Remaindered meat

I’ve mentioned before that my local Albertson’s has what I have come to call “remaindered meat”. It’s when the meat is on its last day of “Use By” and the store has to sell it or dumpster it. Since half a (meat)loaf is better than none, they mark it down to either 30% or 50% off to try and blow it out the door. I’ve mentioned this before here , here, and here.

You have to remember, these little sales are, for the most part, completely unpredictable. I could go a week or two without finding something worth buying or I may wind up picking up forty pounds of meat in one week. It’s unpredictable. As a result, when the end of the month rolls around the freezer in my refrigerator might be more than a little full.

A few months back I instituted a policy where all the remaindered meat I pick up goes into the freezer in the refrigerator. At the end of the month, whatever meat is left in the freezer, half of it goes into the big freezer as ‘food insurance’. I’m finding that this little program is working very well for me. When the new month starts I usually have a huge amount of meat still left in the freezer, and my ‘just in case’ supply in the deep freezer keeps improving. As the month progresses, a few more remaindered meat sales wind up in the fridge freezer and at the end of the month half of whats left gets put back.

Today’s score? Bacon wrapped seasoned boneless pork chops, two per tray, in oven-safe foil trays….just remove the plastic and slide ’em into the oven…$5 each marked down 50%, so $2.50. Bought ’em all.

20170821_104729The nice thing is that since it’s all ‘remaindered’ meat, I’m not paying full price for anything. Even if there are no interesting sales for a week or two, there’s still at least that much worth of ‘remaindered’ meat in fridge freezer. As a result, I never have to pay $4.99/# for beef. This frees up money for other stuff, which is part of what survivalism is all about: efficient resource management. I know what you’re thinking “There’s nothing survival related about this! This is a post more fit for a mommy blog about coupon clipping!” No, not really. My point is that you have to eat. Now, you can eat as cheaply as possible by living on a diet of, literally, beans and rice which is exactly what many Third World denizens do. But you are not a Third Worlder. We are meat-eating, gun-toting, flag-waving, moon-landing, Japan-nuking, culture-dominating citizens of the premier First World country. Why live like a Third Worlder if you don’t have to? If you can procure $500 a month worth of food for $250, that frees up $250 to spend on ammo, gear, guns, books, radios, fuel, storage food, knives, gold, silver, etc. And that is most definitely survival-related.

Prices

After a little bit of a spike, silver has dropped back into the low $16 range. While I think the odds of things ever hitting the stage of bartering for your life with a couple Silver Eagles is pretty slim, I still like having a little box full of tubes of them on hand. It’s some sort of primitive lizard-brain thing, but I just like the feeling of having them even if, from a pencil-and-calculator standpoint, it doesn’t make sense.

Speaking of prices going down, it’s been a long time since I saw gasoline for less than $2. I’m no economic expert but, to my uneducated eye, it appears this is a simple price manipulation by the oil producing nations to make domestic oil production economically unfeasible. If they make oil cheap enough, folks will just by it from them rather than dig up North Dakota and Canada. Simple business economics….undercut the other guy. An unfortunate side effect is that all those guys that were making bank out there in NoDak are now fearing for their jobs. A good reason to always tuck a little something aside when youre doing well…you never know how and when the fat times are gonna come to a screeching halt.

One thing prices have not been going down on is food. Meats are pretty high these days. Even buying in bulk it can add up quickly. We’re buying half a beef from a somewhat-local ranch next month and thats been, in our experience, the way to go. It’s the same price per pound regardless of cut…ground beef or t-bone…its all the same. It’s been a good way for us to buy meat but, obviously, you have to have the freezer space to pull it off. My experience, which you can read about if you search through the blog, has been that you can stuff a properly packaged piece of meat into a deep freeze and have it be just fine five years later.

On paper, its tough being a survivalist…you sink a lot of money into things that, arguably, you might never need. I’ve seen guys die with thousands of dollars tied up in things they owned ‘just in case’. The outside observer might think its a waste of money or ‘misallocation of resources’ but there’s a non-tangible benefit. It’s very much the same benefit you achieve from that other ‘waste of money’ – insurance. It buys me peace of mind and a general feeling of security which, in my opinion, does have a financial value. Still, it’s a hard thing, sometimes, to spend money on ‘just in case’ stuff when what you really want is a WarCraft subscription or a new iPad.

Of course, once the zombies rise it’ll be a whole different story and that money will look like a brilliant allocation.

Article – Lawmaker asks to be paid in gold

Originally published at Notes From The Bunker. You can comment here or there.

And in local news……

A Montana state lawmaker is asking that he be paid in gold coins because of his lack of faith in the U.S. dollar amid a rising deficit.

Jerry O’Neil, a Republican just reelected in his northern Montana district, says his constituents told him he was not honoring his duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution, which O’Neil and Gold Standard supporters say requires the government to print money backed by gold

Well, if nothing else, at least it’s an indication that he may have actually read the Constitution which put’s him a few steps ahead of some other folks.

 

Spot the OPSEC fail

Originally published at Notes From The Bunker. You can comment here or there.

Sold a pistol to a fella today. He counted out a buncha ten dollar bills to pay for it. Take a look at this picture and tell me where (or if) you see an OPSEC fail:

Notice anything, oh, I dunno….unusual….about this pile of currency? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

The obvious answer is that the gentleman apparently paid for his new acquisition using ‘old style’ currency. One or two bills wouldn’t have been suspicious but the entire stack was all old currency. This, of course, would make any reasonable person raise an eyebrow and wonder “Did he have all this stuffed into a mattress somewhere?”. This is an excellent example of something simple that draws attention you really don’t need.

Sure, we all stockpile a certain amount of cash to keep on hand. And, once that’s done, it’s entirely possible that as the years go by the currency will change and you’ll be sitting on a safe full of money that, while still accepted and honored, is going to raise some questions from certain corners. Banks already are told to consider cash deposits or transactions involving large amounts of old,dirty or soiled bills as suspicious. I wish I could find it, but a year or two back there was a news article about a fella who would, periodically, go to his local banks and exchange old money that was sometimes dirty, musty or smelled funny, for new currency. The fact that he was doing this fairly often and in large amounts raised suspicions and the cops were called in to investigate. Maybe he found the skeletal remains of a drug courier in the desert..or maybe his grandmother kept all her cash in the basement since her bad experiences in the First Great Depression…regardless, although no apparent crime had been committed, handing over large amounts of old-style money tripped some flags.

On a more local level, paying a bill with several hundred dollars worth of old currency is going to do nothing but make someone ask “Hey, cool! Where’d you get all the old money?” And that’s really attention that you don’t need…especially when buying guns and ammo. Not only that, the blatantly obvious assumption someone might make is “This guy is hoarding cash at home somewhere” and the next thing you know you come home to a kicked in door and ripped up floorboards. So..if you’ve got a stockpile of cash it might be a good idea to ‘keep it current’ in terms of what the current currency is. Now, having said that, I will admit that I’m going to keep some of these bills just for nostalgia’s sake…but if I ever use them to pay for something I’m not going to use them exclusively.

A month of living on a zero-based budget – Pt II

Originally published at Notes From The Bunker. You can comment here or there.

So this is kind of interesting and something of a surprise to me. As you know, I’ve been using Google Analytics since July to keep track of blog stats. Usually I’m just curious about the basics…how many visitors, what countries, that sort of thing. But, you can get much more in depth if you want to…one of the things I was curious about was what were the pages/posts that got the most viewing. This actually surprised me. The post that was read most, of everything on the website, was this post: A month of living on a zero-based budget. This post was the #1 viewed post for August. In fact it was read over twice as much as the next most popular post. Musta struck a chord with folks. So, let’s do a followup.

When we last left our intrepid heroes, they had spent a month living on a zero-based budget. Every purchase for the month, when added up, had to equal total income for month..not more, not less. In short, every dollar was spoken for. Succinctly…”x” dollars came inot the household, and “x” dollars went out. So, first month had a few hiccups but worked out well. How did the second month go?

Well, the second month worked out better than the first. In fact, because such a large amount of money was able to be put away into savings right off the top (“Pay yourself first”) we were able to pick up a few expensive things in August that normally cause folks grief when it comes time to purchase them. Like what? Well, new tires for the truck, for example. Budgeted for it, shopped around, bought ‘em. No muss, no fuss, and no “Dammit, now I gotta eat dog food and popcorn till the end of the month”.

Another tremendous boon was that we were in a position to take advantage of some things. For example, a coworker of my wife’s was unable to pick up a quarter of beef she had arranged to buy. Would we be interested in getting it? Hmmm…well, we were planning on buying a big buncha beef anyway and, more importantly, we had the resources available to say ‘sure!’. When we went to pick it up, cash in hand, it turned out to be a half, not a quarter, of a beef. Double the beef, double the money. Fortunately, we had the resources to say “Well, we may as well get it and cross beef off the shopping list for the next six months”. And that’s what we did. We had the money in savings to take advantage of the opportunity. So we got a whole bunch quality locally-grown beef at a good price in a tremendous quantity. And we’d have been unable to do that if we hadn’t been tracking our spending and (somewhat) rigidly sticking to the budget.

The other nice thing is that by sticking to our budget, we’re making tremendous progress in having an emergency fund put together of several months expenses. I’m the first to admit that there are going to be times when cash is worthless, but until that point comes…the plumber still wants greenbacks and most auto mechanics don’t take Silver Eagles. (Yes, yes..I know your guy takes them but I’m talking about in general.)

Dave Ramsey says that if you make a budget, and stick to it, you’ll feel like you got a raise. This is absolutely true. A big part of that is because you’re thinking about money in a way that you may not be used to thinking of it – as a resource to be used carefully and strategically, making the most of it. And, indeed, when we have all the groceries for the month purchased, money allocated into savings, and all of that taken care of…we can look at the budget and say “Hey, you know we still have ‘x’ dollars in the entertainment budget. Wanna get a pizza and a movie?”

To tie this into preparedness, one of the nice things about this way of doing things is that it’s allowing a more consistent approach to preparing. Food is a good example. Right now, we’re tracking every item purchased for our grocery budget. We spent ‘x’ on groceries last month and I can pull up a spreadsheet showing every item that was purchased, where from, and how much. After a couple months it becomes easy to see that some items are purchased inthe same (or similar) quantity every month. Like, right now it’s a given we’re gonna go through a couple cases of coke, about 10# of chicken, Italian sausage, etc, etc. So these things become staples and are automatically added to the grocery list every month. (By the way, for groceries we use Grocery IQ on our iPhones. It updates live, so if I’m at WalMart and she’s at CostCo and one of us gets, say, four cans of soup off the grocery list it immediately updates that list on both our phones so the other person doesn’t wind up buying the same thing. It also keeps price information so we can compare prices from previous trips and other locations…which makes shopping around much easier.) Since we’re tracking the groceries so closely, and keeping track of where the best prices are, we’re able to meet our monthly need for groceries and buy extra to sock away.

So, there you go…month #2 of living on the zero based budget. No sense of deprivation, no annoying moments of self-denial…I hate to use the word ‘empowering’ but there it is. When we shop we feel very in control of what we’re doing because we know exactly what sort of conditions we’re going to operate under – we’ll spend this amount and no more. And we’re confident enough in what we’re doing that delaying a purchase until the following month (or later) in order to make it fit within the budget doesn’t seem like a hardship.

So, all in all…so far so good. If you think you’ve got the self-discipline for this sort of thing, I highly recommend it.

Note: the original post has more links to related materials if youre interested.

 

Why it pays to compare prices

Originally published at Notes From The Bunker. You can comment here or there.

The local K-mart is going out of business. For the last couple weeks everything has been marked down further and further. I’ve been stopping by once a week to see if theres anything I need that has got a ‘must buy’ price. So, I go in there today and trot over to the first aid aisle. Can never have too much gauze, Neosporin, band aids and rolled gauze. I’m something of a snob, so I priced out the Johnson and Johnson stuff. Everything was 20% off the lowest marked price…okay, thats a fair discount but nothing to jump up and down about. I noted down the prices and figured I’d check and see what the other places in town were getting…so I could see if I was getting 20% off of an already good price or if I was getting 20% off of an overly expensive price. Headed over to Walgreen’s to compare prices and found that with the 20% discount from K-Mart the prices were pretty good….except that, as it turns out, this week Walgreens has buy-one-get-one-free on J&J first aid stuff….which essentially comes out to a 50% discount. So, even with the original price at Walgreens being slightly higher than K-Mart’s base price, it still comes out to a better deal going with the BOGO instead of K-Marts 20% off lowest price.

Which means that if I had given into my impulses and bought the stuff at K-Mart rather than check prices elsewhere, I’d’ve gotten less value for my scarce greenbacks.

Moral of the story: shop around, it pays.

Now….off to an ATM, and then to Walgreens to stock my lovely Hardigg Medical Chest.

A month of living on a zero-based budget

Originally published at Notes From The Bunker. You can comment here or there.

Note: A followup to this post can be found here: A Month Of Living On A Zero-Based Budget – Pt. II

If you really think about it, preparedness comes down to several key functions. One of those functions is resource management. What is resource management? Resource management is making the most efficient use of the resources available to you while conserving, preserving, managing, maintaining and monitoring those resources for future usage. Or, to cut it down into a one-word definition that doesnt quite fit, resource management is largely about budgeting.

We know that after a major crisis the most valuable resources we have are the things we need for our survival, safety , and continued comfort, right? We want food, water, shelter, light, heat, medical attention, security, communications, and that sort of thing. Once the crisis starts our opportunity to acquire those things through ‘conventional means’ (like driving down to CostCo) is usually limited or completely unavailable. Thus, after a crisis, what you have at that moment is one of your most valuable resources. (Not the most valuable resource, but one of them.) Managing those resources becomes one of your key preparedness skills and objectives….after all, you can’t just crack open all your MRE’s and have a party for the neighborhood and expect to have something to eat the next day. You have to manage, or ‘husband‘ as they used to say, your resources so you always have options.

What is your most valuable resource before a crisis? Well, this is just an opinion, but it seems to me that your most valuable resource before a crisis is whatever enables you to get all the resources you’ll need for after the crisis. Currently, in our fairly moderately-civilized clime, the most valuable resource at the moment is money. Money is, if you think about it, an amazing multitiool of concentrated energy. Trouble is, most folks seem to handle their money poorly…and the missus and I were pretty much in that group. Oh, the bills got paid, we had our enjoyments, and we were never hungry…but we weren’t getting as much put away for a rainy day or for goals in the future. So, for the month of July, we decided to live on a zero-based budget. A zero-based budget means that you know you’re going to earn ‘x’ amount of dollars that month, so you write up a budget that spends every dollar of that amount. When you subtract how much you spent from how much you made, the answer should be zero. If your answer is a positive number, that means you didn’t plan propely where all your money should go, a negative number means you overspent.

Lemme give you a very stripped down example. Lets say you bring in $2000 in a month. Once you subtract everything you plan on doing with that money, you should have $0 left. You might think “$500 for rent, $100 saving, $100 auto expenses, $300 groceries, $100 entertainment….”, etc, etc, until you’re down to zero. Thats a zero-based budget. If you wind up needing more money for auto expenses you have to pull it from somewhere else…like groceries or entertainment. If you need an extra $25 for gas that month you’re gonna have to live with $25 less entertainment or something….but all the numbers need to add up to zero.

So, we decided to give it a shot and see how it would work out. We knew that there was a good bit of impulse buying in our behaviors and that sort of thing. We wrote up a budget, made a stack of envelopes with each one labelled with its purpose (‘groceries’,’fuel’,’dog expense’,’dining out’,’entertainment’, etc, etc, etc.) and put the cash into the envelope that was allocated to that function. Going to go put gas in the truck? Take $20 from the ‘fuel’ envelope and put gas in truck. Ordering pizza? Take $10 from the ‘dining out’ envelope and go get the pizza. What if we burned through the ‘dining out’ envelope and still want a pizza? Well, you can take $10 from a different envelope but that means you have to deal with $10 less in that envelope’s subject…maybe pull $10 from ‘groceries’, and now we have $10 less for groceries that month. So you have a definite interest in staying on your budget as well as creating a realistic one. Savings came off the top…in this case 25% went right into savings via direct deposit…so it was easy to pretend it wasnt even there. The remaining 75% gets budgeted to take care of us for the month of July. (And, yes, you could simply use a debit card and keep track of things rather than having cash segregated into envelopes but there’s a very emotional component of spending cash that just isn’t there when using plastic…fishing $20 out of your pocket and watching it disappear makes you much more careful about how you spend it than a piece of plastic does…thats why they give you chips to play with in Vegas rather than cash.)

What did that mean for average day-to-day living? Well, it required a bit of impulse control. There was about $10/day budgeted for ‘spending money’, but you couldnt spend more than that without repercussions. Want to buy a pair of $295 boots? Go ahead, but then you have only five bucks pocket money until the end of the month…so weigh your choices. Grocery shopping meant actually doing some math and comparing prices, which is something I’ve always done but was something the missus never really showed too much interest in. And, yeah, there was a little grumbling about ‘why shouldn’t I be able to just drop $100 on [item] if I want’? But, having stuck with the budget for a solid month, we have more money in the bank at the end of the month than if we had not. And we have a better idea of how much we spend and on what. Previously, like many folks, money got spent like this: pay the bills, buy groceries, whatever is left is free to spend. Sadly, that’s not a really good plan.

Several of you reading this are going to say “Hey, this sounds really familiar” and it should, it is pretty much exactly what Dave Ramsey promotes on his radio show. I’m not a Kool-Aid drinker by any stretch, and I disagree with him on a couple things, but the zero-based budget part and the ‘baby steps‘ are probably the two things about this guy’s money-handling philosophy that I can wholeheartedly endorse. I can endorse it because, for us, it works. We have no debt except the mortgage, we have an amount of money on hand for emergencies, and by following a budget (which really isn’t confining or restrictive if you plan it right and keep your eyes on the big picture) we’ll have a much larger emergency fund (six months of expenses) socked away so that if, Crom forbid, something ugly happens we’re in a position to ride it out. Example: our water heater went Tango Uniform a couple years ago. Not cheap to replace. But, since we had a bunch of cash set aside for emergencies we just went ahead and had the new one put in immediately…with no hiccup to our day-to-day finances. That emergency fund was then replenished from monies that would have been directed into savings over the next few months. No crisis.

Now at this point I’m sure a couple folks are trying to see how this ties into the general theme around here of preparedness. Let’s say the monhtly income around here is ‘x’, and once savings are taken into account there is 3/4 of x to use for a budget.Preparedness becomes part of the budget. There can be an envelope somewhere marked ‘storage food’ or ‘preparedness’ and you can budget whatever amount you want for it (as long as your overall budget still zeroes out). So, maybe instead of dropping $500 into savings every month, $200 into dining out, $100 into entertainment and $100 into a vacation fund you decrease each one of those by, say, $20….and you now have a new budget item of ‘preparedness’ and $80 to spend every month on it (or carry that $80 to the next month to buy bigger-ticket items) and your budget still comes out to zero.

One of the biggest reasons people give for not preparing is that they say it’s expensive or they just don’t have the money. By budgeting, and sticking to that budget, it’s amazing how much money you find that you actually have. If you dont think so, try this experiment..think about how much money you made last month, now try to think where it all went. At some point you’ll come up with a number short of the amount you made and figure “I have no idea where the rest of it went”…see, thats how you wind up not having enough resources to do the things you want.

One big facet of preparedness is resource management. For us, money is another item or resource to have in place against that upcoming Rainy Day….right up there with the cases of Mountain House, South African ball, jerry cans of fuel, and MagLites. The best way that we’ve found, for us, to husband this resource is through the method above. Might work for you, might not. But even if it doesn’t, that doesnt mean it isnt a good idea…it just means you might need a different method.

I’m already 50% past my usual self-imposed limit of 1000 words but I should mention that this months experiment in budgeting would have been completely impossible without the amazing self-discipline of the lovely missus who really threw herself into this experiment. I was curious about her opinions about this months experiment….she said that while there were moments where she didn’t like feeling she couldn’t spend money on something, she did like the fact that at the end of the month we had more money in the bank than in the months where we didn’t budget. And she’s a smart enough gal to have an eye on the big picture…a little dissatisfaction in the short term from having to deny yourself something is worth the payoff of later on being able to do things you really want to do. And, of course, she likes the security of having a wad of cash available in case theres an emergency.

So there you go…one month on a zero-based budget. We both think it was a successful experiment and this months budget will get a little tweaking here and there but otherwise, we think it was a great success.

Strongly suggested reading: The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness. This is the book that lists out everything mentioned above, provides worksheets and templates for budgeting, and is just generally an excellent motivator. Be warned there are some religious themes in there, but they can be ignored without detracting from the contents.

Admin – Blegging

Originally published at Notes From The Bunker. You can comment here or there.

Well, it’s been about 2 1/2 years since I last made a post about operating expenses. At that time folks were generous and ponied up enough to keep the lights on for a couple years.

Well, it’s that time again…time to pass the helmet around and give the speech about how it’s all voluntary, give what you can, every little bit helps, yadda, yadda, yadda.

If you can’t or don’t wanna throw in a buck or two, I’m not going to give you the slightest bit of grief about it. It’s a tough economy, and I’m not exactly Woodward and Bernstein over here. But, if you’ve got a few bucks laying around and you get a good chuckle from time to time, or even some useful information (hey, it happens!), I’d be grateful for whatever you can do. It all really does go to paying for hosting and domain registration and that sort of thing. There’s a ‘Donate’ button at the top of the right sidebar or you can use this one:




 

From an admin standpoint, here’s some points of interest:

This blog has been running for over nine years, which puts it a little over two years older than ,Rawles’ Survivlablog, and makes it one of the oldest preparedness blogs still active. There’s about 1360 posts which averages out to about one post every 2.5 days. There are almost 5900 comments which comes out to an average of each post generating about 4.3 comments. Approximately 50% (+/- 5%) of all visits are return visits…meaning half of you reading this have been here before. Metrics are a bit fuzzy, but on average it’s about a thousand hits a day…unless ,Rawles or Tam links to me, in which case those numbers usually double or triple.

On a personal note, as long as I’m standing here with my hat in my hand, my birthday is coming up August 7th and my wish list can be found here.