Stock the Freezer with Frugal Meat Through Hunting

My wife really enjoys eating healthy, and prefers the taste of organic, grass fed meats to the traditional pasture raised and corn finished variety that is far less expensive. My wife usually does the shopping, but last time I went with her she bought a pound of ground buffalo for $9.99, and that was on sale! I absolutely couldn’t believe it! We try and keep our grocery tab under 65-75 dollars per week for the two of us, and she was spending more than 10% of it on one item!

That’s a lot of money, and more of the same in this department would put us in the poor house in no time flat. Thankfully though, we very rarely buy meat from the store. It’s not that we are vegetarians or vegans, but we prefer to get our meat from other sources. The main sources that we use to get meat these days is hunting and fishing. I’ve found that this is a great way to get high quality meat for a great price. Not only that, but you get to be outside all the time while you do it.

I started hunting right out of college with my dad and my uncle, and I went with them because it was what they always did. Hunting didnt seem that abnormal to me at the time, and neither did securing your own food. It was just something we did because we didnt have a lot of money to spend on anything, especially food.

Goes Hunting Gets a freezer full of frugal meat

Now though, I’m hard pressed to find someone that is under the age of 30 that hunts, and I cant figure out why. Every time I go to the store I see people filling up their carts with organic, free range and grass fed meat, and they are paying a pretty penny for it! When I go deer hunting I usually yield about 35 pounds of raw meat, and I pay $20 for my hunting tag, which equates to about $1.75 per pound. This isn’t just some regular old factory farmed meat either, it’s high quality, grass fed, free range organic stuff that people are paying an arm and a leg for. It’s good, frugal meat.

This poundage that I get is all venison as well, it’s before I combine it with a little beef fat for hamburger or before mixing with pork for venison sausage. Typically, when you make sausages or ground venison, you want to add some fat because venison is so lean that it dries out pretty quickly, further increasing your actual yield.

The same can be said for fishing. I know not everyone likes fish that much (and the ones that are more popular like salmon are nowhere to be found where I come from) but you can get a great source of protein with them as well. Your yield isnt as high in terms of poundage, but you still get some great healthy food for cheap. Fishing tags are also a lot cheaper where I come from (about $25 for the season) and can be a great source of food as well.

What if You Dont Hunt or Aren’t Interested?

To this I say that is just fine! To each their own. You don’t need to hunt or fish to enjoy wild game meat. All you have to do is befriend a hunter. Last year, I had quite a few friends express interest in any leftover meat that I had, so I simply purchased an extra tag and harvested an extra animal. Once I was finished processing it, I gave 4 of my friends about 10 lbs each of multiple cuts of venison. They each got some sausages, steaks, roasts and ground venison. Everyone was so thankful they offered to pay me – I couldn’t believe it, I had a great time out there and was happy to do it for free.

The next question I got was how do I cook this – which is also a simple solution. I explained the cuts of meat that each person got, and they went and searched for venison tenderloin recipes or whatever the cut was, and found a great recipe online. Lots of them shared the recipes with me, so it was nice to get some new stuff to try as well.

If you’re looking for one great way to save on food costs, stay healthy and “beat broke”, I encourage you to take up hunting or befriend someone that is a hunter. They can help you save a lot of money while they have fun outdoors!

Readers: Have you ever hunted before? If no, Are you interested? Why or Why not? Do you know any friendly hunters that may share with you?

Original image credit: Hunting Face, by Kristacher, on Flickr

How to Keep Warm without Heating Up Your Bill

Bundle up, America: it’s going to be a cold winter.

The Energy Department expects the price of natural gas to increase a whopping 13 percent over last year’s rates, to the tune of about $679. Homeowners using electricity to warm their abodes can expect a 2 percent increase in heating costs.

If this news isn’t enough to make you shiver, experts predict this winter will be colder than it has been over the last two years. In addition to stockpiling blankets and tea bags, consider these tips to stay warm this winter without overheating your energy bill.

1. Look for Leaks
No matter how high you crank up that thermostat, your house will never be warm enough if your doors and windows aren’t properly sealed. Take the time to test air loss throughout your home and properly seal the areas prone to leakage, including baseboards, attic hatches and electrical outlets. The Department of Energy’s article on detecting air leaks can help you cover all your bases.

2. Ask for a Free Audit
Most energy companies offer free home audits that offer expert-level understanding of where your home is losing heat. If you’re lucky, a few strips of duct tape may be all you need to repair leaky ductwork. It’s probably a good idea to schedule an audit after you make the effort to patch air leaks to determine if you missed anything.

3. Start with the Attic
A well-insulated attic to save you up to 50 percent on your heating bill, so evaluate the insulation levels in your attic and replenish accordingly. Additionally, check the air seal around attic access points as these are often overlooked and can result in significant heat loss. For more information on how to properly insulate your attic, read these tips from the experts at This Old House.

4. Get on a Schedule
If you haven’t purchased a programmable thermostat, this year is definitely the time to invest. You can save up to 10 percent on these devices by purchasing discount gift cards through to Lowe’s or Home Depot. Once you find a device you like, create a schedule you can stick to and remember to adjust it when you leave for extended periods of time.

5. Condense Your Space
By closing windows and doors to unused rooms, it will take less time and ultimately less energy to heat the areas you use most. You can go so far as to place a towel at the base of closed doors to better lock in the heat. Make sure ceiling fans in heated rooms are reversed and on low to better circulate warm air. Don’t forget to open your shades during the day–the sun’s rays will naturally warm up your home.

6. Consider a Space Heater
Space heaters offer supplemental heat without increasing your heating bill. According to Consumer Reports, you can buy top-rated heaters for as little as $40 while keeping your thermostat set to as low as 60 degrees. Safety is paramount, so read up on user and expert reviews before purchasing a unit and place it on ceramic tile instead of carpet or table tops.

7. Bundle Up
Nothing says cozy like a good down comforter, heavy blanket and flannel sheets. When in doubt, keep the thermostat low and stock up on warm bedding and toasty attire. Flannel sheets will do the trick too and you can usually find fun prints that your kiddos will love to sleep with. I personally enjoy a cooler night’s rest bundled under covers. I recommend searching for quality bedding at discount retailers like Homegoods and TJMax. Otherwise, wait until Veteran’s Day for deals at department stores like Macy’s.

How to Get Started with Lending Club

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been talking about peer-to-peer lending.  I’ve shared my returns each quarter (see last quarters’), and shared how I go about selecting the loans that I invest in via FolioFN.  One thing I haven’t talked about in detail is how to get started with Lending Club.  So let’s do that.  Let’s talk about how the strategies that you can use to get started with Lending Club.

What is Lending Club

Before we talk about strategy for investing with Lending Club, we need to briefly discuss what Lending Club and other peer-to-peer lenders are.  They act as a service for both borrowers and lenders.  As an individual, you can apply to get a loan, or you can invest in a loan.  If you’re getting a loan, the peer-to- peer lender will vet the loan for risk, and then provide that information, anonymously, to the prospective investors.  As an individual, you can also invest in the loans that have been vetted.  The borrower then repays their loan just like they would if it were borrowed from a traditional lender (banks, credit unions, etc) and each payment (with interest included) is split out to each of the investors.  In short, they make you and the other investor/lenders into the bank.  There’s a lot more too it, but that’s the basic rundown. Now, lets talk about three strategies that you can use to get started with Lending Club.

Go Big or Go Home Strategy

Getting Started with Lending ClubThere are some people who refuse to do anything on a small scale.  You know who you are.  If this describes you, this is likely the strategy that you will use.  Decide on the percentage of your overall portfolio that peer-to-peer lending will be, then calculate how much of an investment that means you’ll be making.  Deposit that amount into your Lending Club account and start investing it into loans.  Depending on the size of your deposit, it might still take a little time to get it 100% invested into loans, but you’ve got the full amount in the account and ready to go.  As you progress, you’ll also want to make regular deposits that match the % of portfolio that you’ve set for your investment accounts.

Slow and Steady Strategy

Some people really like systems.  They like to decide on a path, set the system that will take them down that path and rarely deviate from that system.  In this strategy, you still decide what the percentage of your portfolio that your Lending Club account will occupy.  But, instead of making one large deposit to assign it, you make several smaller, timed deposits to bring it up to the % of portfolio that you’ve decided on.  Each deposit will be invested as you go.  Ongoing deposits will likely be larger than they would be with the above strategy because you’ll be increasing the account balance to match the % of portfolio as well as including your amount of new investments.

Get Your Feet Wet Strategy

Some of you are still a bit leery of peer-to-peer investing.  You’ve heard that it’s risky.  You aren’t sure if it has a future, or, more specifically, if it has a future in your portfolio.  Maybe you like investing in high-value stocks and bonds and playing it safe.  But, still, you’re tempted.  Tempted by the rate of return that I and others are claiming to receive.  This is the strategy for you.  Instead of selecting a percentage of portfolio like the above two strategies, you want to just get your feet wet a little and test the water.  Decide, instead, on an amount of money that you want to use to test the waters.  At a minimum, it should probably be something like $125-$250 minimum.  That amount will allow you to invest in $25 increments and reduce your risk by having at least 5-10 loans in your account.  Using this strategy lets you feel the system out with a minimal amount to lose.  Even if you lose it all, it’s not a large percentage of your investments.

Get Started with Lending Club

As investors and stewards of our money, it’s important to find the best way to handle our money.  For many of us, that means finding ways to eliminate our debt, earn more, and invest smartly.  I’m not a financial adviser.  I’m just some guy that likes learning things about money.  I share those things, and my thoughts on them here.   One of the things that I’ve been using to grow my investment portfolio is Lending Club.  I’ve been very happy with the service, and I recommend it.

Which strategy do I use?  At this point, I still have significant debt.  I happen to believe that investing while you are in debt is not all that smart.  So, I’m more focused on my debt than I am on investing.  I’m still firmly in the get your feet wet strategy with my investments.  In the time I’ve been testing the waters, my portfolio has grown to quite a bit more than the minimum investment I suggest above, but that’s where I started, and that’s the strategy that most closely resembles my usage of Lending Club today.

If you’re thinking about getting started with Lending Club, be smart, know that there are risks, but I don’t think they are as bad as some would claim.  Know that, just like stocks, there is a chance that you will lose your entire investment.  Just like investing in stocks, that chance is pretty small.  I’m not an adviser (that hasn’t changed in the last two paragraphs) so if you’ve still got questions, and want professional advice, I suggest you talk to your adviser first.

I’ve consistently been getting returns on my money of 13-14%.  Even in the boom times of online savings accounts, the interest rates weren’t that high.  Heck, even if you believe Dave Ramsey and his 12% returns on stock investments claim, it isn’t that high.  Getting you feet wet in Lending Club offers a potentially good rate and, I think, is worth a try.

Original Image Credit: Feet by lukasberg, on Flickr