American Made by the Seat of Your Pants

I’d like to invite you to join me in supporting US manufacturing with your next pair of jeans.

You know I’m a proponent of free and open markets, and global suppliers can certainly be a desirable part of that.

However, when essential goods are outsourced to the point of dependency, it undermines domestic resilience, threatening more than just the economy.

The United States used to be a manufacturing powerhouse, but over time we’ve sold out much of this capacity for lower prices. Without digging into the reasons here, we must acknowledge the risks we’ve taken on when supply chains break down, or political alliances shift.

It’s not just jobs we’ve squandered. We’ve seen what can happen when shipping systems are unexpectedly interrupted. Further, many product categories are sourced almost exclusively from other nations that may not always have our best interests at heart. (One frightening example is pharmaceuticals, as discussed in Rosemary Gibson’s book, China Rx.)

As I said, I’m a free-market guy, and I’m not about to stop buying all imported goods, but I would like to do more to support domestic industry (or, really, critical infrastructure.) As a baby step, I decided to try a pair of jeans from the American Clothing Company, who are dedicated to 100% USA-made products.

These are every bit as good as other brands I’ve bought (quite possibly better) and it feels good knowing they support US jobs, materials, and everything else that goes into running a business. They’re comfortable, durable, and look great. Why not take a baby step and try a pair yourself? If you’re not in the market for jeans, they also make shirts and other items.

Full disclosure: I now have an affiliate relationship with the company, so if you order directly from my link (not the ads you may see after viewing) you’ll also be supporting this American.

Knowledge Evolves: a reversible poem about nutrition theory

a REVERSIBLE poem about nutrition

by Joe Disch

(Read top to bottom for the “standard advice”, then from bottom to top to update it!)

Our elders’ wisdom is finally being reconsidered

Modern foods are healthier

No longer do we simply accept

The habits of those who came before us

Now we have learned the scientific wisdom of a diet based on

Whole grains like wheat, corn, and rice

We’ve given ourselves the “diseases of civilization” with

Saturated fats and cholesterol

According to scientific studies,

What’s the better choice?

Refined seed oils like canola, corn, and soy

And we understand we should avoid

Red meat – studies have confirmed it time and again

Everyone knows about the importance of

“This good nutritious breakfast, fortified with 8 essential vitamins and minerals”

We no longer expect to start our day with

Eggs  (especially the yolks – full of cholesterol your body makes even if you don’t eat it)

If there were a single most nutritious food, what might it be?

Modern low fat, pasteurized, homogenized dairy products

Many people don’t do well with

Things like whole, full-fat dairy foods – especially raw milk due to the live cultures

Some are better adapted to what might not be a good choice for others

Listen to your body

Common sense really

Eating fat is

What makes you fat

A higher carb diet is

So obviously

As nature intended

Insulin stores any extra carbs before they can cause damage

When you eat heavily of grains and starches

“Calories in, calories out” is just the simplest math

Your body is so smart

It’s important to portion your plate to meet your body’s energy needs

We now have too many people to feed the conventional way

Soil is becoming depleted of nutrients

Chemical inputs and genetic modification

May in fact be the only viable solution to replace

The gentle dance of traditional, restorative, organic agriculture

Well intentioned ideas sometimes can’t keep up with the realities of life

Move, play, laugh, love

Be sure to get plenty of sleep

Stay hydrated with clean healthy water

Eat a variety of healthy foods, including lots of vegetables

Unless we want to get sicker and sicker

We need to think about where we came from as well as where we’re going

Lessons are learned, and knowledge evolves

(Now read from bottom to top for a different perspective)

“Knowledge Evolves” Copyright 11/25/2015 by Joe Disch. Visit for more of Joe’s work. Not intended as nutritional or medical advice. Offered as an artistic perspective on opposing viewpoints. Permission granted to republish as is, as long as this paragraph is included in its entirety. Links/canonical tags appreciated where applicable.

Co-ops aren’t just for hippies

The ranks of “preppers” have grown to include some unexpected demographics. Interest is exploding in locally and sustainably produced food with decentralized supply chains. Natural and organic food sources, or the means to provide for yourself through homesteading, aren’t just for hippies anymore. People who might find themselves at odds over political views are finding common ground in a desire to make the world, or at least their corner of it, a better place.

Many communities have a fantastic resource often overlooked by some of these people, or brushed off as something it isn’t… necessarily. Food co-ops are, by definition, intended for everyone and operated for the benefit of those who utilize them. They may share best practices and negotiate group purchasing terms, but each store is independent and autonomous, not beholden to a large corporate parent. Since they tend to have a larger number of small, local vendors than typical supermarkets, you’re helping to reduce dependence on a single fragile supply chain.

Anyone can walk in and shop, but an optional, refundable equity payment makes you a part-owner of the business. The investment varies, but at my local co-op it’s $58– or $10 a year for 7 years. In other words, you can access all the benefits of ownership (owner discounts, special orders, voting in board elections, or even running to serve on the board yourself) for a whole year with a single payment of $10! That’s nothing compared to membership at most “club” stores where you don’t enjoy an ownership voice. And, if you don’t have a food cooperative in your town (even if you do, really) you can get together with like-minded folks and start one of your own.

Co-ops operate according to a long-standing set of cooperative principles, described here:

Voluntary, open ownership – all welcome without discrimination (social, political, religious, etc.)

Democratic owner control – one owner = one vote, so your voice is heard

Owner economic participation – owners provide the capital and share the benefits

Autonomy and independence – co-ops are autonomous self-help organizations

Education, training and information – providing educational opportunities & resources

Cooperation among cooperatives– co-ops help each other when possible 

Concern for the community – various programs and policies to help your neighbors 

If you’re picturing a band of flower children offering tofu burritos and wormy little apples (“That’s how you know they’re organic, man!”) in a dusty space smelling of patchouli and… something–  look again. With the passage of time, and the guiding touch of the market’s invisible hand, food co-ops have matured into something quite different. In cities and towns nearly everywhere you’ll find clean, professional storefronts sharing the overarching mission of putting customers first – because those customers are also the owners.

Walk into a modern co-op and you’ll likely find a clean, well-stocked grocery store with an emphasis on clean, natural foods. There will be locally produced eggs, dairy, and produce. Meats are mostly from locally raised, pastured animals. In addition to a variety of packaged groceries, staples and dried foods can be purchased in bulk. Many co-ops offer a good selection of DIY and homesteading solutions, including canning supplies, GMO-free seeds and other gardening needs, tools & supplies for making things yourself, books and even classes. The wellness area is likely a treasure trove of harder-to-find supplements, herbal remedies, bulk teas, fluoride-free toothpaste, natural soaps, and other alternative personal care items. If you’re looking for something that isn’t stocked, most co-ops are happy to special order it for you.

Check out your local cooperative food store even if – especially if – you thought it wasn’t for you. By taking your business there, you’re doing more to support local farmers and producers, and a more decentralized and resilient distribution network. By making a small investment in becoming an owner, you’ll have a voice in the governance of your store, and the manner in which it gives back to the community.

Thirteen fresh budget boosters

Nope, I’m not going to tell you to skip your daily latte. If you’re trying to stretch your budget to get out of debt or build wealth, you’ve seen the same suggestions over and over. Obvious things that you’ve already done, like ditching the expensive coffee habit, or sticking to a shopping list. Here are some different ideas that don’t make most of those lists. Chances are good you’ll find something here that you haven’t considered yet.

1. Find a salvage grocery store

Chances are there’s a salvage grocery store within reasonable driving distance of your home. It’s like a whole store that’s one big clearance rack. These “scratch and dent” operations specialize in selling merchandise that regular stores won’t- because it’s damaged, discontinued, short-dated, or otherwise imperfect. They tend to be small operations with unpredictable inventory, but if you consider it a shopping adventure you’re sure to find some bargains.

2. Let a student fix your lawn mower

Many local community colleges and technical schools obtain practice cases for their repair classes by offering discounted service to the general public. They can often fix your small engines like lawnmowers and snow blowers, appliances like air conditioners, and more for a fraction of the going rate – provided it’s the right time of the year, and they’re not already booked. Call the school and ask for someone in the appropriate department to find out what they might offer.

3. Eat nose to tail

Traditional cultures valued all parts of their animals, wasting nothing. Rejected for a time as “uncivilized”, foods like organ meats, bone broth, and gelatin are making a comeback – both for their exceptional nutritional profiles and the budget boost of eating something for which there’s less competition. Liver, for example, is one of the most nutrient dense foods there is, and even the highest quality grass-fed kind is often remarkably inexpensive. The same goes for heart, kidneys, and other bits. Chicken feet and necks are excellent for making broth and soup, as are bones and vegetable scraps that you save in a freezer container.

4. Check out your local grocery co-op

You’re probably also near a food co-op of some kind. These are member-owned grocery stores which often have an emphasis on locally sourced, natural and organic foods. If you want something that isn’t stocked, most co-ops are happy to special order it for you. Despite a reputation for offering some spendy premium goods, some things are likely to be much cheaper here. Of particular note, there’s usually an impressive bulk department where you can get grains, nuts, seeds, candy, dried fruit, herbs & spices, and more at very competitive prices when you fill your own container. Best of all, you can buy just the amount you need, whether a pound of nuts or a pinch of fennel seed. Here’s an article I wrote about co-ops from a paleo diet perspective, but the principles apply no matter what you eat.

5. Properly measure your coffee

I said this wouldn’t be about your Starbucks habit, but what about the coffee you make at home every day? We’re currently getting our coffee from Costco to save money, and it’s good for a pre-ground commercial product, but also finer than we’re used to. When we recently started having problems with an overflowing filter basket, one of the suggestions I found online was to make sure you’re not using too much. It turned out our scoop was indeed about 30% larger than the recommended amount, and changing it out for the right size (⅓ cup, in our case) solved our problem. New filter purchase averted, and major savings on the magic beans from here on out!

6. Follow Dave Ramsey’s “baby steps” to get out of debt and build wealth

So this one isn’t exactly a secret, but lots of people still haven’t heard of Dave Ramsey. In my opinion, he has the best plan around for getting out of the debt trap and reaching your goals no matter where you’re at on the financial spectrum. His plan has helped millions of people get completely out of debt and on track financially. To be honest, I was initially put off by the religious language he sometimes uses, but then I realized that’s just who he is, and the underlying concepts really are for everyone. His plan works because it provides hope, motivation, and a proven, practical structure. And it applies whether you’re teetering on bankruptcy or the millionaire next door. Check out his book or entertaining podcast to get the whole scoop.

7. Switch to a credit union or community bank

Credit unions generally offer lower rates for loans (such as you might need to temporarily trade down in vehicles if you’re underwater on your crazy car loan) and higher rates for savings than the big bank chains. Perhaps more importantly, they’re likely to have fewer fees and minimum balances, and may be more flexible if you run into a problem.

8. Fix your own appliances

When (not if) a heating element goes out in your oven, you could buy a brand new oven as a family member actually suggested (yeah, right.) More realistically, you could call a repair service– and get a big bill. Or… you could order the part and install it yourself for much less. There are websites and online videos showing you exactly what to do. You need to be careful not to take on more than you can handle, but many of these projects are easier than they seem. You probably have a local appliance parts store that can get what you need, but it’s worth checking Amazon too, where you’ll often find cheaper alternatives. I’ve paid less than $30 for a part that would cost $80 locally.

9. Fill your tank/s while you’re at Costco

Do you have a Costco membership? I find that they almost always have the lowest price for gas. It doesn’t count toward your annual rebate, but the actual pump price is often a penny (sometimes as much as 10¢) below the lowest nearby competitor. There’s no guarantee of course, but it seems to be part of their business model to make fill-ups a no-brainer.

While you’re at it, if your other tank needs filling too (the one inside you) it’s hard to beat their hot dog deal at the lunch counter. You get a large, better-than-average hot dog or brat for $1.50 (in Madison, WI at the time of writing) which includes a soda. If you eat paleo/low-carb/etc. like I do, they’ll happily put it on a plate without a bun, and the soda machine also dispenses club soda or water. Sauerkraut is optional but free for the asking. Condiment bar has yellow & brown mustards, ketchup, relish, and chopped onions.

10. Fully utilize your Amazon Prime benefits

If you order things for home delivery (and who doesn’t?) Amazon Prime is probably already a good idea just for the free shipping. That’s old news. But you should know that it also offers amazing (often free) deals on music streaming, audio books, unlimited photo storage (with inexpensive print delivery) and more. Check it out to see what they have that you might currently be paying more for somewhere else.

11. Try the Shopkick app – Get gift cards for browsing

I debated whether this is a money-saving, or a money-making, idea. I chose to include it here because you collect points while shopping, and the app turns them into instant gift cards – often for the same stores, like Target, Wal-Mart, Starbucks, etc. If you pay attention to opportunities, a few clicks and scans can quickly add up to savings on this or a future shopping trip. Sometimes you even get points just for walking into a particular store! The app is free and easy to use, and I find it quite worthwhile.

12. Re-use the envelopes that come with junk mail

You still have a few bills that you pay by mail, right? No need to spend money on envelopes, when you already get them for free in your junk mail! Just label over the pre-printed information and stick on a stamp! This is also a good use for those unsolicited sheets of return address labels that some charities send out periodically.

13. Keep an extra water pitcher by the sink

In most houses, you have to waste some cold water while waiting for the hot water to come through the pipe. This is sometimes true for cold water too, if you want it really cold. Why not capture all this wasted water in a pitcher kept by your sink, so you can use it for watering plants, flushing the toilet, or whatever. Be creative! If your sink drips, keep it under the faucet to collect that water too.

If you found this helpful, or have other ideas to share, I’d love to hear from you in my Facebook group: Joe’s Budget Boosters!


What’s this?

Welcome to, my personal/professional blog. This is a hub where you’ll find my thoughts on business and technology, personal and productivity goodies, reviews of my favorite stuff, and occasional cross-posts from my other sites such as MadisonPaleo. Expect a mostly positive outlook, plenty of actionable ideas, and a decidedly free-market perspective. Be sure and take a moment to sign up for my mailing list so you won’t miss occasional important updates and special bonus material. If you like what you see, please share!