I really began my homesteading journey in an apartment where I couldn't seem to get my hands on enough books from the local library on the subject. I learned a lot about what to do to prepare for emergencies and how to grow and cook my own food.
That journey has led us to many other locations, including a suburb on the outskirts of Dallas where we lived on one-fourth of an acre and had our first decent sized garden. Each location was different but no matter what, we could find ways to make our lives a little more unique and different.
I heard once that homesteading means you grow, raise, or create more of what you need at home instead of purchasing it at the store. So today I am going to explain some different ways on how you can create a homestead – no matter where you are at on your journey!
Ways to Homestead From Anywhere
Section One: Make It, Don't Buy It
Obviously, if you are limited on space you are not going to be able to make your own food. That's not what I am talking about in this section anyways. What I mean is make your own food from scratch.
When you are grocery shopping, for the most part, stay out of the center aisles. Don't buy anything that comes in a box if you can help it. Make your own freezer dinners. You would be surprised how much food you can actually make from home instead of buying at the store.
2. Homemade Soaps
I started making our own soap when we lived on an acre in Southern Indiana. My mother-in-law loves to get craft stuff only to find that it doesn't work for her after a little while. Then she passes the fun down to me.
One thing you will hear me say over and over and over again is a lot of the reason we chose to become homesteaders is we like the amount of control, and therefore information, we have over everything. I like knowing what is in my stuff and where it came from.
With making your own soap, you know what is in it. If you decide to use essential oils or something that makes it smell good, you know what you used and how it benefits your family.
If you are just getting started on a soap making journey, I recommend starting out simple because you do not want to get frustrated. And if you are like me, after a while you will only have to do it once or twice a year, making them in large enough batches that you have some for your family and can also give away as gifts. It's better than bath and body works!
To get started I recommend these recipes.
3. Cleaning Supplies
You would be amazed at how easy it is to make your own cleaning supplies. I have an electric cooktop that is flat and found that the best stuff to get the dirt and grime off is a peroxide and baking soda paste. I mix the two together to form the paste, rub it onto the surface, let dry slightly and rub off with either a green scrub pad or a towel and some elbow grease depending on the difficulty.
There are many recipes out there for everyday cleaning supplies too. Things such as window cleaner, all-purpose cleaner, and disinfectant, as well as twenty-eight different ways to make laundry soap.
Section Two: Buy For Less
There are so many things you can purchase for less than buying it brand new and feel just as good about it. For example, when we moved into our last home (the one in the Dallas suburbs), we did not have much furniture: just a futon and two mattresses.
We decided early on that we would purchase a table and chairs brand new, choosing to make a twenty dollar a week payment out of my husband's check. We didn't miss it. With two kids, we bought a second mattress a couple of months after we moved (the oldest slept on the futon for a while) and paid cash for that.
Then the futon went in the living room, we hunted for two years to find the couch that we had set in our minds we wanted for a price that we thought was reasonable. We ended up purchasing it from an acquaintance of mine for over a thousand less than if we had bought it from the store.
Likewise, we also searched for a washer and dryer for a little over a year. My husband went to an auction for a school, they had one just like he was looking for and it cost us seventy-five dollars for the set. After he purchased it, he found out it had started leaking the day before and they didn't know why. We got it home and found that a hose had come undone.
We bought the stove that I mentioned before off of Craigslist. At the time, neither the guy nor we knew what a good deal we were getting. We paid one hundred dollars for a stove that he was getting rid of because he bought the house with it in there and wanted to change the color scheme. The following year I taught culinary arts and learned that having a convection oven meant that stove was well worthwhile!
I'll be honest, I don't think any of our major appliances have been bought brand new at the current moment.
Section Three: Around the House
6. Store More
The book that got me started on my journey actually started out as a newsletter in the mid-nineties called “The Tightwad Gazette”. It gave tips and tricks.
One of the first things the woman talked about was why she didn't buy with coupons. Instead, she kept a notebook that told her what the prices typically were for items her family bought at the store. Then, on Wednesday she would get the sales ads and find out what was discounted heavily compared to normal. She would then plan her shopping to the store to grab the discounted items in bulk and any little thing they might need.
Her family was able to get a rhythm down to where they realized how long in between they would have to go before, let's say, peanut butter would go on sale again. That's how much they would stock up for.
My family started something similar. We would always check the discount area for anything good. If there was a really good deal (we once found local BBQ sauce for a dollar) we would get as much as our budget would allow. Then when we were doing the rest of our grocery shopping we would pick up a few extra cans of this vegetable or that fruit and put it in our stockpile. Before we knew it, we had an entire closet full of groceries and could easily go a few weeks with only having to buy bare essentials if we needed to.
I do want to point out, though, if you are doing this to prepare for an emergency, the number one thing people forget about when stockpiling is water. Buy water!
7. Start a Garden
Your garden doesn't have to be huge. One or two plants to get you started. If you live in a small apartment, start with herbs on the windowsill of your kitchen. Make your way into bigger things.
This was the beginning of my garden last summer that produced the food we ate all the way until March of this year after I had preserved it. We have some great tips on container gardening. The upside down, topsy turvy containers are very good for small spaces, being able to put multiple plants in one container.
You've all heard the saying before, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. A big part of why some people decide to become homesteaders is because they want that feeling of connectedness to the land that you cannot get in modern society today.
One of the ways we protect the land in order for it to continue to help us is to recycle things so they do not go into a landfill. Taking old boxes or Capri sun bags and turning them into purses is one creative way to do that.
I have also made a solar oven out of a pizza box before. Recycling doesn't have to mean going to your local recycler and giving them your soda cans (although that is a great idea too), it could mean being creative with items and finding a way to reuse them before you throw them away.
If you have young children, they will naturally be able to find ways to use old cardboard. My oldest daughter still makes lemonade selling stands and stages for her dolls out of cardboard.
Another great example of creative recycling is the Earthships. There is a whole community in New Mexico dedicated to this type of living.
One way you can recycle leftovers of food you have eaten (that's not meat) is by adding them to a compost pile. This one shown here would be very good for a small-acreage home. If you live in an apartment, you could opt for a container that makes compost by using worms.
If you decide to garden, adding used coffee grounds to your tomatoes, blueberries, and other acidic loving plants helps them and also prevents your leftovers from going to waste. By composting and gardening, you are recycling too which means you are a homesteader without having to own eleven acres in the country!
For more information on how to get started composting, check it out here.
Section Four: Outside of the Home
10. Purchase items locally
My husband recently told me that there is a prediction that malls will be completely obsolete within the next decade or so. To some extent, this makes sense to me. I have caught myself looking in a store for something only to find it online later in order to see if I can get it cheaper.
Naturally, I might be able to because the internet shop does not have the overhead cost of owning a brick-and-mortar store. Once I thought about it, I decided that for certain items I am not going to do that because I want to support a system I believe in. If a company treats me well when I enter their store, I will pay the extra few dollars for the service. Not to mention I know I am providing job security for these people.
In the same respect, buying locally means you are generating more income in the area. Not to mention, you get to know the people you are purchasing from on a personal basis. For example, I frequent my local coffee shop fairly frequently. A couple of months back I lost my wallet and was pretty down about it. Still, though, I had made a lunch date with a friend of mine that I was helping get a job at the coffee shop. When I walked in, the owner could tell something was wrong. I explained my situation and you know what he did? He brought me out my favorite drink “on the house”. It made me feel special.
A couple of months back I lost my wallet and was pretty down about it. Still, though, I had made a lunch date with a friend of mine that I was helping get a job at the coffee shop. When I walked in, the owner could tell something was wrong. I explained my situation and you know what he did? He brought me my favorite drink “on the house”. It made me feel special.
There is research to back shopping locally though. David Boil, NEF research stated that when buying locally grown food over grocery store food, “That means those purchases are twice as efficient in terms of keeping the local economy alive”.
Seems like a couple of great reasons to shop locally to me.
11. Think Outside the Box
Get to know people who are interested in homesteading just as you are. Learn from them, maybe teach them. You would be surprised what they might know and how what you might know will be able to come together.
Having a community means that you will be able to ask for help when you need it or borrow a tool that you know you will only need for a one time use. Help others and don't be afraid to ask for help either. It is a balance of giving and taking in a world that is as fun and yet as challenging as ours.
Most of all, don't settle. If you are just getting started on your journey and you don't feel your are “homesteading” enough, just know that it takes time and every little thing you do to take a step back from what people consider to be the norm anymore is, more than likely, one step forward.