When Dan Marino was 14, his family drove through Jackson, Wyoming on a summer road trip. "We came in through Togwotee Pass in the north," he remembers. "I saw the Snow King ski resort, and I tapped my mom on the shoulder and said, 'I'm moving here.' "
He never said another word about that daydream until he graduated from high school. That's when he loaded up his 1966 Mustang with everything he owned. "My mom said, 'Where on earth are you going?' I said, 'Jackson Hole,' and I never looked back," says Marino, now 53.
Making a living in a resort town wasn't simple. For years, Marino ran a power washing business, cleaning everything from log homes to commercial kitchen stove hoods. And he worked part-time cutting steaks and filleting fish at the now-shuttered Cadillac Grille, a popular restaurant on Jackson's historic town square. He met his wife, Suzanne, there. She was an owner and chef.
Then in 1997, Suzanne saw a tiny classified ad in the local newspaper. The Jackson Hole Buffalo Meat Co., founded in 1947, was for sale.
"It was the perfect fit," Suzanne says of the company. It seemed to epitomize Dan's love of Jackson, the nearby Teton Mountains and the broad valleys cut by the Snake River. "He's just so passionate about this place."
They bought the business, which sold buffalo jerky as well cuts of game meat out of a small storefront and via mail order, and set out to see if they could combine business with the love of the land.
Where the Buffalo Roam
Turns out that the Marinos ended up loving the buffalo, not just the land they called home. The more they learned about the animals, technically the American bison, the more fascinated they grew.
Bison will go through almost any barrier, even barbed wire, and can jump a 6-foot fence from a standing position. While they weigh up to 2,200 pounds, they can run up to 35 mph and are powerful swimmers. "They are spectacular to see," Dan says.
Their prowess adds a new level of meaning to the phrase "where the buffalo roam," he adds, explaining that the massive animals wander "anywhere they want to."
Most of the United States and parts of Canada were once the perfect fit for the American bison with its tall-grass prairies and ample water supply. Millions of them roamed for thousands of years from New York to Idaho and from the Yukon Territories to the Gulf of Mexico.
For the Plains Indians, the huge herds were a source of food and shelter. They ate the meat and used the hides for teepees and clothing. But instead of forcing bison to follow them -- as Europeans had done when they domesticated cattle -- Native Americans followed the herds.
The animals also helped make the Plains Indians a formidable enemy to the U.S. government and the country's plans for westward expansion. So throughout the 1800s, a campaign of extermination began, and an estimated 50 million buffalo were killed.
"They did it to put stress on the population of the Native Americans," Marino says. "Take away their food source, take away their shelter source, take away their livelihood, and you can control them."
By the early 1900s, all that remained of America's bison was a herd of an estimated 25 animals protected in the confines of Yellowstone National Park about 60 miles northwest of Jackson.
From that decimated base, the American bison began to come back in the mid- to late 20th century. Today, there are enough bison, often farm-raised, to supply firms like Jackson Hole Buffalo Co., which processes about 350 to 400 animals a year. The bison population now is in the several hundred thousands, including wild and farmed herds.
While far eclipsed by the multibillion dollar beef industry, Dan says bison is a good alternative to cattle for a number of reasons. Cattle are content standing in one spot and "buzz the grass to the ground," he says. "Bison always leave grass instead of destroying the ecosystem. They're just easier on the environment."
Jackson Hole Buffalo Meat Co.: From Daydream to Dream Job
The best deals of the week go to loyalty card users. These items often include what are known as "loss leaders" -- items sold at little or no profit for the store. Why do stores do this? To draw you into the store, with the hope that you'll pick up other items as you shop. Some stores also reward you for spending more. Safeway (SWY) and Stop & Shop offer discounts at partner gas stations. Deals are also advertised in the weekly circular, and you can scan those savings onto your smartphone through apps such as Spoofee.com or SundaySaver.com.
You might like to see and feel every apple or potato you put into your shopping cart, but you can save as much as 36 percent by buying bags of produce. The same is true for multipacks of grocery items such as soap, toilet paper, soda and yogurt, especially at stores such as Walmart (WMT) and Target (TGT).
Many popular deli meats and cheeses sliced fresh at the deli counter may cost less than the pre-packaged variety. SmartShop found the same brands (including Boars Head and Alpine Lace) as much as 30 percent cheaper at the deli counter. You also get to buy the exact amount you need, reducing potential waste.
These racks, usually found in the back of the store, include a hodgepodge of items marked down by as much as half. That's because there is an imperfection in the packaging or the item is being discontinued. Check the expiration date to make sure that you're not buying something that's been sitting on the shelf too long.
Several new subscription services rival Amazon.com's (AMZN) Subscribe & Save service. ShopSmart likes FamilyCircle.com, Plated.com and Target Subscriptions. FamilyCircle.com offers organic produce and seasonal items that can be shipped to your home weekly. It's only available in Washington state, Idaho, Alaska and San Francisco, but there are plans to expand. Plated.com provides measured ingredients to make a chef's recipe from scratch. Target offers household and personal care items at a 5 percent discount (10 percent for REDCard holders). It also offers food, even though the selection is limited. The best thing about them: membership is free.
Shoppers can save as much as 60 percent by choosing the store brand over a national brand. Many people find the taste and quality of store brands to be just as good as the more costly brand names.
Walmart and Target, the big players in this category, offer savings of up to 70 percent on toiletries, drugs and other items. A recent Consumer Reports survey ranked Target better for customer service, quality of perishable items and cleanliness, while Walmart came out slightly ahead on price. Both will price match items you find cheaper at other stores.
There may be a stigma to shopping at dollar stores, but if you can get past that you can find some real bargains. Many leading dollar stores have been increasing the number of food items they sell. Family Dollar Stores (FDO) -- which agreed this week to be acquired by Dollar Tree (DLTR -- recently added 400 food items. Savings of up to 28 percent can be found at dollar stores over supermarket prices.
Club membership is down, but Costco (COST), Sam's Club and others are still great places to save if -- and this is a big if -- you have the space to store bulk purchases. ShopSmart found savings of up to 63 percent on some items. It also gives high ratings to some of Costco's Kirkland brand, including its bacon, laundry detergent and toilet paper.
Most times it makes economic sense to buy the large size package of cereal, paper towels, etc. But there are some items that you get just as much bang for your buck on the medium size. Check the unit price. SmartShop found the medium size price is the same as the jumbo size for Cheerios, Hellman's mayonnaise and Skippy peanut butter, but go for the super size of Heinz ketchup and Folgers coffee.
Boxed gives you warehouse prices (and sizes) without paying a membership fee. Checkout 51 offers weekly specials on items such as Campbell's (CPB) soup or Prego sauces. You also get cash back for every $20 you spend. Flipp is great for checking store circulars for weekly specials. You can put items right onto your shopping list, and the app helps identify the best deals. All three of these apps work on Android and Apple (AAPL) phones and tablets.
Convenience stores and drug stores may be easy to run into and pick up some essentials, but you'll pay top dollar for that convenience. ShopSmart's price check found these stores consistently charged a lot more, often more than double the price at supermarkets, Target and Walmart on basics such as milk, bread and eggs. A half gallon of milk at 7-Eleven costs $3.12. Compare that to the average supermarket price of $2.30. And a loaf of whole wheat bread at CVS (CVS) cost $2.91. At a dollar store the same loaf costs -- yes, you guessed it -- $1