Monthly Archives: August 2016

Healthy Alternatives (con’t)

24 b) Healthy Alternatives (con’t)

Proper nutrition is very important to our health. Achieving it is often difficult and can be extremely expensive. In an earlier blog there was quite a bit of information reviewed regarding what to eat and what to avoid. The misinformation about low and no fat foods runs rampant. Carbohydrates, despite the damage that over consumption reeks, are still heavily promoted. Unhealthy fast foods continue to prosper. All natural meats and vegetables are beyond the affordability of a large segment of the population.

If you can afford it please take advantage of the availability of fresh organic meats and vegetables. For today’s family two wage earners are the norms. With both spouses occupied during the day meal preparation is a real challenge.

What healthy alternatives are afforded to lower and middle income families?

Following are some thoughts:

  • Purchase a crock pot. This may be the most valuable cooking devise made
  • Plan your meals weekly and shop accordingly
  • Include low cost,  items in your meal planning, examples
    • – Potatoes 10# bag for under $3 (less when on sale)
    • – Rice (about $1 a lb. in bulk or large sizes)
    • – Dried beans (vary from $1 – $1.50 lb.)
    • – Fresh Green vegetables (prices vary by season & type, but usually there are items in the $1 a lb. range most of the time
    • – Canned green vegetables (not nearly as good as fresh, but)   usually lower in cost….look for specials…often 2 cans for 1$.
    • – Chicken when on sale. Best value can be leg quarters in 10 lb. bags…bought some recently for $.39 per lb.
    • – Pork is much lower in cost, but harder on your digestion. Use only in small quantities
    • Review weekly supermarket ads and make a list of “specials” that are on your menu or will be in the near term.

Crock pot meals can be assembled in a few minutes, placed in the crock pot in the morning (on low) and will be ready at dinner time. For 4 – 6 servings use approx. 1 lb. of boneless meat or 1.5 lbs if bones in and 1 – 1.5 lbs. of three different vegetables. Fresh carrots, celery, cabbage, potatoes etc. work fine, or if you must canned, green beans, corn, peas, pinto beans etc. or a variety of similar frozen vegies. You can also add a can or two of canned tomatoes. You can change up the ingredients to change the flavor and provide variety. If you used canned vegies include the liquid. If not you will need to include at least two cups of water. Use more liquid to make a soup and less to make it more stew like. If you want it a bit thicker add a couple of tablespoons of corn starch. Cook on low heat.

If you maintain variety in the ingredients, this can become a “staple” dinner 2-3 times a week. It is easy to prepare, provides a healthy, filling and balanced meal for under $1.50 per person!

Here is an option for one additional crock pot meal, but it will add about 10 minute preparation time. Bring two quarts of water to boil, then add 1 lb. of dried beans (I recommend pintos, navy, red or black). Bring back to a boil for 5 – 10 minutes. Pour with liquid into the crock pot and add 1 Lb. of meat (1.5 lbs. if bones in). Cook on low heat; turn on high 30 minutes before serving. This will provide a balanced, filling meal for under $.75 per person.

Left overs for either of the above can be frozen and when you collect 2-3 of these it can become yet another meal with very little prep time and at little or no cost.

 

All natural foods are healthy and great, but can lower income folks afford them? Healthier alternatives

Chapter 24

All natural foods are healthy and great, but can lower income folks afford them? Healthier alternatives

One argument that I have heard is that even families on food stamps can afford to buy and eat healthy all natural foods. The facts say differently:

Source for below: http://www.cbpp.org/research/a-quick-guide-to-snap-eligibility-and-benefits?fa=view&id=1269

“Table 1 shows the maximum SNAP benefit levels in fiscal year 2015 for households of different sizes. Take as an example a family of three: if that family had no income, it would receive the maximum benefit of $511 per month; if it had $600 in net monthly income, it would receive the maximum benefit ($511) minus 30 percent of its net income (30 percent of $600 is $180), or $331. On average, SNAP households currently receive about $256 a month. The average SNAP benefit per person is about $125 per month, which works out to about $1.40 per person per meal.

Table 1 SNAP Benefits by Household Size
Household Size Maximum    Monthly Benefit    Fiscal Year 2015          Estimated Average       Monthly Benefit        Fiscal Year 2014*
1 $194 $140
2 $357 $247
3 $511 $367
4 $649 $443
5 $771 $521
6 $925 $625
7 $1,022 $676
8 $1,169 $808

If you do the math, what this means is that the average family of four that receives food stamps has a monthly income of $1,764 ($2,584 / 649 x 443) and receives $443 in food stamp benefit.

After rent, car payment, utilities, insurances, clothing, and all other expenses it is obvious that these folks are entirely dependent of this supplement for all of their food. Under these circumstances a family might be able to fit some natural/healthy foods into their budget, but I suspect very little.

stay tuned next week for more on this topic

High frequency traders, bank & broker facilitators and how they rip off the small investor

Chapter 23

High frequency traders, bank & broker facilitators and how they rip off the small investor

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-frequency_trading

“High-frequency trading has taken place at least since 1999, after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission authorized electronic exchanges in 1998. At the turn of the 21st century, HFT trades had an execution time of several seconds, whereas by 2010 this had decreased to milli– and even microseconds. Until recently, high-frequency trading was a little-known topic outside the financial sector, with an article published by the New York Times in July 2009 being one of the first to bring the subject to the public’s attention

In the early 2000s, high-frequency trading still accounted for fewer than 10% of equity orders, but this proportion was soon to begin rapid growth. According to data from the NYSE, trading volume grew by about 164% between 2005 and 2009 for which high-frequency trading might be accounted. As of the first quarter in 2009, total assets under management for hedge funds with high-frequency trading strategies were $141 billion, down about 21% from their peak before the worst of the crises. In the United States in 2009, high-frequency trading firms represented 2% of the approximately 20,000 firms operating today, but accounted for 73% of all equity orders volume.”

Another source: http://www.financialsense.com/contributors/michael-shedlock/high-frequency-trading-hails-its-first-billionaire

The preceding paragraphs might be a bit confusing to most of us, especially if we are only casual investors. Simply stated, high frequency traders sit in the middle between traditional buyers and sellers. They pay banks & main line brokers for information on the prices at which traders are willing to transact. They look for spreads and buy and sell in microseconds. If you want to understand how this is possible, read “Flash Boys” by Michael Lewis. They make a very, very small margin on each transaction, but they do almost ½ of all the volume, so their profits are huge. Keep in mind that all of this is legal, the ethics are another issue. In my view this is the ultimate in inside trading, but there are arguments on the other side.

The HFTs pay banks and brokers for access to their bids and asks and further pay to be close to the computer processors and thus enable them to see the transactions faster and trade as fast as possible. You might ask why does it matter since they are only ripping off such a small portion of each transaction each time and both the buyer and seller will get what they want. However, this is only true for some “limit” orders, not for “market” orders. Because of their ability to see so many orders they can still match a limit order on one side with a market order on the other side. The bottom line is that ordinary traders are paying for their profits.

How much can this amount to. You only have to look at one day’s trading to figure this out:

An average day of trading volume on the NYSE is approximately $55 billion. Assume that HFTs are involved in 40% of these (and evidence is that this rate could be low), then their volume would be $22 billion. If we assume that their margin is only .1% then their daily profits would amount to $22 million. Keep in mind that this is only one exchange and the LFTs work all the markets. If we assume 250 trading days then their profits would amount $5.5 Billion a year just off the NYSE!