How To Be More Self Reliant Right Where You Are
If you are wondering how to be more self reliant you are in good company! Many people are interested in increasing their self reliance, saving money, and living a more sustainable lifestyle. The good news is that you can achieve this no matter where you live.
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When we think of being self reliant, the image of a large garden, apple trees, cattle, or fields of grain come to mind. But there are many things you can do to increase your self sufficiency without moving to the country!
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Self Reliant Skill Sets
People who grew up learning self reliance skills from their family do have an advantage on a homestead. However, you can do more for yourself and learn new skills no matter what your age or background.
If you are new to self reliance and homesteading, remember to take on one or two projects at a time and build your skill sets over time. Don’t rush into a dozen projects all at once and burn out!
Here are some important skills that will will make you more self reliant:
- Horticulture – Grow plants for food, medicine, fuel, building supplies, and for sale. Learn to identify and forage for wild plants to supplement your garden and orchard.
- Carpentry & Woodworking – Build structures, remodel existing buildings, and create furniture, tools, fences, utensils and other items for the homestead.
- Cook from Scratch – Cook and bake from basic ingredients instead of purchasing prepared goods. Turn the food you grow into healthy meals.
- Food Preservation – Can, dehydrate, ferment, cure, and freeze your homegrown foods to save for winter.
- Fiber and Fabric Arts – Sew, knit, crochet, spin or felt wool, weave, and quilt, embroider or cross stitch to create clothing, home goods, and gifts.
- Animal Husbandry – Raise and care for poultry, rabbits, goats, alpacas, sheep, pigs, cattle, horses, pets, and guardian animals.
- Natural Health – Leading a healthy lifestyle and learning basic health care skills may reduce trips to the doctor. (But please see your doctor if you are sick!)
- Trade Skills – Plumbing, electrical, mechanical, and engine repair skills will save you a great deal of money on the homestead.
What Resources Do You Need to Increase Your Self Reliance?
You don’t need a large plot of land in the country, an orchard, tractor, or livestock to be more self sufficient. Apartment dwellers in the city can do many things for themselves! However, Suburbanites have even more options, and those with rural land have the most potential to provide for themselves.
Some products make homesteading and self reliance projects easier and faster, but they are not all necessary. Consider purchasing a hot water bath canner, pressure canner, food dehydrator, and mason jars for food preservation.
Some basic tools are needed for preparing and tending a garden, such as a spade, trowel, and perhaps a bucket and some gloves. You’ll need seeds and plants, too.
An off grid homestead will require hand tools instead of electric powered tools, unless you are using a generator.
Acquire Resources Over Time
Many of these things are not necessary and you certainly shouldn’t go out and buy everything all at once. Wait and see what you need to accomplish the tasks at hand.
Try some of the self reliance projects you can take on with the resources you have available. As you build on your skills, purchase or barter for the items you need to be more productive.
Urban Self Reliance
You might wonder how self reliant you can be in an apartment or small urban home. Looking at the list of skills above, there are many things you can learn to do for yourself. Some of the suburban self reliance projects might also work for you. Try some of these ideas to save money and provide for yourself:
- Walk or bike when possible
- Look for a community garden plot nearby
- Turn a small yard into a permaculture oasis
- Start a container garden on a rooftop or balcony
- Buy reusable water bottles and a water filter instead of bottled water
- Keep bees on a rooftop or in an approved park
- Pack your lunch instead of buying it
- Volunteer at a botanical garden for free gardening experience
- Forage for wild edibles
- Reuse and repair items instead of replacing them
- Plant vegetables in a parkway or abandoned lot
- Learn to bake bread and make sourdough starter
- Use vinegar and baking soda for cleaning
- Reduce meat consumption
- Purchase dried beans instead of canned beans
- Grow microgreens and sprouts in a sunny window
- Grow herbs and greens under lights indoors
- Shop at farmers markets or join a CSA for fresher produce
- Chop up vegetable scraps and use to make broth
- Keep 2 or 3 chickens if possible
- Make wine or beer at home
- Save bones to make bone broth
- Preserve food with a canner, dehydrator, or freezer
- Ferment, pickle, or cure extra food
- Sew, knit, crochet, or weave your own clothing and accessories
- Learn plumbing, electrical, and home repair skills
- Join a buying club to purchase bulk goods (if you can use them!)
- Learn woodworking and carpentry skills
- Make yogurt and other cultured dairy products
- Eat more meals at home
- Share babysitting and pet sitting responsibilities with friends you trust
- Start a worm composting system for your kitchen scraps
- Go to the library or read free ebooks
- Stream free movies and videos instead of paying for cable
- Try hobbies such as drawing or whittling for entertainment
- Try a ‘staycation’ instead of an expensive vacation
- Give up bad habits to save money and stay healthy
- Hunt and fish on public lands (follow local laws)
- Make your own non-toxic bath and body products
- Put together mason jar mixes for hot cocoa, muffins, and cookies
- Use a vacuum sealer to divide up bulk goods and keep longer
- Invite a few friends over for a potluck and play a board game instead of going out
- Make your own vapor rub, cough drops, and honey cough syrup for cold symptoms
- Bake a cake, cookies, pie, or muffins to give as gifts instead of purchasing trendy items
- Learn to sew a tote bag from canvas or a recycled bird seed bag for your beach gear or to bring lunch to work
- Buy dishes from a thrift store instead of using paper plates and cups
- Make organic pest control for home and garden instead of using toxic sprays
Suburban Self Reliance
Many of the self reliance skills and projects for urbanites may also work well on a small, suburban plot. However, you can do quite a bit more in the ‘burbs. You’ll have more space to store materials, tools, and finished projects. Don’t forget to check building codes, zoning laws, and health department regulations before taking on some projects. Try these additional projects to increase your self reliance:
- See projects for urban self reliance, above
- Build a raised bed garden
- Plant dwarf fruit trees
- Build a coop and keep laying hens if approved
- Plant perennial fruits (strawberries, blueberries, grapes, etc.)
- Install awnings, trellis, or an arbor to keep home cooler in summer
- Keep one or two Nigerian dwarf goats for milk
- Learn to make soap
- Raise rabbits for fiber, fertilizer, and meat
- Plant perennial herbs and vegetables
- Start your own vegetable transplants indoors
- Build a small greenhouse for extending your growing season
- Install solar panels on your roof to provide energy for your home
- Use public transportation to reduce your fuel needs
- Car pool or work from home, if possible
- Plant trees for shade and windbreaks, if you have room
- Add extra insulation in your attic to reduce heating and cooling costs
- Purchase a fuel efficient or electric vehicle
- Compost yard waste and kitchen scraps
- Start a community group for potlucks or kids play groups
- Take your family to the library, park, or community center for entertainment
- Remodel or organize your home instead of moving to a larger home
- Start a small aquaculture system in your backyard
- Grow heirlooms and save seed each year
Rural Self Reliance
Having a nice sized parcel of land opens up a whole new world of possibilities to be more self reliant. There are trade offs, such as commuting to a job, distance to shopping and fewer opportunities for entertainment. These ‘negatives’ may be positives for you!
Of course, you can take part in any of the projects listed above for urban and suburban dwellers. Here are other options to increase your self reliance and even subsidize your income:
- Raise wheat, oats, corn, field peas, etc. to feed your family and livestock
- Make maple syrup for home use and for sale
- Grow a large garden to provide enough food for your family, to preserve for winter and sell extras at a farmers market
- Hunt, fish, and forage for wild foods on your own land
- Store root crops for winter vegetables
- Use a pond to raise fish for harvesting
- Raise livestock for meat, milk, eggs, and fiber
- Plant an orchard and preserve extra fruit for winter
- Raise cutting flowers for your home or to sell
- Make cheese and other cultured dairy products from extra milk
- Start your own beekeeping business and sell honey, comb honey, and beeswax
- Make your own candles from beeswax
- Replace sugar with honey in recipes
- Harvest and split firewood to heat your home and sell small bundles or cords if you have extra
- Start a Christmas tree farm
- Raise holly, curly willow, Henry Lauder’s walking stick, pussy willow, or other decorative plant materials for sale to craft supply industry
- Grow black oil sunflower seed to feed poultry, pigs, goats, and wild birds
- Raise pastured poultry, pork, goat, lamb, and beef to sell
- Plant several rows of evergreen trees on the north and west sides of your property as a windbreak
- Build and sell garden sheds, Adirondack chairs, chicken coops, picnic tables or other woodworking projects
- Learn basic veterinary skills to treat sick or injured animals when possible
- Raise purebred livestock to show and sell
- Butcher old laying hens to make soup and chicken stock
- Start a boarding kennel for dogs or horses
- Keep broody hens or invest in an incubator instead of ordering new chicks each year
- Offer a farm sitting service
- Propagate perennials from cuttings or division to sell
- Sell eggs, pickles, preserves, and other value added goods
- Butcher extra roosters and pressure cook them for tender meat
- If you have a livestock trailer, offer a livestock hauling service
- Mend clothes instead buying new ones
- Start a pumpkin patch, corn maze, or apple orchard for a seasonal business
- Reduce the size of your lawn to save on gas for the lawn mower
- Sell excess hay and straw
- Feed kitchen scraps to chickens and pigs
- Don’t raise more than you can use or sell to save money and energy
Grow and Save Your Way to Self Reliance
We often think of self reliance as increasing our production of food and other resources. That’s important, but there is another side of self reliance…reducing the resources that we need.
Start with all of your purchases and homegrown resources and take a hard look at how much is wasted. Do you throw away groceries every week because you bought more than you need? Are there freezer burned veggies and meat tossed out because you raised too much? Take some time to rethink purchases and production.
Before you order 200 chicks, plow up an acre for the garden, or buy a gross of canning jars, stop and think carefully about how likely you are to use all of those eggs, veggies, and canning jars.
Start with a dozen chickens and learn from that experience. Put in a small garden. Wash and reuse jars from store bought goods to store dried fruits and herbs. Find out what projects are worthwhile before investing your time and money in a large venture.
Find ways to reduce your expenses on entertainment and extras. You may find that sitting on the porch watching chickens scratch in the grass is more entertaining than television!
Free or Cheap Ways to Increase Self Reliance are Best!
Use the resources you have already on hand.
Reduce waste and cut back on spending.
Wait a week before you make a large purchase, unless it’s an emergency.
Shop at garage sales and thrift shops.
Grow heirlooms and save seeds.
Know how to tell a good quality tool from a cheap one.
Learn from your neighbors, family, friends, or watch some You tube videos before you start a project.
Get free resources from the library.
Find your local Extension Office. They have good information about food preservation and preparation, gardening, and farming.
Once you learn a new skill, practice it…then learn another skill!
Learn to be happy with less. Sometimes, when we slow down and learn to appreciate the little things, we realize that maybe these are actually the big things in life.
This post is part of a Self Reliance Challenge organized by a group of bloggers and websites. The challenge is designed as a way to share ideas for how to increase your self reliance and live a more abundant lifestyle.
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In addition to writing for her own websites, Lisa has contributed articles to The Prepper Project and Homestead.org.
The author lives outside of Chicago with her husband, son, 2 dogs, 1 cat, and a variety of poultry.