How I speared a free lunch

Larry the Leatherjacket is the first victim of my spearfishing career at home

Larry the Leatherjacket didn’t have a good day today. He’s the first fish I’ve caught since living at the sea.

We have been living by the sea for a few months now and today we met Larry the Leatherjacket. Unfortunately for him I speared him in the head at about 1pm this afternoon making him officially the first victim of my spearfishing career since living here. I’m not sure why, but Larry appears to have some sort of tattoo of himself on his side which is very post-modern of him.

Today presented almost perfect conditions for underwater hunting. The water was clear and relatively calm and there were numerous fish playing in the rocks. Snorkeling and spearfishing is something I’m relatively new to and I think I’m already addicted. Not only does it provide a free lunch from time to time, but it is good for my fitness, gets me into the incredibly therapeutic Tasman Sea and is a great game of cat and mouse.

Once gutted and skinned, we fried the fillets in a bit of butter and seasoned with some salt. It was delicious.

Later on I pulled some carrots out of our vegetable garden that I thought had completely died, but oddly enough there were some minuscule carrots, leading to the second free lunch of the day.

Tiny carrots from the vegetable garden

Tiny carrots from the vegetable garden

The 5c piece in Australia is little bigger than your thumbnail. So it was hardly a feast, but still a satisfying discovery. The first vegetables that have come out of our garden! How exciting.

You don’t have to live next to the ocean to find a free lunch. There are opportunities everywhere if you know where to look. The key is focus some of your hobbies towards activities which tend to have a free lunch attached – fishing, hunting, gardening, diving, or cultivating herb window boxes. Sometimes these activities don’t have a high dollar-per-hour or return-on-investment associated with them, and they definitely shouldn’t be done just for the free lunch. If you try them and you enjoy them then you’re killing two birds with one stone (sometimes literally) – it’s a cheap hobby that sometimes rewards you with free food.

This is true of other activities in life – try to do things which produce multiple positive outcomes and are broadly inline with your interests. For example, if you wanted to become a doctor only because you think it’s the best way you can earn a high income you (and your patients) are destined for failure. If you did it because you:

  • Liked helping other people
  • Liked community service
  • Liked listening to other people
  • Liked science
  • Liked working long hours in difficult and stressful conditions
  • Liked putting other people before yourself
  • Had a strong aversion to your free time, and so on

Then you would be much more likely to succeed because it is in line with many of your interests that existed before the decision was made. 

If you live anywhere near the water and like the idea of getting a free lunch from time to time, spending time in the outdoors, the thrill of the hunt and so on, you should give fishing and spearfishing a try. If possible look for community groups that take beginners out so you can try it before you go buying all of the expensive gear.

If you do like it, remember to try to buy gear second hand if you can – diving gear is a really good thing to buy second hand because many people think they will like it and buy a whole heap of brand new gear first before actually doing it. Don’t be that guy. Buy your gear from that guy.

Hobbies that come with a free lunch


The minimum gear necessary is really just an old broom handle, a bike inner-tube and some nails, but normally includes:

  • A wet suit
  • Mask and snorkel
  • Flippers
  • Catch bag
  • An underwater knife
  • collapsible spear

If you like the water and are anywhere near to it, give it a try.

Fishing with a rod

Second hand rods and reels are very cheap but frequently old and rusty. It is often more frugal to purchase a reel new and take good care of it rather than gamble with second hand equipment. A fun hobby if you live near the rocks or inlets and rivers. No need for a boat if you have a suitable bank to fish from.


Search for edible native plants in your area and go hunting for them. It’s surprisingly fun, but be careful that you properly identify plants before you stick them in your gob. We found a CD-ROM (remember them?) from the library that details all of the hundreds of species in our area and have found a whopping one so far. It had notes of bitter foot, but it was a fun experience over all. Boiled bitter foot is still horrid too.


Heavily dependent on local regulations and licences, but if you live in a rural area you might find a farmer who will let you take rabbits, wallabies or other animals that don’t have many natural predators. Just don’t do a Dick Cheney.


Beating for birds

Beating for birds in the field

If you live in the UK and like the idea of being wet all day scaring birds out of bushes, then you would love beating. Apparently many places will let you take home a few birds for the hassle.

Growing your own vegetables

Do what we did this month and put in a garden bed - it might take a few seasons for it to pay for itself but you’ll have a great time worrying about whether you can see a few new leaves or if you have the caterpillar invasion under control. If you like activities which take a while to pay off and like eating seriously delicious vegetables you have to try it. Start small with pots, or by planting a lemon tree and there’s a good chance you’ll be hooked.

Volunteering at a soup kitchen

Another good example of where you should not do it only for a free lunch but it’s the icing on the cake. You get to help people who are literally starving, get a healthy reality check about your own problems and a big measure of satisfaction. You’ll get a meal at the end of your shift which will be well earned.

Trapping rabbits

I am going to do this in the next few months when I work out the best type of trap to use. We have heaps of them around our lawn – hence the vegetable garden that is about as secure as Fort Knox – so why not trap them and eat them? Rabbit meat is a delicacy and you’re getting a free lunch as well as keeping a pest in control – just check the regulations in your area and make sure you put the trap in the shade and only leave it set when you can check it regularly.

Obviously don’t use a trap that’s going to hurt the animal or leave it stressed from the sun or other predators. There is no reason it has to suffer, it just has to die so you can have a meal!

Retire to the country and become self-sufficient

This is a pretty advanced move and again, shouldn’t be done for financial reasons only. If you love getting knee-deep in cow shit and looking after animals, then this should be right up your alley. It is really only possible once you have reached the point of financial independence because to be truly self-sufficient will require about the same time investment as a full time job, but the reward is producing your own organic, healthy, sustainable and environmentally friendly food.

It will probably cost more than it would to buy the food from the supermarket, but assuming you love the lifestyle you will be pretty happy not working for The Man. It’s something I’m certainly thinking about when I retire in a few years time. The aim is for the cost of self-sufficiency to break even due to the food you produce for yourself and sell to your community rather than trying to turn a profit.

Larry you will be missed

Just before I successfully speared Larry, I noticed his partner Lucy who is now presumably floating around quite despondently (or perhaps liberated?), so here’s to you Lucy.

Watch your back!

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How I speared a free lunch — 4 Comments

  1. Great catch! I would like to go spearfishing again. I tried it briefly when I was Diving in Roatan and speared a lion fish (they are a pest in the Carribean waters). Must take a heck of a lot more skill doing it without a tank!

    • It can be quite challenging, but fish tend to be quite inquisitive if you just float about without splashing. I caught Larry by just being patient while he swam towards me. I haven’t mastered the art of diving under the surface yet.

  2. Fishing is one of my favorite hobbies. Getting a “free” lunch is just a great side perk. Your fish are definitely more enjoyable to look at though. Most of the fish in the great lakes are brown, gray, black or some combination of the three.

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