Three years ago, our worlds were flipped upside down and I truly believe it was a driving factor for a lot of people to run back to their roots. In 2020 the world seemed to stop suddenly and everything that was certain wasn’t anymore. I’ve always been an overly anxious person, but that year of my life sent me over the edge. I went a little nut at first, I was the crazy person who made my husband change as soon as he got home, and I would wipe down the groceries with Lysol wipes (oh - the chemicals make me cringe now). I stayed in the dark place for about 4 months until one day it seemed like a switch flipped in me and I was done feeling helpless. It was time to become more self-sufficient. I had this beautiful 1 and a half year old son who relied on me to be the constant in his life, to make everything better when it’s not, and to figure things out when they’re rough. Instead, I was this shell of who I was; I felt like I had failed him. I knew things needed to change and I was determined to find ways to make that happen. Here we are 3 years later and the knowledge, confidence and overall determination I have gained is immeasurable. It has taken a lot of time, research, and just overall willingness to learn, and it is an ever-growing thing. When I started to make the change, I remember feeling overwhelmed with all the information I was reading and learning about. There were so many aspects of my life that I wanted to make changes in and they were all important! I didn’t know which ones to start with.
It’s hard to know where to start because it all seems so important, and it all seems like it needs done right now. The top 5 things to do for your family might look different than the five I have listed here, but that is something everyone is going to have to decide for themselves. I have created this list in hopes of helping you at least narrow down where to start.
What does self-sufficiency look like? This may be a bit different for everyone. When it comes to self-sufficiency, I like to think of things my family can do to make sure we are taken care of in the event of an emergency. Things like canning and other food preservation methods. There are wonderful tools online that will help you calculate how much food/water to have on hand for your family for an allotted time (say 6 months). Here is one of our favorites. Other areas of self-sufficiency could be raising your own meat, foraging, and hunting.
Here are my family's top 5 things you can do first to become more self-sufficient.
1. Start Gardening.
Gardening is a great way to start any self-sufficiency journey. Whether you are in an apartment or have acres of land, gardening is something you can start wherever you are. If space is limited try potting plants, grow bags, or stackable potting systems. For families who live in a house but don’t have much space another great option is changing those flower beds along the house into fruit bushes or vegetable plants. Regardless of the amount of space you have, it is a good idea to research and learn how to successfully grow each plant you want to grow. Some types of vegetables like more shade to grow in while others need sunshine all day. Some can’t grow well in certain types of soil while others are hardier. When my husband and I bought our first home we had about a half an acre but it was 95% shaded. Our solution was to put fruit bushes out front - the only place on our property that got sun for 75% of the day - and made some planter boxes to have all our vegetables in. Now that we are on a bigger property, we have another learning curve to adjust to. The soil here is so dense it’s like clay and growing root vegetables is nearly impossible. It will just take time and trial and error to be successful. There is nothing more rewarding than harvesting produce that you grew yourself.
2. Getting comfortable with trying new things, failing, and asking for help.
While being the hardest pill to swallow failing has been the most humbling. I have never been one to ask for help and I’ve always hated failing so this one has taken some adjusting to. The fast pace of society and quick and easy fixes has made us all used to instant gratification. Homesteading and self-sufficiency goes against every single one of those things. This means that everything will be new and uncomfortable. With everything new it is trial and error, and failure is a part of that - it’s inevitable. Sometimes failure will be devastating but you cannot throw in the towel, you need to be able to take that failure and learn from it, grow from it. When I was starting out with chickens we were still in suburbia. We had 6 chickens that we were trying to introduce to our older flock, we had them set up outside of the coop but fenced off and we figured they’d be safe there for a night while they got used to each other. The next morning, we woke up to the sad reality that we were wrong. What I didn’t realize was that racoons can climb a security fence, and overnight that’s exactly what happened to our poor chickens. We lost every one of them. After my loving husband cleaned up the mess so I didn’t have to see the damage, I spent the next hour going around our coop and making sure there were no weak spots where a predator could sneak in and get my original flock (crying my eyes out the whole-time mind you). This life is not an easy one, and failure is just a part of it, but it is such a rewarding one and one that is so worth all the hard work.
3. Learn to preserve food.
Preserving food is a great way to ensure you and your family are set for the winter (or longer with some planning). Consider this scenario: you have such a successful garden that you can use that new pressure canner, or maybe freeze or dehydrate some of your yield and therefore not have to buy produce from the grocery all winter long. Ok, I don’t know about you, but talk about goals! Not only does that mean my family is set on food but think about all the money you would be saving! For those people saying, “But LeeAnn, I live in the city or in an apartment and can’t have that large of a garden,” consider this scenario: You go into the local grocery, and they are having a sale on produce, or you see the discount produce bin and it’s overflowing with things that don’t even look like they’re going bad. Well, buy up the discounted produce and when you get home, break out that canner or blanche and freeze it. This is a wonderful way of cutting down on food waste and getting your stockpile up so you can focus your energy on other things. It may take some thinking outside the box but it is possible.
4. Start cooking from scratch. This has been my favorite aspect of self-sufficiency so far. I love using my hands and ingredients from the kitchen to make our food from scratch. Don’t even get me started on some of the insane ingredients they put in our food now a days! Things I can’t even pronounce going into our bodies and doing who knows what. Learning to cook from scratch ensures you know exactly what is going into your body. Another thing that drove me to start making everything I could from scratch was thanks to that dreaded 2020 year. I know I’m not the only one who remembers empty grocery store shelves. Growing your cooking skills and knowing how to throw a meal together with minimal ingredients ensures if something like that ever happens again, you are equipped to eat regardless of what the grocery store shelves look like.
5. Get to know your community.
Let’s face it, as much as we would like to, we cannot do everything ourselves. Get to know your community. I’m not just talking about surface level, I mean actually talk to your neighbors, talk to local farmers, or that crazy chicken lady down the road. Consider this - you have a ton of cucumber yield from your garden, more than you’ll need, so in turn you take it down the street to your neighbor. In return you get a couple dozen eggs or a sourdough starter from them; now you both are happy and have two products instead of one. Another scenario: you have enough space to raise chickens for meat, but not enough space for a dairy cow. Well, you get with your neighbor and decide that your family will raise the meat and they will get the milk cow to provide for both families. Barter and trade, that is how things used to work before big corporations wanted to rely on mass production and making things fast and cheap. Plus, you never know who God placed right around the corner for you to meet. I have met some of the most genuine, and caring families who all live on my street! I never would have met them if I didn’t start pushing myself out of my comfort zone and actually getting to know them.
This is not an exhaustive list of ways to become self-sufficient, but these are some of the ways my family started. If you are on this journey, you will soon find the fire inside that is telling us all to break out of the mold society has put us in and to get back to our roots. If not in all ways, at least in the most important life sustaining and life fulfilling ways that light so many souls on fire. I hope this list has helped you start to think about your own family and the ways you can start becoming more self-reliant. We have dozens of free resources to help you along with journey as well!
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