How does Homesteading and Self-Sufficiency go hand-in-hand? There has been a lot of talk about self-sufficiency and personal dependency, but what does that really mean? There are a variety of words being used to promote a lifestyle that is more in line with God, nature, the seasons, simple living, and using local resources. There is speculation where this return back to the basics is coming from, but ultimately, that isn’t too important. Rather, it’s more important that we are trending in this healthy direction.
We can call this trend – simple living, minimalism, self-sufficient, self-dependency, sustainable living, etc. Whatever you want to title it – it leads back to several general concepts. If you are admiring this lifestyle, and swoon over photos on social media of people embracing this life, but you don’t know where to start – here are a few ideas.
Learn to appreciate homemade food. We rarely ate out when I was a child – almost everything came from our kitchen. My great-grandmother was from Azores and she made everything from scratch, without written recipes. (Goals!) I’m not telling you to break out your grandmother’s bowls and whisk, dump all of your food, and go 100% from scratch cooking. Instead, take small steps. Try making pancakes from scratch or a loaf of active yeast bread – even scrambled eggs is a good start.
If you are a more experienced cook, try your hand at sourdough. You don’t need to purchase a starter, try making your own at home. It’s very easy – flour and water (just make sure to wait several months to use in your bread, so it’s alive and read for bread-making).
Decrease waste. I know, this is quite a general statement, but you know specifically where you may be creating more waste in comparison to another person. For the past year and a half, we started our own composting. It was something that we discussed for quite some time, but never started. Composting was part of my life growing up and I didn’t appreciate it then, but it is so important now. So, instead of throwing in the trash all of the peels and cuttings from fruits and vegetables, they are all composted. We even compost our organic used coffee grounds and the coffee filter is compostable. We throw our garden weeds, sticks, and grass clippings into the compost!
Composting may not be your thing, so instead try filling your plate with less food and then less will be thrown into the garbage can at the end of the meal.
Remove the disposable mentality. We have become a society of convenience, which also created a society with a disposable mentality. Instead of using what we have, we are always looking for the next best thing – whether that’s in regards to technology, clothing, tools, cars, houses (the housing market feels disposable right now) and even food. Let’s try to appreciate what we have, use what we have, and appreciate used items, as well as, or even more than new items. Before purchasing, really question if it’s needed. Before giving away, ask why you have that item – was it necessary or a splurge and now it’s just heading to a giveaway pile.
Grow Food. Ok, this is easier said than done. If you have the calling to grow your own food – that’s great! If, not skip this and move onto the next topic “supporting local farmers and local companies”.
If you do have a desire to grow your own food, start small, especially if you’re new to it. Growing up, my father grew a lot of produce and preserved 75% of it. So, this is normal for me, even though I didn’t always embrace it for myself as an adult. If you’d like to start growing you own food, start with herbs or strawberries (depending on your climate/zone). People always give me a weird look – why strawberries? Well, they are incredibly hardy, they multiply like weeds, and they are perennials. So, they will keep growing back year after year with additional shoots to expand your plants. The most difficult thing about strawberries is to remember that covering them with a net is usually necessary during their picking seasons (in Wisconsin, that’s June). If you don’t cover them, the birds and animals may devour the berries before you even get to them.
Preserving. So, what do you do with that food after you grow it? Eat it, of course! Once you get to a certain level of gardening, you may want to start preserving it for your family to enjoy over the winter months. There are several ways to preserve food, and some of the best homesteaders use all of these means: freezing, drying/dehydrating, canning, basic root cellars, fermentation, etc. To start simple, try freezing vegetable or fruit in freezer bags (make sure to eliminate extra air) or water bath canning. There are so many books and websites available to help with this. IMPORTANT – remain faithful to canning recipes, the acid levels are important in canning to prevent bacteria growth, so don’t go crazy and deviate too much from those tried and true recipes.
Support Local Farmers and Small Businesses. If 2020 taught me anything, it was to have even more appreciation for local farmers and small businesses. I have always tried to support small businesses, but honestly, it wasn’t that great of an effort looking back. It was something I strived to do, when it was convenient. (There’s that pesky word again – convenient.) Now, we have mostly ditched large corporations and Amazon. Yes, this isn’t very convenient for us with having a large family. But usually, good things require a lot of work and effort. We have found some amazing products, by taking our time to find and support small businesses.
Homemade. We discussed cooking from scratch, but homemade can fall into a variety of areas. Christmas 2020 brought out a lot of homemade gift ideas in our house and we made such great memories creating them: chai tea concentrate, soap, candles, cocoa mix, needlepoint samplers, and a quilt. Again, don’t go crazy if this is new to you. Start small. Go to your local craft store – I prefer Hobby Lobby – and find a project that fits your abilities and interests. There are also great bloggers who have a variety of homemade ideas – Melissa K. Norris at Simple Modern Homesteading or Jill Winger at Old-Fashioned on Purpose