Almost six years ago my husband and I were barely hanging on financially. We had just moved to a new town, he had just started a new job, I had recently become a stay at home mom, and we had 3 young children.
Needless to say, times were very hard. I tried everything to stretch every last dollar we had. I clipped coupons, slashed our bills, but still wasn’t satisfied with the way our family was headed.
Finally, I was feeling rather defeated one day and sat down to watch some television and try to get my mind off of things. I came across the show, Alaska the Last Frontier. They had a greenhouse and it hit me, “Why don’t we try to grow our own food and save money that way!”
So I talked to my husband about it, got the support of my mother-in-law, and we began our homesteading dream.
But the catch was, we were flat broke. How were we ever going to start a homestead when we were struggling just to pay the bills?
Well, we did, and I’d like to share this with you:
How to start homesteading when you're broke:
1. A Failure to Plan is a Plan for Failure
When we first began the thought process of homesteading, the first thing we did was created a plan. I told my husband that I knew that we needed some wiggle room in our finances.
But the only way I could see us creating any wiggle room what so ever was slashing the grocery bill even more.
However, I wanted to do this by growing our own food. Though I was couponing, I wasn’t okay with feeding my kids a lot of processed foods. It just isn’t good for us.
So my husband agreed, and we began talking about things we could do with our land. We looked at small homestead layouts and did a ton of research. The research helped us see all of the possibilities that were available for our amount of land.
Naturally, we were stunned with what we saw people growing on less than an acre. We had two acres so we knew we could do this.
Which led us to make a list of items we needed for survival. That list consisted of: eggs, milk, meat, vegetables, and fruit.
Once we knew what we needed to survive, live a healthy lifestyle, and save money, we got to work.
2. The Greenhouse Effect
Building a greenhouse was our first project. Here is how we created it.
Now, you may be thinking, “Why would you start with a greenhouse?”
Well, for starters, I got this grand homesteading idea in the middle of winter. If I was going to grow anything it wasn’t going to be outside unless it was in a greenhouse.
So my husband began researching greenhouses. We were shocked to see how expensive the kits were, and we knew that we couldn’t afford one.
Which led us to create our own. We decided on a cold frame because it would be enough for us to grow heartier vegetables during the winter months, a great place to grow tomatoes and peppers during the warmer months, and it wouldn’t cost anything to operate.
Remember, we were on an extremely tight budget. Any added expense would work against us.
So my husband had some scrap wood in the yard from a wooden walkway he had taken apart. He knew he could reuse that to build the beds.
Then he decided to use PVC pipe as the frame because of how inexpensive it was, and we went with the cheap plastic because we were broke.
However, when times got a little better, we replaced the regular plastic with the reinforced plastic so it wouldn’t rip when a wind storm came through. We actually had that happen.
After the greenhouse was complete, we began planting fast growing and hearty vegetables like radishes, spinach, and lettuce so we could have some food.
Granted, this wasn’t enough to completely supplement our food, but it was a step in the right direction.
Next, we decided to invest in chickens. This was going to be great because we’d have two food sources from one investment (meat and eggs.)
But we almost didn’t take this big step because of how expensive it looked to own chickens.
Then we got creative again. We knew we couldn’t afford to purchase a ton of high-priced feed in order to keep them fed.
But we could grow more vegetables in our greenhouse for them, feed them our table scraps, purchase corn when it was on sale during deer season, give them egg shells for their calcium, feed them fodder, and supplement, as needed, with store bought food. You could also use some of these other cheap chicken feed ideas.
However, we then hit a snag with how we would house them. Every chicken coop plan we saw online looked expensive and overwhelming for our budget.
Then we again got creative. We knew you could build a lot from pallets.
So we thought we’d try building a chicken coop from pallets too. Which is what we did. You can see our tutorial for building our (practically) free chicken coop here. We used pallets that we collected for free from a local business.
Then we had a neighbor that had an old building they wanted to be removed. We removed the building, reused some of the wood for the chicken coop, and reused the metal roofing for the roof of the coop as well.
So if you are needing a meat source or an egg source for your homestead, follow some of these tips for doing it on a really tight budget.
4. You Can Do It
If you haven’t noticed by now, if you have the will to make this homesteading dream happen, then you’ll figure out a way. Money may play a factor in how pretty your homestead is, but it doesn’t have to impact how functional it is.
Which leads me to the next step of homesteading on a tight budget. I learned how to preserve my own food. My mother-in-law thought it was an essential part of me learning how to survive even when money wasn’t flowing like you may have hoped.
So she taught me how to can practically anything I wanted. My first year, I started in the winter, so I didn’t have a garden to can from.
Instead, I used my grocery budget a little more wisely. When I’d usually take $50 and go to the grocery in an attempt to stretch it as far as I possibly could, I changed my method. We had produce stands that sold fresh vegetables and fruits. You can actually purchase lots of items in bulk.
So I’d call the produce stands and see what they had in bulk. Because I was purchasing in bulk, I’d get a great deal.
For instance, I could go to the grocery store and buy 5 pounds of potatoes for $3, or I could go to the produce stand and buy 50 pounds of potatoes for $11.
Then I’d bring them home and store them in a cool, dark location. I began stockpiling like that. I could preserve apples I purchased in bulk or store them so they wouldn’t go bad. I would buy tomatoes in bulk as well.
There is a local grocery store in my area that sells canning tomatoes for $10 a box. They call them seconds, but they are huge beefsteak tomatoes. I bought a few boxes of those and canned them as well.
Before you knew it, I had a large amount of healthy food and was freeing up my grocery money.
So the next time the grocery store has a sale on an item, or you find an item in bulk, purchase it and preserve it yourself. That way your family has plenty of food on hand, and you just freed up a little extra money from the grocery section of your budget.
5. Hunt the Scrap Pile
Obviously, when you homestead on a budget you aren’t going to be able to go out and purchase what you need. Everything is going to be DIY, including materials.
For instance, when building our greenhouse, we had to use wood that we had on hand from another project. This is common practice for us, even now that we aren’t quite as broke as we were a few years ago.
So when you take something apart don’t throw it in the garbage. Instead, find a place to neatly store it until you find a use for it.
Or if you run across someone throwing something away that you think you could use, then don’t be afraid to ask for it. You are saving them a trip to the landfill and upcycling at the same time. It is great.
6. Call on Your Neighbor
When you are a new homesteader on a tight budget you probably aren’t going to have all of the tools you need.
Nor are you going to have the funds to purchase them new.
So you have two choices. The first is (if you aren’t as broke as we were) you can scroll different sites on the internet to find the item used. Then purchase it at a deeply discounted rate. We have found some amazing deals on local yard sale pages.
Second, you can call on your neighbor who might allow you to borrow the item. We were fortunate that my husband had a background in construction so we had a lot of tools on hand to build.
But we didn’t have a lot of gardening tools. Lucky for us, my mother-in-law lived right across the street and was an avid gardener.
So if you don’t have what you need, don’t be afraid to ask those around you if they have anything that you might be able to borrow.
So you need an item, your neighbor doesn’t have it to lend, now what?
Well, you try to barter. A lot of times you’ll find people that have something you need, and you have something they need. Therefore, you strike a deal which involves no money.
An example of this in our homesteading situation was when we decided that we’d like to raise bees. Bees are rather pricey to get into, and we knew we couldn’t afford it.
But then we met a couple at church that raised bees. They had a lot on their plate at the time and needed some extra help caring for them.
So they gave us a hive to care for at our house and use for pollination. The deal was, we’d take care of the bees, and they’d let us learn on their hive and give us a portion of the honey. It was more than a fair deal that we were over the moon for.
As you can tell, if you ask, there are deals that can be worked out there. Not everyone is looking to earn a dollar. A lot of times people would rather have your help in return for theirs.
8. Be Creative
If you’ve been paying attention, then you’ve probably noticed the trend. I have said ‘be creative’ a lot in this post. The reason is that homesteading on a budget requires creativity.
So if you really want something bad enough, you’ll get creative and figure out a solution. For me, I wanted a better life for my family and healthier foods fueling our bodies. If you are on a tight budget, then you probably know that healthy foods are expensive at the grocery store.
Yet, you can raise them yourself with very little money involved. That was something I wanted so we found a way to make it work. The same can be true for you.
Even if you live in a rental house or an apartment, there are still ways to raise some of your food. You just have to get creative in doing so.
So think outside of the box and see what you can come up with that will work in your situation.
9. Watch It Grow
Finally, winter ended and summer came around again. This led to us learning how to garden. We lived in a subdivision for a few years prior to this massive life change.
Then, money wasn’t very tight because we both worked and had fewer children, but we still grew a garden then for fun.
So we were familiar with some gardening techniques, but we’ve learned a lot along the way too. If you are homesteading on a budget, then you need to grow a garden. This will feed your family during the warmer seasons, and hopefully give you some food to preserve as well.
Once you can figure out how to grow your own food, then you can get creative and grow things in containers as well to be able to produce even more food.
10. Feed Them Cheaply
Once you get your homestead up and running with a garden, preserving food, and then having some small livestock, you may want to add more animals as you go.
However, with more animals equals more responsibility and feed.
So you’ll need to consider how you can feed each animal cheaply. If you have more land, then you may be able to allow your larger livestock to be raised on pasture, and your smaller livestock (like chickens) to free range. This will cut down on your feed bill tremendously.
But if you live on a smaller amount of acreage, then you may have to figure out how to grow extra vegetables to feed small livestock.
For instance, you can grow fodder to feed chickens, rabbits, or goats. It is very healthy for them and very inexpensive.
Also, you could plant a second garden or grow extra containers of certain vegetables to feed or freeze for your animals to use at a later date. You could feed your animals grass clippings from when you mow the lawn, or you could feed them table scraps too.
Again, if you get creative, you will come up with lots of cheap or even free ways to feed your animals.
11. Think About It
Finally, the key to homesteading on a budget is to think about only what you need. Don’t go into thinking about how you can turn a profit.
So your main focus going into this homesteading dream is what do you need in order to survive. I already mentioned for us it was eggs, meat, milk, vegetables, and fruit.
Which meant we raised chickens for eggs and meat, rabbits for meat, goats for dairy, a garden for fresh vegetables and fruit, and then we planted some fruit trees and grape vines to provide more fruit. We were able to start our garden from seed which made it much less expensive.
Then we waited until the end of the season when all of the fruit trees and grape vines were being reduced. We purchased them when they were 50% off or more, then plant them. We never had any issues, but they do take a time to produce.
So really think about what you need and how you can make it happen on what money you have to function on. There is always a way. You just have to find it.
Well, I hope this helps you to figure out how you could potentially start your own homestead even if you are flat broke.
But I’d like to know how you were able to start your homestead? Did you plan for your homestead for a long time? Or did you have to start it on very meager means?
We love hearing from you. Just drop us a line in the comment section.