Author Topic: Does it ever make sense financially to grow, raise, hunt or gather food yourself  (Read 2203 times)

BOP Mustache

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Iíve been doing some research lately, talking to friends and family and doing a bit of experimenting myself with hunting or raising or growing our own food.

Iíve looked at hunting wild game such as deer or pig but the costs of gear, travel costs and the likes outweighs the costs. Fishing in salt water where I live from the beach or rocks is similar, with the gear and bait outweighing the cost of fish Iíd be able to buy from a supermarket.

Raising chickens at home from what I can gather you would be better off buying free range eggs or frozen chicken. The land required for sheep or cows or pigs and the capital cost of the land doesnít come close to offset the costs of savings on meat.

The only things I can see saving money on would be salad (lettuce, rocket, spinach, etc), micro greens, berries (strawberry, blueberry, raspberry). Growing crops such as potato or carrot that I can buy cheaply seems pointless.

Would love other peopleís thoughts or pursuits on ways to save money creating or gathering your own food. 

Cranky

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I think it *can* be cost effective, if you keep a grip on your costs and realize that your equipment is an investment.

Fishing - what does a state fishing license cost for a resident? In Florida, a one-year saltwater license is $17. There are plenty pf people who fish off the piers or along the sides of the road, so skip the boat expenses. My dad and grandfather used the same rods and reels for about 40 years, and we ate a lot of fish.

Yes, potatoes are cheap in the store - but if you've got the land to plant them, frankly they are even cheaper to grow.

I'm using the pressure canner and canning jars that I bought in 1971. I feel like I have fully depreciated those assets.

Gardening costs land and time. If you've got the land, or cheap access to it like a community garden, and nobody is paying you by the hour for your time, you might as well spend your time growing food as watching tv.

jlcnuke

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Hunting can be done very cheaply. A hunting license here costs $15 plus a hunter safety course (cheap). A rifle only needs to be purchased once and I can buy a decent hunting rifle for $1-200 used and it should be good for a lifetime. Bullets aren't expensive. Many free WMAs to hunt in, none far (closest to me is about 15 minutes from my house). So no travel or lodging costs beyond a gallon of gas or two.  First year cost ~$300, ~$30/year afterwards.  Annualized costs over 20 years less than $45/year for a couple deer and some other food if you choose to get them.

Fishing license will run another $15. Rod and reel combo you can get for ~$60-100 that will last for a long-time. Bait can be free (get worms on your own to start with) or you can buy and/or make lures which don't have to be expensive. Fishing at the public lake = free.  Annualized cost over 20 years maybe $30/year?  Catch as many fish as you'd like throughout the year.

Now, you CAN go more expensive, but you don't have to.

Gardening is something I do because fresh tastes better. A packet of seeds costs me ~$1 or so and will get me 3-4 years worth of tomatoes or 4-5 years worth of peppers or cucumbers etc. There are years I get enough rain I don't even have to water the plants. 5 years worth of fertilizer runs me ~$40 for around 200 sq ft of garden.  ~$10/year for more tomatoes than I can eat (can them as diced tomatoes, marina sauce, salsa, etc), cucumbers and pickles, jalapenos and other peppers (fresh, pickled, etc).

MayDay

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I agree that it is more expensive for most people,who treat it as hobby.

It will always be a time suck. But you can do it quite cheaply/free once you have the infrastructure and/or equipment.

My veggie garden this year used old seeds (some saved, some free, some bought in past years), free compost, 20$ of straw, and one roll of fencing (25$?). It'll pay for itself as long as you ignore all my labor! And that was starting from nothing.

OTOH my chicken coop cost thousands. But in three months my only ongoing cost is one 20$ bag of feed, so if you can get a cheap or free coop, they are quite reasonable.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Things Iíve found great value in growing - easy to grow, expensive or low-quality in stores:
Beets
Bell peppers
Cucumbers
Squash
Cherry tomatoes
Herbs! Chives, green onions, basil, dill, oregano, sage. If we have a mild winter the dill, chives, and onions come back themselves. Basil went native on me in Texas but struggles here.

Case

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Generally speaking, the answer is no.

Time is money, and financially speaking could be better used getting money in a more productive way.  Commercial farmers are much more cost efficient than you will be.  Economy of scale.

This is assuming you dont have ridiculous tastes, and generally are trying to buy food frugally.

Now, maybe you are retired and have tons of time available.  Or enjoy gradening and so get a different benefit.  Or maybe you dont like the ethics of industrial meat.  This might make it worth it.  But generally speaking, it is not terms of pure economics

Raenia

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Depends on what you grow.  My family always prioritized leeks, asparagus, berries, herbs, and other things that are expensive at the store.  You're right the the ROI on potatoes or carrots is not great, but you can do much better with the 'fancy' vegetables.

When I kept meat rabbits, they were quite cost effective, but they had much lower start-up costs than chickens.  I believe chickens can be cost effective if you have enough of them to sell excess eggs, and if you butcher the roosters and hens past laying instead of keeping them as pets.

gaja

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I grew up on fish and potatoes, because it was cheap and healthy. When I was little, all my parents could afford was a rowing boat. Later my father has gradually upgraded to a 23 feet with inboard engine. Now it is more of a hobby, and I'm not sure about the ROI. But with the rowing boat we got a lot of cheap food. We never used bait or fancy gear; started out with lines of hooks (~$10) and second hand nets, often borrowed from friends and neighbours who were too old to go out to sea. In return, they got some of the catch. Later we have gotten increasingly nicer fishing rods and other equipment, usually for christmas or birthdays.

A "harpe" like this is enough to get food on the table where I live (79 NOK ~ $8): https://www.xxl.no/solvkroken-harpe/p/1100113_1_style?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIu5_8ofHL3AIVFBIbCh0QVwaHEAQYASABEgL40PD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds&dclid=CPvIm6Pxy9wCFYSEmgodYBoC8w
With todays prices of fresh fish, you will earn back the investment in one fishing trip. Might be difficult to use from land, though. For that, you might need a fishing rod and a few "silds". They last for ever, or until you mess up and loose them. https://www.pro-fishing.eu/solvkroken-seatrout-spoons/solvkroken-stingsild

« Last Edit: August 01, 2018, 06:47:19 AM by gaja »

gaja

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BTW; sometimes it is possible to get access to boats quite cheaply. I got a membership in the Norwegian hunting and fishing association, to get access to more than 100 small boats that they have placed around the country. Many are in lakes and waters where you need licences, but quite a few are in saltwater, where you can fish freely. The boats are free to use if you are a member, you just need to book them via the web page.

http://www.xn--minebter-e0a.no/

GreenEggs

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Plant fruit & nut bearing trees and vines.  It takes a few years for them to begin producing, but after that you'll get free harvests for generations.


Considering it they are all "somewhat productive" they are activities that automatically beat activities that produce nothing tangable.  Watching things (TV, sports, web surfing, music, church, etc.) don't produce anything at all, so in comparison gardening & hunting make more financial sense.


If your day job pays big bucks no other activities make "financial sense" in comparison. 


If you garden enough that you can sell or trade the produce profitably, you've become a farmer and that's a job, or at least a side gig.  Then you have to compare it to your day job, or to what your income potential could be in other professions.


Oh, and if you're in a marijuana legal state that easily make financial sense.  ;)






 
« Last Edit: August 01, 2018, 07:15:27 AM by GreenEggs »

GuitarStv

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Plant fruit & nut bearing trees and vines.  It takes a few years for them to begin producing, but after that you'll get free harvests for generations.

Agree with the fruit trees recommendation.

We've got two pear trees in our backyard.  In the winter, and summer I do nothing with these trees.  No pest control, no watering, no fertilizing.  In the spring I spend 2-3 hours pruning excess growth, but this is mostly to make the tree grow in a shape I like - not because it's required.  In the fall I take a ladder, and harvest about 20 - 50 lbs of pears.  This has gone on for the past eight years that we've owned our home.

thd7t

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My best harvest is figs.  They just don't take any work if you live in a place where they don't need to be covered for winter (probably anywhere south of New Jersey on the East Coast).  It gets down into the single digits or teens where I live in the winter and we still don't have to do anything to keep them going.

StarBright

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Cherry tomatoes are worth it for us. My kids will go through multiple pints in a week. If I bought organic, mixed tomatoes (all the pretty colors) it is usually 4 dollars a pint. My costs are pretty minimal in our third year of community gardening.

Last year the head gardener at our community garden gave me some extra plants. I saved some seeds and ended up with a few volunteers this year, bought one plant as well. My kids have been eating several handfuls a day for almost two weeks now - total cost (if you don't include labor):  4.50.

We also like green beans because they take no effort. Herbs are worth it for us and mixed lettuces, too.

Cranky

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And once you find other gardeners, it brings your costs down - there are lots of groups locally that swap seeds, plants, extra produce, pickles and jams....

mm1970

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Hunting can be done very cheaply. A hunting license here costs $15 plus a hunter safety course (cheap). A rifle only needs to be purchased once and I can buy a decent hunting rifle for $1-200 used and it should be good for a lifetime. Bullets aren't expensive. Many free WMAs to hunt in, none far (closest to me is about 15 minutes from my house). So no travel or lodging costs beyond a gallon of gas or two.  First year cost ~$300, ~$30/year afterwards.  Annualized costs over 20 years less than $45/year for a couple deer and some other food if you choose to get them.

Fishing license will run another $15. Rod and reel combo you can get for ~$60-100 that will last for a long-time. Bait can be free (get worms on your own to start with) or you can buy and/or make lures which don't have to be expensive. Fishing at the public lake = free.  Annualized cost over 20 years maybe $30/year?  Catch as many fish as you'd like throughout the year.

Now, you CAN go more expensive, but you don't have to.

Gardening is something I do because fresh tastes better. A packet of seeds costs me ~$1 or so and will get me 3-4 years worth of tomatoes or 4-5 years worth of peppers or cucumbers etc. There are years I get enough rain I don't even have to water the plants. 5 years worth of fertilizer runs me ~$40 for around 200 sq ft of garden.  ~$10/year for more tomatoes than I can eat (can them as diced tomatoes, marina sauce, salsa, etc), cucumbers and pickles, jalapenos and other peppers (fresh, pickled, etc).

Essentially, this - but note it WILL depend on where you live and the laws and such.  I grew up in rural western PA, where good land is abundant.  Hunting is relatively cheap (especially if you own land, which my family does), and bagging a deer or two really helps my family make it through the winter.  The hunting licenses are not expensive, and my brother usually starts in bow season.

This year the deer are so abundant they wrecked my stepdad's entire garden though - so next year, for the first time ever, he's gonna need a fence.  About 10 years ago, my mother planted four tomato plants and got over 100 lbs of tomatoes from them.

I live on the coast, so I know many people who fish off the beach or pier for fun.  It's not particularly expensive.  If you want to go deep sea fishing, it will cost  you.  Mostly I occasionally get free fish from friends with extra.  I personally don't garden or anything right now.  Maybe some day.  We have a tangerine tree which is great.  May try avocado again - last small one died. 

neophyte

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Foraging is esentially free. Mushroom hunting is popular around here.
A lot of people are completely disgusted by the idea, but my roommate has scavenged roadkill too. Not old gross roadkill, but saw-the-deer-get-creamed-by-the-car-in-front-of-him kind of roadkill.

wbranch

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I would say it rarely makes sense financially. Cost per lb can end up very high, but there are many intangible benefits. For me wild game meat is a bonus from hobbies that I enjoy. I spent 3 hrs on a mountain river this past Sunday afternoon catching some nice cutthroat trout. River is catch and release only, but one of the most relaxing afternoons I have had in a while.

I was looking at the cost of a halibut/salmon fishing trip to AK next summer and cost per lb. could come out cheaper than buying wild caught fish locally if planned correctly. Of course depends on how the costs of flights and other "vacation" costs are factored in.

I did grow up on a rural farm where venison was the cost of the tag and some ammo. We ate a lot more venison than beef some years, and it usually made sense financially in those cases. We had easy access to rivers and lakes as well and ate a fair amount of fish we caught. 

In all cases, I do think that food you gathered yourself is more rewarding and the benefits are much more than financial. 


TrMama

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Well in the past 5 days I've gathered 30lbs of "wild" blackberries. They're actually an invasive plant here and grow like gangbusters. It cost me nothing except time I'd have spent doing recreational activities anyway. In fact, picking berries feels pretty darn recreational since I'm just walking around in the sunshine.

In the fall, I might collect wild acorns. Shelling and leaching them will probably be reasonably labour intensive, but I'll be able to do it while watching a movie, so it's not exactly backbreaking work.

Fishindude

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For what I blow annually to kill 3 deer yielding maybe 150lbs of good boneless meat, I could buy lobster tails cheaper.   Last elk I shot, probably cost $8,000.   However, I do know some folks that basically walk out back and kill a deer or two every year with no expenses other than a license and a couple bullets.   Same scenario applies to fishing, both activities can be done pretty dirt cheap, or the sky is the limit on spending.


MicroRN

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It's hard to beat commercial large scale farms for price, especially if you factor in your time at a reasonable hourly rate.   Some people manage it,  but for most people food production is a satisfying hobby. 

freeat57

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If you enjoy the activity of gardening or fishing and hunting, go for it!  It is recreation and fun, not an economic activity.  If you are looking for bang for the buck as well, then do the higher value things.  Grow fruit, berries, nuts, herbs, and "gourmet" veggies that you like.  Blackberries and raspberries are outrageously expensive to buy and easy to grow.  I make jams, preserves, pickles and relishes.  I consider the kitchen work to be recreation and the cost per jar of these products is a fraction of the cost at the grocery store. 

We have a community herb, tomato and pepper garden at my condo.  That saves a lot of money in the summer.  The work to maintain it is divided over several volunteers and anyone can harvest from it.

I live in a major city and still can forage.  I have found blackberries, wild plums, peaches, pears, pecans, walnuts and hickory nuts. Pecans, for instance, are usually about $10/lb at the cheap stores and $17.99/lb down the street at Whole Paycheck Foods.

SupersavingMMM

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I agree with all the prior comments.  It CAN be financially worthwhile if you do berries (net them though!) or live in areas where a pleasant couple of hours in the countryside is boosted by free finds.

We wonít ever beat Aldi (or, in the UK, Tesco/Asda etc), because of commercial production scale.  But the payback can be a hell of a lot more than just financial.  Our salads at the moment have tomatoes picked from a plant literally minutes before eating.  They are wonderful.  Until you have pulled a parsnip up on the Sunday morning, for your roast, well...you havenít had a good parsnip! And they are cheap here in the UK.




CrustyBadger

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I'm not at all a gardener, but I have had success growing herbs and leafy greens from seed.  Started from seed, they are dirt cheap, and compared to what they sell for in the stores where I shop, they are very cost effective.

dougules

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Some things are definitely worth it if you already have yard space anyway.  Herbs are definitely the top of the list for cost effective.  "Herbe" is the French word for "weed," and they grow like it.  Once you get them established there is very little work both to grow and to pick.  Pecans are also an easy A on both growing and picking. 

Honestly with a lot of garden items it depends on what you want out of life.  Blueberries are a good return because the bushes are low maintenance once they're established, but they're expensive in the store precisely because they are so much labor to pick.  I think I figured I'm getting rough order of magnitude $5/hr for picking my own blueberries.  It will probably improve some as my bushes mature more, but still.  If you have the yard space anyway, you should definitely try growing blueberries or whatever else you like to eat, but view it as trying out a paying hobby.  If you hate being outside and don't really hate your job, then growing your own food is just a second job that pays way less.  You should just buy them at the farmers' market.  It really just depends on what gives you the most happiness and least hassle per dollar. 

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/08/28/545839192/need-a-happiness-boost-spend-your-money-to-buy-time-not-more-stuff/

DreamFIRE

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Blueberries are a good return because the bushes are low maintenance once they're established, but they're expensive in the store precisely because they are so much labor to pick.  I think I figured I'm getting rough order of magnitude $5/hr for picking my own blueberries.

Same thing with my black raspberries.  I spent a lot of hours picking them 10 years or so ago.  But I barely picked any the last couple years.  I stopped picking the blackberries also, which add up more quickly.  I just couldn't justify the time spent.  I'm thinking that when I FIRE, I might go back to picking some again if I am still living here.

sol

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Compared to working an office job, hunting and gardening are terribly low-paying ways to spend your time.

But then again, I would never voluntarily spend my gardening time in an office.  I couldn't get paid to do so even if I wanted to, since I'm a salaried employee.  I get paid for the first 40 hours I work each week, and nothing after that.  Compared to "nothing" gardening in my off hours pays pretty well.

clarkai

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I grow and forage the things I can't bring my self to buy from the store because of the cost, and the things that I can't find in the store.

Foraging that looks like stinging nettles, plums, pears, blackberries, figs, and oyster mushrooms. There are lots of people that will let you pick their fruit if you know on their door and say please.

Gardening is a hobby for me, so I don't just grow the profitable things. But, cost-effective crops tend to be the ones already mentioned- the ones that grow like weeds. For me, that's arugula, bok choi, basil, kale, lettuce, swiss chard and so long. I've also planted a few trees, but it'll be years before I get their fruit. Of course, I'm already harvesting from the pear and apple trees that someone else planted decades ago. Pruned them a bit, but that's it. Pretty close to free, and I do love pears.

sol

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Well in the past 5 days I've gathered 30lbs of "wild" blackberries.

Thirty pounds?  You must be scratched all to hell. 

dougules

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Well in the past 5 days I've gathered 30lbs of "wild" blackberries.

Thirty pounds?  You must be scratched all to hell.

You just have to learn how to move around blackberry bushes.  Very slowly and deliberately. 

wbranch

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We have picked huckleberries twice in the last couple weeks. Unfortunately I eat them faster than I can fill up the container.

TrMama

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Well in the past 5 days I've gathered 30lbs of "wild" blackberries.

Thirty pounds?  You must be scratched all to hell.

You just have to learn how to move around blackberry bushes.  Very slowly and deliberately.

Nope, hardly any scratches. I bring some small shears with me and cut any unproductive branches that are blocking access to berries. Wear good sturdy hiking shoes to protect my feet. I also carefully choose which patches I pick. The best ones are adjacent to areas that get water. Those berries grow big and fat, so you don't have to pick so many per pound.

Prairie Stash

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I add a bit more to my garden every year and try to balance my time in the garden with my desire to be out there. Its never work, its a pure hobby since I stop exactly at the point where I'm not interested. I don't care if my tomato plant is producing the worlds greatest tomatos, I enjoy the process and thats enough. Likewise raspberries; as long as I get one good meal a year I'm happy.

Gardening is done for the enjoyment, not the end result. If you balance any hobby that way it makes sense, if you balance all hobbies on ROI, you'll be sitting alone in the dark by yourself.

drudgep

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For what I blow annually to kill 3 deer yielding maybe 150lbs of good boneless meat, I could buy lobster tails cheaper.   Last elk I shot, probably cost $8,000.   However, I do know some folks that basically walk out back and kill a deer or two every year with no expenses other than a license and a couple bullets.   Same scenario applies to fishing, both activities can be done pretty dirt cheap, or the sky is the limit on spending.

Care to go into detail? The poster above had around 30 bucks year over time. You are claiming 8k. How does one spend that much?

Cranky

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Travel, probably? If you go to Montana to hunt itís more expensive than if you stay home - but I know two different people who have bought property specifically for the hunting land and thatís not cheap, either.

Penelope Vandergast

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Like others have said, it depends. There are also the psychological (and exercise) benefits, which for me are substantial and probably 70% of why I do it. I grow organically stuff that is expensive to buy organically, like tomatoes and strawberries. I also grow lots of greens like kale because I eat it all the time and it's just far more pleasant to go out and pick it than go to the store. The kids also love it and we learn a ton about nature and bugs and all kinds of stuff out there.

It can take a little money to get a garden going, but once you have the gear (including a compost bin or too--compost is key) you are mostly set. The "$60 tomato" or whatever that famous article was from a few years ago really only applies the first year or two :). And you do not have to spend that much if you get your hoe and shovel used/free on Craigslist or whatever. If your soil is really healthy you should have very little trouble with bugs -- I have never had to spray and so don't have that expense. If your soil is bad (get it tested) it can take a few years to correct it, but you (and the neighborhood ecosystem) will be happy if you do. Good soil sequesters carbon too.


Roadrunner53

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My Mom was from Kentucky and had a green thumb. No matter where we lived, she planted a garden and always had good luck. I don't have much luck at all. I didn't plant anything this year and do miss it but it is expensive! Mostly we buy tomato plants, hot pepper plants, cuke plants or seeds. Then we need potting soil and dried manure. We also have grown cherry tomatoes, herbs and green beans. I have run into black bottom tomatoes and had to buy stuff to stop that. I have had Japanese beetles and had to buy spray for that. I had other things eating my plants and has to buy dusting powder. Considering my yield, it is not at all cost effective. I did enjoy it when I had a lot of tomatoes but the last year or two we didn't. I had several cuke plants that only had about 2 cukes total! Very annoying. Then we either get too much rain or not enough rain and have to water. Some years we have had a drought and watering wasn't a good thing. UGH, I don't know how the pioneers managed and survived! I bow to our farmers in this country. They are our hero's!

Cranky

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My Mom was from Kentucky and had a green thumb. No matter where we lived, she planted a garden and always had good luck. I don't have much luck at all. I didn't plant anything this year and do miss it but it is expensive! Mostly we buy tomato plants, hot pepper plants, cuke plants or seeds. Then we need potting soil and dried manure. We also have grown cherry tomatoes, herbs and green beans. I have run into black bottom tomatoes and had to buy stuff to stop that. I have had Japanese beetles and had to buy spray for that. I had other things eating my plants and has to buy dusting powder. Considering my yield, it is not at all cost effective. I did enjoy it when I had a lot of tomatoes but the last year or two we didn't. I had several cuke plants that only had about 2 cukes total! Very annoying. Then we either get too much rain or not enough rain and have to water. Some years we have had a drought and watering wasn't a good thing. UGH, I don't know how the pioneers managed and survived! I bow to our farmers in this country. They are our hero's!

This is an example of how prices and set up can vary! I will occasionally order some seeds, but mostly I buy them on clearance or someone shares with me. I buy a container of Miracle Grow every year.

But I don't spray *anything*. It's survival of the fittest in my garden! We water a bit in June when things are getting established, but not much after that.

Spiffsome

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I grow herbs because I use them fairly rarely, so the ones I buy go slimy in the fridge. Also I can't buy mulberries or elderflowers so growing a tree of my own is the only way to get them.

wbranch

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For what I blow annually to kill 3 deer yielding maybe 150lbs of good boneless meat, I could buy lobster tails cheaper.   Last elk I shot, probably cost $8,000.   However, I do know some folks that basically walk out back and kill a deer or two every year with no expenses other than a license and a couple bullets.   Same scenario applies to fishing, both activities can be done pretty dirt cheap, or the sky is the limit on spending.

Care to go into detail? The poster above had around 30 bucks year over time. You are claiming 8k. How does one spend that much?

It would have been a guided hunt + travel and non-resident tag fees to be 8k. I would also guess that the hunt was on private land as well. Outfitters on public land would be cheaper but have lower success rates.

A non-resident (in state vs. out of state) DIY hunter can go to several western states and hunt elk every year for <$1,500 including tags, and assuming you already have some of the other gear. The overall success rates on the over-the-counter elk hunts on public land vary from 10%-20% across the west.

Fishindude

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For what I blow annually to kill 3 deer yielding maybe 150lbs of good boneless meat, I could buy lobster tails cheaper.   Last elk I shot, probably cost $8,000.   However, I do know some folks that basically walk out back and kill a deer or two every year with no expenses other than a license and a couple bullets.   Same scenario applies to fishing, both activities can be done pretty dirt cheap, or the sky is the limit on spending.

Care to go into detail? The poster above had around 30 bucks year over time. You are claiming 8k. How does one spend that much?

It would have been a guided hunt + travel and non-resident tag fees to be 8k. I would also guess that the hunt was on private land as well. Outfitters on public land would be cheaper but have lower success rates.

A non-resident (in state vs. out of state) DIY hunter can go to several western states and hunt elk every year for <$1,500 including tags, and assuming you already have some of the other gear. The overall success rates on the over-the-counter elk hunts on public land vary from 10%-20% across the west.


Yep, all of the above.
I go at hunting about like some guys would go at motor racing.   Lot's of travel, no expenses spared on; equipment, access fees, non resident tags, guides, misc. equipment purchases, food plotting, etc., etc.

SimpleCycle

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Gathering makes sense.  We do dandelions for wine from a no-spray location, and berries when we can find them.  We also have a community garden plot that probably pays for itself in the end but doesn't net us any hourly wage.

I do think preserving can make sense if you have a source of cheap produce, garden or otherwise.  We freeze berries obtained at a local surplus produce market, and I've been collecting canning jars this summer to preserve our garden produce when I find them for free or cheap.

pressure9pa

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I raise my own bait, and get enough freshwater fish to pay for the license.  I'm not counting any costs for my time, and I do fillet a lot of small-ish fish that most would throw back.  I also visit a local hotel in the fall that has an apple tree that they consider a nuisance.  I usually load up for a couple of weeks and make everything I can think of for a month.  Similar with an old cherry tree at my in-laws' place.

Gone_Hiking

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Starting a vegetable from scratch, preparing the beds, irrigation if applicable, and so on, requires input.  A novice might be out few hundred dollars just for equipment, bed materials, fertilizers... That was my experience when I was living in another warm-weather state.  First year was expensive, second year less so.  By the third year, inputs were minimal and output was growing.  DH and I had about 600 sq ft under cultivation year-round and, at peak times, it was saving us some $50 a week on the cost of vegetables in herbs.

While I agree with OP that potatoes are not necessary the biggest money savers, it is worth mentioning that store bought potatoes, unless certified organic, contain pesticide residues and sprout retardants that make the homegrown alternative attractive.  Plus, fingerling and other specialty potatoes can be grown for much less than their store cost.

Biggest bang for the buck - herbs!  A lot of cheap pesto can be had from volunteer basil plants; commercial pesto jars don't come close to home prepared stuff on cost and quality.

Having said all of this, it seems to me that one should only do it if one likes gardening and treats it as a hobby.  Tending a garden is work.  Weeding or thinning while bent over in summer heat is no fun.  Neither is using a Shop Vac with insecticidal soap solution to vacuum up stink bugs, picking off 4-inch-long horn worm caterpillars, being stung by fire ants on whose mound we have just stepped, and myriad of any other insect encounters.  I can only speculate on how long one's gardening zeal lasts if one does it only to save money and not for any other reason.

clarkai

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I think Gone_Hiking brings up some really valuable points. Though there are definitely ways to reduce cost. I feel like a lot of people when they start out get really excited, and end up buying a lot more than they need, or decide that they *must* have raised beds or a rototiller or a greenhouse or something else that really ups the cost.

We just moved to a new place a year ago, and my biggest expense was a hose (because we bought one new. I'm not sure why we did that..) and seeds. Seeds mainly because I have little self-control, but on the plus side I won't have to buy any seeds for quite a while, especially since I know how to store them to retain as much vitality as possible.

Anyway, if people just started with a hose, a shovel, a rake, and a hoe, and bought them from garage sales, I think people would have the basics for a pretty small cost. Of course, depending on their soil fertility they might have to do something about that, but if one were really a think ahead sort of person, one could start a compost pile the year before and have all that they need, get bags of leaves in the fall, collect their own and other people's grass clippings, etc. Get some good quality, locally adapted seed, and store it properly, and they'd be off to a good start.

Yesterday I just started a new garden patch with a shovel and a rake, and put in seeds. Probably took me less than 2hrs all told (lots of bindweed to carefully remove), but I'm sure I'll get way more than $40 out of the ground, and next time I won't have to do so much digging.

I feel like one of the best ways to get started is to find a frugal gardening mentor who can help you learn what you need to do, when to do it, and how.

Herbs, green leafy vegetables, and whatever grows like a weed in your garden are definitely going to be frugal choices. Beyond that, I grow things that I can bring myself to purchase because they're so expensive and yet I really like. Fingerling potatoes, artichoke, and so one fall into that category.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2018, 07:46:53 AM by clarkai »