Saturday, January 28, 2012

On Budgeting and Food Storage

Budget. It is a word that conjures images of torture and panics some, I'm not really sure why. The budget itself shouldn't cause panic. (Unless, of course, you simply don't wish to stop spending yourself into debt.) A budget is simply a tool, and not all that difficult to establish. 

Check Out Dave's Advice on Budgets
and Money
I'm a big fan of Dave Ramsey. I went through Financial Peace University a couple of years ago, and most of the time, I no longer panic when emergencies arise. He espouses zero debt living, and then investing. I am whole-heartedly all about zero debt. The goal is to pay off all debts, and not incur more. You cut any unnecessary spending, request a raise, obtain a second part-time job. Any way you can, you throw money at your debt until it's gone. Dave Ramsey is so excited in his programs, it's contagious!!

Anyway, it's been a couple of years now. How am I doing, you say? Well, I'm not exactly the most disciplined individual when it comes to budgeting. (Sheepish grin) So I've run into some bumps and bruises along the way. Most of the time it happens when my emergency expenses exceed the sum total of my emergency funds, and then I'm stuck playing catch-up. However, I'm now doing it with slightly less bills. Also, given that I'm currently self-employed, my income can change at the drop of a hat. It's currently down; I've lost almost $900/month worth of income in the last two weeks. Two months before that I lost $800/month. So that's $1700/month in about two months, of LOST income per month. Am I panicking? No, not yet. Why? Because I've played this game for years. No creditor will come into my house and take my food.

And that's what I've got. With the exception of milk and fresh veggies/fruits, and eggs, I have a one to one and one-half month dried and canned goods food supply in my basement, and 3 weeks worth of meat and meals for the kids in the freezer. That's something Dave does not talk about. If something happens, and you have food to eat, you are far less likely to panic. It buys you some time. You can pay bills or fill up the gas tank (only the necessary ones, now), instead of having to wonder where your next meal will come from. There is a sense of security that comes from that, an insurance in tangible goods that are immediately accessible. I wish I had more down there, but I'm working on it.

I would urge everyone to stock and use their own personal pantry. Build it up to last 6 months to a year. It comes in handy, and doesn't require a doomsday scenario. I have some recommendations:
Food Storage and Budgeting
Go Hand-In-Hand
  • Learn to cook. Then, use the items in your pantry.
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Canned fruits and veggies (yours, or purchased ones)
  • Dried fruits
  • Canned meats such as tuna and chicken. I usually find that canned beef is simply not worth the price, and we don't eat a lot of red meat as it's not economical. I would like to, but I have to be realistic.
  • Macaroni and cheese. If you find yourself out of a job, or in any other type of scenario, this kids' favorite really comes in handy!
  • Pasta
  • Ramen. I know, horrid nutritional value. But it fills a belly, makes a good cheap snack, and can always be fortified with canned meat and peas. (Or however you like it.) And you don't have to use the seasoning packets.
  • Canned soups
  • Condiments - ketchup, syrup, jelly. I save anything I get that I don't use - ketchup packets from McD's, not that we frequent fast food places, those cream and sugar kits from hotel rooms when I go on vacation. I have my own canned preserves, and they are by far better than anything I can purchase in a store. They are also really good on shortbread cookies. :)
  • And don't forget dessert. Add a few bags of marshmallows, a little chocolate, and now's a great time to stock up on Girl Scout cookies!! Also, individually wrapped hard candies tend to store for a while. My son's favorite are DumDums, for some reason, and they seem to keep forever. It's a good pick-me-up when you aren't able to buy them from the store.
For Some of the Best Money-Saving
Remember to rotate the items in your pantry so they don't sit down there for ten years and lose taste and nutritional value - or spoil. Spoiled foods attract rodents and bugs, and nobody wants that. I have in my stores foods we eat and things we use on a regular basis. I don't store turnips and potatoes because we don't eat them. Just ask yourself, what do you eat regularly. Can you store it?

If you want to know more about the why's and how's of a food pantry, I recommend "The Tightwad Gazette" by Amy Dacyzyn. She gives valuable advice, in addition to many other great money-saving tips that our grandparents used to live by. 

So back to budgeting. Budget in your food storage. Set aside an extra $50 or $100/month to go towards establishing a food supply for your family, until you've built it up. A lot of you already have budgets established, but if you don't, at least give consideration to building up a food supply. It's saved my butt several times now, and I wouldn't go back to getting food week-to-week for anything.

And check out Dave. I used to think I knew how to budget, then I listened to him. 

Thanks for reading!

P.S. I get a little long-winded sometimes, thank you for your patience. Book reviews coming soon.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Few Thoughts On A Political Discussion

So, a friend of mine posted a saying on facebook - as follows:

There is a saying in Tibetan that “at the door of the miserable rich man sleeps the contented beggar.” The point of this saying is not that poverty is a virtue, but that happiness does not come from wealth, but from setting limits to one’s desires, and living within those limits with satisfaction. -Dalai Lama

I (being completely unable to help myself) could not help but respond and point out that the beggar lives off of the rich man. 

Of course, that sparked an argument. A looooooooooong one. One which I did not get back to for two hours. Hmm, I didn't expect that. I guess I should have. Basically, my friend is in support of redistribution, thinks the only way wealthy people got that way was by exploitation, and another individual was providing an opposing argument. I had (being, of course, completely unable to help myself) to put in my opinions as follows (approximately 25 comments into the discussion):

"I don't think Ford got rich by exploitation, either. Damn this is a conversation. Okay, a couple of points I want to put out there. 

"(1) Some rich people are miserable, some are not - those that have worked hard for their money and built their wealth by the sweat of their backs, as it should be, are not miserable. They have every right to their wealth. 

"(2) Those who have wealth, hard-earned or not, do not deserve to have it taken away from them. 

"(3) Those who have wealth, should learn to manage it. Nobody gets bailout, and those things pissed me off more than I can say. If a giant fails, let them. Someone with better talent, skills and ethics will take their place. Or, more likely, several smaller someones who do not outsource American jobs to other countries will take their place. 

"(4) Poor people can be miserable, too, they just don't want to admit it to themselves. There lies no self-respect in claiming you have a right to someone else's "wealth" because you failed to provide for yourself. Get off your lazy asses and get a job, I don't care if it's minimum wage crap work. I would clean toilets to feed my kid, quit worrying about what your nails and hair look like and get a damn job already. 

"(5) That is not a blanket statement intended to cover all the poor, just the leeches who want to suck everyone dry. There are people who genuinely need help, and they are welcome to it. 

"(6) If we do away with the national welfare system for people who need help, and return it to local communities, actual communities would return, along with accountability. There would probably be a decrease in crime, as when you live a lazy and criminal life, you won't get help from any of the rest of us. People who are lazy would be forced to be nice to their neighbors and conduct themselves in a respectable manner. After everyone stopped whining about it, I believe America would be a much better society. 

"(7) You can't eat money, tv's, Nike's, or Chevy's. So when it comes right down to it, we are all flesh and blood, we all need to eat. Grow a damn garden. Raise some chickens. Stop complaining about the "few" who have so much and do something about your life. Quite frankly, the "few" may be able to eat better, and maybe even have some well-stocked supplies/get-away spots in case of disaster - of any kind, but they still have to eat."

I also will be adding another point. The wealthy didn't get that way purely by exploitation. While this is true of some, it can in no way be applicable as a blanket statement. Wealthy people (excepting trust fund babies) see an opportunity and used it to their advantage. They also take risks to get where they are. People who accept handouts do not have what it takes to take the kind of financial risks wealthy people have taken. Nor do they have the ability to turn their talents into a financially successful venture. If they did, they would stop asking for handouts and do something about it. After all, if, somewhere in England, someone hadn't decided to build a boat, and then turn that boat into a fleet, and then use that fleet for shipping, America would be "Hispanica." The person who built that first boat, you think he did not want to make a profit on it? Would he have continued if he only broke even or made very little money by comparison with the risk he took? (Yes, HE, we all know women didn't build boats back then.) Don't downplay the wealthy, their role in our society is a very important one. I especially don't see poor people funding the scientific research necessary for medical breakthroughs, advances, and life-saving medical treatments. That comes from the wealthy. And yes, some of our tax dollars. But then there's a whole other issue I don't have time for right now. The point is, the wealthy have a role, and handouts without accountability are to be despised.

So, I'm sure this conversation will continue, it will be interesting. 


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Books I'm Waiting For

I occasionally order books off of Amazon - I can get pretty good prices and the selection is, of course, fantastic! I'm waiting for books which are due to arrive in a couple of hours, and I can't wait!

The two of note are:

"One Second After", for those who are not familiar, is a fictional story about what happens after TEOTWAKI. It was rated highly by customers, as was "Build It With Bales" - as the book to have for actual knowledge of how to build straw bale homes and not just theory or ambiguous pictures and text.

I'll let you know if I like them soon!


Sunday, January 15, 2012


So my blog title is Missouri Rock Farmer, but I'm not there yet. Wait, what?! Not in Missouri? Yep, that's right folks. I am not there yet. You see, I'm still in another state, living in the (blech) city. My projected move-to-Missouri date is May. It's ambiguous, I know, but it could be mid-May or the end of May. Maybe even June first. I could begin the move in May, and finish the move in June. Or shoot, I could find $100,000 buried in my backyard and move tomorrow. 

Of course before I can move, there are some things I have to do here. Like get the house ready to sell. Imagine having one German Shepherd puppy who pushes a chair to get up on the counter and one huge Lab/Rottie mix who does not need a chair, who used to be good but now that there's the puppy believes he can get away with soooo much more. Hmm? Makes for a DIRTY house. I'm constantly cleaning. Add to that ten (10) daycare children running around which means I am unable to use anything that puts off fumes during the week, and also that anything I finish now will be ruined. I have to refinish the wooden floors. Kids who like to jump a lot as hard as they can are really hard on floors.

Of course, before that happens I have a lot of crap to clear out. You know, those things you acquire because you need them? Who needs a freaking toaster oven if you have a real one and a microwave? Two blenders, anyone? A good set of knives and the skill to use them is better than all the food chopping devices on the market. Or how about those dilapidated dressers, just waiting for a refurbishing? I love crafts, but I haven't got the time or space here for most of what I want to do. So craigslist and I are going to be fantastic buddies here for a while. At least someone supports me in this endeavor. :) And how many mismatched chairs does one really need? How about those old jeans I've been saving for when I lose those 20 L-Bs? And is it just me or does anyone else save miscellaneous everything because "I might need that someday!" 

It's a monster of a project, though it pales in comparison with what I will have to do in Missouri. I do fully understand also, that as soon as I get rid of something, I'm going to need it. Murphy, another good friend of mine. :)

I should say, apparently no one in my family (besides my son) thinks I can do this. Not my sister, not my dad, not my acquaintances here in the city. I think they're just holding their breath waiting for me to fail. "Buy a cute house," my sister said. "Get a mobile home," my dad said. "Why?" That's what everyone else says, or there's the more insidious, "so, you think you know how to build a house and you've got this all figured out." That last one from someone who is too damn scared to live like I want to unless it becomes accepted by the majority of city society. It makes me angry, and I'm sorry to put this out in my first post, but it's an unfortunate part of the process. My mom I can't figure out - whether she supports me or not, or is sighing and shaking her head and just doing a better job of hiding it. 

Maybe I won't be able to build a house after all. There are options - and a mobile home is one although I hope to avoid that route, chemical-laden, cheap and hazardous as they are. I also don't want to be hooked up to the grid - why? I simply don't wish to put my hard-earned $$ into someone else's pocket. Lowering my carbon footprint is just an extra benefit. But I will have to compromise. I can imagine it will be very tiring trudging out to the well in the harsh bite of winter to fill up buckets of water, bring them into the house and boil them for a bath. (I don't, incidentally, have everything figured out yet.)

But I have a dream. (hahahaha) No, really, I do. I wish to do away with the shackles of modern conveniences and the seemingly unfulfilled standards they bring and work my way into a good life where I will never have to worry about being hungry, and I can feed my eventual grandchildren should their father be a recipient of a layoff caused by a recession such as the one we are in right now. Wow, that was a long sentence. I always want a place to call my own - not a mortgage to call my own. I want to experience freedom in a way that is impossible with high debt loads, or with the restrictions of city life. I want that freedom that the settlers had, however I will admit I do not envy them several options available to me, such as medical options and the ability to make a 1 hour drive to a city instead of a 1-day drive by horse and buggy. Convenience, however, in any form, comes at a price. I am trying to find the balance between convenience and self-sufficiency. 

In the meantime, I have to stop the puppy from eating that candle I forgot to take off the counter. For all the things he eats it's a wonder I have to feed him!

I hope you enjoy my blog, and I look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones.

~Missouri Rock Farmer

P.S. Hi Daisy!