Getting Free Meat and Lard from the Safeway Butcher

I talked to all the “butchers” in my neighborhood and finally found one who will give me the pork and beef fat they cut off. Turns out the only butcher that cuts actual meat apart is Safeway. The other places are what I call “meat retailers,” they just buy pre-cut meat from the real butchers and sell it out of their refrigerated display racks.

Now this stuff is solid gold, but no one knows it, so butchers usually throw it out. I think butchers are thrilled to see someone care about it so they’ve always given it to me free. Of course I always go in with the attitude that I am happy to pay for it, and gratitude when they don’t charge me. (The “meat retailers” can order it in for 3$ a pound. Forget it!)

This is the beef fat I got from one visit yesterday, it’s over 8 pounds and will render into about a half gallon of lard. Technically it’s called “tallow” if made from beef fat, but it’s very similar. I use this for cooking to replace butter or cooking oil and my wife makes soap out of it. Rendering lard/tallow instructions here.

beef fat on the scale

As an added bonus, butchers can’t possibly get all the meat bits off the fat, so I always end up with a bunch of meat that i carefully separate from the fat. Here is all the meat left over from a much smaller batch of fat I picked up last week. I can usually salvage enough meat for one meal for two adults with a little left over.

free meat cut from beef fat

How to Wax Canvas

Originally Posted on xraylove.com, a now defunct domain.

How to Wax Canvas

by Chris Franks

Waxed Canvas

Waxing canvas, or any fabric for that matter, adds an element of water and weather resistance to that fabric.  It also changes the behavior of that fabric, making it slightly stiffer, and will darken the fabric.  Waxed fabrics have been used in many different fields, including sailing, sports, manufacturing, military and camping.  Serving purposes ranging from transportation (sails on sailing vessels), clothing, shelter and many other utilitarian functions which require a waterproof fabric, waxed fabrics are far from being replaced by “space-age” materials.

Waxed cotton canvas is one of the more popular waxed fabrics still in use today.  Canvas is a tough, plain woven fabric with a degree of water resistance by itself.  The fibers of canvas swell and expand when wet, like the wooden hull of a boat, and close the gaps between fibers, making the construction less permeable to water.  Waxing it further improves its water resistance, making it (depending on the use and construction) waterproof.

Waxed Canvas is:

  • Waterproof
  • Breathable
  • Arguably less environmentally destructive
  • Versatile
  • Tough

I would also say that it is more resource-able than many other materials sharing similar characteristics.

Waxing Recipe

A quick browse around the net will turn up a few recipes for waxing canvas.  Many of them start off by saying “rub the block of wax onto the fabric,” which is pure non-sense.  Then, they end up saying that what you should do is go get some waterproofing solution that has god-knows-what from your hardware store.  This is bogus.

Some smart New Zealanders give some good points and recipes for waxing canvas.  Most recommend a mixture of beeswax, paraffin wax, linseed oil and turpentine.  Most big industry producers like to keep their proprietary blends a-hush, but most are paraffin based, with, I imagine, some crazy blend of thinners, chemicals, solvents and weird shit.

You can make very natural and safe waxed canvas on your own from very simple ingredients and materials.

Here’s what the different elements of a waxed canvas recipe are, what purpose they serve, what ingredients will satisfy the element, and how you can use them.

Water Proofer

  • Waxes – wax is the main waterproofing element in making a waxed fabric.  Using a recipe high in wax will produce a more waterproof, more stiff and “dry” waxed fabric.
    • Beeswax – comes from bees.  You can source this inexpensively direct from honey companies and beekeepers($).  Go local!  It can also be found at Hobby Lobby($$), Ace Hardware($$$), and online($).
  • Paraffin wax – a bi-product of petroleum.  FOOD GRADE, though.  It is commonly used in the canning process, and can be found in most local grocery stores($$), hobby lobby($), and online($).
  • Oil – adding oil to your mixture can help your mixture permeate into your fabric if you’re not using a serious heat source to meld the mixture with the fabric.  It will still have a high level of waterproof-ness, but it will make a more “wet” waxed fabric.
    • Linseed Oil – you can find this at a local hardware store.  This is, so far, the only recommended oil I can find. It’s usage goes way back to early sailing days, too.  If you use it, combine it with your melted wax.

Thinner – NOT NECESSARY

  • Turpentine – Depending on your method of emulsion into the fabric, you might try using a thinner to aid in your recipe’s permeability.  WARNING: THIS WILL MAKE YOUR FABRIC FLAMMABLE!!!!  Please be aware, if you choose to use turpentine to thin your mixture, this will increase your fabric’s flammability.  Take into consideration what you will be using your waxed canvas for, and if you will be around fire.  Waxed canvas has the one-up on most space-age materials in that it is less flammable, so using a thinner, in essence, removes this trait.

My Recommended Recipe

Go for a straight blend of wax, and nothing else.  I use:

  • 50% Beeswax, 50% Paraffin Wax in my recipe.

Application

Applying the wax finish to the fabric is accomplished by HEAT! (And a paint brush)

My recipe is optimized for usage with a modern electric clothes dryer for the heat source for emulsion into the fabric.  This produces an evenly distributed, fully emulsified dry wax canvas.  It looks totally pro, and its what I use in my XRAY LOVE creations.  It will leave a wax residue in the dryer, though, so I would recommend picking up a free or cheap dryer to dedicate to this usage.  After trying the hair dryer method and solar method, I found out (by accident) that a clothes dryer works perfectly for an ALL WAX mixture to produce a dry handed waxed canvas.

If you are using oil and/or a thinner, you’re on your own at this point, but I can make a few recommendations:

  • The more wax you use, the more waterproof your fabric will be.
  • Oil and/or thinner mixtures need less heat to emulsify the mixture into the fabric.
  • Be CAREFUL with your heat sources.  Don’t catch your shit on fire.  (Your mixture, or your fabric!)
  • A common hair dryer or heat gun will suffice as an emulsifying heat source (this is what you use to “set” your mixture into the fibers of the fabric once you’ve painted it on).  These methods don’t do a totally great job, as the mixture’s distribution across the fabric is not very even.  But, if your just doing a small amount, or want to experiment, this is not a bad alternative to ruining a dryer.  I wouldn’t recommend putting a fabric with thinner into a clothes dryer.  I have also used a common household oven, but this is slightly dangerous.  This works better than the hair dryer or heat gun, but not as good as a dedicated clothes dryer.  If you try this method, put the waxed canvas on a baking sheet or pan that completely contains it!

What follows is my method for making and applying the mixture to the fabric.  Keep in mind that this method involves the use of a common household clothes dryer, and that it will leave a residue in the dryer (so try to get one just for this for cheap or free!)  The measurements are for 1 yard of canvas fabric, and can be easily computed for larger batches and more yardages.

You’ll need:

  • 1 yard of Canvas (or other fabric)
  • 5-6 ounces of beeswax
  • 5-6 ounces of paraffin wax
  • a double boiler, or a pot to melt wax in that you don’t mind ruining
  • a stove or fire to cook on
  • a paintbrush or a sponge roller
  • a drop cloth
  • a clothes dryer (will leave residue) or other heat source to emulsify wax mixture into fabric

Steps:

  • Melt the waxes together in your pot or double boiler on LOW HEAT!
  • Spread your canvas out.  If you don’t want wax on the surface below your canvas, spread a drop cloth of some sort underneath your fabric to catch wax bleeding through.
  • When your waxes have melted together, carefully transport your melting pot to your canvas.
  • Paint or roll (works best!) the wax onto the canvas with your paintbrush.  It doesn’t have to be or look perfect, but it does need to be completely and fairly evenly covered.  It’s OK if the wax starts to cool and show up white when you paint it on, as long as it will spread.
  • Throw the fabric in the clothes dryer for 45 minutes to an hour on high heat.  WILL LEAVE RESIDUE IN DRYER, but WILL PRODUCE SUPER PRO WAXED CANVAS! – or use (in order of highest danger and performance) an oven, heat gun or hair dryer.

Mega Special Afterthoughts

You can wax more than just canvas.  I’ve even waxed thin broadcloth that yields significant water-resistant results.  If you have some fabric you want to try waxing, throw it in the dryer with the wax canvas.  It will catch some of the melt-off residue, and will give you another waxed fabric in the process.

Applications?  For instance, a friend of mine dumpstered a ton of oversized (40+) blue jeans.  He tore them apart, tacked them together and made a tipi.  But, it wasn’t waterproof.  If I would have known then what I know now, I would have known that all that denim could be easily waterproofed by the waxing process.

Just think of the implications…there are mountains of fabric out there being thrown out, recycled or resold for super cheap.  Waxing could waterproof those mountains, and transform them into shelters like super quick, man.  Let’s do it Felix!

RSI / Tendonitis Home Remedies that Have Actually Worked

wrist brace

Someone I know suffered from RSI for 10 years in both of his arms. The last 5 of those years he was working 80+ hours a week programming and building his startup company.

He tried every conceivable specialist, therapy, product and device, spending in total over $30,000 during those dark years. Throughout that period he dealt with constant pain, numbness and tingling, in addition to inflammation in his elbows, wrists, shoulders, and upper back.

It would take many pages to list everything he tried, but the following methods are what actually worked for him and moved him towards being 99% pain free and typing happily all day now.

He did NOT want to undergo surgery or cortisone injections and in the end he succeeded in avoiding these high risk “solutions” to his problem.

Supplements for RSI

My friend took a capsule of each of these these daily on an empty stomach, depending on his level of pain. He still takes them occasionally for when he doesn’t sleep well or has intense work days that cause some RSI pain to return.

It’s quite interesting to read the reviews on the Amazon listings above. My friend was not the only one to have excellent results as a result of taking these supplements, many others had similar experiences.

Risks of taking supplements are extremely low but be sure to read carefully and understand warning labels.

Ergonomics for RSI

ergonomic workstation for rsi tendonitis

My friend has made the following ergonomic equipment a part of his daily life. Since he spends so much time at the computer as a programmer, he needs equipment that will put the minimum amount of strain possible on his body.

He reports that he’s tried many keyboard/mouse combos and hasn’t found anything close to as good.

Food for RSI

Ginger tea appears to halt inflammation. You can use a small cube of ginger steeped in hot water, there’s no need to buy ginger tea in tea bags. I like my ginger tea with lemon or the herb lemon balm.

Health / Body

  • Massage therapy helps a bit, but it’s very expensive. If your healthcare covers a few sessions, why not. My friend only takes ~2 massages per year now, he used to have them one or two times per week.
  • Cold / hot arm baths can reduce inflammation. Fill two plastic tubs with hot water and ice water, and submerge your arms for 30 seconds at a time in each tub, finishing with the cold water.
  • Doing gentle stretches held for 30+ seconds each helps.
  • Good, deep sleep was the #1 most surprising and effective “therapy”. He started using ohropax wax earplugs and an eye mask, as well as the “f.lux” software on his PC to get a full 8 hours or more of sleep. This helps more than any supplement or massage therapy session.

Books for RSI

mind-body-prescription

The Mindbody Prescription

My friend read this book to the very end and did all the exercises. Within 10 days he no longer felt pain in his arms and was well enough to cancel his weekly massage therapies. To this day  he is feeling fantastic. After good sleep, this was the second most surprising thing about curing RSI.

The guy who started google docs fixed his RSI using the same techniques.

Credits

The above advice was originally sent in a private email conversation between my friend, myself and my brother. It was published here with permission. My friend is still going strong after curing his RSI, he writes about music and art at submetallic.com. 

“wrist brace” photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/liewcf/

“Obadobadope” Complete Blog Archive

The Personal Finance Blog Obadobadope went offline in 2010. It’s a treasure trove of unique thinking about investing, capitalism and consumption.

obadobadope title

I’ve archived it here so that people can read it again in an easy format, all on one page. I used php curl() to scrape these texts from the internet archive at archive.org.

Archive Notes

  • The following 330 kb of text is hosted by me, but all images are hosted by Archive.org. That means their servers do the real heavy lifting, so if you feel like donating to keep this archive alive, aim your generosity at archive.org.
  • I’ve removed links within the archived content since they don’t really work anyway. If this archive gets popular I’ll consider bringing links back and working to fix them all.
  • To make navigation easier, I’ve added a table of contents.
  • Unlike an active blog which starts with the most recent post and works backwards, I’ve structured this archive to begin at the very first post and proceed forward in time.
  • This archive contains 53,000 words, about the size of an average mystery novel.

Disclaimer

The following content is hosted here for informational purposes. I don’t own this content nor do I derive any monetary benefit from it. If the content’s author wishes this archive to be removed, he may get in touch with me via my contact page and I will remove it promptly.

Continue reading

Keeping an RV Cool without Air Conditioning

Living full or part time in an RV can save a small fortune over expensive rent costs in the big city. The RV is the unsung hero of the tiny house movement, pre dating it by the better part of a century.

But unlike tiny timber houses, an RV’s most crippling weakness is its R value. In the summer, it heats up like a solar oven.

Now the easy solution is to flip on the AC and let it run, at great expense, all day. But the far more satisfying solution is to use the natural position of the sun and the shade to constantly pump in cool air by way of a cheap fan. A diagram illustrates how to set this up.


rv cooling in the summer no air conditioning

  1. Close and shade all windows facing the sun, then open a window on the shaded side.
  2. Place the fan so it blows air in. I prop mine on a bucket to ge t it at the right height.
  3. Open a roof hatch to give the air somewhere to escape.

You’ll want to move the fan and redo the windows once during the day as the sun moves from one side of the RV to the other.

Other Tricks to Reduce Heat Gain

If possible, do your cooking outside. I use a crock pot and a bread machine which can both be plugged into the exterior outlet and set on a table.

Your cab might have curtains you can draw to block it off. The cab is full of glass, making it the hottest place in summer and the coldest in winter.  In summer, keep the driver’s and passenger side windows open a bit so it doesn’t get over 100 degrees in there.

The cheapest cell phone plan in Canada

Since moving to Canada in 2006 I’ve struggled to find a good deal on a cell plan. I started with Fido, which got bought by a big 3 – then switched to Koodo later on – which also got bought by a big 3.

That seems to be a big problem in Canada. A small upstart cell provider will come along with decent prices and decent service, before promptly being absorbed into a giant communications conglomerate hungry for more “shareholder value.”

Consistently the cheapest plans have been from a hardly known carrier that continues to fly under the radar year after year. 7-11 speak-out wireless.

With speak-out, the time you buy doesn’t expire after a month like it does with all other pay-as-you-go providers. Top up once, and you’ve guaranteed yourself that phone number for a year. It’s the perfect plan for casual phone users such as myself who only use a cell phone for travel and emergencies. At all other times I use either a landline or VOIP.

With a minimum time purchase of 25$ it only costs $2.08 per month to keep your account open. The next best option Virgin Mobile costs 15$/month with its minimum top-up or $8.33/mo for it’s 100$/365 day topup.

old-school-phonephone-back

You can use any SIM-capable phone with their pay-as-you go plans costing 25 cents a minute for the most basic plan. This is the cheapo phone my brother got when he started using SpeakOut. As an independent contractor he needs to have a cell phone at all times. He claims it only needs to be charged once a month.

7-11 is slowly updating their geriatric plans with data packages that beat all others I’ve seen in their pricing. But the best idea in Canada is always to avoid using data as much as possible anyway.

SpeakOut is a no-frills, no-bullshit and no-advertising alternative to the worst cell phone landscape in the world.

Canada Cell Plan Links

Speakout 7 11

SpeakOut has the best cell phone plan for someone who sees a cell phone as a necessary evil and would rather use it as little as possible. At 25 cents a minute flat rate, their per-minute billing is far superior to the more common 35 – 45 cents a minute rates of other providers.

Virgin Mobile

I used Virgin for a few years when I thought it was the best option for me. They have an unpublished promotion where they double your topup credit after a number of months with no activity. Works well for me  because I only travel once or twice a year for conferences which is when I turn my phone on.

Wind Mobile

Wind is probably the best carrier if you live in a major city and only call people in that same city. Unlimited local calls for 20$/month but it suffers from the same outrageously priced addon bullshit that makes the bigger carriers so unappealing. 8$ extra for a bunch of basic features that should be free and are free with prepaid plans.

For The Others, Consider their Advertising Budgets

It’s a good idea to realise that the big 3 cell phone carriers spend obscene volumes of money on advertising. You have to consider that just like it does for any product or service, advertising drives the price up. When you agree that you will pay Rogers 80$ or more per month for the next 2 years, you are crowdfunding their TV ads. So for a better deal, look to companies that don’t advertise or only advertise minimally.

DIY Wine Notes

I make my own wine because it saves me a lot of money. Canada has some of the highest liquor prices in the world, and the provinces I live on the border of – Alberta/Saskachewan – have the highest liquor prices in canada. I think the bare bones absolute cheapest bottle of wine is about 12$ – that’s for a 750 ml bottle. By my calculations my homemade wine costs about 1/10 of that price.

These are my batch-by-batch notes based on the tutorial I wrote at http://fivegallonideas.com/1-minute-wine-recipe/ . I believe my tutorial is the best online for beginners because it’s exceedingly simple, and requires an investment of less than 5$ in winemaking equipment.

Batch 1 – “Too Much Sugar!”

Batch started May 27, 2013

Some people like sweet wine – this batch tastes a lot like a port wine. A bit too sweet for my palate.

In my 2.84 liter jug of grape juice, I added 3 full cups of sugar. The juice started at 8% potential alcohol – then I measure after each cup of sugar that I added. 1 cup, 11%. Another cup, 13%. A third cup, 15%. Perfect. Or at least that’s what I thought.

Although my yeast is rated at being able to ferment up to 18% alcohol, in this wine it topped out at about 13%. I added enough sugar at the beginning of the batch for 15% alcohol. This means that the final 2% potential alcohol didn’t ferment out, making the wine pretty sweet. I think the final 2% will eventually ferment but it may take up to 6 months. I’ll probably finish off this wine before then – Brittany says this sweet wine will probably taste good with soda water.

I took the airlock out a few days ago, and it’s still fermenting very slowly so I unscrew the cap to let the excess CO2 out every few days. The risk of it blowing up is pretty much nothing, my vessel is strong plastic that expands if it has too much air inside. My brother used to make apple juice wine inside its own bottle similarly to my tutorial without an airlock and he never had a problem. He just had to make sure to release the CO2 every day.

Since this is my first batch I don’t have any extra containers to “rack” my wine into, so I think I’ll just let it sit on the yeast until I’m done drinking it.

I worried very little about sanitation with this wine, and have absolutely no off-flavors. I’ll be a little more careful in the future when I’m reusing a washed bottle rather than brewing juice in a sterilized environment.

Batch capped on June 23, 2013. Would have capped sooner, but I was away most of June.

Batch 2 – “Try for a Dry”

Batch started June 29, 2013

This time I added the exact amount of sugar that was able to ferment out last time. Two cups of sugar brought me to the 13% potential that matched the 13% brew I made with my yeast last time. I also dumped out less grape juice for myself this time because I didn’t really see any problem with “krausen” in my last batch. Maybe krausen is more of a beer problem and less of a wine problem. Krausen is gross, I’m happy to not see it in my wine. Means less fussing.

KrausenIt’s bubbling happily and should ferment out in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully my yeasties will eat all the sugars and I can end up with a wine that’s dry as a bone.

I think in the future I’ll try experimenting with adding super concentrated grape juice to my regular grape juice. I think it’s a pretty good deal over at the brew store and will certainly make the wine both taste better and taste better sooner. Because the more white sugar you’re using to brew, the longer you have to let your wine site before its taste matures.

July 7 2013 – I’ve started slowly drinking Batch 1. It gets better every day, but is still too sweet and slightly astringent, just like all immature wines. Brittany and I both agree that right now it’s 2 stars out of 5 – so I’ve started calling it double star which sounds really upscale 🙂

July 9 2013 – I measured the sugar content of Batch 2 today for the first time. Out of an initial 13% potential alcohol, 12% has already fermented out, leaving just 1% left to ferment. It’s been bubbling for 10 days, and it’s just about done. I tasted it and expected something horrendous, but it’s surprisingly drinkable for a wine that’s not even done brewing yet. I noticed more of a haze in this wine, and am not sure if it’s a pectin haze or a haze of the still-active yeast. Either way, this haze will settle in time. Here’s batch 1 and 2 side-by-side – you can see how cloudy batch 2 is (the one on the left) compared to batch 1 on the right.

2-batches-wine

When I measure with my hydrometer, I normally just dump the wine I used to measure right back into the fermentation vessel. This goes directly against agreed upon best practices because most homebrewers are extremely picky about sanitation – but I’m happier pushing the limits to eliminate fussing wherever possible. If I ever run into problems doing it this way, I’ll be fully transparent about it here on this journal.

Batch capped on July 14 2013 @ 0.5% potential alcohol remaining.

July18 2013 – If anything, this wine’s fermentation has sped up since I capped it 4 days ago. I release the co2 every day or 2 and quite a bit of stored air escapes each time – making the bottle settle visibly. I’ve started drinking it, and let me tell you. It’s absolutely perfect. It’s dry as a bone, just the way I like it, barely a hint of sweetness at all. I can no longer really taste the saccharin taste of the common Concord grape in it either.

Fermentation may have sped up due to the wine now being stored in a dark place. A veteran winemaker commented on the main 1-minute wine article to inform me that would happen, and it seems to be happening now.

I’m willing to bet that this wine will ferment into negative territory, which isn’t uncommon for wine to do. I can’t wait!

I would like to present my batch 2 wine next to another dry red in a blind taste test. I am quite confident that it would be hard to tell apart from a moderately priced red wine from the liquor store.  I would consider this the greatest of victories for the 1 minute wine recipe.

Batch 3 – “Batch 2, episode 2”

Batch started July 18 2013

I’m really happy with batch 2, and will probably make lots of identical brothers for it to hang out with. I enjoy drinking drier wines more than sweeter ones, so I will probably only brew another Batch 1 if Brittany want a sweeter red wine once in a while.

I didn’t bother measuring this one with the hydrometer because I already know that it will measure 13% potential alcohol, give or take a hair I am sure.

Batch 5 or 6 – The Public Batch

I stopped making wine for a few months because we had 30 bottles of wedding wine to work through. Now it’s all gone and I’ve entered back into the swing of things.

We filmed this batch on our new Canon T2i and published it to youtube. I used 2 cups of sugar just like I did with batches 2 and 3 and gave it to my camera operator as a gift. After 3 weeks, he reported it tasting way too sweet. His house is an old drafty thing which I suspect slowed fermentation down to a crawl.

Batch 7 – How small can we go?

I did something different with this one. To prove you can use any juice to make wine, I started a batch of peach-mango wine. And at 1.89 liters, it’s approximately half the size of the red grape wines I was making before. I hypothesized that a carboy half the size would make fermentation much slower by a factor of 4.

To make a success even less likely, I only added enough sugar to bring the potential alcohol to 11%.peach-mango-wine_1It took a little bit longer, but fermented out beautifully. It took about 3 weeks instead of 2 so my guess of it taking 8 weeks was thankfully dead wrong.

Now about a month old, it’s clarified nicely which indicates nearly universal yeast hibernation.

wine-glass-peachThe taste is top-notch. I suspect partly because of how sparing I was with the white sugar.

Batch Complete Feb 21 2014

I’ve also got another 1.89 liter bottle of white grape/pear I’m starting today.

Minimum Daily Cost of a Coffee Habit

Summary: Buying high quality but cheap costco beans and drinking 1 percolator pot of coffee per day, my personal coffee habit costs $0.65 per day. I drink as much or more coffee than average, which means that no one’s coffee habit need be more expensive than mine.

percolator-coffee-pot

Hypothesis: I usually tell people that my daily pot of coffee costs 50 cents per day. That’s always been a rough guess, here I’m going to find out exactly what that cost is and how it compares to my estimate.

Methodology: I bought coffee at the Co-op for more than I usually buy it for at Costco. 326 grams were on sale for 5$ exactly. I bought the tin on July 29, and used it that day. Brittany drank about 15% of it which is usually what she drinks out of each coffee purchase. She gets coffee at work free which is why this number is not larger.

Results: The coffee lasted 5 days. I thought it would last 7 and hoped it would last 10 so reality fell pretty far short of my estimate. For this tin of coffee, cost was $1.00 per day.

However – usually I buy a lot more coffee at a time, netting me a significant discount. I buy it for around 12$ for a 1.2 kilo bag at Costco, and it’s a lot better tasting than the Co-op shit. This cheaper coffee is Kirkland brand, but is actually roasted at Starbucks so it is actually quite high quality.

Based on my 5$ 5-day coffee test, a bag of costco beans will -conservatively- stretch out to 18 days. Dividing into 12$ gives me my final coffee habit figure, 65 cents per day.

That’s 30% higher than what I’ve assumed up to this point, but it’s still a trivial amount. Based on my comprehensive bills-and-rent survival number of 26$/day, kicking my coffee habit would only save 2.5% of my total bills.

I think I’d rather keep the coffee habit.

Nerd Finance

Ever since I learned about Nerd Fitness, I’ve wanted a Nerd Finance.

Nerd Fitness is a popular site that helps motivate 20-somethings toward health by plugging health and fitness into their Super Mario mindset. For example, the Nerd Fitness jogging regimen uses waypoints along Frodo’s epic ring journey to milestone your own daily runs. Now your running has a real tangible goal – being able to proudly proclaim, “I’ve run to Mordor!”

Today I heard the topic for the first Nerd Finance article I would write if NerdFinance.com weren’t the property of an eager for profits cyber squatter.

The Red Ring

The Red Ring is an ultra overpowered accessory in some 90’s RPG. As soon as you found and equipped the red ring, your character’s power ascended to that of a demigod. The protagonist breezed through the rest of the game effortlessly, slaying the end boss without breaking a sweat.

In finance, the red ring is your retirement nest egg. If you can aquire it early, you get to play your whole life on easy mode, living off the dividends it throws off quarterly. That’s why money saved in your 20s has exponentially more value than money saved later in life.

Increasing your Butter Mileage

Butter is my all time favorite food. Sure I use it for all the ordinary things – garlic toasts, batches of cookies – but I use this soft yellow gold for all kinds of other things too. A pad of butter to finish off steak brings it to a whole different level, for example, and starting a gravy with a huge dollop of butter and frying flour into it is a New-Orleans inspired way to make gravy that blows your socks off.

Butter is such a centerpiece to my diet that it’s the only grocery item that I check the price for at every single grocery store. To this day I can tell you that the cheapest price I’ve ever found (in Canada) is at the Safeway in North Vancouver, where it was on sale for $2.50 a pound. I bought 8 pounds that day, and if I thought it would have kept forever I would have bought 100.

My butter obsession got so severe that at one point we were burning through 2 pounds a week, which starts to become a serious expense at Canada’s ordinary 4$ or 5$ per pound prices.

That’s when I started to look into some tasty substitutions for butter in some of the recipes we make daily.

The best substitutions we’ve found so far are lard and bacon grease.

simmering-bacon

I don’t know what it is about pig fat, but a spoonful of pig fat goes so much further than a spoonful of butter. Roughly twice as far. It’s almost as if the pork fat molecules are packed denser. I find that you only need 1/2 to 1/3 of the amount in pork fat where you would normally use butter.

Bacon grease for many people will be free – assuming 2 things.

1. You already eat bacon, and

2. You’ve been throwing out the grease.

Just by saving our bacon grease in a mason jar in the fridge, we’ve easily halved our butter consumption and have only improved  the taste of our food.

I don’t use lard as often as bacon grease, because I like my grease source to have as much taste as possible. But it’s easy to find at just 1$ a pound – so in baking, lard is a significantly better deal.

Obviously you can’t sub pork fat in for everything. A butter and jam sandwich, for example, would not be improved by a transformation to a bacon grease and jam sandwich. Not for me anyway.

I’ll share the single biggest saver of butter in our household. I eat a batch of Gordon Ramsey’s scrambled eggs almost every day. What makes these things so damn tasty  is that you start with an enormous dollop of butter.

If you cut or scrimp on the butter in this recipe, it just ain’t the same. But you can substitute the 1/4 cup butter with 1/8 cup bacon grease. Instead of drying out your eggs as would happen if you just cut the butter out, the bacon grease adds much more flavor to the eggs – improving rather than diminishing them.

So if you’re not yet saving bacon grease and stocking your cupboards with lard – and I know that very few people do – start. Especially if you’re a willing butter addict like I am.

Don’t Assume Bulk Bins are Cheaper!

I was raised on that assumption – probably because it used to be true. But in an era of flagging retail profits, grocery stores are doing everything they can to increase margins – whether by hook or by crook.

My mission today was to find the best price on cashews. Prices vary widely for cashews, so it’s an item that is worth shopping around for. I found a difference of over 50% between the first cashews I found and the cashews I ended up purchasing.

I went to 2 stores and found 6 different prices on cashews. I wrote down every price as I went along.

Safeway

  • Salt & Pepper Cashews (can): $32.40/kilo. On sale for $27.80/kilo.
  • Salted Cashews (can): $25.00/kilo

Canadian Superstore

  • Bulk Bins: $22.50/kilo
  • Can: $18.20/kilo
  • Tub: $14.10/kilo

All of these cashews prices were available within the same city block. The time between finding the first can at 32$/kilo and the best priced tub at $14/kilo was only about 10 minutes.

Especially interesting is that the bulk bins were the most expensive way to purchase cashews at Canadian Superstore. Even the small name brand can of cashews in the nut aisle was cheaper by 4$ per kilogram.

canister-of-cashewsI also compared prices for another item on my shopping list, whole milk, which is a commodity item and not a luxury item. Most families buy milk weekly. Prices ranged between $5.29 and $5.99 – not very much at all.

 

Replacing the Hard Drive in an External

Recently my motherboard was shorted out by a coffee spill. Computer components are cheap, but the data on a hard drive is probably priceless. I was worried that I would have to buy a drive case for my hard drive to get the data off it. But I found out that I can just tear apart my external, swap the drive out, and it’ll work.

My drive is a 500gb Seagate FreeAgent. I checked online to make sure its connector is a SATA before opening it.

external-driveSee this little green board? That’s the adapter that turns SATA into USB and powers the drive with a tiny connector.

internal-to-external-boardHard Drives, side by side. 500gb from inside the external and a 1000gb from inside the shorted out computer. The 1000gb is about 5 years newer, but hopefully they’re still compatible!

hard-drives-side-by-side

Testing the drive to make sure it’ll work before I put it all together.

hard-drive-plugged-in

 

There she is! Everything works perfectly. Note: it only shows 750gb out of a total 1000gb because i left 250gb open in case I wanted to dual boot this drive with another OS in the future.successful-test

First attempt at putting the drive back together. Ugly but still functional.

putting-back-together-wrong

So Fortunately for me, I won’t have to buy a drive cage. Total savings 20-40$

This Website Need Only Make $10 a Year

Websites are amazing because they are so damn cheap to run. The real estate that this site sits on costs me about 10$ per year, that’s for my fancy domain name – www.justscrapingby.com. Sure hosting costs money too – but each additional website I put on my server doesn’t cost me any extra – so that’s a “sunk cost” to use economist’s lingo. Plus I have web clients that lease server space from me, so I break even on web hosting anyway.

I have this one website I’ve been running with my brother for 3 years – DFStories.com. It’s very popular in the Dwarf Fortress community, the site is well designed and the articles well written. But it’s not a source of revenue for me because the audience is the least likely to click an ad or buy a product of any audience. The readers for this site are highly technically competant males in their 20’s and 30’s. Even the ones who don’t have adblock installed are exceedingly unlikely to click an ad or buy anything.

However, because this site is still capable of making a piddling 22$ per year, we can keep it up forever as a service to that community. Because its internet real estate costs the same as any other website’s real estate – just 10 dollars each year.

Imagine if AFK real estate cost so little, how society would be different. If rent for a basic place to live cost just 50$ a month, for example, people would be so much freer to pursue a way of life that feels right to them – not just a high expenditure, high workload existence. Not that I think that way of existing is necessarily a bad way to live, but wouldn’t you rather have the choice? That’s why I’m an advocate for Slum Zoning – which is a term I made up because no city councillor would dare to think of it before. But we’re already seeing tent cities popping up all over America – why not zone for them?

So today I’m putting a couple of ads on this website – and I’m shooting for an ultra conservative earnings target of 10$ per year.