July 2016 Expense Report

We are frequently asked the question How much does it cost to start a homestead? so we thought we’d start a homestead expense report series. Every month we will document how much money we’ve spent on our homestead-related activities and also on running our household. This is to track both our own progress and also to give you some insight as what it costs to start a homestead from scratch.

July 2016 Summary

July started our with a bang for us by me going to Southern California to visit my family. While I was busy visiting in So Cal, Jesse was hard at work on the property trying to tie up loose ends. Little did we know that it would be a complete whirlwind of a month.

Taking Advantage of Local Summer Fruit

As soon as I returned, Jesse let me know that he found huckleberries on a hike and that we had to go pick them immediately! Little did we know that we would find so many that we would return 3-4 more times to pick as many as we could. In the end, we got probably 5 gallons of huckleberries that we knew we had to preserve!

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This led us down a rabbit trail of starting to can and preserve food! I went balls out with canning everything huckleberry I could imagine. Jesse took a different route and got into huckleberry ice cream making and mead making.

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Real huckleberry ice cream with cream, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and huckleberries. That's it!
Real huckleberry ice cream with cream, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and huckleberries. That’s it!

Once we discovered that we could indeed can, we realized that fruit was everywhere! We ended up finding thimbleberies in the wild and making thimbleberry jam, and we also realized that we could try our hand at urban foraging. We found numerous cherry trees in town, apricot trees, and even had a neighbor offer up their red currants and black currants. Needless to say, we had our hands full (or buckets full?) and I intended on not missing out on a cup of fruit!

thimbleberry jam recipe

Holy cannoli…. just look at the photos below! This doesn’t even scratch the surface at how many canned goods I produced. This girl can can, guys!

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canned apricot recipes

finished canned cherries

Escaping the Summer Heat

In the midst of our canning frenzy, it became sweltering hot. Our property reached 100 degrees and in full sun with no air conditioning, we couldn’t catch a break. Many days this month were spent going on drives, getting to know back roads, going on small hikes and doing anything to stay cool.

We love the idea of being self-sufficient on a very deep level. We want to learn a lot more about what Mother Nature provides to us on our very own forest floor! You can do the same thing wherever you are at as well!
We love the idea of being self-sufficient on a very deep level. We want to learn a lot more about what Mother Nature provides to us on our very own forest floor! You can do the same thing wherever you are at as well!

Homemade Root Beer Making

If you didn’t know this about me… I’m not good at construction or even most things that come with the off grid lifestyle… yet. I AM good at food… very good at food. Since we were spending so much time prepping and preserving food, I deemed it appropriate to learn how to make root beer. We were drinking so much hard root beer that I thought I could offset our root beer bill with a little effort, so onto homemade root beer I went! Check out what we made… fun stuff!

making our own root beer

Getting a Head Start on Firewood

Somewhere in the midst of our canning, we changed gears and started thinking about getting ready for winter and collecting firewood. I think it started by “going for a drive” to see what kind of wood may be available, and that catapulted us into firewood collecting! WE started this at the end of July and finished a couple of weeks later in the beginning of August. This was a hectic  time as well – there is always something to be done when you try to be self sufficient and live off of the land!

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Okay, okay… onto the financials! As I write this, I have anxiety over what the grand total is for the month. On the other hand, I know that we’re spending our money in the right places and every dollar we spend gets us closer and closer to self sufficiency.

Household Expenses*

  • Groceries: $856.18
    This was a much higher month than normal for a few reasons. First, we went canning CRAZY. We spent so much time foraging for wild fruit, canning apricots, canning cherries and more, so we bought a lot of sugar, pectin, peppers, ice cream making ingredients and mead making ingredients. We also spent a fair amount of time away from home so we ate some healthier convenience food, bought a lot of ice, and enjoyed many of hard root beers!
  • Dining Out: $94.53
    Even though we spent very little time at home in the month of July, we spent very little on dining out! Somehow, we only ate at Qdoba a few times and grabbed official dinner twice when we were on the road. Not bad, not bad.
  • Cats: $40.00
    Not sure exactly how much we spent on the kitties but we feed them a raw diet which means buying meat about once a month… check out the homemade cat food recipe we use here.
  • Chiropractor: $40.00
    Jesse has been fed up with trying to figure out why his back has been having issues, so he took a trip to the chiropractor.
  • Household Necessities: $87.82
    We bought A LOT under this category this month including a used water bath canner, latex gloves to have on hand, minor cookwear we didn’t have on hand such as a strainer, toilet paper, took a trip to Goodwill and the like. Nothing exciting but the costs add up.
  • Coffee: $40.00
    This was a lower month for coffee for us, mainly because if we weren’t at home it was probably because we were picking fruit! Maybe I missed a few receipts.
  • Storage unit: $60.00
  • TOTAL: $1,218.53
* These are the expenses that it really just takes to run our household. Your household will likely be different based on the number of family members, how often you eat out, the type of food that you eat (organic vs. not, meat vs. carbs, etc.), pets, coffee, gym memberships and other household needs.

Utilities*

  • Generator fuel: $38.08
    Somewhere in mid-June, we took the leap and got started with solar power on our property and July was our first full month with the setup! I’d say that having this 120w portable solar panel kit from Go Power! saved us about $60 in generator fuel costs this month.We weren’t home that often to be fair, nor were we working hard on the property running powertools off of our generator, but we were home in the evenings which is when we use the majority of our power to charge our laptops, cell phones and even to run a small fan in attempts to keep cool. The general strategy was to charge the battery all day, use the battery all night, and by 6 or 7am before we were even up, the battery was charging again at 7 amps per hour!One thing to note is that since we arrived on our property, the cost of premium fuel has risen from $3.00/gallon to $3.80/gallon, so we’re actually saving more than $60/month because the cost of fuel is going up.

    Although we are still wanting to upgrade our system, this portable solar panel has really been a huge help to our generator fuel bill and we’re sad we didn’t get one sooner. This system should pay for itself in a matter of months.

    suitcase-solar-pannel-array

  • Propane: $22.41
    We didn’t do too much cooking in July to be honest (it was too hot to even be on the property really, hence the amount of time we spent away and the high food bill), but we did do a lot of canning! I braved the heat to can. One day, I sent Jesse to do errands in the air-conditioned car while I canned in 100 degree humid heat. Fun times.
  • Water: $4.50
    Even though we have a 650 gallon cistern at the top of our hill now, our water needs are still pretty low. We need to fill up this tank maybe twice a month (we never let it get below 50% so that we always have a reserve supply) which is way better than our water solution when we first arrived on our property!
  • Laundry: $20
    Not sure exactly what laundry was but $20 sounds like a good number. We didn’t do too much outside work so our clothes weren’t that filthy overall!
  • Internet: $115
    Our internet is really only $65/month but we chose to pay the $300 installation fee over six months rather than up front. We have one more month of the installation and then we are freeee from that expense!
  • TOTAL: $199.99
* This includes typical household utilities including power, heat, air, water, internet, etc.

Vehicles*

  • Car payment: $187
    We bought a used Subaru Forester a while back which was a great investment. It hasn’t lost much of its value in two years and we plan to pay off the loan in the next year. For our lifestyle, this was a much better investment than the brand new car that we sold just days prior to moving to our land.
  • Insurance: $78
  • Fuel: $238.66
    Fuel was quite a bit higher this month than previous months. Not only were we driving around a lot to collect wild and urban fruit, but Jesse drove 3 hours into Montana and back, TWICE, to drop me off and pick me up from the airport. I took a trip home in early July and Jesse stayed behind to watch the property.
  • TOTAL: $503.66
* This includes anything related to vehicles that we drive.

Land / Development*

  • Land: $357.20
    Our land cost $45,000 and we put $5,000 down. The loan is amortized over 15 years with a 5% interest rate. No early pay off penalty. We don’t plan to take the full 15 years to pay off the land, but optimistically hope to pay it off in 1-2 years. Learn about our property here and to find out how we found and purchased this land, read this post.
  • TOTAL: $357.20
* This includes payments on our land, property taxes, and any improvements we make to the property such as excavator rentals, rock delivery, septic, etc.

Consumables*

  • Milestone: $111.30
    If you’ve never heard of napweed, it’s a noxious weed in Idaho. It has completely taken over our property and it’s a huge problem in the area. We did some research but didn’t see any great ways to get rid of it, so we resorted to spraying Milestone around the property… but nowhere near the garden. It was important to spray these weeds before they went to seed and made the problem worse next year. This is one con to doing serious property development and land movement… churning up the soil and encouraging the growth of new weeds that weren’t there previously.
  • Pool stuff: $69
    We have started experimenting with ways to keep our diy cedar hot tub clean, so we picked up a new type of sanitizer and test strips from a pool supply store. We will see how this works out, but hopefully this will be an infrequent expense.
  • TOTAL: $180.30
* These are expenses for things that aren’t permanent… they are consumed, or used up, so we can’t really consider them investments or assets.

Assets*

  • Canning jars: $74.36
    Because we had zero canning jars going into this adventure, we had to stock up! We didn’t get any on sale that we know of but if anyone ever sees a massive jar sale, let us know! We bought many cases of jars, and we also had many cases of jars given to us once friends and neighbors knew we liked to can! We traded maybe three jars of jam for five cases of jars… seems fair to us! We know that every penny we spend on jars is a wise investment.
  • Wine and mead making equipment: $118.54
    When we found ourselves with gallons of huckleberries on hand, we decided to try our hand at huckleberry mead. We figured that if we could turn fruit into delicious alcohol, then that would be something of high value we could have on hand to share with neighbors or to even trade. We also enjoy some alcohol so if we could figure out how to make our own with free fruit, this could lower our somewhat small alcohol bill.
  • Bear bells: $13.00
    A small expense, but since we were spending so much time in the forest foraging for food, we thought it would be wise to let wildlife know we were there!
  • Paracord bracelet makings: $13
  • Random stuff from Home Depot: $175.17
    Bought large bins for organization (our cabin is a terrible mess but getting better), rebar, a small fan, wire brushes, a fire extinguisher for firewood cutting, and a few more things.
  • Hardware: $15.22
    Not sure which project this was for but we always have to buy random hardware to fix problems and find solutions.
  • Bug eye safety goggles: $22.50
    You think cheap safety glasses will do the trick? Nope! Particles still find their way into your eyes AND your breath can fog up the glasses. Luckily, smart people take advantage of this flaw and design products for us to buy.
  • Chainsaw safety helmet: $74.99
  • Safety chaps: $124.99
  • Timber frame battery box parts: $82.23
  • Water filters: $53.27
    Since Jesse went for a hike that turned into be a long hike and he ran out of water, we bought a couple of water filters to keep in our backpacks. Small insurance plan.
  • Wall-mount shop vac and extra hose: $57.96
  • Camp Chef 3-burner stove: $169.59
    We were on the fence about whether to buy this but we’re SO HAPPY WE DID! Since it’s been so hot, we’ve been doing 100% of cooking outside on this thing and love it, not to mention it is great for it’s original purpose of canning.
  • Other canning supplies: 21.48
  • Snow tires for Subaru: $300
  • Huckleberry picker: $21.18
    This thing was kind a waste of money. It was worth a shot though.
  • TOTAL: $1,338.43

* These are expenses that should only happen one time, or at least very infrequently. These generally are quality tools and building materials that are reusable.

Final Thoughts

July was a month for the books, and August is no different! The amount of free fruit available really caught us off guard but we welcomed the diversion. In our minds, we plan to take advantage of the summer fruit offering every year, so that hopefully we won’t have to buy fruit really ever. Once we learn to hunt and once we have a thriving garden, we will be unstoppable.

We tried hard this month to get out and enjoy nature as well, because winter will be here before we know it.

As far as money goes, this year has been a catchup and optimization year for us, so we know the amount we are spending on small (or large) things will subside, and soon our large expenses will be related to the really, really large projects on our property. Eventually, our temporary home will be comfortable and we’ll have all the tools we need to begin construction.

Believe it or not, even though we are spending money out the nose, we are fortunate that this is an option for us and in our heads, just about everything we spend money on is to become self-sufficient, or practicing our self-sufficiency skills such as with learning how to preserve our own food.

Time for August… onwards and upwards!

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I am an aspiring homesteader on a journey to become self-sustainable and free. In my past, I've worked corporate jobs to make ends meet and get ahead a little; it didn't make me happy or confident in my future. Since taking the leap to self-employment and living a more simple life, my happiness levels have increased greatly and I've never felt more alive. I finally understand what I want in life and how to get there, and that is what this blog is all about.

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Comments

  1. Jessika says

    Looks like all smart purchases that will pay off. :)

    Have you tried canning fruit, not jamming? We started out making jam, but soon realized it was good for trading and gifts…. but we only went through a couple of jars each year. So I started processing fruit and preserving that. We do peaches, pears, and cherries. Process the fruit (we do pears and peaches without skins or pits/seeds), cut to desired thickness, then process in a sugar water solution with your desired sugar to water ratio. We go usually around 1 cup sugar for every 4-6 cups water (don’t go less than 1/6th solution, the sugar will become too diluted). You can find directions on headspace and packing online.

    But then: We have fruit year-around, and not too many additional calories for it, unlike store-bought canned fruit where it’s in SYRUP. And, you can add spices to the sugar/water solution, like vanilla, if you want.

    Figured I’d mention it since it’s pear and peach season right now! Soon apples, and then applesauce time begins. I do sauce for those. I don’t bother to can up apples like I do pears or peaches because apples have such a long shelf-life on their own.

    Good luck!

    • says

      We did think about canning fruit but we really don’t eat fruit. Every once in a while I get a craving… but we do eat a lot of jam! We are still loving our jam on meat as a glaze. I think some fruits would be better to can whole than others, like maybe apples. Apricots seem way too delicate (at least the ones we got) to can whole and I’m not sure we’d eat canned cherries or huckleberries. We did can up a bunch of applesauce which is a nice change, and I’m sure we’ll eat it throughout the year! Hope you’re taking advantage of pear, peach and apple season! We don’t have any secret stashes for these fruits so we may miss out this year, unless we splurge at the farmer’s market or someone wishes to donate their harvest to us. Thanks for the feedback and luck wished! Sounds like you have your canning game down!

  2. Rick says

    $3800 seems awful high for the lifestyle you are trying to lead. I understand you are still buying needed items and supplies that you will be able to reuse but still. That much per month would not be doable for me. Do you have a plan to reduce you expenses?

    • says

      The cost is high because it takes a bit of money to develop a property. Once the property is developed, our monthly overhead should be extremely low. We moved to our property with only belongings that would fit in our car and truck. Yes, the plan is to reduce expenses over time. Once we own our property outright, own our home outright, own our vehicles outright, grow our own food and produce our own power, our financial needs should be few!

      • Joe says

        Rick does have a point I think you could be better about… I mean you market yourselves as starting a homestead on a budget. 3800 is not a budget and I get it that you will eventually have low expenses but you could easily find many of those items for much cheaper and it seems like you guys buy a few impulse purchases that add up.

        • says

          I think “on a budget” means different things for different people. In the end, we hope to build a beautiful property, cash, which will end up being pennies compared to buying a done-for-you property on a loan. We do strive to do things as affordably as possible but aren’t afraid to spend money to get a project done in a timely manner, or to buy quality tools, or even to have occasional fun. We are fortunate enough to have an income that funds this for us, but it isn’t luck, we worked / work hard to build businesses that pay us whether or not we work. There are certain things that CAN be done for less money but for us, that doesn’t mean they SHOULD be done, or that it’s worth the energy. We’re certainly open to new ideas but at the same time, we like to think we think through our solutions pretty thoroughly before taking action and we’re also picky about what we spend energy pinching pennies over. It’s a long-term battle we’re trying to win. For us, it’s all about finding balance and being reasonable, and someone else’s “on a budget” path may look totally different than ours which is okay!

  3. Mary says

    Congrats on your free berry score. You might also want to consider dehydrating some of your food finds. Although I have dehydrators (cheap ones I bought from Craigslist and at the local mart, they’ve served me well throughout the years), you could easily build a solar dehydrator for next to nothing. (Lots of plans on YouTube.) It will also come in handy when you start to hunt, to preserve the meat that way. (Have you considered also building a smoke house to smoke any hunting results?) Dehydrated fruits, berries and vegetables are shelf stable and can be easily rehydrated by soaking in water or broth, or can be eaten dried (dried pears on a bib leaf lettuce salad with some blue cheese…oh, my).

    Did Jesse’s chiropractor give him home stretches he can do for his back? Right about the same time Jesse’s back was spasming, mine was, too. (Sympathy spasms, maybe?) My chiropractor gave me stretches, exactly like these (http://www.apmhealth.com/education/healthy-living/stretching—strengthening-tips/6-stretches-to-help-back-pain) to do to help with tightness and pain. They really help–when I feel my back start to even THINK about twinging, I start stretching. Stretching in the mornings before I get out of bed, and in the evenings before I head to bed has really helped. Hope he’s feeling better. Back pain stinks.

    • says

      It has crossed my mind to build a dehydrator but we don’t really eat dried fruits so we didn’t put it high on the priority list. I know lots of folks love dehydrated foods though, or to rehydrate them, so it’s still a great suggestion for many! Sympathy spasms… gosh, I hope not! He did give him some stretches and exercises to do but they don’t seem to be helping yet. We’re hoping we can figure it out soon and a percussion massager arrived from Amazon today so we can’t wait to try it out! Thanks for the link to the stretches! Yes, back pain does stink. Let’s all conquer it together!

  4. Susan says

    Huckleberry pie = my favorite! Yum! Congratulations on your canning; the jewels in your pantry. Have you considered building a root cellar to store fruit and potatoes in?

  5. says

    Quick couple of questions: 1)Do both of you have health insurance? I’ve never heard of any mention of this. 2) With all those canned items, where are you going to store them-in the camper?

    I am so jealous of you two-I wish I would have done something like this way back when. Keep up the GREAT work! You two are awesome…….

    Any predictions on when the cold weather comes your way????

    • says

      We choose not to have health insurance at this time. We store the canned items in our cabin – we’ve canned a lot, but they are stacked in a tidy manner in the corner! We could transport them to the storage unit as well. Thanks for the kind wishes! We are happy we’re attempting this when we’re young so we’ll see how it all works out! Cold weather…. I think it should cool off within a month or so but the cold weather likely won’t set in until December. Some say it will be a harsh winter, but we doubt it!

  6. Larry says

    Sounds like a great life but to be able to spend $3800 without working full time jobs to support this lifestyle where is the money coming from.

    • says

      We have built a number of online businesses that produce an income whether or not we work on them. It wasn’t an easy task and took the better part of two years to do. We also have residual income from the sale of a business as well as a rental property in Oregon.

      • Bob says

        What are these online businesses that produce an income whether or not you work on them, I am curious. Would love to live off-grid but cannot understand how to generate the monthly income needed to support this, at least at first. I mean, this is a lot of money every month that you guys are spending, seems like you need a full time job just to pay for it, and that kinda defeats the purpose of off-grid living!

  7. Suzanne says

    I have bought canning jars at estate auctions in our area. Luckily, canning is popular in my surrounding area, so auctioneers list canning jars in their sale bills. I’ve been able to buy box lots of up to 20 jars for around $6 per box…
    We bought the same three burner camp stove last year, like yours. You must live in a wind still place. My burners kept getting blown out by the wind, even though I had added an extra wind block at the back of the stove. I have spoken with other camp stove owners here, they have the same problem as me….we would love to know, what you do.

    • says

      Good find on the jars! Haha, wind is our #1 problem too! No grand solutions yet other than to sit there and babysit it. We do find that the flame is fragile, but other times the wind kicks the flame up, so it’s a bit unpredictable. The solution may be to have it in a wind-protected area, but that’s not really an option for us right now. The extra wind block is a good idea. Wish we could give better feedback :-(

      • Suzanne says

        Thank you for your feedback. In a way it’s good to know I’m not doing anything wrong. Next time I use the camp stove, I plan on lining the inside of the burners with heavy duty aluminum and attach aluminum sheeting (to the legs) on all four sides of the stove. My goal is to put the canner or pot on the stove and then “walk away” to do other chores, usually kitchen clean-up or working in the veggie patch…..
        Happy outside cooking….

  8. says

    Huckleberry picker: $21.18
    This thing was kind a waste of money. It was worth a shot though.

    I was kind of disappointed also but then came time to pick the wild rose hips. That thing striped them off the bushes so efficiently and no thorns in my fingers.
    I wound up steaming the rose hips with winter apples and sieving out the seeds and skins to make a rose apple sauce that I use in my morning smoothie for extra vitamin C in the winter.

  9. Rusell Peterson says

    Sorry to hear he had to go to the chiropractor, been in that position myself. My DR. recommended getting an inversion table which I could do the same thing he is doing at home and any time needed. Ended up getting the Teeter Hang up and love it more and more each day. You can see it on the internet and the relief is amazing. It may be a bit up front but well worth the cost of having to keep going to a chiropractor ever time you need.

  10. TheOldWizard says

    Glad to see the addition of some safety equipment !

    If you are foraging for berries, the bears will be too ! Get a can of “bear spray” (pepper spray in very large spray can) for each of you.

  11. Laurie Hopkins says

    I found Goodwill to be an excellent source for canning jars when I started canning. Just be sure to run your finger around the rim to be sure they aren’t chipped.

  12. Aprylle says

    First off, let me say, you two are such an inspiration! I happened across your blog recently and look forward to keeping up with your journey. Keep on doing great things, nevermind these super-critics; what you guys are doing is awesome!

  13. Tabitha says

    I post on facebook that I am looking for canning jars and willing to pay… and please pass the word… then all of a sudden I have become the person to call when someone’s grandma is moving and wants to pass her supplies down to someone that will use them….. Let me tell you… I try to pay.. but they refuse to take money.. They just want to know I will use them to feed my family as they did for so many years… Warms my heart the love they have in the memories.

    Trust me.. the expenses will take some time to go down.. but they will. You are doing better then fine!

    • says

      That’s a great strategy! We’ve seen them for like $2/each at Goodwill but when I did the math I realized how terrible of a deal that was, haha! We have an older neighbor whose wife canned but since she passed away, he now has a bunch of jars sitting in the basement, so he said he’s happy to share. I can totally see not wanting to accept money for something like jars… very few people are willing to do the work to grow food, hunt, and even preserve food so if they’re willing to do it to feed their family, that’s pretty special! Thanks for the reinforcement that expenses will go down… we keep telling ourselves that but man! We aren’t bad at spending money!

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