19 Steps to Self-Sufficient Living
Do you have the desire to be self sufficient? Imagine maybe you live on a farm where you grow your own food, you have a nice size garden, or maybe you’ve chosen the aquaponics route, you’re growing super vegetables while harvesting some tilpia. You might have installed a rocket mass stove to help heat your house, and maybe you have some solar panels installed to help with electricity.
How realistic do you think that image is? You may already be living some of this lifestyle, but if you live in the city and still dream about buying some land, raising chickens, etc., do you see this as something you can work towards?
It seems that as you start on your journey to self sufficiency you hit road blocks at every turn. Start with your vehicle, it is dependent on gasoline, so right from the get go you are depending on an outside source.
19 Baby Steps Toward a Self Sufficient Lifestyle
1. Build up a emergency food supply
Stuff happens but you still have to eat. Start by building up a cupboard full of food. Although my method is a bit unconventional, I endorse filling up a cupboard or pantry with essentials that are hearty enough to fill bellies for a week, a month or longer without regard to the exact number of meals and the precise number of calories. Trust me, by following the guidelines in 20 Items to Kick Start Your Food Storage Plan, you will have more emergency food than 95% of your friends and neighbors.
2. Learn to cook without electricity or gas
There are numerous options to cooking on a traditional stove. Build or buy a rocket stove that only requires biomass for fuel. Learn to use it while cooking a variety of food items. Also consider a propane stove; just make sure that you also stockpile extra propane tanks.
3. Know how to build and start a fire
Just because you live in the city and have electricity does not mean you will never have to build a fire. Learn how to build a fire and keep it lit for an extended period. Collect biomass, dryer lint and other materials that can be used as tinder to help get a fire going then practice starting a fire without the benefit of matches or a lighter. A good resource for learning how to build a fire is Catching Fire: 21 Failsafe Fire-starting Methods.
4. Install an alternate fuel source
You might be surprised by how little power you need to get by. Start with an inexpensive portable generator or some solar panels. Also think about those items that must have power when the grid is down, such as a well, medical devices and refrigeration. Take care of providing power to those things and let the rest go for now.
5. Grow a vegetable garden
This is a great first step to take toward taking care of yourself and some of your food needs. There are some books to help you such as the All New Square Foot Gardeningplus you can get tons of help from seed suppliers, Master Gardeners and friendly neighbors that will be glad to give you some regionally appropriate advice.
6. Start a compost pile
Something many gardeners do not think about is that to be successful, they are going to need fertilizer for their crops. Instead of creating a dependency on the garden center and chemical fertilizers (which also cost money), create your own fertilizer from food scraps and yard waste. The end result will be a nutrient rich fertilizer that is not only free, but a form of “black gold” for your garden vegetables.
7. Grow fruit trees and berries
Imagine growing hundreds of pounds of fruit each year literally for free and for very little work? This can be done if you take the time, by asking around, to seek out native fruit trees that are natural to your area. Once established, these trees will not require fertilizer or water (but if you want to feed them some of that compost, they will love it).
8. Learn to preserve your bounty
Canning, freezing, drying and smoking are some of the ways your can preserve your bounty so that you will have it to feed your family during the off-season. It does take time, yes, but the results in terms of food-saving costs are worth it. As with gardening, once you get the hang of it, preserving your food can be fun as well.
9. Take a first aid course and create a well-stocked first aid kit
Whether you take a course or not, you will need a well-stocked first aid kit. In addition, you should have at least one printed medical reference such as The Survival Medicine Handbook or The Merck Manual Home Health Handbook.
10. Take charge of your health
Do not wait until you are sick and desperate before learning how to take care of your own health needs. Study how healing herbs and essential oils can resolve minor first aid and health annoyances (such as scrapes, insect bites, chest congestion due to a cold or the flu) and practice using these methods in daily life. See Nine Healing Herbs You Can Grow Yourself in a Healing Garden.
11. Acquire warm clothing and blankets to keep you warm without heat
To me this seems basic so it always surprises me to learn when folks freak out when there is no heat. Granted, I live in a moderate climate but if there is no heat, the indoor temperature can drop into the 30s. Down shirts, fleece vests, woolen socks, gloves. comforters and even sleeping bags will keep you warm if not toasty. The best thing is that most of these items can be found for a reasonable price at thrift stores and second hand shops. Keep your eyes peeled – especially in winter – and strike a bargain.
12. Learn how to use weapons to hunt and for personal projection
When the SHTF, each man (or woman) will be on his or her own to find food and to defend what is theirs. The weapon of choice is really up to you. Whatever you choose, learn how to use it and be sure to stockpile ammunition (bullets, arrows, ball bearings or whatever).
13. Start an emergency fund
It is a fact of life that emergencies happen. I know people who have the means (and high paying jobs) yet still live paycheck to paycheck. These are the people that scramble when their automobile needs major repairs or a family member gets sick and incurs a large medical bill. Start an emergency fund and pay yourself each week. Whether you put $5 or $50 a week into the fund, put something in the fund, even if it means you eat beans and rice two nights a week so that you have the money to do so.
14. Learn to barter
Bartering your skills or excess goods is an easy way to become less dependent on others. Need help? Go back and read 40 Items to Barter in a Post-Collapse World and get yourself a copy of the book “Bartering With Desperate People”.
15. Make your own cleaning supplies
This is one of my favorites. Most of my own cleaning supplies are of the DIY type. Get yourself some vinegar, baking soda, castile soap, alcohol, borax, washing soda and liquid Dawn and you can pretty much clean anything and everything, including your clothes and other laundry items. Creating your own cleaners will bring out the inner chemist in you, and save you a ton of money.
16. Cook from scratch and bake your own bread
Cooking tasty meals from the ingredients at hand will set you free of processed foods and unpronounceable food additives. By cooking from your pantry and your garden, you will save a ton of money and will begin to savor the real taste of various foods and not a taste manufactured in some food producer (or Monsanto’s) lab.
And then there is baking bread. Baking is one of those fun things that will not only save you money, but will provide you delicious and wholesome results. A loaf of homemade bread will cost you 50 cents versus upwards of $4.00 or more at the supermarket. Plus, the basic ingredients of flour, yeast, salt and water are all things you can pronounce and spell. No chemicals, no preservatives. See Baking bread and why you should do it and just for kicks The Secret Art of Making Pizza At Home.
17. Be a MacGyver and fix your stuff
Simple plumbing and electrical repairs can easily be learned (or bartered – see above). Painting, deck building and other handyman activities will save you a ton of money and give you the satisfaction of knowing that you can, indeed, do it yourself.
18. Become self-entertaining
Learn to play cards, work crosswords, or become an expert at Scrabble. Learn to dance or play the harmonica. Volunteer as an actor or singer at your local community the theater. The point here is to become self-entertaining which means being able to relax and enjoy yourself without the computer, the television, the DVD player or other amusements that rely on electronic gizmos.
19. Get to know your neighbors
We are not talking bosom buddies but a friendly hello from time to time. Share your excess bounty or trade something you have for something they need. There is a reason why borrowing a cup of sugar was so popular in the 50s. The simple exchange of goods fostered trust and feeling of kinship that paid real dividends during times of need. Need help opening that door? How about a plate of brownies or a fresh load of bread when someone moves in or a pot of soup when someone is ill?
Part of self-sufficiency is knowing who you can trust and who you can call when you need some help. What better time to start than now? See 9 Simple Ways for Preppers to Be a Good Neighbor.