Tag Archives: cost

Is it possible to only shop at farmers markets?

With so many benefits to shopping at farmers markets, is it possible skip supermarkets altogether and only shop at farmers markets?

It is, and I have been doing so for 3 years. I remember thinking that I couldn’t possibly find everything I needed. Maybe one meal’s worth, but all three? everyday?

Yep, it’s possible and the benefits are extraordinary. I spend less money, eat much better, my health is actually improving (I’m losing the fat!), and I have become part of a community. I know my bread-lady, meat-man, old-school Italian (he says to me: “hello-uh big-uh boy”), the avocado savant, and even a Mexican cactus farmer.

The variety of foods at the farmers market is quite deep, so deep that it will take you months to explore all of them. There is no lack of possibilities for feeding yourself. This makes three meals a day easy. The only snag is that while you know how to make Mac n’ Cheese, you probably don’t know what to do with Chard. There is a learning curve but most people seem to enjoy that part of it.

Next, is cost. If you compare, item to item, the food at the farmers market is more expensive than the supermarkets. But, if you compare value (i.e. nutrition) then the farmers market is an extreme bargain.

The easiest way to explain this is think of foods considered to be of very little nutritional value, like popcorn. You can eat a whole jumbo popcorn and still feel hungry. Popcorn is food and a vegetable but it doesn’t contain enough of the vitamins and essential nutrients our bodies need. Yet, it is extremely cheap to buy at the supermarket. Think of farmers markets as the exact opposite. The foods sold there are designed to be jam-packed with vitamins and essential nutrients. So much so, that you get full really quickly. I often find myself eating half of what I used, sometimes one-fourth.

When you’re buying half as much as you used to, or even one-fourth, the amount you spend drops pretty fast. This is hardest part for folks to understand. Always at the farmers market I see people shocked at the prices and I just want to stop them and say “it’s quality not quantity.”

That is especially true when it comes to our health. When you put less food in your body, you lose weight. When you put higher quality food in your body, your health improves. Oh, and higher quality food tastes better too. I could talk for hours about the impact this has on how I look, but suffice it to say, I’m in the best shape of my life.

Depending on the size of your local farmers market, there are some things you won’t be able to find. Coffee is the most obvious one, so is chocolate and tea. For specialty items like these I shop at my local health store. They tend to stock higher quality, more nutritious products (though nowhere near the quality at the farmers market).

Lastly, is the winter stores. There are still plenty of things to buy during the winter, even in especially cold regions. In fact, a large part of French and German cooking is about cooking things sold only in the winter (French Onion Soup, mmm!). But, sometimes you just want a tasty watermelon or juicy pear in January. This is easily solved by creating your winter stores. Buy your favorites at the farmers market when they are going out of season and on sale for steep discounts. Cut them up into squares, freeze them, and don’t let anyone touch until the depths of winter.

These are the important things to know when making the switch to an all farmers market diet. Everything else you can learn at the market, from buyers and farmers. You can ask them anything, about quality or how to cook, and they will answer. That’s why they sell at the market and not the supermarket. They’re part of the rising sub-culture dedicated to ideal health and amazing food. Go ahead, make the switch and see what happens!

 

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Wind is cheaper than coal? — Fact checking this statement

The other day I heard in passing, “wind is now cheaper than coal.” If true, this symbolizes the holy grail of renewable energy. It would mean that a turning point for not only cleaner energy, but global warming, climate change, pollution, foreign oil dependence, and more.

To fact check this, I pulled up the top 20 results from Google and narrowed them down to the below articles (most were duplicates pointing at these 5 stories).

Not at all definitive but it does give you an idea of the state of the industry. Just keep in mind that the prices may or may not include subsidies or tax breaks, which can drastically change the costs quoted below.

 

Jul 2012 - In India, wind is cheaper than coal in Indi (w/out subsidies) (Bloomberg Business)

The cost of wind power has dropped below the price of coal-fired energy in parts of India for the first time as improved turbine technology (from GE) and rising fossil-fuel prices boost its competitiveness, Greenko Group Plc (GKO) said.

 

Mar 2012 – In Michigan wind is cheaper than coal (American Wind Energy Assoc.)

The Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) recently issued a report that finds that electricity generated from renewable energy sources, at an average cost of $91 per megawatt-hour (9.1 cents/kilowatt-hour), is almost one-third cheaper than the cost of electricity from a new coal-fired power plant ($133 per MWh, or 13.3 cents/kWh).

Further, the report notes, “The actual cost of renewable energy contracts submitted to the Commission to date shows a downward pricing trend.

 

Feb 2012 – In California, prices doubled in the first decade of 21st century, since 2011 are dropping to parity with natural gas (SF Gate)

The price of renewable power contracts signed by California utilities more than doubled from 2003 through 2011 but has now started to plunge…

The cost of buying electricity from a new natural gas power plant…(in 2011) ranged from 7.5 cents per kilowatt hour to 12 cents per kilowatt hour, depending on the length of the contract…The cost of renewable power from wind and solar facilities averaged between 8 and 9 cents per kilowatt hour.

 

Nov 2011 – Investigation of Bill Clinton’s claim that wind/solar are cheaper than nuclear (Politifact)

  • Conventional Coal – 94.8 (dollars/MWh)
  • Wind – Onshore – 97
  • Nuclear – 113.9
  • Solar – Photovoltaic – 210.7
  • Wind – Offshore – 243.2
  • Solar – Thermal – 311.8

Source: DOE’s Energy Information Administration

 

Nov 2011 – Google retires its initiative RE

It’s not clear here if Google feels this is already won and moving on, or if they have had enough and are quitting. One thing is certain, Google invested nearly a billion dollars ($850 million) in renewable energy last year.

This initiative was developed as an effort to drive down the cost of renewable energy, with an RE<C engineering team focused on researching improvements to solar power technology. At this point, other institutions are better positioned than Google to take this research to the next level. So we’ve published our results to help others in the field continue to advance the state of power tower technology, and we’ve closed our efforts.

 

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The growing popularity of summer camps for building iPhone, Android apps

Here is an excerpt from a Marketplace interview on computer-focused summer camps, they’re surging in popularity:

 

Queena Kim: Aw…the  sounds of summer. Families getting together for barbeques. The sound of BBQ sizzling. Dogs running around.

And 9-year-old Alex  is plopped down on a lounge chair totally engrossed in his favorite iPad game, which prompts this from his dad:

 

Gary: Alex, lose the iPad!

 

Chances are, these words are being heard across the country. But a growing number of parents are taking the opposite tack.

 

Instructor: And this is the course that uses x-code so…

 

Welcome to ID Tech Camps.  It started 13 years ago with 200 hundred campers in Silicon Valley. Today, ID Tech says it has about 23,000 campers in 25 states. One week at the camp can cost up to $1,400 — and that comes with the usual camp activities like swimming, games and nighttime pranks.

 

Read the full story: Marketplace - Summer camp for young techies

 

 

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The recession hits Harvard…with interesting changes – more money to undergrads, less to books

Harvard isn’t belt-tightening everywhere. Since 2007, its investment in financial aid to undergraduates has risen by more than 78%, which Harvard said is “significantly outpacing increases in tuition.” Undergraduate tuition for the 2012-13 year climbed 3.5% to $54,496.

***

As it looks to economize, Harvard has turned some of its attention toward the more than $160 million it spends each year on its nearly 375 year-old library system, which holds 17 million volumes, and includes 73 separate libraries. Widener, the flagship library, alone has 57 miles of shelving.

Harvard is also changing its philosophy on owning books. The goal: Provide access to them rather than collecting each one, which can lead to costs for storage and preservation, a 2009 Harvard task-force report said. The library will extend partnerships to borrow from other libraries, and further digitize its own collection so it can share with others.

The university is finding it “increasingly painful” to manage academic-journal subscriptions, which annually cost it about $3.75 million, Harvard Provost Alan Garber said.

In a move watched throughout academia, Harvard in April urged its faculty members to publish in open-access journals. “Move the prestige to open access,” a memo said.

 

Keep reading: Wall Street Journal - Economy Tests Harvard

 

 

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A refreshing look at climate change in America – what are we doing about it?

A refreshing, well-balanced look at climate change in America.

 

You don’t have to be a climate scientist these days to know that the climate has problems. You just have to step outside.

The United States is now enduring its warmest year on record…Meanwhile, the country often seems to be moving further away from doing something about climate change, with the issue having all but fallen out of the national debate.

Behind the scenes, however, a somewhat different story is starting to emerge — one that offers reason for optimism to anyone worried about the planet. The world’s largest economies may now be in the process of creating a climate-change response that does not depend on the politically painful process of raising the price of dirty energy. The response is not guaranteed to work, given the scale of the problem. But the early successes have been notable.

Over the last several years, the governments of the United States, Europe and China have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on clean-energy research and deployment. And despite some high-profile flops, like ethanol and Solyndra, the investments seem to be succeeding more than they are failing.

 

Keep reading: N.Y. Times - There’s Still Hope for the Planet

 

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San Onofre Nuclear Plant shut down for the summer – does Southern California still need it?

This summer may be just a test run for operating Southern California’s electrical grid without a nuclear plant.

The latest report on the outage at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station shows the replacement of four massive steam generators was accompanied by serious design flaws, with no clear solution in sight.

Both stakeholders in San Onofre and critics of nuclear power say the start of a summer without the twin-reactor plant has forced a new accounting for its costs and benefits.

The utility industry and the state’s main grid operator are “considering a range of existing and new alternatives for mitigating the impacts of a long-term or permanent shutdown at San Onofre,” said Stephanie McCorkle, a spokeswoman for the California Independent System Operator.

At full tilt, San Onofre can produce enough electricity to power 1.4 million homes.

Yet the grid operator foresees only the remote chance of rolling outages during hot weather in the next three months — when San Onofre is needed the most.

 

Keep readingSan Onofre: Do we really need it?

 

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It cost just $1.36 to charge an iPad for a year – iPhone $0.38

That coffee you’re drinking while gazing at your iPad? It cost more than all the electricity needed to run those games, emails, videos and news stories for a year.

The annual cost to charge an iPad is just $1.36, according to the Electric Power Research Institute, a non-profit research and development group funded by electric utilities.

By comparison, a 60-watt compact fluorescent bulb costs $1.61, a desktop PC adds up to $28.21 and a refrigerator runs you $65.72.

…assumed that users would charge up every other day.

But there’s an even cheaper way to go than the iPad. EPRI calculated the cost of power needed to fuel an iPhone 4 for year: just 38 cents.

 

via Associated Press

 

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Learn more about the Affordable Care Act – summary of Medicaid expansion and costs

Medicaid is the largest health insurance program in the United States.  Presently, Medicaid provides health and long-term care coverage to 59 million individuals.

Under the PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), Medicaid is set to expand its eligibility for coverage to include persons with income levels at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Best estimates place the increase in additional enrollees at 16 million to 18 million.

The purpose behind the expansion of Medicaid under the PPACA is to reduce the number of uninsured in the U.S., an estimated 46 million.  Using analyses provided during the debate leading up to passage of the PPACA, 32 million of the 46 million will gain access to insurance under the new law, half of which will do so via Medicaid.

Assuming a somewhat equal replacement trend (those that fall off Medicaid due to death or change in economic status are replaced by approximately the same number of new eligible enrollees) over the phase-in period set for Medicaid expansion (by 2014), Medicaid will ultimately cover nearly 70 million people.  Per the Congressional Budget Office, the cost of expansion between 2010 and 2019 to the federal government is $434 billion with an additional $20 billion allocable as states’ costs.

 

ViaHealth Reform and Medicaid Expansion

 

 

With an additional 16-18 million people on Medicaid, cost becomes a big issue. Estimates have the total cost of the whole bill (Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) at $828 billion. Take away from that $575 billion in savings from Medicare, and a bevy of new taxes.

Including higher taxes for those making more than $200K, taxes on luxury medical plans, on drugs, on high-cost medical equipment, on indoor tanning salons, and an annual fee to all insurance providers.

Added all together and the Congressional Budget Office estimates a reduction in the Federal Budget deficit, meaning that the PPACA and its increased Medicaid coverage pays for itself and saves money.

Of course, these are all estimates and subject to endless debate.

 

Source: Estimated Financial Effects of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” as Amended (pdf)

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Learn more about the Affordable Care Act – summary of Medicare reforms

A summary from the White House:

 

*Note: Medicare is for the elderly and Medicaid is for the poor. Most of the controversy and supreme court discussion is around Medicaid, not the below Medicare.

 

Strengthening Medicare

Nearly 50 million older Americans and Americans with disabilities rely on Medicare each year, and the new health care law makes Medicare stronger by adding new benefits, fighting fraud, and improving care for patients. The life of the Medicare Trust Fund will be extended to at least 2024 as a result of reducing waste, fraud, and abuse, and slowing cost growth in Medicare. And, over the next ten years, the law will save the average person in Medicare $4,200. People with Medicare who have the prescription drug costs that hit the so-called donut hole will save an average of over $16,000.

Lower Cost Prescription Drugs: In the past, as many as one in four seniors went without a prescription every year because they couldn’t afford it. To help these seniors, the law provides relief for people in the donut hole – the ones with the highest prescription drug costs. As a first step, in 2010, nearly four million people in the donut hole received a $250 check to help with their costs. In 2011, 3.6 million people with Medicare received a 50 percent discount worth a total of $2.1 billion, or an average of $604 per person, on their brand name prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole. Seniors will see additional savings on covered brand-name and generic drugs while in the coverage gap until the gap is closed in 2020.

Free Preventive Services: Under the new law, seniors can receive recommended preventive services such as flu shots, diabetes screenings, as well as a new Annual Wellness Visit, free of charge. So far, more than 32.5 million seniors have already received one or more free preventive services, including the new Annual Wellness Visit.

Fighting Fraud: The health care law helps stop fraud with tougher screening procedures, stronger penalties, and new technology. Thanks in part to these efforts, we recovered $4.1 billion in taxpayer dollars in 2011, the second year recoveries hit this record-breaking level. Total recoveries over the last three years were $10.7 billion. Prosecutions are way up, too: the number of individuals charged with fraud increased from 821 in fiscal year 2008 to 1,430 in fiscal year 2011 – nearly a 75 percent increase.

Improving Care Coordination and Quality: Through the newly established Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, this Administration is testing and supporting innovative new health care models that can reduce costs and strengthen the quality of health care. So far, it has introduced 16 initiatives involving over 50,000 health care providers that will touch the lives of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in all 50 states.

Providing Choices while Lowering Costs: The number of seniors who joined Medicare Advantage plans increased by 17 percent between 2010 and 2012 while the premiums for such plans dropped by 16 percent – and seniors across the nation have a choice of health plans.

 

More from this series:

Top 3 Reasons To Choose Airbnb Over Hotels

Airbnb is disrupting the hotel industry.

As of February 2012, 5 million guest nights have been booked worldwide since the site’s launch in 2007, with a 500% growth in the past year and accommodations in over 19,000 cities.

 

Airbnb Global Growth Infographic

 

I’ve now stayed at two properties (one in San Diego and one in Santa Barbara) and I’m officially on the Airbnb bandwagon. Here’s why:

1. Comfort: After traveling so much in my career, I’ve grown weary of the generic, cookie cutter look and feel of hotel rooms, even 5-star accommodations. Staying at an AirBnb is like staying at a friend’s house, with all the comforts and spaciousness of a home, like a kitchen and a comfy living room with books and magazines to peruse.

2. Amenities: I’ve started to deplore how hotels nickel and dime guests, especially when it comes to wifi and water. Both Airbnbs I’ve stayed at offered free, secure wifi and purified drinking water. It might sound trivial, but I feel like water and wifi should be included in a guest’s stay. And at our Santa Barbara rental, the owner provided two bikes, with bike locks and helmets for guests. I can’t tell you how awesome it was to arrive and jump right onto the bike to explore the city. Plus, there was free street parking just feet away from the entrances at both properties.

3. Cost: Bottom line, you get a lot more for a lot less at an Airbnb. And you don’t have to pay for all the hidden costs of hotels.

Not all people will love Airbnb (especially those enamored by turn-down and room service). But I get a feeling a growing number of folks will like what Airbnb has to offer (on both the demand and supply side) and it’s going to take a big bite out of the hotel industry pie.