Sunday, November 30, 2008

Housing--a pressing issue

Driving around newer subdivisions, in some areas of the country, it is not unusual to see four or five homes for sale, some with notices of short sales, on one small street. The net effect of this situation is families losing their homes. The current forecast for home appreciation is, at the highest, no more than 4.9% for the highest appreciating market in the U.S. in Biloxi, Mississippi. The worst U.S. market is in Ontario, California losing 24.5% value during 2008.


For years members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been counseled by their Prophet leaders to get out of debt. Those that heeded the counsel have nothing to fear in a market of falling housing prices. Those who fell victim to the greed of the housing bubble, are many of those now losing their homes to foreclosure.

The FDIC predicts that 1 out of every 200 homes in America will be foreclosed on and every three months 250,000 new families enter into foreclosure.


The FDIC says that "More than 6 in 10 homeowners delinquent in their mortgage payments are not aware of services that mortgage lenders can offer to individuals having trouble with their mortgage."

Maybe it is also time to listen to the voice of the Prophet.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What do you spend?

More of our friends and neighbors are facing hard times with job layoffs and pay cuts due to lack of sales. Although times can certainly get worse than they are right now, it is always a good idea to be aware of your spending habits. Over the years, I have worked with a lot of people and one of the things I have always noticed is the amount of money spent on lunches. It is very common for workers who are making an average or below salary to buy lunch, often from a fast food outlet.

Even if you try to eat healthy, the cost of the food is significant. For example, at McDonalds, a Premium Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken is almost $6. If you order a drink and a side, you can pay almost $8.50 or so plus tax. Multiply that times five days a week and you have a significant amount of money spent on a lot of food. Most of my co-workers justify the expense by claiming that they don't have time in the morning to fix food for lunch. But spread out over a month, the cost of lunch is as much as a car payment. One study found the average person spends almost $3000 a year on restaurants and fast food.


One of my friends confided in me that they were having major problems with paying bills. I suggested a simple solution. Get a notebook and write down every penny spent on what ever item for a whole month. Within a couple of weeks the friend talked to me again and said, essentially, that he had no idea how much money he was wasting on things he didn't want and didn't need.

There is a trade off. You have to be aware of what it costs, to you, to buy a drink at the convenience market or to go to a movie. Maybe you need to carry your own water bottle filled at home, and maybe you need to go to the library and check out movies for free or even better, read a book.

Unless it is monitored, money will run through your hands like water, and when hard times come, like right now, you will not be prepared.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The staff of life

Wheat is often called the staff of life. As a food storage item, wheat is ideal. But it is a good idea to have some general background information. There is an excellent article on wheat at:
Big Oven

We have stored wheat for years with excellent success. Recently, we have gone back to eating cracked wheat cereal for breakfast. We had been eating prepared store-bought breakfast cereal, but in the course of writing for this blog, I got disenchanted with breakfast cereal again, and we went back to cracked wheat (with some occasional oatmeal). One benefit is that I do not get hungry after an hour or so and it is certainly a lot cheaper. Although the price of wheat has risen dramatically over the years, it is still a lot less expensive than any of the prepared breakfast cereals. I like the cereal leftovers cold from the refrigerator. Although there are some who do not share my taste in cold mush. If you haven't tried cracked wheat, I would certainly recommend it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself

It is getting interesting to see how many news articles are comparing the present financial and economic crisis to the Great Depression. It would seem that few of the prominent financial experts quoted have any idea what they are really talking about, they may know finance (but if they do, why are we having a crisis?) but they apparently flunked history. Here are a few comparisons to put things in a historical perspective:

(See from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

In 1929 and the years following, stock prices declined to 20% of their pre-1929 value.
In 2008, stock prices, as measured by the Dow Jones Average of Industrial Stocks, has declined about 32% during the entire year, not to just 20% of the value.

By 1933, 11,000 of the 25,000 U.S. banks had failed.
Since 2000, according to the FDIC, there have been 46 bank failures. See FDIC

By 1932, unemployment had risen to between 25% and 30% of the work force.
In 2008, the unemployment figure has risen to 6.5% See U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

By 1932 the total value of world trade had fallen by more than half as country after country took measures against the importation of foreign goods.
In 2008, trade with China, for example has actually risen during the year.

Although we need to be concerned about the current economic and financial situation, let's not get carried away and ignore history. Things can definitely get worse.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Now we get it...

OK, in my last post I talked about sugar in breakfast cereal using a standard 100g serving size, but wait a minute, the cereal companies don't use a standard serving size. For example, General Mills Cheerios. The standard serving was 100g with 6g of sugar. However, to deemphasise the sugar content, General Mills has its serving size on the package, as 1 cup which works out be only 28g. Lucky Charms on the other hand, has a serving size of 3/4 cup at 27g and shows 11g of sugar. Think about it! 27g serving with 11g of sugar? A baby could eat 3/4 of cup, one Lucky Charm at a time.

Now here's the real concern. Check out the number of calories in soda pop. The average carbonated cola drink with caffeine contains 11g of sugar or 42 calories in 100g serving size. Therefore, a normal 12 fl. oz. can has 370g of liquid with 155.4 calories. Just for a reality check, 100g of granulated sugar is about 1/2 cup and contains 387 calories. So a can of soda has roughly 1/4 cup of sugar.

The point is obvious. Many of the common food substances are nothing more than sugar delivery systems. One was to combat the growing obesity problem is become more aware of what you are eating and what it contains. Fortunately, all of that information is on-line in a format that avoids the pitfalls created by the manufacturers and gives you a standard measuring system so that two dissimilar foods can be conveniently compared.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Just when you thought you were safe...

Rather than going to the supermarket and trying to read the small print on the breakfast cereal boxes, here is a Web site that has links to all of the nutritional information. This site works for all types of foods, not just breakfast cereals:

In my last post, on this subject, I had to rely on only those cereal boxes we had at home, now we can get down to the real nitty-gritty of the content. Here are some of the more interesting figures on the sugar content of popular breakfast cereals:

General Mills (all with 100g serving size):

Count Chocula, Frankenberry, Cocoa Puffs, Boo Berry: 47g
Trix: 44g
Lucky Charms: 43g
Reese's Puffs: 39g
Whole Grain Total: 16g
Wheaties: 14g
Cheerios: 6g

Kellogg's and Kashi (all with 100g serving size)

GoLean: 12g
Heart to Heart: 20g
Organic Promise Autumn Wheat: 12g
Frosted Mini-Wheats: 20g
Apple Jacks: 49g
Cocoa Krispies: 34g
Corn Flakes: 11g
Corn Pops: 45g
Froot Loops: 41g
Frosted Flakes: 38g
Special K: 13g

Kraft/Post (all with 100g serving size)

Cocoa Pebbles: 44g
Grape Nuts Flakes: 18g
Grape Nuts: 12g
Honey Bunches of Oats: 22g

Wheat has 0g of sugar, no saturated fats and no cholesterol. You may wish to think about this.

Smoking and hunger

It has been my experience for many years that tobacco smokers (and others with addictions) will often neglect their own health and welfare to support their habit. A new study shows that the negative effects of this addictive behavior extends to family members, especially children. A study reported in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Vol. 152, No. 11, November 2008 is entitled "Increased Rates and Severity of Child and Adult Food Insecurity in Households With Adult Smokers."

The objective of the study was "to investigate rates and severity of child and adult food insecurity (the inability to access enough food in a socially acceptable way for every day of the year) in households with and without smokers." The study found that:

"Food insecurity was more common and severe in children and adults in households with smokers. Of children in households with smokers, 17.0% were food insecure vs 8.7% in households without smokers (P < .001). Rates of severe child food insecurity were 3.2% vs 0.9% (P < .04), respectively. For adults, 25.7% in households with smokers and 11.6% in households without smokers were food insecure, and rates of severe food insecurity were 11.8% and 3.9%, respectively (P < .003 for each). Food insecurity was higher in low-income compared with higher income homes (P < .01). At multivariate analyses, smoking was independently associated with food insecurity and severe food insecurity in children (adjusted odds ratio, 2.0; 95% confidence interval, 1.5-2.7, and adjusted odds ratio, 3.1; 95% confidence interval, 1.4-6.9, respectively) and adults (adjusted odds ratio, 2.2; 95% confidence interval, 1.6-3.0, and adjusted odds ratio, 2.3; 95% confidence interval, 1.4-3.7, respectively)." The full effects of smoking are summarized in an article from the same journal (Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008;162(11):1096-1098)which states, in part,:

"Extensive research has documented the harmful impact of smoking on adult and children's health. Smoking causes numerous diseases and harms nearly every organ in the body, while exposure to secondhand smoke causes heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmokers. Maternal smoking during pregnancy increases the likelihood of premature birth, still birth, and low-birth-weight birth, as well as a number of other complications during pregnancy. Infants exposed to secondhand smoke are twice as likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome as those who are not exposed. Secondhand smoke significantly increases children's risk of acute respiratory infections and ear problems and for children with asthma, increases the frequency and severity of asthma attacks. Children's and adolescents' exposure to secondhand smoke is associated with various psychopathologies, including conduct disorder, aggression, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. In addition, tobacco use imposes a substantial economic toll..."

To read these, and other articles see

Almost two hundred years ago, God revealed to Joseph Smith:
And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill. See Doctrine and Covenants, Section 89:8

What a different world we would have if more people would heed the word of God from his Prophets.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Wheat is for man

Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals.... (D&C 89:17)

Whole wheat contains manganese, phosphorus, magnesium and selenium in substantial percentages. It also contains adequate amounts of zinc, copper, iron, potassium and a small amount of calcium. It is rich in Vitamin B6, Niacin, Thiamin, Folate, Riboflavin and Pantothenic Acid. Vitamin E and Vitamin K are also present in small but significant amounts.

Unfortunately, processing the wheat, especially into white flour, removes most of the nutritional value and nearly all of the fiber. The nutritional value of whole wheat has been known for years, but recently, the breakfast food industry has appropriated the idea of "whole grain" as an advertising gimmick. All you have to do to see the difference is measure the weight of one cup of unprocessed wheat and compare it to the weight of one cup of processed breakfast cereal. For example, one cup of wheat weighs almost exactly 8 oz. or 1/2 lb. Kelloggs' Special K Cereal weighs 1.3 oz. or so per cup. So you can easily see that breakfast cereal is mostly air. It is also interesting to note that most breakfast cereal products claim to have added vitamins!

Also, wheat has no added sugar. If you look at the nutrition information on the side of the cereal box you will see some amazing things. Here are a few types of cereal and the sugar content of each:

Whole Grain Oat Cheerios 1 gm/cup
Raisin Bran Crunch 20 gm/cup
Honey Nut Cheerios 9 gm/cup
Total 5 gm/cup
Special K 7 gm/cup
Honey Bunches of Oats 6 gm/cup

And these are all "whole grain" healthy (supposedly) cereals. Just to know, 20 gm of sugar is .7 of an ounce. If the whole cereal only weighs 1.3 oz per cup, then most of the weight is in sugar.

Of course, we all knew that already. Right? So what are we going to do about it?

Let's look at price. Wheat has been rising in price for the past two years, it is just over $5.50 a bushel in the commodities markets, but it is sold in 45 lb. buckets for about $1 a pound as of November, 2008. A bushel is 128 cups. Breakfast cereal, on sale, is about $2.00 a box for about a 10 to 12 ounce box. It doesn't take a lot of math to see that at 1/2 lb per cup, wheat is a lot less expensive in bulk than prepared cereal, four cups or two pounds of wheat for the same price as 10 ounces of breakfast cereal.

More later.