Recently we were asked by a reporter who, in an email, asked:

“I am curious to know how urban homesteading has decreased your family budget on a monthly and/or annual basis? In other words, how much do you save by growing the majority of your own food? How often do you go the grocery store? Also, does your ecological conservancy tie into your consumer practices in anyway (i.e. are you careful to be frugal when it comes to material items as well?) Looking forward to hearing more…”

We highlighted a few things back in an email which included:

Food & Energy

  • “Liberated” front yard from a lawn in the early 1990s by covering in mulch and growing edible flowers and, later, fruit and vegetables also.
  • Grow 98% of our produce – never have to buy eggs (and hopefully dairy products soon ) Providing up to 80 or 90% (in summer) of vegetarian diet.
  • These are averages +/- depending on season and special occasions (most of the cost comes from dairy products – no thanks to the rising foods cost). Grocery bill ~$80-100 per week. Plus buying in bulk ~$125 per month from a co-op….. total food (a vegetarian diet) bill is about $500/mo. and this feeds our family plus volunteers (Do not know how much we save because we don’t have a way to compare; it has been over a decade since we last depended on the grocery store for produce.)
  • We go to the grocery store now 1 time a week on a Friday. However, our routine has become irregular due to outside disruptions. When we were “purely “urban homesteading and not busy with outreach work, we pushed the gap between grocery store visits to (our record) 1 time in 8 weeks.
  • Utility bills are averages depending on season and other happenings.
  • Electricity bill is ~$20/mo. (includes customer fees) / Our household uses about 6 kwh a day
  • Natural gas: ~$20/mo.
  • Water & sewer: the amount of this bill is skewed because we operate a produce business out of our home, selling surplus to restaurants, etc and we have to water the garden a lot to irrigate the plants during the dry SoCal weather. We also conserve water by bathing/showering on average of once a week.

How frugal are we?

We are so frugal that:

  • We have not owned a new sofa since 1974.
  • Our only electrical appliance in the kitchen is the refrigerator and it is energy-star.
  • 90% of our household furnishings are second hand.
  • We have no electric clothes dryer, no microwave, no dishwasher, no AC and no central heating.
  • We have had no new car in 30 years and drive less than 4,000 miles per year. Current vehicle is a “second hand” 20 year old diesel.
  • We wear second hand clothes mostly. Bought from thrift stores, e-bay, and through catalogs.
  • We eat granola (or oatmeal) for breakfast 6 times a week, 52 weeks a year.
  • We don’t go out to eat, don’t go out to the movies, don’t have cable TV (but do watch DVDs from Netflix), don’t go to clubs or bars.
  • We labor on Labor Day.

Because of this we are happy.

No Comments

  1. Susan says:

    It is so sad to see so many in our society who strive and work overtime, often at a job they hate, to buy more and more possessions, thinking that will make them happy. You have “nothing” and yet you have everything. I’d rather have chickens and goats than fancy clothes and a big screen TV! When I was 14 I had a friend who had chickens and I have always wanted to have some myself. I don’t have a place for them (I live in a condo and have no yard) so I’ll just have to enjoy reading about your chickens. =) I hope Bella is feeling better.

    I found your website a few weeks ago and have enjoyed it very much.

  2. Anais says:

    Hello Susan

    A warm howdy to you. Thanks for commenting and share your thoughts. Bella is feeling better thanks for asking.

    We couldn’t agree more! After reading your comment, it had me humming …..

    SOCIETY – Eddie Vedder

    Oh it’s a mystery to me.
    We have a greed, with which we have agreed…
    and you think you have to want more than you need…
    until you have it all, you won’t be free.

    When you want more than you have, you think you need…
    and when you think more then you want, your thoughts begin to bleed.
    I think I need to find a bigger place…
    cause when you have more than you think, you need more space.

    There’s those thinkin’ more or less, less is more,
    but if less is more, how you keepin’ score?
    It means for every point you make, your level drops.
    Kinda like you’re startin’ from the top…
    and you can’t do that.

  3. Gerry Medland says:

    Hi Folks,
    From adjustments in my lifestyle inspired by PTF’s shining example I enclose something I wrote awhile back.
    Walkin away but staying put
    my house is now a pioneer hut
    no longer dazzled by glitter
    I don’t have credit so do not fritter
    makin do and measuring out
    its a productive frugal life for me I shout
    not being rich by material means
    now I’M really livin my dreams
    less is more if you think about it hard
    being free of the credit card
    growin food in my backyard day by day
    I’d not have my life any other way,

    love and blessings from across the pond

  4. RedStateGreen says:

    Good for you!

  5. Angie Robinson says:

    You’ve mentioned the desire to marry and have a homestead of your own, but I was wondering how a couple, especially with young children, could manage to do all you do. Could only two people manage all the work that four adults do, especially if you also needed to homeschool your children which is a job you don’t need to do now? Would you need to continue to live near enough to each other to share the work? I suppose eliminating the outreach would help, but we’d miss you!

  6. Anne says:

    What a great picture! Is there a story behind it? Your example in urban pioneering keeps me thinking about what else I can do to use less gasoline, less electricity, less water, grow more of our food and buy less of everything. We are a family of six with an income of less than $800 a month, so frugality is a necessity, but for me it is even more – I seek freedom from the dependence upon those things deemed necessary by our society. I seek freedom from the vulnerability that comes from dependence upon the pesticide laden, nutritionally depleted, and genetically altered food that is sold to unsuspecting millions. I seek freedom from the vulnerability that comes from being dependent upon the chemically treated recycled waste water that comes through the tap for our drinking water. I seek freedom from the vulnerability that comes from dependence upon electricity for so many aspects of our lives. And, I seek freedom from dependence upon gasoline as well as all the other petroleum based products “necessary” in our society. So many are suffering and dying because of our nation’s need to support this dependence! Path to Freedom is a living example of how that FREEDOM can be attained! Thank-you so much for your continuing work and reaching out to others who want to follow the same path! May God bless you!

  7. David says:

    Wow! I used to go on Gold line to work in downtown LA. thru that old empty area by the current old Chinatown(former train yard).Then few years back they had planted the Not a Corn Field project,

    http://www.notacornfield.info/land/photo/index.html .

    Great to see the park is coming together. The Tongva tribe would be happy to see the eco transition. BTW how’d you get the goats there, not on Gold line? Thanks for sharing your & goats adventures ;).

  8. connie in nm says:

    I am surprised that your food bill is as much as it is. I guess I just assumed that you grew most of the food you eat, made your own cheese, and only bought basics like rice, flour, dry beans, etc.. However, you do feed 5 adults and the cost of food is rising! I would have guessed that you spent about $20 at the grocery each week, max.

  9. Chookie says:

    What is the significance of your labouring on Labour Day? Are you anti-union?

  10. Anais says:

    Hi Chookie

    Thanks for commenting.

    We are urban farmers and there’s no such thing as a vacation or day off! Plants and animals need daily attention and so hence we “labor on labor day!” 😉

  11. Anais says:

    Hi Connie

    We grow all our produce – not all our food. We purchase BULK organic staples like rice, flour, beans, sugar, etc so prices are a little high now with the rising food prices.

    The goats just turned two (a good age to be breed) and will have to find a buck somewheres, get pregnant and then they’ll produce milk so we can make our own cheese and butter.

    In the meantime we purchase organic, raw cheese and butter (which here in CA) are very pricey (so the case for the “high” food bill!)

    Hope that clears up the food bill question.


  12. Anais says:

    Hello Anne

    This is one of my favorite pictures also – the contrast is of urban vs farmlife stunning.

    I guess there is a bit of story…. we like to take our goats out for walks and that day we took them along with us to an event at a public park in LA.

    Thanks for sharing your passion and commitment to life a more self sufficient life. Together we can be the change – the future is now, the choice is ours. It’s folks like you and your family who are fellow travelers, pioneering a more sustainable path!

    Our family wishes you all the best and much success on your family’s PATH TO FREEDOM

    the Dervaes family

  13. Anais says:

    Hi David

    Nice to have you comment. The GOLD LINE is a really nice public system to have… great way to get to LA!

    Nope, didn’t take the GOLD LINE (don’t think they’d like goats on board the train) Some of us road our bikes while the goats went in style (cruising down in the BIO BURBAN)


  14. Anais says:


    Thank you so much for sharing your incredible and inspiring poem with us and our readers. We are indeed touched and humbled by your support and positive comments.

    I’ve printed it up and will post in on our fridge!

    Love and blessings from all
    the Dervaes family

  15. Anais says:

    Hi Angie

    Yep like to get hitched, know any Mid West farm dudes that have a spread.

    We gals can cook, not afraid of long hours, sacrifice, hard work and will travel!

    OK kidding aside, for us to continue this work it would be essential to have help. Someone with a large family would be nice.

    We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it I suppose!

  16. mary says:

    Don’t know where else on the site to ask this question. I have just noticed cockroaches in my compost bin – any suggestions? I have been composting for 11 years in the same spot and have NEVER before had an issue with bad bugs. I did remake the frame in March using leftover stones from around the yard. Could it be that there is now not enough air circulation? ANY help would be much appreciated.

  17. mary says:

    Laundry Question:
    During a recent heavy rain our detached garage and laundry room were flooded. Our electric laundry appliances were spoiled. I have always used a clothes line in the spring-fall, so drying is not really an issue. BUT what are my options for an energy efficient washing machine? I noticed you use a small hand wash machine – do you do all the laundry that way?? I would like one but cannot afford what I have seen online…anyone know how to make a wringer washer?

    • Pam says:

      @mary, A 5 gallon bucket and a new plunger works great and so does a bathtub and some feet (ie..kids) Use a wringer from the janitors supply store that is used to wring mops. I always just wrange out by hand.

  18. Amber says:

    I realize this post is a couple years old but i’m going to respond anyway. My frugality mirrors yours (with the exception of the driving thing, I drive about 1200 miles a month, but I live rurally so its at least 40-50 miles just to get into town). OH! And I WISH I could grow that many vegis!! I still haven’t quite figured out this desert gardening thing. This year i’m installing rain barrels (some people say its not worth it in the desert [colorado desert near palm springs]) but we actually get a fair amount here! Last year all of our toilet flushing was done with rain water run off (we aren’t hooked up to city water, so we are VERY frugal with out water needs). Keep up the good work and you guys are such an inspiration to me!

  19. Karen says:

    I love your frugality list, I can relate. I gave up television 7 years ago, therefore I don’t have cable. I don’t have internet, it’s free at the public library. I also wear second hand clothes, have second hand dishes, glasses, silverware. There is so much stuff already fabricated, we don’t need to make more stuff. Why are people still buying stuff? And getting cable? And new computers and gadgets? These are the things that are ruining our environment, production of crap we don’t need. And the production of food is completely a second hand thought to consumers. We live in very scary times. I just hope we still have books around to document post-industrialization and how awesome it was (reallly, it’s going to be great). For inspiration on what the future looks like, check out other developed nations that know what’s coming. Australia: dual flush toilets, home water capturing/filtering systems, no electric dryers, no a/c. It’s not giving up and doing without, it’s gaining freedom from the machines.

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