet Your Meat

My friend Rose from Our Lady of Second Helpings posted her version of our trip to the farm to buy our cow. She’s a food blogger, so her article focuses more on the nutritional aspects of grass-fed beef. It’s a great compliment to the articles I’ve written on the cost-savings potential in buying an entire cow.

For instance, here’s her take on grass-fed vs. whatever-junk-they-use-on-feedlots beef:

Taste and Nutrition – We would rather not eat greasy food. Compared to factory raised grain fed beef, grass fed beef is extremely lean. We prefer the more meaty and slightly gamey flavor of grass fed beef. Studies have shown grass fed beef to be higher in nutrients, minerals, and “good” fats.

Go read the whole article, it’s interesting.

Lifetime Gym Membership: $10.99. Not being able to make excuses any more: Priceless.

you are your own gymAs much as I love running and cycling, I’ve never really been a gym kind of guy. It’s not just the crazy prices, but also simply getting to the gym, and the sweaty equipment, and the lukewarm showers, etc. I bought some dumbbells a few years ago to do arm workouts at home, but they mostly sit unused under the couch.

Recently, I heard about a workout program called You Are Your Own Gym, that uses “bodyweights” (pushups, situps, etc.) and common household objects to give you a workout. I checked out the book from the library and loved it so much, I bought the book!

Yes folks you read that right, I actually bought myself a book! I can’t remember the last time I did that. The way I see it, I spent $10.99 for a lifetime gym membership, since I don’t ever see myself needing to step foot in one again.

What I like about the exercise program is that it requires creativity. No chin-up bar? Use a door. Instead of dumbbells, bicep curls are done with a towel wrapped around your foot (pulling up, against the weight of your leg, provides the resistance).

And the part of this book that I LOVE has nothing to do with exercise at all. It’s about getting rid of your excuses. The author asks you to list all your excuses for not exercising, so you can see them for what they are. After doing that, I’m very motivated and have only missed a single session since I started. The same technique could be applied to breaking through the mental barriers preventing you from making any positive change in your life!

I’ve been doing it for about 2 months and the differences in my strength and physique are noticeable. Who wouldn’t like to be a little stronger and sexier? Check it out (literally, at the library) if you’re interested in starting a workout routine but you don’t like the gym.

The Ups and Downs of a Gallon Challenge

[Sorry for the light posting recently. By the time you read this I’ll be in Israel for my sister’s wedding. Mazel Tov, Mindy! Oh and don’t think about robbing my house. We have a house-sitter and she’s a rugby player.]

August is over so let’s take a look at how I did on the Gallon Challenge. Here were the car trips I made in the month*

Date Purpose Miles Gallons
8/02/2012 Dad’s birthday 16 0.8
8/09/2012 Drive babysitter home 4 0.2
8/16/2012 Drive to concert 17 0.85
Totals: 37 1.85

The bad news is that I used almost 2 gallons of gas, twice as much as I wanted to use.

The good news is that I only made 3 car trips for the entire month! Instead of driving, I did a lot of walking and biking (which is better than free, since it’s free + I got exercise). I also rediscovered the joy of reading a good book on the bus (which is free for me since my employer provides a bus pass), and prevented over 100 pounds of CO2 from polluting the atmosphere.

Instead of all that driving, I biked or walked about 100 miles. This included running errands, commuting, and exercise. By not needing to refuel the car, I spent a whopping $0.00 on gas this month, as opposed to an average fuel spend of $97 per month. If I got rid of the car and permanently invested that $97 every month, it would add up to over $17,000 in ten years (including compound interest). Imagine how much more that would be if I also didn’t need to buy auto insurance, oil changes, parking, etc.

As a side note, I also got my blog idol Mr Money Mustache to join in the challenge. He upped the ante by having his wife join in, and the two of them pledged to only use a gallon of gas combined!

All in all, I’d say the positive aspects of this month far outweigh the negative. Oh, and you should see what biking the boys to camp did to my leg muscles. I’m ripped!

* remember, family vacations are excluded. I also excluded times I kept Venessa company in the car while she was delivering food for her catering business.

Follow-up on Personal Health Advocates

I got a follow-up email from Hayley regarding Personal Health Advocates, just thought I’d share what she wrote:

  1. The service is designed for residents of Washington, however we have helped those outside of the state. Our expertise is centered in the Washington market, so our ability to adequately assist out of state clients is more limited, unfortunately. Your readers could always call in and based on where they call from, we could attempt to refer them to services in their area.
  2. There are no qualifications necessary! The service is specifically set up to help freelancers, independent workers, and contract workers navigate complex health care decisions. We also focus on students transitioning into the workforce, elderly transitioning into medicare and retirement, and workers transitioning from employment to unemployment.
  3. We are funded through a variety of sources, including grants, our own historical reserves, and revenue which we generate from providing health insurance navigation services.

Thanks, Hayley! Does anyone have experience getting help from a PHA? Please let me know, and I’ll share your story anonymously.

Step Up To The August Challenge: Gallon Challenge

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.

Foundry Mailbag: Dealing With Medical Expenses

Here’s the first edition of a regular column I’d like to do, called Foundry Mailbag, where I write about topics or answer questions that people have sent in. Today’s Foundry Mail comes from Cathleen, who writes:

I love your blog and would love to see a post about dealing with medical expenses. Personally that is my biggest challenge, trying to work expenses in if you have a chronic condition can be difficult to budget. (I’m not even going to go into what it’s like if you have an employer like mine that is too small to offer health insurance) I figure with all the hubbub about the recent Supreme Court ruling, it’s on many other peoples minds as well.

Keep up the good work!

First off, thank you for the kind words.

Medical expenses are like a horrible lottery that everyone has to play. Not only do you get sick or injured, but you sometimes have to pay huge amounts of money in doctor bills. Here are a few tips for dealing with them:

  1. Set up an emergency fund – This is the single biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone who’s getting their financial life in order. The size of the fund is up to you, but as a rule of thumb it should be a minimum of $1000, if you’re in debt or have other emergency spending needs. A healthy-sized emergency fund for someone with no debt is 3 – 6 months of living expenses. Store the fund in cash. Even though you’ll be getting a crummy return on investment, this is not money you want tied up in illiquid or volatile investments
  2. Expect the unexpected – I have a savings account named Doctor Bills into which I stash some money each month. When medical expenses do arise, I can tap into that account before draining my emergency fund. Think of this as being your own health insurance company. You’re paying yourself a monthly premium, and when something goes wrong, you get your bills covered by your own capitol. But unlike a real insurance company, you’re in control of the size of the premium, when you pay out, etc.
  3. Stay healthy – They say prevention is the best medicine, and I couldn’t agree more. Money spent on eating well, and time spent exercising and getting enough sleep will pay huge dividends down the line in the form of a healthy body, which means fewer doctor visits and reduced medical expenses. This also includes keeping a healthy attitude and eliminating stress from your life. A bike ride is my favorite way to stay healthy and de-stress.
  4. Negotiate your bills – None of the above tips will help Cathleen, or anyone else already saddled with large medical bills. But this tip might. Bills can be negotiated on two fronts: the medical provider and your health insurance company. I admit I’ve never done this myself, but I know it’s possible. Ramit from I Will Teach You To Be Rich is an amazing negotiator, and while he doesn’t discuss medical bills specifically, his general negotiation tips have saved me some money.
  5. Optimize for insurance – Now that the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare, people with pre-existing conditions can’t be denied insurance. That means you can shop around for a new job and make your decision of where to work based on the insurance plans that various would-be employers offer. Easier said than done, but it’s one extra tool in the financial tool box.

Hope I was able to help Cathleen, and maybe some other readers as well. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Running: The Most Frugal Sport

While on a run recently, I was trying to think of a more frugal sport than running. But nothing came to mind that tops the simple joy of running around the neighborhood. With the popularity of barefoot running, you can literally run out your front door with no equipment needed.

Practically speaking, you probably want a pair of running shoes, but I’m willing to bet that most people already have a pair, along with a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, and socks.

I started running before I became frugal, so my setup is a bit more pricy: actual running shorts (with the netting inside), and a “running shirt”. I still can’t believe I bought a shirt just for running. I bought it because I knew a guy who was a fast runner and he had such a shirt, so I thought to myself “If I’m going to be a fast runner, I need a shirt like that.” This is how the mind of the average consumer works. I don’t recommend buying any of that, but use it if you got it.

I like to hear what’s going on around me, so I don’t own an mp3 player. I do run with my phone to track my mileage, using a free app called runkeeper. I strap it to my arm with a short strap I had laying around. It seemed silly to buy a specialized velcro thingy just to strap my phone to my arm. If it’s raining or looking like it’s going to rain (which is almost always), I put the phone in a sandwich baggy before I strap it to my arm.

Why am I running so much? Back in April, I entered a 10k race coming up in August. If it seems silly to buy an arm band, it must seem very silly to pay money to run around when I can do it for free. My rationale was that it would motivate me to get out and run regularly. So for about half the monthly price of a gym membership, I’ve gotten 4 months worth of running motivation. It’s worked so well, and I’ve been running so frequently, I set a goal of not only finishing the 10k, but finishing in under an hour.

Time to go for a run!

I don’t use shampoo any more

Update April 2015: I started using pure baking soda instead of the recipe below. I just keep a bunch of it in a water-tight container in the shower. One less thing to make! I also increased the concentration of apple cider vinegar in the conditioner, to just shy of 50/50 vinegar/water. Seems to help with dry/flaky scalp.

I gotta come clean with everyone: I haven’t touched a bottle of shampoo or conditioner in weeks and my hair is feeling better than ever*. Never mind the price of haircare products, what bothers me is the stuff they put in there. Also, I’m always interested to see if I can make something instead of buying it, and get a equivalent or better effect from my own labor. I’ve had dandruff most my life, and none of the dandruff shampoos seem to work. I read that homemade shampoo will fight dandruff, and I thought it sounded too good to be true. Also, I read that two of the ingredients are baking soda and vinegar, so I had a mental image of a bubbly volcano on the top of my head every shower.

Turns out there’s no volcano, but these homemade haircare products are just as effective as the commercial stuff (though there are so many variables to the dandruff situation). I’m convinced that homemade versions with a few ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen is superior to anything you’ll find on the shelves. The only thing they lack is fragrance and foaming action (both of which are artificially created using toxic chemicals).

Here are the recipes I use (note the ratios are both 1:5 active ingredient to water):


  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup baking soda

Fill an empty bottle with the two ingredients and shake well. Shake before each use (the baking soda falls to the bottom). Work into hair just like a commercial shampoo, though you need to use more each time since it’s more watery.


  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Fill an empty bottle with the two ingredients and shake well. Use more or less vinegar depending on your tolerance for sour smells. It only smells while you use it, not all day long. No need to shake before use. Just massage into scalp and tips.


My hair went into a detox period for about 10 days, where it was all like “WTF?” It was extra oily and flaky, but now it’s back to normal and I even forget that I’m not using shampoo any more. I have fewer “snow days,” if you know what I mean, and my hair feels full and healthy. And for the fellas: I’m losing less hair (though it still does fall out, only slower…)
Just one less thing to buy every month, and one step closer to living in that Foundry in the Forest.
It’s ok if you want to touch or smell my hair next time you see me in person. I won’t mind.

* The current positive state of my hair can also be attributed to a rad haircut that the Mrs. gave me about a month ago. At 5am on the front porch in my underwear. I was in my underwear. She was dressed.