Monday, April 11, 2011

Economy Got Ya Down?

So, amidst all the talk of economic recovery we've got some bad news. Gas prices are going up. So are food prices. Wages are not. What's a poor, self-aware citizen to do? First of all, quit bitching so much. You didn't wake up in Fallujah today, and you're home isn't covered in radiation laden sea water (unless I have a bigger international audience than I thought, in which case, I'm sorry for your loss). The second thing you can do is make a couple of subtle, yet powerful changes in your life that won't cost much more than a little bit of your time.

So, what are these changes? What is it you can do, today, to ease the sting of $4.00 gasoline, or the rising cost of bread? Well I'll tell you:

  1. Drive less. Seems like a no-brainer, huh? Some people don't have the option to not drive to work, but if you're within five miles or, hell, even 10 you should consider taking your bike to work. You'll get exercise and the only thing a bike costs (after the initial investment) is an occasional can of 3-in-one oil which should last you about 7,000 years (I made that last part up). Tele-commuting is another great alternative (if you're in a position that can accommodate such a thing). Mostly because you can work in your underwear, but also because you don't have to drive anywhere.
  2. Drive something else. In the year 2000, the average price of gas was something like $1.60 a gallon. That made it really easy to justify that Suburban. Now, the average price is hovering around $4.00 a gallon and that means you might want to reevaluate your choice of vehicle. My 2009 Kia Rio gets about 40 MPG on the interstate and around 33 in the city. Maybe you can't afford a new car. Lot's of people can't. However, search online for used cars and be amazed at what you can get for a relatively small amount of money.
  3. Grow a garden. In the average back yard you can probably grow over $200 worth of food in a summer. More than that if you're in a temperate climate or if you have a cold frame. That two hundred bucks can then be used for things like gasoline, clothing, or some other commodity you think you need.
  4. Stop buying all your food, start making some of it yourself. Concerned with the rising cost of bread, and what that might do to nutritional intake in poor or ignorant households, I set out to create a bread that was both cheaper than store bought bread, and also nutritionally worthwhile. You can see the recipe and the nutritional info (plus another recipe for light and fluffy sandwich bread your kids will like) here.
  5. Okay, you'll probably need to buy a lot of your food still, but let's look at where you're buying it. Farmers Markets are great places to get cheap(er), organic foods that have less impact on the environment and support your local community. There's also the roadside farmer, here in America's midwest. On any given Spring, Summer, or fall day I can go drive down a country road and within 10 miles see at least three signs that say something like "Farm fresh eggs $2/dozen" Think that's a high price to pay for organic eggs? Read this.
  6. Finally, let's take a look at what some other people are paying around the world for the things we're complaining about today:
  • The average cost of gasoline in Canada is about $1.28(CAD)/liter. That's about $4.85(USD)/gallon. In the UK the price is around $5.08(USD)/gallon. Also, in Europe, your Suburban wouldn't even fit on the damn road.
  • The average American spends about 7% of their income on food, with nearly half of that number going to eating at restaurants or outside of the home. In Spain it's a little over 13%. In Costa Rica, nearly 26%. In Kenya? 45%. Let me say that again so you get my meaning clearly. In Kenya, nearly half of all income goes towards food. That's like a burger costing thirty dollars here. Think about that, and tell me if we've got anything to complain about. [Source: Carpe Diem]

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