Saturday, April 26, 2014

Second Bountiful Basket Assessment

So, I tried the conventional basket on April 19 from Bountiful Baskets.

Below is the breakdown and my evaluation.


Here's how the cost breaks down:

Basic Basket: 15$

Fuel Surcharge: 4$

TOTAL: $19

Here's what I got for that 19$. I haven't been to a store to compare prices. I know half of the selections aren't available at my local store and I just haven't needed a grocery store so haven't been to one. We'll just work with the average cost for now and the latest grocery store flyer.

Scotch Kale 1lb 2oz

7 Large Bananas (VERY green) 3lb 1oz

1 Small Seedless Watermelon 3lb 5oz

3 Roma Tomatoes 12oz

3 d'Anjou Pears 1lb 6oz

6 Seckel Pears (tiny) 1lb 4oz

3 Ambrosia Apples 1lb 8oz

2 cucumbers 1lb 12oz

Rainbow Carrots, no tops 1lb 13oz

2 Lemons, large 1lb 2 oz

1 Spaghetti Squash 4lb 5oz

4 Ears Sweet Corn 3lb 1oz

Total weight: 24lb 7oz

My cost per pound: $ 0.78

That's an excellent average cost especially given the treats like early season sweet corn, excellent apples, and rainbow carrots.

The quality of the corn, apples, carrots and lemons has been excellent. The kale is also very very good, and it is storing well in a plastic bag in the fridge. I ate the sweet corn immediately. It doesn't store that well, and it's delicious fresh so that went first. The apples went pretty quickly since they were at their peak upon arrival. The cucumbers were put in some refrigerator pickle-juice (left over from a previous batch of refrigerator pickles) and I still have a pint jar waiting to be eaten. 1 lemon went into my first attempt at a lemon meringue pie (the result was a visual and textural disaster, but delicious).

Of course I ate the watermelon pretty quickly as well. I diced it up right away and was happy that the skin was so thin, since that means more of the poundage is actual immediate food. I ate some and put the rest in jars for breakfasts and lunches.

I haven't eaten the tomatoes yet. They will go into a mixed veg sauce thing over the spaghetti squash today. So, I also haven't tried the squash. The pears I have eaten, the d'Anjou and half of the seckels, have been disappointing. Virtually flavorless. I sliced a seckel up and cooked it in a bit of butter as the base of a pancake for breakfast and that was better, but anything fried in butter is better.

The bananas are just now getting ripe. That is nice to continue to have something fresh a week after getting it in the house. They will be going into bread or perhaps some into dried banana chips since I loathe bananas in their original form. I'll try to get them all processed or in the freezer today.

I still have one bunch of kale to eat. Some of that will go in the mix over the squash.

So, overall, based on the sale flyers from the local small town grocery store here in Plummer, I think I could have matched or done better per pound if I bought the lower cost vegies in the store, but NOT if I matched item for item from the basket. I did truly enjoy the excellent sweet corn and apples. The pears have been a disappointment. The lemons would have been costly so I would not have gotten any.

Was it frugal? I think so. If I stuck with this I would be getting enough fruit and veg for 2 weeks at a time, with only one trip to get them. No multiple trips to the store with the tendency to impulse buy. And the treats of items I would not have bought are appreciated and enjoyed.

Was it the most frugal? No. Ripe bananas at the local market end up in the "overripe" basket for $ 0.25/lb and are just fine for bread/muffins which is all I do with them. I can get cabbage for $ 0.49/lb right now and several fruit items for under $1/lb. If I based the diet on potatoes ($ 0.20/lb), cabbage, ripe bananas and the other low cost fruit and veg, I could come in at a lower price, but I would not have the variety and deliciousness, yet I'd still be healthy.

And, it wasn't organic. I normally wouldn't buy some of these items unless they were organic. I follow the "Clean 15" and "Dirty Dozen" guides from the __________________. The item in this basket on the most current "Clean 15" list, and hence I would buy if the price was right: Sweet Corn. The "Dirty Dozen" list includes Apples, Cucumber, and Kale. The other items are on neither're on your own with those choices.

None of the fruit or veg in the basket was labeled "organic." A few had those 4-digit codes that began with the number "4" and I've heard that that could mean they are organic, but wouldn't the sticker say "organic" if it was? I'll try to look into that. If it turns out some items were organic, that would increase the value of the basket to me.

Compared to the organic basket: I paid $10 less (ignoring the first time basket fee which will never be charged again), and got 7lb 15oz more food. That's a lot of food. Most of it very good quality (just those pesky disappointing pears marring the impression).

With both baskets I've found that my food waste approaches zero. This adds to the frugality and general value of the baskets. When I'm buying at the store, I tend to end up with some going bad. The variety of items in type, and "treat" value, and ripeness tends to naturally spread consumption out and I have had the whole basket at once, come home and sorted and packaged for storage or processed/ate immediately so I had a picture and inventory of the lot in my head from the start. Each time I think about what to make for the day, I am automatically working in what I have on hand and what I can do with it. This is parallel to the system that I've been using with my monthly boxes of canned goods and in fact I've been working the canned goods into the bountiful basket system too. I've rehydrated tomatoes to have with the kale and other vegies in a lentil soup. I've kept the canned applesauce back until I ran out of fresh fruit from the previous basket, and now will work in some dried apples as I run out of fresh apples/pears from this basket. The dried onion is going in to today's veggie mix over the squash.

That element is very frugal and probably generally healthy. It makes me think I may get one basket a month, perhaps organic or try a few more of each over the coming year. I may also try some of the add-on options that look thrifty or perhaps I could split them with people. For example on the 19th, there was an "Easter" add-on that had cookies, veggies for naturally dying eggs, and some other fancy items. I would not need that. BUT the box of mangoes for under $1/lb was very tempting. The issue was that I can't personally get through 15 or 20lbs of mangoes before they go off. I have a freezer right now so I could have stored them, but I don't need them. If I had 4 people to split it with, then maybe. The half gallon of coconut oil was a great deal. I just didn't need any right now. There are always bread options, but I don't eat enough and would rather make my own or buy from a local baker for the little I do eat. For a family that ate a great deal of bread, it might be a deal. There are often additional baskets like a Mexican option or Italian style option that come with a variety of veggies for making foods from those regions. To get an add-on, or a bread, you have to get a basic conventional or organic then I've got enough veggies. Again, if I could split the haul with someone it would be fine, but just for me, not so much.

I guess the conclusion of the moment is that I will maintain my membership and order as I need and care to. I think it is "worth it" to me even if it isn't the most frugal option for every item.








Thursday, April 24, 2014

An Interesting Read: Travels With Epicurus by Daniel Klein

I don't write about books much because I mostly read "how to" type books or re-listen to my David Sedaris audio books.

But this one, Travels with Epicurus, I'm liking.  It makes me think.  I like to think.  And of course thinking is free and hence frugal.

I've got one or two more chapters to read but it's been a good book so far and I'm going to have to read it again.  A bit like Bergman need to look at it a couple of times to get it all sorted out. 

It's a philosopher's look at old age, as opposed to old old age.   Old old age is the bit where you are incontinent and unable to figure out what's going on in general and generally quite ill.  The not fun bit that modern medicine spends buckets of money and effort and research extending.  Old age is the bit where you slow down and think things through and talk about the past and possibly grouse about how the younger generation is screwing everything up.  It's where you think through your life and have some insights.  To me that's a fun bit.  No more chasing the dragon of success and status if you embrace this phase.

Klein looks at this in light of the current American, and other nations', obsession with being forever young.  Always going for a new adventure.   Fine if you want to do that, but you can have a valid and authentic old age without that.  By settling in and reflecting and talking.  

He refers to Sartre (a favorite of mine) quite a bit as well as Epicurus.  Turns out modern pop-philosophy has Epicureanism all wrong.   That's not a surprise.  Epicurus WAS all about enjoying food and the "good" life, but not fancy food and expensive hedonistic pleasures.  He liked a nice pot of boiled lentils and diverse dinner company...say philosophers, fishermen, and whores all together.  He thought that if you could pursue joy or happiness in a thoughtful way, that would result in the good life.  That doesn't mean constant immediate gratification and excitement, it means thinking through the long term joy something will bring you.   That is in line with simplicity and frugality for me.  Enjoying a cheap pot of boiled lentils will be good in the long term.  Spending hundreds I (or you) don't have on expensive food and wine (if you do have the money then skip this bit) and ending up having to stress about debt and paying for the next meal, that isn't good in the long term.  Obviously this applied to more than food but currently we think of Epicurus pretty much only through the food angle, and we get it wrong.

He seems a bit more moderate than my other current favorite Greek thinker, Diogenes who also mentioned lentils.  Diogenes was pretty extreme and reported lived like a dog.  Not like a lap dog, like a stray.  Epicurus however lived off the kindness of others who enjoyed dining with him and gave him the $$ to keep that pot of lentils going.  In return, Epicurus invited anyone and everyone to come in and share a meal at any time.  At least according to this book.  As such, he enjoyed his old age in conversation with interesting people and with plenty of good food.   That's not so bad.

The book goes from there to when to cut off "life."  When does the "good" life, quality of life, come to an end?  When should we call it a day?  That's something I've talked to Gramma about.  The book brings up the dilemma of how to time do you know when to end it when there isn't much good left, but before you're too far gone mentally to know that you should have ended it a little while ago?

Of course this led me to think about movies that deal with old age in an informed and interesting manner.

We'll take the entire Bergman oeuvre as a given and just move on.
Bergman aside:

My two current favorites:

Harold and Maude.  Maude has decided on the time she feels it's right.  She's given up her big adventures and enjoyed a fun and calmer old age.

The Straight Story.  An old man decides to visit his estranged brother before it's too late and bury old conflicts.

In no particular order:

Strangers in Good Company
The Window (La Ventana)
Tokyo Story (or anything by Ozu)
The Beaches of Agnes
Grey Gardens
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
Kitchen Stories
Mid-August Lunch

I'm not in the mood to review all of these so just trust me.   They aren't the "Cocoon" type crap where old people are suddenly young and therefore happy.  They are actual old people enjoying, and sometimes not enjoying, their old age before it's too late to function.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

First Bountiful Basket Assessment

Bountiful Baskets. Is It Frugal?

So, as mentioned, I got a "Bountiful Basket" on Saturday April 5, 2014 . I'm VERY happy with the quality.

Here's how the cost breaks down:

Basic Basket: 15$

Organic Upgrade: 10$

Fuel Surcharge: 4$

First Basket Fee: 3$

TOTAL: $32

Future baskets will cost me 29$ for an organic basic basket or 19$ for a conventional basic basket.

I chose organic because as you know, organic is a priority for me. I may try the conventional basket as one person noted that when she got one it was about half organic anyway. I would like to get one just to compare.

So, here's what I got and how much and how much it would have cost at the Moscow Food


Co-op Price Cost for quanitity

Broccoli 2lb 8oz 3.29/lbs 8.23

Red Kale 7oz 2.69/bunch 2.69 (same size bunch)

1 Honeydew Melon 2lb No melon available

4 Bartlett Pears 1lb 8oz 2.79/lb 4.18

1 Turnip 10oz 2.19/lb 1.36

2 Grapefruits 1lb 8oz 1.39/lb 2.09

2 Cucumbers 1lb 1.39/lb 1.39

1 Bunch Celery 2lb 1.29/lb 2.58

1 Bunch Asparagus 14oz 4.99/lb 4.37

7 Carrots with Tops 1lb 3oz 1.99/lb 2.36

6 Bananas (1 Bunch) 1lb 14oz 0.99/lb 1.86

Strawberries 2lbs 3.99/lb 7.98

Co-op Total: 39.09 (but no melon)

Total weight: 16lbs 8oz

So my cost per pound: $1.94 Co-op Cost per Pound: $2.69

That's not bad for organic. Also not bad...but the melon would

crank that up maybe 8$ on the total.

With 8$ melon: 47.09/16.5 = $2.90/lb

If the melon is included, the Bountiful Basket was nearly 30% savings.

If the Bountiful Basket didn't include the $3 first basket fee: 29/16.5 = $1.76/lb

I also hear that the conventional basket is quite a bit more food than the organic so probably quite a good deal.

A few critiques:

While the Bountiful Basket was a 30% savings over buying those fruit and veg at the Moscow Food Co-op (where I shop), I would not have gotten the big ticket items like strawberries, pears, melon, asparagus. I would not have gotten the carrots with tops for $1.99/lb, I would have gotten the 5lb bad for $4.99 (dollar a pound...baseline for a pretty good deal on most things). I would have gotten valencia oranges (which I did in fact get despite having so much fruit and veg at the house. They were on sale for $0.99/lb. Also would not have gotten kale. Just too expensive. I probably could have come in for $1.20 or $1.30/lb

One last issue: I drove 10 miles each way to get the basket. The site is 35 miles from the trailer. I was already going to the land so I am only including the trip from the land. While the co-op is 50 miles from the house (25 from the land), I had a radio show on Sunday so would be at the co-op anyway.

The cost of gas is a factor to consider as well.

I don't know that I'll be getting Bountiful Baskets all that often. While it is a good deal for what it is, I can eat more frugally with careful shopping. Since the co-op is walking distance from the radio station, it's easy to get there and I can go on a day when I'm already driving to the radio. I'll be making those trips anyway.

On the other hand, it may be worth it next winter. If I'm in a wee cabin and don't have storage space to do my fall stock up, one week's worth of fruit/veg at a time will be a better way to go. Perhaps on the weeks I don't have radio show.

I really did enjoy the treats of strawberries and asparagus. And I definitely ate much more fruit and veg so far this week. I still have 1/2 the celery, all the bananas (they were underripe), 1/2 the melon, some left over stirfry with some of the other veg, and the turnip. I plan to fix the turnip tomorrow. The bananas are ripening...but I still hate bananas so I'll need to make muffins or bread or something.

The upshot: Really impressed with how much high quality and high value food the Bountiful Baskets folks, it's all volunteer, were able to round up and distribute at that cost. If I lived in the town where the baskets show up (boxes really...) it could be a great convenience as I could walk to get it. The town I picked up in does have a local grocery store, but not one with a great deal of organic fruit and veg. If I were planning on being in Plummer even longer, it might intrigue me to be part of a group to get a delivery here.

In the summer I'll have a conflict between Bountiful Baskets, the farmers market in Moscow, and my CSA. I prefer local so one of the last 2 will win. it frugal?

Well, that depends. But it's one excellent option.

Will report later on the conventional basket when I get one.

As if today, April 19, I've gone through every thing from the basket EXCEPT a bit of the celery.  The bananas were tough to go through since I loath them in all forms other than banana bread/muffins.  I made 2 sets of banana muffins and gave most of it away.  I didn't waste much of anything but hulls and the occasional skin, which went into compost.  I didn't let anything go bad.

Now I'm going to try a conventional (not organic) basket and see what the value is and if it's part organic as reported on one discussion board.






Monday, April 7, 2014

How to Save Time and Money in the Morning!

Ugh.   I keep reading (WHY do I go to those stupid "news" aggregating websites in the first place) stupid "how to save ____ " "news items" (hah...not new, not news...whatever).   Maybe just to feel superior?  Habit?  Because I like being irritated?  Who knows.

Anyway.  One "headline" today, and probably for the last several since these asinine sites like to recycle their "news" quite a bit by just refreshing the headline or photo, was "How to Save Time in the Morning."

Basically you should be organized with your hair and makeup routine.
Um...I save EVEN more time and a bucket of money by NOT wearing makeup in the first place.   I have a zero cost makeup system.  I just live with the face I have.   Moisturizer is coconut oil (like from the food aisle) or shea butter bought in bulk.  Just shea butter.  Not shea butter or coconut oil based lotions an potions.  Simply the actual article.  Annual cost:  about 20$.   Time savings:  who knows.  I don't even know how long people spend putting on makeup.   How much money do they spend?  I truly have no idea.

Being "organized" with the wardrobe will also "save time" in the morning.  So will not really giving a crap and buying clothes that all go together.  I have a range of colors for shirts and the shells I wear under them, and I wear jeans or other sturdy work pants, in blue, brown or black every day.  My wardrobe isn't going to win any awards for fashion, but no one seems to complain.  There are no two items I can put together in my wardrobe that will make anyone flinch (well...maybe that one lavender shell shouldn't go with the orange cowboy shirt but they never meet in the wild since the shell is for work and the shirt is for gardening).   I save time by wearing whatever is first.  Right now there are about 5 button down shirts in rotation that were worn once last week with an undershirt so they can be worn again this week with a clean undershirt.  I guess I also save time and money by working in a place and job where no one gives a crap beyond "is she clean, professional looking and able to do her job in those clothes?).   (I think I had punctuation build up at the end of that last sentence...Angela will let me know if I've messed it up.)   Obviously the clothes are from thrift stores so double cheap (and often bought when they are on sale at thrift so triple cheap.)  The shoes are bought new, on sale, and the socks are generally gifts (much appreciated gifts!).

I recently read that I could save money on shampoo by diluting it. I can't. I don't use shampoo.  That's right.  Still no-pooing the hair and still happy with it.  Hair still clean and healthy and whatnot.  I've read that some people even give up washing their hair entirely, not even a rinse.   I'm not planning on going that route.  But more power to them.  They are saving my estimated 10$ in annual hair care costs.

One last time saver for the morning:  Take your shower the night before.  Since I've been doing more digging at the new place (slow slow slow digging) I'd sometimes needed a shower in the evening.  I decided to not double that with a shower in the morning if I wore clean jammies, slept in clean sheets, and didn't get all sweaty.  So far no complaints.  Granted, I work in a building with IT nerds so I doubt anyone would really care if I did stink but I'm pretty sure I don't .  I'll switch back to morning showers one of these days.

What do I do with all that time savings in the morning?
Well, I sleep.   Then I make a decent breakfast.  Take out the compost.  This morning I hung out some laundry (WOOHOO!  First laundry hung outside of 2014) and returned books to the library.  I guess all of those actually save me money in the long run.

OK, enough time spend feeling superior for a Monday.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Bountiful Baskets?

I've done it.  I'm trying a Bountiful Basket this week.  I signed up for 1 organic basket.  Supposedly you get like 40 dollars worth of fruit and veggies in a basic basket (which is not an actual basket...byo bags and etc) for 15$.  For a 10$ charge you upgrade to organic.   They try to source as close to the distribution point as possible, though that can be pretty far away for things like bananas.  With a first time basket fee (3$ for the container that goes to the distribution center) and the 4$ fuel surcharge for my area, my total was $32.00.   I may not make the magical $1/lb line, but we'll see.  I don't often make that anyway right now for things like organic onions.  

In other veggie/fruit news:  I got 2lbs of bananas at the local market for 49cents and 3 or 4 lbs of sweet peppers for $2.49...not bad.  Both under the $1/lb mark.  The bananas should be fine pesticide wise...the peppers not so much but I got them anyway.  I like to have a back stock of chopped peppers in the freezer if I can.   It makes for MUCH better pasta sauce and chili than no peppers or all dried peppers.  Same with onions but I'm out of all but dried and don't care to buy inorganic onions. 

I'll keep you posted on the Bountiful Basket take and see if it's worth it.