In a utopian world, we would be 100% self-sufficient.
We would have enough food, enough water, enough power, and enough fuel, and perhaps most important, enough money to live a well-rounded, healthy and comfortable life. We would have to work hard, yes, but at the end of the day we would have the satisfaction of being able to take care of ourselves without selling out to greedsters or taking a handout from the government.
Alas, everywhere you look there are roadblocks to achieving this state. Not the least of these roadblocks is our dependency on transportation systems and the power infrastructure to deliver goods and energy products to our homes and homesteads. And then there are the entitlements such as social security and Medicare for the older members of our population and disability and Medicaid for the disabled and the sick. Over the years, these systems have been set up – for better or for worse – to create dependencies rather than self-sufficiency’s. (And by the way, the names may be different but these dependencies exist in all Western countries, not just the United States.)
Luckily, though, self-sufficiency is not an all or nothing proposition. At one end of the spectrum is a total, off grid, agrarian lifestyle and at the other is a moderately self-sufficient lifestyle where steps are taken to move toward 10% or 20% self sufficiency. Not a lot. But something.
Today I will share some easy steps you can take to to start moving toward that 10 or 20% percent mark. These are steps that do not require a farm, do not require acreage and do not require a lot of money to begin with. They are practical steps that you can start with and that you can select from and embrace as you needs and desire for independence change and grow over time.
Some are easy and others take a bit of skill and practice. Some can be done for little or no cost and others will require in investment in time, labor, money or all three. The good news is that there are lots of choices and the journey toward self sufficiency does not have to be done is a day, a month, a year or even a decade.
10 Baby Steps Toward a Self Sufficient Lifestyle
1. 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 Edible Garden, All New Square Foot Gardening, The Backyard Homestead and Seed to Seed. You can also get tons of help from seed suppliers, Master Gardeners and friendly neighbors that will be glad to give you some regionally appropriate advice.
Growing a vegetable garden is also fun.
2. Build 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.
3. 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).
4. 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.
5. Start an emergency fund
It is a fact of life that emergencies happen. I know people who have the means (and high paying jobs) that 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 each beans and rice two nights a week so that you have the money to do so.
And by the way, beans and rice, well prepared, is delicious!
6. 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”.
7. Make your own cleaning supplies
This is one of my favorites. All of my own cleaning supplies are the DIY type. Get yourself some vinegar, baking soda, castile soap, alcohol, pine cleaner and possibly some borax and you will have this covered. Not only will this bring out the inner chemist in you, but imagine paying 50 cents for a bottle of effective and planet-friendly household cleaner instead of $3.00 or more. A bit outdated (with an update coming), the article “So what is in your cleaning bucket?” will give you some ideas to get started.
8. Bake your own bread
This is also 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, year, 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.
9. Be your own handyman and fix-it yourself
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.
10. 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. You just might find that you don’t need that boob-tube after all.
The Final Word
My own experience tells me that there is a special inner peace that comes from being self-sufficient. I experienced that myself last year when our power went out for an extended period. Others that I talk to also tell me that they too find great joy in the simple things in life that do not rely on excessive consumerism.
Taking baby steps toward self sufficiency while doing thing that you enjoy will help you get closer to and independent lifestyle more quickly than you can imagine.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!