How to Make Savings – Part 2 Farm-o-nomics
In our last installment of “How to Make Savings” we talked about some big picture ideas – how reducing expenses to the point where one or both of you don't have to work is a real possibility and how doing things yourself creates tons of savings. We left the discussion here:
“Want to make real savings? Then make your food, raise what you eat, eat what you grow, and do it in a self sustaining way......
…..We make most of our food – and we don't just make our food.. we MAKE our food by growing it. We grow 95% of meat, all of our eggs, a good chunk of our veggies, and most of our dairy. Pretty much we have the lowest grocery bill in the county. Our grocery bill, less dog and cat food, for most of the summer was about $25 a week.”
Yessiree...you did read that right. A lot of people just plain ol' can't believe it. And I tell you the truth – we aren't suffering at all. Now to be fair, from time to time we do a trip to Sam's Club to get paper products in huge quantities and we'll do a $100 grocery trip every couple of months.
But pretty much we just stop in for bits and bobs of things at the grocery. As we are walking thru the store our favorite thing to do is ask each other “Hey do we need eggs? Ham? Milk? Cheese?” and then laugh laugh laugh about how we don't have to buy any of that stuff. I swear we are giving the meat counter guy a complex from pointing and laughing at his ham.
The great thing about summer is that there is so much produce from our garden, we have all our dairy (except butter, cream, and ice cream) from our goats, and of course we are still plowing thru the pork, turkey, and chicken in the freezer. During the winter we have to supplement a bit more for dairy products.
I was thinking about how to illustrate this in real life. One of the key elements for farming success is that you have to grow what you eat. If you don't like pork, bacon, and/or ham.. pigs are not for you (and you must be crazy). You also can't just let it rot in the freezer which is point #2 - eat what you grow. The Big Man used to ask, “Hey, what's for dinner?” knowing full well that the answer was, enthusiastically, “Pork!” Since its the other white meat and pork is so versatile, no, we really don't get tired of it. And there is all that turkey and chicken so we mix it up.
As an example, here is what we ate over the last couple of days and how much we save by making our own food:
* Tiny pies for snacks that you can read about here.
* Quiche: During the summer it would have been made with our eggs, milk, bacon, greens, lard for the crust, and goat cheese...so I'd pay for a splash of cream, flour, and spices. I'll have this for breakfast or lunch for most of the week. For this week's quiche I had to buy the cream, milk, greens and the cheese. My cost: summer = less than $1; winter = $2 tops; and thats total cost not per serving.
* Bread: I know, I know, I need to work on the bread post but until then you can check this out here …..and don't get distracted by the number of steps. The actual time futzing around is about 30 minutes, once you get your routine down. Cost of goods? Maybe $1 for two loaves.
* Pizza: whatever you do, don't waste another dime on take out pizza. Frozen pizza? Thats not food. Make it yourself. All you need is a hot oven, a pizza stone, and one of these. I start the crust in the afternoon to rise a couple of hours, turn on the oven to let it heat up before we go outside for evening chores, and by the time we get back in a bag of last summers tomato sauce is thawed out. Once I have the sauce done it take about 8 minutes of dawdling around and 12 minutes to bake. Voila. Why would you pay $20 or more plus gas (or delivery tip) for that? And yes, its just as good. What? OK fine a pizza post will be on the way.
During the summer we use our goat cheese, whatever is in the garden, and OK you caught us.. we buy pepperoni at the store (one pizza's worth is about $1). The last pizza I made had our bacon, our sauce, and peppers from last summer's garden but I had to buy the cheese, spices, and pepperoni. My cost = about $3 total; not $3 per serving.
* Pasta toss: one of the few processed things we buy is whole wheat or enriched pasta. I can't stand to eat white pasta anymore and honestly its kind of a bunch of wasted calories. Whole wheat past has more fiber and more flavor. We buy it on sale when its 4 for $5. On Saturday nite we had a quick pasta toss with our pork, veggies, a bit of home made stock, a splash of cream and there you go. Easy, cheap, lovely. Our cost = about $2 total, not per serving.
* Turkey salad on our bread: After I make stock I take out the bones, pick thru the leavin' and put the meat on one of two plates: for the cats and for us. The better meat (for us) is portioned in meal sized freezer bags or canned in pint jars for super quick suppers or lunch. Mix with a little onion, more pepper than you'd think, and mayo and... turkey salad. On our bread that lunch is practically free. And the cats eat like kings. Note I don't give this to the dogs - cats can pick around the brittle bones, dogs cannot.
* Big ol' slab of ham and green beans: Ham = free; green beans were part of our big buy at the grocery and on sale at Krogers 10 bags of frozen veggies for $10, a bargain. Total price of meal for two (and my breakfast tomorrow) = $1.
* Enchiladas: home made sauce which is basically spices, flour, and water + our ground pork + corn tortillas + a handful of cheese.. with refried beans on the side. For heaven's sakes ….that's 2 meals (dinner + left overs for lunch) for less than $2. Again, that's TOTAL cost not $2 per serving.
See how this all starts to work together? Every little savings adds up. Instead of buying some kind of prepackaged, nightmare inducing breakfast microwave pocket thingy I made a quiche from free eggs and whatever I had on hand. I didn't buy a $2.39 can of enchilada sauce, or a loaf of bread, or deli lunch meat, or $20 for pizza...all of these small steps make big savings.
The biggest impact, tho, come from having our own meat. I get a lot of nitpickers who want to fight over the 'true cost of goods' and most of them get out their Econ 101 books and point to where it says that “there's no such thing as a free ham"... I mean... "lunch.” Their point is, what about the feed and the energy and the labor and the depreciation to raise that pig?
Well. Sure. But here is how farm-o-nomics works: that 5 months of feed we buy – and remember that we don't use that much bagged feed – gets us a year of food. Good food. High on the hog food...and frankly, all the bacon we can eat.
And not just meat, but there's the lard, the stock and, the month's worth of leavin's and trimmin's to be used as dog food. Not buying dog food for a month saves us about $120/month. In my Farm-o-nomics view of the world that pays for the bacon and ham processing. Even-steven.
But if that doesn't set right with you.....I just checked the Honey Baked Ham site. One of their whole hams costs about $95. We had 4 hams from our pigs, plus the hocks, and frankly the Honey Baked hams looked a little small compared to the monsters that we took in. So technically after the $100 in processing, we are on the upside with just our hams....to the tune of about $300 and that doesn't even include the bacon! Or the roasts, or the sausage, or the ground pork, or the ribs, etc. etc.
Not to mention the labor we got from them stupid pigs. Remember that pigs are the original rototillers. We put last summer's pigs in a huge poison ivy patch – and they very neatly went to work killing it all. And they fertilized it too so this year the pig patch will become part of the soon-to-be-sown chicken pasture. Cost for me NOT to get a screaming case of poison ivy = priceless.
But wait! There's more! If you really want to talk soft costs – here 's one for you: I don't have a gym membership. And even better.... during the summer I can eat ice cream almost every day. A lot of ice cream.. not just a half an ounce scoop of 'low fat, low sugar whatever-cream'.. I'm talking a hot fudge shake here. And I loose weight. I'll say that again: I eat ice cream like skinny girls eat rice cakes and I'm the one loosing weight. That, friend, is the best darn argument for growing you own food I've ever heard. All that tromping up and down the hill, hauling feed buckets, and throwing hard boiled eggs at them stupid pigs pays off in hot fudge and cool cream-i-liciousness.
So sure, Econ Major, there is the cost of my labor to raise our food, and yep, I could probably get a salary that would pay more than what our groceries cost.. but I just can't get away from the fact that I don't have to be working for someone else. My commute is pulling on my barn boots and schlepping out to the hen house. The only ones standing over my shoulder criticizing me are those hens who cluck at me all darn day. My only traffic jam is when the geese are coming one way and the turkeys are going the other and there is a big flap. My employees (the hard workin' dogs) actually do what I tell them to do......and I never get any lip from any of the minions except for that ridiculous tom turkey. And frankly if it keeps it up he'll end up the star of my next sandwich.
So when the haters come around and tell me that our food isn't “free” or ask me why I don't get a job so I don't have to grow our own food... I just picture them dragging themselves out of bed in the morning, spilling coffee on their work clothes they don't really want to wear, risking life and limb fighting traffic, huddled inside all day looking outside at the sunshine while they choke down a microwave 'mini-meal' at their desk so they can hurry to finish a project for a boss that will take credit for their work......yep. I think of those folks while I'm shading the sun from my eyes, being the traffic cop for geese and turkeys, and walking past a lively barnyard with my tail waggin' dogs, as I'm sucking down the very last drops of my hot fudge shake on my way to make a big ol' ham sandwich. Yep, haters.. you could be right....but you're not. Farm-o-nomics done right works.