Is Getting Your Own Food Cheaper, Part 5

As I’ve tried to expand my sustainability horizons over the past 4 years, I discovered hunting.  I’d always been interested in hunting and curious (as well as unsure) about wether or not I could ever participate.  Hunters often get a bad rap, but it’s not wholly undeserved.  I hunt so that I can get a sustainable, organic source of meat  for the winter and summer months in the fall.  The places where I typically hunt I get tags that are designed to control the local population of the animal I’m out hunting, so not only am I getting some stuff for the freezer, but I’m also doing the land a favor by slowing down the heavy grazing going on.

I’ve written about this multiple times before, talking about the total cost of my Halibut fishing, my Elk Hunt, my duck hunt, and my blue grouse hunt.  Oddly enough, the first hunt that I ever went on for antelope has not gotten a cost analysis yet.  I didnt get to go this year, and I didnt buy a tag in time last year.  I always like to see the cost breakdown and figure out how much meat I got per pound.  For just about every hunt, I seem to be landing all over the map as far as cost goes, coming in near $5 per pound on the elk side, and upwards of $28 dollars per pound for duck.  Of course, this is slightly skewed, because it’s not all lower quality meats like ground elk or elk sausage, there’s also steak cuts and tenderloin cuts.

Next on the list for this time is deer.  I’ve been wanting to go hunt deer for a while, and there is a huge deer population in northern wyoming (both white tail deer and mule deer).  So much so that the landowners in the area where we hunt (Ucross, WY) call the game warden to send hunters to their place so they can thin the herd a bit.  The deer eat all the hay that the landowners have stored for the winter for their sheep or cattle, which annoys the landowners.

For this deer hunting trip, it was me, my father in law, the friend that took me duck hunting a while back.

Here are the costs of my deer hunting trip:

  • Deer tags $60.  This year, I got two deer tags.  I had initially only planned on buying one, but after talking to the landowners when we got there, I decided that if I harvested one early enough I’d go into town and buy another one.  My other buddy decided the same thing, and that’s what we ended up doing
  • Gas/Lodging $68.  This trip basically required a 1 night stay, and 2 tanks of gas.  My father in law paid for the room, and I bought one of the tanks of gas and my buddy bought the other.  The cost of all three was roughly equal
  • Food/drinks $30.  Though I brought snacks with me for in the car on the way up and back, I still paid for a fair amount of meals (3).  The food situation was a bit thin at the house before I left, so I couldnt really pack as much of my own food as I wanted.

Unlike all of my other hunts, I was able to offset the costs of this hunt.  After talking to the rancher about the number of deer and a friend, I offered to “sell” my second deer to my friend for $25 (basically the cost of the tag).  He agreed (I’m not sure if he thought I was joking or not), and this was the main reason I got the second tag.  Since I knew I could most likely get one and I had something to do with the meat, it didnt seem like that much of a risk.  I texted my friend when we left and told him to find a processor for the animal and that he could come pick it up the next day and he was shocked.  He ended up giving me $30, which I wasnt going to complain about.

The total cost for the trip was $128, and I ended up with 1 white tail deer. I process the meat myself, and though I’m not finished with it yet, I’ll end up with about 25 lbs of meat when everything is said and done.  This puts the cost per pound of meat at about $5.12, which is slightly less than what I paid for elk (though it would have been higher had I not had to go out for elk like 9 times).  Of course, this is not all steak quality meat, but I would say about 33% of it is.  This will be a nice addition to the winter rotation, and I’ll probably end up giving some away as well.

Readers: Do you think the price for game meat is reasonable?  Do you know someone that hunts, or are you involved in a roadkill program in your state (where they take animals that got hit and give away the meat)?  


Is Getting Your Own Food Cheaper, Part 3

One big part of sustainability (to me) is food.  What you eat, how often you eat it, what your food eats, where it comes from, how it gets to your fridge and so on.  There are so many variables to how your food comes to your plate that affect all of my favorite topics: finances (cost), sustainability (transportation/”food miles”, growing practices/feeding, inputs/fertilizers/hormones/etc) and health (what you eat/how much/how often).  In an effort to lower my own impact, I’ve been focusing on getting my own food – mostly meat, but hopefully next summer I can try my hand at gardening.  When I do go out and get my own food, I like to do a bit of cost/benefit analysis.  Was it worth it for me to get it, or should I just save the time/money and buy it at the store?  If you’re curious you can find part one (halibut) and part two (duck) on the site.

This time, the hunt was for elk.  Here’s what it cost:

  • Elk Tag: $52
  • Conservation Stamp for 2011:  $12.50  – This is something anyone in wyoming who is hunting or fishing has to purchase.  Usually they use the money for land conservation.  The stamp is good for 1 calendar year.
  • Conservation Stamp for 2012: $12.50 – Unfortunately, these stamps are good for a calendar year, not from year to date purchase.  Since I didnt get an elk in 2011, I had to buy a new one.  Feeling like I was buying these things all the time annoyed me (and I didnt want to forget), so I bought a lifetime conservation stamp for $180.50.  I just used the yearly cost here though.  If the price stays the same, I’ll be money ahead in 15 years, and sooner if the price goes up.
  • Gun/Ammo: Borrowed/given to me – but this will be an expense in the future.  Obviously the gun will be a 1 time expense, but not the ammo.
  • Gas: $200 – This area isn’t really close to my house at all and I’d guesstimate I used 3 tanks of gas I wouldn’t have used otherwise.  I went up a total of 5 times and I took my truck 2 of those times, using a full tank both times.  The third was for meeting the rest of my group.
  • Foil/Saran Wrap: $8 – Yes, even though I bought some in Alaska, I needed more to process my elk meat.
  • 750 mL of whiskey: $11 – Needed.
  • Grinding: Free – Usually I pay to have the tougher cuts ground into burger meat, but a co-worker has a grinder that she is willing to let me use, which is a huge score!

Obviously, that’s quite a long list, and the total is $297, which is about what I spent on the halibut (go figure) but  is still a whole slew of money.

Before I went out last Saturday, I was pretty pessimistic about the whole thing, figuring that I’d thrown all that cash down the drain and not gotten anything from it (for the second year in a row)!  Even after I ate my lunch on Saturday, and we had finished our loop and were headed back to the truck, I was ready to go home and had made the decision to give it up for the season.  Thankfully, we stumbled upon some tracks and I was able to bring one down after some stalking.  So once I drug the thing back to the truck (2 miles!) and went home, I had to get to work processing and weighing. After everything was deboned, I had 58 lbs of meat.  This is meat of all different grades and qualities, from things that need to be slow cooked or ground because they aren’t tender to things that are very, very tender and tasty.  (Pictures: Pre deboned meat from 1 rear leg, and a de-boned rear leg [pic1, pic2]).  I basically spent most everyday from Saturday to Thursday trimming the silver off, and spent about 3 hours last this Saturday wrapping everything up.  Obviously, it doesn’t end once you’re out of the field.

I had to cut all of the silver off so the meat wouldnt taste gamey, and I’m guessing that was about 5 pounds, leaving me with about 53 pounds of useable meat.  This puts my total cost per pound at $5.12, which I think is pretty good.  While not all of what I got is “steak” quality, it is all organic, grass fed, pasture raised, etc.  Overall, that’s a pretty cheap price per pound for meat like that – I’ve done the math on buying a side of beef and it comes out somewhere between 6 and 7 bucks a pound (at least around here).  I figure this is a pretty good comparison, so I’m happy with the results.

I also don’t think I’ll need to do this again next year.  H is a vegetarian, so I’ve got all of this to eat myself or give away.  I’ve already given some away  and will probably give away more. I’ll save the ground elk meat for my bachelor party this summer and probably keep the rest and hopefully find some good elk sausage recipes or elk chili recipes (shockingly, I had enough freezer room after my quest to eat freezer stuff).  The unfortunate thing about this is that I could have spent all of that money and came up with nothing, but that is just how it all works.  Buying a tag isnt like buying the meat off the carcass – it does take a considerable amount of time and effort, but to me it’s worth it.

Since this was my first elk hunt, I needed to do a lot of work to figure out what I needed to bring and everything else like that. There were a lot of great hunting websites around, and one of the best was at

Some thoughts on the cost: I try not to put a price on the time I spend outdoors in some gorgeous country (if you want to know what the area looks like, check my facebook picture) because that is subjective, and I could derive more value from it than others (or less).  I also don’t count the benefit of the workout I get, but I do count it towards my workout total for the month – it’s a lot of walking.

Readers: Do you hunt, or are you interested in it?  Are you lucky enough to have a friend that just gives you meat instead of you having to go get it yourself?  Have you ever considered hunting as a (long-term) strategy to save money and increase the quality of your food?

Is Getting Your Own Food Cheaper, Part 2

A while back, I wrote a post on the costs I incurred while going halibut fishing in Alaska.  When I wrote the post, I was relatively unsure of the street value of the fish, and was pretty sure that I was getting soaked in the deal.  Even though I used a pretty high price point, it looked like I came close to breaking even in the end, and I have some great memories from the trip to boot.

After I wrote that post, I figure it would be interesting to do this with all of my adventures getting my own food, so here’s the next chapter.

A while a go, my fiancee’s friend mentioned that he wanted to come up to Wyoming and hunt antelope and I offered to take him with my future father in law.  Unfortunately, the dates didnt work out and I was at fincon during the only weekend available, so I was unable to go.  After he got back (he was successful) he invited me to go duck hunting with him.  I’ll be the first to admit that I know nothing about ducks, duck hunting or anything like that.  Along with that, I’ve only even eaten duck once in my life.  Even so, I decided I’d go.

I already had a shotgun, so I didnt need to buy one of those.  What I did need was ammo, license, a state duck stamp and a federal duck stamp.  Most of the stuff I still have left and can be used again within a certain time frame.  I believe the federal duck stamp is good for the season, and the state duck stamp is good for 45 days.  Here was what I paid

  • 2 boxes ammo ~$22.  I can use this again, because I think I shot 3/50 shells.
  • Federal Duck Stamp/State Duck Stamp (State good for 45 days, federal for a year): $20
  • 1 Day waterfowl hunting license , non resident. $11
  • 1 Tank gas ~55
Unfortunately, this was a bit of a slow day out on the pond.  Of course, I’ve never been before so I didnt know, but the guy I went with said that usually he bags out and gets 6 ducks.  Unfortunately, we only shot two.  He was nice enough to let me take home both ducks as I assume his freezer is already full of them.  As I found out when I was processing the animal at home, there’s really not much to a duck.  You basically just want the breasts to eat, and some people save feathers if the make files for fly fishing (I don’t, and the guy I offered them to at work didn’t want them).  I didnt really know what to do with the rest, so I just got rid of them.  I’d like to find something to use what’s left of the animal for, but I dont know anything.  If you’ve got ideas, leave them in the comments 🙂
All in all, I think that I got meat for about 4 meals out of it, but I could have gotten more.  One of the duck breasts was compromised during the trip and had to be discarded.  So this was kind of an expensive trip at a cost of 108, and a cost per meal of $27.  Of course next time I go, It will only cost $11 for a duck license and whatever I use in gas.  This may not have as high of a return as my fishing trip did, but once I go a few more times I’ll have (hopefully) staggeringly lower cost per meal.   This may not best return, but it a good time – not nearly as bad as my dad described it “standing in a freezing ass duck blind at 5am”.
Readers: Do you hunt?  Are you interested in hunting?  If so, why?  Would you like a natural source of meat, a cost effective source, or do you hunt so that you can get back to the land and know where your food came from?

Is Getting Your Own Food Cheaper

For the last few years, I’ve made it a point to try and obtain some of my own food.  For a lot of people this means a garden.  Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to do that quite yet because I’m afraid the dog will tear it up, and along with that, I dont want to do anything to the back yard (I rent).  So this leaves me to trying other ways to get my own food.  I’ve done some of this (though I’m not sure if it would count) by canning apples, and I’ve also done some elk hunting  and antelope hunting.  Unfortunately I havent gotten an elk yet, but antelope are plentiful here to the point of becoming a huge nuisance, so I’ve gotten one of those two years in a row.  One thing that I’ve been wanting to do more of is fish.  Usually it’s pretty cheap, and there’s good fishing close to where I live (mostly trout).  So I decided to book a charter fishing trip when I was in Alaska – it was one of two “big” (read: spendy) things that I decided to do while there.  Here’s what it cost – and I’ll leave out the flight and the room and food, I would have needed those anyway.

  • Charter trip (Late season) $220
  • Out of State fishing license $20 (1 day)
  •  Safeway $15 – Ziplock bags, foil and saran wrap.  There were no processors of fish left open in town ( I probably wouldnt have used one anyway) so that I could portion, pack and freeze my catch.
  • Cooler $23 I needed something to take the fish home with me so that they wouldn’t de-thaw on the plane.  This worked really, really well, but it was because the cooler was packed very, very full.  It also didnt fit everything in it – 1 serving had to be packed alone.  I’ll have to see how this one fared.
  • Check bag fee $20 – to check the cooler to take home.
So in total, I spent approximate $298 to catch and take home this fish.  I didnt get any very large halibut, but I got some fair sized ones.  According to my count, I got about 12 two person servings for dinner, for an average cost of $12.50 per serving.  Now I dont typically buy halibut too much at the store but if I recall, I’ve seen it go for 16.99 per pound, and I took home approximately 15 lbs.  While this is high cost, I took this estimate from a nearby whole foods and though the store is expensive, what I caught is what they market.  “Organic, wild caught, bla bla bla”.
Fish Caught by Everyone in the Boat – We each got 2.

All in all, I got less than $90 dollars worth of fish from the fishing trip, bringing my cost per pound of halibut to a level that I dont even care to calculate.  However, the trip wasnt just about taking home enough fish to feel me and H for the winter.  I wanted to experience something new (I’d never been halibut fishing, or on a boat that small in the open ocean), and I wanted to have fun.  Both of those things I accomplished, and like I’ve been learning quite a bit lately, it’s not always going to be about the money.

Of course, there are  plenty of ways that you can make getting your own food cheaper.  Hunting or fishing in your own state would probably be the first one that comes to mind.  You’ll get cheaper prices for tags because you pay state taxes, and you wont have to travel too far.  This would also eliminate the need to check a bag to take back home.  (sidebar: One guy on the boat from my state shipped a moose home from Alaska.  I dont even want to know how much that cost).  Doing the processing at home would be free as well, as just about everyone has foil/saran wrap already.  Some of my hunting trips over the last 3 years have cost about $75 ($50 for an antelope tag and another $20 or so to have it ground into sausages/hamburger, and 5 bucks for a beer or 2 to celebrate with my hunting buddies).
I also got some killer pictures from the fishing trip, and alaska.  To see part 1 of my alaska pictures, head here.

Readers: Do you ever get your own meat, or do you stick to gardening?  If you do get your own meat, have you thought about cost effectiveness, or are you just interested in where you food comes from and going out and having some fun?