Every investment, even guaranteed ones, require priming the pump. Before you get paid by your employer you work; before you get paid a dividend or receive capital gains you must invest in the index fund first; before you get paid rent you need to buy the property and prepare it for tenants; before guaranteed government bonds pays you a penny in interest you must first buy the bond. You only get something out if you first put something in. This is true in every part of your life.
I grew up on a farm and after a few years living in town I moved back to the countryside where I feel happiest. Town still has a magical pull. Living in town means everything I need is close by. I can bike everywhere. The need for a car when living in town is minimal. If I lived in town I wouldn’t own a car. For long trips I would rent a vehicle. Uber, my bike and legs would handle 99% of my transportation needs.
Living on a small farm has advantages. The cost of living further from town is offset by the amount of free food, or nearly free food, I get. Raising my own meat (beef, chicken, fish and pork) means I know what is in it. Abundant garden produce means healthy living while the crops are in season. Asparagus in spring, radishes and other fast growing vegetables follow, and apples, apricots, cherries, peaches (yes, peaches in Wisconsin!) and grapes round out the abundant autumn harvest. There is so much good food and it is all free or nearly so. Too bad it doesn’t last all year round.
Mrs. Accountant is an energetic young lady. Preserving the blessings nature bestows upon us is a task she enjoys. She has mastered the art of canning every known foodstuff. Some things freeze better than others. Canning is best for things like string beans, pears, carrots, et cetera. Many vegetables freeze better than canning. Corn and peas come to mind. The whole household agrees pole beans and similar types of beans are best canned.
Living the way we do reduces our living costs to almost nothing. If I cashed in the business and did the “real” retirement thing my cost of living would drop to the mid-teens or lower. Property tax and insurance on the house would be the biggest expense we have. Even utilities would only run about $2,000 per year. As cold as Wisconsin gets in January, our geothermal heat pump has practically zero maintenance and keeps our utility costs about as low as they can get.
I enjoy the hillbilly lifestyle. People who only see me in the real world working my job or speaking in front of a group don’t know who I really am. My desire for travel or dining out is extremely low. If I never dined out again in life I wouldn’t miss it. Travel is nice because I get to meet awesome people, but other than that home is where I want to be.
Living what I call Amish Style is something most people would prefer to avoid. I understand. But you don’t have to be a hillbilly to learn a thing or three about investing and frugal living. People living in the boondocks have frugal living down to a science. We have to. You can’t run to the store for every little thing. A run to town and the whole day is shot. (Maybe that is why I don’t like town so much. I trained myself to believe town is where a day gets wasted.)
Farm life is different from anything most modern people understand. There are long periods where the work is routine and not necessary. Planting in spring and harvest are very busy times of the year. Winter is solitary. When produce arrives it must be attended to immediately.
Butchering a steer, pig or chickens is a lot of work. As hillbilly as I am, butchering steers is something I call the butcher shop to do. I never raised pigs so when the lust for bacon rears its ugly head I call the same friendly butcher shop to prepare a pig I bought from a local farmer. Chickens are serious work. Mrs. Accountant and I spend several days butchering chickens every year, filling the freezer with meat better than anything you will ever buy from the grocery store. The gardens are plenty of work as well.
The best part about raising your own food is cost. (Okay, I lied. It’s quality. Play with me on this.) For you, kind readers, the same opportunity is available at a slightly higher cost, but still a massive savings. A whole pig, fifty chickens or a quarter of beef needs a place for storage awaiting consumption. You probably don’t have a small farm. However, you can visit a local farmer and buy the same quality meats at significantly reduced price. The butcher shop will do the rest.
Harvest time also creates a dilemma. All that awesome fruit and vegetables can’t possibly be eaten before it goes bad. Even in town you can produce a small amount of food. A window garden can do wonders for your soul.
When produce comes in season locally you need to stock up. Some things require canning. Canning is kind of expensive. We prefer freezing as much as possible. Canning lids are one-use only. Even without a garden, plenty of extremely inexpensive food is available for short periods of time each year. The only issue is preserving the food.
A small investment in food today when it is on sale (in season or it is time to butcher an animal) is the time you need to prime the pump and make an investment. If you could buy enough food at the rock bottom prices you would save a mountain of money. Since food consumes between 10% – 15% of most household budgets, there is plenty of room to save money.
The High-Return Guaranteed Investment
The trouble with abundance is you can only eat so much right this moment and for some strange reason we get hungry again later when the foodstuffs are no longer in overabundance. There is a solution.
Canning is something many people don’t want to do. Pressure cookers, canning jars and lids are expensive. Prepackaged foods store nicely in the pantry, but are terrible for your health. Good, wholesome food either needs canning, or preferably, freezing. This is where the high-return, guaranteed investment comes in.
The investment of which I speak is a chest freezer. I’m not talking about the freezer connected to your Refrigerator either. That is too small. My garage has two chest freezers. We opted for two modest sized chest freezers over one extra large freezer. Growing up, my parents and grandparents both had these massive sized chest freezers. They were great for storing and preserving food. The downside was sometimes food got lost in such a frozen canyon. Woe to any package of meat on the bottom of the freezer. It may never see the light of day again.
The two chest freezers we have allow one freezer to empty periodically. Food gets moved to one freezer so the empty one is cleaned. Food doesn’t disappear into the abyss. A whole pig or a quarter of beef easily fit in either freezer. Our steaks cost under $1 a pound. Even if you buy from the farmer, it is doubtful you would pay much more than $2 a pound. Pork is cheap, too. We buy a whole pig from a local farmer. Many butch shops have a list of farmers providing a variety of animals so you don’t even have to look for a farmer to sell you whatever meat you are looking for.
Freezing vegetables and fruit requires some reading. There are things you need to do to keep your produce fresh. I’ll let you browse Amazon for a good book on the subject. (If you start your shopping from this blog, your purchase will support this blog at no cost to you. Thank you.)
A chest freezer costs a couple hundred dollars: the investment with guaranteed high returns. This modest investment can save you a thousand dollars or more each year! When fruit is in season locally the price is low to move as much as possible before the produce goes bad. You have the opportunity to load up because you have a freezer.
There is one last benefit of owning a chest freezer: You control how your food is processed. We all know processed food is less healthy. We also know food out of season is shipped great distances to bring you fresh produce. This is expensive. And food traveling so far frequently doesn’t have the same flavor as it is picked before it is ripe so it survives the journey.
Processed food doesn’t have to be less healthy. How it is processed makes a difference. With a chest freezer you can preserve more food while preserving the healthy benefits of fresh food. Canning food, even when done at home, still destroys some of the foods original value.
I don’t know about you, but that is one hell of an investment. Cheaper, healthier food means there are no losers in the room. Fresh food probably means better health. Fewer doctor bills is a real savings we did not even start to touch on.
It can be hard to find room for a small chest freezer. You can rent a freezer locker, but that gets expensive. You need to find room for a chest freezer. The next time butter goes on sale from the local milk plant for $.59 a pound, you can stock up a year’s supply. A simple chest freezer can do wonders for the budget. And the grocery store is only a few feet away every day then.