Food Numbers

The harvest tallies, as well as everything we’ve purchased and foraged are in!  We didn’t quite make our goal of pulling a ton of food out of the garden this year, but we doubled our production at 1622 pounds.  It was a rather cloudy summer, and not all our garden spaces were at max fertility so some crops struggled.  But we put in a lot of new garden space, and I’m confidant we can reach that goal next year. Our portion of the harvest was 1212 pounds, which includes food we ate, gave away, and fed to others.  Some of our biggest successes were almost 140 pounds of winter squash, 72 pounds of onions, 75 pounds of kale, 128 pounds of potatoes, and 39 pounds of raspberries!  We also harvested 20 pounds of chicken for the freezer and about 40 dozen eggs over the last 4 months.

I plugged our harvest numbers into a spreadsheet that calculated the  value of the produce, in part because I wanted to validate all the time I spent on the garden!  At grocery store prices, the value was still an astounding $5,460!  Subtract about $270 for seeds, starts, and chicken feed, and we are still over 5K!  I didn’t keep good track of the time I spent in the garden, but I think it would average out to about 20 hours/ week, which means I pulled in about $10/ hour!  Not bad!!

We didn’t spend as much time foraging this year as we would have liked, but we still managed to pull in 562 pounds, at a value of $6,506!  The costs of these pursuits was about $570, mostly in gas to get us where the goods were.  Fishing, hunting, and berry-picking are so much a part of life up here in Alaska, that sometimes we forget how valuable they are, and how lucky we are to have such abundant resources!  For people who feel sorry for us trying to do this challenge in Alaska, I say we are really at an advantage in what we can harvest from our public lands.

We double-dipped this year,fishing both the Copper and Kenai Rivers, for a total of 224 pounds, which is worth over $4,000 but only cost us approximately $240 in gas, permits, and vacuum bags.  We’ve already shared some of this excellent catch with family and friends!

Matt also drew a caribou permit this year and shot a large bull off of the Delta River, north of the Denali Highway.  We were lucky to have my dad, who has been hunting in Alaska for 60 years, show us how to butcher it properly.  My mom helped with the packaging, but it still took the four of us two days to get all 150 pounds in the freezer.  Using beef prices, the meat would be worth about $1,500, but I think it is worth much more than that!  We also made some excellent, rich stock from the bones and rendered some of the lard for cooking.


We city-foraged over 100 pounds of apples and 50 pounds of crabapples from other people’s yards, as ours aren’t producing yet.  It’s amazing how much is out there that usually just goes to waste.  Some of those apples are in our cold storage, as well as many jars of applesauce and several big bags of dried apples, great for snacks!  We pulled 6 pounds of bolete mushrooms out of Far North Bicentennial Park on one hike, and picked 11 pounds of blueberries and six pounds of cranberries.

We spent about $434 and bartered for about $300 worth of additional food.  Most of that was “treats” like shrimp, scallops, black cod, chorizo, and salami.  We also bought tomatoes from Bells Nursery, cream from Matanuska Creamery to make butter, and half a small pig.  We bartered for grain and cheese by organizing bulk orders for other members of the group and for our weekly goat milk by being the Anchorage drop-off point and coordinator.

In total, we’ve spent about $1,274 in the past 4 months.  That doesn’t include any of the infrastructure such as the new freezer we had to buy or the cold storage room Matt built in the garage.  According to, the average grocery bill for a family of 4 in Anchorage is $107/week, so for the two of us, probably $70/ week.  So far we’ve spent about $80/week, but we are really well-stocked for the winter ahead.  If we didn’t have to buy another thing for the rest of the year, it would be about $24/week, almost 1/3rd of the average!!  Plus, we are eating much healthier food than we could get for $70/week!

That leads us to the final question…. do we have enough food to last us through spring?  Or will we be buying up and eating exclusively potatoes and carrots by the time the first greens come up in the garden?  Only time will tell….


9 thoughts on “Food Numbers

  1. Ellie Colver

    Sas, you are my hero. One of my goals for the winter is to figure out how to get my garden production up. We had some good stuff this year, but we have already eaten most of it.

  2. Elaine

    Thank you so much for charting your journey and sharing it with the rest of us. This is a VERY interesting test and has a lot of us re-thinking our way of life. Please keep your blog going with updates, etc. – it’s terrific reading. Cheers!

  3. northforkriverThomas

    Great post! (I’m an engineer; I like numbers). Glad to hear the numbers are working out in your favor.

    The proof is in the pudding … eer, applesauce. It’s looking good. Keep it up 🙂

  4. Tam Linsey

    I never thought of spread sheeting my values – thanks for sharing your research.
    I have a hard time believing an average family of four in Anchorage can spend a mere $107 on groceries a week! But then, what I buy, I buy organic, not processed cheap stuff. So maybe it’s true. I think we spend double that (I have two teenagers in the house, too, so maybe that ups the costs. They eat a LOT!) I also wonder if that value might not count how often the average family eats out. We eat out very seldom. Perhaps once a month.
    I look forward to your next post.

  5. Dohnn Wood

    Saskia, Your numbers are great. Those numbers for your time are low though because they are post taxes and no transportation cost or time from the house to the garden. So your probably making/saving more on the order of $20 plus an hour. Urban farming rocks!


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