25 Ways to Become More Self-Sufficient This Year
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With the new year comes a fresh start and a new opportunity to do anything you set your mind to over the next 12 months. Why not work on increasing your self-sufficiency this year so that you can become more secure and independent and less reliant on others to take care of you?
Whether you’re a seasoned homesteader on 10 acres of land or a city-dweller wanting to take more control over your life and personal security, there’s always more you can do to become more self-sufficient right where you are.
You may already have a self-sufficiency goal or two that you want to work on this year, but if you’re looking for a few more ideas, here are 25 for you, ranging from things you can do in your kitchen to skills you can practice in the wild.
Whatever you do, DO NOT try to tackle all of these in one year!
Remember, the key to success is to work on mastering one skill and completing one project at a time before moving onto the next.
If you try to do it all right away, I’m sorry to say but you’re bound to fail because you’ll be overwhelmed and faced with a very steep learning curve. If you focus on just a couple though, you’ll be able to gain real confidence in those areas and before you know it you’ll be building on your new-found skills and moving onto the next new project you want to tackle or thing you want to learn.
Remember, the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time! Choose the goal(s) that best suit where you’re at right now on your homesteading journey and work on smashing those out of the park this year! Then come back next year and do it all over again:)
25 Self-Sufficiency Goals for the New Year
1. Plant a veggie garden (or expand an existing one)
If you’ve never planted a veggie garden before, this is a great first (or next) step on the road to self-sufficiency. There is just no feeling that compares to the pride you get from putting homegrown food on the table for your family!
If you already have a garden, work on expanding it. Whether you expand the footprint of your garden or find creative new ways to produce more food (like vertical gardening or succession planting), work on adding a little more homegrown food to your homestead this year.
Related: How to Grow More Food in Less Space
2. Plant perennials
Add some perennials to your property and you’ll reap the benefits of these plants for years to come without having to plant them each year. Herbs like rosemary, sage and thyme are great candidates, but some fruits and veggies like rhubarb and asparagus will also come back year after year and make any effort you put into planting them this year well worth it in the years to come!
3. Add fruit trees & shrubs to your homestead
Like other perennial plants, fruit trees and shrubs will provide you with fresh fruit for years -decades even- without having to do the work of replanting every year. Find out what type of trees and shrubs grow best in your area and plant a few now. It may take a few years for them to actually produce fruit but once the bumper crops start coming you will thank yourself for planting them now.
Oh, and if you’re looking for something a little different to add to your food garden, try some nut trees! Hazelnut trees, walnut trees and almond trees are a few you might want to consider.
4. Plant a medicinal garden
While growing your own food is a noble goal, growing your own medicine takes your self-sufficiency game to the next level. Add some medicinal herbs and flowers to your garden this year and then harvest and dry them for use in your home medicine cabinet throughout the year. You can then use them to make salves, tinctures, teas and infused oils and honey to keep you and your family in good health, homesteader style.
Plant herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage and even cannabis (if it’s legal where you live) to be used medicinally. Flowers like echinacea, chamomile, lavender, yarrow and calendula are also wonderful candidates for a medicinal garden.
For help getting started, check out this post on 13 culinary and medicinal herbs for your garden.
5. Add livestock to your homestead
If you’re in a position to do so, add some livestock to your homestead this year. If you’re just getting started, laying hens are a great animal to get your feet wet with. Add a few hens to your barnyard and enjoy fresh eggs right from your backyard!
If you’re looking to level up a little bit, consider meat birds or rabbits or even goats if you have room (and good fencing). If you’re looking to level up a lot, maybe add pigs or even a cow! Just be prepared for the space and time-commitment that livestock takes. The bigger the animals, the more space and time needed to care for them.
6. Set up rain barrels on your homestead
If you’re looking to increase your water security, adding some rain barrels and a catchment system to your homestead is a great goal to work towards this year. First of all, catching rainwater in the wet months means you have a backup supply in the dry months when there are often water restrictions on. This means you’ll still be able to water you garden even in a drought and you’ll be using less water from tapped out reservoirs when water’s needed most.
Second, you’ll have an emergency supply of water for things like bathing, doing dishes and laundry if the power goes out and the water shuts off. This just happened to lots of people close to where we live when the power got knocked out from a windstorm for almost a week right before Christmas a couple weeks ago. Let’s just say that those with rain barrels on their property had a much easier time getting water to their homes all by themselves than those without.
Learn how to build your own homemade rain barrel out of a garbage can and a few simple pieces of hardware.
7. Learn a new kitchen skill or recipe
No matter how skilled (or unskilled) you are in the kitchen, there is always something new you can learn and master. Set a goal this year to bake a cake from scratch, make your own condiments like ketchup or mayonnaise, make homemade broth, yogurt or pasta. Or maybe practice your knife skills and learn how to julienne a carrot, filet a fish or cut up a whole chicken. Or maybe even take your kitchen game outside and learn to cook over an open flame.
Kitchen skills are always invaluable on any homestead, modern or traditional. The more you know and the more skilled you are in this department, the less dependent you are on restaurants and grocery stores to prepare your food for you.
8. Learn a new way to preserve food
Whether you’re brand new to preserving or you’ve been doing it since before you can remember, there’s probably at least one type of food preservation you haven’t tried or at least haven’t mastered yet. If you’re at the very beginning of your food preservation journey, you can honestly start with just freezing food when it’s abundant and in season. If you want to learn to make your food shelf-stable so you don’t depend on electricity to power your freezer, canning is an obvious option (and one I highly recommend learning!)
Water bath canning is a great place to start. It’s really easy and all you really need is a large pot full of water and some canning jars. Learn more about how to get started water bath canning here.
If you want to level up and learn to can vegetables, meats and other low acid foods, you’ll need to learn how to pressure can. This can be a little intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of it you’ll learn that it’s really quite easy. Click here to learn how to use a pressure canner safely.
Other types of food preservation that you might want to try out include dehydrating (one of my personal favourites) and fermenting. I recommend choosing one new form of food preservation to try out this year and once you feel like you’ve got that down, move onto the next.
9. Learn to bake bread
Having flour on hand and knowing how to bake bread from scratch means that, no matter what, you and your family will never go hungry. In fact, that’s why bread (in some form) has been a staple food in just about every culture since man learned how to convert grains into this hearty, filling food. Homemade bread is also what kept many people and families alive during the Great Depression when food was scarce and unaffordable.
Whether it’s a loaf of sourdough sandwich bread, a rustic baguette, dinner rolls or flatbread, learn to bake at least one type of bread and make sure you have a go-to recipe printed out so that you’ll always have it on hand to reference. A sack of flour and a good homemade bread recipe is like food security insurance.
Related: Easy No-Knead Homemade Bread
10. Learn to make soap
Learning how to make your own soap not only means that you’ll be able to keep yourself and your family clean and sanitary if all hell breaks loose and it’s every man for himself, it also means you’ll save money and maybe even put some of your other homestead resources (like tallow) to use. You’ll also save extra money at Christmas time when you’ve got a stockpile of homemade soap to give away as gifts!
11. Learn to make candles
Just like soap-making, learning to make your own candles means you’ll save money on store-bought candles (which are bloody expensive!) and you’ll have quality homemade gifts on hand for everyone and their brother when special occasions roll around. Also, making your own homemade candles with all-natural ingredients means you won’t be exposing your family to the toxic chemicals that are in the dyes, fragrances and even low-grade waxes common in store-bought candles.
Related: Homemade Soy Candles with Essential Oils
12. Make your own cleaning products
Have you seen the chemicals and warning labels on store-bought cleaners? Many of them have explosive and poison warning signs on the packaging! No thank you. Not in my home.
The good news is, a few simple ingredients like baking soda, white vinegar and a little lemon juice, plus maybe a few essential oils are all you need to clean just about everything in your home, from your kitchen counter to your toilet bowl. And they’re all safe enough to eat.
Related: DIY Cleaning Recipes with Essential Oils
13. Build a natural medicine cabinet
While you’re replacing those cleaning products with all-natural homemade alternatives, start replacing the contents of your medicine cabinet too. Replace over-the-counter bottles of pills and cough syrups with your own homegrown dried herbs, tinctures, infused oils and honey. Work on building your collection of essential oils and learn to use them safely and properly to treat everything from common colds to cuts and scrapes to headaches and hangovers and everything in between.
For more inspiration, come take a peek inside my natural medicine cabinet!
14. Learn to sew a button or stitch a hem
Having some basic sewing skills in your back pocket means you’ll be able to mend ripped clothing and make clothes last longer, which means you’ll save money on buying new and you’ll have the skills to patch things up and make them last in case you’re unable to buy them new for any reason.
15. Learn to knit or crochet
Knowing how to knit or crochet well means you have the necessary skills to keep yourself and your family warm in the winter without having to spend money on store-bought winter gear like hats, scarves, sweaters and wool socks. If you’re just getting started, learning how to knit or crochet a scarf is fairly easy and makes another wonderful Christmas gift for someone special on your list!
16. Learn basic handyman skills
Much like learning basic sewing skills, having some basic handyman skills in your tool belt will go a long way when it comes to being able to handle a wide range of home (and homestead) improvement tasks on your own without having to call and/or pay someone. Being able to do small home repairs, build sheds and outbuildings and erect and fix fencing will definitely come in handy on any homestead, big or small. Hence why they’re called “handy”man skills!
Start by building your toolkit with these 15 essential tools for ever home toolkit.
17. Learn basic mechanic skills
While we’re on the topic of being able to repair things yourself, having some basic mechanic skills is another important one to have in your toolkit. Basic mechanic skills can help you fix vehicles and machines like cars, trucks, tractors, excavators, mowers, power tools and anything else powered by an engine. More money saved. More self-sufficiency. Vroom vroom.
18. Learn to hunt or fish
While growing and raising your own food are benchmarks of true self-sufficiency, having the skills and knowledge to hunt and fish for food in your area means you can fill your freezer and pantry with wild-caught, healthy meat and seafood whether or not you have the space and resources to raise your own meat.
If you don’t have anyone close to you who can teach you how to hunt or fish, contact your local rod and gun or fish and game club or even ask at your local outdoor sporting goods store to find out about getting the proper licenses and safety training and possibly finding a mentor to take you out. You can learn a lot from Youtube, but this is one where having a guide to get you started will really help.
19. Learn to forage plants in your area
Like hunting and fishing, learning to forage for edible and medicinal plants in your local area means you can gather wild edibles and medicinals when they’re in season without having to grow them yourself. As an added bonus, many edible and medicinal plants are invasive species, so you’ll be doing your local environment and community a favour by foraging them and eating them!
Plants like stinging nettle, dandelions and Japanese knotweed are all weeds that are both edible and nutritious. Other plants and weeds you can forage include lamb’s quarters, chickweed, purslane, fiddleheads, rosehips, wild berries, seaweed and mushrooms.
Related: How to Safely Harvest and Use Stinging Nettles
*When it comes to foraging for mushrooms, it is essential that you get yourself a good field guide and hire a guide to take you out the first time to help you positively identify certain species of mushroom. Eating the wrong kind of mushroom can have fatal consequences, so make absolutely sure that you know what you’re eating before you put it in your mouth.
20. Pay off debts
No one can really be self-sufficient when they owe other people money that they used to pay for things they couldn’t afford themselves. Whether you’re aiming for self-sufficiency or not, it’s always a wise idea to pay down your debts as quickly as possible and then stay out of debt at all costs.
While it’s even better to be mortgage-free too, that’s another, bigger goal altogether. For now just work on getting your consumer debts paid off and freeing yourself from the slavery of owing other people money and interest.
*For help with paying off debts and getting your personal finances under control, I highly recommend reading The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.
21. Start an emergency fund
If you want to become more self-sufficient because you’re looking for some extra security in a world that seems more volatile and insecure every day, having an emergency fund will definitely help you sleep a little better.
To start a basic emergency fund, save up $1,000 in cash or in a savings account in the bank. Do not touch this money for anything other than a real emergency such as a car breaking down, a flood in your house, unforeseen medical bills or in the case of a job loss. This is your safety net. Keep it as long as you can and top it back up as soon as possible if you have to dip into it.
22. Create a source of income from your homestead
While we’re on the topic of money, if you want to take your self-sufficiency to the next level, maybe you should consider creating a primary or additional source of income right from your homestead. Being able to save money is one thing, but being able to generate your own income is like growing your own food: You cut out the middleman and you gain total control over the money you earn.
Or you can just pad up that emergency fund with a little side hustle like selling eggs or fresh veggies from your garden or soap or candles or homemade bread, etc. Or you can sell your skills. If you can do handyman work especially, there are always people looking for help with those types of jobs. Or you can teach your skills to other people by way of teaching classes at your local community centre or teaching online via online courses, blogs and ebooks. This blog is my source of income for our house and homestead, and although it doesn’t earn me much right now, it has the potential to earn a full-time income (which is my ultimate goal), and if I can do it, you can do it too.
23. Pack a bug-out bag
Whether you’re a “prepper” or not, it’s smart to have a bug-out bag packed and ready to go in case of an emergency. If you need to evacuate for any reason (think wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, zombie apocalypse…) having a bug-out bag that’s ready to grab and head out the door will save you valuable time and help keep stress levels in check when tensions are already running high. Plus, having a three-day supply of emergency preparedness gear and rations in a bug-out (or bug-in) bag is imperative in case of an emergency as you are expected to be able to take care of yourself and your family for a minimum of 72 hours before any help arrives.
Related: 15 Emergency Preparedness Items You Need to Have Packed and Ready To Go
Much like an emergency fund, your bug-out bag is for emergencies only and acts as a safety net. That means no eating the granola bars and beef jerky from your bug-out bag! (Unless they need to be rotated anyway. In that case, eat them and replace them ASAP).
24. Learn basic First Aid
Knowing basic First Aid can literally save someone’s life in the event of an emergency, especially if you live rurally where it takes a substantial amount of time for emergency responders to get to you.
Check online to find a First Aid certification course near you. Repeat training every year if possible. Practice often. This is definitely not something you want to have to read up on or search on Youtube in the middle of an emergency.
25. Get in shape
This one rarely makes lists like these about self-sufficiency, but it’s so very important for so many reasons. For starters, if you’re fit and healthy, you’re less likely to get sick and injured, which means you’re also less likely to become dependent on doctors and drugs. Second, when you’re in good shape, you’re better able to do things like haul animal feed and water, stack hay, fix fence, chop wood and tend your garden without injuring yourself or becoming winded before you’ve even begun.
Finally, getting in great shape means you’ll also be better equipped to take care of yourself and your family in the event of an emergency. After all, if that zombie apocalypse does ever come, you’re gonna wanna be able to outrun them.
The Benefits of Self-Sufficiency
Becoming more self-sufficient and being able to care and provide for yourself and your family is an increasingly important goal in a world full of uncertainty. Whether you want to be more prepared for a widespread emergency like a natural disaster or economic collapse (or, I don’t know, a global pandemic, perhaps?), you’re looking for a little extra security in the case of a more personal crisis like a job loss or medical emergency or you simply want more control over your life and to be less dependent on other people, corporations and government entities to take care of you, well my friend then you have come to the right place.
If you haven’t had a chance yet, I invite you to spend a little time browsing the content on this blog. All of it is geared toward empowering and inspiring you to become more self-sufficient and teaching you valuable skills (like the ones mentioned above) that will serve you well on your journey.
If you’re ready to REALLY dive in, I also invite you to subscribe to our very own digital magazine, Modern Homesteading Magazine.
Over the past 2+ years, we’ve covered everything from organic gardening and raising livestock to canning, fermenting, home dairy, sourdough bread, herbal medicine and much, much more!
When you subscribe, you’ll get instant access to our entire digital library of issues. Plus you’ll be the first to know when new issues drop!
–> Click here to subscribe or to sample the latest issue and check out all of the issues in our library!
Wishing you homemade, homegrown, homestead happiness…and a self-sufficient new year!
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LOL!! We joke about the Zombie Apocalypse too! The kids have informed us that when it happens, they’re all coming to our house. We have the gardens, lake, and chickens, not to mention necessary equipment. I told them that’s fine, just BYOPF (bring your own pet food) haha!!!
I just want to say that I have been a city girl all my life. But have always had a homesteaders heart. I thought I was doing enough to do this for myself and family, until I read your articles. You have opened my eyes to doing so much more now, even if I live in the city. Thank you.
So glad I could help! Good luck in your journey:)
I just wanted to say that I really enjoy your blogs! I don’t know that I’ll ever be in a position to totally homestead, but I’d like to incorporate some of the lifestyle into mine. All I really have now are chickens for eggs (and pets… along with ducks and pigs, dogs and cats lol) but I’d like to have a small garden even if I can only do container gardening at first. I’d also learn to can and preserve some food. I enjoy reading and learning. Thanks for all you share!!
Thank you for the kind words! It always helps to validate the time and energy I put into blogging when I know that someone is not just reading, but really enjoying it/learning something:)
And the great thing about modern homesteading is that there are no hard and fast rules about how much you have to do or what makes you a homesteader. Having some egg-laying chickens is a great start! We don’t even have chickens yet. For us it made more sense to start with the garden.
As for canning and preserving food, there are lots of great articles and recipes on this site that can help you with that! Check out The Beginner’s Guide to Water Bath Canning to get started: https://thehouseandhomestead.com/water-bath-canning-beginners/