How to Be More Self-Sufficient in 49 Steps

49 Steps to more self-sufficient living

Self-sufficient living, also known as “homesteading”, is a lifestyle of freedom and independence.  Maybe you’ve read about the self-sufficient lifestyle and wonder where and how to begin.  Then this post is for you, “How to Be More Self-Sufficient in 49 Steps”!

Living a self-sufficient life means that you will provide for most of your needs, then trade and barter for what you can’t.  This type of lifestyle is nothing new, as a matter of fact, until the last 100 years in this country, everyone was a homesteader!

Do you have what it takes?  Of course you do, but it takes work and commitment. 

Learning how to be self-sufficient is a journey and it’s a fabulous lifestyle in my opinion!

Where should you begin?

Here are some attainable examples of what a self-sufficient person would find themselves doing!  You CAN do this!

woman watering a plant

1.  Garden to be Self-Sufficient with Food

It seems that this is always the first suggestion, doesn’t it?

Well, there’s good reason for that.

Growing food is one of the best and fastest ways to become self-sufficient!

Growing your own food not only makes you more self-sufficient with food, but growing food does so many other things i.e. keeps you in shape, provides excellent nutrition, gives you something to barter with, etc.

It doesn’t matter where you live, YOU CAN grow something!

Apartment dwellers have many options, from container gardening to balcony gardens to rooftop raised-bed gardens to even community garden plots!

How to Be Self-Sufficient in an Apartment

raised bed gardens

If you have even a little bit of land, do away with the lawn and plant food!

Even if you live in an HOA, you can plant edible landscaping and totally get away with it!

I lived in the suburbs most of my life and desperately wanted to garden.

After many years of driving to a garden plot that I rented from the county, I finally decided to rip out all of our landscaping and plant food all around the house.

It worked and it’s looked great as well!

For those of you who have a little more land to work with, the challenge becomes gardening smarter, not harder.

Plant what you’ll really eat and/or you can sell or barter for something else.

More on smart gardening in #4.

food pantry at home

2.  Create a Pantry

Having your own food storage system at home is critical to self-sufficiency with food!

I’m always blown away when a snow storm is coming in and the news shows everyone running to the store to stock up.

Really!?

Are you telling me that people don’t have enough food in their homes to ride out a storm for a few days?

That’s a recipe for disaster.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, should have some kind of food storage system in place in case of inclement weather, job loss or sickness.

These days, it also makes sense in case of further lock downs from C19.

I’ve written about “How to Stock Your First Pantry on the Cheap” here to get you started!

homemade bread

3.  Learn to Bake Bread

Making bread at home is very simple to do and will save the average family $15 a week.

When you really get into it, bread-making is an amazing art as well as a hallmark for self-sufficient living!

To be honest, though, I’m not a bread artisan.  Not that I wouldn’t like to be someday.

However, in the meantime, I can make a pretty darned good loaf of Amish White Bread with this recipe

Six ingredients, one of them being water.

As you have the funds, you’ll want to invest in bread-making tools, but for now, keep it simple.

picking strawberries

4. Cultivate Edible Perennials

Edible perennials are one of my favorite things to write about!

I will sing the praises of edible perennials until the day I die!

Why?

They are an amazing benefit to anyone’s garden or food production system!

You plant them once and they deliver food for years and years!

This year, in particular, I found myself needing somewhat emergency surgery on both hands.

At the beginning of gardening season.

Yeah.

So, I was able to get the garden in, but with lots of pain and very little strength in my hands, the weeds have taken over.

The recovery time is 12 weeks for each hand, they will only perform surgery on one hand at a time.

But as depressing as my annual garden looks right now, my edible perennials are rockin’!

I still had a huge crop of strawberries, asparagus, raspberries, blackberries, rhubarb and gooseberries, because they are all perennials that produce food year after year!

I don’t want to mislead you, perennials will need a bit of pruning and fertilizer.

However, once planted, you will not have to do it again!

Actually, another benefit to most edible perennials is that they are very simple to propagate and split!  This makes it even easier to expand your perennial beds and not have to wait for them to grow from seed!

How to Grow Strawberries in a Container

How to Grow the Best Strawberries with Chives

How to Grow Asparagus

The BEST Edible Perennials for the Lazy Gardener

How to Grow Blueberries in Your Backyard

woman watering money tree

5.  Create Passive Income

Creating passive income is another of my favorite topics to talk about!

In order to make changes so that you can live a self-sustaining life, you’re going to need time.

Working a regular job is necessary for many folks to pay the bills, which takes up most of your day. 

But what if you could make some passive income as well?

It’s called the “Side Hustle” these days and it’s the perfect remedy to pay off debt, get some money in savings and pursue your goals of self-sufficient living!

There are so many crazy side hustles out there right now, let me give you an example…..

I was on Etsy the other day and noticed that there were several listings that were selling chicken poop.

I’m serious.

Actually, there were several kinds of dried manure for sale, some selling for as much as $16 a pound!

So, say you get a couple of chickens, they feed you with their eggs and you sell the poop…crazy.

Only in America.

Here are several resources to discover what your “Side Hustle” niche might be:

Side Hustle Nation

KDP Low Content Books

Search for “Side Hustle ideas” on YouTube

Always do your “due diligence” with these things, but there’s passive money out there to be made!

re-purposing old pair of blue jeans

6.  Re-Use and Re-Purpose Everything

One of the best ways to be self-sufficient is to never let anything be thrown away that could have another purpose assigned to it.

By re-using items, you can often times eliminate the need to purchase something.

Meeting your current needs with what you already have on hand is a habit of the self-sustaining crowd.

Here are a few examples:

-When I remove lint from the dryer, I set it aside to light my bee smoker with.

-I wash and save jars that once contained marinara sauce or jelly and use them to store my dried herbs.

-All food scraps and coffee grounds go to the compost pile, to be turned into fabulous fertilizer.

-Scraps of fabric go the sewing room to be made into quilts.

-Human hair, from home haircuts, would go either to the compost pile or be spread around the perimeter of the property to ward off predators.

 

Every time you hold something in your hand to throw away, ask yourself what other purpose it could have!

How to Make Do With What You Have

 

leftovers in the refrigerator

7.  Eat ALL of Your Leftovers

Did you know that Americans waste about 40% of their food?

That’s almost 1/2!!!

If families will take the time to save their leftovers and actually eat them, your grocery budget will drop dramatically!

In our house, I make sure that leftovers are continually brought to the attention of the family, especially when someone is in the refrigerator looking for something to eat.

13 Simple Ways to Reduce Food Waste

How to Live Comfortably without the Grocery Store

woman hunting iwth rifle

8.  Learn How to Fish and Hunt for Self-Sufficient Living

Hunting and fishing are skills that are often acquired as we grow up.

I grew up down South and we did a LOT of fishing, let me tell you!

However, we never hunted, which is a skill that I hope to learn at some point.

Take advantage of relatives that are still around and learn those skills if you didn’t learn them growing up.

jars of vegetables

9.  Learn and Practice Long-Term Food Storage 

Practicing long-term food storage is really just an extension of keeping a food pantry.

I have food stores that will last for up to 30 years, just in case the need arises.

I recommend that everyone, once your working pantry is up and running, to put away some staples like rice, pasta, canned meat, powdered milk and potato flakes.  You just never know what tomorrow will bring.

How to Use Mylar Bags and Oxygen Absorbers for Long-Term Food Storage

 

vape

10.  Ditch Bad Habits that Cost Money and Well-Being

I have a confession.

I’ve never smoked, vaped, drank or even had an energy drink.

I have absolutely NO idea how hard it is to quit these habits.

However, I do know this…..

All of this bad habits strip you of your financial security and then slap you in the face with illness and disease.

Just doesn’t seem like a good value for the money.

Think of all the things you could buy that would promote your level of self-sufficient living, instead!

one car garage

11.  Get Down to One Car

I realize that this isn’t always possible, however, I also know that sometimes it is.

Maybe you do it temporarily, just to get some money saved.

The extra money saved in gas, maintenance and insurance can really help pay down some debt and/or get some money saved.

Then maybe you realize that it isn’t that bad with only one car….

wood burning stove

12.  Heat Your Home with Wood

This isn’t always possible, but if you do have a fireplace or are lucky enough to have a wood-burning stove….

USE it!

I LOVE the smell of a wood-burning stove!

There are lots of places on-line to find free wood, keep your eyes open through most of the year and you’ll find more than you think.

Stay Cozy and Warm with Home Heatstoves and Heart Accessories at Lehman's!

how to make black raspberry jam

13.  Make Your Own Jam

Jams are very simple to make and will save you a good chunk of change at the grocery store!

Many of the jams I make each year are made from those edible perennials that I love to talk about!

Make lots of extra jam to give as hostess and teacher gifts, or to sell for some extra income!

How to Make and Preserve Black Raspberry Jam

How to Make Easy Pineapple Jam at Home

Easy Strawberry Jam Recipe

cutting your own hair

14.  Cut Your Own Hair

Ask anyone who knows me…

I’m a diehard do-it-yourselfer.

When my boys were little, and we were trying to get out of debt, I taught myself how to cut their hair.  

It saved us a lot of money at the time and actually, I cut their hair until they were old enough to drive and pay for it themselves.

Were my haircuts perfect?

Nope.

Were they good enough? 

Absolutely.

During the C19 lock down last year, I found myself trimming my hair at home.

I also took my clippers to the Havanese, Remi,  and did a decent job on him as well.

Now, with YouTube, anyone can learn how to do just about anything and with some practice, you might not be half-bad.

man watching tv

15.  Stop Wasting Time

If you want to learn how to exercise self-sufficient living, you need to use your time wisely.

Reading and working hard to acquire knowledge that will serve you well is a critical use of time!

Spend less time on the computer and TV, and more time reading and learning new skills.

how to design herb garden

16.  Grow Herbs

Herbs bring so much good into the self-sufficient lifestyle.

They can be used to enhance your meals, ward off pests, make amazing tea and even improve our health!

How to Design an Herb Garden

 

17.  Cook from Scratch

Cooking from scratch is the only way to know what is really in your food!

As someone who grew up on Froot Loops and Pop Tarts, let me tell you that food cooked from scratch is far cheaper that pre-packaged foods!

Processed foods contain little nutrition, and when eaten on a regular basis

With a few recipes in your arsenal, you can bring back the joy of cooking from scratch, while teaching your children as well!

electrical tower

18.  Learn to Live with Less Electricity

My dream would be to live on the side of a secluded mountain, off-grid, with my wood stove, rocking chair and stack of books.

My husband, on the other hand, couldn’t be less interested in that kind of set-up.

But you don’t have to be “off-grid” to lessen your dependence upon the grid and be more self-sufficient!

Live “Low-Grid”!

Learn to use as little electricity as possible.

During the daytime, very little really needs to be running in your home. As a stay-at-home mom, I am in control of what gets turned on during the day!

First thing in the morning, I go out and read my meter.  This is my starting point for the day.  You can’t save on electricity if you don’t quantify it!

The sun is up, so no lights need to be on. 

Neither does the TV. 

Get your coffee and breakfast, then unplug and/or turn everything off.

Use candles if it’s a little dim in your home that day.

The freezers and refrigerator need to be connected to power, but does the stove?

Nope.

I turn that breaker off, especially during the summer months, unless I plan to cook or bake inside.

Learn to cook “off-grid” by grilling out more or using a simple Coleman stove to heat up water, soup or make a grilled cheese. (Actually, you could have done breakfast on the Coleman as well!)

Just taking these few steps will make your electric bill start dropping!

The less you depend on the grid, the more self-sufficient you will be!

 54 Ways to Be More Sustainable

 

less = more

19.  Reduce Your Living Expenses and Live on Less

It might feel like punishment, at first, to reduce your living expenses.

However, let me assure you that once you get to the point where you can pay your bills comfortably, and have some leftover to save and enjoy, it will all be worth it.

How Rich People Think

debt-free living

20.  Pay Off All Debt

In order to pay off debt, you need to stop creating it.

Stop using the credit cards except for travel and emergencies.

Sit down and write out every single expense that you have, then log it into a free app like “Every Dollar“.

Make a commitment to yourself and each other to get out of the bondage of debt!

How We Paid off $100K of Debt in 3 1/2 Years

 

21. Purchase the Tools You Need for Self-Sufficient Living

As you discontinue buying frivolous things and focus your efforts on buying the items that will make you more sustainable, you’ll find yourself closer to self-sufficiency every single day!

Garden Tools

Hybrid Generator

Solar Generator

Solar Oven

Powerless washing machine

Clothesline

cloth kitchen towels in a basket

22. Go Paperless

If I could show you how much money you spend every year on paper products like paper napkins, paper towels, toilet paper, disposable diapers, baby wipes, mopping sheets, dryer sheets, etc., you would probably vomit.

Single-use paper products are extremely expensive and wasteful and just NOT something that belongs

Creating some new habits in this area isn’t that hard, it just takes a paradigm shift.

 

Sew or buy some cloth napkins, they are seriously no big deal, just throw them in with your other wash.

How to Make Cloth Napkins

 

Ditch paper towels and use kitchen towels to dry your hands. 

If you really need something to wash your windows, get a micro-cloth.  I use mine to clean out the inside of my truck as well.

cute cloth diapers

Cloth diapers have come such a long way since my babies were young.  Invest in some and stop filling up landfills.

 

Baby wipes can be easily sewn with flannel or terry cloth.

 

Dryer sheets are never necessary, use wool dryer balls.  I’ve had mine forever.

 

Mopping sheets make me crazy, for goodness sakes, just get a regular mop.

 

You could even go so far as to make cloth toilet paper.

 

These “single-use” products are created to keep you buying!  

Don’t give into the notion that you “need” these things, the advertizers just want your money.

water bath canner

23. Learn How to Can

Learning how to can is critical for self-sufficient living.

You can grow all of the food in the world, but if you can’t keep it fresh for more than a few days, you’re going to be out of luck.

Water-Bath Canning for Tomatoes

Pressure-Canning Carrots

canning supply shop

24. DIY Personal Toiletries

Personal items like shampoo, conditioner, deoderant and toothpaste cost far too much money to justify.  It’s very simple to make cheaper, and healthier substitutes.

 

dried chamomile

25. Learn About Natural Home Remedies

“Back in the day”, the only option for treatment of ailments and injuries were natural home remedies.

I want to encourage you to do a lot of reading about how to use herbs to promote health, 

26. Learn How to Dehydrate Food

Along with canning food, dehydrating food is another great way to preserve food.

Many times, when my counter is over-loaded with surplus vegetables, it helps me to be able to throw some of that wonderful food in the dehydrator!

How to Dehydrate Broccoli

How to Dehydrate Carrots

How to Dehydrate Fruit

How to Dehydrate Tomatoes

11 Ways to Use Your Dehydrator

fermenting crocks

27.  Learn How to Ferment Food

Fermentation of food has been around since ancient times.  

With a crock or mason jar, salt and water, you can ferment just about any food, without the use of electricity!

How to Ferment Vegetables

 

28. DIY Non-Toxic Cleaners

young woman sewing

29.  Learn Fabric Arts Skills

Skills like knitting, crocheting, sewing, quilting, weaving and the ability to patch and mend clothing are absolutely critical to learn in order to be sustainable.

Why?

You will want to get to the point that you can make your own coverings, or quilts, from scratch fabric.  Knitting and crocheting will allow you to make scarves and hats for your family.  Being able to sew allows you to make everything from your own clothes to window coverings.

Learning how to mend and patch clothing will make what you have last much longer, which saves money.

All of the fabric arts skills, regardless of which ones you enjoy the most, will also be a source of extra income.

Not to mention the fact that fabric arts, especially ones that use both hands simultaneously , relieves stress and depression!

The Benefits of Crafting for Your Homestead and Mental Health

 

30.  Learn How to Fix and Maintain Things

Repairing things seems to have become a lost art, as sometimes it’s just cheaper and easier to pitch it and buy another one.

However, when you stop buying cheaply made items and instead choose well-built appliances, cars and clothing, repairing will become the cheaper and more sustainable way to maintain them.

Maintain your household systems, like changing the furnace filter and having the septic tank cleaned regularly.

Make sure you maintain your car with regular oil and filter changes, rotation of tires and alignment. 

You’ll avoid a lot of expensive repairs when your home and automobiles are well-maintained!

spool of thread and needle

31.  Make Your Clothes Last

When we were in the British Isles last year, I learned quite a bit about the Royal family and how thrifty they are!

Actually, one story we were told, while on a tour, was that when Prince Charles buys a suit, he buys extra fabric as well so that he can mend his suit, as it wears.

If Prince Charles can mend his clothing, I think we can learn as well!

eggs in a bowl

32. Get Some Chickens

Keeping a few chickens is both rewarding and easy!

You get fresh eggs daily, nitrogen-rich manure and friendly birds who will eat all of your kitchen scraps!

More and more suburbs are allowing up to 4 hens (but no rooster, understandably so) which will give you 4 eggs a day.  

Talk about being self-sufficient!!

Common birds like Blue Jays and Mockingbirds make far more noise than most chickens do!

Take the time to look up your county or city municipal codes right here and find out if you’re allowed to have chickens!

If you aren’t allowed, you can petition to your city!

7 Best Laying Hens for Beginners

 

33. Get Some Rabbits

Rabbits are easy to raise, are very quiet and have amazing manure that doesn’t need to be aged!

There is even a market for rabbit manure, so you could make some money and feed your family!

 

34.  Use a Clothesline

composting for beginners

35.  Compost

Composting kitchen scraps to create amazing fertilizer is just one of nature’s glorious wonders.

My compost pile is invaluable for keeping my gardens, berries and fruit trees well fed and healthy!

 

36.  Forage for Wild Edibles

 

37.  Learn How to Stay Healthy

Assess the state of your health and make adjustments to be more healthy.

It might be a good time for a check-up with your doctor to run some test for cholesterol, blood pressure, etc. and make sure you don’t have anything underlying that could cause problems.

There’s plenty on the internet about eating healthy, drinking enough water and keeping our stress low.

Make an effort to promote your health and make it a priority!

Being healthy is a lot cheaper than being sick.

all american sun oven

38.  Cook Off-Grid

We’re all so conditioned to just walk over and turn the stove on whenever we want to cook something.

But self-sufficient living would include alternative way to cook.

Investing in a solar oven, a propane grill and/or a Coleman camp stove give you other ways to cook, whether the power is on or not.

39.  Tap Maple Trees for Syrup

 

40.  Learn the Art of Bartering

Did you know that there are other ways of acquiring things besides using cash or credit card?

It’s called “bartering” and it’s a system of exchange that’s been around for thousands of years.

How does bartering work?

It’s an exchange of “equally valued” items between persons.

Finding “bartering” relationships can take a little time, but also, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!

Maybe you’ve seen on Facebook Marketplace or Craiglist where people will offer something in exchange for something else.  Why not give it a try?

I’ve done a lot of bartering and continue to look for relationships with people who are open to that. 

rain barrel

41.  Collect Rainwater

Long before city water was a “thing”, people collected rain water.

Harvesting rainwater is making a comeback and is so simple to do!

You can simply put a bucket outdoors to catch water when it rains, and then water your plants with that water.

The next step to advancing your water collection would be a rain barrel with an attached diverter.  This allows you to collect 50+ gallons of water!

woman flexing her bicep

42. Get and Stay in Decent Shape

It’s important to stay strong when trying to be self-sufficient.

You will find that you will need to do many things by yourself and will require some strength on your part.

Also, when your “core” is strong (stomach and back), you’ll be able to avoid injuries more often.

 

43. Go on a Cash Envelope System

Take a month (or more!) and operate with cash only.

I’m not talking about paying your mortgage or phone bill in cash, that’s not realistic and most people set those bills up on auto-pay.

But what I am talking about is using cash for your “discretional” spending.

Putting cash in envelopes labeled “Eating Out”, “Clothes”, “Entertainment”, “Gas”, etc. will keep you more closely in touch with what you’re spending.

When the envelopes are empty, you need to stop spending.

engine

44. Learn Basic Motor Repair Skills

This is something that I need to work on myself, to be honest.

Understanding how small motors work and how to repair them are skills that will not only allow you to fix your own machines, but you could also create income!

45.  Learn Basic Carpentry 

Just like #44, basic carpentry skills will help you tremendously in the pursuit of self-sufficient living.

When you are handy with a hammer and nails, you will find it simple to build a raised-bed garden, pasture fencing and even run-ins for animals!

tomato seeds on a plate

46.  Learn How to Save Seeds and Overwinter Plants

If you are a gardener who purchases seeds every year…..you’re doing it wrong.

Sustainable gardening means saving seeds from heirloom plants, every year, as well as over-wintering plants when possible.

How to Overwinter Your Best Tomato Plants

How to Save Tomato Seeds

47.  Set “Self-Sufficient Living” Goals and Keep Good Records

Keeping track of what’s happening on your homestead is no easy task!

48. Learn to be Content

Contentment with what you have is such a freeing attitude.

Being grateful for your life, the ways things are, the house you live in, the job you have, the people who love you will set you free to grow even more.

Don’t worry about what others have, they might look happy on the outside but they might just be miserable on the inside.

woman reading a book with blanket

49. Be a Lifelong Learner!

Make it your hobby to learn about new things, for the rest of your life!  It keeps you young!

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