June 2008


Here at the Maxwell house we’re attempting to go where few (in this culture) have gone before: once a month shopping. Instead of a weekly trip to Fred’s to grab the best sales and all the groceries needed for the week, we’re going to try shopping at Costco or Three Bears once a month, with bi-monthly trips to the local grocery for JUST milk and produce. We decided to try this after reading a lot of blog posts on the subject. I’m realizing how much I just love being home. If I don’t need to go out to the store, I’d rather not. By not going to the store weekly we don’t spend money on all those impulse purchases that aren’t really necessary. I love cooking as much as I can from scratch, and once-a-month shopping helps me to stock up on staples like flour, beans, rice, etc. and get creative during the month. Now for the accountability part: I plan on telling you how well this once-a-month goal is working, as an incentive for me to stick to the budget.

So, how is it going? Last month (June) we shopped at Three Bears ($200) and then STILL went to WalMart weekly, picking up Milk, produce, and of course more. We ended the month about $50 over budget. Ugh. A Failure. But, tomorrow starts a new month, and we’ll get off to a great start because we’re visiting my folks in Sitka and not buying groceries for a week. We can do this. 

So, has anyone else tried this? We’d love to hear your experiences and advice. We’re also considering ordering from a company who ships quality food right to our door. More about that later 🙂

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While perusing my bloglines yesterday I came across an interesting article entitled, “Why Not to Buy Organic”. The article described how the term “Organic” has just become a way for many corporations to charge more for a product. For example, the term “Free Range” just means that the animal had access to the outside. As the author puts it:

“It doesn’t mean they have ever been there (outside). They just have to have access to it. And if they do end up getting out of their cell, nothing says the outside has to be lush green pasture like most consumers imagine. It can simply be a 2′ x 2′ patch of bare dirt. That is government certified free range.”

There are a number of other instances of organic labels really meaning nothing about the quality of the product or the company. I write this post not to say “Buy Organic, or you’re a terrible person who cares nothing for your family or your health!!”. I hate it when people do that! But instead, the meaning is that some times buying something labeled organic only hurts your pocketbook, with no added benefit over non-organic. The more I research about this trend toward organic and “whole foods” (what exactly does that mean, anyway?) I think it comes down to simplicity. Just trying to eat more stuff as fresh as I can (think: out of my own garden being the best thing, with local farmers markets the second best, and the grocery store the next best), and trying to be aware of the practices of at least a few of the companies who’s products I buy. I really want to be better about buying products from companies who understand the sweet, sweet balance of economics and corporate responsibility (not only to their communities, but also to their employees). If you’ve got any companies to recommend (other than MLMs please), I’d love to hear about them. 

Ready to try some truly fresh food? A quick search on LocalHarvest.org reveals the following local farmers markets. If you peruse the listings you can also find goat farmers, local beef, milk, and eggs:

 Wasilla Farmers Market (Wasilla, AK)       

Town Site Park behind the Wasilla Museum
Wasilla, AK 99654

When and Where  

(June-September)
Wednesday, 11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m, Saturday, 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. 

 Alaskan Hen House (wasilla, AK) 
Happy and healthy hens produce lots of delicous and healthy eggs. Our birds roam freely during the day but are fenced in nightly to protect them from predators. With the exception of winter when predators are many and they must be kept under netting. We do not support use of antibiotics, steroids or other growth/egg inhancers in our flock. We feed as natural a diet as possible with lots of locally grown oats and barley. (more…)     

 Domer Family Farm (Palmer, AK)   
Let us grow it for you! Organic fresh vegetables, hanging flowering baskets, including Marie’s unique Patriotic theme hanging baskets. You can order in advance and we will grow it for you. Now is the time to think of what you want to can or freeze for the winter. Huge choice of varieties! Lots of Oriental vegetables! From Palmer on the Old Glenn, we are 1 mile straight up Smith Road on Lazy Mountain. (more…)

 

You can also check out Palmer’s Friday Flings:

Alaska Grown Produce and Plants ~ Local Arts and Crafts ~ Live Music and Entertainment

Every Friday
May 16 – August 15
11 am to 6 pm
At the Pavilion across from the Visitor Information Center in Palmer

It’s rumored on the ‘net that a $5 Luvs diapers coupon will be appearing on the Luvs site tomorrow, June 25th. That will make some already cheap diapers even less expensive. Even though we’re mostly in cloth, I still use an occasional disposable, and plan to pick up a package of these. Just a heads up in case this is your brand 🙂

Back in May I posted about some Free Money deals available from Revolution Money Exchange and Sharebuilder. Last week our Sharebuilder bonus came due, and it’s now safe at home in our savings account. Yay! $90 for 5 minutes of my time, woohoo. According to my folks (who just returned from Europe) that will buy us a whopping 9 gallons of gas on our future trip in Germany. Great. 

Just posting to let you know some of this stuff occasionally works…

A couple of days before Jacob was born, in early March, I wrote a post about our venturing into the world of online-only banking. It’s been over three months since we opened our Grand Yield Direct account with Apple Bank, and I’m happy with how easy it’s been to use. We set up a monthly automatic deposit, and I’ve also been dumping some additional funds into the account (from our local money market). When we began, the money market account at our local credit union was paying 2.4%, while the Apple Bank account yielded 3.9%. Rates have tanked, and the Grand Yield Direct account is now at 2.75% (with the credit union at 2.0%). The online account seems to be keeping about the same rates as the competition, and I’m happy about that. Well, as happy as a person can be with those rates. If I could do it again, would I pick this account? I think I’d possibly try ING Direct’s Orange savings account. Why? I don’t have a really good reason. Their rates seem to consistently be a tiny bit higher (a quarter of a percentage point) than Grand Yield Direct, and ING also gets a four out of five star rating on Bankrate.com. Plus, they’ve got a really fancy schmancy site, all covered in orange and overall lookin’ very neat-o (Apple Bank’s site looks much like you’d expect a Banker to be, all ordered and utilitarian, without a lot of fluff). We’re happy with Grand Yield Direct, but just in case anyone’s looking, Orange Savings may be a good way to go too 🙂


The blog Christian Personal Finance just today posted on some reasons why rising gas prices are good for us. I wholeheartedly agree with his list:

  1. RIP for the internal-combustion engine 
  2. Economic stimulus 
  3. Wither the Middle East’s clout 
  4. Deflating oil potentates 
  5. Mass-transit development 
  6. An antidote to sprawl
  7. Restoration of financial discipline
  8. Easing global tensions

Maybe it’s good for me, but it’s still tough on the wallet. So, what can a person do to get the most out of every drop of gas? Try hypermiling. Hypermiling is a fun way to describe the lengths people go to in order to get the highest gas mileage out of their cars. Last week Daily Money Hack turned me on to a good article from Wired.com that includes some tips (a few great, a few strange and dangerous) to hypermile with the best of them. The basics:

  • Go easy on the accelerator and follow the speed limit. Fuel economy drops like a stone above 60 mph, so slow down. You’ll bump your fuel economy by 7 to 23 percent. My husband and I had a “strong discussion” (we don’t argue, we just strongly discuss, haha) about this one. He says that going 59 on the highway will hold up traffic, and he refuses. I disagree, and plan on testing out this theory when I go into Anchorage next week. 
  • Take all the junk out of your trunk. Why are you hauling those tire chains in July? Every 100 pounds of stuff you’re needlessly hauling around drops your fuel economy by 1 to 2 percent.  While you’re at it, lose the roof rack and gain another 5 percent.
  • Get a tune-up and use the lightest viscosity oil your engine will live with. A well-tuned engine is an efficient engine, and lighter weight oil reduces drag. Can’t remember the last time you had a tune-up? Getting one could raise your fuel economy as much as 10 percent.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated. The softer the tire, the greater the rolling resistance – and the more gas you burn. Being 10 pounds under pressure can cut fuel efficiency by 4 percent. Pump those babies up!
  • Don’t idle. How many miles per gallon do you get sitting in the drive through? Zero, that’s how many. If you’re going to be stationary for more than 30 seconds, turn off the engine.
For more advanced hypermilers, the article recommends such tactics as turning off the engine and coasting down hills, and drafting behind big rigs. Crazy people. 

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