August 8th, 2009
Those of us attempting to live on what was a shoestring budget even before the Great Unending Recession/Depression have probably been watching the large insanity of vacationing Congresscritters attempting to hold Town Hall meetings with their constituents back home with some bemusement. It’s no secret that the WingNut Network [a.k.a. Fox] and Hate Radio pundits have been inciting their faithful dummies to riot, since this has been ongoing ever since they lost the election last November in a big way. Between the clueless idiots who can’t believe a black man is a real American citizen (or that exotic Hawaii is actually a state) and the Bermuda shorts and gray hair crowd shouting “Keep the government OUT of my Medicare!” one really does have to wonder if maybe there’s something in the water making people lose what few IQ points they might have had back in kindergarten.
Some of us also know that going to a doctor regularly if you aren’t actually sick is not wise, thus are probably better off if we don’t suffer some chronic condition with our very limited access to the health care system than we might be if we had annual check-ups and the ability to demand whatever drug is advertised on television nightly. While it’s a sad truth that ~50 million Americans have no access to the health care system – and that’s an insurance issue – I haven’t seen anybody talking much lately about the health care system itself, which just happens to be the third leading cause of death in the United States.Conscious Living, Economic Recession, Elitism, Health Care, Inflation, Nutrition, Politics, Prescription Drugs, Surviving | Comment (0)
June 15th, 2009
photo: wide eyed lib
Later this week we’ll mark the Summer Solstice, when the sun turns from its annual march toward the north and the days start getting shorter. The first day of summer, when our Victory Gardens start producing real food, the swimming hole looks very inviting, and families start heading for the hills to enjoy cool nights and summer fun.
If you live somewhere outside the inner city – or are just planning a vacation somewhere near the fields and forests, there are some wild foods you may wish to try that are now at the peak of their flavor and nutritional value. In addition to other installments here on wild and/or otherwise free foods , knowing something about how to obtain necessary nutrition when available never hurt anybody.
First off, those of us who live south of the Mason-Dixon line are only too familiar with an introduced Japanese legume so invasive that it’s taken over 12,000 square miles of territory. We call it Kudzu, and it’s everywhere. It was introduced by the railroads to control erosion on steep banks, and quickly overtook everything in its path. It grows a foot a day, covering hillsides, fields, forests and telephone poles, abandoned houses and cars, and even (as is a joke around here) late-sleeping campers and slow-moving cows.Alternatives, Foraging, Nutrition, Surviving | Comment (1)
March 18th, 2009
The news these days is chock full of dramatized street theater as the “haves” fight about ridiculous things like super-bonuses for AIG grifters, amazing world-class ponzi money-laundering schemes, and how we on the low end of the totem pole get to pay through the nose (as usual) to bail these crooks out. At this point it’s not even a partisan fight, it’s just rich versus poor. As usual. We who have been actually harmed by these interminable games of economic Risk are just trying to survive with the basics – food, clothing and shelter.
While I hope that anyone who regularly reads this blog has already bought their seeds and planted their ‘taters, there are things we usually have to purchase – or trade for – because we don’t produce our own at home. Sure, it doesn’t take more than a quarter acre of yard to keep a fresh milk goat or half a dozen chickens who give us eggs for free, but often people will be unable to even do that much. Keeping that goat fresh requires breeding once a year, and then you’ve got to either deal with a smelly billy goat or transport to where the smelly billy goat is standing stud. And what about the kid? That’s something my family could never quite conscience (these youngsters, if not also female, are usually slaughtered for meat). And don’t let anybody fool you. Those chickens CAN fly (sorta). At least to get over the fence into your neighbor’s yard.
If you are lucky enough to still have a roof over your family’s heads, there are ways to save a great deal on foods you can’t produce in your garden but need to keep everyone healthy and satisfied. Nothing makes us feel wealthier than a truly fine and healthy diet. Plus, that alone can save us multi-thousands in chronic diseases we really don’t have to get in the first place. The first of these is to join a local CSA. With this membership, which is critical to purchase right now if you can, you get a portion of the crops and products of local farmers near your home. Even if you garden, this can help fill out the take so you’ve got more to work with. Buying local directly supports your local farmers, and helps them to purchase the seeds and equipment they need to keep on producing.Alternatives, Bulk Buying, Do It Yourself, Family Projects, Garden, Nutrition, Recipes, Staple Foods, Surviving | Comment (0)
March 5th, 2009
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports its latest unemployment figures as of January 2009 as 7.6% of the workforce, compared to 7.2% in December of 2008. We all know that jobs are being lost by the hundreds of thousands across the nation. We also know that these statistics account only for those workers who file and are eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Which makes the real unemployment figures at least twice as high, now more than 15%. That’s definitely edging into ‘Depression’ territory, and there will be no let-up any time soon.
Whether or not you qualify for unemployment benefits – which aren’t enough to pay the mortgage for most people – if you are out of work you and your family probably qualify for food stamps, or what is now termed by USDA as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP]. The Social Security Online website also has good information about eligibility for food stamps, and we most certainly hope that readers of this weblog aren’t too proud to make good use of this program if they find themselves in need. You may hope that another good job will soon be offered, but don’t let your family go hungry in the meantime. DO something!Conscious Living, Health Maintenance, Joblessness, Nutrition, Shopping, Staple Foods, Surviving | Comment (0)
January 16th, 2009
…or make the best of it.
Let’s face it. The “Recession of 2008″ is now officially over, because it is January, the first month of the “Depression of 2009.” The last jobless statistics for ’08 showed more than half a million new first-time unemployment filers, which represent only those workers who qualify for unemployment. Final ‘official’ tally for ’08: 2.6 million jobs lost. These are the worst figures in 16 years, while the average hourly workweek for those underneath the supervisory level doing the real work shrank to the lowest number since the government started keeping such statistics in 1964. That, for the quick-math challenged, is 45 years ago.
Most of us who watch the economic comings and goings in this strange era of bail-outs for super-crooks and callous economic eugenics for working families also know that the ‘official’ statistics don’t come anywhere close to matching what is really going on in the real world. Young workers, seasonal workers, minimum wage workers, temp workers and millions who otherwise don’t qualify for unemployment aid or who have exhausted their eligibility are completely off the books – no one bothers to count them, even if their numbers swell the real unemployment picture to more than double the reported statistics. “Unofficial” numbers can range anywhere from 11.1 million jobless Americans to somewhere very close to 20% of our work force. No one much likes to mention that, since anything more than 10% puts us in that ‘depression’ they’d rather slit their wrists than admit to.Economic Depression, Economic Recession, Education, Joblessness, Surviving, Unemployment | Comment (0)
November 10th, 2008
The election is now over, the Neocons and their operatives at Treasury and the Fed are doing their best to loot the nation completely before power changes hands, and the citizens are collectively holding their breath, wondering just how bad it will get, thousands of jobs disappearing every week. The Grinch may well have succeeded in stealing Christmas this year – looks like we won’t have Circuit City to kick around anymore.
As the economy falls (for everyone but the oil companies, who are enjoying record profits as usual), the prices of just about everything keep going up. The most primal of our needs is food, and how we will survive the depression without sacrificing our health, our weight or our taste buds is a question many families are beginning to struggle with.Alternatives, Conscious Living, Economic Depression, Garden, Grow Your Own, Nutrition, Recipes, Staple Foods, Surviving | Comments (6)
October 7th, 2008
Food: Eating What You Can Get
World markets continue to take dramatic hits and the Dow has fallen below 10,000 for the first time in four years. Seems a lot of banks and other players are unhappy with the trillion dollar bailout package passed last Friday because it limits their personal golden parachutes and stock option scams. Awwww. Should we call the waaaaambulance for these whiners? Nope. If they didn’t need our money they shouldn’t have begged for a handout in the first place. In the meantime, regular people are having a much harder time putting food on the table as prices rise dramatically and more and more find themselves out of work. This post is a beginner’s primer on how to get food if you can’t afford it.
Before I get to the list of good links readers may find helpful depending on their particular situations, readers should know that many states, such as the one where I live (NC) have budgetary caps on how much relief in the form of food stamps they are able to provide. This can mean that even as increasing numbers of people find themselves going hungry, fewer people will have access to the standard governmental relief. Thus more people must turn to other providers. A good overview of those providers supported by the USDA commodity program is provided at Amber Waves. If your family is in danger of ‘food insecurity’ be sure to familiarize yourself with emergency providers in your area. Cities generally have soup kitchens, places where you can go for a hot meal. Most smaller cities and many towns or counties also have food banks, check into what you will need to provide to qualify.Alternative economics, Alternatives, Barter, Economic Depression, Family Projects, Foraging, Grow Your Own, Inflation, Staple Foods, Surviving, Wild Harvest | Comments (2)
September 24th, 2008
Roadblocks and Interference
As Congress meets today and tomorrow to grill the principals before Friday’s vote on the $700 billion “emergency” Wall Street bailout plan (which has been in the works for months but strategically dumped on us all as an “emergency”), oil companies have instituted “rolling shortages” all over the Southeast. Some areas have been out of gas for more than a week and a half, and the situation is not expected to ease until Monday at the latest. Some gas – a single tanker at a time – is being delivered to stations along the Interstates and is being strictly rationed unless it’s diesel, one station per county.
State police are managing the gas lines to prevent violence, which did break out last week in the Nashville, Tennessee area when people started cutting in line. Food prices are rising so fast the stock boys at the grocery stores can’t mark up the goods fast enough, and the specter of looming fuel shortages for winter heat – or price increases that will force people to do without – is beginning to look very scary.
Bailout or no bailout – and despite the launch of FBI investigations of Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, Lehman Brothers and AIG – the United States may well be fully in the clutches of major economic depression before winter even hits. Whether or not that translates to global recession isn’t much of an issue to regular people, as we here in our own homes wonder how we will survive. This post and several following posts in a new series will take a look at the steps citizens should take as soon as possible to ensure their families will make it through the next 6 months. If depression goes on longer than that, additional strategies will be necessary, some already compiled as series in this blog and available under the “Our Most Popular” header on the left side of the page.Alternative economics, Alternatives, Bank Failures, Economic Depression, Energy, Fuel, Government Bailouts, Inflation, Surviving | Comment (1)
September 15th, 2008
Retirement Accts. Decimated, Layoffs Coming
Well, it was a tough weekend. After insurance giant AIG hinted that it might be heading for bankruptcy, investment bank Lehman Bros. went ahead and filed Chapter 11. Merrill Lynch grabbed at a $50 billion takeover from Bank of America, which is already regretting its takeover of the nation’s largest mortgage lender [Countrywide]. Stocks fell worldwide on Monday even after intervention from the Fed promising eased restrictions on emergency funds.
It’s not difficult to find gloom and doom on Wall Street today over how many jobs in the financial sector are going to be lost. Worse, that concern will in fact translate into a whole lot more jobs lost out in the real world where you and I live. Factories will be closed, inability to finance durable goods orders will exacerbate the problems, and GM is about to go under too. It ain’t even close to over yet, folks. If all you lose is your home, you’ll be among the lucky ones.
I’ll be posting more good information on stretching leftover dollars for those real people being harmed by all this, maybe even have something to say about the fact that there’s no gas in my region right now at all, leaving nothing to ration. Or tell you how I fare on my plan to sell my now-useless diesel ‘vintage’ Mercedes so I can buy a horse (have plenty of grass and kudzu). But in the meantime, best advice – if you’ve got gas – is to head directly to your regional farmer’s market and buy as much rice, other grains, fresh veggies and fruits as you can possibly afford. I’ll talk a bit about how to preserve it through the winter too, since it’s not really that hard.
I will also start posting information about growing some of your own food, even in the winter. There will be lots of links to great sources for information on these strategies too, so please stay tuned. The best advice I can give to people who end up here after searching something on Google because they’re just now joining our Shoestring Budget ranks, is…
All you really have to do is survive. The future is the future, it’ll bring its own problems and opportunities. Right now you just need to “ride it out” in one piece (and all of a piece family-wise). Money’s just paper at this end of real life, you CAN learn to make do on much less of it. And who knows? Once you’re out the other end of the tunnel, you might even find that you can live a much happier, fulfilled and truly shared life without all that much of it. It’s a good lesson to learn. It puts things in perspective, something this modern world could use more of.
Lehman Brothers collapse stuns global markets
Lehman Files for Bankruptcy, Merrill Sold, AIG Seeks Cash
Wall St.’s Turmoil Sends Stocks Reeling
Credit Crunch: How to Survive the Recession
20 Ways to Live on Almost Nothing
Uninsured? More Ways to Survive
September 8th, 2008
That’s what Angry Bear says about the government bailout of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, announced on Sunday, September 7. It will cost the American taxpayers tens of billions of dollars we don’t have. Why? Because more than 1.3 trillion dollars’ worth of those mortgage bonds are held by foreign countries, primarily China, Japan, the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg and Belgium, and they want to know if their holdings are any good.
Now, you might be struck by some of those listed ‘foreigners’. Cayman Islands? Luxembourg? Belgium? Well known for hosting questionably legal accounts for some questionable characters, I suspect we’d find a lot of Americans on those lists. Americans don’t count as “foreigners.” Unfortunately, we’d also find a lot of Russian front companies and Middle Eastern Sheiks as well.
We’ve once again been robbed blind by wanton corporate and individual greed, and we are expected once again to bail out the wealthy speculators whose greed led to the failures.
Predictions for what happens now aren’t pretty. The dollar will plunge, inflation will zoom, regular Americans will have an even more difficult time keeping up. While the richest 1% will have their taxes cut and get their bad investments paid off so they can go speculate on other nifty things like food and water.
So buckle up, fellow shoestring budget enthusiasts! We’re going to get our chance to put all our alternative survival strategies to work. If we do it right, what will arise from the ashes of the late, once-great American economy might be strong enough to last awhile.
Links:Economic Depression, Government Bailouts, Housing, Income Inequality, Inflation, Surviving | Comment (0)