adding it up

When there's a lot of DIY activities in your life, sometimes you lose track of the value of the things you are able to do. 

Over the years we have built fences, a patio, the hoop house, raised beds: this year we are planning on terracing the hill in our back yard.  Indoors we have replaced doors, windows, done plumbing and electrical repairs.  D has built beautiful pieces of furniture, and I have made cushions, covers and curtains.  And since hiring out the work is really not an option for us, we usually don't have a clue how much we save.  We should probably get estimates before starting big projects, just to see what it would have cost, but we never do.

Foodwise though, it's a little easier to calculate the savings.  People always tell us we must not spend a lot on food since we grow so much of our own, but in reality our homegrown savings tends to just subsidize buying higher quality items.  We spend more than average on the food we can't provide (meat, dairy, fruit, coffee)--because we love to eat, and we like to support local and organic businesses.  

But, along the lines with the home repairs, we got to talking about how much we save on the home-made foods that we take for granted.  There are a few staples I always make for us:  yogurt, granola, and bread--really all baked goods.  So, I did some cost-outs. 

Yogurt:  at the co-op, Stonyfield organic plain (whole milk) containers are 3.79 for 32 ounces; non-organic (Sugar River, a local brand that uses the same milk that I buy) is 2.99 for 24 ounces.  When I make it myself, I can make the same amounts of organic for $1.75, and "regular" for $.86.  We use about a quart of yogurt a week, which works out to about $11 savings per month

Granola:  Again, from the co-op a locally-made brand of granola is about $4 a pound.  When I make it myself (using mostly organic ingredients from the bulk aisle), it's $2.28 a pound.  Since we go through a 3 pound batch most weeks, that's a savings of over $20 per month. 

Bread:  A loaf of whole wheat sourdough using the same flour as me (I buy from the bakery!) is $4.  I can make it for 78 cents.  
Crackers:  I've been making tons of these lately, cranking out batches with my pasta maker.  The basic batch (1.5 cups flour, 1/8 cup olive oil, plus some salt) costs all of 99 cents, using organic flour.  If I add cheese, the cost may go up a dollar; but, with add-ons like homegrown herbs or dried tomatoes, the retail value goes way up, for basically free.  (I've also thrown in leftover sourdough starter, which bumps up the yield as well).  Similar sized boxes at the store are 3 or 4 dollars, and often include added fats and sugars and other ingredients for storage purposes that aren't healthy anyway.

Obviously there is some simplification here;  I'm not including energy costs or water or tools (though  I'm pretty sure my 4 dollar garage sale pasta maker has paid for itself!)  I'm also purposely not including my time for these calculations.  For one thing, these are staples that I have done so often, they are routine, and get squeezed in-between daily tasks.  Also, for the most part this is the stuff I love to do, and the reason why I work less (for real money, anyway) is so that I have the time to do this.  To me, its not something I can put a value on.

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  1. Oh, I can SO relate to this post. We are definitely 'do it yourself' people when it comes to our home renovations. Which allows us to purchase some higher quality stuff. When we redid our kitchen last year, because we were doing all the work ourselves, we could afford to shell out for custom counters (that I LOVE) and a few semi-custom cabinets to go with the prefab ones.
    We do much the same with food as well. Although I really need to get into making yogurt since my children devour it.
    People at work sometimes ask me why I do all this because "how do you have the time"? But, these are things I enjoy so I don't really think of them as work the way others would.
    THAT is one of the reasons I love blogging so much- I can connect with people who 'get' what I'm doing.

    1. Exactly! I suppose house projects are subsidized the same way--labor savings goes into better materials.

      Good luck on the yogurt :)

  2. Thanks for quantifying some of the food savings as I've not done that yet. Our spending habits are pretty similar it sounds, saving a lot on veggies but spending more on locally produced other food.

    I am positive we all undervalue our skills and DIY accomplishments. One way I have come to understand this more fully is in the few projects we employ others to do. For the most part, roof excepted, the work has not been as high a quality as what we would have done. Sure, there is a learning curve, but we don't settle for good enough. We actually had to explain to the guy replacing our front door still and installing a new door HOW to do it, and he still got it wrong, installing the plank wrong side up so that it is now cupping. Arghh.

    And thanks also for the cracker idea! I've tried it before and been unhappy with the tooth-breakingly thick planks. Now I know to try the pasta maker! Maybe I can replicate the Finnish Rye flatbreads we like so much.

    1. Yep, we've had the same experience hiring work out. I mean, it sometimes takes us a few tries to get something right, but I expect more from professionals, ha!

      It took me a few times seeing the pasta maker suggestion before I finally tried it, and it was SO worth it. Depending on the dough I can usually get to the second thinnest setting. It can be a problem for seedier/coarser additions, but you can always sprinkle things on top at the end.


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