Sunday, December 31, 2017

Think I'll need to keep searching

For a good solution to regional eating, that is. I met the guy from the CSA-style program this morning and I left feeling, well, underwhelmed. I went all ready to sign up straightaway and now I don't think I will at all. I did appreciate that he was honest about the shortcomings of the program at least. Opinions welcome on this one.

Cost per month (with a commitment of a year, renewed every year for another full year): €130, which works out to €30 per week.

All of the produce comes from the same farm. Basically, the people in the association (about 180) get together and tell the farmer that they'll pay x amount of money. They also meet every six weeks (not mandatory but it sounded like most people do attend) to decide things like what's to be grown. From what I understood, the farmer who owns the farm also participates in those discussions, which makes sense. As well as "employing" that farmer, there are three other full-time farmers employed to work with him. The six-weekly meeting decided last year, for example, to increase the wages from €12 to €15 per hour, slightly higher than average for work on an organic farm apparently.

The place I would have gone to collect my stuff from is close to work. About 15 people also collect from there. It's basically just a cellar at the back of a communal/alternative student collective of some kind. And honestly, the building entrance was not very well kept and, well, kind of smelly.

Once a week someone from each depot drives to the farm to collect the stuff. I would also be expected to do that at least a few times a year (using a car-sharing car they could make available). Then everyone just brings their own bags to take their portion of stuff. This week, for example, one share was 1kg potatoes, 2 small pumpkins (each slightly bigger than a handful), 1kg onions and 500g black kale (which was totally infested with white cabbage moths).

You also get 1.5 litres raw milk every week but you have to provide your own bottles and they just fill them up. Then, every two weeks there is also meat or cheese. You more or less end up with about 1kg of meat and 300g of cheese per month, from what I understood. Various cuts, mince or salami/sausage (all beef). And finally, a loaf of bread every week, too. Oh, you can pay an extra 1.30 a month to get herbs, as well.

But while I would have assumed that a share looks very different in the summer/autumn peak season, apparently not all that much. They grow no tomoatoes, cucumbers or peppers (ok, no peppers or cucumbers wouldn't bother me). The only fruit seems to be gooseberries and blackcurrants, with a couple of litres of apple juice once or twice a year. So apart from salad, it seems like summer tends to be early potatoes, early carrots, leeks and, well, he wasn't sure what else. From photos on their website I can see beets and kohlrabi, too. And, of course, as they don't keep chickens, there are no eggs included either.

So, all in all, I'd probably end up buying a good bit on top of what I'd get from them. And given that I want to concentrate on eating to lose weight this year, such a big proportion of every week being potatoes and bread, even in summer, isn't ideal. Lots of thinking to do now.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Fresh start

Carolyn over at The 1940's Experiment is starting afresh this week with both weight loss and budgeting. And so am I. I'd already been thinking about doing something like this for a while and just don't seem to get anywhere with it. I went to the doctor a few weeks ago and asked about getting help with losing weight and will hopefully have an appointment with a dietician early in the new year. It's not that I feel like they will be able to actually help me much in terms of teaching me about food (let's face it, I probably at least as much as they do on the subject of food and how to lose weight) but I need outside support to actually do something. I'm just not getting anywhere on my own. The place I'll be working with seems to be quite holistic as well, so hopefully the health insurance will also cover the cost of some basic exercise programms. I've also signed up for a new program my health insurance are offering which is a kind of mental health support scheme. Not sure exactly how that will work out but it's kind of like a step before therapy (there's a severe shortage of places with psychologists here and people can end up waiting for a long time before they can get an appointment). From what I understand it involves a weekly phone call with one of their counsellors to talk about whatever is going on and try and find ways for me to deal with everything that's going on. It was sheer coincidence that I got the leaflet for this program at the same time I was trying to get the cover for a dietician set up but I grabbed at the chance immediately. I am trying to be better at asking for help.

As for budget, well, barring one potentially crappy situation (I messed up a big translation job and am waiting to hear back from them - may have to pay them back, may have to cover damages they incurred if they ended up getting someone else to redo it), I'm actually starting to slowly get to a relatively stable place. I have enough money set aside to be able to pay my tax bill for 2016 whenever it comes in and when the rest of my outstanding invoices are paid, should have enough to cover 2017's tax bill as well. I have 450 set aside for annual expenses and 250 for travel/holidays. But, I should also be able to cover annual expenses and travels costs for the next two months directly without needing to touch the savings. Finally, I have 500 set aside in a separate savings account, which is the start of a proper emergency fund.

As I am now working full-time, I am earning almost 300 more per month than I was before. I will have a few expenses that I want to put this money towards over the first few months of the year (getting bike fixed, getting shelves put up in the kitchen and so on) but by June I want to be at the stage where I am living on my previous 75% salary and saving the extra. Will someone come back and ask me in June whether or not I've managed to do that? To be perfectly honest, I'm not really loving working 100% again and I'd rather not get used to the money so that if I can at all finagle my way to reducing hours, it won't be a difficult financial decision.

So much for the monthly stuff. On a more micro level, I'm going to start an envelope method again. I have signed up for a monthly Solawi* box (or at least, I'll be visiting tomorrow and plan to sign up) and that will provide the bulk of my food. Apart from that I will be withdrawing a very generous 60 euro per week from the bank in cash. That's actually how much I was planning on allocating every week before I took the Solawi box into account. I'm going to see how it goes. The idea is that I should be well able to not spend that amount of money every week and will be able to build up a bit of a buffer to start my envelopes off well.

I should think about what envelopes I want to have actually. Hmm. Here's a first list:
  1. Birthdays/presents incl. postage
  2. Clothes
  3. Shoes
  4. New coat next winter
  5. Meals/drinks out
  6. Exercise
So as these things come up over the first few months I'll just cover the cost from my weekly amount but I'll also be putting aside a small amount each week to build that buffer. I have a few birthdays in January and February but already have presents for those so will just need to cover the postage cost. I don't currently really need new clothes or shoes and won't really be going out much. The only exercise cost will be 10 euro per week for my back training course for about six weeks. After that the official course, paid for by work, will be starting up again.

I'm sure I'll end up changing this all a lot as time passes but it's a starting point at least. Need to just keep repeating to myself that a millionaire is made ten bucks at a time.

* Solawi is the name given to an organisation called Solidarische Landwirtschaft or literally solidary agriculture, and is similar to the CSA programs they have in the US. I pay a certain amount every month and for that get a box of food every week. Mostly veg but also meat, dairy and wheat (in the form of grain, flour or bread). Smaller amounts in winter, obviously, and if there is a disastrous harvest then it's tough luck and not a lot of food. The monthly amount paid remains the same. But it means I'll be genuninely back to having mostly local and organic food, as it really is just the one farm providing everything and that farm is located less than 7km from where I live and 15 km from where I work (my pick-up point will be close to work).