For many of us, not having to rely on others to meet our needs is one of the most rewarding aspects of homesteading. I dare say I tell people that my problem is I like control – I like knowing what I am putting in my body, that the beds we made our daughters are sturdy and not poorly made while not costing us a small fortune. So we are a DIY family because of this.
Yet we all want to save money and figure out how to get the most out of our homesteads. Sometimes the things we need or want are right before our eyes and we don't even realize it. Here are some ways that I have found to use what we have to supplement what we must purchase.
1. Using the scraps from meals
The scraps from everything- coffee grounds to the ends of celery can be reused. Coffee grounds are good for nitrogen loving plants such as tomatoes and blueberries. I normally keep a cup by my kitchen sink where I put my grounds after I brew a pot of coffee. I make sure to stir it up when I am done putting them in so they do not mold.
The vegetable scraps from dinner can go into a compost bucket to be added with dried up grass clippings or leaves you have raked up. Or if you have pigs or chickens, some can go to them as well. They love the scraps of our leftovers and we love them for giving us eggs and meat to eat. It is a win-win.
2. Egg Shells
There are so many different things you can do with egg shells. After you've cracked and got the goodness from the inside, you could toss it in the compost pile. Yes, the same one we talked about just a paragraph or two before.
If adding it to your compost pile is not what you have in mind, there are so many more things you can do with it. I have heard about some weird things, like adding them to coffee grinds before brewing your coffee in order to reduce the bitterness of America's favorite energy booster.
That being said, you could sprinkle the crushed egg shells in your garden in order to deter pests, such as snails. The pain of crawling across the shells stops them from entering.
This could probably be a post on its own but I am going to leave it with two more things you could do with egg shells. The first is to start seedlings for the garden in the spring (or late summer for your fall garden). Add a little bit of soil and the seed, once it has grown enough to be put in the ground, you can do it in the shell and the plant will use it as nutrients.
The other is one that I do at the end of the year with my students. When you are cracking the egg, only crack open the top, wash as best as you can and let dry. Then add paint to the inside. Once the eggs are filled, stand back and throw them up against a canvas. Splatter wall painting from egg shells. Yeah!
3. Extra Goats Milk
Goat's milk is great – you can drink it, and it can be turned into so many different things – from the same delicious food that cow's milk makes (except whipping cream… which is very high on my yum list) to soap and even lip moisturizer.
I personally love the smell and feel of using goat's milk soap with a splash of lavender from my sister's lavender farm, it is soothing and moisturizing.
To see a lot of what goat's milk can do check out our article here.
4. Make, Freeze, and Save
They say time is money. One of the easiest ways to use what you have around the house food wise is to do a quick inventory of what you have in the house and what you can make out of these items. For the most part, anything that is a baked item, such as cookies and bread can be frozen, dethawed, and cooked. Spaghetti is another great example of something you can reheat after being frozen.
What I do is once a month, I inventory and then plan for a weekend morning to bake a lot of food all at one time and then freeze it. This way if we are extra busy one night I can sit a recipe out to thaw while we are gone and warm it up (or cook it) when we get home. No need to go out and I am making sure we are using what is in the house so it does not go to waste.
5. Learn to Can
If you are already a great gardener or just know there are some foods you purchase from the store but might not use all of, I recommend you learn how to can if you have not already.
The very first thing I ever canned was about half a bag of cranberries I had picked up from Walmart. I used them for a recipe and hated to see them go to waste. My father bought me a canner and a canning book so I quickly researched how to make cranberry sauce. I canned it and sat it in the fridge where it sat for the next eleven months and then cracked it open on Thanksgiving day.
Best sauce ever. It had spices that I had never tasted in the commercially canned varieties and it really made the taste of the cranberries pop.
I guess I tell the story to say that canning doesn't just have to be for gardeners – if you don't want food to go to waste canning is definitely one way to make sure this doesn't happen.
6. Cook from Scratch
This goes back to what I was saying about having a planning day where you make a bunch of food at once. Use what you have in the house or the garden to eat. Last year, Americans – for the first time – spent more money on going out to eat than they did at the grocery store.
Unless you are grabbing a one dollar burger every time you go out to eat, it is all adding up. My family of four spends about sixty dollars a week on groceries and can easily spend thirty dollars on one meal out. After we did the math, we made the goal to only eat out twice a month and we normally aim for a Saturday mid-afternoon lunch and dinner combination. To me, it just makes more sense to use what we have at home in order to get the most out of the land and our budget.
7. Renewal of Clothing: Turn into Something Else or Mend
If your child has a T-shirt they love and do not want to get rid of, have them save it. I saved shirts from my seventh grade year all the way until I got to college. I didn't know what to do with them at the time, I just knew I did not want to get rid of them, so they sat in my hope chest for several years until my mother-in-law opted to make a quilt out of them. Now my girls save their t-shirts for the day they have enough that she can do the same for them.
There are many more things you can do with the fabric from the t-shirts, including making stuffed animals such as Memory Bears and grocery bags. Jeans are fun to make purses out of. I did this in high school and purchased buttons from a local store to add to the purse, giving it that”cool” factor- even if I was the only one who thought so!
8. Make Your Own Cleaning Products
There is no need to buy chemically laden cleaning supplies that will harm you or your family, instead use what you have in your cabinets. Baking soda, peroxide, and apple cider vinegar are some of the best cleaners one can find. Even items that are designated as a cleaning item – such as borax have multiple uses. I use mine to do laundry with, to kill ants with, and to clean with.
If your need a list of supplies you can make, never fear! Morning Chores has your back with these great cleaning recipes.
9. Find Alternative Ways to Relieve Pain
When I was young, my mother would take me to the doctor's office if I sneezed funny. As an adult, I am almost a bad opposite of that. One time my daughter hadn't seen a doctor in so long that we had to catch up on shots – she had three shots in each leg!
It's not that I don't like the doctor I just don't see a point in going unless it is bad, I don't want them prescribing medicine when their bodies would do better to learn to fight off the problem. My girls feel the same way. I offer them pain relief medicine sometimes and they turn me down!
I am a big fan of essential oils and use them to help my daughter breath better. We use a breathing blend and found that not only does it help her breath better but it also helps her sleep better. I am currently using the lemon and oregano essential oils to help me get rid of a wart. In the last two weeks it has decreased by half the size!
10. Add Flowers to Your Garden
A couple of years ago I decided I wanted to have flowers on my table at all times. My husband brought me home a bouquet and it reminded me of my childhood. I was not a normal kid in some respects. At the age of thirteen, I read the entire “1001 ways to be romantic” book from cover to cover while dreaming of all the fun my husband and I were going to have together.
One of the things that were suggested was to purchase a bouquet and change out one flower at a time as they died. I loved the idea and felt that it would be a nice addition to our house. Now I have a garden for food and one for flowers.
Sometimes they intermingle because they are good companion plants and I know that the flowers bring in pollinators as well. In addition to the beauty they bring, I am also only paying for the seeds one time and my girls can bring me flowers!
11. Focus on the Water
Water is an item that can get easily overlooked and yet is such a valuable resource to have. As a matter of fact, I learned a while back that people who are “preppers” and have a stockpile often forget to add water to the list of things they will need if something goes wrong.
Many states are against the preservation of water on a property because they fear that the person will not use the municipal water. In the state of Texas, you have to get a permit to hold water in barrels, yet it is fairly cheap and worth it to be able to have water in cases of emergency.
For us, it is also helpful because quite often the city releases a water preservation warning during the summer that says we can only water our property on certain days. Now we could care less about if our grass is growing to pristine beauty or not but we do want to make sure our plants get the water they need. It only takes a week of no water to kill the entire garden!
Food is one way we can learn to use up all we have before purchasing something made by someone else but there are other things that often get overlooked – things like I suggested here. Clothing, water, cleaning supplies and more. Did I miss something? What would you add to the list of things that you can use around the house to make your homestead or you more productive?